The Thai-Malaysian border posts
Thailand and Malaysia share quite a few borders. Some of them are very well known and often used, others are not. The ones you know very well are Padang Besar and Sungai Kolok (both railroad crossings). Others which are less used are Satun for the ferry to Langkawi and the highway border at Bukit Kayu Hitam, you will use this border if you travel from Hat Yai by bus or car. So, let's see what other borders these two countries share and why you would want to consider using them.
Here is a full list of border crossings:
Road crossings (Thailand - Malaysia)
But why would you consider to use one of the lesser known crossings? The answer is easy: explore the unknown, go where few travelers go! So, let's see, you have cycled from Krabi down south and you're now in Satun. You have several options. The more obvious is to take the ferry to Langkawi but I would like you to invite to check another option.
Wang Prachan/Wang Kelian
One of the least known borders between Thailand and Malaysia is Wang Prachan/Wang Kelian. Travelers hardly use it although it used to be used for people living in Thailand who need a visa extension (visa run).
The border is located 41 km from Satun. There's no public transport available from either Satun or any other place.
If you are in Satun, take the road to Chalung, 13 km from Satun. Pass the junction to Trang/Krabi and keep an eye for a sign "Wang Prachin" border crossing, about 1 kilometer further.
There are two roads, 3005 and 4184. It doesn't matter which one you take, you will anyway end up at 4184. This road swindles around the hills through little villages and eventually to Wang Prachan.
The border is surprisingly busy with locals traveling to and from Satun/Chalung and Kangar. On the Malaysian side you may see some minivans bringing people away.
If you cycle from Satun, you will first enjoy the valley with the national park around you. After about 2 km you'll start to climb up. This climb is 2 km long and not too difficult. However, if you come from Kangar (Kaki Bukit), the climb is much steeper. Sceneries on the way are at points spectacular.
From the border it's a another 45km to Kangar. And in Kangar you can decide to continue to Kuala Perlis to take a ferry to Langkawi or continue to Alor Setar.
Padang Besar or Durian Burung
Let's say, you're in Hat Yai and you want to continue to Malaysia. Of course, you can take the main and busy road to Sadao and the junction to Padang Besar, cross the border and cycle the next 35 km to Kangar. This is a good trip, an easy border crossing and convenient. However, there's another option you may want to consider: Durian Burung.
This junction is located a bit further east but still within the reach of Hat Yai. Again, take the main road out of Hat Yai to Sadao but cycle only to Khlong Ngae, which is 28km south of Hat Yai. Take the junction #42 to Yala and continue 29 km to Na Thawi.
There's a few little hills to pass but it won't hurt your legs. Na Thawi is basically a junction village. Get some water and food here before you decide to cycle the #4113 south. There will be no directions until the very last few kilometers. Now, March 2014, the road to the border is properly paved.
It's a very pleasant, if not scenic road with little traffic. The border itself is very quiet. When I passed, there was no one else. Both Thais and Malaysians were very friendly though (to my surprised) not surprised at all to see me.
Once crossed the border the landscape changed quickly. Instead of the villages on the Thai site with agricultural lands around me, I was now in a complete empty land almost as far as the eye could see. The next village of any importance was Kampung Padang Chenerai, already 15 km or more into Malaysia. The first town where you can find accommodation is Kuala Nerung.
There's a hotel in town. If you come from Thailand, pass the town center and look for the hospital on your left. Take the junction and follow this road for about 1 km slightly uphill. The hotel, Terap Inn (04-7860639) has aircon rooms for RM 80 is on your left hand.
Kuala Nerang can be a good point to explore Lake Pedu, 35km east or you can simply go west to Jitra ad Kangar for the ferry to Langkawi. Alternative you can take the direction south which lead to Alor Setar. There isn't a whole lot to see here in this part of Kedah but it's quiet and very pleasant cycling.
Betong - Pengkalan Hulu
The Betong border is quite popular for local Malaysians who during the weekend come to Betong for some cheap shopping. Betong is located in the far south of Thailand at the very end of the #410. I don't think there is one town further south in Thailand than Betong.
I would recommend to cycle the #410 from (Hat Yai to) Yala to Betong if you have no desire to visit langkawi. I've been many times to Betong, find it pleasant enough to spend a day or 2 and explore the surrounding as there is plenty to explore. You can read more about Betong here.
The town center is 9 km away from the actual border and it's Malaysian counterpart: Pengkalan Hulu is another 7 km away. If you consider this road, stay in Betong a night as Pengkalan Hulu has little to offer. Both Betong and Pengkalan Hulu have hotels but the Thai hotels are typically cheaper.
Continuing into Malaysia is easy: Penang is 100km westwards away, Kuala Kangsar is 145km south (but you can spend a night in Gerik which is also the entry city for taking the East-West highway to Kota Bharu.
Ban Buketa - Bukit Bunga (East coast)
This junction is also not much known to travelers. It is however a useful junction if you either come or want to go to the East West highway and spend a night in Jeli (several hotels on the road and one in town). The reason you may consider this border crossing is just saving time. The Sungai Kolok-Rantau Pangjiang foreclosing might be bigger but if you are planning to cycle the East West highway, you will have to make a few more kilometers. It's the only reason to come here.
If Kota Bharu and the east coast are your target area, you better use the Sungai Kolok-Rantau Pangjiang crossing.
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