Thursday, 20 December 2018

Visiting the Casino at Ranong and Doing a Visa Run

So some background story :)

When Uncle Seng told me to skip Ranong I was hesitant because it was one of the few routes on the map where I could tell it would be a nice ride and also a road where it is less traveled. The only people that will used these road were those going to Ranong. Unlike other major artery roads this was like purely for Ranong. Secondly, Ranong was famous for Hot Springs. How could I forgo Ranong !!! 

 It will be raining the whole time you are there. Ranong rains whole year round with only 4 months of semi dry weather. You will suffer, better to skip and shoot up instead Uncle Seng said. I showed reluctance I guess, and said I will see how it goes when I reach Khao Lak. 

But if you do go to Ranong you can go visit the Casino in Myanmar.
Huh ? What ? Say again ?

There is a Casino in Ranong on the Burmese side where you have to take a boat to an Island on the Burma side stamp out Thailand and stamp in Myanmar then after a day of playing you can come back by boat and stamp in again to Thailand. Can extend your stay in Thailand for another 30 days.

How could I not go to Ranong after hearing there was a Casino in Ranong :)

Ranong Casino Daytrip 

The Grand Andaman Club at Pulo Island Myanmar 

Today was casino day. After visiting the ferry pier yesterday and getting the necessary information on going to Andaman Club which is on the Myanmar side, I decided today I will do the visa run although I did not need it. I just wanted the Myanmar stamp in my passport ... NOT ... I just wanted to go play at the casino.

There are two piers which shuttles people between Ranong-Thailand and Myanmar. One was the Andaman Club Pier which bring people to Pulo Island on the Myanmar side. There is nothing on the Island beside the Andaman Club, almost every activity there has to go though the Grand Andaman establishment.

The other pier which is the normal pier brings people to Kawthoung a small town at the southern most tip of Myanmar. This would be the best way to enter Myanmar from the southern side but onward journey would be a question mark. As I did not try this route, I wont know the story of the border crossing using this route.

At Grand Andaman Harbour in Ranong, there is two small booth for Thai immigration, arrival and departure. I first went to departure and got stamped out of Thailand. The officer asked if I was going on a daytrip and will return today. Yes was my reply and she said to return before 5pm. The out stamp had an additional mark CD at the bottom. 

Thailand Immigration at Club Andaman Pier Ranong

Next was towards the reception of the Andaman Club in the same building and they made two copies of my passport and prepared the ferry ticket and the Myanmar immigration Card. I could now proceed to the boat.

The boat departs every hour starting at 8pm all the way to 11pm at night and the return journey the same as well but somehow I felt the instruction from the Thai immigration officer means that there were difference between foreigners and local Thai people going over for a casino punt. 

Boat Ride to Grand Andaman Club 

About 10 minutes by boat and we are at Pulo Island, Andaman Club Pier. Off the boat and at the jetty is the immigration office for Myanmar.

My passport was taken and I was told to go pay for by boat ride. Total cost including return ticket to Thailand was 950 baht. All the internet readings of needing a brand new unmarked 10 USD bill was not needed. 

Paid 950 baht and went back to immigration but the lady told me my passport will be kept at the desk and when I wish to depart I can collect it back. I kept the small slip of Myanmar immigration card and one copy of my passport photocopy. 

Myanmar Immigration at Pulo Island 

Shuttle bus ready, took us up to the resort which was just a few hundred meters away but with a steep hill climb. 

Short Bus Ride up to The Grand Andaman Hotel & Casino 

Hola ... Welcome to Grand Andaman Hotel & Casino.

Go in walk around, chill ... go in the casino .. 

Grand Andaman Hotel & Casino 

Grand Andaman Hotel & Casino 
The first floor was mainly electronic games such as slots and electronic roulette + dice games while the second floor had table cards games.

There are a lot of tables but not much games. Mainly baccarat table occupies 90% of the whole floor with varying types of baccarat.

There was one new types of baccarat which I tried. It was like 3 pictures baccarat but each player has his own 3 cards vs the banker 3 cards. Minimum initial punt is 100 baht and the first card is dealt face down for the players but face open for the banker. 

With the information of the bankers first open card ... players can choose to raised their bet up to 10 times the initial bet or just stay. The next two cards are dealt to all players and the second card of the dealer is also face opened but the third card is closed. 

At this point, players can touch their respective cards and see what they got always aiming to get the large 9 ... nothing much we can do really ... just see the card and put it down and the dealer will open her last card and a show off with each player will be done and paid if won.

I played the new variant of three pictures and after that point, spend most of my time playing 3 card poker. There was only one table for 3 card poker. Seriously this casino lack variety for games.

The cool part was so long you are in the casino, there will be free buffet food and drinks ... so technically the 950 baht include transport, visa payment ( assuming the 10 USD bill will be handled by the Andaman club administration ) , food for lunch and dinner ( I did not stay for dinner since I have to be back by 5pm ... not too bad if you ask me ... cheap thrill ...

Around 3pm I headed down toward the pier and to Myanmar immigration ... they sifted out my passport and gave me a stamp out, a stamp in was already inside my passport while i was away punting. A big smile from everyone and I headed to board the boat back to Ranong Thailand.

Back at the Ranong side of Andaman Club Pier, I went back to the Thai immigration booth, filled up a new immigration card and got a stamp in for another 30 days ... easy peasy visa run.

I did saw a notice at the Thai immigration booth , the notice as shown in the picture below states that all visa exempt countries may only cross a land border twice a year as per Thai new law but with an exemption of Malaysian ... yippiee Malaysia. 

Notice at Thailand Immigration 
Traveled on : October 2018 
#blurtravels #visarun #ranong #andamanclub #casino

Monday, 17 December 2018

Khao Lak – Takua Pa – Hots Springs – Daytrip

Khao Lak was surprisingly super touristy. Quiet is relative in the term of travel information and anything that is half of what Phuket Patong Beach or Pattaya Beach is considered as quiet in Thailand on the travel guides 

So it was a sight to see that the streets were packed with tour agency, massage parlor, a few girl bars and even a cabaret bar to boot. Quiet yes for you wont see people sandwich next to each other but in terms of real quiet like the places in Malaysia, this was touristy to me.

Khao Lak was the gateway for diving at the Simalan Islands ... beautiful I was told and no doubt expensive. A boat out starts at 2500 baht and diving can easily cost up to 3500 baht. Its no wonder this place is touristy. If people with money come here to dive then surely all the rest of standard Thailand tourist entertainment will follow. 

Khao Lak Beach 

I stayed two nights instead of one, for travelling back to back is really a mental torture somehow. I mean, I travel to a next destination which will be about 150km to 200km and the next day I would still ride Bluey for about 100km doing day trips sightseeing around. 

A loop of 50km actually but nonetheless its still 100km overall in a day. You would think that traveling back to back should be ok since I am practically doing travel everyday anyway for the past one week but the mental torture for going to the next destination somehow ain't the same as a day trip.

Maybe because the day trip always start out harmlessly going nearby and even before lunch I would have covered 25km and keep going to the next place and the next place and by 3pm start to head back to the hostel. The lack of luggage is also a help in a sense for day trips are with slippers and shorts more suitable for pit stops and relaxing.

So Khao Lak for the night but in reality the destination stop nowadays is more for the gateway for a day trip. I started today for Takua Pa, a small old town quint that sees some more adventurous tourist from Khao Lak but nothing that would attract someone to stay overnight. 

Khao Lak - Takua Pa - Rommanee Hot Springs Loop 

It was a functioning town with all the hardware, and business supplying goods for other parts of Thailand. A Chinese base community with Sino-Portugese type of wooden building is what the tour guides will say but being from Malaysia ... yep it was the standard building old times were built ... haphazard and messy. Nice to drive by but not captivating enough to stay. 

Old Town Takua Pa 

I decided to do the longer journey since I found supply of 95 benzine for Bluey. I do not need to conserve petrol now since I can fully top up before leaving Khao Lak for Ranong.

Hot Springs ...the lure of bliss. So I headed from Takua Pa to Rommanee Hot Springs.

The ride was nice beautifully paved winding roads to the hot spring with barely any vehicles on the road. The hot springs was 50 baht to enter and it was nicely done with pools of varying temperature fully equip with showers and toilets. There was even food and a few bungalow for people who which to stay for holidays.

I did not planned to go hot springs so I was wearing the wrong gear ... long pants ... always the case with me. I find good stuff when I don't have the right stuff with me. Sit down and dip leg I suppose and a family of Thai came to join in the soak. 

Rommanee Hot Springs  

Rommannee Hot Springs 

Rommannee Hot Springs 

If I remember correctly there was Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Mother, two sisters, Brother, a little girl.

I dipped in first and the mother asked me something in Thai language

I cannot speak Thai language I replied in Thai language ^^

I soak my feat in the second least hotter pool with the mom and the brother. The rest of the family went full swimming in the least hottest pool which was next to next with us. After a while I was burning and sweating loads. Weather turned black and drops of rain started pouring ...

I was going to be wet anyway I thought .... either from this pool or from the rain on the journey back. This was not a passing rain I felt so I decided to go in with my long pants. Shirts off and carefully wrap my phone and wallets plus keys and in I go into the hot pool.

The little girl wanted to play ... I think ... but was very shy to talk to me in English. Their English was limited but the brother could speak a bit of mandarin. When he asked if I could speak mandarin ... I said a little.

The question started slowly ... where from ... here alone ... motorbike here .... once they knew I was riding a journey in Thailand they were really surprise and amazed. The brother did most of the translation while talking to me in mandarin.

When the mom heard I will be going to Laos ... she asked me to go visit them ... I could not really understand cos she asked in Thai language but when I did, I said ok ... they laugh it off so I figured it was just a gesture and not really sincere.

The brother asked if I was alone ...


still single


got a girlfriend or anyone waiting

no ...

I have two sisters ...

the two sisters blushed and would not look me in the eye

as the family started to pack up to go .... the brother asked

you go Pattaya ??


she works in Pattaya ... you can find her when you reach there ... (he had a cheeky wink on his face and the sister was blushing madly)

Ask for his line the sister told his brother .....

I pretended I had no idea what line was ...

They said bye bye and I was left alone again

Out of the pool and waited for the rain to stop which it did but almost immediately started again once I set out on bluey. I was already pants soaking wet from the hot springs so ride back to hostel all the way wet.

End of Khao Lak adventure ... next stop Ranong.

Traveled on : October 2018

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Riding Log - Ko Lanta

From Trang, I headed to Ko Lanta which was an Island with the only way across via a ferry. Its always a thrill to take a ferry with Bluey across, just because its a ferry. The ride was mundane with no detours nor stops for sightseeing but many stops at random peoples home for shelter along the road as the weather was really bad with thunderstorms. 

I now see the clouds like a shaman and think I could predict when the rain will arrive and how long I needed to take shelter before moving on again. Random home owners normally gave me a bewildered look when I suddenly pop into their house for shelter, and once the initial Thai conversation goes to an awkward silence knowing i am not local, they offered shelter and a rest place in their home front porch till the rain pass. 

The ferry crossing to Ko Lanta was easier than i though. About 500m from the jetty there was a booth selling tickets. 5 bath for the Bluey and 20 bath for me. Rock right up to the barge without any time wasted and it was time to head to Ko Lanta. 

Ferry Tickets to Ko Lanta 

Price List for Ferry Ticket to Ko Lanta 

On Board the Ferry to Ko Lanta 

Once I was on board the barge, I could now confidently book a place to stay for the two nights in Ko Lanta. So I choose Local Lanta Bungalow ... Bamboo seem to be the theme in Ko Lanta and hostel the expensive choice. The bamboo Bungalow was a privet room for two people nicely done with a toilet attached, clean and cooling with just a fan. It was only 280 bath for two nights. Hostel would cost me around 350 and that's for one person.

If i had a friend the hut would still be 280 for two person for two nights. The downside of traveling alone is that accommodation are slightly expensive for one sometimes as there is no one to share the cost with. 

Bamboo Hut at Ko Lanta 

Ko Lanta Yai was the main Island and I took Bluey for a spin around the Island. Most people here rent a bike anyway and go for a spin. Viewpoints and many nooks and stops along the way was a perfect place to explore with a bike. While i don't really swim that much in the ocean, the Island is one of the most beautiful places to chill.

Pictures tells a thousand words they say ... and Ko Lanta is just as such 

Traveled on : October 2018

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Riding Log – Daytrip on Trang Big Loop

Daytrip to discover Trang. Subconsciously my exploration plan has been opening google maps and plotting a circle base on the lines of road that was available. Once the imaginary big circle was done I would zoom in as much as I can and see the popular star marked on google maps for view point or point of interest and start the journey from there. 

Trang Daytrip Big Loop 

Trang Hostel gave me the key head start by recommending Kantang, around 13 km from the city center and the last train stop for the Andaman Sea. After breakfast it was refueling time and rounding the whole city of Trang and only then could I find one petrol station that sells the normal 95 Benzine petrol without any mix of ethanol in it. 

En Route to Kantang 

Off to Kantang after refueling and taking much care to listen for weird noises in the case if the petrol was wrong or if my trip will be cut short prematurely due to rejection. Whole day nearly 100km of day trip big loop of Trang province and bluey was ok.

Kantang, was a small town but there was a few things to do here. For the local Thai people there would be more to see and do but since I cant really read nor understand the history of Thailand properly, I only see two things in Kantang. 

Golden Sealion at Kantang
First was the oldest rubber tree in Thailand. Looked way to small but then again rubber planting knowledge was learned from Malaysia and I have seen the oldest rubber tree in Malaysia which is in Kuala Kangsar. Still a good place to visit with landmarks to take a photo shot. 

Oldest Rubber Tree in Thailand 

Kantang Train Station. It is one of the few train station buildings in Thailand that still retains the original old style architecture hence the minor attraction for people to visit Kantang. It was an ok place with good relax vibe and lots of photo taking opportunity for the selfie enthu type but for me it was a 5 minute visit and off I go again. 

Kantang Train Station

Kantang Train Station
This day trip was a Riding day trip to visit many places within the day. Ride around Kantang just seeing mundane stuff and I stopped for lunch somewhere around the back alley of someone house turn business restaurant.

Khuan Khaeng Hot Springs

Next stop was the hot springs. At 51 degrees temperature it was really really hot. Everyone went downstream till it was cooler and still it was burning. I stayed there and soak up my heavily mosquito bitten and scabbed legs. 

Khuan Khaeng Hot Springs 
The sand flies and mosquito really gave me hell in Langkawi I guess and boiling myself in 35+ ish degree water seams like the best way to kill bacteria around the open wounds 

Still hot springs in the noon sun was kinda dum dum ... so off I went to see the beautiful beaches in Trang Province. If I had a camp, the first place to pitch for the night would have been Yao Beach. Lovely shades in tall trees with amazing views of the Andaman seas and a local eatery which sells food and lets the guest use toilet and shower for a small fee seams like the perfect camping ground.

I took a coca cola and relax chilling enjoying the breeze since it was 1pm and I had reach past the halfway journey of the daytrip planned. Timing was good ... so no real need to rush the trip. 

Yao Beach

Yao Beach

Onward to the next beach which was all along the Chao Mai National Park route. There was many beaches or rather I was riding along the beaches all the way but finally stopping at Pak Meng Beach furthest up front as there was establishment for eateries and chairs with umbrella to shade the sun. 

Pak Meng Beach
If one wanted to find luxury seclusion resorts at a cheap price, Trang will be the place to go. I wonder how long will this place will last before it gets trodden in good by the tourist. I could already see the local tourist driving around day tripping like me too so i guess its just a matter of time. 

After Pak Meng it was boring ride all the way back to Trang.

Traveled on : October 2018

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Riding Log – From Hat Yai to Trang

I started journey once I saw the sky in the morning. I now have a knack of predicting weather. So the routine goes without fail before a long journey is to wake up and see the sky in the direction of my travels and somehow mentally, an image will form of how well the weather will hold and how badly drench I will be by the end of the journey. 

Today I predicted that rain will be around 3pm, and by my estimation, I should just about reach Trang.

I was caught by the rain around 3pm just 13km outside of Trang. 

On the way to Trang from Hat Yai 

Initially along the way it was pretty boring till nearby Patthalung where I started seeing tourist signboards for waterfall, caves, dome caves, temples. I picked the first one out at random and it was a detour of 1.5km off the main road.

Buddhakhodom Cave

Finding the place was easy enough. I saw a cave like structure with staircase leading upwards towards a Buddha shrine and headed for it. A few steps forward and a curious kid came talking something to me ...

Entrance to Buddhakhodom Cave

The first cave ... Buddhakhodom Cave
I do not understand Thai Language I told him in my broken Thai ...

The kid could not speak English but did know some words. After digging his brain while following me up to the first cave, he said .... GUIDE ... and pointed to me and himself.

I’m ok I said and laughed.

The cave was small, looks likes not a popular detour for there was no one around. Coming down the stairs the kid pointed to go right which seams like local houses. Ok no harm looking I guess. Just round the corner and there was this cave, low height but inside line up with Buddha statue going in deeper. The cave was lit up as well with lights and we proceeded to walk in. 

Entrance to Buddhakhodom Cave - The start of cave exploration 

Buddhakhodom Cave

End of the Cave ??? Not really ... There is a narrow path behind the Buddha ... onwards 

I doubt that I would have venture far into the caves beyond 50m if it was not because of the kid. Nak was his name. He keep pointing inside and walked with me guiding me further in. There was a beautiful Buddha sitting at the deep end of the cave and when I though that was the end of the cave exploration, Nak went behind the Buddha statue and gesture me to follow into this very low height and dark path. 

Nak gesturing me to go in the dark path ahead ... 
I could not see even my hand and yet Nak knew where to go, coming back to hold my hand and leading the way. Barely 10 steps ahead and dim lights were now visible and the low height narrow cave opened up into another tunnel dome which was beautiful. Inwards and more Buddha statue and further up an exit to the back side of the cave. 

Thinking that's the end and we would have to walk around to get back to the starting point, after a short walk around the corner was a new entrance to back into the cave, more natural wonders and more Buddha Statue. 

Pitch Black Cavern ahead ... full of bats 

A bat fly by .... and a very large cavern that was pitch black could be seen. No entry ... I could smell the bat shit and knew it was dangerous to go in since it was pitch black and any lights will be a bad idea. Even Nak stayed away but he led me round again up and down more caves like a maze. 

The detour to Buddhakhodom Cave was the longest detour for nearly an hour wandering around inside the cave. My little guide Nak although I said I do not need a guide still brought me around since he had nothing to do. I was the entertainment. 

Maze Upon Maze in Buddhakhodom Cave

Buddhakhodom Cave

When we got back to the starting point, I thank Nak and gave him 100 baht. I know I am spoiling the kid and setting a bad example for tourist but that is my nature with traveling after so many years, those that ask I will be hard headed to give even a penny, but those that shown effort without expecting reward I usually over compensate in the end. 

Wat Sumano

The next stop was Wat Sumano which another cave Buddhist temple. The temple looked like Khmer type Naga Buddhist and this time there was no little kid waiting to guide me in. I only took the first 20m in and backtracked once I smelled the Bat shit again. This cave was totally not lighted up and my camera phone light barely allowed me to see my hand. Where is that kid when you need them :P 


Dark & Wet Cave 

When You cant see anything .... you turn back 

Trang Andaman Gateway

The Trang Andaman Gateway park was a no brainier stop since there was so many statue of animals and it was right next to the highway road that it was a standard photo stop. Everyone stops here it seams for toilet and photos stretching their legs.

Trang Andaman Gateway 
Next was Trang but not before rain forced me to take shelter under a bridge for an hour. I reached Trang nice and easy locating The Tree & Sleep Hostel.

Traveled on: October 2018
#roadtrip #ridingthailand #trang #watsumano #budhakhodomcave