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!

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!

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 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!