Congratulations to John on the selection of his well-travelled MX-5 as the April MX-5 of the Month!
Boot-packing in Thailand
Why go to Thailand?
Singapore is too small to fully enjoy the MX-5. From one end to the other it takes a driver less than half an hour, on an island the size of Washington DC. Therefore, for a year since purchasing the NC, I’ve gone many times into my northern neighbor’s country and covered lots of places in Malaysia. Together with previous forays, I reckon I’ve explored more than 80% of Malaysia and it is a beautiful country. Good friends in the northeastern Malaysian states used to cross the border into Thailand’s Narathiwat province for food and drives and I’ve always wanted to do that too. However, in the last few years, unrest in that state and Yala and Pattani have destroyed that dream. I then learnt that crossing the Thai border at the end of the Malaysian North South Highway into the southwestern part of Thailand was hassle free. So one September day, I drove across the border into Thailand and returned safely and with that experience, decided to do more.
Is it safe?
9 out of 10 friends tried to dissuade me from going but they have never driven there themselves. The few who encouraged me with positive comments were the ones who have driven there before. The only warning I had was not to drive at night, as the truckees would be king of the roads in Thailand. From this trip, I would say that driving in Thailand is no different from driving anywhere else and in fact could be safer than even Malaysia. In all my travels in Malaysia and Thailand, I have not had one “angry face” incident. On the contrary, it was smiles everywhere I went as folks just loved to see this cute mx5 up close and personal or was it this cute old man traveling alone so far from home? Incidentally, I am 63years old and retired. As for night driving - no problem too. Sometimes I had to drive at night as darkness closes in early at 6 pm unlike Singapore and Malaysia which have set their clocks one hour ahead giving them extra day light in the evenings.
There are excellent roads as well as very bumpy ones. Roads in the north are better. They are not so well maintained in the south. Most roads are straight, minimum 2-laned dual carriageways. Looking at a map of narrow and elongated Thailand, you will see why the roads are so straight in a north south direction. The best road I traveled on was central Thailand’s Highway 11 from Phitsanulok to Singburi (80 km north of Bangkok). It was a brand new smooth 2 laned dual carriage highway heading for miles into the horizon with very few vehicles on it. It was 200 kph, evening, top down drive for long stretches. By the way, there are no tolls (except to the new airport) and no speed traps in Thailand. So go as far as you want, and as fast as you want. No fear of costly tolls and fines. Petrol costs only slightly more than Malaysia. Very roughly, 1 litre of petrol is US $1.20 in Singapore, US $0.55 in Malaysia and US $0.70 in Thailand. (editor's note: that's about $4.50, $2.08 and $2.64 per US gallon)
So cheap!!!! US $12 per night gets me a clean and decent motel room which I preferred as it allowed me to park my car outside my room for easy boot packing. In the mornings, I was able to give my car a good wash before setting off for the day. I also tried a “love motel” in Bangkok in Papingkao again for US $12 for the night. You drive into this huge darkened 2 storey complex. Torchlights will guide you into a motel slot and immediately, a heavy curtain is pulled to cover your car from prying eyes. The rest is up to you including the use of a “love” chair which I did not use as I was indeed alone! Believe me! I did get up on the chair though but I don’t think I will use it ever as it was so uncomfortable especially for bony people like me, metal rods on shin bones don’t aid love making!
Thai food is simply delicious. I suppose many of us know that. You just can’t go wrong ordering almost anything from any stall – so yummy, at least according to my palate. Not knowing Thai, I just point and eat. And so cheap – 40 cents for a bowl of beef rice noodle as an example. No stomach problems and I was not too careful either. The thing I would miss most after this trip would be real Thai food.
You lose your way often and you add an additional 2,000 km to your total trip. Mai peng rai! No worries. Never mind. Where you are is where you want to be anyway. The destination is not important. It is indeed the journey that matters. Traveling solo has great advantages – you can only quarrel with yourself and make split second decisions to turn left or right without having to consult. Lunch can be forgone or an apple from your storage bin will suffice. What freedom! No convoy to lead. No convoy to explain to for getting lost. No waiting for anyone or causing anyone to wait for you.
In all, I covered 8,000 km in 19 days in Thailand, up north, down south, west and then east and then round and round, knowing where I would be only a few hours ahead. It was almost as if it depended on which way the wind was blowing.Highlights of my trip were:
That’s all folks. Will go explore further up north next year. Sawatdeekrup!
|Only 473 km to Yangon. Very tempted to go on but …|
|… I didn’t want to pay USD10 and …|
|… you have to drive on the right hand lane, not left as in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and also I had zero knowledge of the country ahead. Next time???|
|The Thai border town of Sangkhlaburi...|
|...and the pedestrian crossing across the river that I had to find based on the Lonely Planet entry which served as my travel bible.|
|Hopped on a car ferry and got to Koh Samui. I stayed in a resort on this beach.|
|This is my resort from the beach and to make it really mine, Jacques wanted to sell his paradise on earth to me for US $1,000,000.|
|"My" resort from my balcony.|
|The resort is next to Hinta Hinyai, a “must-see” tourist site on Koh Samui. Why?|
Will you be next?