Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cycling South Thailand 2016: Day 3 - A Wet & Colourful Day At Thale Noi

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Cycling South Thailand 2016 : Day 3 - A Wet & Colourful Day At Thale Noi
Tour of South Thailand: Day 3, 13th April 2016
Small Group Cycling Tour - Ranot>Thanon Chaloem Phra Kiat 80 Phansa>Thale Noi.
Cycling Distance - 39.33 km.     Level: Easy
Time : 7:15am to 11:00am
Time Taken :  3hrs 45mins (including stops for breakfast, some relaxation at Thale Noi elevated highway and photo opps).

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Route Recommendations :
1. The route is relatively flat with spots of shade here and there.
2. March to June is the hot season in Thailand, it does get extremely hot. With the El Nino effect this year's day temperature shot up to almost forty degrees. Most of the main roads are unshaded, so do cover up and rehydrate frequently.
    We rode this stretch during the morning, it was a short ride and we were not much affected by the heat. 
3. There are cycling lanes at Ranot and on the Thanon Chaloem Phra Kiat 80 Phansa, a 6.5 km. elevated highway that connects Ranot to Thale Noi and runs through beautiful marshlands.
4. Places & Scenery
    - Do stop at the Thanon Chaloem Phra Kiat 80 Phansa, from here can be seen the wetlands and it gives a prelude of the wildlife that can be seen at the Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve bird sanctuary.
    - Along the way can be seen Chinese Fishing nets, though not as big as the gigantic ones I saw at Kochi, they are still impressive.
    - Also can be seen are many road-side stalls selling dried salted/seasoned fish.
    - For bird-watchers, there is a viewing tower at the lake's edge in Thale Noi, but nothing beats taking a boat ride onto the lake.
    - We were there during the Songkran Festival (Thai new year), it's a good time to be in Thailand as the smiles, colour and joy of the people comes out even more.
5. Food
    - The Kruaphupun shop (GPS 7.783483, 100.345096) at Ranot sells quite decent porridge and dim sum.
    - A good place for breakfast/lunch is at the coffee shop in Thale Noi that serves excellent noodles and chicken rice (GPS 7.77662, 100.11772).
    - The Samkak Floating Restaurant (GPS 7.76794, 100.12179) at Thale Noi serve pretty decent food, but do watch out for mosquitos!
    - The night market at Thale Noi (GPS: 7.77838, 100.12303) has a good range of food; I especially like their style of Thai omelet. There is even a concert held at one end.
6. Accommodations
    We stayed at a P.C. Night Inn at Thale Noi (GPS: 7.77232, 100.11706). Rate is at 500 Bahts per room per night. I would recommend staying one night at Thale Noias it then allows an early morning boat trip to view Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve bird sanctuary.
    For a list of accommodations in Thale Noi, click here.


PRELUDE

The day before we were baked, roasted, toasted and grilled on a super hot ninety kilometre ride from Songkhla to Ranot. It was the hot season in Thailand and this was compounded by the El Nino effect which took the day's temperature soaring to the forties. By the end of the day we were totally exhausted, had a quick dinner and retired for the day.
Today is a day we will be looking forward to, it is Songkran, the Thai new year, and the locals, all in their gaiety, were ready to celebrate it in their wet and colourful way; and we were keen to join them. Today we will also be meeting up with two members of our gang, Roger & Kit, who will be joining us in Thale Noi. Today, too, we will be having a much shorter ride of just about forty kilometres. We were slowly getting acclimatised but this shorter ride was a welcomed relief.



The route today will take us from Ranot to Thale Noi. via the Thanon Chaloem Phra Kiat 80 Phansa elevated highway. It is an interesting 6.5 km long highway that sits on piers over the marshy land of Lake Thale Noi. From this highway can be observed birds and other animals in their natural habitat.

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise at Ranot Beach, it augured a beautiful day!
Today is Songkran, the Thai new year and we will be taking a short (but beautiful) ride  to Thale Noi to celebrate the happy and colourful .... and also wet... occasion with the locals.


Breakfast was a first introduction to Thai style dim sum at Kruaphupun (GPS 7.783483, 100.345096), something almost similar to Chinese except things are slightly on the sweeter side. Also they only steam the dim sum only after customers select their choices.


Keat kissing a fake chicken.... see, he was missing his wife as he just got married recently.


Breakfast done, we prepped ourselves for the journey to Thale Noi.; most importantly was to cover our bags with their water-proof covers... we were ready to get Songkran wet but had to make sure that our luggage remained dry.
Yup! We are now ready for a wet battle.... BRING IT ON!
(Psssst..... seems like Keat still can't let go of that chicken! Poor guy really missed his wife.)


As we cycled along the roads in Ranot, we noticed that at the main roads there were cycling lane and they were clearly demarcated with road reflector studs so that they would be very noticeable at night!


This is one of my favourite photos for our tour. That's us along the road to Thale Noi, padi fields with palm trees swaying above are in front, an irrigation canal runs next to us, and more significantly a large Thai flag was fluttering in the wind to complete the photo.

Some views along the way:
Chinese fishing net were quite rampantly used at some of the rivers we rode by.


A shop harvested heads of dead buffaloes, gleaned and treat the skulls to be sold as decorative items.


Many road-side stalls along the way selling seasoned or dried salted fish.


We reached the Thanon Chaloem Phra Kiat 80 Phansa elevated highway; although only 6.5 km. long, in this flat marshland it seems to stretch on towards the horizon. Here there are bicycle lanes on both sides and at every hundred meters there are signs with posters showing photos and names of the birds and other wildlife that can be found here.


The highway sits on piers; presently it was the dry season and the water levels are low. During the wet season it goes higher and then the highway seems to run through a lake.

On both sides are marshland - wetlands were many birds were flocking, seeking food in the water...


Here too were water buffaloes grazing on the drier patches of land. While they were grazing on the grass; birds were  grazing on buffaloes, nibbling at insects of their backs. All this was a presage of Lake Thale Noi proper, one which we would be seeing the next day.


As we cycled along, who did we meet but our buddies Roger and Kit. They had come in by train to Phatthalung and stayed the previous night at Thale Noi. Instead of waiting for us at Thale Noi, they had decided to ride up the highway to meet us. It was a joyful meeting and our tour group were now complete... a magnificent seven!


During Songkran, accommodations were hard to come by but fortunately we managed to find a motel, the P.C. Night Inn just at the outskirts of Thale Noi (rate at 500 Bahts per room per night, GPS: 7.77232, 100.11706). Leaving our bags behind, we were ready to join the new year festivities in town. But first thing first, to protect our phones with the convenient water proof cover.


Just as we approached the town, the action had started. People at the road sides threw water at us or sprayed us continuously with water from garden hoses.


Some photos of the Songkran colourful and wet festivities:
Colourful teens on a truck, happily swaying to loud music from their boom boxes.


It's a watery battle between pedestrians and trucks.....


..... and between truck and truck with a poor motorcyclist caught in between!


The youngsters were the ones having the most fun, with big water guns shooting at anyone passing by. A big pail of water sits on their motor-tricycle to make sure that they do not run out of "ammo".


The splashing water is a giving of blessings.....


and as this little girl sprayed me, I just stood their with open arms happily receiving her  blessings. Shoot me.... shoot me.... bless me... bless me!


People not only got wet but also got colourful as they were wiped with coloured wet powder as they passed by armies with pails of of these


Our friend Kit was really into it, joining the locals to splash water.


Lunch time came and we adjourned to a corner shop in town (GPS: 7.77662, 100.11772) to have some keow teow soup and chicken rice, both of which were very nice.


And here I am, feeling  wet, colourful.... and very blessed.


Dinner was Samkak Restaurant (GPS 7.76794, 100.12179). It's a floating restaurant that served very good authentic Thai food. Their salad, local style was interesting - it had young crunchy bamboo shoots. Only complaint was that while we were feeding, mosquitoes were feeing on us.


After that it was to the local night market which is adjacent to the lake. It's a very noticeable place with two large colourfully lit  spinning wheels. Inside there were rows and rows of stalls selling clothes, luggage, mobile phones, etc. At one end was a stage with singing and dancing shows!


At the market, we especially like this Thai omelet fired with bean sprouts and other chopped vegetables. I got so hooked on this that later on at other towns I would go looking for it at their night markets.

Sook San Wan Songkran!
(that's Happpy Songkran Day in Thai)


Tomorrow will be a another great day, we will be going bird watching (real birds, not the two-legged human kind, heh! heh!)


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