26th October- Kota Bharu to Narathiwat- 68km – Into the danger zone…

Having taken the advice of a bar man, Malaysian Ant and Deck and a bloke we met in the pub, we decided to enter the danger zone. We thought it was best to get an early start just in case we needed to turn around and come back again, so for once we were on the road before 9 am…

Once out of Kota Bharu, the cycle up to the border was very pretty, winding it’s way through Malay villages, past some beautiful mosques as well as a gigantic Buddha (which we had been looking out for, but needn’t have, because there was no way you could miss it!). Thankfully we had had breakfast at a Chinese restaurant in town, as the Muslim Eid al-Adha Festival meant that everything was shut. This also meant that we got to witness a number of roadside cow slaughtering sessions on our journey, which were occurring as part of the festival. Luckily we never actually saw the slaughtering itself just the newly dead cow or the cow tethered to the tree enjoying its last grassy meal.

We had decided to cross at the smaller Tok Bai river border crossing (rather than the overland & larger Sungai Kolok) as the cycle there was nicer and 40 km shorter (and Jess had decided the bomb threat would be more minimal here). Having arrived at the Malay border and located immigration there was a worrying moment when we were told the ferry wasn’t running because of the Muslim holiday. But there was a boat… Initially this caused some confusion – Surely the boat was the ferry?! After some discussion we established that this wasn’t the case & that the boat in question was a small motor boat which was running pedestrians over the river that day but no cars or Mopeds, and therefore we might or might not be allowed to take our bikes onto it.

It took some hunting around before Sam found the pier for the boat, officially entering and leaving Malaysia a couple of times, but it was eventually located and it turned out they were happy to take us and our bikes (for a small fee).

Monk strimming


If we thought we had been confused on the Malay side this was nothing compared to the Thai side. Having got off the boat & been greeted by the sight of 5 soldiers with massive guns (the first confirmation that we had entered the danger zone) we assumed we were in the immigration area and could get our stamp and be on our way pretty swiftly. Maybe it was meant to act as some kind of deterrent for any silly foreigners who think it’s a good idea to enter Thailand here, but the boat seemed to drop us off at a random jetty on the bank of the river & not at immigration… We spent the next half an hour looking for immigration (eventually finding it half a kilometre down the road & deserted until you went around the back of a building in the sort of place you normally expect them to keep the bins) then queuing for about 15 minutes to then find out we needed to fill in a form, then queue again, then (and only then) could we have our stamp – all in an area that gives off a general vibe of “it’s best to get out of here as quickly as you can”.

Finally stamped and legally allowed into Thailand we set off on the 40 km cycle up to Narathiwat, which went pretty smoothly, given the 6 army checkpoints we had to go through, the general presence of soldiers all over the place and the distant sound of gunfire at one point which also acted as a good way to get Jess to cycle faster…

Sadly there are no photos of the rest of today, as we were worried about drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves… something we seem to have a bit of a knack of.

Narathiwat seemed very friendly (if mostly shut) and we were lucky enough to bump into our third fellow cycle tourist of the trip, in the form of Bob in a local cafe (where we had a delicious noodle soup-YUM!). The fact that he had cycled this route a number of times would have done a lot to reassure us of our safety, if it hadn’t been for the number of horror stories he recounted. We would breathe a small sigh of relief when he would say things like “It was much worse when I came through last time, there were loads of attacks going on then”, and then retract that sigh when he would finish with “and that was in June.”!

Oh, we also got some Thai SIM cards for our phones, for which we were a bit surprised to find we not only had to have our passport photocopied and signed, but also give our fingerprints. Bob pointed out that this is because they use them to set bombs off…

After that we spent the rest of the evening in the hotel… Still, it was very nice to meet you Bob, hope you made it safely to Malaysia.

3 thoughts on “26th October- Kota Bharu to Narathiwat- 68km – Into the danger zone…

  1. My memory isn’t as good as I thought and I just found your blog today, thanks to google. It was really good to meet you in Narathiwat and I’m glad you made it out of the south fine. I am sorry though to hear that your bike was stolen but I hope that everything gets back on track soon. Good luck, and I look forward to continue reading your blog as things go on.

    • Hi Bob! Well done for finding the site, I’d love to know what you put into Google to find this site! Hope you didn’t have any trouble getting through. Let us know if you’re heading north at all in the next few months and maybe we’ll bump into each other again. Have fun!

      • I just did it again, Narathiwat+bicycle and yours was the second result.

        I will catch up on your journal now that I refound it. I was just in Narathiwat a couple days ago on the way back from Kota Bharu. Seems Ok down here.

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