Sunday, November 3, 2013

ToST II - Part 6

The long ride to Surat Thani...

We've decided that from the night before, we're gonna get up a bit later than the usual.
From Khanom, we have roughly around 87km to cover.
Instead of heading back to the 401 intersection by backtracking, we proceeded straight to Donsak town, which is basically a port area to ferry people and vehicles from the mainland to Ko Samui.
This is basically a 35km detour to the North of the district.

An early day in Khanom
Brown rice porridge
Even at 7am in the morning, the sky was already bright.
We rode towards the Southern side of town and found a weekend market where we had breakfast.
To my surprise, a bowl of brown porridge with pork costs b25. 
This is by far, the cheapest breakfast I had in Thailand.
We decided that it was best to move on towards Donsak.
No time was wasted on this journey and since most of the parts here are unknown, I realized that the terrain was hilly and undulating.
By late morning, we reached Donsak.
The gang re-grouped at a petrol station before moving on.
Michelle wanted a place to hangout for coffee and we found one across the road on route 4142.
We chilled out at the coffee shop just in time when it rained heavily...

Excellent pad thai! 
A friendly Myna..

It turned out that the place that we had coffee was a motel.
Rooms are available here and as we chilled out, we realized that the road we were traveling on was a long and hilly route connecting to highway 401.
After a good cup of coffee and a plate of excellent pad thai, we rode out towards the 401 intersection.
This ride, as short as it seems (approximately 10km or less), was utterly boring.
We saw a lot of plantation on both sides of the road, on certain occasion, some houses and roadside stalls. But that was it.

Coming out of route 4142

With every crank on the pedal, we gained some extra miles.
It was a sigh of relief when we hit the 401 intersection to Surat Thani.
We've covered more than 50km so far and there's another 37-odd kilometres to go before we hit Surat Thani town.
And the sight of the PTT petrol station with an Amazon cafe was something that really made our day.
Iced-cold coffee and free WiFi are served here!
We parked our bikes in front of the cafe and enjoyed their good coffee and one thing that kept us coming back for more is the fact that the drinks are cheap!

Thailand's Amazon cafe is a landmark for touring bicyclists to chill out

"Aaaaahh.. iced-coffee!!!!!"

We had time to recover from the ride from Donsak and the utterly boring route 4142 to ride the remaining distance to Surat Thani.
This time round, the Sun is out in its full glory and the only thing on our mind, is to get a nice place to bunk and also to find the town's bus station.

Into the unknown..

We rode on the 401, steadily and half-way through, I can see Sin who was holding back. 
I gestured for him to overtake and that was it, he rode like a bat out of hell!
He was far ahead and its just common sense to wait up if you are way too far from your pack.
Sin was waiting at a local food stall. 
It was situated next to a factory and I can see people eating their lunch there.
Roger had his sugar rush with a bottle of Coke, and while Sin was having his preserved vegetable soup with rice, I took notice at what the kitchen has to offer: fried frog!

The minimalist: Sin's full load
Catch of the day: A table-sized bull frog

My sumptous lunch!
What I like about eating at places like a roadside stall in Thailand is the fact that its cheap and good!
Michelle had some fried rice, mine came last and it was very good!
And the total bill came up to b290 which is not bad in terms of pricing -- when you factor in four people's meal including drinks.
We knew that there was ample time to move on towards Surat Thani and kept on going. Not too far in the horizon, was the Krabi junction.
We took some pictures near a road sign before losing sight of Sin again...

Half-way to Bangkok..
At the outskirts of Surat Thani

Civilization is indicated with the presence of traffic lights..
In Surat Thani, we have two choices: Take the train or stage bus back to Hat Yai.
Now, we knew very little about the train schedule and fare.
My best guess was the wooden stage coaches that stops everywhere. And it takes the whole day to get there.
Our best bet, is the stage bus service.
But before we could do so, we must locate the bus station in Surat Thani.
I've never been to this town, so, we depended entirely on the trusty Garmin EDGE800 GPS.
Slowly, but surely, we inched closer towards the town area.
By 02:45pm, we reached the outskirts of Surat Thani..

Surat Thani at last!
Search for the bus station...

My GPS indicated that the bus station is about 6km from our present location.
We rode slowly into town, taking a ride into the suburb areas and along the way, I can see the town's municipal stadium and when we arrived at an intersection, traffic was diverted due to a festival procession. It was full-moon and some big party was going on...

The horrible mid-day traffic
Sin and a float procession
Dressed for the occasion: the float parade participants
The heat, traffic congestion, getting lost and exhaustion got to me.
At this point, it was a mind game.
There were no tell-tale sign on where the bus station is located as we moved away from the city limits.
I noticed a large shopping mall at the horizon and the map on my EDGE800 indicates that the station is within proximity.
We went in a large circle before re-joining the main road and to my relief, there was a signboard in English that says: "Bus Station 800 metres".
This place was located at the edge of the city and we were relieved to have found it.
Roger went to an information counter to ask.
He was told that there is a stage bus that leaves Surat Thani at 08:30am.
We took no chances and went on searching for a place to bunk in.
At this point, the choices are either a cheap motel, or an apartment.
But I don't think we will score a large boarding facility.
So, we rode back towards town and noticed an advertisement place by the roadside.
It showed a motel at b240 a night. And there's free WiFi thrown in.
This is too good to be true and we checked it out.
By the time we got there, it was too far from the junction leading to the bus station.
We settled for a motel at a slightly higher price.
There was the Isan resort at b450 a night with WiFi thrown-in. One couldn't have asked for more! 
So, that's where we settled-in for the day...

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