The Thai border is only an hour or so away by a good motorway.
Malaysian immigration and customs procedures were swift and once over
the border things immediately seemed different. English was generally
not understood and it was not enirely obvious what offices we had to go
to. We were suddenly entering a world where we were not going to be understood
for the first time in our journey. The people also seemed to suddenly
be a little more darker skinned although the physical differences the
Thais and Malaysians (who are a diverse lot anyway) went beyond that and
I just can't describe it accurately.
Our immidiate impressions of Thailand were negative as
the customs officers refused to allow us to keep the bike in the country
for up to two months despite us having visas for two months and taking
the trouble to stamp our carnet when I showed it to them. The problem
was we couldn't communicate with eachother very well but eventually the
head customs officer at the border saw us and explained in reasonable
English that he wasn't authorised to give the bike more than 30 days but
we could get that extended in Bangkok.
The road on the Thai side of the border is reasonable two
lane highway but after being spoiled by Malaysian motorways we were frustrated
at not being able to safely exceed 80kph. The road was also lightly covered
in dried mud and we were introduced to the Thai habit of oncoming traffic
coming straight at us in suicidal overtakes. Our first town in Thailand
was Songkhla where we found the traffic a little more hectic than Penang.
We tried to buy insurance, change our left over Malaysian currency to
baht and extract money from several ATMs but failed. Eventually I went
to a branch of the Thai Military Bank where although they couldn't help
they instructed one od their customers, an MP, to help me out. We couldn't
communicate so I wasn't sure what he was organising. After waiting a few
minutes a motorcycle taxi showed up and I was told to follow him and pay
him 30 baht when we got to wherever it was we were going. We stopped outside
the central market and he asked for 30 baht and pointed to a shop nearby.
We were confused. We had no money to pay him other than Malaysian currency.
Eventually he was able to explain that the shopkeeper was also a black
market money changer and could change my ringet for baht. Brilliant!
Ten minutes later we had found an ok but not brilliant
hotel with views over what was probably once a picturesque bay. It still
was as long as you didn't look down and see all the rubbish strewn around
derelict but still used dock side buildings. Yuk. We spent a bit of time
exploring Songkhla and other than seeing our first brilliantly decorated
Thai bhudist temple, we weren't impressed. We did manage to get an ATM
to work though. Yippie!
Leaving the next morning we had an argument with the hotel
reception about charging us for bottled water when a sign in English in
our room said it was complimentary. We were only arguing about 20 baht
(about 30p) but we felt they were trying to cheat us. Really they probably
had no idea what the sign in the room said and were only doing what they
thought was correct. That communication problem again.
We had a fairly long ride on reasonably good roads to Krabi
the next day. The following day was my birthday and we intended to stay
at a beach resort out of town. It was called something like Dawn of Heavenly
Peace and we secured a beachfront hut for a very reasonable sum. The beach
wasn't so great but was fairly clean. The water was very shallow and so
was very warm. We had to wade out about 300m before the water even got
up to my chest. Still, we had a good splash about and looked forward to
spending my birthday lazing on the beach.
Unfortunately it was not meant to be. That night we found
this isolated beach resort had an all night disco for a neighbour which
was not only loud, it also played seriously bad music. The owners of the
resort were not surprised when we left the next morning. Dawn of Heavenly
Peace? Dawn of Bleary Sleepless Eyes would be a more appropriate name.