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18.Aug.2013 & 19.Aug.2013

A Biker’s Tale – Part 1

Cover Pix

For those who had been following my blogs, I’ve disposed of my Modenas Elegan 150 and replaced it with a Sym Evo 250i. So, in this trip, I was riding my new bike.

My Purpose For This Trip

Haad Rin? Many of you would probably not know of this small town made famous by the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan. Well, after reading some blogs and watching on YouTube, I decided to make a trip to check out the event scheduled for 21.Aug.2013.

To reach Haad Rin on the specified date, I had to ride my Sym Evo 250i from my home in Subang Jaya to Hat Yai on 18.Aug.2013, crossing over the border at Bukit Kayu Hitam and Dannok. That journey was about 580km and would take about 5~6 hours.

Then the next part of the journey, on the following day, was from Hat Yai to Don Sak, a 430km trip by road via Highway 408, and continue to Koh Samui by ferry. I planned to stay for 2 nights there before embarking for Koh Phangan for 2 nights stay before coming back again to Koh Samui for another night’s stay.

After that, it’s the journey back home, spending a night in Hat Yai again and then back to my house the next day. In total, this trip covers 8 days and 7 nights clocking more than 2,000km.

Equipment I carried for this trip

My cheap 5″ Android phone came with GPS. Installed Sygic GPS software into my phone. Before going for this trip, I installed a battery port on top of the instrument panel and a phone holder on the centre of the handle-bar of my bike at Chuan & Cycle in Petaling Jaya.

I also brought along a laptop so that I could post to FaceBook to update my friends where I was and what I did whenever there was free WiFi, otherwise I will connect it to my phone and use the Android phone as a connector to the web.

My bike has a big storage under the seat and I had installed a 50 Liter CooCase box at the rear of the bike when I took delivery of my new bike. Into the box, I had a small luggage bag and also place my laptop there as well. I flattened the empty 40 liter waterproof bag under the luggage bag.

My camera bag and tripod goes under the seat. That way, I could easily use my camera whenever I see something interesting. Under the seat was my Givi raincoat.

Other than these, I had a few rubber bands for tying my waterproof 40 liter bag should I need to use it.

What’s my Budget?

As in every trip I planned, there must be a budget. In this trip, since I was going on a Sym Evo 250i maxi-scooter for a relatively short duration, petrol (or gasoline as referred to in Thailand) would not cost very much. I budget about MYR50 per day for the Malaysian road part or about THB800 per day if there’s much travelling in Thailand. Ron95 gasoline would cost me about THB38 to THB41 per liter (depending which gas station I used) which was about double in Malaysia.

Other costs would include accommodation, which I budget at THB800 per night. Except for the first night in Haad Rin (I could not find hotel rooms at my preferred rate) the rest of my hotels were booked through Agoda.com.

Food and drinks were budgeted at THB800 per day. Other things like ferry charges, smokes, massages, fees to attractions and so on would be at the price charged.

This journal has 4 parts;

Part 1 covers my journey from my home in Subang Jaya to Hat Yai on 18.Aug.2013

Part 2 covers my journey from Hat Yai to Ko Samui and my 2 nights stay there.

Part 3 covers my journey from Ko Samui to Ko Phangan and my 2 nights stay on the party island.

Part 4 covers my return journey from Ko Samui to my home including a night’s stay in Ko Samui again, passing through Songkhla and a night’s stay in Hat Yai.

Part 1 – Subang Jaya to Hat Yai – 18.Aug.2013

I start at 6.10 AM on Sunday, 18.Aug.2013, from my house, stopping at the petrol station, filling my bike with petrol and making sure the tyre pressure was OK.

As usual, I was riding fast and somewhere near Slim River, a flash of light hit me. Oh-Oh…! The damn AES must have captured my bike and me speeding along the North-South PLUS Highway.

Stopping at the Tapah R&R, I rested for a while and had cheap nasi lemak. After putting RM10 petrol into the tank, I continued my journey.  At Gunung Semanggol R&R, again I filled up my bike and had a drink and food and talked to some Highway Policemen. At Juru toll, I took a short nap in one of the gazebo. 20 minutes later, I was on the bike again.

Stopping at the Caltex station in Gurun R&R, I tried to exchange my money for some Thai currency but they had none left since the other bikers had cleaned them out. So after waving my hand at the group of bikers with big bikes congregating there, I moved on to Changloon.

After obtaining the required insurance and changing some money at my favourite shop, damn, our Ringgit had dropped its value again, I had a drink at the nearby coffee shop. Making sure I filled my bike’s tank to its maximum at the nearby Caltex station in Changloon, I went to check out one of the so called Duty Free Shops situated along the road to Bukit Kayu Hitam. Eh…! Their prices was slightly higher than Zon at the border, so I didn’t buy anything and continued my ride to the border.

Passing the Malaysian Immigration and Customs was a breeze! Went into the Zon Duty Free Shop and bought a carton of Marlboro Light, after which I went to the Thai side of the border. OK, not so smooth as the Malaysian side but eventually pass through after getting the customs permit for my bike.

At the Customs Check Point, I met a fellow Sym biker, Rusli Osman Lee Panjang, who took me to a small coffee shop where we met up with Syed Mohd Idid who strode in after parking a gleaming small bike that belongs to his wife (so he said).

IMG_20130818_130856

Rusli, Chua & Syed in Dannok (handphone foto)

Ku A Akmal joined us after a refreshing massage. The four of us, on 3 SYM bikes (2 VTS and 1 Evo), went to a special place, highly recommended by Syed, in Sadao. We were not disappointed with the Thai Muslim food available there even though the restaurant set-up was very “Kampung” type. When came time to pay, the 3 of them refused to let me pay, telling me that I was their guest. Terima Kasih bros!

Chua, Syed, Ku A Akmal and Rusli

Chua, Syed, Ku A Akmal and Rusli (handphone foto)

I particular liked the sup tulang Thai style

I particular liked the sup tulang Thai style (handphone foto)

After the simple but good food, we parted company and I continued on my own to Hat Yai. With my wireless Bluetooth headset connected to the Sygic GPS on my phone, I easily found the hotel I was supposed to stay at about 3.10 PM.

Siam Mansion, the hotel I stayed, was somewhat an old apartment that caters to both long and short term customers. It was located in the market area, about less than 1.5 km from the Central Market. The reception was a small cubicle with 1 girl who could speak a little English. This 2-star hotel according to Agoda.com has only 1 lift and I wouldn’t give this ‘hotel’ any star but class this as a budget hotel. The small room that was allotted to me does not have any windows. The bed was comfortable, the air-cond works fine and the bathroom functions well. It cost me only THB490 so I don’t expect first class rooms or service. This was only a short stopping point for me and I had chosen it because it had parking. Security and cleanliness was OK.

The first thing I did was to reload my Thai SIM card with THB200 at a 7-11 shop about 2 shoplots away from the hotel. I got the cheap data plan from 1-2-call activated. Anyway, Siam Mansion had free WiFi so I used it with my laptop.

IMG_20130818_190842I took a short nap. At about 5 PM, with my bike, I went out looking for food. I saw a crowded corner shop, parked my bike, went in and ordered Fish Balls Noodles.

The noodles was my dinner and costs me only THB50. Water was free. On the way back to the hotel, I saw a fruit stall near the hotel. Ordered sliced honey melons for THB20.

After parking my bike back at the hotel, I went out to surveyed the quiet area surrounding Siam Mansion. Not finding any interesting joints (on foot) to spend my time, I called it a night and played around with my laptop until I fell to sleep. It is very normal for me to sleep early during my road trip as I like to see the sun rise the following day.

Note: I’ve been to Hat Yai many times, thus the reason I did not write anything about this city nor did I go around to any of its attractions on this trip. You will find some of my blogs of this city in Blogspot and WordPress.

19.Aug.2013 – Hat Yai to Ko Samui

Started to repack my luggage at 5.30 AM and by 6 AM, I was out on the road heading for Highway 408. I chose 408 because it runs parallel to the coastline and I can get to run through Ko Yo using the Tinsulanonda bridges connecting the island to the mainland.

As I approached the island, I saw the dark sky lit up with the soft glow of the rising sun. Following the sign-boards to the island, I quickly set up my camera for the sunrise shot at the first bridge. This kind of sunrise, all landscape photographers would love to shoot.

Sunrise over Tinsulanonda Bridge

At 6.27 AM

Tinsulanonda Bridge @ Dawn

At 6.34 AM

The header photo of this blog was also taken at that bridge as well. After taking a few more shots, I continued my journey. As I passed a gleaming pagoda or stupa, I decided to check it out. I wasn’t disappointed at what I found. The temple complex was called Wat Phranorn Laemphor.

Sleeping Buddha @ Ko Yo

The sun was very bright in the background so the Buddha appeared very dark.

Wat Phranorn Laemphor, Ko Yo, Songkhla

Wat Phranorn Laemphor, Ko Yo, Songkhla

At a beach near Ranot, I stopped at a small stall and had 1 egg, meehoon and coffee which costs me only THB30. The stall owner was surprised to see me since not many travellers from Malaysia dropped at his stall. We communicated with whatever spoken words I know of the Thai language and also with hand signs. After bidding each other goodbye, I continued north along Highway 408 again.

93km north of Songkhla on Highway 408, I stopped at a monastery, which was near the beach, to check out that place. This was what I saw. (Click on any of the following images to view in larger size.)

93 KM north of Songkhla93 KM north of Songkhla93 KM north of Songkhla
93 KM north of Songkhla93 KM north of Songkhla93 KM north of Songkhla
KM66, a set on Flickr.

The young monks were wondering what I was doing there. I waved to them as I departed from the monastery. Continuing north again on Highway 408, I headed towards Nakhon Si Thammarat. Somewhere along the Highway 408 in Hua Sai District, I spotted a number of wind generators. Quickly, I made a U-turn and went into a small non-tarmac road and took this shot.

Wind Trubines @ Songkhla

Wind generators standing tall over padi fields

Highway 408 has 2 lanes on each direction and my bike could speed along with ease. When I was there, many places along the highway in Chaloem Phra Kiat District, they were upgrading the roads, thus constricting from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, meaning instead of 2 lanes in each direction, it became 1 lane for each direction.

Highway 408 then came to a junction that connects to Highway 401 as well as Highway 403 from the south. At this point, I could bypass Nakhon Si Thammarat by going along Highway 401 but I decided to check out the city.

Nakhon Si Thammarat is a vibrant city about 10 km long including its suburbs. It has both new and old buildings and I believe trading is their main economy. Since I wanted to catch the ferry, I just took in the sights as I passed through the busy streets. Many times, my Sygic GPS would try to correct my route but I just ignored its instructions. I went where my eyes fancied so my GPS had to recalculate many times.

Finally after spending about 20 minutes passing through many traffic lights and squeezing through heavy traffic, I was riding along Highway 401 heading north to Don Sak. Trying to make the 12 noon ferry, I was really speeding towards the Raja Ferry Terminal.

Shortly, I was in Surat Thani Province. There were many road signs pointing to the ferry terminal. At a road junction along Highway 401, a big signboard pointed me to the direction of Raja Ferry Terminal.

Last vehicle into the ferry

Last vehicle into the ferry

This ferry terminal occupied a very big area. I arrived at a toll booth and gave the cashier THB500 and he returned me THB300. I looked at my clock on my bike, 1300 hours (on Malaysian time) I read. Oh… oh! I may miss the ferry and would have to wait 1 hour for the next one. From this toll booth to the actual embarkation point was about 3 km. Since this terminal serves both the ferry to Koh Phangan as well as Koh Samui, I asked for directions to the Ko Samui terminal. When I reached the jetty, I was urgently showed the way into the awaiting ferry. My bike was the last vehicle to board.

“Phew!” Just made it.

The journey from the mainland to Ko Samui was supposed to be 1.5 hours, so I guess I have to make myself comfortable for the ferry ride. I hung my helmet on my bike’s handle bar and went upstairs to the passenger level.

The ferry could carry 3 buses in the middle parking lane and 1 lane on each side for cars or vans. The ferry is sort of 3 levels, the middle level is void because it needs space for high vehicles. Motorbikes will have to fit into any available spaces.

As the ferry slowly made its journey at about 15 kph (according to my GPS) towards the island, I admired my surrounding as shown below. (Click on any of the images for a larger view and press Esc to come back to this page.)

1 hour 45 minutes later, I was on Koh Samui emerging from the Raja Ferry Terminal onto dry land. Many bikes, cars, buses and lorries were waiting to board the ferry that I just took.

I shall continue this blog on another page because it’s getting a bit too long for this page. The coming pages will be on my discovery and experiences of Ko Samui and Ko Phangan and my return trip to Malaysia.

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