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Category Archives: Cycling in Thailand

R@SKLs in Southern Thailand: Day 1

Day 1 Banner

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.

Day 1 Intro Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Photograph courtesy of chuttersnap on Unsplash

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.

Day 0 Penang Arrival Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

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.

Day 0 Bikes Packed Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

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.

Day 1 Driving to Padang Besar Lee Kiam Woon

Photograph courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon

15 of us met before 8.00am on Saturday at KL Sentral station to catch an MRT train to Sungai Buloh station.

Day 1 Sentral Station Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

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.

Day 1 MRT to Sungai Buloh TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

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.

Day 1 ETS 1 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

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!

Day 1 ETS Hit the Bistro Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

Day 1 ETS 2 Changed Into Kit Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

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.

Day 1 Unpacking Bikes AiLin Lim

Photograph courtesy of AiLin Lim

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.

Day 1 Padang Besar Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Then we rode out into the rain to start KM1 of the 375km / 233mi we would cover over the entire trip.

Day 1 On Our Way TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

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.

Day 1 Wang Kelian Climb 2 Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Happy riders at the crest of the hill, with a few more making it up the final meters.

Day 1 Wang Kelian Climb 1 Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

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.

Day 1 View 4

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

We were glad we came up here.

Day 1 Wang Kelian View Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

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.

Day 1 Immigration Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

After we cleared Malaysian Immigration we filled in our arrival forms and presented our passports at the Thai Immigration office window.

Day 1 Immigration Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

Day 1 SIM Card Shopping Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

Day 1 Arrival TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We all rinsed the sand and mud off our bikes, and ourselves, with the hose at the rear of The One Boutique Hotel.  We needed a good clean.

Day 1 Splattered Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

We had 67km / 42mi in the bag.

Day 1 Route

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

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.

Day 1 Bedtime

Graphic courtesy of Bitmoji

Southern Thailand Tour Day 4



This was the view when I opened the curtains in my 28th floor hotel room.  It was nice that we did not have to get up before sunrise on this last day of our bicycle tour.  We planned to be on the road at 9.00am.  Which gave us time for breakfast in the cafe behind us before we changed and packed our stuff into our Apidura bags.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The route from Hat Yai to Padang Besar is mostly straight southward for 46km / 29mi before a turn to the east at Sadao for the last 13km / 8mi.


Philip took the lead once we were on Route 4, and he proceeded to pull us along at an average of 36kph / 22mph for fifty minutes.  I was more than happy to stop for a drink by the time we had covered 30km / 19mi.

It isn’t hard to find places serving drinks on the road side.  There are the more upmarket chains like Amazon Coffee, which often have shops in petrol stations.  Or just look for a hut displaying drinks, and perhaps a sign.  Like the one we stopped at.


It had comfortable seating in the shade, icy cold drinks – one of my all time favourites is Thai iced tea, and as you can tell by the mobile phones in our hands, free wifi!


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

After giving us thirty minutes to catch our breath, Philip and Leslie stepped on the gas again to Sadao, where we made the turn onto Route 4054 to Padang Besar.  If you stay on Route 4 you arrive at the larger border crossing at Bukit Kayu Hitam.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

It was a hilly 11.5km / 7mi from Sadao to Padang Besar.  That didn’t stop Philip and Leslie from maintaining a fairly torrid pace as we rolled over 130 meters / 426 feet of climbing. We were in Padang Besar in twenty three minutes.

Leslie wanted one last meal in Thailand.  He saw a place that he liked the look of, and we all went in.  Marco and I needed a fan and something cold to drink more than something to eat.  The others ate an early lunch.

It is a couple of hundred meters from that restaurant to the border crossing.  First we went through Thai immigration control.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Then through Malaysian immigration control.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

And we were back on home soil, just minutes from where we had left our vehicles.   Our cycling adventure was over.  What a fabulous adventure it was.  The riding was good, and the company was even better.  These four days will live long in my memory.

Thank you guys for a wonderful time.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong


Southern Thailand Tour Day 2


After our 65km / 40mi warm up ride the day before, it was time for the main event of the tour.  The Satun International Century Ride 2016.

The organisers served a light breakfast in the Satun City Hall.  So we were on the quiet road from the hotel at just after 6.00am.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

When we got to the City Hall the doors were already open and participants were digging into you char kway (called pathongko in Thailand) and knocking back warm soya milk.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

We took a photograph before heading into the hall for a bite and a drink.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

There were, at most, two hundred riders gathered at the start.  Thailand is in the midst of a year-long period of mourning following King Bhumibol’s passing. As a result very few Thais participated in this event.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The extent of the loss felt by all Thais is reflected in the caption on the event jersey.

Serve the King’s Wishes
Create Virtues for Siam


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We were ushered to the street beside the City Hall to observe 89 seconds of silence.  Then there was a speech or two before before we were sent on our way just before 7.00am.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai.

We rode an anti-clockwise loop.


The road conditions over the entire route were uniformly good.  Smooth, unblemished tarmac with a generous shoulder.  Typical of not just the Satun area, but everywhere we cycled during our four days in Thailand.  Their roads are such a pleasure to ride on.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The first water stop was 50km into the ride.  Where friendly volunteers waited with ice cold water and bananas.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

That water stop was very strategically placed.  The terrain got lumpy as soon as we left that water stop.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

After a few kilometers of rolling roads we hit a short but very steep climb.  Shades of the Wang Kelian climb from the day before.


Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

This was where the escorts provided by the organisers came in useful for some riders. Marshals on scooters or motorbikes had attached themselves to each of the groups of riders that had formed on the road.  They rode ahead of the group to indicate upcoming turns.  They rode beside the group to keep everyone on the right side of the road.  And they gave flagging riders a helping push when the gradient got too challenging for them.

This was the young man who followed our group for much of the day.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

This marshal was offering bottles of water to anyone who wanted one.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

There were also uniformed personnel stationed at every crossroad, T junction and side street.  It was nearly impossible to get lost.

Philip had shot off from the gun.  We didn’t see him again until after we finished.  Leslie wasn’t far behind Philip for the first half of the ride.Lay, Marco and I caught up with Leslie at the second water stop – see photograph with marshal above.

Leslie coasted along with us for a while, took our photograph, and then bolted away again. It was Lay’s first century ride.  Marco and I did not want it to be his last, so we were sure to keep the pace manageable.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

There were enough lumps and bumps over the second half of the ride to keep us working, but we were careful to stay out of the red.

It was a hot day though.  By noon it felt like 38°C / 100°F.  We were glad to see a 7 Eleven at a PTT petrol station after we had covered 110km / 68mi.  The you char koay and the banana I had eaten that morning had been all burned away.  It was time for a cheese toastie and a large Yakult.

We lounged in the air conditioning of the 7 Eleven for almost thirty minutes.  Completely forgetting that we had a motorcycle escort, who waited patiently outside for us.  Which was embarrassing.  We compounded our embarrassment after we got going again by asking him if there were many riders behind us.  He didn’t speak English, so we tried hand signals.  He interpreted our hands pointing behind us a request to stop riding beside us.  Ooops!!

He then latched on to another couple of riders ahead of us who needed a push to get over a series of rollers.  Fortunately we managed to catch up to him at the last water stop and thank him for looking after us.

We might not have been very convincing, because he didn’t follow us when we left that water stop.  He was replaced by a young couple on a motorbike, who stayed with us for the remaining 16km / 10mi to the finish.

Including waiting patiently while I replaced a flat front inner tube.  Punctured by a staple with just 6km / 4mi to go!


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Our motorcycle escort stopped traffic at intersections, and with 2km / 1mi to go, told us to sprint into the finish.  We were already doing about 34kph / 21mph.  We weren’t going to go any faster.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

As I had anticipated, Philip and Leslie were already in the Satun City Hall, eating lunch, when we got there.  I needed a liter of ice water and a few minutes under a fan before I could contemplate eating anything.

I don’t normally eat anything right after a long ride.  But this was Thailand, where the food is always delicious.  Including a shredded and fried fish with curry leaves dish that went very well with white rice or fried noodles.

“Where are the photographs?” you ask.  I do apologise, but none of us took any pictures of the lunch buffet.  I assure you though.  It was very good.

The Satun International Century Ride organisers, i.e. Khun Metharin and her team from WeSee Sport, had already done an outstanding job looking after the riders.  Three meals.  Excellent signage and marshalling along the route.  Plenty of cold water at all four stops.  Ice available at all but the last stop.  (It was such a hot day that all the ice at water stop four had melted by the time we got there).  Motorcycle escorts accompanying participants as they rode.  A jersey and a matching T shirt.

Add to that a lucky draw with attractive prizes.  Leslie won a set of tires, and Lay won a water bottle.

All this for just a RM160 / USD36 registration fee per participant.  Khun Metharin and her Wesee Sport team put many a Malaysian century ride organiser to shame.

We expressed our appreciation and gratitude to Khun Metharin for a thoroughly enjoyable event.  And we will definitely keep an eye out for the next event she organises.  She did drop a hint.  Krabi in March 2017.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The main event was well worth the trip.  And we had two more days to look forward to. Well, after a shower and a nap, that is.  And dinner around the corner from the hotel. Which was delicious.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was to bed.  We had an early start planned for Day 3.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Southern Thailand Tour Day 1


Almost exactly three years ago, I did my first bike ride ride in Thailand.  The excellent Samila Century Ride 2013.  Since then my friends and I have occasionally discussed doing another ride in Thailand.  Nothing came of those chats until the Perlis Bike Ride 2016 was cancelled due to lack of interest.

The Perlis Bike Ride had been scheduled on the same weekend as the Satun International Century Ride Thailand 2016.  I had opted for the Perlis ride as Perlis is the only state in Peninsular Malaysia where I have yet to ride.

With the Perlis ride off the calendar, Leslie suggested that we do the Satun ride instead.  And to make the long drive to Satun even more worthwhile, he suggested we take a few days to ride around in southern Thailand.

That sounded like a good idea to Lay, Marco, Philip and I.  As Leslie had already done a few bike tours around Thailand, he volunteered to map out a route and itinerary for us.

The five of us met at the Sungai Buloh R&R area at 6.00am.  Leslie, Marco and Philip in one vehicle, and Lay and I in another.  We had 490km / 304mi to drive to the border town of Padang Besar.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The only concern we had about the entire trip was where to park our cars in Padang Besar.  Our worries about leaving our vehicles unattended for three nights were put to rest when the sergeant at the Padang Besar Police Station let us park inside the station compound.

With parking sorted out, we get ready to ride.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The Padang Besar Police Station was the official start and end point for our four-day tour of southern Thailand.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We rode from  Padang Besar to Satun.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The most convenient border crossing between the two towns is at Wang Kelian.  The road to Wang Kelian and beyond bisects a ridge of hills between Padang Besar and Satun.


The switchbacks were a significant challenge.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong


Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

Like the rest of us, Lay was glad to get to the top after more than 200 meters / 760 feet of climbing over 2.5km / 1.5mi.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Just as we were about to negotiate the switchbacks down to Kampung Wang Kelian, the sky suddenly darkened and it started to pour.  It rained so hard that water was streaming down the road.  The risk of skidding was high, even at low speeds.  Keeping my speed low was difficult because my brakes were getting very little grip on my alloy rims.  Philip had so little braking on his carbon rims that he had to walk his bike down the steeper sections.  It was a sketchy descent for all of us.

We waited out the rain in a small sundry shop in Kampung Wang Kelian.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The rain was torrential for about fifteen minutes.  Just as suddenly as it had started, the rain stopped.

(I’ll write a review of our waterproof Apidura saddle packs.  Suffice to say here that our belongings stayed bone dry, despite the deluge.)


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

4km / 2.5mi down the road is the Thai-Malaysian border.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Immigration formalities didn’t take long.  Then we were back on our bikes for the 14km / 8.5mi ride down through the valley before reversing direction and riding south to Satun.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We had to be at the Satun City Hall by 5.30pm.  The program for the Satun International Century Ride included a pre-ride dinner and remembrance ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  We didn’t want to be late.

The first order of business was to say hello to Khun Metharin.  She had organised the Samila Century Ride in 2013, and together with Wesee Sport, was the organiser for the Satun ride.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Also in the photograph are the emcee for the event, and a news cameraman.  The three of them conspired to get me to do a recorded interview about where Team Flipside was from, how we felt about participating in the Satun ride, and to share my thoughts about the passing of Thailand’s revered and beloved king.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

Then it was dinner time.  The start of four days of good eating in Thailand!

The evening ended with some speeches by officials from Satun Province, followed by 89 seconds of silence and a remembrance ceremony for the late King Bhumibol.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We gathered up our goodie bags, turned on our bike lights, and wove our way through an unexpected night market on our way to the SinKiat Buri Hotel.  Our home for the next two nights.

It had been a very early start to the day.  And there were many kilometers to ride the next day.  Time for me to call it a night.