1st of May, the Labour Day. Did we realize how hard we had to labour on this final stretch home?
Today would be the final day of the journey. We would exit Thailand and head for Padang Besar to catch the evening train back to KL.
I woke up early. I had planned to cycle to the pier, to the end of Pak Bara. As I cycled out of the resort, I saw several early birds enjoying their morning walk and exercise at the concourse by the sea. Quite a number of sea-food stalls dotted the beach. I regretted for not exploring out last night for food. Operators of food stalls were beginning to prepare for the day's business as I cycled to the pier. They were all operated by ladies. Their men must still be sleeping at home.
The pier combined both as a ferry terminal and a fishing jetty. I noted many competing signages offering fast speed boats to the islands of Tarutao, Lanta, Lipeh and Libon for tourists. Koh (island) Tarutao is the biggest island in this part and could also be seen from Langkawi if one is around the Datai Bay area. There was also a huge boat that would take passengers to Koh Tarutao for Baht 1100 (RM110) return trip. Hei, that's almost the flight ticket KL-Phuket.
I have a made a personal jotting to visit Tarutao at another time, perhaps with my daughter on her return for holiday from Dublin. It could still be a cycling holiday, a real light and easy!
By the time I returned to Bara resort, the group were all ready, geared up for the final day cycling back to Malaysia, to cross the border at Wang Klian, a first time for me and also for the rest. My border crossing to/from Thailand had always been via Bukit Kayu Hitam into Sadao, onwards to Hatyai and beyond.
We breakfasted in Langu, after a short pleasant ride of 10kms. Decided on a Muslim stall (there were plenty) and literally "helped" to open the stall. We were the first customers. Our crowd of 10 must have attracted all the other people to the stall. Any discounts for bringing in the business?
We had our fill and soon continued towards another town, each turn of the pedal bringing us closer back to the Malaysian soil.
KC and wife Siew Peng were enjoying each others' companionship at the rear of the group. They stopped at several places to photograph each other and also to capture the scenes along the routes. While they captured the scenes, I captured them! Sometimes KC captured me too? (KC, where are photos of yours truly?) I was also at the rear, stopping often for subjects of interest.
At one point while spinning lightly with Alauddin, I made a U-turn to photograph this farmer taking his well-deserved afternoon rest in his hut. 2 dogs also enjoyed the afternoon siesta. The man and his dogs were not bothered with what I was doing - taking his pictures. I was more happier that the dogs didn't care less !
We arrived at a small town called Kg China for a short break. It turned out to be longer than expected break as the group had to wait for KC & Siew Peng. Siew Peng had another puncture. A man selling coconuts and air tebu benefited from Siew Peng's puncture too. I gulped down 1 coconut (drink), 2 plastic bags of the sweetest sugar-canes I had ever tasted and tapaued 1 bottle of it for the continuing journey to the border. I wasn't alone of-course.
From here, it was a 22km pleasant kampong road to the border. Several kilometres after, I stopped again. A bird-singing competition was on and a good crowd was there. I stopped for some shots but didn't have time to listen to the melodies of the birds. I actually wondered how the competion would be judged. But that's a thought for another day and time.
The road to the border passed through some rugged sceneries of jungles and hills. We passed A national park, Thaleban (?) National Park about a kilometre from the border. If not for the slightly distorted spelling, I would have cycled like mad to pass through!
It was quite a climb to get to this border post of WANG PRACHAN, 73kms from Pak Bara. We arrived at the border at 1:35 Malaysian Time. Nice to be nearer home. Wang Prachan is like any other border crossing. A market selling all kinds of fruits, clothings, home decors, souvenirs and the likes. On the Malaysian side, a huge building, the usual Arked MARA type stood devoid of any activities, a white elephant within a border outpost where elephants roamed its jungle.
On this maiden ride, Suhaimi knew what to do. He bought several kgs of mangoes and oranges to bring home - his investment for his future ride! Little did he knew what lay ahead. Little did I knew what lay ahead too when I volunteered to carry 3 kgs of his investment!
After a short rest and some drinks, we journeyed on. The village of Kaki Bukit in Perlis awaited us ahead. It should be downhill, after all we would be cycling to Kaki Bukit, "the foot of a hill". So I thought. It was actually downhill, i.e. soon after the immigration clearance. Enjoy this, I told myself.
But I could not believe my eyes after just a few kilometres. The road angled up, and up, and up. Were we cycling to Kaki Bukit or Kepala Bukit? As we heaved and puffed, the road gradient kept angling towards the sky. My heart monitor read 172 bpm. Steady on, I affirmed myself. Change to a lighter gear and bring down the heart beat. Maintain 165 bpm....heck...the bicycle wobbled...6 kph on the speedo. No good. Push heart rate up, increase speed to steady the bike. Pedal light. This is tactical cycling. Once the bike stopped, I had to push. No way to get inertia to cycle once I stopped. Suhaimi, next time buy clothes to bring home, not 3 kgs of mangoes please :-)
Where's the peak. where's the peak? I was sure everyone was quietly asking this question. Very nice sceneries to capture but no way to stop.
Finally the Peak. We have reached the Kepala Bukit. Certainly it will be Kaki Bukit next. Silently I told myself :"It better be".
A great view. Ah....the reward on labour day, after a labourios climb. These scenes we must capture. Here they are.
From the Peak
KC coasting down to Kaki Bukit
One for the road. At the peak
We speeded down to Kaki Bukit, at a exhilarating speed. The brakes became a major component of safety. If the brakes broke, our elderly bones would surely be broken. Not to overheat the brake pads, I alternately used the front and rear brakes, at times both when trying to maintain a descent of below 60kph. No, I don't intend to break my own descending speed record of beyond 60kph. I have nothing to prove.
I noted, as we speeded down, that the gradient is steeper on the opposite direction. The heart would really be bursting if we had to cycle into Thailand. On this downhill, my heart rate dropped rapidly, beating even outside the EHR (exercising heart rate) range. Within a short time, we were on level ground at the foothill. The joy of the downhill ended so quickly. Time always flew fast on something we enjoyed doing!
Just after Kaki Bukit, a restaurant awaited. 12kms to our final cycling destination of Padang Besar railway station. 3 hours to spare before the train departed. Plenty of time. We waited for Recumbent Foo, who unfortunately, had to push his recumbent on the steep slope. Foo is a hard-core, so no big deal. He's also practical. If he has to fast-track, he fast-tracked just like what he did from Krabi to Trang.
A well-deserved lunch for some, well-deserved drinks for everyone. I made a call to my Malayan Railway friend, Gan, for the bike arrangement on the train. Kow tim!
I guessed we arrived at the station via the back entrance. A small opening with a notice "You Cross The Line At Your Risk" was displayed. I saw this sign many a times during my childhood days at the railway station in Tumpat, the "city" I was born in. No big deal. I have crossed these rail lines many a times in my childhood in Tumpat. Tumpat's railway station is big as it is the terminal. Should a train decided to venture beyond Tumpat station, it will land in the river mouth!
So I took the lead. I removed the panniers to lighten the bike and carried it across the line onto the platform. Others followed and soon we were rolling in to the comfort of the station. Then, it was bathing time, in the toilets. We took turn, guarding each others valuables. Fully refreshed, body fully talcumed and the timing was perfect. The train rolled in and a search for our coach began. Where's Coach 52? "No such number" said the guard. It was to be S2. At this tender age, S was read as 5!
Some of the Tuarers put their bikes in plastic bags, carried for this purpose, i.e. after dismantling the tyres and handles straightened. Pretty neat. I didn't have any plastic sheets and I had travelled with my bike before on this train for my earlier cycling trip with my son.
The coach was literally ours, and weren't we happy? Sure. Wishful thinking though. This was Padang Besar, the first station. There were going to be many more stations up ahead.
Goh & Wendy settling in
My exposed bike
Suhaimi getting into bed
Next train stop was Arau. The fun began. Families with little kids started streaming in to our coach. 10 of us got the bottom berth and the families would be on top of us. It's a joy to have children around, except when your body needed rest and a blissful sleep. The kid directly above me had strong vocal chords indeed and simply loved to display it. At any small disturbance by her active brother, she would wail. Look on the positive side, I told myself. Kids didn't snore when they slept. With nothing much to do, we settled in early. Closed the blinds and let the rocking train rocked us to sleep. It was bliss once the night grew older.
As I closed the blinds to my sleeping berth, it earmarked the end of another journey.
Total Ride Time : 5 hrs 23 mins
Max Speed : 59.1 kph (downhill speed)