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Tag Archives: Hat Yai

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 3

Any plans to have a long lie in after the Satun International Century Ride were quickly put to rest.  We had about 150km / 93mi to cover from Satun to Hat Yai, via an extended route which would take us around Songkhla Lake.


We were all present and accounted for at the entrance of the SinKiat Buri Hotel at 7.30am.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Our first task upon rolling out was to scan the streets for a place to eat breakfast.  We didn’t see anything that looked promising for the first couple of kilometers.  7 Eleven came to mind, but Leslie reminded us that convenience stores should be our choice of last resort.  He had a point.

Then we found this place, selling packets of nasi lemak, just like we get at home.  But with a Thai twist.  The nasi lemak came with a variety of toppings to choose from.  Fish, or shrimp, or egg, or plain sambal.

I had already grabbed some pulut with kaya (sticky rice with coconut jam) as well.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We were on the only road that links Satun province with Songkhla province to the north.  Route 406, like the other roads we had already ridden on in Thailand, was wide and smooth.  And in this case it was a dual carriageway.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

About 27km / 17mi outside Satun we were diverted to the opposite side of the dual carriageway.  The northbound side of the road was closed.  A bad accident perhaps?

A few minutes later we saw the reason for the diversion.  There was a row of more than a dozen double decker buses like this one parked on the road.


All waiting to load passengers coming out of this place.


I can’t find any information about Satun Cowboy Land, so why hundreds of people were there remains a mystery.

1o kilometers later we were riding through the karst outcrops that mark the border into Songkhla province.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

It was turning into another hot day.  We had planned to stop for a drink every 30km / 19mi or so, and we stuck to that plan.  Our first rehydration stop had been just past Satun Cowboy Town.

At about 60km / 37mi we were in Ban Na Si Thong.  We bought large Sunkist orange and milky green tea drinks here.  There was enough Sunkist in my drink that I could dilute it three times over from the water dispenser near our table.

We were grateful that the Thais are also not stingy with ice.  The drinks come loaded with ice, and are often accompanied with a bucket of more ice.  We were always able to keep our bottles topped up with ice.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

By noon we had covered 75km / 47mi.  The temperature was up around 38°C / 100°F.  Too hot to ride a further 15km / 9mi before stopping again.

A 7 Eleven in Khuan Niang to the rescue!


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We felt much better after fifteen minutes in air conditioning.

Lunch was about forty five minutes away.  We may have been smiling on the bridge at Ban Pak Ro, but we were hot and hungry.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We found a great restaurant on the other side of the bridge.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We were on the water, in the shade, under a fan, with cold drinks in hand.  (Note the blue ice bucket on the table).  We kicked back there for almost two hours.

Oh!  We did eat too.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We roused ourselves and got back onto our bikes at 3.40pm.  We had 55km / 34mi to go to Hat Yai, and we wanted to get there before sunset at about 6.0pm.

The 10km / 6mi from the restaurant was the only bad section of road we encountered during the entire 430km / 267mi tour through southern Thailand.  We felt right at home.  Which is a bit sad!


The next landmark was Ko Yo island in Songkhla Lake.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

30km / 19mi to go to Hat Yai.  We had been riding long enough from lunch that we needed a drink and to refill our bottles for the stretch to our final destination.

There are lots of roadside drinks stalls to choose from.  All identifiable by the rows of syrups and cordials on display.


There is nothing quite like an ice cold Coke!


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

There was about an hour before sunset.  So Philip and Leslie proceeded to pull us along at 31kph / 19mph for the next thirty minutes.  Then we made the left turn onto Lopburi Ramesuan Road, heading south into central Hat Yai.

We had prebooked the hotel in Satun, but had not done the same for Hat Yai.  So it was hotel hunting time.  We were turned away from the first two hotels we tried, when we revealed that we intended to take our bikes up to our rooms.

While Lay – our designated negotiator – was trying for the third time to get us into a hotel, the Lee Gardens Plaza, I struck up a conversation outside with a security guard.  He was quite impressed that we had ridden from Satun, and was interested in our bikes and saddle packs.

When Lay returned with the news that once again we wouldn’t be allowed to take our bikes into our rooms, the security guard was not pleased.  He immediately pulled out his walkie talkie, and after thirty seconds of conversation – the only word I understood was “Satun” – he ushered us all, bikes included, into the hotel.

If you visit Hat Yai, stay in the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel.  Especially if you bring your bicycle!!

Showered and changed, we wandered along Prachathipat Road looking for a nice place to eat.  We chose Jaepen Restaurant, on the basis of a stall at the entrance selling leng chee kang (a sweet drink or dessert containing lotus seeds, longans, lily bulbs, dried persimmons, and malva nuts).

The leng chee kang turned out to be a bit of a bust, but the food was excellent.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Not only is the food in Thailand delicious, it is also cheap.  We had steamed grouper, omelette with crab meat, squid in curry sauce, fried shrimp with petai, fish and shrimp cake, and white rice.  Plus two bowls of leng chee kang and two bowls of bubur cha cha (a Nyonya dessert of bananas, sweet potatoes, taro, and sago pearls cooked in pandan -flavoured coconut milk).

All for THB 1,820.  Or RM46 / USD10 per person.  So there was enough cash left over for a mango with sticky rice dessert on the way back to the hotel.

It had been a long and hot day.  Add a full stomach.  No wonder I was ready to hit the sack.  Day 4 to come.



Samila Century Ride 2013

Samila Century 2013 Graphic

We started talking about this ride in August.  The number of riders in Team KESAS Kruisers fluctuated as Sunday 17th November approached.  Six of us loaded our bikes into Keat’s pickup truck early Friday morning for the 565 km / 350 mi drive to Songkhla.

Samila Century 2013 Truck

Keat, Marco and I rode in the truck, and Marvin, Chris and Mark were in Marvin’s hot hatchback.

Some planning went into fitting six bicycles into the bed of the pickup truck.  Meticulous planning went into deciding where to eat along the way.  Breakfast was at the Sungai Buloh R&R.  I should be embarrassed to admit that this was only 26 km / 16 mi into our journey.  This stop was chosen for convenience over the quality of the food available.

The first “foodie” stop was at the Pun Chun Noodle House in Bidor.  Pun Chun is noted for its duck noodles.

They go through a lot of duck!

Samila Century 2013 Pun Chun Duck

Lunch was at Ong Cheng Huat Seafood in Bagan Lalang.  The restaurant is tucked away in a small village.  Marvin knew how to get there.  The food was outstanding.

The Steamed Red Snapper was particularly good.  This was Keat’s favorite bit of the fish.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We got to the Thai border at about 4.30 pm Malaysian time.  Chris, Marco and I watched the world go by while Keat and Marvin sorted out the paperwork required to drive their vehicles into Thailand.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We may have planned our food stops well, but we weren’t so clever when it came to picking the time of day to drive from the border post at Sadao to Hat Yai and on to Songkhla.  Thailand is one hour behind Malaysia.  It was about 4 pm Thai time by the time we left Sadao.  Which meant that we drove into the height of the evening rush outside Hat Yai, and then crawled all the way to Songkhla.  The last 95 km / 60 mi of the drive took more than two hours.

So it was nice to be in a hotel in the center of Songkhla, within walking distance of places to eat.  I wouldn’t go so far as to describe the Pavilion Hotel as “elegant” (see the hotel website).  It may well have been elegant in its heyday, but is a bit worse for wear today.  It met our needs well enough though.  And at RM215 / USD68 per person for three nights, including breakfast, we shouldn’t complain.

We wandered into Mr. Steak for dinner.  Ribs, steaks and pasta are not what immediately come to mind when you think of what to eat in Thailand.  Mr. Steak hit the spot though.  This is the team – and a photo bomber!

Photograph courtesy of Christopher Chin

Photograph courtesy of Christopher Chin

We chose our hotel because it was very close to the official hotel and the start and finish for the ride.    The organizers ran into a last-minute snag with that hotel and had to move everything to the Haad Kaew Resort.  Which is about 30 km / 19 mi away via the two parts of the Tinsulanonda Bridge that join the mainland to Ko Yo Island in Songkhla Lake.  Or 10 km / 6 mi away if you take the ferry across the narrow strait that connects the lake to the Gulf of Thailand.

We weren’t able to cancel our reservations at the Pavilion Hotel.  So the plan was to cycle from the hotel to where the ride would start.  Hence the first order of business after breakfast on Saturday was to recce the shorter route to the Haad Kaew Resort.

On the way to the ferry we explored a little.  There is a well-known statue, the Golden Mermaid, on Samila Beach.  This statue, dedicated to knowledge, looked more interesting to Marvin.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The scenic route to the ferry runs along the beach.  Marco, Marvin and I, and the others, took turns being photographed with the sea behind us.

Samila Century 2013 Samila Beach

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had to do a bit of deciphering of signs along the way, but we found the ferry.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The ferry operates from 5am, which meant that we would have no problem getting to the start before 7am.  An added bonus is that the ferry is free for cyclists.

We shared the ferry with a few cars and pickup trucks, and a lot of small motorcycles and scooters.  One family was going to have chicken feet, prawns, and squash for lunch or dinner.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Once off the ferry we were cycling along the tail end of the ride route, so there were arrows guiding us to the Haad Kaew Resort.  Where we discovered that the Samila Century Ride was the shorter option.  The Songkhla Ipoh Friendship Ride had started the day before.  It is about 360 km / 224 mi from Songkhla to Ipoh in Malaysia.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Our jerseys and ride numbers were waiting for us when we got there.  We introduced ourselves to the event organizer, Ms. Metharin Pongratchatakaran.

As for our footwear.  We thought it was going to rain and didn’t want to risk getting our cycling shoes wet.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The sandals worked out well.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were all a bit peckish by the time we got off the ferry back across the strait.  There are a host of seafood restaurants to choose from on Samila Beach.

It was time for some Thai food.  Food doesn’t come more Thai than tom yam soup.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

I’m surprised we could ride our bikes the rest of the way back to the hotel after all the seafood we ate for lunch.  I’m not surprised that everyone took a long nap that afternoon.

That evening we wandered through the night market that is just down the road from the hotel.  To be more accurate we wandered through the food section of the night market.  We didn’t bother with the part where you can buy clothes, alarm clocks, toys etc.

The first thing we saw was a pickup truck that had been converted into a Japanese restaurant.  Two cooks were in the kitchen on the roof.  The diners sat at tables on the bed, or at tables that folded out from either side of the truck.  Food came down from the kitchen on a small electrically-operated lift.  All quite ingenious.

Samila Century 2013 Sakura Truck

These sweets are called Look Choop.  They could substitute for energy chews.  They certainly look prettier than your average Clif Shot Blok.  Sweetened mung bean paste is moulded to look like fruits and vegetables.  A candy glaze adds color.

Samila Century 2013 Sweets

I’m not so sure these treats will catch on as a substitute for energy chews though.

Samila Century 2013 Protein Pods (Mark)

Still on the subject of food (no munchies no ride)!  The Pavilion Hotel may no longer be elegant, but they do start serving breakfast at 5am.  So we had no problem fueling up before our 6.15 am departure from the hotel.  We rode out into a drizzle, which eased by the time we reached the ferry.

We got to the start outside the Haad Kaew Resort just as it started drizzling again.  The rain got steadily heavier and heavier.  By the time we were 30 km / 20 mi into the ride it was pouring.  So much for wearing sandals the day before to keep our shoes dry.

We rode in the rain for the first third of the ride, which took us north along the coast before turning inland and then back south.   Highway 408  is excellent for cycling.  The road surface is amazingly smooth.  Not a bump or a pothole to be found.  Despite the heavy rain there was rarely any standing water on that road.

The rural road inland is another story.  There are lots of bumps and potholes.  The rain made riding quite tricky because standing water often hid holes in the road surface.  Keat hit a pothole and has seven stitches in his elbow to show for it.  He won the hard man award for cycling some 90 km / 56 mi with a gashed elbow, a scraped knee and a bruised hip.

Samila Century 2013 Route

Keat’s mishap aside, we were all glad that it rained.  The rain kept us cool.  By the time we made our first stop at the halfway point the rain had ceased however, and the sun was peeking through the clouds.

Mark and Chris are all smiles here.  The heat and the headwind in the final kilometers wiped those smiles off their faces.

Samila Century 2013 Rest Stop

We made a stop at a 7-11 in Khuang Niang.  Keat caught up with us there, which is when we learned of his accident.  Marvin had stopped early on for what we thought was a loose quick release skewer.  He actually had a flat.  It took him a long time in the pouring rain to replace the tube.  We didn’t see him again until the finish.

I bought chocolate milk and chocolate chip cookies.  The others bought food and drink also.  While we were standing outside the 7-11 consuming our purchases a procession came by.  My guess is that it was a wedding procession because of these money trees in their gold pots.

Samila Century 2013 Money Trees

Not long after the stop at Khuang Niang we turned left onto Highway 43.  The road surface improved markedly.  More importantly there was a wide shoulder to ride on so we could stay as far as possible from the speeding cars, lorries and buses.  It helped that the highway was arrow-straight for a good 20 km / 12 mi.

We made a final stop at a petrol station just after the right turn off Highway 43 and onto Lopbun Ramesuan Road.  We needed a rest room.  While we were there we took advantage of a water hose to rinse the sweat off our faces, to soak our hair and jerseys in an effort to cool down, and to wash the sand and mud off our bikes.

The highlight of the ride for Mark and I came a few kilometers after we made the left turn back onto Highway 408.  There was quite a strong headwind as we rode over the first part of the Tinsulanonda Bridge.  We had our heads down, pushing against the wind as we rode past Wat Pranon Laem Pho.  So we didn’t fully appreciate the large reclining Buddha that the temple is famous for.

About halfway across Ko Yo Island something like this rolled past us.

Samila Century 2013 Low Loader

Mark and I had drafted a lorry once before.  What a blast that had been!  This was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Especially given the headwind we were battling.

We swung to the right and accelerated into the still air about 1 meter / 3 feet behind the lorry.  For the next 5.5 km / 3.4 mi we averaged 54 kph / 33.5 mph.  As we came off the second part of the Tinsulanonda Bridge and onto the mainland we were exceeding 64 kph / 40 mph.  What a treat to run out of gears on the high end of the cassette for once.

Sadly this low-loader wasn’t going all the way to the Haad Kaew Resort.  We waved our thanks to the driver as he honked and turned to the right.  Then our normal cycling speeds were resumed for the last 7 km / 4 mi to the finish at the beachside resort.

Samila Century 2013 Haad Kaew

I had expected to wait for the rest of the KESAS Kruisers and then ride back to our hotel.  Instead Mark and I were ushered into an air-conditioned hall for a sit-down lunch.  Thai green curry, stir-fried vegetables, spicy tofu, chicken in soya sauce.  All good, and all much appreciated.

Before long our group was together again.  As we ate we were were entertained by a singer, and a group of Thai traditional dancers.  That was followed by a lucky draw.  We all had our numbers in our hands and hope in our hearts, but none of us left with a prize.

We did have a certificate and a finisher’s medal to show for our efforts.

Samila Century 2013 Certificate and Medal

And memories of a wonderful trip with a first-class group of friends, and a very well-organized ride.  I think we will be back in 2014.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai