Category Archives: Thailand

Wadil-Husen Mosque And Around Naratthiwat…

…The Kota Bharu Road Trip Day 2 – Songkhla to Kota Bharu.

Thanks to wanting to get out of the hotel as early as possible – a story I’ll cover in a later article – I was on the road bright and early. And bright it was.

For a long way the road running down to the border is very close to the sea. With super-clear skies, the almost horizontal sunlight was reflecting off the water and up into the atmosphere, giving the air an eerie blue tint, and producing long shadows. I stopped early for breakfast at one of the ubiquitous Amazon Cafes that seem to accompany every PTT gas station. One large cappuccino and one large slice of sticky chocolate cake later, I was in a better mood and heading down to Naratthiwat.

Before the town I made a U-ey and a quick exit off the main road to find a 394 year-old wooden mosque, built without nails…

thailand, travel, naratthiwat, wadil-husen mosque

thailand, travel, naratthiwat, wadil-husen mosque

thailand, travel, naratthiwat, wadil-husen mosque

The Wadil-Husen mosque is somewhat different than the ultra-modern Central Mosque I’d visited in Songkhla the previous day. It was quite busy with visiting school children, and to be honest, there isn’t a lot to see, so I was only there thirty minutes or so. But I did have a quick nose around inside…

thailand, travel, naratthiwat, wadil-husen mosque

thailand, travel, naratthiwat, wadil-husen mosque

thailand, travel, naratthiwat, wadil-husen mosque

So, with one more thing crossed off the must-see-on-this-trip list, I headed into Naratthiwat town, negotiated its tiny streets, and found myself in a park near Narathat Beach…

thailand, travel, naratthiwat

thailand, travel, naratthiwat

Nice park, and nice beach…

thailand, travel, naratthiwat

thailand, travel, naratthiwat

It all looked very similar to where I used to live in Sichon, so I guess the whole 500km-plus eastern coastline is much the same.

After that it was time to head down to the border. That was easy, except for one thing. All the way from Songkhla there were police checks/road blocks about every five kilometers. Sometimes every few hundred meters. It was very much a go-go-stop-go-stop kind of drive. And with the heavily-armed police and army personnel, armored vehicles, tanks, huge piles of sand bags, and with machine guns pointing in directions I’d rather they had not been pointing, it was a bit unnerving. But I guess they were there for my, and everone’s protection.

Now, I must admit, I had no idea what to expect at the border. This was the first time I was crossing from Thailand to Malaysia by land. On-line there were many differing stories of how easy or complex it was, and how you needed little or lots of paperwork. So, I had multiple copies of anything I could think of that a Customs or Immigration officer might ask for, and was ready to hand over the registration book, insurance, passport, drivers license, visa documents or whatever.

I had deliberately chosen a border crossing close to Kota Bharu, so that in a worst case scenario, I could leave my car in Thailand, and take a cab into the city. One quirk of this particular crossing at a place called Tak Bai, is that the border runs down the middle of a river, and you need to take a small car ferry to cross…

thailand, travel, naratthiwat

As it turned out, everything was super-simple and I needed no paperwork other than my passport. Every booth I stopped at I was just waved through. But, sitting in line to drive onto the ferry, it occurred to me something wasn’t right. I was about to leave Thailand, but had no exit chop in my passport, and I still had the Departure Card which somewhere along the way I should have surrendered. So, I quickly went inside the only office I could find – which turned out to be Arrivals not Departures – and explained the problem. “Doesn’t matter” I was told, and was hastily waved out.

So, I tootled across the river and drove straight into Malaysian Immigration. The officer looked in my passport, looked some more, carefully checked every page, three times, and eventually decided I had to “Go to office.” Once I found the right place I had to talk to an important officer in an important office, who decided I had to talk to a more important officer in a more important office.

“Where’s your exit chop?” was the gist of the conversation. I explained why I didn’t have one, and politely asked why it mattered. “How do we know where you’ve come from?” he asked.

At this point I could feel a bad dose of sarcasm welling up, which wouldn’t have been well accepted, and so kept quiet. But I felt like saying “I either just drove off that tiny car ferry from Thailand, or I swam 300kms across the South China Sea from Cambodia. And look, I’m not out of breath, and I’m not wet.” Staying quiet was a good plan, don’t you think?

Instead, I dutifully took the ferry back to Thailand, persuaded someone to chop my passport, and took the ferry back to Malaysia, where all was now well with the important, importanter, and not so important Immigration officers. It was all very cordial, but wasted a couple of hours. I had the impression the ferry doesn’t move until it’s full.

wwiForty minutes later, money changed, and with watch wound one hour forwards, I was outside my hotel in Kota Bharu.