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May 5th, 2011 | Asia

No Singing in Song-khla…!!

As the title suggests, our decision to ride to, and stay in Song-khla, was not one of our most inspired choices of places to visit…!!

Our route to Songkhla...

There didn’t seem much to see along the coast south of Koh Lanta, so we opted to ride across the peninsula and then turn south and ride along the narrow strip of land between the Gulf of Thailand and Thale Luang, a large inland lake bordering the coast…

We were expecting to be able to see the sea on our left and the lake on our right while we rode, but were disappointed to see neither, just a straight section of road, well off the coast, and the lake hidden by coconut and palm nut plantations…

In hindsight, we should have spent another day on Koh Lanta, and then made the ride into Malaysia the following day… But hindsight is a precise art, and our one night stop in Songkhla did not turn out as badly as it might have…!!

Earlier that morning, I had seen Phil off when his taxi arrived to take him to Hat Yai, where he would have to change to another taxi to get him to Songkhla…

It had been many, many years since my top lip had been exposed to the sun...!!

I had surprised my friends at breakfast that morning by arriving sans the beard that they were so used to seeing me with… While giving myself a haircut the previous evening, I had got a “bee in my bonnet” and decided to shave the beard off as well…!!

I wasn’t sure who stared back out of the mirror at me, but it sure as hell wasn’t the same guy who had left South Africa fifteen months ago…!!

Gone was the hollow man who used to stare back at me all those months ago… This guy had the twinkle back in his eyes, and a “knowing” look that spoke of adventure experienced, and an eagerness for much more of the same, to come…

After breakfast, we packed up and headed for the multiple ferry crossing that would get us back onto the mainland… Despite the forecast for rain at midday, it was blazing hot with hardly a cloud in the sky when we pressed our starter buttons and left the White Rock Resort…

It had been a good choice for a base on Lanta and I would certainly stay there again… It’s out of the hustle and bustle of Ban Saladan, and yet only ten minutes ride away…

The first ferry ride was a short one, barely five minutes in the crossing; the second maybe twice as long, and we removed our jackets to try and cool down…

Trev and Chenty on the ferry from Koh Lanta to the mainland...

Feeling the heat...!! GB makes ready to scare the children...!!

We crossed the peninsula at a fast clip, passing extensive Palm Nut plantations and open countryside alike, riding through Wang Wiset and on to Hua Yoi, where we turned north towards Thung Song… We found a new road that was not on the map I had used to plan the route, but was fixed in the GPS, and took this to cross over to the small settlement of Cha-Uat…

Toy-train crossing ahead...!!

We reached the seas-side town of Hua Sai and turned south on the road we had so been looking forward to riding… Rain clouds had begun gathering and the first drops of rain fell as we made the crossing, running quickly through Na Thong and Sathing Phra, expecting to find resorts and hotels along this section of road, but seeing none…

Riding a fair distance behind me, Trevor narrowly avoided running into a big red dump-truck that had barreled into the road in front of him… He later gave thanks for ABS braking…!! It had apparently been a very near thing…!!

Apart from incidents like this in India, which you experience a few times a day, riding through South East Asia had largely been “incident free” for both of us, but this close call brought into stark reality the fact that we were covering thousands of kilometres on our respective journeys, and one had to be forever vigilant…

We crossed a long bridge over water draining from the lake into the sea, and then come to the outskirts of Songkhla, which in ancient times had been a small but thriving fishing village… We passed the airport and before long found ourselves in the town itself…

This message can be found at most police stations in Thailand...

Biker Dude, Songkhla... We would see many more later that evening...

We had arranged to meet Phil on the beachfront somewhere, and headed there, riding south along the ocean, hoping to find a place to stay that would allow a trouble-free exit the following day… We rode down as far as the road would take us, looking for a place listed in the guidebook, but found it be a bit of a dump, so did not even bother to go inside…

Phil called to say he had arrived while we were frantically paging though the guidebook again, thinking that we might have to ride on to another town further south…

Interesting name for a supplier of plumbing materials...

Songkhla seemed a soulless place, even though the long beach was thronged with locals…. This area was predominantly Muslim, and I think that had a lot to do with our first impressions… Women were dressed in Burkhas, few of the men smiled back when we greeted them, and in all the time we were in Songkhla, we never saw a single tourist…

After our “highs” on Phuket and Koh Lanta, Songkhla was a bit of a downer…!!

We located Phil on the beachfront, and tried the large hotel close to where we found him, but although it looked like a nice enough place, the price was a little too steep… The receptionist suggested the Viva Hotel, and gave us directions to it… We settled in there, and later walked around the immediate area, found a KFC to eat at and sat wondering what we would do with ourselves for the rest of the day…!!

An "American" chopper hanging out among the scooters...

Copper Chopper...

We had seen a number of bigger bikes, mostly Choppers of various makes, roaring down the main street, and all heading for the waterfront…

That evening we walked there to take a look and saw a long row of them parked at a place where a few dozen gazebos had been erected… Turned out to be a large outdoor restaurant complex, and we met a few of the bikers who had ridden from various towns further north for a weekend gathering at Songkhla…

We stood admiring the work that had gone into customizing their bikes, took a few photos and then sat down to eat a traditional Thai meal, in the midst of a few hundred locals… Food stalls lined the outer edges of a large quad, and in the centre stood row upon row of plastic tables and chairs…

Being the only Westerners there obviously made us stand out, and we drew curious glances from many of the diners…

It takes all kinds...

Sausage balls on a street vendors grid... This was a first for us...!!

On the whole, except for the bikers who chatted freely and bought us a beer, I found the rest of the population of Songkhla to be uninterested and mostly unfriendly…

Seems like the religion practiced in these parts had robbed the people of their sense of humour…

We left to walk back to our hotel just as the live entertainment was being rolled out…

We stopped to watch a young girl making a speech in Thai, at the end of which she seemed to get a round of rather lukewarm applause…

We hadn’t walked very far before we decided that we’d rather get back to the Viva hotel sooner rather than later, and hailed a taxi to take us there…

We sat at a newly opened coffee shop off to the one side of the entrance to the hotel, and discussed our next move… We decided to ride to the island of Penang in Malaysia the following day, and having a firm destination on the table, Phil could now arrange for a taxi to take him back to Hat Yai, and on to the Malaysian border…. Once there he would have to look for a bus to Penang…

All aboard the Wilson Wagon...!!

This house was barely the width of a car...!!

Later that evening, Phil and I went out for a walk… We bought a few quarts of beer at a small convenience store across from the hotel, then looked to see where the lights were brightest…

Walking down a road lined with small restaurants and street vendors, we bought a few chicken Satays, and munched on them as we strolled, shouting greetings to anybody who as much as glanced in our direction…

We were trying to spread a little of our own good humour amongst the needy, and in most cases it worked… People smiled and waved back, shouting greetings of their own….

Or at least we think they were greetings…!!

When we got to a very dark part of town, we turned and headed back the way we had come… Phil was leaving at 6.00 am the next morning, and would need to be up early to pack…

We were sharing a room at the Viva, the first of many we would share on our way down to Singapore…

We lay awake for hours, chatting about fishing, hunting and the various fixes we had gotten ourselves into over the years… In my case, that took a bit longer than Phil’s had, to relate….!!

All packed and ready to head for Malaysia...

A few hours after Phil had left, we were on our way too, riding hard to get to the Malaysian border as quickly as possible in case the crossing was a complicated one… We wanted to get to Penang with plenty of daylight to spare…

©GBWT 2011

 

2 comments to No Singing in Song-khla…!!

  • Mark Behr

    Wow, a bit of a downer. Reminds me of some of those real clutch-plates in South Africa that think it is a sign of weakness to smile. Glad you moved on quickly!

  • Got caught up finally with all your blogs, love the Wilson wagon picture, good job, we did have some fun together hey! Miss Yah buddy, havnt heard from you for a bit, hows the Bali trip going?

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