Road to Saigon 2018
4 February - 2 March 2018
The Road to Saigon - Route Outline
Day 1 - Singapore to Malacca
As soon as we’re waved away from the start, an excellent network of highways and bridges take us through the skyscrapers of this incredible city-state over the Straits of Johor and into Malaysia. The border is quick and efficient and within no time at all your passports will be stamped and you’ll be on your way. Soon after we plan for the real fun to begin: the red earth tracks which snake through miles of jungle and palm plantations make excellent test venues so expect some excitement early on, as they will give you a chance to get your name on the leader board.
Our night halt in Malacca is on the west coast at the southern end of the Andaman Sea and there just might be time for a little shopping in the Jonker Street Night Market as well as for taking in some of the Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Day 2 - Malacca to Kuantan
Today we leave the modern world well and truly behind us and strike out into the heart of South East Asia with a route across the Malaysian Peninsula, from the southern end of the Malacca Strait we head to Kuantan which sits at the mouth of the Kuantan River on the Gulf of Thailand. Temples and mosques line the highways and byways along the route today and every turn of the road brings yet another photo opportunity. Be sure to try some of the delicious fish crackers.
Day 3 - Kuantan to Cameron Highlands
From breakfast at sea level, today we climb to well over 1,100 m to where we’ll have dinner and bed down for the night. Between the two locations we’ll have driven through orchards, tea plantations and rain forest.
Day 4 - Cameron Highlands to George Town
From the tea clad hills, today’s route winds through the impressive countryside towards the Island of Penang on the northern end of the Malacca Strait. No matter what the day has thrown at you, it will all be forgotten as the welcoming portico of the Eastern and Orient Hotel appears in your windscreen.
Day 5 - George Town - Rest Day
The last full day in Malaysia gives the crews a chance to take in the best of this vibrant city on the island of Penang. Large parts of George Town are now listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and a walk around the old town is highly recommended, whilst a pedal rickshaw for the return journey is “de rigueur” in this part of town. There are countless bars, restaurants and cafes to explore during the day off and the hotel has a fully equipped spa and leisure complex to take advantage of.
Day 6 - George Town to Trang
Fully refreshed from the day off, today we set our sights on the Thai border and our overnight halt in Trang. Our local agents will be on hand to help with the border crossing and as last time we expect a relatively smooth passage through the system. From the minute you arrive in the Buddhist kingdom however the warmth of the people will strike you, as the countless statues of Buddha will do and the shaven headed monks and nuns who walk the roads beside us. Trang is a popular town for backpackers looking to get out to the islands so expect a colourful and vibrant tourist scene here.
Day 7 - Trang to Phuket
Once we’ve left our hotel and crossed the Trang River, we’ll be set for another memorable day of motoring via the Than Bok National Park and the Ao Phang National Park. At the end of the day, you’ll be free to enjoy the delights of the island paradise that is Phuket. Beautiful beaches and stunning rock formations await you, following a full and action packed day of rallying.
Day 8 - Phuket to Chumphon
Another west to east crossing of the peninsula from the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand: this is going to be a fantastic driving day. We’ll pass through the beautiful environs of the Khao Lak Lumru National Park, the Khao Sok National Park and the Laem Son National Park. We’ll also take in a coastal drive, mountain scenery and dense rainforest.
Day 9 - Chumphon to Kanchanaburi
Due north today, bypassing Bangkok on our right as we head to Kanchanaburi, once famed for its Tiger Temple. We’ll drive though pineapple plantations and fields of Pak Choi and no doubt pass countless motorcycles with trained coconut gathering monkeys riding on the pillion seat.
Day 10 - Kanchanaburi - Rest Day
A chance to relax and take in the sights around this provincial town, including The Hellfire Pass Railway Museum and the Bridge over the River Kwai.
Day 11 - Kanchanaburi to Nakhon Sawan
We head north once again over the flat lands, following the course of the Chao Phraya River to the “Heavenly City” of Nakhon Sawan. On the way we’ll enjoy looking at many roadside Buddhas and temples.
Day 12 - Nakhon Sawan to Mae Sot
We’ll be following the Ping River for most of today’s driving, before turning west and climbing through the heavily wooded Taksinmarharat National Park towards Mae Sot where you’ll be able to stock up on gemstones and jade trinkets in this busy market town.
Days 13 - Mae Sot to Mae Hong Son
Last time we were in Thailand we crossed from Mae Sot into Burma and began our trek to Mandalay, but today we drive to the northernmost point of the Rally to the town of Mae Hong Son in the spectacular and hilly north of Thailand.
Day 14 - Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai
More challenging roads today and rewarding ones as well which we’ll no doubt share with many logging elephants. There is the road of two thousand hairpins to take in which gives the Alps a run for their money.
Day 15 - Chiang Mai - Rest Day
A chance to recover from yesterday’s efforts, relaxing in a fantastic hotel in this modern and interesting city surrounded by some spectacular countryside. The Old City has architectural remains from its history as a cultural and religious centre. There are also many elaborate Buddhist temples to visit.
Day 16 - Chiang Mai to Phrae
According to Lonely Planet “The city’s residents must be among the friendliest folks in Thailand and Phrae’s location on the banks of Mae Nam Yom and its ancient wall also invite comparisons with Chiang Mai. Yet despite all this, Phrae is a little-visited city and a great destination for those who require little more than a few low-key attractions, good local food and cheery company.”
Day 17 - Phrae to Phetchabun
Phetchabun translates to mean the ‘land of food and crops’ and is very much off the beaten track, which means that you will be seeing fascinating and authentic Thai culture all the way along today’s route with its intoxicating blend of sounds, sights and smells.
Day 18 - Phetchabun to Aranyaprathet
We’re heading south now so Bangkok is still on our right hand side as we pass it for the second time on the way to our last night in Thailand.
Day 19 - Aranyaprathet to Siem Reap
The Cambodian border is a mere 6km from this town. It is open 08:00 to 20:00 and there is no time difference between the two countries. Immediately next to the Thai immigration facilities is Rongkleu Market, which hosts banks, cafes, a convenience store, money exchangers and buses.
Day 20 - Siem Reap - Rest Day
There’s plenty to do in Siem Reap which is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor, the seat of the Khmer kingdom from the 9th to the 15th century. The vast complex of intricate stone buildings includes the main temple of Angkor Wat, which is pictured on Cambodia’s flag. Giant, mysterious faces are carved into the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom.
Day 21 - Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
After the delights of Angkor today we head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s busy capital city which sits on the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. It was a hub for both the Khmer Empire and the French. At the city’s heart is the art deco Central Market. The riverfront is lined with parks, restaurants and bars whilst the ornate Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum display artefacts from around the country.
Day 22 - Phnom Penh to Stung Treng
Our destination today is on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. You’ll see some amazing sights today in this remote yet remarkable area.
Day 23 - Stung Treng to Pak Nhai
We’re heading towards the Vietnamese border today, almost due east. Pak Nhai is on the Tonle san River, a tributary of the Mekong which also forms part of the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
Day 24 - Pak Nhai to Da Nang
Set on the Han River, the coastal city of Da Nang is well known for known for its sandy beaches and its history as a French colonial port; it has been recently growing fast with luxury hotels and apartments to accommodate tourists. Climb to the Hải Vân Pass which has views of the bay and the Marble Mountains, five limestone outcrops that are home to pagodas and Buddhist shrines.
Day 25 - Da Nang to Quy Nhon
More beautiful beaches and fantastic seafood await us this evening following our southerly drive along the coastline of the South China Sea.
Day 26 - Quy Nhon to Phan Thiet
A coastal run today down past Nha Phu Bay to the town of Phan Thiet with its bustling fishing port and harbour full of colourful boats, outdoor markets and seafood restaurants. It’s also home to the Van Thuy Tú Temple which celebrates the whale and contains some skeletons of these revered sea mammals.
Day 27 - Phan Thiet to Saigon
Today we’ll leave the coast behind us and motor westwards to the fringes of the Mekong Delta, crossing the Dong Nai and the Saigon rivers on the way. Now known as Ho Chi Minh City, our final destination has both the old-world French colonial history and the 21st Century Asian super city features. The Majestic Hotel sits on the banks of the Saigon River and will be a fitting place to receive your trophies and congratulate yourself on a drive well done.