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 10 – Extended Family Fellowship

Going on a road trip is fun, but having your extended family around to share the experience with you is double the fun!

Our previous two Thailand road trips were on our own, but this year, we managed to get my brother-in-law’s family to join in. Although they couldn’t be with us all the way, we arranged to meet them in Krabi for our three days here. 

We had a great time together! 

My brother-in-law was the person who inducted us into the joys of these long distance road trips. We have so many fond memories of our first road trip together 12 years ago when we tailed his car as we drove together as a convoy to Melaka. At that time, the 200km journey was an adventure to us. Fast forward 12 years, we have ventured on our own further and further north to satisfy our wanderlust, to KL, then Ipoh, then Cameron Highlands, then Penang and then to Phuket. 

This year, we finally did it together again as an extended family, and what a pleasure it has been! Two family units with a kindred spirit, both with a love for the sense of freedom that goes with the pleasure of the long drive. 

Yesterday, I went for a refreshing morning jog with my brother-in-law along the beach. It was great to spend that time with him against such a pretty backdrop of the ocean, the beach, the cliffs, and the islands. 

Today, we brought both our families to Tesco Lotus to shop and eat, and we came back for a nice swim and massage. We ended the day with a dinner in our hotel room, playing Uno, chatting and watching TV! Brings back memories of group chalet stays in our younger days. 🙂

This is truly an amazing way of bringing family and friends together, to give the time amd the platform for the young cousins to bond. Isn’t this what life should be all about? 

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Click here to read the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH blog series where I share about the journey from Krabi back to Malaysia.

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 2 – KL to Jitra

day 2 drive.pngToday’s leg was a 453km drive from KL to Jitra. We normally put up in Alor Setar but this time we wanted to try the LSH Resthouse at Jitra which is further north and closer to the Thailand border.

On the way up towards Ipoh, we witnessed a 4 car pile-up in front of us which forced me to do an emergency brake on the fast lane of the highway. Thankfully I was alert and I avoided ramming into the car in front. This was a stark reminder of the potential dangers when taking these long drives. Always look two or three cars down the line, this will give you more time to react to emergencies. If you only brake when the car immediately in front of you brakes, sometimes this will be too late to avoid a nasty accident. I’m extremely grateful that we managed to avoid the crash, it would have spoiled our entire holiday!

Ipoh, at just about the halfway point of today’s drive, was a good spot to stop for lunch, as always. This time we didn’t go downtown for the Dim Sum, but settled for fast food at the outskirts of town.

The drive after lunch was a scenic one, amidst mountains and through a tunnel. We managed to arrive at Jitra in good time, around 4 pm.

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Click here for the next installment of my 2017 SG-TH blog series which details our interesting experience at the Sadao border crossing.

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!

Sofitel Sentosa

This hotel is a wonderful place to seek refuge from the hustle and bustle of Singapore city life. As Accor Advantage Plus members we enjoy two free nights across the Accor range, and there is probably no better place to utilise these complimentary nights than here in Sentosa. You will enjoy beautiful sunsets amidst an idyllic setting where peacocks roam freely at poolside. The service and food is of top quality and the rooms are spacious and comfortable. My only complaint is that one night here passes all too quickly!

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!