Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Abang Adek Adventure to Songkhla, Thailand - Day 2

Chiang Mai style city walls in Songkhla.

Pic borrowed from - https://blueberryishqdeamore.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/5304664313_ee42231009.jpg

Pic - A Ragunathan

I don't usually wake up before the sunrise but somehow today, I did. Perhaps its that sense of excitement of a brand new day given to us, and the promises it hold. While KC was still in dream land, I quietly sneaked downstairs, made myself a Mocha at the hotel recep complimentary coffee machine, and went out for a sticky beak. I sat at the front lawn, with the brightening sky, enjoying my hot drink observing the many activities before my eyes in the cool morning air.

The street in front of Club Tree was already buzzing with shops opening as well as street stalls doing breakfast. It was great to see a few cyclists doing their morning rides too. But what caught my eye is the morning ritual of offering food to monks. This ritual is called Tak Bat where people perform their good deeds by giving to the monks the best food. In exchange, they receive a blessing from the monks.

Breakfast was taken at a most beautiful wing of the hotel, which was so Euro in it's furnishings. I expected to be served a grand Western breakfasts of oats, bacon and eggs, etc but it was to be a Thai affair, which was quite good too. KC was fascinated with a Great Dane replica and so was I as it looked really life like.

Our first port of call was the National Museum of Songkhla which was an easy 1.5km away. However, we got distracted when we passed by Songkhla Cycles, a bike shop specialising in road bikes. They were fascinated with our small wheeled Fridays and one customer came out to take a closer look.

The magnificent National Museum was the home of the Governor built in 1878 and looks like something straight out of China with its beautiful Oriental architecture. Unfortunately, this 100+ year old attraction was under renovation and we could not go inside though we were welcome to explore the grounds and its exhibits. 

Pic fm Trip Advisor

It was very well kept and informative, describing the busy trading city Songkhla was then, with a milieu of Western and Eastern influences on Thai culture. The turn of the century must have been such an exciting time with the introduction of the bicycle first, then motorised transportation. KC was amazing in his knowledge when he identified correctly a rusted out Puch French moped.

It was also interesting to see a section on the Japanese invasion of South Thailand in WW2 where the Thais fought bravely to repel the mighty Japanese Army until a truce was called.  A sign reads, "The phenomenen of Japanese attacked Songkhla during WW2 still ungers in its people's memory to this day".

Our next destination was the 16th Prime Minister's house - General Prem Thinsulanoda who was best known for negotiating with the Communist Party of Thailand successfully. His house is surprisingly very simple for such an important person and kept spotlessly clean by a friendly housekeeper.

Songkhla is one of the few cities in the world that has 2 coastlines on each side of the city on a peninsula and we headed toward the north western Samila Beach. The aim was to see the famous Golden Mermaid . It was very nice to be cycling along the coast with brand new paved roads and we noticed many new shops and cafes sprouting out. One that stopped me in my tracks is Coffee Beach. With the promise of cool aircon and gourmet coffees, we pulled in instinctively, like bees to honey.

We ordered our drinks and a basket of fries which came in a generous portion. That coupled with cold aircon, powerful wifi, cosy surroundings, great 70s music, we were glued to our seats. When it was time to "check bin", the bill came to only 160B or S$6.50! Songkhla is getting more and more attractive each day...

When we arrived at the 51yo Golden Mermaid, it was thronged with tourists all wanting to take a photo so we had to queue obediently like sheep under the hot sun. KC decided to give the mermaid a little freshen up with a garland of flowers around her head, so that she will be more "appropriately dressed" when taking a photo with "atas" company - Abang andAdek.

Our next point of interest was Tang Kuan Hill, less than 1km from the Mermaid. This is a popular scenic spot where a lift takes you to the top of the hill for a bird's eye view of Songkhla. 

There is a shrine on top as well as a 100 year old lighthouse. I was hoping that it would be cooler up there but that wasn't to be so as the blanket of humidity still pervaded. Here, many have pledged their love for each other as can be seen by the many rusted locks.

It was then time to stop playing tourist and to switch gears to being tourers. We decided to do the Ko Lo Loop anti-clockwise since we were here and this is a very scenic route requiring a ferry ride, passing through fishing villages, crossing 2 very long bridges and all in, a decent 25km. 

Using the ferry was easy enough. I thought we had to pay but the staff just waved me on... Perhaps bicycles go free and that is a great start. Cars had to board the ferry first, then motorcycles and bicycles. 

The ferry across the sea took a mere 10 mins and I always love being on the water. We passed by a Thai naval ship docked on the side with its impressive guns. Other ferries were busy going up and down while fishermen were casting their nets oblivious to time.

Cars were the first to leave the ferry, then motorcycles, last were us and we turned left to skirt south on the island. This fishing village was very much like those in Malaysia with Malay Muslims all enjoying the idyllic life by the sea. One old man had a great collection of Myna birds and was very proud of them. We also rode passed a boat repair dock which KC pointed out Tg Pagar in Singapore used to look like that.

We also saw fields with cows and horses, as well as cemeteries which ironically, had huge round tombs of Chinese patriarchs. The folks were friendly enough but I don't think they get many bicycle visitors riding through this area.

We soon hit Highway 408 and turn left towards Songkhla town. The sun was really blazing at this time and I spotted a Shell station, which meant aircon mini-mart! But we strike gold this time as the owner built a beautiful designer modern cafe on the premise. Deli Cafe looks more Orchard Road Singapore than in the boon docks of Ko Yo and we wasted no time to enter the cool zone!

This cafe was so beautiful we could literally stay here and we knew we belonged here. Perched prominently on the wall was a bicycle picture extolling the virtues of the bicycle and we could not agree more! Trust the Thais to be so artistic.

We had to wrenched ourselves out to continue our ride in the afternoon heat and it was still a fair way to go back to our hotel. I was really missing my Da Brim sun shield at this time and applied extra sunscreen. Though the road shoulders were comfortably wide, traffic here traveled quite fast as this was the highway. Looking across the lake, we could see a small white building and reaching there would only be the half way point!

Tikit Adek the little brother set the pace and in the blistering sun, a blistering pace was called for. We cruise at a speedy 25km/h, topped at 30+km/h and covered ground in quick time. Still, stopping for pics was essential as this long bridge truly, is quite magnificent.

We finally arrived into Songkhla city drenched in sweat and as we rode past some stalls, one particularly one with the huge mangoes caused us to make a sudden U-turn.  After all, we absolutely cannot resist mango sticky rice! Upon closer inspection however, they were made of plastic and we both had a good laugh. We fell for cheap but effective marketing.

As we got into town earlier than expected, we went for a bit of a ride-about. Songkhla has fascinating shops if we keep our eyes peeled. I saw a Gun Smith and we stopped for a chat with the friendly owner who was sandpapering the wooden handle of a rifle. His wife and child were happy to see us and he kindly showed us an antique genuine Winchester rifle, the type used by cowboys in the Western movies which was passed down to him by his father. Needless to say, we were impressed!

A much needed shower and some aircon therapy at Club Tree Hotel got us ready for dinner. At that time, the rains came and that was much needed. Donning a rain coat, we cycled out to Fresh Baker restaurant. I've read that they do good authentic Thai food in an aircon and clean environment and we went there to find out.

We ordered a highly recommended curry fish dish with bamboo shoots and authentic Thai meant spicy - very spicy. Though both KC and I attacked it, we had to go through a couple of tissues as our noses were running. Fortunately the other dishes we ordered were mild. Still, we rated dinner at 8/10 and the mid-age waitress was very thoughtful to keep topping up our fire hyrdrants, I mean glasses.

Fresh Baker had lots of locals eating there and that is always a good sign. We waited for our dinner to settle and the fire to be put out before heading for the perfect place to end the long day - a Thai massage. This place looked like a clinic and run by an elderly Aunty. At 200B, and having to wait for our turn, we surely can't go wrong.  Both of us had a great Thai traditional massage where every fibre of our body was pressed, stretched or cracked.

We came out feeling brand new and still had the energy to go out to find dessert. This time we knew where to get our perfect type - bean curd with ginger syrup and that really helped to settle our stomachs.

It had been a long day and indeed a day well spent. Felt very grateful for a marvelous day. Songkhla truly is beautiful and though we covered many attractions, we had missed many as well. Which only means a return visit is in the pipeline. Anyone like to join us?

 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.  Psalm 9:1


Haans said...

I am a loyal fans of your blog and always enjoy reading places that you travel. I am impressed with the photos that were shot especially the first photo. My question is a little off topic. I wonder if you could share how did you snap the first photo such that the bicycle appears very sharp while background blur. Looks like a slow shutter speed with some panning?

Oldyonfoldy said...

Hi Des. Many have asked me that question and I will say I just got lucky in a sense. I used a very simple Samsung A3 mobile phone and I have found Samsungs to take pretty good pics. Morning lighting was low so a long shutter speed was needed and I think the phone did that automatically. Panning the phone, just focusing on the cyclist as he zoomed by, gave that desired effect. You should try it. Not that difficult really... :)

Haans said...

Marvelous. Can't wait to see more of these photos. Keep it coming and also more of you guys rides.