Monday, May 27, 2024

Running and Revelry: My Hat Yai Marathon Adventure (10K Edition)

Sawasdee krub!!! Just got back from an epic trip to Hat Yai, Thailand for the marathon, and let me tell you, it was an incredible mix of pushing my limits on the course and indulging in some amazing Southern Thai eats.

I opted for the 10K run, while some of my crazy friends decided to conquer the half marathon (21km) and even the full marathon (42km)! Bless their determined souls.

Group pic after getting our passports stamped at the Bukit Kayu Hitam Immigration Checkpoint

Our journey began with a night bus ride from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, Kuala Lumpur. We arrived in Hat Yai in the afternoon on the 25th. The journey took almost 12 hours due to the long queues at the immigration checks and heavy traffic during the school holiday period.

Day 1: Dim Sum, Elephants and Mermaid

Our home for two nights in Hat Yai - The Train Hotel, located right next to the Hat Yai Train Station.

We wasted no time upon arrival in Hat Yai and left our luggage at the conveniently located Train Hotel.

All cramped into a Tuk Tuk that cost around BHT200 per person for whole day of sightseeing around Hat Yai and Songkhla.

We hired a tuk tuk for a day to bring us around for sight-seeling. Our first stop? Lunch at Chabura Dim Sum restaurant. Let me tell you, fueling up on delicious dumplings is the perfect way to start any adventure. I ordered the Tom Yum Porridge! Spicy, tangy and wholesome, it was a special way to enjoy Tom Yum!

Pick what you want to eat @ Chaburi Dim Sum

A delicious bowl of Tom Yum Porridge (Highly recommended by me!)

We opted to skip the expensive shooting range (Thai Baht better spent on food, right?) and headed to Chang Puak Camp for some much-needed elephant cuteness. Afterwards, my Muslim friends performed their solat at the Central Mosque of Songkhla, a beautiful display of Islamic architecture in the land of Buddhism.

Came to Hat Yai Shooting Association ready to unleash my inner action hero, but decided to save the bullets for delicious Thai food instead!

Visited Chang Puak Camp in Hat Yai to see the elephants!

 Central Mosque of Songkhla. A beautiful mosque with intricate architecture, a display of Islamic culture in southern Thailand.

Next stop: Cafe Amazon! This local coffee chain hit the spot with its gorgeous setting and, of course, delicious caffeine fix. Feeling revitalized, we took a ferry to the iconic Samila Beach, where we snapped a classic photo with the famous Bronze Mermaid statue.

Found my caffeine fix at Cafe Amazon! Delicious coffee at a budget-friendly price. Perfect for runners on the go!

I'm latte-ly obsessed with this drink!

The iconic mermaid statue at Samila Beach, Hat Yai, is a relatively recent landmark, unveiled in 1966. While it may not boast a long history, it has become a beloved symbol of the city and a popular photo spot for visitors.

Just sea-ing the sights at Samila Beach!

Our rumbling stomachs led us to Nomjeen Na Phuket, Hat Yai, a haven for all things Thai noodles. Refueled and happy, we collected our race kits at the Jiranakorn Stadium, buzzing with anticipation for the big day.

An amazing bowl of Nom Jeen in Hat Yai! Perfectly cooked rice noodles with a flavorful coconut curry broth and all the fixings.

Just tried a local Thai specialty – crayfish fried rice! What are your favorite unique dishes you've tried while traveling?

Race kit checked! I'm all ready for Hat Yai 10K 

Ready, set, Hat Yai! Malaysian runners spotted at the Race Expo fueling their excitement for the Hat Yai Marathon. The race is a popular choice for its close proximity and the fantastic sport tourism experience it offers. 

Next on our list was KlongHae Floating Market, where we soaked up the vibrant atmosphere and maybe even haggled for a souvenir or two. As the night unfolded, we strolled through the Lee Garden Night Market, a paradise for foodies and shopaholics alike.

KlongHae Floating Market - a perfect place to eat, see and shop... 

Let's just say our wallets might be a little lighter, but our bellies were definitely happy! No trip to Thailand is complete without a late-night 7-Eleven run, so we stocked up on snacks and essentials for the race day ahead.

The "obligatory" flat lay shot on the race day eve.

With full stomachs and sleepy eyes, we called it a night, ready to conquer the Hat Yai Marathon on the next day!

All set to go...

Day 2: We Run Hat Yai!

May 26th arrived, and with it, the electrifying buzz of race day! The pre-dawn hours couldn't dampen our spirits as we gathered and left the hotel at 4:00 am, eager to catch the free shuttle to Jiranakorn Stadium. The full marathoners were already flagged off at 3:00 am.

Essential pre-race routine! Runners taking part in some dynamic stretches before the 10K begins.

While the marathoners battled it out on the course, I explored the event grounds. The aroma of post-race food being prepared filled the air, a delicious incentive for those still battling the course. The starting point buzzed with activity as runners, mostly our Malaysian compatriots judging by the cheerful chatter, gathered for their respective races.

The anticipation is palpable! Excitement builds as runners wait to take off.

At 5:00 am sharp, the 21km runners were sent on their way. Shortly after, the vibrant warm-up session for the 10km category (including yours truly!) got our blood pumping and adrenaline flowing. At 5:45 am, it was our turn! A wave of runners surged forward, propelled by the cheers of the enthusiastic crowd.

Running through the heart of Hat Yai! This marathon offers stunning scenery along the way.

The course unfolded before us, blessedly flat and perfect for setting a good pace. The electric atmosphere was contagious, fueled by flashing cameras and the rising sun painting the sky with a breathtaking palette of colors. 

Vee Nurul brings a touch of Malaysian culture to Hat Yai Marathon in her beautiful kebaya.

Pacing myself, I was surprised and delighted to spot familiar faces from Malaysia – a happy reunion amidst the sea of runners! It seems Hat Yai, not Kuala Lumpur, was destined to be our meeting ground!

The well-stocked water stations provided a lifeline throughout the race, offering ice-cold water and refreshing electrolyte drinks courtesy of the race sponsor - SPONSOR. Certain aid stations upped the ante with juicy watermelons and bananas, a welcome burst of natural energy.

Pushing through the miles at the Hat Yai Marathon. The finish line awaits! 

But the true highlight was encountering cheering spots manned by enthusiastic supporters. Dressed in vibrant Thai traditional costumes and some even sporting fancy get-ups, they danced and cheered to catchy Thai music!

High fives for the awesome cheerleaders who made the race even more fun @ KlongHae Floating Market

Huge thanks to the Thai Traffic Police for helping us runners conquer the course safely!

Aki, Amri, Ila & Me waiting for our fellow running friends to complete their run.

The last 300 meters were a dream come true – running the final leg inside the Jiranakorn Stadium track! With a final surge of energy, I crossed the finish line, conquering the 10km course!

Done and dusted: Hat Yai Marathon 2024

The feeling of accomplishment was indescribable. The camaraderie of fellow runners, the stunning sunrise, and the enthusiastic Thai cheers all combined to make this a truly unforgettable race experience.

Biryani Rice with a side of finisher medal. Heheh!

The lively post-race food party was the perfect reward, refuelling our bodies and celebrating their victories. But the day wasn't over yet! We hit the vibrant Kim Yong Market, a haven for cashew nuts and other delicious snacks. We couldn't resist checking out the trendy Nescafe Café and the viral Toro Fries – gotta keep up with the food trends, right?

Beyond the cashews and pistachios! Kim Yong Market has something for everyone – snacks, treats, and hidden treasures.

Found a Nescafe Cafe in Hat Yai! Delicious coffee and a fun twist on the classic brand.

Toro Fries – cheesy, saucy, and surprisingly delicious! Have you tried this viral trend?

The iconic Hat Yai Clock Tower

Feeling famished after all that running, we treated ourselves to a seafood buffet lunch at KlongHae. At a steal of 299 baht, it was an all-you-can-eat seafood dream! 

Waiting for our tables at the Klonghae Halal Seafood Buffet Restaurant. 

Seafood galore at KlongHae

We then escaped the midday heat in the air-conditioned comfort of the Hat Yai Central Festival Mall, indulging in some retail therapy and a refreshing coffee break.

Beating the Hat Yai heat in the coolest place in town – Hat Yai Central Festival Mall!

From handcrafted souvenirs to delicious street food, the Asean Night Bazaar has it all!

The day continued with a walk to the Asean Night Bazaar, a treasure trove of local crafts and souvenirs. Shoe lovers, rejoice! Preem Import Hat Yai became our next shopping stop, a haven for those seeking the perfect pair of kicks. 

Stylish shoes, affordable prices - what more could you ask for? Loving Preem Import Hat Yai!

Finally, to stock up on goodies to bring home, we hit Big C Supermarket, filling our bags with tea, coffee, and even more snacks (because, let's be honest, can you ever have too many snacks?).

A bittersweet goodbye at Hat Yai Junction. Amazing memories made, but excited for what's next!

Day 3 - A Relaxed Farewell

Delicious Thai-Malay food @ Khaleed Restaurant. Famous for its roti canai and also various rice dishes like Kao Mok, Kerabu and Dagang.

Our last day in Hat Yai was a relaxed affair. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Khaleed Restaurant, the perfect way to fuel up for our journey home. 

Trying not to shed a tear (or miss my train) as I say goodbye to Hat Yai at the station.

Bye Bye Hat Yai! See you again!

Bidding farewell to this incredible city, we boarded the train back to Kuala Lumpur, our hearts full of happy memories.

Hat Yai Marathon 16th Edition 2024 Finisher Medal

The Verdict: Hat Yai Runcation - A Winner!

This Hat Yai trip was the perfect blend of "athletic achievement", cultural immersion, and, of course, indulging in some incredible food. Whether you're a seasoned runner or just looking for a fun and exciting getaway, I highly recommend this destination! Just remember to pack your running shoes, your appetite, and your sense of adventure – Hat Yai awaits!

Shoutout to the Hat Yai Makanthon Crew!

Huge thanks to my amazing fellow travelers on this Hat Yai adventure: Caen, Mus, Marlina, Radzzi, As-Baha, Zainah, Syaqir, Hafidz, Madam Mai, and of course, the one and only Ila Carmilla for spearheading this unforgettable trip!

We conquered the race, explored the vibrant city, and most importantly, shared countless laughs and delicious meals (true makanthon style!). Even on the train ride home, we were already brainstorming our next adventure together. Guess where?

Here's to many more incredible journeys with this awesome run crew!

Stay tuned for a detailed race recap and all the amazing places we explored in Hat Yai!

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