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’
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