Since the September school holidays are fast approaching, we are writing a throwback post on the craziest road trip we have gone on in our lives.
Back in 2014, when Matthias was 3 months old, we were dying for a holiday since it was December. We didn't want to shop for winter clothing and weren't too confident with long flights. I have been to Phuket 3 times before this road trip by plane thinking it is an Island disconnected from peninsula Thailand. Google maps proved me wrong and showed us we could do a road trip to Phuket by road!
Going by road means that you are not limited by any liquids rule or by overloading your luggage. The limit will be how large your boot is! We dumped the steam steriliser, Matthias' mattress, bottles, milk and toys all into the car for this trip!
All within an afternoon, all the planning and hotel bookings were done (This was a crazy bold decision!). Phuket is a very popular destination and is in high season between October and December. Try not to visit during May to July because monsoon rains are in full swing and you won't get to enjoy the beaches.
Some things we did to get ready before driving to Thailand:
1. Make sure you recently did engine servicing and everything is in good working order
2. Make sure all tire pressures are optimum
3. Top up the PLUS toll card for use in Malaysia (250RM should cover the return trip)
4. If you are taking your baby along, bring sufficient toys, milk, clean bottles and boiled water
5. A secure carseat for children
6. Print your vehicle log card from www.onemotoring.com.sg (Login with Singpass)
Printing a copy of this is COMPULSORY to purchase your vehicle insurance for Thailand and clearing your import permit with border officials in Thailand (if you are not the owner, please prepare a an authorisation letter with your name to prove you are allowed to drive the vehicle to Thailand)
7. Get enough RM and Baht in cash ready for fuel stops. Some remote petrol stations may not accept foreign cards.
8. Update your satellite navigation device's map.
If you are running mobile data to use google maps, do try to download certain areas on your phone to save data overseas. Sign up for overseas data plans or rent a portable router to save on data charges!
THE 17 HOUR DRIVE
We decided to do a night drive and set off at 10pm so that we can arrive at the Malaysia- Thailand Border early in the morning. The Woodlands-JB checkpoint was also less crowded.
I drove all 17 hours by myself because I was the only licensed driver. I thoroughly enjoyed the long quiet drive in the dark through Malaysia with almost no traffic on the highways because we set off at night. Debra and Matthias slept through most of the night while i enjoyed a nice speedy ride. The perks of bringing a 3 month old on such a road trip is that they only need MILK, SLEEP and DIAPER change! The constant movement of the car is amazing for lulling any baby to sleep!
The car had a tiny fuel tank so we stopped 5 times to refuel. It gave me time to have a quick bite and drink to stay alert during the trip. Make sure no one has to hold their pee! It is one of the most miserable things on a road trip! I stopped once for 15 minutes in a small town somewhere in south Thailand to take a short nap to ward off the ZZZ monster. Safety first!
Advice for drivers: we tend to drive on the right most lane and feel like we are entitled to be there once we hit the max speed limit i.e 80 or 90km/h. Things are quite different in Malaysia and Thailand. When you are in a foreign land, do as the locals do. Even if you are doing 160km/h and see someone flash their lights behind, get out of the way! They can be doing 240km/h and being rear-ended at such high speeds can end in tragedy for everyone. Many south Thai roads (Especially from Phang Nga to Sarasin bridge that links the mainland to Phuket) are very windy single carriageways! Do be alert and don't take turns at very high speed because you can't see what is on the other side of the bend! Pay extra attention because Thai drivers tend to speed.
We crossed from Malaysia to Thailand via the Sadao Border. (Opens at 6am, closes 10pm GMT +8)
Before you cross, do these:
1. Fill up your petrol tank to the brim. Petrol in Malaysia is highly subsidised and is much cheaper than Thailand's
2. At your last filling stop in Malaysia, the petrol stations near the border offer Thailand car insurance and immigration cards (they ask for 2RM a piece). Do fill them all up before u get to the border.
3. Print two copies of the TM2/3 conveyance forms here (these are for the temporary import of a foreign vehicle into Thailand) They will stamp both copies and return one to you. That is the one you have to submit when exiting Thailand. . KEEP IT SAFELY. THERE IS A HUGE FINE for losing it!
4. Don't be perplexed when the immigration officer asks for money. They usually ask for 25Baht for the driver and 5 Baht for each passenger. Just pay up.
5. After passing the immigration and having your passports chopped, do pass by the customs building to settle your vehicle import documents.
6. Adjust your watches 1 hour backwards. Thailand uses the GMT+7 time zone.
I bit off more than I could chew and drove the entire 1350km journey to Phuket in record 17 hours including 5 refuels and snack times. The crazy journey took us on the entire length of the north-south highway passing by, Malacca, KL, Perak ,Penang and Kedah. Settling all the paper work, we got past the Malaysia-Thai border and drove past Hat Yai, Trang, Krabi and Phang Nga before finally crossing a bridge onto Phuket Island. You don't have to be as ambitious as I was to take the entire journey at one go. Stopping by Penang to rest for a day would be great! Back in 2014 we drove our trusty old Nissan Latio all the way without a sleepover stop. It is amazing we survived all this with a 3 month old on board!
More on the time in Phuket itself and the perks of taking your car to Phuket in our next post!
If you enjoyed this post do check out:
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Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.