The heat blur rising from the tarmac lent a surreal effect to our ride. Above us, the midday sun was unrelenting. We blasted along at an eye-watering speed of 60kph – partially to be able to react quickly to any threats that came at us, and partially because of the effects of a rather heavy lunch in downtown Danok.
AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’ came on at just the right moment, through the speaker I had jerry-rigged on my handlebar. In front of us, the snaking asphalt to Hatyai – 58km away – seemed to roll on forever. I glanced at my tripmeter and noticed that we had only clocked 16km.
Through the shimmery heat, I spot a pair of cyclists, up ahead. Our friend Ahmad Razlan Alias and his son, Aqif Firdaus, were chugging along at a fairly fast clip on their Surly LHT and Marin 4 Corners touring bikes. The pair had loaded up their rides onto a bus in Hentian Duta in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 16, gotten off in Changlun on Dec 17, and planned to cycle around Hatyai and Songkhla. For longer excursions, they rented a kapchai.
The five of us finally linked up at Hamid Muslim Restaurant, near the Lee Garden shopping district in downtown Hatyai for a proper lunch, the next day. The place was the perfect location, with electronic gadget stores nearby selling adapters and charging cables, to ATMs that enabled you to withdraw Thai baht directly from your Malaysian bank account.
Thailand is a country of sweet contrasts. What struck me the most was that food was generally cheap. I bagged a 500g packet of cashew nuts from a street vendor for only 200 baht (RM26), which lasted me the entire trip. A plate of nasi goreng cili padi udang petai (I am partial to petai), a side dish of crispy fried chicken with kerak and all the trimmings, and a glass of ice water left me only 86 baht (RM11.60) poorer. But gas prices are three times more expensive than they are in Malaysia. Somehow, the economics don’t jive.
Our overnight layover in Hatyai done, Captain MK Ganesan and I loaded up our Vespas and pushed on to our final stop in Songkhla, while Pravin Menon stayed on in Hatyai. Razlan and Aqif had had a head start for their destination somewhere near Samila Beach in Songkhla, roughly 20 minutes north of where the Captain and I would be for the duration of our stay.
Being boys, at the top of our ‘To-Do List’ in Thailand were – you guessed it – shooting, riding, and eating, and in that particular order. Pravin, a certifiable gun freak, recommended the shooting range belonging to the Hatyai Shooting Association (HSA), roughly 50 minutes from our hotel in Songkhla.
The indoor range boasted a decent set of ‘pew-pews’ – from Glock 17s to Colt .45s, and .357s. Sadly, the 9mm Beretta M92F – my favourite – was not available.
Popping off rounds downrange was satisfying in more ways than one, and Aqif showed a knack for raining hot lead on target. Quite impressive for a 15-year-old who had never handled a weapon before.
The highlight of the night was when the Captain inadvertently left his Vespa keys in the underseat storage bin of his scooter. Fortunately, he had given me a spare set for safekeeping – for precisely the situation we were in.
Unfortunately, I had left his keys in my hotel room, which required Pravin and I to make the 39km run – through rush hour dinner traffic – back to the hotel, grab the keys, and dash back to the shooting range.
Worse still, my carefully calculated ‘fuel ladder’ was now all but useless. I had gone way past my ‘bingo’ fuel limit and was now in real trouble...
Editor’s note: This is the third of Haris Hussain's four-part series. The final article will be published on Jan 28.
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