Thursday, April 30, 2009

We are in Thailand now

This morning, we cross Changlun (Malaysia)/Sadao (Thailand) border. This border Crossing was very easy. The custom officer asks for car log book and owner's passport. It takes us 45 minutes in total. Then, we drive 500 Km to Khao Lak Beach, Pheng Nga. Khao Lak was one of the areas of Thailand hardest hit by the tsunami resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

This is a shot taken in Sadao, looking back into Malaysia border

After crossing into Malaysia from Second Link, Singapore .....

First night we spend at Ipoh, the capital of the state of Perak. It is approximately 600 km north of Singapore via the North-South Highway. Ipoh was a vibrant city characterised by the night life in 60’. With the collapse of tin prices and the closure of the tin mines in the late 1970s, Ipoh's growth had stagnated and resulted in the migration of many young talents to other parts of Malaysia and Singapore. A Taxi driver told us the same thing. Ipoh has since been known colloquially as a "dead" city. Ipoh is not the same as I used to know. We stay at Regalodge Hotel with is situated in the heart of Ipoh City. It costs us RM118 (SGD50) for a twin room. There is no life around the hotel. The receptionist at the hotel reminded us to be careful if we are taking a walk at night.

Way past dinner time but where are the customers?

We are told that the most famous dish from Ipoh has to be Bean Sprout Chicken (芽菜鸡) with Sar Hor Fun (rice noodle). One famous store is at Covent Street which is 5 minutes from the Regalodge Hotel. What is so special about this dish? We ask. The Hotel manager said that it is the Bean Sprout which is short and fat and tasty. Unfortunity the shop closes on Monday. Too bad! Next day, we find a stall in this coffeeshop. It is good. For a plate of Beam sprout, a plate of chicken and two bowls of Sar Hor Fun costs RM16.

Second night, instead of staying in Kangar, we choose Kuala Perlis which is the second largest town and the main port of Perlis state of Malaysia. It is most northern state of West Malaysia. We are attracted by a Signboard advertised by T-Hotel. With the help of GPS, we arrive at T-Hotel. For a twin room with two breakfast, the price is RM79 (SGD33). We arrive at sunset and took some pictures. Kuala Perlis is where you take the ferry to Langkawi. T-hotel is just opposite the ferry terminal.

Beautiful sunset at Kular Perlis Beach......

"Being close to the sea, fish is very fresh here" T-Hotel receptionist says. “You can try Ikan Bakar, Malay style or Steam Sea Bass, Thai style”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Off we go

On 27th April, Neo Chian comes to my house in his Pajero early morning. We go through the checklist to make sure we have loaded everything we want to bring. After we finish, we still have time for a couple of photo taken.

Pretty neat packing, isn't it?

We have packed our gears into 6 boxes. Each of us has one for personal stuff, one for car maintenance kits like spare fan belt, engine oil etc., one for books, maps, reading materials, one for food stuff and one for miscellaneous like portable cooking stove.

We have supporters sending us off ! Thanks for coming guys.

At 9.15 am, Gemma officially flag us off with a scarf from Thailand. This scarf is a gift from my son. He got it from a recent Tri-althelon meet at Ngon Khai, Thailand. This scarf will bring Good Luck for our trip.

Off we go... Neo Chian and I are officially on our way to 66 days of unique experiences of our life. My goals on this trip are finding good value in local accommodation, local food of the town, nice scenery and take nice pictures and share in my blog.

We plan to arrive Kangar in Perlis state on 28 April and cross into Thailand on 29 April, Wednesday morning..

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We are all set to go...

Starting point: my house at Sunrise Way, tomorrow 9 am.
Ending point: Neo Chian’s house at Springleaf Drive, 66 days later

We would like to thank the following persons/companies for turning our idea into reality..

Li Hoon and Gemma
The wives are our strongest supporters. “You two make a good team on the road” Li Hoon said. “If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?” Gemma said. With their full support, the decision to go on this trip was easy to make.

Quek Bee Lan
For her help in liaising with various embassies and agencies at her own time in getting all these permit approvals, visas, support letters at such a short notice. To date, we have obtained all paperwork except for Vietnam. We expect to get the approval before we arrive at the Cambodia/Vietnam border.

William Lyou and Leslie Chang
For their advices and assistance in getting the car ready for the rough and tumble of the trip and useful tips of driving under challenging weather conditions.

Meryl Koh
Despite her own heavy work schedule, she did a lovely logo of “Asean-on-Wheels” for our trip. We have proudly displayed the stickers on the Pajero.

Cycle and Carriage
For checking the Pajero and providing sponsorship for the trip. In particular , Benjamin Khoo and Jalani of the Mitsubishi Service Centre at Alexandra Road for basic maintenance training and using of various tools. They are very responsive and helpful in answering our questions.

Yeoh Siew Hoon
For helping to frame the concept of Asean on Wheels and setting the blog.

Shell company
For sponsoring engine oil

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Plan

Even though this is a FREE AND EASY trip with no fixed schedules along our route, it Is still essential for us to make plans of our Intended journey.

This trip will take more than 2 months long, 66 days to be exact. The Woodlands and Second Link Border crossing into Malaysia we know very well. We are familiar with Malaysia/Thailand border. Once we move north into Thailand and beyond, we will be on unfamiliar grounds. The first thing to find out is which border crossing we would take when traveling from one country to another. Before this planned trip, border crossings are just border crossings. We have no idea how complicated or tedious crossing these borders can be using foreign car. For permit applications, we have to state which border crossing to take and also have to fix tentative dates for these border crossings. We begin to read more about these border towns. Now the various names of the border town become familiar. To aid our planning, we use Lonely Planet Guide books. The information and tips provided in the guide books are very useful. It gives us an idea of what to expect at the crossing. We are told to cross the border first thing In the morning. This gives us ample time at the border to deal with unexpected delay even though the paper works are in order. We look forward to experience these border crossings in foreign car and will share our experience when we cross these borders.We believe the ease of border crossing will definitely promote tourism within Asean countries. We shall see what's happening at the borders.

1. Singapore/Malaysia Border Crossing : Second Link/Gelang Patah

2. Malaysia/Thailand Border Crossing: Kaki Bukit/Padang Besar

3. Thailand/Laos Border Crossing: Nong Khai/Vientiane

4. Laos/Cambodia Border Crossing: Voen Kham/Dom Kralor

5. Cambodia/Vietnam Border Crossing: Bavet/Moc Bai

6. Vietnam/Laos Border Crossing: Tay Trang/Dien Bien Phu

7. Laos/Thailand Border Crossing: Friendship Bridge/Nong Khai

8. Thailand/Malaysia Border Crossing : Padang Besar/Kaki Bukit

9. Malaysia/Singapore Border Crossing: Johor Bahru/Woodlands

We know planning is a mental process of implementation before it actually happens. Planning provides us with an idea of how we would like to accomplish our goals. A good plan helps us to deal with unexpected events calmly. Some people say "plans are meant to be broken". Other say "plan your work and work your plan" for effective execution. Well, we know our plans are bound to change as we go along. We have to deal with unforeseen circumstances pop up at the least expected. This plan will serve as a guide for our journey. It will be interesting, at the end of our trip to see how much changes we need to make and how often Mr. Murphy comes by to say hello.

Our itinerary and proposed route:

1. Malaysia, 3 days; Ipoh, Alor Star
2.Thailand, 5 days; Khao Lak, Hua Hin, Sukhothai, Nong Khai
3. Laos, 4 days; Vientiane, Tha Khaek, Pakse/Voen Kham
4. Cambodia, 10 days; Dom Kralor, Kratie, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kep, Bavet
5. Vietnam 19 days; HCMC, Dalat, Hoi An, Hui, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Tay Trang
6. Laos, 10 days; Luang Prabang, Vientiane
7. Thailand 9 days; Chiang Mai, Chiang Lai, Tak, Ko samui
8. Malaysia, 6 days; Kota Bharu, Taman Negara, Kuantan, Merseng

The Plan is to leave Singapore on 27 April, 2009 and return by 30 June, 2009.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The idea of traveling on wheels

Two months ago, my good friend Lim Neo Chian asked me if I would like
to be his co-driver for a ROUND –THE –WORLD-ON-WHEELS trip in a year. I like the idea of doing things differently from the norm. By this I mean traveling on conducted tours where all logistics are already taken care of. I turned down Neo Chian’s offer for two reasons. Firstly, though I like the idea, I am not sure if I can “last” one year on the road . Secondly, being a novice, I might not have the experience nor ability to deal with the unknown and uncertainty. However, I am prepared to do a regional, shorter trip to test my interest.

One month later, Neo Chian armed with the Atlas and books came to my house and proposed a revised project, ASEAN ON WHEELS, PART ONE, in two months. He planned to travel to all the Asean countries. Due to the geographical layout of ASEAN, he planed to do it in stages. He wanted to navigate the Indo China countries first, then East Malaysia and Brunei, followed by the Philippines and Indonesia. I knew how serious he was when he came in his newly purchased Mitsubishi Pajero.! We exchanged some ideas and touched base on the plan. After a few meeting, I msut admit I was getting excited. Finally, I accepted to be his co-driver for Asean On Wheels – Part I. We will travel through Malaysia – Thailand – Laos – Cambodia – Vietnam – Laos – Thailand – Malaysia – Singapore from 27th April to 30th June, 2009. We have deliberately
omitted the detailed planning of each country we will be visiting as we want it to be a FREE and EASY way to see these countries. Ideally, we would like to have a group of 2 cars for this venture. However, we were unable to find another team in short notice. We decided to go ahead.
I will share what we see along the way in this blog and hope that you will like it. If you have a location you feel we should visit, or anything else which you would like us to find out during our journey, post your comments to me. No promises! If it is along the way, I would be happy to explore and share our findings. Visit Neo Chian’s blog at