Our plan was to ride up the east coast of Thailand, starting from Padang Besar on the border, and finishing in hustle of Bangkok. Crossing the border from Malaysia to Thailand was nothing but us following the motorcycle lane again, right up to the check points. It was surprisingly easy, with guards barely blinking at us.
On the other side English disappeared; from the street signs, from menus and from speech. Malaysian had been easy to pick up and remember as it used the same alphabet as English, but Thai was mostly written in, albeit beautiful, script with minimal romanisation, especially in towns far from tourism.
However, as with most border towns, Padang Besar was dual currency, so we could pay for our room with our remaining Malaysian ringgit – RM36/$12AUS. This rate included an en suite, air-conditioning and a fridge. There were a bunch of hotels to choose from, with prices in the same region. We were doing well, as our budget for Thailand was the same as Malaysia had been – $50AUS a day for the two of us, everything included.
Scooters reigned as the preferred method of transport, with up to six passengers and often a tiny baby. A lot of scooters actually had a built-in baby seat behind the steering.
The main street was covered in tiny street stalls, selling everything from spicy green mango salad mixed fresh, fried quail eggs on skewers, or pots of coconut jelly topped with dragon fruit. We wandered through picking up boiled salted corn, grilled sausages, and freshly cut pineapple, to eat back at our room.
Plenty of bowls of noodles were to be had, with roasted pork crackling and fish balls. We would just point to what the vendor was making and indicate two, please.
Once we were served noodles in a rust coloured stock. Keeping my suspicions to myself, as it was delicious and both of us liked it, I kept quiet. Going up to pay and watching the sever confirmed it. Using the ladle, she dipped it into an esky full of fresh blood, then into stock and poured the mix into the awaiting bowl. We had unwittingly eaten kuay teow reua, boat noodles, a very Thai street dish which mixes fresh pig or cow’s blood as the final flourish. Cleave called me a traitor for not warning him, but thankful because it was delicious. We’re glad we tried it.
What also stood out were the power lines. Huge messes, knots, reels and tangles dipping close to head height, and that would consistently buzz and crackle when you passed them. They were inescapable. Every street in every town, even crossing farmland – would be miles and miles of tangled black crackling electrical lines.
Riding up the coastline was hot but flat as a tack, with scrubby grass and stray dogs. Delicate intricate temples would pop out of the landscape like a beautiful oasis.
This kind of delicate gold decoration would be repeated in other forms. Every town would indicate their borders with huge welcoming overpasses, with portraits of the King or Queen.
Some towns looked like time stood still, like Pak Phanang, which is situated on a huge river. We loved walking through this town.
We had to share the road with crazy speeding trucks, but usually there was a big shoulder for motorcycles/scooters/cows/anything else that felt like it – so it didn’t feel too stressful.
It took awhile but finally Bangkok starting appearing on the signs (yay, romanisation!).
We still had a way to go.