Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cycling South Thailand 2016: Day 2 - A Super Hot Day In Thailand

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Cycling South Thailand 2016 : Day 2 - A Super Hot Day In Thailand
Tour of South Thailand: Day 2, 12th April 2016
Small Group Cycling Tour - Songkhla>Sathing Phra>Ranot.
Cycling Distance - 90.68 km.     Level: Hard (Partly because of the distance but mainly the heat)
Time : 7:15am to 6:00pm
Time Taken :  10hrs 45mins (inclusive of touring Songkhla, stops for lunch, regroup, rests, re-hydrating and photo opps.).

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Route Recommendations :
1. The route is relatively flat. The main roads have wide shoulders suitable to cycle on.
    To avoid having to cycle a long way round Songkhla Lake, we took a ferry over from the Samila Beach over to the port side.
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.
    This stretch was particularly hot with hardly any shade, we literally had to put ourselves under the tap to wet our whole body before continuing cycling. Within half and hour we were totally dry. 
3. The main city roads in Songkhla & Ranot can get quite congested with heavy traffic, try to avoid them. There are some shared cycling lanes in both cities.
4. Places & Scenery
    - Songkhla old city centre has quaint architecture and do visit the Golden Mermaid and Great Serpent Nag at Samila beach.
    - other than the cities, the scenery along the route was quite unchanging with houses on both sides of the road. Spots of padi fields could be seen.
    - Sathing Phra has a lovely wide beach facing the blue sea and skies of the Gulf of Thailand.
    - Ranot beach, although not as beautiful, have lovely sunrise and sunset scenes.
5. Food
    - The Hakka ladies noodles at 120 Nang Ngam Road, Songkhla (GPS: 7.196800, 100.59052) is quite good.
    - The seafood stall run by a few ladies at Sathing Phra beach serves wonderful lunch that goes very well with the great sea and sky scenery (GPS: 7.460990, 100.44996).
    - Food at Ranot is easily avialable from many shops along the main roads.
6. Accommodations
    We stayed at a Ban Rim Lea motel at Ranot beach (GPS: 7.78186, 100.36821). Rate is at 400 Bahts per room per night.


The previous day we had taken a train from KL Sentral to Hat Yai and started our tour with ride to Songkhla. It was a short 31 km. ride but a good introduction to cycling in Thailand. We had expected it to be hot, but it turned out to be extremely hot with temperatures reaching up to forty degrees and not much shade to hide under. Irrespective of the heat, we did enjoy ourselves and looked forward to another interesting (albeit hot) ride today, it's a day we will be toasted, roasted and grilled!
Let's see how we did.


Ride Route - Songkhla>Sathing Phra>Ranot.
The route takes us on ninety kilometre of relatively flat roads towards Ranot. We were hampered not so much by the distance but by the unforgiving sun shining strongly down on us. Mid-way we stopped at Sathing Phra beach for lunch. It's a beautiful spot with wide sandy beaches overlooking the blue Gulf of Thailand, shimmering below an equally bright blue sky.

We kicked off the day with a ride around Songkhla old town centre, admiring the place and it's archaic architecture. There's a lot of Chinese influence here in terms of the house design and the number of Chinese temples around; there were even red lanterns strung across some of the streets.

Stopped by for a quick visit to a museum, housed in a red rice warehouse ride next to Songkhla Lake. These are statues of coolies of old, carrying sacks of rice; with each sack carried they are given a stick (something like an ice-cream stick) by a foreman. Payment is made by the number of sticks they have.

Breakfast was at a noodle shop operated by two warm, friendly Hakka ladies.
(GPS: 7.196800, 100.59052).

I like the keow teow noodles in Thailand, they are thin, smooth and nicely bitey.
The noodles came with water spinach, meat balls, tau pok, boiled pork skin, cured cuttlefish and even coagulated pig's blood. The soup was thin yet tasty.... YummY!

Heading out of town we rode towards Samila Beach, there were cycling lanes there marked it red and separated from the road by kerbs.

Some of our action at Samila Beach:
With the Golden Mermaid. Many single ladies come here to pray to here, wishing for a good husband - or if not a good husband, at the least to get married.

Saw the Great Serpent Nag, with it's mouth spraying not fire, but water onto the sea. Many come here to pray to it too.... I think not for husbands, but more for good luck in life and business.

My prayers must have been answered by both the mermaid and serpent - I was lucky to meet a married couple and they were kind enough to let me take photos with them.

Some cooling off - coconut cream ice-cream!
I love these, the santan cream any time tastes and smell better than cow's cream. And they do make it better in Thailand - smooth, creamy and sweet. The ones here were served in a young coconut with tender, slurpy flesh. I scooped up some flesh to take with each mouthful of ice-cream.... YummY!

We left Songkhla via a free ferry ride that will take us from the beach side to the port side, saving us a long ride around the lake. It's free for bicycles only.... Yippee!

9:30am - It's only at this other side that the heat hit us; the road stretches on and on.... with hardly any shade.
The sky was blue, the day was bright and there were even bright red bougainvillea at the centre of the road. It's a beautiful day..... if only it was not so hot!

The heat was taking its toll on us, we stopped often to cool off and drank lots of water...

 At one of the stops, Sin and me went under the tap!
We wetted ourselves - cap, shirts, pants, face-masks, arm-sleeves, socks.... everything!
AND within half-an-hour of cycling we were dry!

The saving grace for the day - Sathing Phra beach.
We took a right off the main road and onto a road running parallel to the beach... and I was awe-struck! It's so beautiful here: wide sandy beach, a bright blue sky shimmering under an equally bright blue sky!

Lunch was at a stall on the beach operated by a few young ladies. We had seafood tomyam (very good), Som Tum green papaya salad (very good), omellete (good), fried rice (good), stir-fried spicy minced pork (very good).
(Location of this stall is GPS: 7.460990, 100.44996)

It's so beautiful here, one can dine out in the open and even lounged while looking out at the sea.

Having enough of the sun, we lingered on for a while in their bamboo sheds, slowly sipping cold beer while taking the scenery and ambience in.
(Click here to read more of our Sathing Phra lunch)

It was still very hot as we rode off from this idyllistic place; our physical selves could be hot but at least our minds now had a spot of paradise within.

Hmmm... I hope you don't think this guy is gay, carrying a cutsie doll while motorcycling around. Actually, I don't think he is; these type of dolls are the in thing for youngsters, they "adopt" this dolls as babies of their own, taking them everywhere they go and even sleeping with them.

Our route now took us pass padi fields; surprisingly even in these hot and dry weather they were still looking refreshingly, bright green.

4:00pm - Mr. Sun was still shining very strong, now it's even worse - the accumulated heat from the road wafted up. Even my tough Olympus TG-4 Tough camera was affected, the wavering heat blurring up my photos.

The local children took all these in their stride, starting to celebrate the eve of Songkhran, ganging up to shoot their water guns at the poor fellow on the right.

Our helpful local angel who helped us find the beach motel.
5:15pm - We reach Ranot and were disappointed to find out the the motel we wanted to stay in had only two rooms available... so the hunt was on for alternative motels. I hired a local motor-taxi hoping that the driver would be familiar with other accommodations and he did take me to one further inland situated in a nicely landscaped garden. But when I got back, Keat had managed to get assistance from a local cyclist who.....

..... who took him to the Rim Lea Motel. It had enough rooms to house the five of us individually and the BEST part was...

... it was just right next to the sea. Goofy's here enjoying the cooler evening breeze blowing from the sea.

Goofy wasn't the only one appreciating the cooler evening; these children came out, happily cycling around, just enjoying their simple village life.

After freshening up, we rewarded ourselves to a treat of a 8-course dinner. They serve very good prawn fritters here!
Tomorrow will be a wet and colourful day at Thale Noi!
Good night.

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