(written by Dave)
Welcome to Thailand, the land of smiles! So far, so good. And everyone is very friendly, just as their slogan says.
We started with another fantastic hotel brekkie. I settled for pancakes, Nancy, yoghurt and bread. We were both well fortified for a short day mileage wise, but long infrastructure wise. The day was bookended with Nancy sitting on the hotel bed counting money. The first trying to make sure we had enough Malaysian ringgit left to pay for the hotel and ferry, the later trying to figure out how to translate Thai baht into ringgit, Aussie dollars or pretty much anything that made the giant pile of money make sense. Honestly, the riding part of this trip is easy compared to the finding a place to sleep, something to eat and even figuring out the money.
We had an easy ride from the hotel to the ferry, basically retracing the route we took 3 days ago. It rained during our breakfast, stopping just before we departed, making for a relatively cool ride. Being Sunday morning, traffic was light, being Malaysia, as per normal, traffic was polite. We arrived almost 3 hours before the 1PM ferry but that was no big deal as we had to buy tickets, convert our remaining ringgit to baht and have an espresso at Starbucks. All three successful.
The ferry was scheduled to leave at 1PM and we were first in the outbound immigration queue. Immigration did not open until 12:45, no surprise, the ferry did not leave on time. We were first to the boat and just about last to board. We had to unload the bikes and put them on the roof of the ferry. Our bags were again scatter between our legs and in the luggage area. We were asked to sit in the bottom part of the ferry, only to discover that our assigned seats were in the top. This was stressful for a bit as we ended up spread out covering four seats assigned to someone else. The nice ferry staff told me to not worry as the ferry was not full. I only had to convince four non-English speaking folks that it was ok that we were in their seats and that they could sit anywhere they liked.
The ferry ride itself was very smooth and we had no seasick issues. All the windows were pretty foggy so it was hard to see out. From what we saw, the shoreline full of limestone cliffs and karsts was quite scenic. Getting off the boat was as complicated as getting on. We were last off this time because it took the crew a while to climb the roof and retrieve our bikes. No damage and everything loaded back up, we headed to the very end of the immigration queue. Not a big deal as it moved fast and we were so long actually getting repacked. They stamped us in with 2 month visas (minus 1 day for some reason), which is in line with the tourist visas we got from the Thai embassy in Singapore.
The ride to Satun town was about 7k, all flat. Almost all of the signs at the dock, immigration and now on the highway were in both English and Thai. Good thing as Thai is pretty much a bunch of scribbles to us right now (and will probably continue to be). Last night I memorised the route to the hotel. Our maps are not detailed enough and I was not expecting the phone data card to work (it didn’t). Not to worry, the hotel was easy to find and the rooms are great. Ang Yee’s Guest House is all ours tonight with no other guests. Makes the shared bathroom a non-issue. There is not much else in town other than a hotel that Tripadvisor had some poor reviews on so this guesthouse is a real find for our first night in Thailand.
After getting showered and eating our left-over breakfast breads, we headed out to find an ATM and to try getting a phone data SIM. The ATM was easy, just outside the guesthouse, we found a bank and withdrew cash no issue. The SIM proved much more difficult as not many folks speak English. We asked several shops and had little luck. Nancy asked a western looking guy who was helpful but ended up sending us back to a shop we had already been to. We ended up buying two SIMS (so far) and are now trying to add data to one of them. We may not sort this out until tomorrow but the guesthouse has free wi-fi so we are okay for today…
We decided to have dinner at the guest house. They basically prepare you whatever you want, getting fresh ingredients from the market. We had Pad Thai and fresh mango juice. The latter proving an effort as the owner had to go back to the market for an extra mango. They are really nice here and speak pretty good English, which has already been a big help.
It rained hard this afternoon and is now doing the same again. There is some flooding in southern Thailand now (further north and east of us). We’ll see how tomorrow looks before we check out. No point in ploughing ahead if it’s not completely safe.
Back to the infrastructure, a quick summary:
Internet, ½ a check.
Power adapter, check (brought with us).
Map, not yet, shop opens at 9AM.
Thailand flag for my bike, job for tomorrow.
Nerves – half a check – these border crossings can be stressful
But, we have a nice place to sleep tonight and good food so the basics are covered.