Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thailands Big Fields

Every once in a while, do you get the urge, to break free 
run wild, and just lay your head in a big field?
I know I do… 

Almost every holiday for the past two years, have been a reprieve, in Padang Besar 
(literally translated, Big Field, corny.. I know). 
The oddest thing I’ve found about Padang Besar is that it is divided in two… 
(either that, or one town decided to copy the other… )
Either way, Padang Besar can be found in both Malaysia and Thailand, 

on both sides of the Kedah-Songkhla border.

Maybe it is because I’m Malaysian that I find no interest in the Padang Besar Malaysia 
(let’s call it PBM for simplicity sake)
but it is more likely, that there is nothing going on on the Malaysian side. 
If it was a competition of having a life, PBM would probably lose out to a vegetable. 
The main street itself is barely a town. 

From my limited experience, I’ve found that most towns have at least a fast food 
(usually a KFC… or a clone of one). 
PBM on the other hand, doesn’t even have an air-cond restaurant to its name.. 
in fact while wandering around in the day time, you’d be hard pressed to find any food shops opened at all. 
So far day or night, in all my few experiences here, I’ve had to resort to road side food stalls, 
be it a ramly burger or a make shift mamak stall. 

The main location here is a marketplace, where almost everything comes from Thailand, thus making it cheaper (I think?). 
Makes me think that the only reason PBM exists is because there is a Thai counterpart.

As a matter of fact, the only thing that PBM has that Padang Besar Thai (let’s again resort to using the acronym PBT) does not is a Train Station! More story on this here.

If you had a choice (most likely there isn’t much of a choice), 
if you had to stay overnight, I’d suggest taking a 20 minute walk, 
armed with your passport, to the next Padang Besar.  

As you pass by the Malaysian immigration (which for some reason gets this long queue of vehicles),

it is a noticeable distance to the Thai immigration 
(having gone through two other Malaysian-Thai borders, I find it peculiar). 
After you clear immigration (and at peak times become RM1 / THB 10 poorer),  
look out for this sign, right to noisy Hat yai or Kayu Hitam (where Danok is located) 
or turn left for a little get away.  

After 10 minutes or so you’ll cross this cute train track crossing 
(I just noticed that the barrier is made of wires, and is controlled by counterweights)
followed by a weathered sign welcoming you to PBT. 
Usually this means I turn left and head down another 5 - 8 minutes til I reach the main part of the town.

A caution though to travelers wishing to save RM10 by walking instead of taking the motors, the walkways can be slippery when wet, as I discovered during my first experience in PBT. As it is during the Nov – Dec rainy seasons, it was raining when I arrived. Having waited out the heavy rain, I decided to hoof it to PBT before it rained again. Little did I know that my initiation to the town would involve a lot of slipping and at one point grabbing a barb wire to stabilise myself.  Thankfully God must have been more alert than I as I came away from the experience wiser and with no major scars to speak of. 

It is actually quite hard for me to tell where the town starts or ends and it just seems to morph from shops to houses at random locations. 

The furthest I’ve ventured, brought me past mosques (being in the south it has a stronger Islamic influence) and even an odd roundabout with a huge spotlight.

So what is so great about PBT?
It is a sleepy little town and yet has enough things going on.
It is a quiet getaway and yet has all the basic necessities I need in walking distance.
Most people come to the town to find entertainment. I’ve noticed cars from KL, Penang, Kedah and even Singapore. What entertainment do they get? I guess it is up to their taste. 

The main reason I go there is for the sights and sounds while taking in the mixture of food. The oddest of all, is I come to Thailand for 7-eleven. Yup that’s right… we have it in Malaysia but for some reason, it’s different here. 

They have sausages and pao’s for sale, right at the counter. It usually becomes my lunch. And for those who cannot read, they even have pictures to tell you what is what. (even a child can tell what the chicken means.. though I think they don’t put a cow as it is sacred to some Buddhist I guess). 

I’ve found, however, that quite a few of the food here is heavily influenced by Malaysian foods, though they aren’t usually on the menu for me. One of the enjoyments is walking the street at night as they set up the stalls at the side of the road. Recently they’ve event set up barriers to limit the traffic at night…
All in all, if anyone asks me I’d recommend PBT for a day or two of quiet time. And usually if travelling by land it’s a good stopover, because from here, it is less than an hour ride by van to Hat Yai which connects you to most of Thailand. (and maybe because I don't particularly favour Hat Yai..)

Sad thing about PBT is that despite the life in the town, there are spots of abandonment and dilapidation

In fact some places are so old, Britney spears is still in her teens

But It is great for me to see that there are many new things popping up here and there around town. Even my favourite spot the 7-eleven had a makeover (though I’m not too sure what was changed other than the automatic door), and places like this abandoned disco may yet see better days ahead.
and when they build here.. they build fast....
note the latter photo was a few later...
by now it will soon be a cafe or convenience store...
One of the lesser known but improving areas of the town is the local park...
I was quite surprised that despite the size, it even housed a lake
and enough space for kids and adults alike to expand their energy
but oddly enough it is built across a railway track!
thankfully the last I seen they've put up wires
to prevent someone from accidentally being at the wrong place at the wrong time

All in all it's a quiet little town doing its own thing...
If you ever have down time
and feel like running free...
pass through and give the quiet place the time of day...
it may surprise you

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