Thursday, July 18, 2013

ToST - Part 5

All good things must come to an end.. 

A limestone hill that looks like the Devil's Tower

So, there we were. 
In a town called Patthalung, some 96km North of Hat Yai.
I woke up at 06:00am and packed up all my stuff in my trusty Ortlieb Frontroller pannier.
Basically, this was my third bicycle trip in Thailand.
We've clocked-in more than 200km on the trip from Hat Yai to Patthalung.

Its time to part and head to where we started.. 

Yeah, that's it! 
The first thing that came in mind, was to find a good place for breakfast.
We walked around town and found a market. There, we saw some stall selling packed food. But it wasn't enticing enough until we discovered a Dim Sum shop on the street leading to Thai Hotel.
This was the place which was recommended by Mr SK Yeong, a fellow cyclist back in KL.
We gave it a try and it was pretty decent.

Good food at the market
Dim Sum time
We checked out of the hotel and rode to the train station. 
I knew for a fact that bikes can be carried onboard.
Seeing as it is, we don't want to be late as there a train ride from Patthalung to Hat Yai at 10:40am.
This was the debate I had with Roger who was unsure about bringing bikes onto the Thai train.
I told him that sourcing information from the internet is just 60% accurate. The rest is getting ground intel and I knew for a fact that many travelers have taken bikes onto the train - especially in Thailand.
That said, I was willing to risk it with a back-up plan in the offing.
So, we went to the ticketing counter and purchased four tickets for the class 3 seats at 72 baht.

Taking the path less-traveled to the train station in Patthalung

Motorcycle taxi riders admiring our folding bikes
Cheap ass ride and unbeatable value! 

I couldn't believe what I saw. 

A computer printed sheet of tickets valued at 72 baht (roughly about RM7.30). 
I told the guys that the hourly train from Chumpon has wooden seats and a lot of cargo room. This is yet to be confirmed as we waited patiently for the coach to arrive.

At the Patthalung train station
Our train arrived a little later than scheduled and the helpful station staff pointed out the last coach.
We loaded the bikes and were shocked to see a brand new motorcycle strapped to the sidewalls. 
There were plenty of space to park our bikes. So that said, my suspicion was confirmed.
We placed the bikes next to some cargo materials bound for Hat Yai.
The train ride was roughly about one and a-half hours.

Lots of room in the train
We arrived in Hat Yai around noon and Roger had suggested lunch at a place he was familiar with.
He said there is a noodle stall that serves Koay Teow Lueah (boat koay teow).
I bought the idea lock, stock and barrel and at 30 baht a bowl, one cannot ask for more.
The noodles were really tasty and later, I had a chance to talk to the owner who told me that he used the Isan style to prepare his noodles.
It was much later that found out from my Thai friend Santi Senarat that blood is mixed into the soup which gave it a dark appearance.

The skilful lady who serves a damn good bowl of koay teow

Koay Teow Lueah

The shop owner
The Heartbreak Hotel..

Over the past four days, we've had some good luck with our choice of accommodation under RM50 or 500 baht.
In the case of the Emperor Hotel in Hat Yai, it was very clear that one cannot trust the internet entirely.
I found this place through and it turned out that the hotel was a real run down place offering just the bare minimal.
It looked like a haunted hotel just like a scene out of some Thai horror movie.
The place looked very depressing.
So, I took this with a pinch of salt because it cost only 470 baht including all that fees and stuff charged by
This was the lowest point in the trip. But we kept our chin up. Our plan was to survive the night, get a couple of hours of sleep and get the hell out.

Emperor hotel in Hat Yai
Spending the remainder of our time...

Michelle went for a Thai massage while I did some laundry in the room.
Our plan was to have dinner and perhaps a beer at one of the nightspots.
I took the guys and treated them to dinner at Jae Lek restaurant at Thanon Niphat Uthit 1.
The food was decent, but through the years, I guess their standards have dropped.
Later, we had some dessert at a stall next to the hotel and seeing as it is, I wasn't really in favour of spending the last night having drinks at Hat Yai's nightspot.
I knew it would be an expensive affair.
So far, I've kept to my budget and we were doing well.
So, I suggested that we have a few beers in the room and call it a night.

Last call

We woke up the next day and Roger had a plan.
Despite all the horror stories, we survived the night at Emperor Hotel.
He suggested that we visit the largest reclining Buddha in Hat Yai and pay a visit to Sri Suwandee Bicycle shop which is owned by a dude called "Thai Teoh".

With some Thai cyclists in Hat Yai
So, we agreed unanimously and rode out.
While climbing a bridge leading out of town, someone greeted behind me. 
"Sawadee-ka!," said a Thai lady on her mountain bike.
She was the first cyclist we met along the way and was very friendly.
Roger did the talking and as we made our way to a coffee shop which was patronised by some cyclists, the lady took off on her own.
We found a decent place for breakfast and made friends with some local cyclists.
These were guys in their 50s and 60s.
They told us about their recent touring adventure to Patthalung and as we exchanged stories, one of them gestured to have a photo taken with us.
Later, we parted ways and headed to the temple..

Largest reclining Buddha in the South

The gang
A senior monk approves our mode of transport

Roger being blessed with prayers
The search for Thai Teoh

To the uninitiated, the namesake Thai Teoh is a legend.

We heard about this Facebook personality who hosted cyclists from Malaysia at his shop in Klongrien Road.
After the visit to the temple, we gave this guy a try.
But, efforts to find him was in vain.
Lucky for us, there was a diversion. We found a shop selling Siew Yuk (roast pork) and took the opportunity to give it a try.
It was Andrew who found the shop with his GPS.
And to our dismay, Thai Teoh was na-da!
We found his shop, but it was closed.

Cycling along Hat Yai's klong or canal
Thai Teoh as left the building!

Good food, and more good food! 

That Thai Teoh fellah was a sheer disappointment. 
Nevertheless, we had a train to catch and the plan was to get back to the hotel, ask for a late check-out.
We packed our panniers and after a good shower, it was time to hit the road.
Our first stop was a Khao Kha Moo shop near the hotel.
We had a feast with the excellent food and made our way to another coffee shop near the Tune Hotel in Hat Yai for some iced coffee.
Later, we rode out to the train station and re-supplied for the long journey back.

Pork knuckle rice for the soul
I picked up some buns from 7-Eleven for the ride home.
And I also made a critical decision to pack rice and some dishes from the train station's food court.
Its better to be prepared and ready as I had anticipated little or no food onboard the KTM train.
We had a nice mix of vegetable, fried egg and pork, so, I don't think anyone would complain.

A mix-up..

At Hat Yai, we bought the return ticket.
When we boarded the train, someone else had taken our seats.
So, I decided to gamble with the seats on row 15. 
When the conductor came, he asked for our tickets and some explanation.
Well, lucky for us, he diverted the passengers who had booked the seats we took to the forward section of the coach.
Later at night, the guy said he might charge us RM10 or more for the bikes. I told him if we could come up with an amicable settlement and what he said was: "Tunggu la nanti bila kita sampai Butterworth.." (wait till we reached Butterworth).
And throughout the journey, we didn't pay a single sen. 
By daybreak, we arrived at KL Sentral. 
We parted way with Andrew and continued on the LRT to Petaling Jaya with Roger.

Loading up in Hat Yai

Arrival at KL Sentral
Michelle and I got off at the Paramount station and cycled to her mum's place in SS3 which was less than 2km away.
We ended our tour with the journey home and were greeted by our kidz...

It feels great to be back home with the kids

Well, the trip had turned out even better than expected.
Roger did a good job researching the route, but when it comes to sourcing for information through the internet, we have to take it with a pinch of salt.
Even though we were faced with Language issues, the Thai people were very helpful throughout our journey.
The ride from Hat Yai to Songkhla was a breeze, the later stages, only the journey from Ranot to Patthalung was challenging.
On the whole, I spent RM185 on lodging and another RM150 on food and drinks, RM96 on the train trip. So, the entire budget of RM600 which I had initially set was not blown.
That said, Southern Thailand is a haven for bicycle touring and with this awesome experience, we are definitely looking for more adventures... 

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