Saturday, 27 August 2016

FSTR (8 - 16 August 2016), Day 1 : Starry Starry Night!

Amphawa Floating Market
Village life by the river
High end resorts
Many temples dotted the river scenes
Highways traverse the river
Behind the scenes
Urns to keep clean water
Street food

Never ever take chances when it comes to crossing the border to Singapore, especially on a Monday morning. More so, after a foiled rocket attack on Marina Bay last Friday. Knowing that Singapore will be stepping up on their inland and border security measures, Sue, Claudine and VT were all bundled up into their privately hired Alphard, as early as 5.30 am.

Sacrificing sleep was worth every minute saved! They arrived in Changi Airport just before 7 am. As Claudine and VT's flight bookings were made by Alvin, they had to wait for him to do a group check in.

The tall order of the day was to get fed!!! Even though Changi Airport was second home to Sue for almost 17 years, it was undergoing some renovations and she couldn't quite get her bearings right. A call was made to Azmi who suggested eating at the airport's staff canteen. This being a little secret amongst avid travellers, it beats frozen, microwaved and pre-heated foods that are usually dished out by posh deli's these days.

Attempting to eat at the airport's staff canteen, the trio were met with a few hurdles. Besides the congestion of a food court, the stairs were out of bounds for trolleys loaded with bike boxes. The doors of the service elevators were also not wide enough! After their third attempt, they meekly went to Wang's for mee rebus and toast.

Now, at exactly half past 7, while Sue, Claudine and VT were slurping up mee rebus at Wang's, George and Wendy were in the MRT heading for Changi Airport. At the exact same time, Alvin was enjoying a croissant and tea at home with his morning read. Meanwhile, in another part of Singapore, YC was drinking tea out of a traditional rose tea cup and saucer!!! All this happened while KC was sending smileys to the chatroom!!!

We soon met at Jetstar's check in counter. After an exchange of Alvin's favourite Gardenia's ikan bilis bun and a gift of LTF tees from Celia to Claudine, the group was ready for their second round of breakfast! Customarily, they headed for the staff canteen and without doubt, Claudine had her fix on her favourite bak chor mee.

As LTF Adventure trips are becoming an annual event to commemorate Singapore's National Day, the white and red flag flew, a day before the public holiday, onto the food court table!!! Ollie came out in his white suit with a red cape draped over, while our equally white and red jetstar tickets were spread out for a photoshoot!!!

On board, Sue who had usually flown first class was seated on the hot seats....with extra payments of course! KC was alone 2 rows behind George and Wendy who slept throughout the flight! YC was on his own just a few rows away from the toilet, so he had quite a lot of company whenever he grew bored tapping away on his Samsung phone! Meanwhile, Claudine was sandwiched between Alvin and VT.

The crowd at Suvarnabhumi airport was bearable. While immigration was jam packed in January during LTF's 321 Adventure, it was acceptable today. We even see them opening a few more counters as we approached. George though was stalled for a few minutes when he wrote an imaginary hotel location on the immigration card!

Lessons learnt : Don't try to fool the immigration officers!!!

Odd sized luggage department delivered our bikes promptly. While VT's bike box had the usual tear on the pedal area, George's, Wendy's and KC's bikes in plastic and glad wraps were delivered to them with the dressings almost undone! KC later realized he lost a hand pump while Wendy lost a water bottle!

Today, unlike in January when the Korean pop stars were visiting, the airport was quiet. There was enough standing room for all 8 of us, bikes included.

Prim, our beautiful Thai friend met us at Arrival Hall. This time though, it was a short meet as we were soon whisked into our 2 rented Toyota Hiace vans. Thanks to Prim's great bargaining, we only paid 4800 bahts for one plush van with red velvet upholstery and another one, cargo fit!!!

Lunch was on board our van. One could witness the personal food choices...While Alvin could not be bothered about what he eats, requesting Claudine to pack, YC opted for healthier buns. Sue and Claudine packed "Atas" cafe noodles whilst VT went for cheap 7-Eleven fan fare, both of which went into microwaves! KC's choice of Burger King was not served fast enough, despite coining fast food chain!

The hour and a half journey to Samut Songkhram ended too quickly! We were all enjoying a good debate on social etiquettes, except for a quiet KC and the Kee's dozing off yet again, in the far end of the van.

The van driver's decision to refuel 5 minutes away from Ban Siriporn, our stay for the night proved a mistake as we took an additional 20 minutes off his time at the adjacent 7-Eleven.

Ban Siriporn was a pleasant surprise! It was a relatively new resort located next to the Mae Klong River. Fashioned after malay houses, every wooden chalet is built on stilts with a nice roomy verandah.

Some of us, not on compact bikes of Flamingo, Tikkit and Brompton had to assemble our bikes for the next day's ride. Claudine had a "Papa Mike incident" when she found out her bike had lost a spacer on the handlebar. George offered some aluminum foil and between KC, YC and VT, they hammered it in....not a solution but a temporary one as the steering was tight!!!

Fern, the resort owner's daughter helped us to book a boat cruise. At 1500 Baht per charter, our boat man took us on a long cruise along the river. He took us through the town, passing by government buildings, schools and majestic Buddhist temples. Then, he showed us the high end resorts, alternative stays to our humble Ban Siriporn! Thereafter, he steered the boat through the stark villagers' home, taking note not to invite us into his own for tea! We saw a fellow fisherman wading through chest high water with his nets! Finally, he brought us to Amphawa Floating Markets and let us off by a jetty to find our own dinner.

The floating market is only opened during the weekends. As we were there on a Monday, many shops were closed. It was good for us though as we did not have to wade through throngs of tourists. Many river front shops had a similar themed of dark varnished wood frontage. Quaint narrow concrete bridges connects the 2 banks.

At dinner time, we found a nice restaurant away from the touristy area. This one was located inland, where the locals go about their daily lives. As it caters for the locals, the menu was all in Thai and the restaurateur speaks no English!!!

Again, Prim came to our rescue! A call was made and let's just say she ordered the most delightful meal for all of us!

Right after dinner, our boatman took us back to the river to see fireflies. Initially, Alvin shared with us Prim's reservations on them. According to her, they are merely lights hung out on trees to attract unsuspecting tourists.

However, our boatman countered our negativism. He took us to trees after trees filled with fireflies. At one point, Wendy shook a tree branch just to check if they moved, and flew away they did!!!

Our boatman even took it upon himself to prove Prim was wrong. He caught one sparkling insect and presented it to Claudine. She resisted his charms as it was not a sparkling diamond and he, not a yacht master! Instead, Alvin took over the insect before allowing it to fly away!

As we cruised through more and more trees filled with fireflies, we soon got bored. Our nice boatman could not understand our request to return and while he spoke Thai to Alvin, Alvin translated his own versions to us!

We saw many more tourists on the same hunt with us...

We saw some anglers anchored by the riverside...

We became more brave and tried catching some fireflies on our own....out of boredom, perhaps!

Claudine caught one which flew along on her underarm before flying away!!! When turned upside down, the creature sparks a bright light. But its wings gave it a soft hue, as if a lamp shade upon a light bulb!

Fern and her mum were waiting for our return by the riverbank when we approached Ban Siriporn. They prepared tea for us at the resort's open restaurant but the mosquitos soon chased us indoors! That sets the night on our first day of FSTR!

Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong 
Ped Al

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully captured! Did the firefly flew into your armpit? LOL