Saturday, October 26, 2013

ToST II - Part 1

Continuing our mission in Southern Thailand...

I got in touch with my cycling kaki Roger Teoh who got to work straight away with a ride plan in Southern Thailand.
Earlier in July, we did the first section covering Hat Yai, Songkhla, Ranot and Patthalung. Its actually a day shorter than the second tour of Southern Thailand.
We despatched an email to the touring group and received a lukewarm response. 
The total head count was me, Michelle - my wife, Roger and Sin Tai Lim who is a newcomer to the touring group.
Four makes the perfect party for this.
Over the course of a few months, we kept in touch via group email and proceeded with purchasing our bus ticket to Hat Yai where we staged the ride.

The plan

We laid out a course for six days, where we will spend three days on the move.
The logistics was planned in such a way, when we get to Hat Yai, we transfer onto a local stage bus to Nakhon Si Thammarat.
This means that there will be little cycling on the second day when we get to Thailand.
From Kuala Lumpur, we will board a bus to the Thai border and straight into Hat Yai.
We got a lift from Pat, my mother in-law from her house in SS3, Petaling Jaya to Pudu Raya in KL where we boarded the bus.
To kill time, I left the bikes and panniers at a luggage hold facility and took a walk around the city centre.
We had dinner at Jalan Silang and there was plenty of time to kill.
Later, we met the gang and waited to board the bus at platform 19.
The ticket to Hat Yai costs RM55 one-way and it can be purchased on-line. Our choice bus company was Konsortium Bas that came highly recommended by Roger.

Downtown traffic in Kuala Lumpur's city centre

Pat and Michelle

The city skyline at dusk
Rendezvous with the gang in Pudu Raya
The public transportation experience...

We've taken the train to Hat Yai in our first tour and this time, its slightly different.
There are daily bus services from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai and they usually depart from Pudu Raya at 10pm.
This means, we have to be at the terminal about an hour before departure.
The journey takes about eight hours from KL to the Thai border in Bukit Kayu Hitam in Kedah.
Our bus was a VIP coach with electronic reclining seats. 
Each set has its own multimedia terminal where passengers can watch movies or listen to music during the journey.
When the time came, we moved our cargo onto the platform and waited for the bus to arrive.
The bus driver was kind enough to help out with the luggage compartment where the bikes were stowed for transport.
We had four bikes, three 20" and one 26" folding bike. 
No problems at all stowing them onto the large cargo hold in the bus.
My only worry was the bikes tipping over and damage to the sensitive drivetrain components.
But that was not an issue because the bikes were secured.
At about 4:30am, we reached Changlun, a town near Bukit Kayu Hitam.
There, we waited for an hour before moving to the Customs and Immigration checkpoint before proceeding to Danok, a border town in the Sadao district in Southern Thailand...

Sin and Michelle at the platform

Roger getting comfy at his seat
Waiting in Changlun
At the Malaysian CIC area in the wee hours of the morning...
Arrival at the Hat Yai bus station 
The long day ahead..

After clearing the Customs and Immigration on both sides of the border, it took another hour for the bus to reach Hat Yai.
It seems that the bus station is located on the East side of the city and our plan was to get onto a local stage bus headed for Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Roger found out that the bus is only available at 10:30am, so, seeing as it is, we took our luggage across the street and laid it at a noodle stall and had our breakfast.
Sin was looking for a data package from the local Telco to get in touch with home.
He is a well-known blogger with nearly a million hits on his blog.
I told Roger that we shouldn't waste time and that we should get rolling.
We went back to the bus station and a runner who spotted us at the information booth offered a van ride at 240 baht per head. 
I told him that if we could charter the van at 1,800 baht, we have a deal.
He was reluctant in the beginning, but after much deliberation, agreed at 1,850 baht.
And we were on our way to Nakhon Si Thammarat!
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