Sunday, December 25, 2016

Short Ride to Thailand, 16-21 Dec 2016. Day 1 - Sgp to Kuala Perlis 850km.

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Berenda on her trusty Brompton!

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Muscles ready to explode to.....Krabi, says CW of our Chief Navigator Ying Chang!

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Having been impressed by the ease of long distance bus travel at our last trip from Penang to Spore in Aug, I wanted to do a short ride into Thailand using coaches instead of flying. The plan was to bus up 800km to Alor Setar, then cycle 50km to Kuala Perlis. Plan A was to cycle up 100km into Thailand using the quiet border of Wang Kerlian. Plan B was to take a fishing boat from K Perlis into Satun if that was possible. From Satun, we were to cycle 100km to Hatyai, spend 2 days there and return back by coach again.

The journey up far north began as 5 of us met at Golden Mile, Beach Rd Spore to board our 9pm Grassland bus to Alor Setar. It was nice of Chris and Coleen to send us off. This was a 12 hour overnight bus which was very comfortable, offering seats that had electrical adjustments and wide bodied business class comfort. One key advantage of this was the ease that our foldies could store in the spacious holding bay of the bus.

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Bikes a bit thrown around in the belly of the bus.

The long bus ride was made short by the excellent company of my good ride buddies Christoph, KC and YC, who we had too much laughs on board the bus. Poor Berenda was seated all alone at the back but she slept happily.

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Arriving at about 9am in Alor Setar, we assembled our bikes to curious audience. Unfortunately, Christoph's Bike Friday had a brake caliper problem which was easily fixed by KC's expertise with a pair of pliers.

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First order of the day was breakfast and we found a lovely old style kopitiam in town. We enjoyed Wanton Mee and a truly amazing Fried Kway Teow. It had a "wok hei" flavour! What made this experience different was the warm hospitality of the elderly Chinese owner. He told us to park our bikes properly so that they wont be stolen, gave us tasting portions of his excellent kaya (coconut jam) as well as poured his special home brew drinks for us, at no charge. Indeed, there is something to be said about nice country folks.

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The ride to Kuala Perlis was flat and easy, and we chose to cycle along the coastline. Though the initial part of the journey was on fairly mediocre roads, the quiet traffic and amazing scenery more than made up for this. Beautiful open expanse of green rice fields were really pleasing to our eye, and with clear blue skies, this area deserves a more thorough visit.

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The journey then skirted closer to the coast and we could see the ocean which was beautiful. We rode through laid back fishing villages where life could very well be in 1960s, so quiet and peaceful. As it was getting hot, we had a very nice stop at the drink store and enjoyed ice desserts. ABC, which stands for Air Batu Champor. This is shaved ice with goodies inside, laced with sweet syrup!

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Christoph ever the jetsetter on the other hand, who just flew in from Bangkok and then joined us, took this opportunity to catch a few Zzzzs. 

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Pushing on, the scenery improved significantly as we rode close to the sea but the skies were getting darker. The weather forecast did predict rain at about 4pm but the rain seemed to come a bit earlier. We continued cycling until the first drop of rains hit us.

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Pic Berenda

Actually, I didnt mind the rain one bit as it meant riding in much cooler conditions but I regretted not bringing my Da Brim helmet visor. Nevertheless, it was not a heavy monsoon but light rains and that suited me fine. We tried to take a short cut going through a closed flyover, ignoring the no entry signs. However, the reason why it was closed was because other half was damaged and we found out the hard way!

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As we entered Kuala Perlis, the rains have subsided somewhat and we made our way to T Hotel. It was so good to see Siew Yung, wheeling her Brompton in our direction just in front of the hotel. She had an earlier sojorn in Langkawi with her friend Sandra and planned to meet us here. Siew Yung is an avid Brompton tourer who has been on so many solo trips and it is such a great privilege to have her join the LTF Team.

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T Hotel was a newish RM99 per night hotel and for its price, we could not complain. Christoph had a few bones to pick with regards to its peeling laminate on the dresser but I have learned not to have high expectations of Malaysian hotels.

After a well deserved shower and laundry, we strolled to the food court for some amazing satay and to catch the sunset. 

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At the park, we were blessed with a local band belting out some groovy music and it was a joy to see a couple of boys "jogek", encouraged by their moms. The locals were out to enjoy the sunset and fresh cool breezes and we lamented how good they have it compared to us who live in such stressed and crowded cities.

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Dinner was at a lovely Chinese seafood restaurant called Hai Tien which we would highly recommend. Not only was the food fresh and tasty, the prices too were most reasonable and most importantly, they sell beer. This is not to be taken forgranted here in Malaysia as it is not displayed due to religious reasons. Needless to say, our German friend was elated!

We slept that night feeling very glad to be at the most northern town in the west coast of Malaysia after a very long journey here by bus and bicycle. The first day is always the best because there are so many wonderful and exciting days ahead and I felt a deep sense of gratitude to God for the privilege to do this with such great friends!


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