1. We crossed into Thailand at Sadao (the view of Sadao after we crossed below), from Malaysia's Changlun check-point along N-S Highway at about 9 am on Day 3, 29 April; after spending the night Hotel T in Kuala Perlis. Contrary to our fear, crossing the border with our car at Sadao was a breeze, all done in about half an hour. After clearing our passports, I presented the car log card and my passport at the customs counter. The friendly lady keyed in the required information into the computer (ya, no form filling), after asking me the value of the car, and out came the completed import/export form. Very efficiently done. After taking one copy of the import/export form, the customs officer waved us through, and we were in Thailand; no checking of chassis and engine numbers, or car insurance (14 ringgits for min of 9 days) which we bought the day before at the Gurun's Caltex service station.
2. After crossing, we topped up the tank and filled up our spare petrol container of 20 litres and we set off for Khao Lak, about 500 km away. Got lost a couple of times even with GPS and passing by Phattalung, Trang, Krabi, we eventually arrived at Khao Lak at about 5 pm Thai time. As we approached Khao Lak, Sunny suggested that we got off Highway 4 to take a short cut at Thap Put into National Park rather than looping South to Phang-nga. It was a great suggestion. Very hilly, lots of turns round corners (reminded me of Cameron Highlands some 30 years ago), green mountains and valleys, one lane either way, good road. If travelled slowly, its a safe route. One scene is given below (though not the best).
3. After arriving at Khao Lak, we scouted around for cheap and good hotels. This is now our routine, our SOP. After looking at 4 hotels, we decided to check into Hotel Briza (picture); a 5 star beach side resort, at 2,200 bahts (nearly S$100), free internet access; really because its low season in Khao Lak.
4. Had dinner along the main street of Khao Lak in a restaurant called Ga. A small restaurant, mostly Caucasian customers. Delicious Thai food. What struck Sunny and I was the emptiness of the whole place. Shops were mostly empty. There were some tourists in the restaurants but patronage thin. One local told us that this year's low season is worse than last year's and the political situation in Thailand has undermined the confidence of tourists.
5. The night before, we spent the night in Kuala Perlis at Hotel T. Sunny saw the ad along the road showing 79 ringgits a night. Rather than Kangar, this is at the coast and we thought its worth checking out. Its like a small boutique hotel in a double storey shop house, probably about 20 rooms or so, quite tastefully designed, BUT small. Toilet has no separate shower area; so it get all wet after we showered.
Where we stayed was also the terminals for ferry operations to Pulau Langkawi, with the coastline facing West. A walk along the coast was beautful. Great sunset views. We had dinner at the nearby Hai Tien seafood restaurant. Its steam sea bass, kept hot by charcoal, was memorable.
6. We are off to Hua Hin this morning (Day 4), with at least 6 hrs of driving ahead of us. The last time I was there was some 15 years ago when, as Chief of Army, attended the annual ASEAN Armies small arms meet.