Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ToST - Part 1

On the road again...

Prior to our Sabak Bernam - Teluk Intan offroad ride, I was in touch with my regular cycling kaki Roger Teoh on doing a tour of Southern Thailand.
Since I got my Dahon Speed P8, I've been dreaming of touring in Hat Yai and Songkhla.
No matter what, this is one ride that I have been yearning to do.
Roger, it seems, had some good knowledge about Southern Thailand as he travels there regularly.
He also gave me a ride report from his recent trip to the largest city in Southern Thailand.
And in some follow-up emails, he had drawn a plan and a ride route. 
We worked together in co-hosting the ride.
My plan was clear, get a few fellas to cycle this route as a recce ride.

Logistics

Our programme was pretty straight-forward, get a train from KL Sentral to Hat Yai and back.
Prior to the trip, I made an on-line purchase of the tickets. It costs about RM98 for two one-way tickets to Hat Yai.
Michelle didn't mind the second-class train seats and the last time we traveled to Thailand was to Bangkok nearly 10 years ago.
As for the accommodation, Roger said that we need not worry. 
I booked a room in Hat Yai on our last day before returning home.
It was made through Agoda.com and well, the hotel turned out to be pretty run down and as a rule of thumb, never believe everything you read on the internet.

Preparation

I made sure that our bikes were in working order. 
The folding bike of choice are the Dahon Speed P8 and TR.
I had my Speed P8 serviced much earlier and had no issues with the condition of the bike.
Michelle did had some problems with the brakes as it was completely worn and the SRAM Dual Drive II wasn't working after much wear and tear.
And as usual, I sent it to Master Johnny Ng's bike shop for a tune-up.
Seems that the hub drive's cables were not properly set and after some tweaking, it was working perfectly.
As for the rest, I purchased some spare inner tubes for the ride and had updated my Selle Royal saddle bag to include a couple of new gear.

Michelle saying good-bye to Sir Naughty, our Siberian Husky
And after much anticipation.. 

The day arrived when we set out to KL Sentral. 
After feeding the dogs, we drove to Michelle's parent's place and parked our car. Her mum, Patricia, drove us to the Paramount LRT station where we took a train to KL Sentral.
We need to join the rush hour and I must say that the LRT staff in Paramount were the least helpful as they had shut down the large gate where we had to pass the bikes and panniers through a barrier.
We arrived at KL Sentral without a hitch and waited for the members of your Southern Thailand expedition.
There, we waited for Roger and Andrew Ng, who was touring for the first time.
We met Andrew a year ago during a social ride and became friends.
He is a well-respected cyclist and is highly regarded by many folding bike owners.

Waiting for the ride to KL Sentral
Waiting at the usual spot 

Boarding the train to Hat Yai
The long journey begins at 09:30pm on platform A for the North-bound trains.
Roger and Andrew booked their sleeping berths.
We had dinner at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet before moving into our coach on the lower level of the station.
The train began to depart for its journey to Padang Besar in Perlis and straight into the Thai Border Customs and Immigration Checkpoint.

The guys and their sleeping berths

We're just happy to get some leg room in front of our bikes
The usual jibba-jabba

We had our seats in coach L-7 and I had specifically booked seats 1A and 1B which is right in front.
There's plenty of leg room and space for the bikes.
But, someone got to the seats first and dumped their stuff there.
I confronted the guy and asked if he got his seating arrangements right.
It turned out that these fellas were from the third-class coach and tried their luck by jacking our seats.

They moved their stuff back to the cargo hold section and I never saw them again until we reached Padang Besar..
I spent the rest of the night 

The gang at Padang Besar, Perlis


Our conductor hard at work

We're cleared by Customs and Immigration and are good to go!

Forward to Hat Yai

The train arrived rather late in Padang Besar and we had to wait for another 45-minutes before we could board it to Hat Yai.
While queuing up, I saw this shady character with his luggage trying to enter Malaysia.
He was rejected and boarded the train back to Hat Yai.
Seems that human trafficking is a big issue and many economic migrants would use Thailand and Malaysia as a gateway to enter First World countries in the West.
That didn't bother me a bit as we continued our journey into Southern Thailand.. 
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