Sunday, November 3, 2013

ToST II - Part 8

There is a first time for everything.. 

I've never taken a stage bus for long hauls in Thailand. 
This would be a good experience..
Based on past experience, its been done mostly on chartered vans and I was pretty happy with the results.

One of the main issue on getting around is the language barrier.
You need to know precisely about the timing on the transportation schedule.
So, there we were, in Surat Thani, after a good night's rest and raring to go.
I am glad for the fact that all of us had agreed that it was best to get an accommodation near the bus station so that we don't need to cycle the distance.
By 06:30am, the gang was already out and about.
We packed everything into our panniers and was ready to roll..

A snapshot at our motel in Surat Thani

Sin, ready to roll
The long and short of it...

Well, I am just happy with the fact that the group was "tight" in many ways. No issues with making decisions, sharing beers and the good makan. No Rockstars and Primadonnas. Everyone has their role to play.
And this also puts to rest the myth that only large bikes are capable of touring rides. 
We did it and we are happy to do it again.
My Dahon Speed P8 has clocked-in more than 8,000km and is still going.
Spare some squeaks and minor annoyance with the mechanical problems, this bike took me to places I can only imagine.
I'm also happy that there were no major issues like injuries and illnesses.
Everybody was fit as a fiddle for the long ride.

My Dahon Speed P8

The only casualty was Roger's broken chain guard
Out of Surat Thani..

We have eight hours to kill on the bus.
And fortunately, there's enough space on the cargo hold to stash all four bikes. 
If there were more, I think we might have to resort to chartering a mini van to Hat Yai.
The fare to our destination costs b240 one-way.
We had to share our seats with other passengers and since it was a stage bus, the coach will make plenty of stops along the way.
Hat Yai is roughly about 340km away via Highway 4, so, this was an interesting experience for all of us..

The map clearly shows where we are

Riding to the bus station

Packing up
Our bus

All aboard!
Surviving the long haul...

After two hours of rock and rolling in the bus, we arrived at a bus station outside Patthalung.
The passengers got out and had their lunch and the first thing I did, was to check the cargo hold.
Our bikes are still in the holding area. So, there's really nothing much to worry about.
I went to a hawker and asked for a pack of raw mango. It costs b25 a pop and I munched away while waiting for the bus to resume its journey to Hat Yai.
With about 100km to go, we were relieved that everything had went on smoothly.
The past few days that we were cycling, the weather has been fair.
Up North, there were floodings and really nasty rainfall.
Here in the far South, we were only experiencing the milder part of the storm.
Finally, after eight hours of sitting in the coach, the bus arrived at Hat Yai's bus station.
It was pouring as we scrambled to unload and set up our bikes.

Our cosy lunch place
Morale booster: Fried rice and Tom Yam Thale
A wet day in Hat Yai..

The bus station is located on the East side of the city.
We have to ride about 6km across to the Hat Yai junction train station to secure our tickets home the following day.
We rode in the rain and made our way towards the station and once we got there, the only tickets available was the aisle seats.
I took care of that and suggested to Roger to have a late lunch at the usual makan place nearby. 
Our destination was a small eatery opposite Hat Yai's General Post Office.
Having a hot meal uplifted our dampened spirit and the next thing in mind, was to look for a place to stay.
We avoided all the touristy areas in downtown Hat Yai.
I recalled seeing a budget motel in the outskirts, some 3km from the city. But we failed to locate the place as no information was available.
But we did connect with the owner of Sri Suwandee bicycle shop in Klongrian Road.
We met "Thai Teoh" the bike shop owner and shared a conversation with him before moving on to locate a place to stay.
While making the push back to the city, I saw a hotel in a small lane.
It reads: "G2 Hotel" and charges about b850 a night.
I thought out aloud that since this was our last day in Thailand, might as well splurge for some comfort... And so we did!

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