Dating on Two Wheels: 3D2N bike touring to Hatyai, Thailand

Side note: 1 month's effort of diet + exercise, spoiled in just one week of CNY break. Yay!! (NOT)

Hon and I, we are those 'random planning' kind of couple, so this bike touring thing happened kinda 'randomly'. 

Hon has been talking for ages about bike touring, ever since he got his Lerun mountain bike (MTB). That has been one of his dreams for many years and now that he has a bicycle (and THREE now lol), bike touring is some sort of his ultimate goal. I totally love it but too bad I don't have the time commitment at the moment.

I realized that we haven't been to trips recently and there's a window during the weekend before CNY break that I can squeeze a domestic trip, and I suggested it to Hon, and we kinda agreed either in Penang, Taiping or Ipoh for that weekend.

Then, there comes the randomness within a week before the actual event.

Hon suggested a cycling trip to Hatyai and I kinda freaked out (for safety reason). He came up with another plan of cycling around Perlis and we kept that in view. He tried to fit 2 bikes (tires dismantled) in his car and succeeded. He went to Ipoh on Thurs, planning to overnight there and cancelled. He drove all the way up to Perlis on Thurs and stayed. I changed my mind and decided to just do it (cycling to Hatyai thing). On Fri, he cycled to Kaki Bukit then Padang Besar (the Malaysia-Thailand border town) to check out places to park the car. Bad idea because it was hot as hell that day LOL. He also tempted to search for touring rack but didn't find it. Googled the route, tips, trying to pack light, and OFF WE WENT! The next day lah.

Saturday: We parked our car at the UniMAP Uniciti Alam Campus at Sungai Chuchuh, which was about 8km to border. Cycling from Kangar was unwise for us because it means we had to add another 30km to our journey, I wouldn't want to tire myself by the time I reached border, so No No. We parked right next to the hostel's guard house and Hon assembled the bicycles and we had few rounds of test drives before we started our journey.

Bicycle specs:
1) Lerun Evo Team 27.5" - Alloy frame, 27 speed, Shimano Alivio
2) Felt F95 - 18 speed, Shimano Sora, tyre size 700 x 23c

The whole journey was approximately 68km from our parking to Lee Garden Hatyai, according to Google Maps. We started the cycling early at 6am, first was to cover at least two-thirds of the journey (about 45km) before the scorching tropical noon sun arose, second was because I was unsure of my cycling ability level (riding approx 20km around Perlis doesn't really help, and Hon has been cycling for at least 5 days a week for several months), so we hope to get more shading time for as far as I can go before the sun reaches above us. This is Asia, so the sun is something to be 'scared' of. Ha ha.

The Malaysian immigration officer took our photo and wished us good luck :)
At the end, we didn't get any touring rack, so everything must be light light LIGHT because you gonna carry your stuff on your backpack! 

The queue on the immgration counter was quite long, and everyone stared at us the minute we arrived. I felt like a clown LOL. We chatted with the uncle queuing behind us and he couldn't stop 'Wah' at our attempt. This was the first encouragement I got in the early morning.

After going through the custom, our first stop was 7-eleven at Thailand's Padang Beza town to get a local SIM card. We got the True Move 3G Tourist Inter SIM pricing at 49 Baht and a top-up of 50 Baht.

This was the approximate route we took on the day:

My phone shut down on the way and Endomondo doesn't have back track function so my workout/routing gone!! Argh!! I had to trace back our route by pinpointing locations that we passed by.

Not wanting to use the heavier traffic Highway No.4, we opt for the 'inner road' or the alternative route to Hatyai. From Padang Beza town, we used the Route 1027. It was a very quite and very very low traffic road as compared to the Highway No.4, and the lorries were pretty scary since the road was a one lane road. In fact, it was so quiet, 70% of the road was just rubber estates and trees and jungles, no human at all.

reminds me of the Kangar-Kaki Bukit alternative road

Not only that, there was hardly any signboards at all!! I was nervous since I was in-charge of navigation (strangely the SIM card only works on my phone), so I had to stop constantly to confirm the route yikes! Hon was in-charge of signalling stopping time for hydration every 10 minutes or 5 km - even if you are not thirsty you must always re-hydrate.

One of our 'water station'
AT LAST hahaha!
27 km to go!!
 At last, a readable signboard with arrows!! Haha!! Honestly even if there's signboard on the Route 1027, all of them are written in Thai, that's why I was so nervous every time there's a junction!

At the end of Route 1027, we turned right on the cross road to Route 4145 which passes the International Buddhist College, then left to Route 4040 towards the side of the Hatyai Airport. I got a little nervous again and stopped by what seems to be a military station gate to check the map again. A smartly dressed soldier approached us and exchanged some short and friendly pleasantries. We were on the correct route so far YAY!
Air Force landmark
By the time we passed by the airport, it was almost noon and it was so hot!! We had to stop every 1 km for water and rest. Long story short, we arrived Hatyai town at about 2 pm, checked in at Kosit Hotel (rate 780 Baht) and finally rest!! They stored our bikes at a vacant staircase (LOL) where they keep the vacuum cleaner and cleaning tools.

Hon suggested a ride to Satun the next day, but we both knew it was a crazy idea coz it's a 100km journey! Plus, I haven't been riding for months, and true enough, the next day the saddle sore and shoulder ache (coz I hunched my back while riding due to the wider handle bar) came and it hurts so much!! Luckily Hon has and brought different types of bicycles, so we get to switch bike coz our saddle sore was at different 'spot'.

We spent two nights in Hatyai enjoying our time, and resting too. The street where we stayed was quiet, especially at night, it's like almost zero traffic comparing to the Lee Garden/Kim Yong market side. On Sunday, only a handful of shops opened. I didn't see much Malaysians around and hardly even saw Malaysia cars there, which was quite unusual, since Hatyai would always packed of people before Chinese New Year. Because our currency sucks perhaps! Oh yeah btw we converted RM610 to 5000B.

We didn't do much too though, aside from exploring the town on foot and eating. I didn't have the shopping mood because of the baggage concern - wouldn't want to kill my shoulder on the way back!

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Some brief highlight of our stay:

1) The 'Bike For Dad' signboard on a cafe

Had to use his picture coz I took it way better than he took mine
'Bike For Dad' is a cycling event started by the Thai Princess as an act of honor to her Father, the King.

This cafe was at the end of the street where we stayed and we literally risking our lives taking the pictures because to get a better angle of everything, you have to go onto the street with moving traffic! ... until the red light came.

If it wasn't a red light there, cars would have knocked me down while taking this pic!

2) Pork leg rice and Pocky mango flavor at the food court of Odean Mall

Hon's craving of pork leg rice, and the special flavor of Pocky, mango, only available in Thailand. Sien!! It is so nice!!

3) Cook Chai Dim Sum

So yum!!!

Hon googled dim sum shops in Hatyai and the first three pages shows Chokdee aka 好运 dim sum place, which is recommended or written mostly by Malaysian blogs. PASS!! If there's anything/any place I don't fancy about in Thailand, especially Hatyai, it's when a whole lot of Malaysians have been there. It means the shop is or will be commercialized for tourists' and it just doesn't taste that good already.

Then he found another one, Cook Chai Dim Sum, which on the first page only has several blog reviews mixed with some Thai websites. THAT'S IT! :)

We went at around 7 am. The dim sum here seems handmade, unlike some shops that sells the frozen ones. It is really nice, especially the prawn ones on the right of the picture above, so yum!! We saw most tables ordered a kind of fish-koey teow dish, but we were already full with all those delicious dim sum, so we kept that in our KIV list.

A trap to remind you all: Hon saw this yam mud dessert, it looked tempting so he ordered one...

Lo and behold.....

10% yam, 90% glutinous rice!! LOL!! 
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My shoulder pain didn't get any better on the second day of our stay, so I went to the S.S.2 massage parlour opposite our hotel for a Thai massage. It was so on-the-spot I yelped 'Kokunka' aka thank you after she did the back stretch/crack thing, thinking it was over. The aunty laughed and asked me to turn around to massage my head. LOL How should I know it wasn't over haha! 

Some funny encounter during our return trip though. 

After two nights' stay, we headed back early at 6 am and had a disappointed dim sum breakfast at 大人点心. It was totally incomparable to Cook Chai. 

We Google-Map-ed our way back and again, opt for the non-highway route, routing to Hatyai Airport. We used the Walking option as the driving option took us back to the highway. The route seems promising enough so off we went. 

OMG I did not expect what would come at us later. The first quarter seemed OK, housing area and nicely paved roads. Out of nowhere the Map navigated us to turn into a sandy unpaved road! This kind of road condition is OK for mountain bike, but risky for road bike, so we turned around, waited for recalculation and moved on. Again! Unpaved road! Turned around again! And again! At our third unpaved road encounter, we knew it was too far to turn around already, so we just go for it.

Silver lining along the way
 We went around the back of a gated and guarded housing compound, stumbled upon a Wat Hatyai Sitaram, and finally entered the main road. Phew!

The journey back was A-Ok, faster this time, since we knew the way already. Plus, there's a number of uphills and downhills so I got to try the fastness of road bike woohoo!

Beautiful scene on the way back. Honestly, looks like Perlis scene LOL
The end.

It was a nice introductory bike touring experience, although we didn't go so far. Most bike touring goes as far as 100 km a day, they only stopped at a place for one night and continue their journey early morning the next day. We, or should I say, I was not ready for that yet. The pain I had kinda scared me from doing the actual long distance bike touring, but Hon stated that I was in pain because I don't ride much. He rides at least 5 times/week and compared to last time, he doesn't feel anything nowadays. That is some encouragement!


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