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 21 Still Nong Khai

Still in Nong Khai but not a bad place to be.

Tips:

  • how to impress Thais? Eat raw chillies. They will love you and believe you to be Thai with a falang body
  • for the gradient of your trip try the site bikeroutetoaster.com. It’s a bit depressing and does not tell you how to avoid the hills.
  • how to eat noodles? Sit close to the table to avoid half of the bowel on your trousers. Don’t suck them up too quickly especially if you have used a lot of chilli. The ends are prone to flick up in ones eye.

Met a young girl serving in a restaurant whose father died and now has a Swedish father who adopted her. He is apparently very calm but her mother is, ‘an angry woman’ . Her father is going to take her to live in Sweden and study in university there. Interesting how something good can come out of personal tragedy.

 

Day 13 Nakhon Phanon

A rest day as did not want to spend have another day of a succession of buckets of water. OK two days of shouts of, falang! falang!’ followed by a soaking is fine but then the joke gets a bit thin and my smile a bit forced. Still the party went on. I noticed some motorcyclists waved indicating they were not interested and this was respected. I tried the same with not 100% success.

Having a hair cut is often traumatic but from what I know the hairdresser usually bounces back with the support of a good family. Today I tried one place but did not like the hairdresser so gave up until in the early evening I bumped into a place with a young girl who smiled and said, Sawadee ka’. I thought she must have a nice mother so had my hair cut there. Not the best cut in the world but the experience was pleasant.

Another point of angst is getting Thai food with chilli in it. Any place with experience of foreigners has had some fool insist on no chilli and staff have adopted the belief that however much the falang says he likes hot food one should not believe him. I sent food back and eventually had to demonstrate eating raw chillies before I was believed.

Some partied while some still had to search for food. I went into a temple grounds for the quiet and chatted to a young monk looking after some very young monks. Why are old men such as monks always revered rather than women?

Relaxed at the View Khong restaurant and watched people on the beach which appears in the dry season.

couple of cycling tips:

  • the smoothest part of the road is the white line. The one at the side is recommended. However this can become a little boring after a while
  • 7/11 has whole meal bread and tubes of honey. Latter is ideal for cycling. It is only in Thai script but it is brown and sticky and looks very much like honey so the average person has a fair chance of finding it
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