Monday, December 26, 2016

SRT Day 2, Kuala Perlis to Satun. How 90km became 9km!

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Pic KC

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Pic KC - The Gleam Resort

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Coffee and bicycles - a lovely combination.

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So much to give thanks for!

Crossing international borders have always been exciting for me and one of the highlights of this adventure trip is to see if it was possible to cross from Kuala Perlis to Tammalang Pier, Satun in Thailand via a local fisherman's boat. Failing to do so, it would mean a 90km road trip through the quieter border crossing of Wang Kelian which is also very welcomed as it involves scaling a mountain pass. But that would take a whole day's of riding and these trips are all about cycling. But honestly, I was hoping in my heart that the boat ride miracle would somehow happen. 

Wikipedia as at Dec 2016 states,

"Update April 2014 - Due to tougher Malaysian immigration, tourists are no longer enter/exit Malaysia with fisherman's boat. To reach Kuala Perlis (and southwards), there is a minivan service at 9am. Guesthouses in Satun will make arrangement for you. It is also possible to take ferry to Kuala Perlis or Penang via Langkawi but is a costly option."

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We met for breakfast at 0800 and was spoilt for choice. There were at least 3 places just outside our hotel selling a good variety of food and we decided on the quietest one to try help give them some business.

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That proved to be a mistake as we found out that the reason why the locals shun this eatery was because the Roti Canais, or Indian pancakes, they served were rather stale. YC was very disappointed and rightly so. I fortunately had the Nasi Lemak which was acceptable. 

Good old Siew Yung had woken up earlier to recce the fishing boat option and she came back all smiles at the breakfast table. She had the best news ever! Somehow, she managed to negotiate with a Thai fishing crew and they gave her 2 options. RM $240 (bargained from RM$300) if we wanted to leave in the morning, or half that price if we could wait till afternoon as they had to sell off their catch first.  The thought of spending half a day in Kuala Perlis did not appeal and we all unanimously voted to take the morning ride. After all at only S$13 each for a beautiful cruise along the Andaman Sea, including our bicycles, this is truly the deal of the century. 

So immediately after breakfast, we checked out of T Hotel, loaded our bicycles and rode 5 mins to the local jetty which is about 400m from the Langkawi Jetty. It was a bit of a confusion sorting out where to clear immigration but once we figured out where the immigration office was, it was smooth sailing literally. The immi officers were very friendly and asked if we had secured our boat before stamping "out" our passports. 

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We loaded our bikes happily onto our chartered fishing boat and it was a magical feeling that we were actually leaving Kuala Perlis by sea. Everyone helped, forming a human chain and indeed, more hands resulted in less work. 

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The boat ride made all of us very happy indeed and we were in the highest spirits. With the fresh breeze in our faces, blue skies, amazing views of the many islands around us and the rhythmatic chugging of the engine, days like these are special blessings from God.

The 45 mins boat ride ended all too soon and in no time, we were docking at Tammalang Pier, Thailand. A ferry from Langkawi had just landed before us so there was a queue of about 30 people in front of us. But we didn't mind one bit as it was only 11am and we had only 10km to ride into Satun town. It was nice to just take it easy and just go with the flow.

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The Thai immigration officers were friendly as ever and asked about our plans in Thailand. When I told him that we were cycling onwards to Hatyai, he exclaimed that it was quite a distance and wished me well. Thailand is always very welcoming and truly, we were delighted to be here.

After we all cleared immigration, KC insisted that we all had to take a group pic under the famous crab statue and we obediently obliged, with ice cream popsicles in our hands. 

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Pic KC

The ride to Satun was done under heavy rains 2 years ago but today, it was all blue skies and sunny. It was an easy ride into town with excellent roads and almost zero traffic. We enjoyed the short journey and had great conversations on the saddle!

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Pic KC

Siew Yung has a friend who knows the owner of Gleam Resort and it turned out to be one of the most impressive hotels I have ever been in the whole of Thailand. The owner who is a retired lawyer from Bangkok had build her retirement paradise recently and this place is so tastefully done. A small resort of only about 8 villas or so with an inviting pool, set in such tranquil surroundings with modern design, we were all so excited and happy to be here. 

It describes itself as a "small relaxation resort hideaway in the heart of Satun City" and that captures this gleaming resort so beautifully.

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Pic KC

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As we checked in, we noticed the owner was wearing a black ribbon to remember the recent passing away of the revered King. It was a privilege to wear one as well to honour such a great person who is so well loved by his people.

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We rode out to have coffee at the recommended Keith's Bakery and we were delighted at how warm and inviting this cafe is. We enjoyed our Lattes and Cappuccinos, in the company of a whole bunch of spirited school kids who were so friendly.

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Very impressed too with their spoken English and we ordered exactly what they ordered - a lovely bread/ice cream/fruit creation and that was delicious.

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We did a short ride through Satun in search of Thai Traditional Massage, which is not everyone's cup of tea understandably. Thai massage is not for the faint hearted as it involves a lot of pulling and stretching and can be quite painful at first. It is akin to eating Kimchi as it gets better after a few tries but the question is, can you get over the initial first try? Khun Oh told us where they were and we found it easily after a mere 6 mins bicycle ride. However, we all wanted lunch first and were not ready to be tortured yet.

Lunch was at a simple local eatery which had a hot flaming wok. We enjoyed dishes of Rad Na (fried flat noodles in gravy), fried rice and at 40B each, they were not only unbeatable value for $ but aroy (delicious) as well.

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Pic KC

After lunch, we went back to Gleam Resort where the gals had an afternoon siesta in the aircon comfort of their villa. The boys went in for a dip and enjoyed great conversations with Khun Oh who was an extremely interesting and nice person. We learned about how she turned her dream of having a resort into reality and that was truly inspiring!

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Pic KC

Dinner was to be a belated birthday celebration for Christoph and what better place to have it in than Ti Baan, a French-Thai restaurant that we have come to love at our last visit to Satun. The owners Chris and Pooh outdid themselves and put together a lovely 4 course French dinner for us. What impressed was the amazing attention to detail and tremendous effort put in to ensure we felt welcome and made to feel so special.

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Indeed, if you are ever in Satun please visit Ti-Baan. Chris will certainly take very good care of you and their food is absolutely amazing. Literally the best of both worlds - France and Thailand! Cannot think of a better place to have a meal.

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We retired feeling very upbeat and rested. Thanks to Siew Yung's great research and negotiating skills, we came here the fun and easy way, turning 90km of hard cycle into a mere 9km. Everyone was happy but the birthday boy who wanted to ride, and ride as befits his nickname, Christoph the Crank! That he did after we all ended in Hatyai, but that is a story for another time.

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