(written by Nancy)
A quiet night at the Ang Yee guesthouse, as we were the only guests in the place. Around 7am this morning a loud radio started playing through speakers near the guesthouse, reminiscent of the loudspeakers I used to hear in Tokyo years ago. We were awake already anyway, as Thailand is one hour behind Malaysia so we are still operating on Malaysia time.
Unfortunately it was pouring rain much of the night and early this morning. We could hear it coming down from our room. We knew we only had a short ride today and had some things to do this morning before we left so we weren’t too worried about the rain. Dave had to run over to 7-11 (editors note: Dave went to 7-11 twice, in the rain) to get some phone cards to get our new Thai sim working for internet access. All a bit complicated but by about 9am the phone situation was resolved and we now have a phone plan that is supposed to allow us unlimited access to the internet for at least for the next month. It sounds like the mobile networks here are not as good as they were in Malaysia so we may not always be able to get a daily post out – a bit of a forewarning for our readers.
We had breakfast at a place called Ons not too far from our guesthouse – a good western breakfast with fried eggs, toast, bacon, coffee and orange juice. Very tasty! The place appears to be owned by a British guy – we actually stopped by there yesterday for a coffee and he helped us out with some explanation about how we could get the mobile phone working. We took the opportunity this morning to see if he knew any place we could pick up some provincial maps but he didn’t think there really were any maps around. He did have kind of a tourist map of Satun province that was actually pretty good at least for today’s ride so we took that with thanks.
The rain had stopped and it was warming up so we finally packed up our things and got ready to leave. We chatted with the guesthouse owner as we packed the bikes – he is a very nice guy and really tries to make sure his guests have everything they need. I could have easily stayed there another day to try to get settled a bit more in Thailand as it was a nice comfortable place but Dave was pretty set on moving on today to get out and see the world of Thailand. So we finally rode off from the Ang Yee Guesthouse just before noon for our first full day’s ride in Thailand.
Today we planned to head toward a place called Langu, which was somewhere between 40-50k from Satun. We weren’t entirely sure if there was anywhere to stay in Langu, though we had read a couple of bike journals from a few years ago when people were able to stay in Langu. We knew that there would be places to stay at a beachside area called Pak Bara about 10k from Langu, as it is the jumping off point for various islands off the coast, so if we couldn’t find something in Langu the plan was to head toward Pak Bara.
We rode Hwy 4 for about 13k – it is a fairly busy road but with a wide shoulder so it wasn’t too bad provided you kept an eye out for the scooters coming every which direction! We turned west off of Hwy 4 onto Hwy 416, a quieter road that headed toward the coast. We got many honks, hoots and thumbs up from the cars and scooters going by, which was nice. There were many roadside stands along the way, with people selling lots of food and what appeared to be gasoline. The major road signs had English underneath the Thai script but the mileage markers are only in Thai. This will be interesting trying to figure out where we are most of the time!
We stopped for a quick drink at a 7-11 along the way (they appear to be everywhere!) and Dave tried to ask them if we were getting close to Langu but didn’t have much luck getting any answer he could understand. It did appear we were close to the town but we were not sure how far it was. We came to a turnoff not to long after leaving the 7-11 and pulled over to see what we should do. A fellow riding a scooter came along and asked us in English where we wanted to go and confirmed that Langu was down the turnoff and that there was a resort there where we could stay. He couldn’t tell me the name of it though but at least it appeared there was a place to stay somewhere in the area.
We made our way into the town and rode along looking for anything that could possibly be a hotel/guesthouse/resort. Everything as in Thai, nothing seemed to look like a place to stay. We stopped at what looked like the bus station and Dave ran in to see if anyone could help. No luck, no one could speak English other than ‘Hello.’ Right next door there was a sign that said ‘Tourist Information’ so Dave tried that with a bit more luck. The lady inside spoke a little bit of English and confirmed that there was a hotel here and gave us some general instructions. She thought the sign for the place would only be in Thai though and couldn’t tell us the name.
We rode on trying to follow the instructions but could still not see anything that looked like it could be a hotel. We pulled over at a foodstall to see if we could get some more help. The Thai girls manning the stall all giggled at Dave’s approach, unable to help in English. They did direct him over to a business next door, indicating that the fellow inside spoke better English. So over Dave went and then came back out with the fellow, who kindly hopped on his scooter and drove us right to the hotel. We would never have found this place without his help as it was a turnoff from the main road and the sign was completely in Thai.
The name of the hotel is pronounced something like Pruksa and it is actually a pretty decent hotel. It looks relatively new and is in pretty good condition, with airconditioning, tv (with English channels!) and wi-fi. We were very happy to arrive and find a place like this – a lot better than what I had been bracing myself for. After cleaning up we walked into town to try to get some water and find something to eat. We stopped first at the foodstall where we got help earlier and watched the smiling girls prepare food for the many folks who stopped by. We walked a bit further, picked up some water and took some pictures and then decided to head back to the first foodstall for dinner. With the help of another customer who spoke some English we ended up getting some bbq’d chicken and rice – pretty tasty. We tried for a pad thai but they didn’t make it there and we wanted to eat there to thank them for the help they gave us earlier.
The rains had started by the time we made it back to the hotel and from the size and colour of the clouds (very big and very dark) it looks like we are in for a bit of rain tonight. Hopefully it will be over by morning as we have a 100k to ride into Trang tomorrow.
So, first couple of days in Thailand have gone okay. The riding is really the least stressful part of it all for me so far. There are lots of things to get used to when you enter a new country, and Thailand feels a bit hard as we can’t read any of the signs anywhere so it feels like you are flying blind. The Thai script is beautiful to look at but it is very hard for a non-native to make heads or tail of it. Maybe after a few more weeks we’ll be able to pick a word or two but I’m not too hopeful! I think we will just have to get by by trying to ask for lots of help and hope we run across someone who speaks enough English to help out. Oh well, so far the Thai people live up to their reputation of smiling and being helpful so perhaps things will all work out…