The chatter about a R@SKLs road trip to Southern Thailand started in August. The announcement for the Satun International Century Ride 2017 had just come out. A small group of us did a bike tour around the 2016 edition of the SICR. That was a lot of fun, and I was keen to do it again.
By the end of August, the planning for a four-day / three-night excursion was in full swing. By the end of October, 22 R@SKLs had signed up. Including Ralf and Voon Kiat from Hong Kong. They flew into Penang, rented a car, and met us at the Malaysia / Thai border.
The trip started in earnest on Friday, with the loading of bikes into the van which would transport them to Padang Besar. It was a tight fit, but we got 17 bicycles, some in hard cases, into the van.
For those who worked out that 2 + 17 bikes are not enough for 22 riders: well done! The remaining 3 bikes were in Kiam Woon’s van. 3 R@SKLs drove to Padang Besar on Saturday morning.
15 of us met before 8.00am on Saturday at KL Sentral station to catch an MRT train to Sungai Buloh station.
A derailment near the Bank Negara station earlier in the week meant that the ETS service to Padang Besar couldn’t depart from KL Sentral, and would instead leave from Sungai Buloh. Hence the ride on the very new MRT line to Sungai Buloh.
The numerate amongst you have realised that 2 + 3 + 15 does not equal 22. Alfred and Pai went by car to Sungai Buloh. 17 of us boarded the ETS train to Padang Besar.
The ETS service is pretty good. The trains run at up to 140kph / 87mph. The scheduled travel time for the Platinum service, which makes fewer stops enroute than the Gold service, is 5 hours 15 minutes. KL to Padang Besar by road is about 505km / 314m.
The onboard Bistro makes food stops unnecessary!
You could tell that we were excited to start riding. The train was still 30 minutes from Padang Besar, and most of us had already changed into our cycling kit.
The need to transfer to Sungai Buloh did mean that we arrived in Padang Besar later than scheduled. What concerned us more was that it was raining as we pulled into Padang Besar.
It was a relief to see that the van with our bikes was waiting for us at the station. The driver had been stopped enroute by the police, who wanted to know why he had a van full of bicycles. Simon had to write an authorization letter for the van driver to carry with him on the return journey on Tuesday.
The 5 travelling by road had also arrived safely, so we were finally a complete group of 22.
Bikes were unloaded, bike cases were unpacked, and bikes were reassembled. We had arranged for a Thai van and driver to act as a support vehicle during our four days in Thailand. We loaded our luggage into the support van, and gathered for a photograph.
Then we rode out into the rain to start KM1 of the 375km / 233mi we would cover over the entire trip.
The challenge for the day came 16km / 10mi after we started. The climb to Kampung Wang Kelian. 240 meters / 787 feet of elevation over 3km / 1.9mi.
Happy riders at the crest of the hill, with a few more making it up the final meters.
Johan S. went exploring up the road you see branching off the the right behind the group in the photograph above. He came back down and told us it that the view was worth the extra climbing.
He was right. The panoramic view was stunning.
We were glad we came up here.
The equally steep descent on wet roads got the adrenaline flowing. Everyone negotiated the hairpin bends successfully, and we all got safely to our next stop at the 25km / 15.5mi mark. The Wang Prachan border crossing.
We rode right up to the Malaysian Immigration office window.
After we cleared Malaysian Immigration we filled in our arrival forms and presented our passports at the Thai Immigration office window.
Border formalities were completed in a matter of minutes, and we were at the Thai-Malaysia Border Weekend Market, which, despite its name, operates on all seven days of the week.
Reliant as we are on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other mobile apps, most of us bought Thai SIM cards at the market. THB250 / USD7.65 for a week’s worth of unlimited data.
It hadn’t stopped raining or drizzling since we left Padang Besar. We were soaked, and the 21°C / 70°F air temperature meant that we were chilled as we restarted and picked up speed after our stop at the border crossing. We are thin-blooded in the Tropics!
We had a couple of short stops at major road junctions to regroup, and to make sure no one went off-course. Each time it took a while to get my core temperature up again. We stopped another time for a flat tire with 10km / 6mi to go. It was approaching 6.00pm by then, and it was getting dark. Thailand is on GMT +9, whilst Malaysia is on GMT +8.
That last 10km was ridden in the rain and the dark. Unbeknownst to me, there was another flat tire just after we restarted. When I got to the final turn to the Satun Boutique Resort (which I managed to miss initially, forcing a u-turn across a busy Satun Thani Road), I had lost a number of the group who had stopped to help with the latest flat tire.
Fortunately our accommodation, The One Boutique Hotel, was on Satun Thani Road, about 400 meters before the turning to the Satun Boutique Resort. Those who got detached from the rest of us were able to find the hotel and check in.
The rest of us were greeted at the Satun Boutique Resort by Khun Metharin Pongratchatakaran and her team from WeSee, the organisers of the SICR 2017.
We had gone to the resort to collect our ride packs. To my dismay, I discovered that I had somehow missed Kiam Woon when I registered the group for the SICR. To my relief, Khun Metharin was able to add Kiam Woon to the list of participants, and to give him a race pack.
The highlight of our stop at the resort was the large pot of hot kai chok (chicken congee). Just what the doctor ordered after a wet and cold ride. We all knocked back at least two bowls of kai chok each. Hot coffee and cakes were on offer as well. You can tell from our faces that we felt better, having eaten, by the time this photograph was taken.
We all rinsed the sand and mud off our bikes, and ourselves, with the hose at the rear of the Satun Boutique Hotel. We needed a good clean.
We had 67km / 42mi in the bag.
The support van was at the hotel with our luggage. Our rooms were ready. I took a shower in my cycling kit in an attempt to get it relatively clean. I didn’t need any more food. The SICR 2017 would flag off at 6.30am.
It was my bedtime.