Day 77 Narathiwat to Kota Bharu, Malaysia

70km/5hrs. A short day by km and a bit sad leaving Thailand. Usual flat road in Thailand with cycle and motorbike lane but less of latter in Malaysia.

Woke to have breakfast on balcony watching the fishing boats return. sorry to leave. A few days more would be good.

Stopped a few km before the immigration at Tak Bai (much quieter and more civilized exit point than Su Ngai Kolok)  for my last papaya salad, grilled chicken and sticky rice. Lot of military presence. Armored trucks, helicopter, military passing in trucks and check points. Gave me usual thumbs up and grins.

Immigration office in Tak Bai is small wooden building where the ferry stops. Seem to have a bigger new office nearly finished opposite. Officials were confused about my new passport and although it clearly had transfer of visa stamp kept looking for the old stamp in my new passport. Eventually got this sorted and then they found I was two days over my visa. I started giving them the sad story of food poisoning but they just said, ‘Pay!’ and I did. 1,000B/$30. Then a young officer who had seen me eating lunch and spoke English came and things became friendly. I had to undergo the usual whispered silly sexual jokes and tell him the population of Wales. This seemed very important to him. Then waited for the ferry. Luckily there was an ice cream seller. Bread chunks, sticky rice, jelly, ice cream and condensed milk with choc sauce. Ferry costs 10B and takes 6 min. Malaysian immigration were very relaxed and friendly and there were signs to Kota Bharu.

There are a few places to stay in Tak Bai (Thai side) and a couple on Malaysian side a few km from the border. TTs GH advertised at RM58. 3 ringgit to $ approximately.

Kota Bharu was not impressive even in good weather. Seems tatty and generally badly maintained. Probably because it is. I felt like going straight back to Thailand. Looked at about 8 guesthouses, hotels and backpacker places and chose the best value. Rose Garden Inn (signed off Jl Kebun Sultan) where rooms start at RM50. I paid for family room with balcony for RM70 as others full tonight. Still fairly small rooms and not such good value as Thailand but far better than others I saw for same price which were scruffy shoe boxes with dirty walls and scrapped furniture they seem to have gathered from a dump. I tried most from wikitravel and all were depressing. Also the owner is friendly in a vague scatty way. ‘Star movies are not working’. ‘Oh that’s a problem’ and wandered off.

Some Chinese restaurants in Jl Kebun Sultan with good cheap food (RM3-6) and the cheapest beer one is likely to find which is not cheap (RM13+). Royal Stoat is 8% so one gets almost twice the alcohol for ones money. A couple of these and Kota Bharu looks a lot better. I had one of those surreal conversations with a half wit old waiter. This is nothing against the old. I am sure he used to be a young half wit also.

‘Can I have the menu please?’

‘No menu in English’

‘No problem I speak Malay’ (said in Malay)

‘In KL they speak English but here we speak our national language, Malay’

‘I know that’s why I am speaking to you in Malay. This is Malay I am speaking’.

‘People here speak Malay’

I left.

There is a bar in town but during happy hours half a pint still costs RM14 (nearly £5).

Tip: bring alcohol from Thailand as much more expensive in Malaysia

locked and fenced wat in Narathiwat

locked and fenced wat in Narathiwat

nice coffee and cake cafe in Narathiwat

nice coffee and cake cafe in Narathiwat

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morning view from hotel room in Narathiwat

morning view from hotel room in Narathiwat

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protection for banks in Narathiwat

protection for banks in Narathiwat

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fishermen returning, Narathiwat

ice cream seller next to immigration

ice cream seller next to immigration

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waiting for the ferry to Malaysia

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immigration office Thailand near Tak Bai

immigration office Thailand near Tak Bai

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looking back to Thailand

on ferry leaving Thailand

on ferry leaving Thailand

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Buddha a few km inside Malaysia looking towards Malaysia

Buddha a few km inside Malaysia looking towards Malaysia

best place i could find at the price in Kota Bharu.

best place i could find at the price in Kota Bharu.

Rose Garden Inn, Kota Bharu.

Rose Garden Inn, Kota Bharu.

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typical city buildings in Kota Bharu

typical city buildings in Kota Bharu

a pub in Kota Bharu but you can't afford a drink

a pub in Kota Bharu but you can’t afford a drink

pub. Irish of course

pub. Irish of course

Day 76 Pattani to Narathiwat. Lots of security

100km/5hrs. 42 road and later 4136 coast road towards Mai Kaen. 42 was not too busy with hard shoulder and tree shaded and country road was much nicer. Follow signs to the airport.

 

Slept badly and too little but the correct sized inner tube at LA bike shop made me feel better. Means that I have security if one of my inner tubes is unrepairable.

 

Saw blue sky and sun for the first time in days. Only managed 35km before an early lunch and 1.5 lites of water. Now cycled over 2,000km fron Chaing Mai and over 3,600km in total. Only planned to cycle about 1,00km to Nong Khai but then just continued.

 

Locals waved, thumbs up, grins and shouted hello. Don’t think they get many foreigners around here especially cycling through villages. A couple of boys on a motorbike swore at me but that is just teenage boys. A big military presence and a number of check posts. Most soldiers in black (not sure it that means a particular regiment) and grinned, put thumbs up or saluted me. Seemed very nice people. The sort you would not mind having a beer and a chat with. Unfortunately the Thai military has a bad reputation and was recently criticized in a US State Department report for human rights abuses, summary executions and rape. US military ironically trains them. As the largest arms dealer in the world America does not ignore Thailand especially as their raising economy means they can afford more weapons.

 

Saw a wat with a military post inside and barbed wire covering it but a short distance on a wat that had monks and was open. Some military look out towers again with grinning young soldiers. One soldier asked where I was going but only to then wish me a good trip. Saw a couple of helicopters over head. Security seemed tight.

 

Just as I was thinking that dog attacks were a thing of the past a few dogs started running after me and two more joined them. I speeded up and they kept following but silently without the usual growl or bark. I then took a stone from my old pocket bag and threw it back in their direction and they stopped. So the dog saga continues. If they knew I have not managed to hit one dog with a stone so far they would be less wary.

 

Narathiwat: charming small town with two main parallel streets. One next to river and other leading to clock tower. Few roads linking these. Pacific Hotel is near the clock tower o n Worakakhampipith road (try asking for that in Thai)and costs about 500B. Ocean Blue Mansion is right on river. 400B for non river view and 500B for great river view where one can watch the fishing boats as one dries ones socks on the balcony (see photos). They also sell beer.

 

Everyone seems to speak Malay here which makes it easy for me. I can again interat and joke with locals rather than struggling over a few Thai words badly pronounced. Chatted to receptionist who said he hears many stories but just stays in the middle and says nothing. His way of staying safe. He just wants peace and get on with his life which is 12 hours on reception and then with his family. I suspect that is what most want. It was interesting that he was looking around to see if anyone could hear us talking.

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fortified wat

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check post

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unfortified wat with monks living here

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a dead end but it isn’t raining

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typical scene

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decided against this road

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clock tower, Narathiwat

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empty beaches

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view from ocean blue mansion

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view from hotel window

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fishermen preparing for nights fishing

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Day 75 Songkhla to Pattani. No bombs.

105km/5hrs, 408 road leading to the 43.
A day in Songkhla would have been nice to see the museum and sit around drinking coffee and reading the sunday papers but by the time I hit the border I will be a day over my visa even now.
The girl working in the hotel told me she is from Chiang Mai and came here to find work. 1,800km.
She didn’t know how to get out of town towards Pattani so after waiting for the rain to ease I went to the tourist services which was a mistake. I think the woman was a little deranged. Our conversation went like this:
‘Can you tell me how to get to the 408 road to Pattani please. Is it to the right, left or straight at the end of this road? ‘
‘Mini bus to Hat Yai leave….’
(I had a bike helmet and gloves on and a bike behind me. )
No, I do not want to go to Hat Yai. I want to go to Pattani. Is it right, left, straight on at the end of this road?’
‘Pattani no good. Bang bang!’ (with fingers together as a gun)
‘Thanks but which way do I go at the end of this road?’
She got out a map and after me pointing a few times found the 408 and traiced it south until she came to the end of the map which was only of Songkhla. I pointed this out so she would stop looking for Pattani.
‘There is 408’ she said with satisfaction.
‘thanks but where do I go at the end of the bloody street?’
‘Over there’ she said waving her hand covering all three directions.
I thanked her still talking and guessed the direction correctly.
A bit strange seeing women in jilbabs and covered up again to help men resist immoral thoughts after the freedom of the Thais in shorts and short skirts.
Check points maned by young solders who grinned at me as I passed. Military also passing on motorbikes. Sighs saying end the violance and bombing. In Pattani I felt no threat but some military in the shadows and an armed police presence.
I stopped at a muslim beach shop and was charged double for water which of course means they are all dishonest.
Pattani is not an unpleaent place. Fishing boats moored in the river with washing and fishermen hanging all over them. I am probably the only western person in town but people only stare politely after I pass and I can hear the word ‘falang’ as I am pointed out to others.
Paradise GH is not but ok for a night at 400B. Can be hard to find. Go to the city pillar and cross the river. Immediately turn left and it is 10m on the right behind Sea Fresh shop. No english sign and set back from the road.
There is a night market with mostly food five minutes walk away and nice restaurant to the right when you cross the bridge which has changing coloured lights at night which is pleasant in a tacky way.
I tried speaking Indonesian but found people I talked to did not understand. There language is Yawi. Yawi language predominantly used in verbal and written language (Yawi has roots from the spoken Malay language and uses consonants and alphabets of the Arabic language one can see on the signs)
Managed to fix my bike lock clogged with mud and my right hand is loosing more sensation.

dark clouds seen from my GH in Songkhla

dark clouds seen from my GH in Songkhla

museum from holland House room balcony

museum from holland House room balcony

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mosque, chinese temple and wat

mosque, chinese temple and wat

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Bridge with colourful lights seen from a riverside restaurant

Bridge with colourful lights seen from a riverside restaurant

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Day 74 Ranot to Songkla. Puncture & friendly locals.

74km/6hrs. Bloody punctures and also rain held me up.

Nice people in GH lent me a pump to pump up my front tire to full capacity. I left feeling the bike was going at optimum speed until after 2km I had a bloody puncture. So much for getting to Songkla early and having a look around in day light. I stopped outside a cafe which had some shade and started repairs. Two old men came in and found it interesting so offered advice and wanted to prod and poke things. I think my body language stopped that. The restaurant owner brought me ice water and a smile which cooled me off. I fixed it and then fixed it again and then when putting pressure in the tire it blew a hole through the patch I had put on. I then used my spare, also patched, inner tube. that took over an hour and left me with no spare inner tube and as it is 27 inch wheel difficulty in finding one. A couple of km up the road I stopped at a workshop to get air put into the tire as a hand pump can not put enough in. I was greeted by the owner, his wife and two girls. They just felt like a nice family. One girl was very excited and practiced her English while the father inflated the tire to maximum and refused payment. Few foreigners pass this way and while I was just getting my tire inflated it was a big thing for them. nice experience for me also.

Knowing I was going to be late in Songkla I cycled the next 50km without stopping except once to see if a bike shop had an inner tube for my bike. It didn’t.
I saw lots of posters of a politician superimposed on photos representing presumably what he was going to do. Cable car seemed a bit over the top as it is extremely flat here.

A wat with a huge statue of an old monk which people pray to. In the west we have old people and the cost of homes while here they are monks.

I tent to forget that while normal for me to suddenly cycle into a restaurant is quite normal but for many people in this area they probably have not met a falang and having one appear on a bike is probably a bit of a shock. I mention this because I saw the shock on the woman’s face when I stopped for lunch. I told her that her pork noodles were very delicious and she grinned. The coffee that followed had three tables spoons of sugar and condensed milk with a hint of burnt coffee.

I had 26 km to go and then followed signs for a ferry that  for 3B took me directly to Songkka just in time for the daily downpour. My pannier covers are cleverly designed to collect water from falling rain or from puddles…

Tip: put a spare set of clothes in plastic bags (duty free ones are good), twist them closed, fold them over and tie them.

Songkla has a tourist help centre not far from the museum which gives maps and advice on accommodation. Holland House (350B) seemed the best deal. Three other hotels in same street. Night market has good food and better than most for food. First impressions are a nice town. A string of bars 5 in walk from the hotel with lots of oil workers. Usual Scottish and Texas accents. Some of the bars and restaurants and bars are not dominated by. ‘Hello you handsome’..Beach area looked good when cycled in even in the rain.

one presumes a politician. As Thailand is flat except for the north I am not sure about the cable car

one presumes a politician. As Thailand is flat except for the north I am not sure about the cable car

the lonely road ahead

the lonely road ahead

found a ferry that cut 25km off the day

found a ferry that cut 25km off the day

on ferry

on ferry

clever pannier covers that collect water

clever pannier covers that collect water

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museum

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painting

band in night market

band in night market

in centre not far from museum and helpful. maps

in centre not far from museum and helpful. maps

a previous presidents home

a previous presidents home

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the hotel behind it must have been a nuisance

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Day 73 Naorn Sri Tammarat to Ranot. Not wet

110km/6hrs

Very very flat. 408 then left onto 4013 to Pak Phanang, Hua Sai (77km) and Ranot. Mostly followed the coast closely. A stretch of about 35km without much food or water possibilities. Tippawan GH in Ranot (350B) is az good deal with nice garden and lake for mosquitoes.

I noticed the Wat outside my window was not completed. Perhaps the monks gave the money to the poor instead.

Had to stop at the famous Wat Phra  Mahathat on the way out of town which looked better in the day light but not much. The wat is the largest in Southern Thailand. Founded by Queen Hem Chala over a thousand years ago. What does a queen become when reincarnated? A king? Her spirit looks after the town so not sure how she could be reincarnated. The gold spire weighs several 100kg but no one has weighted it.

After spending half the night  on the internet trying to understand the various reasons for a   slipping chain I decided to take advantage of the dry weather and cleaned the gears and chain with a screw driver and solved the problem. Perhaps I should put it on utube.

With straight flat roads averaged over 20km per hr. with little effort. Forecast is thunderstorms until July but only a little drizzle today until 7pm when it poured. More and more jilbabs and  mosques. Strange seeing women due to conditioning, desire to conform or religious belief and covering up in contrast to Thais who are very free. For example a boy in kindergarten may show his sexual orientation and play with the girls. No pressure on him to conform. An Afghan friend of mine went with his wife to study in Japan. She then stopped wearing the jilbab.

Now lot of goats also. From what I understand God asked Abraham to kill his son Issac as a test and t the last moment told him to kill and eat a goat instead and Muslims have eaten goats ever since.

Thought I was cleaver having a guest house next to a nice looking restaurant which of course closed at 6pm so had to walk 2 km in rain to find food in a bar where the girls all wanted to tell me they loved me and stir fried veg cost three times the usual.

 

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my place

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Tippawen GH and mosquito pond

 

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shrimp fishing

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Wat Phra Mahathat

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the queen and her brother

 

 

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a couple of peregrine falcons would sort those out

 

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seems like Shiva starting the Ganges

 

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no rain and fixed the bike

 

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can never have enough Buddhas

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cold cure