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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.



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.