Thailand: Where the pigs go “moo” and the crabs go “poo”.

From 24 April to 2 May, I went on a roadtrip from Singapore to Bangkok and back. It has been a week since I got back to Singapore- I only came back early because I had a presentation on 7 May. Heh. And I think I pretty much figured out now how I want to share this trip on the blog. Selecting here 7 highlights of the trip!

(Timeline if it helps: Sunday morning bus from Singapore to Johor. Sunday afternoon drive from Johor to Kuala Lumpur. Sunday night in KL. Monday night in Hat Yai. Tuesday night in Chumpon. Wednesday night in Bangkok. Saturday afternoon train from Bangkok to Hat Yai. Sunday morning bus from Hat Yai to KL. Sunday night in KL. Whole of Monday travelling from KL to Singapore).

1) When in Kuala Lumpur, go to Bangsar and eat at Nirwana
Sri Nirwana Maju Restaurant is a mamak-style eating place located near Bangsar Village. They serve Indian vegetarian food and customers do have meat-options if they prefer. When Amalen, Lucie and I arrived at the restaurant, we found ourselves queuing around 15 minutes maybe- it is a popular establishment. Ordering of food was done while queuing- we asked for the popular Banana Leaf set.  As always, food portions at Indian eating house is large, so do ask for less if you’re not a big eater! My favourite items were the Fried Sliced Brinjal and the Pickled Chilli.

Super delicious vegetarian meal at Nirvana's. The fried bitter gourd was a crispy and tasty.

Banana Leaf set at Nirwana

2) Try the road less travelled when crossing from Malaysia to Thailand
According to Dave of The Longest Way Home, there are up to 20  Malaysia-Thailand overland border crossings but only seven are open to international passport holders. Naturally with me the Singaporean, Lucie the French traveller, and Steve the Australian one.. and driving a Malaysian car.. knowing which one to go to was important.  Initially we thought of going through the more direct Bukit Kayu Hitam (Malaysia side) road. However, after a suggestion by Amalen to try the Wang Kelian(Malaysia side) route, we decided to go with that instead. It was a longer travel route, but definitely worth it. We went through paddy fields ( I think it was dry that time), small roads, passed by limestone hills, went round and round some hills, and immigration was a cute little post for both the Malaysian and Thailand side. Of course, I mentioned “try the road less travelled”. If you find yourself in the company of people illegally crossing this part of the border, please note that you are definitely on the wrong route and you do not want to be part of a human-trafficking syndicate present in the Wang Kelian area.

Mountains ahead.

Probably the most scenic-route of Malaysia I’ve passed through

3) For safety reasons, choose an accommodation with security measures in place
We did not have any sleeping arrangement in Hat Yai, where we slept on the 2nd night of our travels. I was using my mobile, searched for something on Hostelworld, selected the first one that came up on the search list and chose it because it was cheap. At the hostel.. a) our passports were not collected for identification, b) there was only 1 key for 1 room which had 4 beds, c) the storage area was in the common area and not in the room itself.  Long story short, while we were having lunch at Krabi the next day, Lucie received a text notification from DBS saying her credit card was used for a large transaction- we then realised her credit card was not in her wallet, and that the store the card was used at was at Hat Yai. And Lucie slept with her wallet near her head. It was a learning point for us. . a) choose an accommodation with better security measure, b) be extra careful anyway- Steve taught us how at the other accommodation later on, c) always activate credit card notification before leaving the country.

4) Go into smaller towns and just explore
Our stop for the third night was this small town called Chumpon. It was night time when we reached and we drove quite a bit finding a reasonably-priced place to stay at. I think the first two hotels we found charges something like 1000-1200 baht (around 40-48 sgd) per bed per night. We were not prepared to pay that kind of money considering we just need a bed for a few hours. We later found a hotel called Jamson, and I think Lucie and I paid around 300 bath (around 12 sgd) per bed, a price similar to the hostel we were staying at the previous night. Only this time round, we had a proper single bed, aircon.. bath tub in the private bathroom.. basically simple amenities of a hotel. I am trying to google Jamson Hotel and it does not seem to appear on Agoda, Tripadvisor or Booking.com. It is however mentioned in this old 2008 travel forum. So yeah boy. What is listed on a website may not always be a good option, and what is not listed on a website may prove to be something worthy to check out.

Our hotel room in Chumpon

Our room at Jamson Hotel

5) When in Bangkok, stay at Silom Bird House
This is coming from me.. a single female traveller who was staying at the same accommodation back in January. Back then I was searching for a place within walking distance of the two meeting locations I had to go to. And well, I was attracted to the nature-related name. Thankfully it turned out to be a nice stay too- there was a workspace which I needed then, and the feel of the place was just excellent. I’m a Hostelworld user- price is around 15 sgd per night.  The place is also listed on other major accommodation booking sites. For a person who has stayed here twice, I have to say I appreciate the a) security- next to the big Silom Road but still hidden behind the alley, tapping keycard when entering building, asking for passport for identification, individual key, individual lockers in room, individual bed curtains, b) close proximity to the night market, BTS and metro, c) one-minute walk to the bakery selling fresh pastries every morning and two-minutes walk to 7-Eleven and five-minutes walk to the Patpong night market.

6) Be a tourist and be like a local too (rooftop restaurant/ skybar & green/vintage/night market)
Lucie and I met up with Chee Seng (who was holidaying there already) and visited some places including watching Captain American: Civil War with Steve at the Paragon Cineplex. We’re city people who can’t wait to watch this back in Singapore I suppose. One of the places Lucie and I wanted to do was to go to a rooftop sky bar. We realised one morning that there are a number of skybars in Bangkok, but most of them required us to dress smartly, and food prices were a bit on the pricey side. Lucie found this Blue Sky Rooftop Restaurant at Centara Grand- which looked more casual than the others. I forgot which directory or list she was looking at earlier.. here’s the info on Bangkok.com. It was a treat to be there.. we had the place to ourselves for the 1st hour I think.  That same evening, Lucie and I also met up with Areeya at the JJ Green Market, which was about 30 minutes walk from Centara Grand. It’s a chilled-out vintage weekend market. Check out the info from Bangkok.com 😀 I’m not really a shopping person. Enjoyed the atmosphere and company nonetheless.

Blue Sky Bar at Centara Hotel

Blue Sky Bar at Centara Hotel

With Areeya!

Areeya, Lucie and I at JJ Green Market

7) Take the overnight train from Bangkok to Hat Yai, or Butterworth if you can
Since it was a last minute decision to go on this roadtrip, Lucie and I did not have much time to book anything. Due to time constraint, we even considered flying back to Singapore. I’m glad we didn’t because that meant we then had the opportunity to experience train-ing from Bangkok down south. So. On Thursday morning we went to the Hua Lamphong railway station to check out train sleeper-beds availability and found out the Bangkok-Butterworth train was full for Saturday. Thus, we decided on a Bangkok-Hat Yai train. For me, I have always referred to the blog The Man in Seat Sixty-One for train info and advice. Long story short, Lucie and I left Bangkok around 3.10pm on Saturday and reached Hat Yai around 8am on Sunday (if we had managed to get the train to Butterworth one, we would have reached around 1pm on Sunday). I knew it was going to be a sleeper.. was wonderfully surprised there was such a thing as a Female & Children only cabin too! I’m not sure how many cabins (with sleepers and not seats only) there are.. there was 40 in ours. In any case.. book early because this seems to be a popular mode of travel even for locals too!

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During dinner time, a lady comes around and props up a table for us. It was folded in the storage space you see in the right corner of this picture- “in” the partitions between the seats.

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Sleeping time! The female office in charge of our cabin came around and transformed our seats into beds. Super-neat. She has to do this for all 40 sleepers in the cabin.

This. My attempt at recording my trip.

Till the next roadtrip!

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