Day06 Hat Yai to Koh Samui, Thailand

Motorbike/Motorcycle, Thailand, Travel No Comments
Departure Time 10:49am
Departure Location Hat Yai, Thailand
Arrival Time 11:38pm
Arrival Location Koh Samui, Thailand
Distance Travelled 441km plus 32km Ferry Crossing

This was in many ways a very different day.  We started late, but still covered 441km despite spending almost 2 hours on a ferry to Koh Samui (in Thai, Koh means Island), waiting for the rain to pass and having short breaks.

Day06

We slept in a little, and then got up and walked around town looking for somewhere nice to have breakfast.  However, we decided that the breakfast in the hotel was about as good as any, so we had it there.  Our room was on the 11th floor, and as you can see from the photos, there were other buildings that were just as high or much higher.  I never realised that Hat Yai was such a big city.  In the second photo one can just see the tip of a mountain poking through the early morning cloud behind the big building.

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As we were driving out of the city, we noticed this monk collecting money.  People would bow for a long time after they donated.

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We stopped for fuel at 12:00 noon, and had a 17 minute break before continuing on for another hour.  At 1:01pm we stopped at this service station, because the rain was again threatening our progress.  But we weren’t complaining – the roads and traffic conditions were great, and we had covered 85.1km in 44mins – an average speed of just under 117km/h.  We popped the bike under a roof, and Rebecca found a bench to sleep on.  51 mins later we were on the road again – there was still a little drizzle,  but it was basically over.

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We continued on our way for another 40 minutes before stopping for lunch at 2:32pm – we averaged 108km/h.  We had a leisurely lunch at a service station, before continuing on at 3:36pm.  We took a 4 minute break at 4:40pm, because Rebecca needed to stretch her legs and because I wanted to take a couple of photos.  Rebecca tells me that I only take photos of her sleeping, so here are some where she is doing the moon walk and exercises.

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And a few more shots to show you how good the roads are – this is the minor road that leads from Surat Thani to Don Sak, where the Ferry Terminal is located.

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After another short fuel stop, we arrived at the ferry terminal at 5:13pm – just in time for the last ferry departure at 6:00pm.

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The sky had some interesting cloud patterns.  The second picture shows Koh Samui in the background (the large island to the left), and the third photo shows the ferry arriving.

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While we were waiting to board, a police car pulled up, and the police man started talking to me about the motorbike.  He had two ‘civilians’ in the car with him (a man and a lady), and the lady also came over and had a good chat. She was a delightful lady who was quite knowledgeable on technology.  She was clued up on the GPS system I was using and quite interested in our trip.  Once we boarded the ferry, the policeman asked me to join him at his table.  After a little while the lady and her husband joined us – it turns out that he is the Police Chief for Koh Samui, and we had a great time talking about all sorts of things.  Later we were joined by one of the Lieutenants also, and he was such a friendly man.  He wants to travel to Australia sometime.  You can see him in the yellow shirt.  The wearing of yellow shirts has become a sign of respect for the king, a tradition started for the 60th anniversary of the king’s coronation.

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You can see the police car parked at the front of the ferry – these photos were taken as we were about to disembark.

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Luckily it had just stopped raining as we arrived.  We drove to the main part of town and checked out the prices on some of the hotels.  They had all become so expensive since we were here 3 years ago.  The island has changed so much … and not necessarily for the better.  It used to be a more quiet place, but now it is as busy as Phuket.

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After dinner at the Pizza Hut, I booked the Renaissance Hotel on points for 5 nights – this was so that we could have a good break without breaking the bank!  That was the last of my Marriott points.  We arrived at the hotel at 11:34pm, and were upgraded to a sea view room as the other rooms were all full.  Clearly I was very upset … NOT!

Day05 Narathiwat to Hat Yai, Thailand

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Departure Time 9:34am
Departure Location Narathiwat, Malaysia
Arrival Time 5:56pm
Arrival Location Hat Yai, Malaysia
Distance Travelled 269km

Day05

We got up relatively early, as Thailand is one hour behind Singapore and Malaysia.  We wandered down the road to find a place to eat breakfast, but all the food places that were open catered to Thai’s who are happy to eat noodle, seafood and fish sauce for breakfast.

We also noticed that the military presence was greater than we had realized the day before.  Again, the soldiers were happy to pose.

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We bought some items from a 7-Eleven store and sat on a street corner watching the world go by.  Notice how few people are wearing helmets?  A sign of how far away we are from the lawmakers.  People only wear helmets in larger towns, even though it is a law in the whole country.  We even saw people putting on their helmets at the first traffic light as they came into town.

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This little girl had been watching us eat breakfast, and when we were finished, we still had a fruit/milk item left over, so we gave it to her.  She bowed so nicely with her hands together and said thank you.  Then she rushed off to eat her treat.

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The military was now visible everywhere – and the road checkpoints that are normal in Thailand were of a much more serious nature – they were fortified.

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Some Thai’s still live in fairly primitive conditions – but the environment is a paradise.

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The military seemed on the move in different ways wherever we went.  Now you see them … now you don’t.  On one occasion we saw three armored vehicles, and by the time I had done a U-turn they had disappeared.

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Here is a town market in one of the smaller towns.  This was one of the more conservative areas.

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This was one of many Hummers we saw just before we entered Yala – one of the places of unrest.

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These pictures were taken in Yala.  Notice how computers should be transported?  If you can’t see them, click on the picture with the metallic green Mercedes protruding.

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We finally arrived at Wat Khuha Phimuk at 11:48am.  This place is an important archeological site that dates back to the 8th Century. It is a very beautiful place where a reclining statue has been created inside a huge cave.  Apparently what is now a Buddha originally had a Hindu head.  Smaller Buddha’s have also been found that date back to the 9th Century and are of Southern Indian style.  There are also lots of monkeys everywhere.

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This picture shows how big the cave really is – the yellow and blue dots are actually full size water buckets catching the drips from the roof of the cave.

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This is the view from the opening of the cave across the countryside.

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Can you see what is parked under the trees?  Perhaps the close-up makes it clearer!

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The cave openings are visible behind the temple.

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Notice the unusual roots of this tree?  Rebecca also spotted this Kingfisher – it was very bright.

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We had only just departed, when a huge rain shower came our way.  Luckily we were just passing through a little village, so we ducked under a roof in front of someone’s house.  We started having our lunch, when the person that lives there noticed our presence.  So he brought us another chair and some bananas.  I can’t believe how hospitable people have been to us everywhere we have been.  We turn up with a big motorbike, dressed in protective bike gear, and they just open their doors and welcome us!!

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The police stations were all heavily fortified.

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These floats were part of a fundraising event for different charities.  They were spectacular – and glistened in the sun.  Each of them had a vehicle underneath.  In the second photo you can see a steering wheel.

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This one was particularly spectacular, as it was made out of wax.  Notice the fans with water jets to keep it cool.

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The roads were also busy – but all the lanes bar one were for parking – unofficially, of course.  Then we saw some of the floats on the road, where whole teams were going door to door to collect money.  When they saw me taking a photo, they promptly came for a donation.  After I made a donation, I could hear on the Loudspeaker "Kob Khun Krap [pause] Thank You."

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Being the monsoon period, it was to be expected that we would once again encounter rain – and again we were fortunate to be able to pull under a roof.  And again we were surprised by the hospitality.  The man in front of whose house we stopped invited us in, and showed us his family photos.  His children speak English, but he doesn’t.  When I took an interest in his Chinese wall hanging, I was able to understand one sentence he said in Chinese.  He said that he doesn’t speak English – though we had already worked that out 🙂

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We arrived in Hat Yai at 16:05, and had a nice hot dinner at MK’s – one of our favorite restaurants in Thailand.

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After dinner we checked into the first hotel we found and went straight to bed.

Day04 Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia to Narathiwat, Thailand

Malaysia, Motorbike/Motorcycle, Thailand, Travel No Comments
Departure Time 8:13am
Departure Location Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Arrival Time 6:45pm (7:45pm Malaysia time)
Arrival Location Narathiwat, Thailand
Distance Travelled 279km

Day04

We started the day early, so that we could spend some time enjoying the scenery along the way.  The first stop was the Kuala Terengganu Market.  It is called a wet market because it sells seafood, etc and is constructed with good cleaning facilities.  You can see that many of the stands are using tiled areas for easy cleaning.  The first photo shows two children sleeping – the mother is sitting a few stands away.

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Some of the houses are built on the river.

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After the markets, we returned to the hotel to pack and post the weblog for our first three days.  On the wall in the business office was a huge kite – kite flying is a significant activity in this part of Malaysia.

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It was 12:35pm by the time we actually left the hotel.  As we departed Kuala Terengganu, we noticed that there were several new Mosques all side by side.

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We reached the little beach town of Penarek at 1:45pm, and decided to stop for lunch.  It is a very beautiful spot – the locals were very friendly, and we got a special meal cooked for us as there was nothing vegetarian to choose from.

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This is the spot where we ate – beautiful islands in the background.  Notice also the locals having a siesta under the gazebo, and the many goats that are around..

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As we drove further north, I couldn’t help but wonder when I had ever seen this many palm trees before.  The locals aren’t rich, but they sure live in paradise.  The roads were great too!

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At 3:20pm it was time to stop again for a break.  Rebecca was starting to fall asleep again.

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Once we left Terengganu state, the roads got a lot worse.  At 4:32pm we arrived in Kota Bahru, and instead of looking for a hotel, we decided to push on to the border.  Rebecca slept for about 20 minutes, and at 5:06pm we were on the road again.  This photo shows the bus terminal where we rested for a little while.

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As we headed to the border, I was a little concerned because I didn’t see any vehicles with Thai license plates.  However, about three 3kms from the border I spotted a couple and felt a lot better after that.  This is the Malaysian Immigration building.

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The first picture shows the border – with Malaysia on the left side of the water, and Thailand on the right side.  The second picture shows the immigration building as we were leaving it – the photo was taken from my rear view mirror.  The final two photos are the immagration buidings for Thailand.  As you can see, it is almost an ‘honour system’ – locals can cross the border on their motorbikes without having to do any paperwork or show any identification.

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Once we arrived in Thailand, the sun was starting to set, but the roads were great.  We were able to travel quickly and arrived in Narathiwat without any issues.

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Once we arrived, we had to find the hotel that was mentioned in our travel guide.  Some local youths noticed that we were looking for something and provided us with assistance.  They were very helpful and friendly.

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After we checked into the hotel, I went out to get some cash.  There were military at each intersection, but I didn’t really realize the full scale of the military presence until the next day.

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Day03 Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

Malaysia, Motorbike/Motorcycle, Travel No Comments
Local Travel Only Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Distance Travelled 31km

Day three was very much a rest day.  We got up early, had breakfast and tried to find out where the Adventist Church might be.  Unfortunately there isn’t one in this area – the closest was back in Cukai, about 10km north of where we had spent the previous night.  So we decided to have our own worship and take it easy.

Day03

Around mid-day we wandered into town – this really is a pretty place.  There were lots of boats coming into the harbour.

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We had lunch with the locals, and then rode around town looking at the nice architecture and gardens.  We then had afternoon tea – all very relaxing.

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We realised that we hadn’t taken any photos, so I dropped Rebecca at the hotel and went back to take some photos.

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The market was very quiet, as it was late afternoon.  Notice the boy doing the ironing.  Also notice the McDonald’s sign in Arabic script.  When the Muslim missionaries came to Malaysia, they brought with them the Arabic script and developed a system for writing Malay using the Arabic characters.  For this reason it is common to see Arabic writing in Malaysia.

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This is the hotel we stayed in.  Notice the poor housing surrounding the hotel.  Notice also the satellite dish on the roof of one of those houses.  I went for a swim just as another storm was coming in from the north.  However, it never actually arrived where we were.

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We closed Sabbath as the sun was setting near the ‘floating mosque’.  The mosque is not actually floating, but it looks that way as it is built on water.  As you can see from the photos, it was getting dark while we were there.

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Then we headed to Chinatown (Jalan Kampung Cina – literally Street Town China).  The family was resting on the floor of one of the restaurants – it really was a quiet night.

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We had a lovely dinner in one of the restaurants, and then returned to the hotel to watch the moon rise.

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Day02 Cherating to Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

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Departure Time 11:21am
Departure Location Cherating, Malaysia
Arrival Time 3:37pm
Arrival Location Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Distance Travelled 175km

We had an easy morning.  After breakfast we wandered down to the beach and then had a swim in the pool.  Then we went back to our room, where Rebecca packed while I started writing this travelogue.  We almost got our clothes dry before it was time to get on the road again.  We decided to take the back country roads, rather than following the coast this time.

Day02

The sun was rising fast as we sat down for breakfast.

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The countryside was very beautiful – very green with nice windy roads.  The scenery reminded me of Australia’s lush coastal hinterland.

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Every now and then there was a settlement – this one had a huge mosque and a nice little ‘restaurant’ for the locals.  Because most of the buffet was made up of meat dishes, we asked them to make us a fried rice and a fried noodle.  The food was very yummy.  We saw a cat that had caught a lizard of some kind, and a huge moth loaded on Rebecca’s sleeve.

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When it was time to leave, dark rain clouds had gathered.  This is the monsoon season, and rain is to be expected.  However, I didn’t particularly want to get wet, so we drove fast to try and outrun the rain – it worked, and we only got slight drizzle for about a minute on three or four occasions, before we completely outran the storm.

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Of course astronaut Rebecca was well prepared for ANYTHING, except being lulled to sleep – the bike is such a soothing place to be that it just rocks you to sleep.

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While I was lucky to outrun the storm brewing behind us, we did meet up with another one only 11km from the hotel.  We decided to stop for an hour and wait while it passed!  We took cover under the roof of a workshop.  As you can see by the photos below, we weren’t the only one who chose this spot.  The Malaysian crouching in the distance (in the photo where it is raining) also came in for cover.  He didn’t speak any English, and I don’t speak Malay – he looked like he wanted to be left alone, so we left him to his own devices in the corner.  The rain cleared after an hour, and we got to our hotel safely.

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This was the view from our hotel room.

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We went out for dinner, and found that parking is a creative endeavour in northern Malaysia.  This whole street is supposed to be parallel parking.  Notice the red car on the far right – it is also parked.

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We returned to our hotel just after the sun had set, so we opened Sabbath and went to bed.

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Day01 Singapore to Cherating, Malaysia

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Departure Time 7:11am
Departure Location Geylang, Singapore
Arrival Time 5:07pm
Arrival Location Cherating, Malaysia
Distance Travelled 447kms

I got up at 5:00am, although Rebecca had been up since before 2:30am.  She told me that she has plenty of time to sleep on the back of the bike :-(.  By the time I fitted a new battery to the bike and we were all loaded up, it was already 6:45am.  We finally rode out of the drive at 7:11am – we were on our way at last.  By 8:05 we had crossed the border into Malaysia, and stopped for fuel (the bike and us) soon thereafter.

By 9:30am, Rebecca was fast asleep (which repeated itself often).  But I was also sleepy, so we stopped at a shelter by the side of the road and slept for 1/2 an hour.  Then we were on the road again, and rode all the way through to Mersing.  Along the way we passed two Germans who I knew were traveling south on similar motorbikes (BMW R1100GS).

Day01

Mersing is a beautiful little seaside town.  We had lunch right by the beach with the many islands as a backdrop.

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Even though we followed the coast for much of the day, it was unusual to see the sea, as most of the area is very flat and the road is usually a few hundred meters from the beach. We rode for an hour after lunch, and then found a lovely little village called Nenasi wedged between a river and the coast.  There were so many goats – they were very cute and full of attitude.

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After our afternoon drink Rebecca was very sleepy again, and because she was sleeping a lot while we were riding, I thought it best to have another break and give her a chance to have a really good sleep.  Otherwise she misses all the wonderful things I see.

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However, this 1/2 hour stop caused us to be caught in a massive storm jut before we got to our hotel!  We decided to ride through it, and arrived completely soaked at 5:07pm.  After we unpacked our stuff, I went for a swim at the beach for about 45mins, and then swam in the pool for another half an hour.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, where we were told that the buffet was only for groups, and that we had to order A-La-Carte.  For dessert, I ordered Ice Kacang.  It is the biggest one I have ever seen – there was no way that the two of us would have been able to finish it.

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We went to bed early and had a great sleep under the mosquito net.

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Day00 Preparation

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It has been a busy couple of days for us.  Friday was my last day at Microsoft, Sunday was spent doing last minute shopping, Monday the packers came, and Tuesday our stuff was loaded on the truck.  This is how our place looked on Monday night:

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On Wednesday Rebecca cleaned the apartment and I did the last minute errands like having our mail stopped, power/gas/water disconnected, set up automatic payments for our mobile phones, and made a couple of modifications to the bike (electric connection for the GPS).  Here are the things we are trying to take on the bike:

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We originally planned to leave around 9:00pm, but we were just too tired.  So we decided to camp one last night in the apartment, and to leave early in the morning.  I decided that we would go as far as Kuantan, and booked accommodation for the first night in Cherating, and for Friday and Saturday night in Kuala Terengganu.  Given that we were so busy, I wanted a relaxing start to the tour.

We crawled into our sleeping bags around 11:30pm, but Rebecca only slept a little while – too much anticipation I think.  So she got up very early and pottered around repacking and writing a comprehensive inventory.