Earlier in June, my family and I successfully completed a road trip from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand, and then back again. The trip took us – myself, Vinitha and Lydia – 17 days to complete, journeying across south and central Thailand, as well as the southern gulf of the Andaman sea, covering 4,599.9km.
The places we visited in Thailand were Hat Yai, Sichon, Surathani, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Ratchaburi, Kaeng Krachan, Phetchaburi, Chumpon, Kra Isthmus border, Phang Nga, Phuket and Phi Don. We had the idea to go on a road trip even before the pandemic, but of course, like everyone else around the world, we had to put it on hold for a few years.
Once the borders reopened, we started planning again. We chose to go to Thailand as we thought that would be the best destination for the three of us. This was our first time going on such a long road trip, so we didn’t want to venture too far from home.
Planning wasn’t easy at first – even figuring out where we wanted to go took a long time. But once we got into the spirit of things, ideas and decisions came to us much easily.
Since all three of us were beach lovers, we were set on driving along the coast of Thailand. We also knew we only had 17 days to spare for the trip, so we made sure to research all the pit stops that we would be making on our journey so as not to waste time. We were adamant on not driving at night either, unless really necessary, for safety reasons.
We also set our driving distance to no more than 400km a day.
Above all, we promised ourselves not to be upset if we couldn’t go to some of the pit stops, or visit certain attractions because getting to the day’s final destination would always be our top priority.
We started our trip from KL at 5.30am, as we had to arrive at the Malaysia-Thailand border up north in time to collect our insurance papers for the journey. We had arranged for an agent to help with the paper work in advance, so that we only needed to pick up the documents. By the time we got to the border, it was already noon.
At the Malaysian immigration, the officer took some time to check our documents, and we explained why we were going to be in Thailand for 17 days. He smiled, and let us through. At the Thai immigration – Sadao Customs – things also went smoothly and we were warmly welcomed.
We drove to a restaurant for our first meal in Hat Yai; we were so happy to be in Thailand. We ended our first day visiting the Stainless Steel Temple and the clock tower for a good view of the city.
Our second day was long and tiring, yet also exciting. We checked out early from our hotel and double-checked our route for the day. We were headed to the Don Sok Pier at Surathani and had already mapped out our way. But, the Waze app had suggested a different route, while Google Maps showed an easier and more scenic way. We followed the latter.
At the pier, we boarded the ferry with our car, and sailed to Koh Samui. This was a fun experience for us. When we got to the island it was already late in the afternoon, so we took it easy and went for a nice stroll at the Fisherman’s Village, where we bought lots of food and interacted with the locals.
We stayed on the island for two days, visiting attractions like the Lamai View Point, Big Buddha and Muko Ang Thong National Marine Park, where we got to see an amazing view of the surrounding islands from the top of a hill. This was really worth the tiring trek it took us to get there.
We also joined a Thai cooking class, which included a visit to the local market. The chef showed us how to prepare dishes like pad kra pao, tom yam and pad thai. By now we had also learnt a few Thai words, in our effort to communicate with the locals better.
After Koh Samui, we travelled back to the mainland and drove all the way to Hua Hin, a beautiful seaside town. On our way, we met some lovely people and chatted with them.
The next day, we continued our journey to central Thailand to get to Pattaya, where we spent the next three nights. We visited the Sanctuary of Truth, the Tiger Park and night markets, and even went on a para-motoring experience. We had been eating lots of pad kra pao since arriving in Thailand and we could tell that there were differences in the way they made it, but we loved all of them.
On the ninth day we drove to Ayutthaya for some historical exploration, visiting temples like Wat Phanan Choeng Worawihan, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Phra Mahathat. After that, we went to Bangkok and visited even more famous temples like Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan (also known as the Golden Buddha), Wat Po (Reclining Buddha temple) and Wat Arun. Of course, we also did some shopping in Bangkok.
On Day 11, we drove to Petchaburi and checked out a coconut farm, a shrimp farm and some villages, before arriving at Kaen Krachan to check into a resort, where we stayed in tents. Locals suggested that we go to a “UFO” restaurant for dinner – it was actually an American-style diner with good food and music.
The next day we went to Chumpon and the drive there was lovely as we passed through the countryside. Along the way we saw a wood-carving shop so we stopped to buy a few souvenirs.
At Chumpon, we enjoyed great local coffee at the Khao Matsee View Point. The people in this town were very friendly and helpful. This place is definitely worth a visit.
After Chumpon, we made our way to Phuket. We passed by the Kra Isthmus marker, which is the Thailand-Myanmar border, and it is just by a river. We could see Myanmar across this river.
Before reaching Phuket, we went bamboo rafting at Phang-Nga, an amazing experience for us. We also went to Phi Phi Don, where we hired a long-tail boat for ourselves. The boat captain was very accommodating, and he assured us that we would enjoy our time snorkelling and swimming, as well as exploring the beaches and caves there.
We went to Phuket Old Town the day after to feast on some delicious food and check out the malls. This was followed by a visit to Cape Phrom Thep, Ya Nui Beach, Windmill View Point and Karon beach. The weather was really warm so we ate lots of mango ice cream to cool down.
As we drove to the Thailand-Malaysia border on our final day, the Thai immigration officer asked us what we had been doing for the past 17 days. As we told her our stories, she started smiling and we could see that she, too, was happy that we enjoyed our experience.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.