BUKIT KAYU HITAM: It’s their old haunt, so for these Malaysians, Haadyai is irresistible, especially on weekends.
Head to the immigration office in the border town of Bukit Kayu Hitam and there you will find hordes of Malaysian travelers waiting to enter Thailand.
Truck driver Nazron Ahmad, 36, was delighted to take his family for a short break “after what felt like an eternity”.
“It’s been two years since we crossed into Thailand,” he said during a border encounter in Bukit Kayu Hitam on Friday.
Nazron’s nine-member “entourage” included his wife, their two children, a brother-in-law and other relatives.
“We plan to eat as we please,” he said, adding that Khlong Hae Floating Market was also on their itinerary.
Regarding health precautions, Nazron said they would all mask up when sharing spaces with strangers.
Husband and wife Rahimi Mohd Hanizam and Nor Eryanie Rizuan, both 24, also said they were delighted with the trip.
It would be Rahimi’s first time to Thailand and he had heard many stories from his wife about her vacation there.
“I can’t wait to take my husband there. It’s a food paradise,” said Nor Eryanie.
Before the pandemic, Nor Eryanie said she would cross the border at least five times a year with her friends.
The couple, who work as factory operators, said they would keep their masks on in public.
“It’s become a way of life for us to have our faces covered,” Rahimi said.
A beautician, who wished to be known only as Mok, said she and her family had come all the way from Ipoh.
“My last trip was three years ago. I went there once a year,” she says.
She was eager to savor the food there.
“Even though we eat Thai food in Malaysia, it’s not the same as having the real thing in Thailand,” said Mok, 38, who brought her three children aged five, 10 and 12 years.
On the Thai side of the border, businesses lining the streets of the crossing are seeing their activity resume.
Kit Tomas, 60, who runs a snack bar just after crossing the border, said business was finally looking up.
“It’s still not back to what it was in 2019, but customers all over Malaysia would usually stop in to buy something before heading home.”
He said the location of his store, which was just at the end before the immigration point, meant people tended to stop in if they wanted to grab more snacks.
“Business is definitely picking up. Now we can see people heading to Thailand in loaded buses,” said Kit, a Thai shopkeeper who has run his store for 40 years.
Suraiya Mawarttee, 43, who sells the popular Thai dessert of mango with sticky rice, said business had picked up since April when the border reopened.
“Malays have made their way here since then.
“They used to stop here before making the 45-minute journey to Haadyai. And when leaving Thailand, they would stop to buy from us so they could have a snack on their journey home,” she said.
She acknowledged that it would be very busy during school holidays, “but even on normal days I saw vans and cars full of tourists”.