2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Concluding Thoughts

Today we completed the final leg of our 2017 road trip to Thailand. The whole trip- 3133km covered over 18 days, burning 191 litres of diesel at an economy of 16.4km/l with an average speed of 67km/h. It has been an utterly memorable and enjoyable time, although there were certainly some minor hiccups along the way. Here are some of my concluding thoughts about our journey:

(1) Time as a Family – Even though this was our 3rd road trip, this was the first time we embarked on this trip without a helper accompanying us. Throughout the 18 days (except for our time in Krabi where we had our brother-in-law’s family with us), it was just the 5 of us in the car, and we had to manage everything on our own. Although, this was more tiring on our part, it made for a more meaningful trip. Credit also goes to our daughter for stepping up her game to help take care of her two younger siblings.  She also helped with some of the housework at Cameron Highlands where we did not have housekeeping service.

(2) Official Theme Song – this year, the most requested and repeated song in our collection was 小宝贝, or “Little Precious One”. My wife and I first heard this song when we visited China’s Yunnan province last December, and all the shops were using this song as their in-house entertainment. The song is simple and catchy, even though it is in a minor modality. The kids kept asking for this song to be played when we were on our long drives, and we had to constantly put it on repeat mode! Click below to hear the song:

(3) Conflicting Feelings – Whenever we approach these long drives, I always ask myself if I’m crazy… Why in the world am I doing this? Why don’t we just book flights? But once we embark on our long road trip, I’m always like… this is amazing, I need to do this again next year!! It is a wonderful love-hate struggle. For me, I realise that the journey is more important than the destination. I love to see the sights and scenes along the way. I love that the drive gives me time to think, to reflect about my life.

(4) Bring Everything You Need – One of the best things about doing a road trip is that you can bring whatever you want without having to be restricted by baggage limits and aeroplane rules. Ok, almost anything. We are blessed that we have an MPV with the luxury of a big boot, and for this trip we really took advantage of it by throwing everything behind… diapers, inflated swimming floats, shopping, everything!

(5) Plans for Next Year’s Drive – After doing Phuket for the past three years, we have decided to aim for Bangkok next June. It should take only one extra day of driving. Anyone wants to join us??

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Click here to read from the beginning of my 2017 SG-TH blog series.

Click this link to read my three part blog post from 2016 where I detail everthing you need to know about preparing for a Singapore – Thailand road trip.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

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2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Novotel Melaka, Malaysia

Ever since this hotel opened, it has been our regular place to stay whenever we are in Melaka. We like it for many reasons:
(1) Location – the location at Melaka Raya is excellent, in close proximity to the main malls of Dataran Pahlawan and Plaza Mahkota. There are also plenty of delicious dining options in the shophouses around the hotel, as well as convenience stores and massage parlours. 

(2) Facilities – the rooms are well decorated and furnished, and the hotel has great swimming pools for adults and children. Beside the swimming pool there is a playgroud for the kids to enjoy. There is also a good fitness centre and a decent kids play room. The kids enjoy themselves here! The hotel environment is also tastefully done up and effort is put in to decorate the hotel premises for different festivals like Christmas or Hari Raya.

(3) Price – You can’t find another hotel in the vicinity this cheap with this level of service. Value for money, especially if you book your rooms during the regular Accor Hotel sales.

There are some things which can be improved:

(1) Breakfast – the quality of breakfast can be improved. It is also hard to find a table as the restaurant is perpetually packed during breakfast time. 

(2) Elevator management – the way the elevators are programmed is a little strange, and during peak periods it can be hard to find a vacant elevator to go up or down. 

(3) Maintenance – with the popularity of the hotel, some of the room furnishings and quickly showing signs of wear and tear. These issues need to be more carefully addressed by the management. 

Overall Rating – 8/10

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Click here to read from the beginning of my 2017 SG-TH blog series.

Click this link to read my three part blog post from 2016 where I detail everthing you need to know about preparing for a Singapore – Thailand road trip.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 11 – Crossing back into Malaysia

Alas, how time flies. It is time to pack our bags and make our return trip back into Malaysia. 
Time for one final group photo for memories sake, and we set off on our 400km journey from Krabi back to the Thai Malaysia border. 

Thank God for good weather and a smooth drive, except for having to emergency break and swerve to avoid hitting a dog who decided to have a sudden dash across the highway.  

The border crossing was also straightforward. Just drive your vehicle directly to the immigration booths:

Slip in a one ringgit “tip” into every passport. After getting your passports stamped, proceed to the next booth to sign and return your vehicle import form. 

After clearing the Thai side, drive up to the Malaysia immigration where each adult might be required to place two index fingers on the biometric scanner for identification. There is also the payment of RM3.60 via the Touch N Go card. Thankfully, no RM20 entry fee required here.

After successfully clearing the customs, we said goodbye to my brother-in-law’s family- They will be headed back to Singapore while we will extend our stay for a few more nights at Cameron Highlands and Melaka.

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Click here to read the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH blog series where I share about my leaking tyre experience halfway on the drive up Cameron Highlands. 

Click here to read from the beginning of my 2017 SG-TH blog series.

Click this link to read my three part blog post from 2016 where I detail everthing you need to know about preparing for a Singapore – Thailand road trip.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 3 – Jitra to Phuket

For all of our long road trips to Thailand, the entry into Thailand via the Sadao border crossing has always been the most harrowing part of the journey. This year proved to be the most frustrating year, even though it was our 3rd time. 

We set off from Jitra at around 8.30am and even though there was rain, we had a smooth journey to the Malaysia half off the border crossing at Bukit Kayu Hitam. As in previous trips, we made a short stop to settle our Thailand 3rd party vehicle insurance at the Duty Free Complex at “No Man’s Land” in between the two immigration complexes. We paid RM33 for 19 days coverage. 

Similar to last year, we parked our car on the left hand side of the road just before the Sadao immigration complex. There is no more big carpark as they are building the new immigration complex where the big carpark used to be. (After one year, they are STILL building?!?) 

We then got the empty immigration cards as usual from the first office on the building on the left. Filled them up and lined up to get our passports processed. After lining up for 20 minutes, we finally reached the front of the queue. However, the immigration officer refused to attend to us as we lined up at the “VAN / BUS” queue instead of the “CAR” queue. Even with three kids in tow, he insisted that we line up on the other side where the “CAR” passengers were supposed to queue up. The past two years, we never had this problem, I’m not sure why this year they were so particular about this. 

Without a choice, we went to queue up again on the right hand side at counters 7 and 8. There were only 2 queues, and ours unfortunately took an eternity to clear. It must have taken us another hour and 20 minutes standing there. In the mean time, on the “VAN / BUS” side, there were empty counters with immigration officers waiting there without people to attend two. I’m not sure why they didn’t open up more counters for the “CAR” people. Thankfully, the vehicle customs clearance was more straightforward. 

All in all, it took us 2 hours to clear the Sadao border crossing. CRAZY. 😛 

Once into Thailand, we proceeded to our normal lunch spot at Tesco Lotus Sadao, where the delicious food at the Pizza Company undid the damage of our lousy Pizza Hut dinner the previous night at Jitra. We did some grocery shopping and changed currency, and set off for Phuket.

This year, we took a slightly different route, following the Number 4 road turning left towards Trang, then Krabi, taking a coffee break at the outskirts of Krabi town at an Amazon Coffee outlet at one of the Petrol Stations. The great thing about this route was that it was a much smoother drive with dual carriageways for almost the entire journey and not that many rough country roads.

Making good progress, we then proceeded towards Phang Nga and crossed into Phuket Island at 6:30pm Malaysia time (5:30pm Thailand time).

Not surprisingly, the kids were extremely happy to finally arrive at the Phuket Marriott Beach Club. It is going to be a great week here as a family!  

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Click here to read the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH blog series about our time at the Phuket Marriott Beach Club.

Click here to read from the beginning of my 2017 SG-TH blog series.

Click this link to read my three part blog post from 2016 where I detail everthing you need to know about preparing for a Singapore – Thailand road trip.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 1 – SG to KL

Ever since our first Singapore – Thailand road trip in 2015, we have made this a yearly affair for our family. For our past trips, the first day was a 800km drive from Singapore to Alor Setar at the north of Peninsular Malaysia, but this year, we decided to go easy on ourselves and break this into two legs. This means that for our first day, we have an extremely manageable 330km drive.

We set of at 7:40am on a Friday morning, and was blessed to have completely no traffic at the Woodlands border crossing. The North South Highway was also extremely smooth and we made it to our rest stop at 10am for brunch at Restoran Jejantas Ayer Keroh, a few kilometres past the Bandaraya Melaka exit.

After brunch, again it was a smooth drive for another 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach our destination for the day – Ibis Styles Fraser Business Park, KL. Was extremely nice to have the whole afternoon to rest and chill and to prepare ourselves for the longer drives that are coming up the next 2 days!

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Click here to read the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH blog series where I share about my near miss along the NSE.

Click this link to read my three part blog post from 2016 where I detail everthing you need to know about preparing for a Singapore – Thailand road trip.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

2016 Road Trip from Singapore to Thailand – Day 2 – Crossing the Border at Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao

This is the second part of my blog series that details our road trip from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand and offers some advice to would-be travellers who might like to attempt a similar journey. The first part can be found here.

This leg of the journey from Alor Star to Phuket is the exciting one, especially because it takes many of our Singapore drivers out of our comfort zone. We have to cross an unfamiliar border at Bukit Kayu Hitam (Malaysia side) / Sadao (Thai side). We also have to grapple with road conditions quite different from what we are used to along the brilliantly well-maintained North South Expressway (NSE) in Malaysia.

The border is not open 24 hours, only from 6am – 12 midnight Singapore/Malaysia Time. No point going too early anyway, cause many of the shops that do the Thailand 3rd party vehicle insurance do not open so early (There could be some that open early, so if you have the info do let me know).

The Thailand 3rd party insurance is quite cheap (less than SGD$15 for 19 days of cover) and can be done at the following places:

  • Shops in Changlun, before the Malaysian immigration
  • Duty-Free complex, in no-man’s land between the Malaysian and Thai immigration
  • Shops in Sadao-Dannok, just after the Thai immigration

For my first trip last year, I got my insurance at Sadao-Dannok, and this year at the Duty-Free complex. Both are quite fuss-free but they were not open in the early mornings. I think around 9am Malaysia time is fine, but I’m not 100% sure about this. The immigration officials didn’t seem that interested in looking at my insurance papers though, so you might be able to just get your passports chopped and settle your vehicle customs first, then worry about getting the vehicle insurance done.

Now we will run you through the actual border crossing process, which should take around 1 to 2 hours depending on the crowd:

The Bukit Kayu Hitam immigration on the Malaysia side is relatively simple, and quite like what we are used to at Tuas or Woodlands. Just drive straight to the booth and hand over your passports. No real issues here.

The Sadao immigration on the Thailand side is more messy and confusing. You will need to park your car somewhere along the road just before the customs compound which you can see in the photo below (The big carpark to the left of the immigration compound is gone! I believe they are working on building a new immigration complex. Once that is done then things will change again.)

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Sadao border crossing

You also need Thailand immigration cards, which you can get for RM2 per card at the Duty-Free complex in no-man’s land (please don’t get fleeced here like I did!), or for free at the Sadao border at the immigration office inside the building on the left side. They are likely to only give you one card per passport so be prepared to show the passports of everyone in your party.

Fill up the immigration forms and queue up at one of the immigration counters to get your passports chopped. These immigration counters are all over the place, so if you are observant, you can actually find one with a much shorter queue. At the immigration counter, please be prepared to pay (a bribe?) of RM1 or RM2 per passport. Last year we “acted blur” and got through without having to pay this at all. This year I was charged RM2 and my wife and kids were more fortunate to be charged RM1 per passport at their counter.

After you get your passports chopped, you need to line up at the counter shown:

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Customs booth for the temporary import of your car into Thailand

There are two parts to this counter, the first one to get the temporary vehicle import form (where you see people queuing in the picture). Here you will need to present your vehicle log card printed from onemotoring (to prove that you are the legal owner of the vehicle) as well as your chopped passport.

The second booth is immediately after the first one where they will chop the form, and you will have to sign on it. They will hand you one copy of the processed form and will keep one copy for themselves. Please do not lose this form because if you do you will have trouble getting your car back through the customs when you return from Thailand!

After getting all this paperwork done, you can get back to your parked car and proceed to drive through border crossing. As you drive through, the border police will check again that you have your vehicle import form done.

Once all this is done, welcome to Thailand!

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After the Sadao border

Click here for Part 3 of this series which touches on the driving conditions in Thailand from Sadao to Phuket .

Finally, my wife and I also enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 1

This blog post details our road trip from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand and offers some advice to would be travellers who might like to attempt a similar journey. This was our 2nd time making the long drive to Phuket, last year we did it in our aging Kia Cerato. This year, it was certainly a more comfortable ride in our new Peugeot 5008 MPV (Clean Diesel). We had 6 people in the car, my wife and I, our three kids aged 6, 4 and 2, and our domestic helper. I was the sole driver – having another driver in the party would have been good, but we didn’t have that luxury. This means that I have to manage my own physical state, and make sure that I am well rested every night before a long drive and to take breaks at the R&Rs or Petrol Kiosks whenever I’m feeling tired or sleepy.

My preference for epic road trips is to cover ground more quickly on the drive up, and to take things easier on the way back. This translated to taking the trip to Phuket in two legs, stopping one night in Alor Star. On the way back to Phuket, I planned for three legs, stopping at Alor Star and Malacca. The reason for this is mainly psychological. On the way up, you want to get to your destination as quick as possible to enjoy the fruits of your labour. On the way back, morale can be quite low as your holiday is drawing to a close, and therefore extra stop-overs can soften the blow of having to face reality!

The most important things you need to prepare for the trip:

  • Your passports
  • Enough Malaysian Ringgit and Thai Baht to get by, and lots of Singapore Dollars (I brought S$500 worth of MYR and THB and S$6000 spare in SGD for my 17 day trip)
  • Car log card printed out from onemotoring (This is crucial, you are not getting into Thailand without this!)
  • Send your car for a thorough servicing just before the trip. Change your tires / car battery if need be. You definitely want to minimise the risk of breakdowns and the trouble of finding a workshop in a foreign land.
  • GPS with Thailand maps loaded. (I had two GPS units for my trip, good to have one spare!)
  • Hotel bookings done with hotel coordinates loaded into your GPS.
  • Travel insurance / vehicle insurance with coverage into Thailand. This is optional but recommended. Do note that you will still need to purchase Thailand 3rd party vehicle insurance at the Thai border, but this does not cover any damage to your own vehicle.
  • Touch-and-Go Card to pay Malaysia toll fees. (you need about MYR110 to cover the tolls one-way from Singapore to the Thai border)
  • Hours of good music (to keep your spirits up and to keep you awake!)

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Day 1 – Driving from Singapore to Alor Star 

This is a long long drive, especially for those who are not used to driving long distances. It is important that before you even attempt a drive of this distance (800km), you should build up your driving stamina first. For me, it was a gradual process of going further and further into Malaysia before I had the confidence to undertake this drive. I would recommend you progressively extend your range with one-day drives to Malacca, KL, Ipoh, and Penang, especially if you are the sole driver like me! If you have a co-driver, it makes things a lot easier and you have the benefit of taking a break while your partner takes the wheel.

Always set off early, the last thing you want to do is to begin a 800km drive with a hour long crawl at the Causeway or 2nd Link. For this trip, we managed to pull everyone out of bed at 5am, loaded the car and set off around 5:30am. We were rewarded with a smooth drive through both Singapore and Johor customs by 6am.  I always like driving along the North-South Expressway (NSE) in the early mornings. Traffic is sparse, with a lower risk of being held up due to accidents or police checks.

A few main points to take note of along the NSE:

  • You start off on the E2 from Johor to KL (either via the E3 if you are enter Malaysia through the 2nd Link at Tuas, or via the E14 Eastern Dispersal Link if you use the Causeway at Woodlands)
  • On the E2 around the 285km mark, take the Exit 214 onto the E6 towards Putrajaya / Cyberjaya / KLIA. This will take you around the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur avoiding the jams in the city.
  • On the E6 around the 22km mark, take the Exit onto the E1 towards Ipoh / Alor Star.
  • Along the E1, watch out for grey speed camera at 375km mark on the left of the road.

If you are making good progress, I would recommend having lunch at Ipoh. Our favorite lunch stop is Tim Sum at Foh San in Ipoh, but some would argue that the standard of food there has dropped and there are better options around Ipoh. If you want to save time, just grab lunch at any R&R along the way.

For this trip, we made good progress, and managed to catch a quick breakfast at KFC at a Shell station at the 15.5km mark along the E6 after we topped up on Euro 5 Diesel. Moving on, we arrived at Foh San in Ipoh around 12 noon.

After lunch, it is only a three hour drive to Alor Star. Just be careful of the roads through the hills just after Ipoh which feature some sharp bends and can be quite treacherous especially in wet weather.

Our hotel of choice for the night is AST Hotel in Alor Star which is reasonably priced with clean rooms and a good location near to Alor Setar Mall where you can find a good place for dinner. Besides Alor Star, other possible options for a night’s rest are in Penang or Changlun.

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Click here for the next part of this blog series which details the Malaysia-Thailand border crossing at Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao.

Finally, my wife and I also enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!