Monday, August 28, 2017

Thailand (Southern), Aug 2017

" If you wish to travel far & fast, travel LIGHT. Take off all your envies, jealousies, forgiveness, selfishness & fears "

" Take every chance you get in LIFE. Because somethings only happen once "

" We have nothing to lose and a world to see "

" My 7 days (21-27/8/2017) overland trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Hua Hin, Hatyai & Songkhla (my first visit), Southern Thailand with 3 of my travel buddies from Klang " 
Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur > Padang Besar > Hatyai > Hua Hin > Hatyai > Padang Besar > Kuala Lumpur (2,560km)

After our group's Feb 2017 visit by trains from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand & Laos, one of my travel buddies from Klang has expressed keen interest in visiting Hua Hin & Hatyai just for a week both for food & sightseeing ! So I just do a simple travel itinerary and show ourselves up in this Land of Smiles in the southern region !
As done in the past, our group opted to taking trains from Kuala Lumpur all the way to Hatyai / Hua Hin & return. The Malaysia leg of travelling by KTM express train to Padang Besar, a border town between Malaysia & Thailand, was pretty comfortable and the journey took about 5 hours travelling at an average speed of 120-135km per hour - very relaxing indeed ! A connecting Thai shuttle train awaited us on arrival at Padang Besar so we just hopped into the Thai train and arrived in Hatyai after an hour ride. Immigration clearance at both sides was pretty straight forward & smooth, just the normal passport checking & stamping and luggage screening.

Upon arrival in Hatyai, we bought our sleeper train tickets departing in the evening and arriving in Hua Hin in the early morning. For our return trip to Kuala Lumpur, again we took Thai & Malaysian trains and everything seemed to work up well ! Just a little bit of logistics & ground transport planning, you should be okay.

Our group put up 2 nights each in Hua Hin & Hatyai hostels, this allowed us time to explore and see the three cities in greater depth. From Hatyai, we took a minivan to Songhkla and hired a tuk tuk and visited few popular touristy places in this coastal town. We did the same when we were in Hua Hin and had a great lunch at the Monsoon Vineyard, 45 km from Hua Hin city and close to Myanmar border - the country side is very scenic & the vineyard is really a gem in Hua Hin especially for foreign tourists who enjoy wine drinking !

Spicy tom yum soup, stewed pork & offal, steamed & deep fried chicken, mango sticky rice, hot rice porridge, street food desserts, fresh sliced pineapples, Thai black coffee, fish maw soup, Thai dim sum, salted fish, glutinous rice dumpling, tuna mayonnaise sandwich bread, Thai Bah Kut Teh .... we really enjoyed the Thai food here, travelling free & easy at our own pace to these wonderful country towns in Southern Thailand not far from the Malaysian border !

The weakening of the Malaysia currency against the Thai Bhts (Bht100=Rm13) in recent years has resulted in lesser tourists from Malaysia shopping in Hatyai so during the week days, it was pretty quiet except during the weekends, you probably see a bigger crowd in the night markets. I observed that more & more tourists from China visiting Hua Hin as this seaside town is about 3 hrs by mini vans from Bangkok !

Total Expenses incurred (7 days): Rm97 + Bht6,107 = Rm891 (US$207)

Hostels (4 nights): Bht1,040 per pax (Rm135=US$31)
Food (7 days): Bht2,350 per pax
Trains (total): Rm97 + Bht1,520
- KL Sentral > Padang Besar - Rm42 (senior)
- Padang Besar > KL Sentral - Rm55 (senior)
- Padang Besar > Hatyai - Bht70
- Hatyai > Hua Hin - Bht779 (upper sleeper), Bht869 (lower)

- Hua Hin > Hatyai - Bht749 (upper), Bht679 (lower)
Entrance fees (total): Bht350
- Santorini, Hua Hin - Bht150

- Sam Phan Nam Floating Market (Hua Hin) - Bht200
Taxi hire: Hua Hin Monsoon Vineyard - Bht250 per pax (cost sharing of 4)

Tuk Tuk hire (total): Bht165
- Songkhla - Bht40 per pax
- Hatyai Floating Market - Bht125 per pax
Mini vans (total): Bht158
- Hatyai>Padang Besar - Bht50 per pax
- Hatyai>Songkhla - Bht34 x 2=Bht68 per pax
- Santorini Park>Hua Hin Bht40 per pax
Bus (Hua Hin>Santorini Park): Bht44 per pax
Tuk tuk / Taxi: Bht230 per pax

Exchange rates: Bht100=Rm13; US$1-Rm4.30

Southern Thailand Map

Travel Highlights:

1) Hua Hin, Thailand

Santorini Park, Hua Hin

Rajabhakti Park, Hua Hin 

Hua Hin Beach

Sam Phan Nam Floating Market, Hua Hin

Monsoon Valley Vineyard (formerly Hua Hin Hills Vineyard)

Wat Huay Mongkol, Hua Hin

Hua Hin Train Station 

Night Market, Hua Hin

2) Songkhla, Thailand

Golden Mermaid Statute, Laem Samila, Songkhla

Songkhla Municipal Song Thale Park

Chumporn Khetedomsak Memorial Statute ( Founder of Thai Navy )

Tang Kuan Hill Station

Samila Beach, Songkhla

Songkhla City

3) Hatyai, Thailand

Khlong Hae Floating Market, Hatyai

Asean Night Bazaar, Hatyai 

Hatyai Plaza

My travel buddies from Klang - another fun trip to the Land of Smiles !

Kuala Lumpur, Padang Besar Malaysia 2017

Malaysia Flag - Aug 31 is Malaysia's Independence Day (Merdeka). Happy Merdeka Day !
Image result for peninsula malaysia & Thailand map
Peninsula Malaysia & Thailand Map

Day 1 - start of our group's train ride from Kuala Lumpur > Padang Besar, Malaysia > Hatyai, Thailand > Hua Hin (total mileage 1,267km one way)
1) taking a LRT train from Subang Jaya SS15 > KL Sentral (Rm1-senior)

Subang Jaya SS15 LRT station
KL Sentral LRT station
Hoisting of Malaysia flags at KL Sentral station to celebrate 31st August as Independence Day (Merdeka)

2) taking a KTM train from KL Sentral > Padang Besar (09.52>15.15) - Rm42 (senior)

KTM train's food service counter
various food , noodles on sales - RM9 per pack
hot coffee or Milo - RM2.50
 KTM ETS train daily departure - 4 in the morning & 3 in the afternoon

3) Taking a connecting Thai Shuttle Train (Bht70) from Padang Besar > Hatyai (14.45 > 15.30) after the Malaysian & Thai Immigration clearance & luggage screening. Malaysia is 1 hour ahead of Thailand ! As soon as you arrive at the Padang Besar train station, go to the Thai Railway ticketing counter & purchase your tickets and then join the queue at the Malaysian Immigration Departure counter. Alternately, if you opt for a mini van drive from Padang Besar to Hatyai, just queue up at the Malaysia Immigration counter and after clearance proceeds to 1st Floor and take the sky bridge and walk towards the end when you see the Thai Immigration checkpoint.

4) Early dinner (5pm) at a coffee shop / street food stalls in downtown Hatyai near the Hatyai Railway Station, before boarding a sleeper train departing Hatyai at 6.15pm to Hua Hin

Bht660 for this dinner + rice + hot tea for 4 

5) Rice dumpling (Bht20) for our breakfast / supper

Rice dumpling (Zhongzi) - Bht20 each for our morning breakfast

6) Yummy tuna mayonnaise sandwich bread (Bht10) as a quick bite when hungry ! If you have not eaten before in the Land of Smiles, try once and you will love it ! On sales in most of the convenience stores ie 7-Eleven, Family Mart etc

7) Hatyai Train Station - my 6-7 encounters after all the years of travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand during the last 2 decades !

 how about a train coffee drink in this stall ! 
Just queue up & buy your train tickets by presenting your passports to the counter staff
Visit this counter if you are buying train tickets in advance
 how about putting up a night at the train hotel as soon as you exit from the Hatyai Train Station

8) Sleeper train departing Hatyai 18.15 arriving Hua Hin 06.02(Bht779 upper bed / Bht869 lower)

awaiting for the arrival of our train from Golok to Bangkok 

Hatyai > Hua Hin  sleeper train 

9) Having a cup of hot coffee (Bht30) at the train's canteen at around 21.00 before retiring for bed .....

Day 7 (Final Day) - saying bye bye to the Land of Smiles !

1) Morning breakfast at a popular noodles shop in downtown Hatyai

Beef & pork noodles Bht90 + Coffee

2) taking a tuk tuk (bht40) booked by our hostel to Hatyai mini van (Bht50) station and then to the Thai Padang Besar Immigration check point and a private taxi to KTM train station in Padang Besar at the Malaysian end - however, this way is more bureaucratic and long winded ! For a more straight forward return trip, Hatyai train station has two daily departures to KTM train station in Padang Besar ie 7.30am & 1.30pm so pick the appropriate one to catch your return train ride from Padang Besar for a connecting train back to Kuala Lumpur or Butterworth.

14 seater van drive from Hatyai mini van station to Padang Besar (I hr)

3) rows of rubber trees greeting you as you exit near Padang Besar towards the Malaysian border. Southern Thailand has in recent years become a major producer of rubber in the world !

4) Arrival at the Thai Immigration check point and taking a private taxi (Bht50 per pax) to Malaysian Padang Besar train station

4) Taking our train from Padang Besar > KL Sentral (13.58>17.13) - Rm55 (senior)

a quick lunch - Nasi Lemak + hot coffee at Padang Besar train station's canteen
Padang Besar > KL Sentral, 1 morning departure & 3 in the afternoon

5) Home sweet home ! Oil palm plantations greeting and welcoming fellow Malaysians home !