Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a novel 1st trip to Thailand and Penang! (13 to 17 Dec 2008)

I've got the whole month of December to rest and relax! So, I was thinking of going for a tour with my warrior! Umm... So, I first thought... which part of M'sia should I explore?

But... Zhehong suggested... "Why not go Thailand instead? Anyway, we've got the time!"

Then, I thought to myself...I haven't gotten much touring experience. I only went for 2 tours up North so far - Melaka and Cameron Highlands. And that's about it!!

But guess what? I agreed! I decided to take up this golden opportunity for myself to grow as a tourer since I've got the time!

This being my 3rd tour... And going to Thailand for the 1st time!!! I was excited but fearful at the same time.

Nevertheless... Zhehong and I decided on Betong, Yala province - South Thailand!

13th Dec 2008 (Saturday) - Singapore to Pengkalan Hulu

Both of us met at GP Petronas at about 6.30am after clearing customs at 2nd Link. With the intermittent rain and heavy traffic on the NSH, it was already about 6+pm we reached the last town of Malaysia before Thailand - Pengkalan Hulu. And to our horror, the locals around Pengkalan Hulu told us that the Betong Immigration Checkpoint is closed!!! And that it will only be opened at 7am.
At least there's a beautiful rainbow in the midst of the rain... :)

Oh well... due to our "boo-hoo" with regards to the operating hours of the Betong Immigration Checkpoint, we had to spend the night at a miserable chalet at Pengkalan Hulu.

If there was one thing good about this chalet, the staff over there is honest at the very least. I left my pair of spectacles and when we returned to the chalet on Monday (16th Dec 2008). The staff was standing at the front and returned my pair of spectacles immediately.

14th Dec 2008 (Sunday) - Pengkalan Hulu to Betong Day 1

It's morning! And off we went to the Betong Immigration Checkpoint!

Oh sweet! This is the 1st time my warrior Sky touched Thai soil! The feeling is exhilarating! I'm just so excited!

Zhehong and I with our bikes near the Betong Immigration Checkpoint

After we cleared the Thai customs, time to start exploring the town of Betong!

We went pass the one and only tunnel in Thailand - the Betong Mongkollit Tunnel.

Me and my warrior, Sky!

Zhehong with Fizzy!

After that we proceed to see the world's largest mailbox, which is a whopping 9 metres tall!!! Just see how it towers over me!

and him!

After viewing the mailbox, we proceed to the Betong Hot Spring. You can practically see the mist lingering at the top of the spring!! Gosh, I could feel the heat as this photo was taken...

Though it was sweltering, but we still had our fun shots near the hot spring!

After that, we visited the Betong Museum. But it was not open...

Shortly after that, we proceed to visit a temple. When we reached the temple, it started to pour heavily. So, we sat at the temple waiting for the rain to stop.

And the bikes as well...

After the rain stopped, we moved on to our final destination for the day... the Piyamit Tunnel!

Wow! We had to walk quite a long stretch to get to the top to view the tunnel! It seems like it's neverending...

And, it's really hot!

Anyway, we reached the top and was greeted by Mr Lin (the in-charge of the Piyamit Tunnel). Mr Lin gave a briefing on the whole construction of the tunnel. I'm pretty amazed at how they construct this tunnel to protect themselves from the bombings!

The Piyamit Tunnel Map gave us an idea of the structure of the tunnel.

The tunnel was dug by communist soldiers when they were fighting the Malayan army.

The thing that I was impressed with was that they even thought of how to contain the smoke that emits from cooking! Very clever indeed!

After the briefing by Mr Lin, we headed into the tunnel!

Off I went...

There are basically several things in the tunnel like...

1. Container for keeping food

2. Sleeping area

3. Underground store room

4. The work room where all the action was... interception of radio signals... (Zhehong, are you thinking of being a spy??)

As we were walking out of the tunnel, then there was a frog staring at us! Umm... I wonder whether it's dead or alive...

Apparently, when we started to take our 1st step onto the staircase... the frog's eyes started to move! (Just when I thought it was dead...) Oh gosh! I'm so thankful it didn't jump on me...

15th Dec 2008 (Monday) - Betong Day 2 to Penang Day 1

Betong Day 2
We have been blessed with great weather! So... what better way to start the bright and cheery morning than going through Route 4017!

I was really fearful of this route before the trip because there is no barrier and there is no room for errors at all!

But, Route 4017 is a must-ride route for all bikers who are at Betong! So, I decided... just go for it!

Well, it was alright at the start... the road looks nice...

But gasp... in front of me was a stretch of mud! I was overwhelmed with fear. I don't know whether to go on or not. Zhehong crossed the mud. I was still staring at the mud. I looked at him and I looked down at the mud.

To go or not to go.... I was hesitating. Zhehong was waiting for me...

In the end, I still went ahead! And phew... I managed to control my bike and crossed the stretch of muddy patch successfully... [that's why I had the mood to pose for the camera! :)

The worse is not over... certain portions of the road has mudslide, the road was broken and had a lot of debris on it... my heart really skipped a beat upon crossing the route!

However, I felt that it is through this experience that made me grow as a rider because I will never encounter such roads in Singapore and if I were to ride further up North, I've got to get used to such road condition!

Sky on the Route 4017... rest a while to recover from the shockingly bad road....

And... posing for the camera... in front of a big rock... gasp!

We managed to complete the entire Route 4017 this time round (it was still under construction last year) and managed to get to the Betong Garden.

The downhill ride was pretty scary. This is one of the 1st time whereby I felt that my 1st gear engine braking was insufficient. But, I just proceeded the route gingerly.

What a splendid morning we had at Route 4017! It's an experience I will never forget!

After an eventful morning at Betong's famous Route 4017, we hastily packed our belongings and zoom off to Penang!

Penang Day 1
We reached Penang in quick time and had a nice view from our hotel room!

The first thing I noticed about Penang was that it was quite touristy. There were a lot of caucasians around the Penang town.

One grouse about Penang is the traffic. It was terrible. It was really dense and there was a lot of squeezing. Gosh! I never dared to squeeze so intensely with the side boxes before! But, I did it anyway.

It was a tiring day so we decided to adjorn for the day and take a walk around Penang the next day instead.

16th Dec 2008 (Tuesday) - Penang, Georgetown Day 2

We had the whole day to explore Penang. We started the day exploring the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. It's a great chance for me to get acquainted with my Peranakan roots. For those who don't know me, I'm a Nonya.

The entrance of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion...

This mansion incorporates Chinese carved-wood panels with English floor tiles and Scottish iron-works. It was built at the end of the 19th century.

Me playing at the kitchen...

Here are some shots of the interior of the mansion...

1. The Feng-shui wall

2. Wood-carving walls with beautifully painted stain glass

3. Traditional Peranakan furnishing

How can we leave the place without having a shot of us?

After the visit at the Peranakan Mansion, we walked around the town to explore. Here are some of the icon structures in Penang...

1. The Georgetown Dispensary

2. India House

3. Church Street Pier

4. Penang Clock Tower

After we roamed around the streets of Penang town, we decided to check out Penang Hill! It was a pity that the monorail leading up the hill was in repair. And it didn't help that the locals provided us with the wrong information that the hill can be accessed only through the monorail.

The big drizzle helped in our decision to head back for the evening.

17th Dec 2008 (Wednesday) - Penang Day 2 to Singapore
We have been blessed with great weather throughout this trip. With a relaxing start to Day 5, we headed back to the Republic safety!

And yes, in my previous post... I said, "
Like I said, I hope to be able to touch the Thai border with this warrior of mine someday!"

And I really did it!

I'm so happy that I've marked yet another milestone in my riding career and I've touched Thai soil finally!

Yes yes yes!! I'm still looking forward to motoV group tours! (have yet to join any yet...)