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 – Day 8 – Phuket to Krabi

Today’s drive was a comfortable 150km journey from Phuket Mai Khao Beach to Krabi Ao Nang. This felt so leisurely compared to our other legs and we were able to thoroughly enjoy the wonderful scenery around us. Take a look at the video we took of part of our journey : Video Footage of Drive from Phuket to Krabi

We stopped for lunch at KFC at a petrol kiosk in Phang Nga, and after that it was an hour long drive to Krabi.

The rocky hills in this area come in such weird and wacky shapes and sizes and very different to what we see elsewhere.

The route is also much improved from last year. Although some portions were still under construction, all the devastating potholes were gone and we had a comfortable smooth ride the whole way through, mostly on dual carriageways.

Upon arriving at the outskirts of Krabi, we dropped by the Tesco Lotus outlet for some shopping. I bought myself some disposable contact lenses to replace the spectacles I lost yesterday because of my waltz with the waves at the beach. We also replenished our supplies of groceries.

We then arrived at our hotel the Ibis Styles Krabi Ao Nang at around 3.30pm.

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Click here for the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH Blog Series where I share about our adventures at the famous Tiger Cave Temple.

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!

Siam Deli, Marriott Phuket Beach Club, Phuket Thailand

After attending the Marriott Vacation Club members update talk, we were given THB4000 worth of Food and Beverage Vouchers to be used at any of the resort’s restaurants. We decided to try out the Siam Deli Restaurant after reading the positive reviews on Tripadvisor. 

To be honest, the prices of the food here isn’t cheap, and if not for the vouchers, we probably wouldn’t have even tried this place. 

We ordered a Lamb Rogan Josh, Fish and Chips, JW Marriott Burger, and two kids meals – Spaghetti Alfredo and Mini Beef Steak. 

Generally speaking, the food was okay, but unfortunately at these prices, our expectations were much higher. The adult meals were of a better standard, but the kids meals were not very good. The kids spaghetti had no ingredients whatsoever and was practically just pasta with cream sauce. At THB180++ surely they could have at least put in some mushrooms or ham??

The whole bill came up to THB2036, which frankly we would be able to find much better at much cheaper, even at the nearby Turtle Village.

Ratings:

Lamb Rogan Gosh (8/10)

JW Marriott Burger (6/10)

Fish and Chips (7/10)

Mini Beef Steak (6/10)

Spaghetti in Cream Sauce (2/10)

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 4 – Marriott Phuket Beach Club

It was good to have a relaxing day to chill at the resort after driving long distance for the past 3 days. What we love about the Marriott Vacation Club timeshare is that it gives us access to 5 star accommodation at extremely low prices. There is also the feeling of familiarity that we are coming back to our 2nd home. After a long road trip, that is certainly something to look forward to. The facilities are also great, with an excellent kids club with lots of fun activities to keep the kids entertained and occupied. The gym is great too, with free rental of bicycles, board games and DVDs and fun activities for teens and adults too! 

The two bedroom apartment is spacious and fully equipped with kitchenette and dining room, which allows us to prepare delicious home cooked meals, saving us money and allows us to not to eat out all the time. 

We know that timeshares get an extremely bad reputation at times, but we believe that if you keep an open mind and do your sums, you will find that there is some value in what they offer. The key is to find one that can be trusted, and we believe that there is no better timeshare than what Marriott offers!

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Click here for the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH blog series where I share about my misadventures at the beach.

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!

Seoul Grill, Tesco Lotus Thalang, Phuket, Thailand

Had a great dinner at Seoul Grill at the Tesco Lotus Thalang shopping complex. We wanted a change of cuisine from fast food and Thai food and we were attracted by the great price of THB349 per adult and THB155 per child for a wide buffet spread of grilled meat, Korean, Japanese and kids-friendly options. Sure enough the kids loved it and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly as well, there was something for everyone and free flow drinks and desserts too!

The icing on the cake was that they omly charged us foe one kid and our two younger kids were on the house! Highly recommended!

Rating: 10/10 (All you can eat in 90min, value for money, good spread of food with something for everyone) 

Total Bill: THB853 for two adults and one child, with two younger kids on the house!

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 2 – Driving Conditions from Sadao to Phuket

This is the third 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 and the second part here.

In this part of the blog series, we will share about the experience of driving on Thailand roads from the Sadao border to Phuket island.

Firstly, after crossing the border, it is a good time to find a place to eat brunch or lunch before doing the long drive to Phuket. For families especially, a great place to fuel the stomachs would be at Tesco Lotus, Sadao which is just down the road after the Sadao customs towards Hat Yai on the right hand side of the road. Parking is free but as you enter the car park be prepared to show your ID (Passport or Driving License is good) to the security officer to “scan” at the camera. Within the building, you will find family friendly eateries such as KFC, MK Restaurants and The Pizza Company in a comfortable air-conditioned environment. Our eatery of choice for both our trips was The Pizza Company which serves delicious pizzas, pastas and kids meals great for the whole family! (Much better than Pizza Hut, trust me!) This is also a good place for you to stock up on groceries for your trip.

From Sadao, it is another 5-6 hours drive to Phuket, depending on how fast you cover ground. I would recommend you to drive conservatively while getting used to the unfamiliar roads and traffic habits of the Thai drivers and riders.

There are 4 main types of roads you will experience along the way. I will run through each type here:

1. Urban roads through Towns / Villages

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Urban Roads

These urban roads could be single or dual lane roads and are generally fine, except that you need to look out for cars and bikers that weave in and out without signalling. Also, you will routinely get motorists who will completely ignore traffic lights at intersections so do watch out. Don’t assume people will stop just because they have a red light on their side.

 

2. Dual Carriageways with a Central Divider on Major Roads like the Route 4 / AH2

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Dual Carriageways

After you get out of Sadao and make a left turn just before Hat Yai along the Route 4, you will be driving along a well-maintained dual carriageway for about 3 hours. Although the road doesn’t possess the finesse of the Malaysian NSE, it is a pretty good road to drive on and you should make good progress because overtaking is relatively straightforward with two or more lanes going each way. The only thing you will need to look out for along this stretch is traffic (especially motorcycles) suddenly shooting out from the side roads on the left as well as from the central divider on the right. Don’t be surprised that these motorcycles can come out from the central divider whether or not there is a legitimate U-turn point in-between the two carriageways. Sometimes the motorcycles can seem to suddenly come out from bushes and trees in the divider so you have to be alert. You will also get motorcycles (and sometimes cars!) coming at you in the wrong direction at the left side of the road.

 

3. Well-maintained Country Roads

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Country Roads

After the long stretch along the Route 4, you will proceed onto single-lane single carriageways for much of the remaining journey. Most of these are well maintained, but you do have to watch out for the following:

  • Super-slow Vehicles. Some motorists are operating on a different time-line and paradigm to you and will be taking their time crawling along and clogging up traffic, causing a long train of other vehicles to form behind them. Do overtake but only when safe to do so.  When you are overtaking, please check your right mirrors and blind spot to make sure that there isn’t another car coming from behind that is already trying to do a SUPER OVERTAKE.
  • Undulating roads in the hilly regions. These can be very deceptive because it may seem like a clear road up ahead, but there could be cars coming in the opposite direction which are completely invisible because they are hidden behind the curvature of the slope ahead. Don’t be presumptuous when you are trying to overtake along such roads because you could end up in a nasty head-on collision. Even when you are not trying to overtake, you might find that the cars in the opposite direction are trying to do so, so if you cannot see so far ahead because of the curvature of the hill, it will be prudent to slow down a bit to give you the chance to react if there is an emergency situation.
  • Sharp bends towards the left or right. These can be quite sudden and take you by surprise, so please don’t assume you can safely take all curves at the speed limit stated on your GPS.
  • Animals. Look out for dogs, cows and other animals that might be crossing the road or having a leisurely afternoon stroll.

 

4. Uneven Dirt Roads or Unmaintained Tarmac Roads with Potholes

There are some roads like these and we didn’t take a picture because we were too busy moving to the rhythm of the bumps. Just google “thailand roads with potholes” and you will find images of these suspension killers. These roads are nasty especially when coupled with heavy rain, puddles and mud. My advice here is to go slow and save your car from damage. Additionally, you should look out ahead for changes in the colour of the road surface because this could indicate the possibility of an upcoming pothole or of rough surface and give you some advance warning to slow down.

 

Arriving in Phuket

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Scenic drive around Phang Nga

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Arrival at the JW Marriott at Mai Khao Beach

With the kids sleeping in the car after lunch, I did not stop at all from Sadao to Phuket – a straight 6 hour drive. This can be potentially back-breaking, so do take a break and a coffee at the petrol kiosks along the way if you have to!

Enjoy the scenery especially along the roads around Phang Nga, these are really gorgeous scenes with lovely hills and cliffs. The view from the bridge crossing over to Phuket island is also a breathtaking sight so soak it all in! There is a security check at the gateway to Phuket just after the bridge, but you do not have to get out of the car and passports are not required. Just smile at the security officers as they give you a quizzical look at your Singapore registered vehicle.

We arrived at the JW Marriott Hotel / Phuket Beach Club at Mai Khao Beach at around 6:30pm local time, with a sense of achievement and looking forward to a great time at the resort! Mai Khao Beach is at the tip of Phuket and so if you are moving on deeper into the island towards Patong or Kata Beach you will need to give it another 1 hour on the road to arrive at your destination.

I drove to Phuket AGAIN in 2017. You can read about my exploits from the link below:

Read about my Drive to Thailand in June 2017

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 Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

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!


2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series