Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 35 : Gerik - Pengkalan Hulu - Betong, Thailand

Date : April 6th, 2009
Distance travelled : 67 km
Time taken : 4.15 hours

Betong, here we come! That must have been on Mak's mind when we started out this morning! He was so excited to go back to his "second home" :o) Boy, the number of times our friend has cycled from Sungai Petani to Betong makes you wonder why he loved that place so much! Hmm...was it the Thai girls?? hehehe....No. it was more of the Thai massage that he enjoys and the food!

So happy was he that we gave him the lead :o) hmmm....

The weather was beautifully cool when we started our journey out of Gerik town. Having four bikers with panniers did bring some attention to us while we were riding out :o) We came to a junction and turned left and headed towards the rolling hills. Boy, rolling hills again?? I noticed that the signboard didn't say Pengkalan Hulu but Mak said we were supposed to follow Sungai Petani.....oh, ok boss!

The scenery on the way out was just simply awesome!! You wouldn't believe that it was in Malaysia!! After cycling for about 8km, we stopped and Mak decided to ask for reconfirmation to Pengkalan Hulu. And guess what?? We were on the wrong road!! Hahaha....Apparently, we should have just went straight after the junction!!

We really didn't mind though because the scenery just took our breath away! Maybe that was the reason why we went in wrong direction the first place!!

All raring to go!!

On our way out of Gerik town...

Beautiful road!!

Mak decided to play camera man for this ride :o)

Now, tell me if this doesn't take away your breath??

Simply awesome!

Too good a picture to pass up!!

So we turned back and started cycling towards the junction again :o) Mak oh Mak!! :o) Once we turned left into the right direction, the scenery changed and we definitely preferred the earlier road!

The road shoulders began to widen which made it easier for us to ride as we could talk along the way. From the road signs on the road, Pengkalan Hulu was about 40km which seemed pretty reasonable for us to reach. The roads were partly flat and partly rolling. The sun began to shine brightly down on us and soon, we could feel the heat!!

Alright everyone, detour!!
Ahh....we are back at the junction again :o)

Nice looking kampung house...

Nick with his bright yellow panniers...

... and Jo, the pink and grey lady with her red panniers!

We did a pit stop after cycling for about an hour and had a cold drink and some snacks. We continued on our journey, expecting the roads to be relatively flat along the way to Pengkalan Hulu but boy, were we in a for HUGE surprise!! We did stop and ask for directions, just to be on the safe side. The guy just said.."oh, after this hill, it should be downhill all the way!" Hmm...which hill was he referring to???

We hit the first hill and thought that was it but when we came downhill and cycled on in the hot sun, we could see one mother of a hill coming up!!! When I said mother of a hill, I really meant MOTHER of a hill!!!! Too bad we didn't stop to take a photo to show you how STEEP and LONG and WINDING it was!!!!

Initially, we thought it looked worse than it really was but NO! it got even more challenging as we turned the corner! There came a time where vehicles had to engage first gear and dragging their vehicles up!! It was now when I could see how Mak used his mental powers to stay on the bike and continued pedalling right up to the peak without even stopping! It was right smack in the 12 noon with the sun blazing down on us, full blast!

Well, as for the three of us....I had to stop once because the sun was burning on my arms and I had to put on the armsocks as well as to take a breather! There wasn't even any shelter we could take!! As I stopped by a small shade, I could see Nick slowly pushing his bike up! He said he would push faster than pedalling up this steep hill! Not far behind him, Jo was catching up on her bike! Kudos to her for continuing to pedal on until where we stopped. They said that the hills from the Jeli - Gerik route were nothing compared to this hill and I agreed WHOLEHEARTEDLY!! I was just glad that I had two days' rest before!!!

So once again, we were on our bikes trying to reach the never ending peak! Once I hit the peak, I yelled out to the other two "Downhill all the way!!!!!!" and there I went!!! Man, that was so much fun after that crazy hill! Mak was nowhere insight and I was wondering did he just cycle all the way through when I heard a bell ringing from the left. I cycled further up and turned left and I could see Mak was resting in the shade with just his singlet on :o)

I told him "Man, that was a crazy hill and you didn't even stop once! You are really, really strong!" He told me he just thought of the hill as a flat road and just moved on! My hats off to you, my dear boy!!

Next, Nick was passing by and we rang our bells to let him know where we were and lastly, Jo came by. We took a much needed rest and we realised that we actually stopped by a sugarcane stall. The owner was just setting up his stall when we came by. The cold drink looked so inviting that we just couldn't resist to have some! All the more so since our two new friends have never drank sugarcane before :o)

Mak, waiting anxiously for the sugarcane drinks!!

Man, the cold drink really tasted soooo goooooddddd!!!

After the reviving cold sugarcane drinks and snacks, we started our journey again. We were hoping that it will be downhill all the way to Pengkalan Hulu but nah, no such luck! It was still rolling hills all the way!! When we finally reached Pengkalan Hulu, Mak was really happy as this was his "place" and he took us to a nearby restaurant where we had our lunch and some rest.

Since Betong was just about 8km away, we took our time and besides, it was way too hot to cycle! When we finally decided to move, we were all getting sleepy in the hot afternoon!! Time to hit the road again and within an hour, we should reach Betong and have a well deserved massage!!

We went through the immigration without any problems and before we knew it, we were in Betong! My first time there!! We had to cycle about 5km into town and I must say Betong was a very interesting town. It wasn't as crazy as Hatyai or Satun and it had a system. You could see that the Chinese influence here is very strong.

When we reached the town area, Mak volunteered to go look for a cheap hotel and he found one nearby. We had a pretty "nice" time lugging our bikes into the lift. People in the hotel were very friendly and helpful. Once we were in our rooms, we planned to have some rest before going out for a massage and food :o)

After showering and resting for about an hour, we walked out to see the town. Mak knew the owner of a bike shop nearby and so we went to visit him. I could see Mak was really happy to be here!! It was really heartwarming to see him in this way :o)

We went for a massage after the bike shop and well, the massage was interesting, especially so when our legs were sore from cycling!!! Nick and Jo were experiencing thai massage for the first time and they had a memorable experience hehehe....

Later, after our massage, we went looking for food and since it was going to pour anytime soon, we quickly found a restaurant which served Chinese food as well as Thai cuisine. Mak took the liberty of ordering for us since this was his territory and we had one of the better tasting tomyam here :o) Surprisingly, our foreign friends could take the spiciness :o)

We also walked around the clock tower that night before dinner and took some pictures of it. Too bad it wasn't too clear. What really amazed me were the birds that were just sitting on the phone wire all around the clock tower! Both Nick and I had some bird droppings on us before we decided against walking around there!!

Well, all in all, it had been an amazing day especially that hill! We were really happy to be here in Betong but at the same time, I was feeling a bit melancholy as we were about to finish our tour soon while our new friends had another month more to go.......

Betong clock tower at night....

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