29 Jan - 01 Feb 2013 Songkhla

Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles
Thanon Phetchakhiri 40
Sook Som Boon Hotel No. 1 +6674311049
Clean and adequate double room with private bathroom, free but crappy wifi (“…you get what you pay for…”), for only THB 250.- or US$ 8.40 per night. Indifferent Sino-Thai staff, zero English.
Beer: 330-ml cans of cold Leo Beer (5.0 % alc./vol.) for THB 40.- or US$ 1.35 per can from the hotel’s reception and 640-ml bottles of cold Chang Classic (c. 6.4 % alc./vol.) for THB 45.- or US$ 1.50 per bottle from any of the Chinese grocers in the hotel’s neighbourhood.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Sook Som Boon Hotel No. 1 in Songkhla and for directions:

Matt: Gaining the high ground by taking a lift (THB 30.- or US$ 1.- per person, round trip, +6674316330) to Phra Chedi Luang, the magnificent royal pagoda on top of the c. 100-m high Tang Kuan Hill, and enjoying stunning 360-degree views over Songkhla City aka Singora, over Thalep Sap Songkhla (the huge brackish lake north-west of the city) and over the Gulf of Thailand during the still ongoing and breezy northeast monsoon.

Matt: Taking a free guided city tour with the Singora Tram thus passing the must-see sights of the city: (i) the 1842 CE Chinese architectural style city pillar shrine, the symbol of auspice and prosperity, (ii) the back streets of Songkhla with their traditional architecture which shows Chinese, Portuguese and Malay influence, (iii) the beautifully restored, 400-years old Wat Matchimawat aka Wat Klang which typifies the Sino-Thai temple architecture of 17th century Songkhla, (iv) the old city wall and the National Museum which is easily the most picturesque national museum in Thailand and (v) Songkhla’s casuarina-lined wide sandy beaches.
“Travel wasn't fun if you didn't get to see or do what you wanted; it was merely a different type of work, in a different place.”

Matt: Visiting Wat Liap in the hotel’s neighbourhood, meeting novice monk Varadh, a computer professional with Reuters in Bangkok who volunteers at this temple for a few weeks as an “intern” (with persimmon-coloured robe and shaven head) in order to make merit for his parents, and learning about the distinctive role of Buddhist monks in Thailand’s modern society - from spiritual meditation via community service through to manual labour.

Matt: Beachcombing the white sandy beaches of Hat Samila and Hat Son Awn and replacing the burnt calories afterwards at the superb and cheap Songkhla Vegetarian Restaurant +6674311392.

“I was just thinking 'bout the way it's s'posed to be
I'll eat the plants and the fruit from the trees
And I'll live on vegetables and I'll grow on seeds
But I don't eat animals and they don't eat me
Oh no, I don't eat animals, cause I love 'em, you see
I don't eat animals; I want nothing dead in me…”

Matt: Becoming involved in the preparations of the local Thai Chinese community for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities: (i) prayers for good fortune, health and wealth, (ii) offerings of food and incense to please the spirits of the ancestors and (iii) red banners with messages of good luck: Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Matt: Taking a (big green) public bus from Songkhla’s bus stop back to Hat Yai’s central bus terminal (c. 25 km, 1 ¼ hours, THB 20.- or US$ 0.65 per person), thereafter a reliable Chao Vang Travel van +6674234724 from Hat Yai downtown to Georgetown in Malaysia (220 km, 4 ½ hours, THB 390.- or US$ 13.10), changing en-route my watch from Thailand’s Indochina Time (GMT + 7 hours) to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT + 8 hours), and, eventually, catching a Penang Rapid bus 102 (MYR 4.- or US$ 1.30) from Georgetown’s Sungai Nibong Express Bus Terminal to Batu Ferringhi on Penang’s north coast where Konni was already waiting.

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From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to ass-u-me;
It’s good to ask questions.
Keep your bearings!