Mumtaz Indian Restaurant, HCMC

After a six year absence, we are finally back in Ho Chi Minh City enjoying our favorite Indian restaurant Mumtaz along Bui Vien. This restaurant has been a must-try ever since our first visit years back and it brings back so many happy memories of our early years of travel as a married couple. The food is always of a high standard and the service excellent. 

For tonight’s meal, we ordered the Rogan Gosh, Bhindi Masala and Chicken Madrasi with a Garlic Naan and Butter Naan. The food was delicious, with generous portions of meat, cooked to perfection in terms of texture and taste! This place really lives up to its high ranking on Tripadvisor. 

Summary:

– Chicken Madrasi Curry

– Mutton Rogan Gosh Curry

– Bhindi Masala Curry (Lady’s Finger)

– Spices, Papadom, Ice Water

– Bill: VND317,000

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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 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!

 

10 Diapers

Theoretically today is a rest day for our Myanmar trip. But I’ve been kept extremely busy by Alethea because of her bad tummy. She pooped 10 times! Goodness, I’ve never seen her poop like she pooped today. She’s also pretty tired and moody, itching from her poor insect bite on her leg. Its times like this you wonder whether you made the right decision to bring her along on the trip. But I do believe it was the right thing to do. I want her to see the world. How others are not as lucky as we are in Singapore. I want her to be a bit more adaptable and more open to different experiences. So far, it hasn’t been a bed of roses for her here, but she has been slowly adapting to the new environment. She still hasn’t been very open to the local chilidren, acting a bit strangely towards them. At least she has been mixing with the kor kors and jie jies on the trip. Well, lets give her some time. It also took her some time to get used to the childcare centre, and I’m sure with some time and some perseverance, she will overcome her fears and insecurities. I believe in her, that God has a plan and a purpose for her life, and I pray that she will walk into the will of God. God is preparing her, and she needs to walk this road set out for her.

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