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Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Misadventures called travelling



The dictionary defines travel as (results from dictionary.com, emphasis my own)

1. to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey: to travel for pleasure.
2. to move or go from one place or point to another.
3. to proceed or advance in any way.
10. to travel, journey, or pass through or over, as a country or road.
14. a. journeys; wanderings: to set out on one's travels.

These the ones that stood out to me... especially after my recent short stint up to Betong and back again.
In the past year from my goal of visiting every state in Malaysia, I've expanded those travel plans to South Thailand...

So this short holiday I decided to make a visit to Betong which was on the list the previous time but lack of research resulted in me missing out.. So after much reading I thought I would finally make the trip there. more about this place later but for now let me relive the experience of going there and back. Throughout my travels this time around I had to consciously remind myself to savor each moment even if it's just sitting in a bus... After all experience is a big part of any journey especially a holiday.

Anyway, in order to get to Betong I had narrowed it down to two options.
1. Take a bus to Pengkalan Hulu (a.k.a. Grik), and a taxi into Betong
2. Take a bus up to Padang Besar, then motor to Padang Besar, overnight, van to hatyai and switch to van to Betong...

Though much longer, I decided to take option #2. Mainly because I get to pass through Padang Besar again. For some odd reason I'm fascinated with this sleepy cowboy town.. maybe it is because it is my first positive experience in south Thailand.

This is where my misdaventures begin.
First of all there was news about bus stations being packed for the Raya season but for me it was pretty normal traffic...
But here was my first and second mistake... first was getting up late and arriving about 9:30 am instead of earlier... why? this will come clearer later on... 
The second mistake was deciding to take Sani Express to Kangar (hmm not sure if this counts as two or one mistake)...

I thought that going to Kangar would bring me closer to Padang Besar and thus a short bus and motor in would be the shortest, cheapest and fastest option... boy was I wrong...
leaving the bus station a little late (about 11+ a.m. instead of the 10:45 am as stated) was alright as the bus seemed to make good time up to Alor Setar. 

But here's where my complains begin... First of all I think the muslim bus driver was super inconsiderate to those who were not puasa-ing during this period... as all the stops he made had no food available so they could not eat or drink... Secondly, Sani Express half lived up to its name... sadly it was not the express portion but the sani as they were neither there nor here ("sana" or "sini" in malay? yea... corny I know). For some inexplicable reason the driver took a 2 hour plus detour up to Changloon and only then back towards Kangar... So instead of arriving at Kangar about 5+ p.m. I only managed to arrive about 6:30 p.m. If I had managed to get an earlier bus (mistake #1) I wouldn't have been caught in the heavy downpour and wouldn't need to take a taxi instead of the local bus (which I think already stopped operating at this time). So instead I had to take A RM40 taxi ride to the border. I arrived at Padang Besar Thailand nearly 9.00 p.m. local time. This was of course delayed due to the taxi driver having to pull over to the side half way through the trip to buka puasa... which also conveniently included a smoke break while he was driving... now if only I had taken a bus to Alor Setar (mistake #2) I could have switched to a bus that goes to Padang Besar direct... oh well, now I know...

And here I discovered one thing.. miss photogenic was famous here!

You'd think that that's be the end of my misadventures of traveling.. that''s what I thought too... but boy would you and I be wrong. I discovered later that the 5 hour (or 4 depending on the driver) trip was a rather torturous ordeal. Other than sitting on the firm seats for the long ride, the final hour or so is through a super windy path that make it impossible for me to sleep even if I wanted to with all the swerving left and right. But after arriving at Betong it seemed worth it which is probably why I took the same route going back.

Even in Betong itself I had my share of traveling adventures. One of the attractions in Betong is the Piyamit Tunnels which I found is rather far out and if I took a tut tut would cost me at least RM50.. but discovered that for half that price I could rent a motor... 
a recipe for disaster you say?.. thankfully no...
Well maybe how I look in the helmet was a fashion disaster...
I now thank Adrian Ng for those few short lessons on riding a motor all those 10 years ago.
The only problem was that I didn't realise that a motor is nothing like a car... meaning I don't always have to start in 1st gear... This resulted in a few cases in which the motor got away from me and a few close calls...
Some of it ended with these minor cuts and bruises.
After I managed to control the motor it was a pleasant experience...And since I had the motor of the day I even took a few night drives around the town a few times to kill the boredom. 

After all that I thought it would been enough for one week of travelling stories... I should get used to being wrong.. There was the whole Hari Raya debacle, (read previous post here). I mean purposely leaving Padang Besar early to catch the 10 a.m. express from Padang Besar was disappointing since it wasn't even open... Grrrrrr... what's worse was no local buses running to Kangar either... . And I got conned from the bus to the Alor Setar too...
These two RM5 look identical right?
Wrong! check out the back of the notes....
It looks like it was rubbed away... pretty sure that was a fake note... who bothers making such small notes?

To make things worse the bus to KL came more than an hour later, and even took 20 minutes before leaving, and then there was the 2 hour detour and wait at Ipoh (not sure why also). In the end though, the final bus ride home was a good experience though a long and delayed one. 
First of all I got lot of sleep.. 
Secondly got this cute photo of this girl...
And thirdly got to meet this cool guy from Bangladesh who was here on honeymoon with his beautiful bride.
Hi Hassan if you're reading this :)
This is actually a photo before I got to meet the guy... was just fascinated with the ear phone splitter..
And I finally got this photo...
Yup, that's right... to all my Malaysian friends who have heard of Tanjung Rambutan... It exists and is a hospital in Ipoh!

Anyway, thus ended my 13 hour journey back... 
All in all this time I think I spent a total of 35 hours just travelling.. that's more than a quarter of my 3 days 4 night trip.... And what's worse is.. I'm actually thinking of going again in the next holidays...
Call me crazy.. but guess these misadventures colour my life... :)

Oh and here is wishing all muslims out there a Happy Hari Raya...! hope your celebrations was as colourful as those in Padang Besar

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