On the road to the Land of Smiles

On the road to the Land of Smiles
Throughout Thailand, directional signs on all major roads and highways are in Thai and English

Many of my friends and I have been driving to Thailand regularly to take in the sights of the Land of Smiles.

The Thai/Teochew food in bustling Hat Yai is a highlight, and the 775km of seemingly unending stretches of Malaysia's North-South Expressway (NSE) makes it a real joy ride.

Pass the paperwork

For those planning a road trip to Hat Yai, note that you need a photocopy of the computer printout of your car's registration. If the car is not registered in your name, get a letter from the owner authorising you to take the car into Thailand.

Next, check whether the car insurance policy covers you up to Hat Yai, which is 56km from the Malaysian border. Many insurance companies will extend the geographical coverage to include Hat Yai and beyond, but you need to pay.

Take the insurance certificate with you on the trip. I start early to avoid possible congestion at Singapore's Tuas and Malaysia's Tanjong Kupang checkpoints. After clearing the Malaysian checkpoint, I am on the Second Link Expressway and it's an effortless drive along this dual carriageway.

At its northern end, it merges with the North- South Expressway that goes all the way to the Thai border. Although it is possible to reach Hat Yai by evening on the same day, it is better to break the journey and spend the night in Ipoh, 556km away.

I normally make two stops for a petrol fi ll-up, refreshments and to use the toilet.

My first stop is at Ayer Keroh Jejantas, just over 200km away, after a two-hour drive. This rest stop along the expressway is popular as it has shops selling Malaysian fare as well as fast food. After this, get back on the expressway and continue north towards Kuala Lumpur.

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