Driving to Thailand from Kuala Lumpur is a fun family bonding activity

The writer and his brother stopped by Kellie’s Castle in Batu Gajah, en route to Hatyai, Thailand. — PHILIP WONG

It has been a long time since my family and I went for a holiday in Hatyai in Thailand, even though it is “only” about 500km from Kuala Lumpur. But the pandemic had stopped us from travelling overseas.

When my eldest brother, Pak Tiing, said that he had some free time last October, we quickly arranged to go on a road trip to Hatyai. However, we didn’t want to rush our trip. After all, we had about 10 days of holiday time so we decided to check out some of the interesting places and towns along the coastal road and the north-south highway.

Our first stop was Klang, a town famous for bak kut teh, among others. My brother and I love bak kut teh so we ordered some. After our hearty meal, we drove to Kuala Selangor for coffee and toast, at a Hainanese kopitiam before continuing our drive to Teluk Intan, Perak.

There, we saw the Leaning Tower, which is said to be more than 150 years old, and a few other landmarks. We drove to Sitiawan using the new highway; what a breeze it was cruising through.

Sitiawan is a Fuzhou or Foochow town. We felt quite relaxed in Sitiawan – where we spent our first night – as many folks here spoke the same dialect as my brother and I.

The writer (centre) with this brother and the owner of the yam rice stall at Bukit Mertajam.The writer (centre) with this brother and the owner of the yam rice stall at Bukit Mertajam.

The next day, we drove to Kampar and went past the Tunku Abdul Rahman University (UTAR), one of the largest universities in Malaysia. We went to Ipoh after that, a beautiful historical city with plenty of tourist attractions like Concubine Lane. We had some chicken rice for lunch as Ipoh is very famous for this dish.

After filling up, we drove to Kellie’s Castle located in Batu Gajah, about 30km south of Ipoh. Built by William Kellie Smith for his wife, Kellie’s Castle is a popular attraction, especially among local tourists.

Our next stop was Taiping, which is in the north of Ipoh. Taiping is a lovely, quiet town but because it was a public holiday, there were plenty of people around that day. Still, we managed to check out the famous Taiping Lake Garden and relaxed there for a while.

We drove all the way to George Town in Penang after that, and visited the famous Teochew cendol/ais kacang stall at Penang Road. It has been many years since we last visited this stall so it was quite a surprise to see such a long line of people there!

We also went to Penang Hill. Standing at 712m above sea level, it is the highest point on the island. We spent the whole afternoon on the hill to enjoy the cool temperatures and panoramic views of George Town.

The next day we arrived at Alor Setar in Kedah. This is an interesting city so if you ever visit, check out Masjid Zahir, which is said to be more than 100 years old.

When we finally arrived in Hatyai, there were not as many tourists around as I had expected. Hatyai used to be a favourite destination for many Malaysians because it is so close to the border. However, I think that the place needs a bit of sprucing up now.

Hatyai is still a nice place to go to, though, as people are generally friendly and accommodating. We enjoyed our stay there, even though it was short.

When it was time to drive back to KL, we decided to first stop as Sungai Petani in Kedah. This was our first time visiting this town so we tried to check out as many attractions as we could. There was the clock tower in town that’s said to be built in 1936. Next to the clock is a building with a unique architecture.

I do think that there are too many shopping malls in Sungai Petani, but that’s just me.

When we left the town, we passed by Bukit Mertajam in Penang and decided to make our final stop here before driving all the way back to Petaling Jaya. We tried Bukit Mertajam’s famous dish – yam rice. Apparently, you can only get this dish in this town. It was delicious and truly a memorable way to end our fun road trip.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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