Hungary Winter Drive – Matra Mountains

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We found the snow!

So after we came back from our recent Hokkaido trip, my daughter was pretty envious at our son’s experience playing in the thick snow at Niseko. We felt that we had to make sure that we find some snow for our daughter somewhere in Hungary. After consulting our trusty Google search, we found out the most likely place for this would be the Matra Mountains, which are part of the North Hungarian Mountains where practically all of Hungary’s highest peaks are located. Matra is located about a 110km drive to the East of Budapest, and we felt that this would be quite manageable getting there and back within a day. Besides, we were all still jet-lagged and woke up like 4am that day, and therefore could set off early!

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We took a leisurely drive out of Budapest, enjoying the beautiful sights around town in the early morning. We got ourselves onto the M3 motorway without much fuss, and even had a nice breakfast at McDonalds where we were very grateful to see the familiar self-service terminals with an option to order in English!

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Grateful for the English Menu

The menu options were also refreshingly different to what we are used to back home in Singapore, but needless to day, my daughter happily went for a Happy Meal with a Powerpuff Girl toy!

Another observation we made that morning at McDonalds was that they serve very nice tea! You have an option of quite a number of flavours and infusions and the tea was delicious!

After breakfast, we proceeded on our way, and my wife said a quiet prayer to ask God for some snow for our daughter.

Sure enough, as we approached the foot of the mountains, we saw some little snowflakes float down from the sky, and our daughter started getting super excited! Pretty soon, the whole landscape turned white, and we looked for the first safe place to park the car and let my daughter out to play!

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The suspicious girl playing outside the driveway

We found a little corner to park, just outside of someone’s house in the middle of nowhere. If the owner had seen us there, they must have found us to be rather strange, like what are these people doing parking out here and frolicking in the snow? Yes, this is what happens when you live in a country without the four seasons and you see snow for the first time in your life!

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We drove around for a bit, but we couldn’t really find a good place with a good view. However, just the experience of driving through a highland forest with the bare branches laced with snow was enough to get our daughter into a frenzy and put a large smile on her face.

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Some really beautiful and rugged winter scenes

Pretty soon, with the temperature dropping and the chill setting in, we tried to find a place for a meal, but we found that most of the restaurants in the mountain villages were not open at this time of the year.

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A mountain village centre

Our daughter started becoming very quiet and shivering in the snow, and we knew it was time to get her inside the car and to make our way down the mountain.

We ended up at a Tesco hypermart at the foot of the mountains, and we were rather surprised to find a Chinese food court there serving up some really cheap and tasty Asian fare. By the end of our trip, we were bemused to find that every single Tesco we visited had a Chinese food court inside, and always at the right front corner of the store just after the entrance. Very interesting. I think the service staff was also surprised to see us, and we overheard them guessing and debating what ethnic background we were from. I guess they don’t see many Chinese people in these parts. 🙂

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Chinese eateries dominate Tesco’s

So mission accomplished, and the interesting thing was that as we were driving back along the motorway, it was snowing heavily. The fields that were green and brown when we made our way towards Matra in the morning were now turning white as we made the return journey back towards Budapest. God has an interesting sense of humour, and he always seems to answer my wife’s prayers. 😛


This is part 5 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 6 where I share about our visit to Szekesfehervar, Hungary’s “City of Kings” and its capital in the Middle Ages!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. 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 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

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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!


Here are the links to the other parts in this Blog Series:

Reviews of Hotels and Restaurants:

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 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series