Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crossing Wang Kelian Border, 14/09/10

Seems I'm having a writer's block and not knowing where to start this one. I guess I'll have multiple introductions then :)

It was in 2008 that while having breakfast in Hatyai (en route to KL from Krabi), we met a nice couple returning from Bangkok on their BMW super bike.
There are a few groups of people that even if you don't know them, they are guaranteed to be nice folks and could start a conversation any time. In my book, they are bikers and fishing maniacs.

So we told them about Krabi and they about Bangkok. And the guy suggested that next time, we should cross the border from Wang Kelian. So that was my inception moment :)

We always spend the first few days of Eid alternately between Kelantan & Penang. And this year it was Kelantan's turn first. We would always have things to do in Kelantan but in Penang, it was less people to visit and less things. So few months before, I fancied about another beach holiday and narrowed it down to Ko Lipe. It was for no particular reason other than that we have done Krabi, Phi Phi, & Lanta so that we might as well going southward.

So we read that to go there, you need to take a ferry at Pak Bara pier; which seems closest if we go from Wang Kelian instead of Hat Yai.
Border Crossing
We never went to Wang Kelian before and it seems that not much info is available on the internet. Unlike Bukit Kayu Hitam where you would have Sadao town right across the border and Hat Yai about an hour drive away, there's not much after the crossing here except for some makeshift stalls like these. These kind of economic activities would not warrant so much info on the net eh :) ... unlike those say ... anyway I digress :)

My concerns were two things: where to change for Thai currency and where to buy the insurance to drive into Thailand.

I asked around my MRSM Beseri yahoo group and some people say you could buy Thai Bahts in Kaki Bukit town. That alleviate some concerns but on google map, Kaki Bukit doesn't look so much like a town; it's more like a deserted housing area!

But thanks to GPS, we are not afraid to drive around this area and by luck stop at a shop lots that we think could give us some directions. So I went into this grocery shop and pretending to buy some soft drinks and asked the owner where to change for Thai Bahts. Lo and behold, she does that and she even said she gives better rate than in Wang Klian. I was skeptical but know that poor traveler like us would not change much and the difference in rate would not make us an overnight George Soros!

I could not remember the exact location of this shop but it's right in front of Klinik Kesihatan Kaki Bukit. And oh, she did give better rate than those traders in Wang Kelian.

So with one problem solved we merrily drove to Wang Kelian. Boy, the road was really up hill and the curves were really sharp. But road surface was nice and so was the view. Coz of the view, I would rather have this drive compare to the old Tapah to Cameron road. And this Wang Kelian road is just a few kilometers; so it was alright.

After a while, we got to the Malaysian side of the border crossing and received my second adrenalin shot that I invariably got during my travels. My best rush was during my first ever trip to Krabi here.

Wang Kelian is famous for its Sunday market where Thais & Malaysians could travel freely without passports to the make shift stalls on both side of the border. So we stop at the Malaysian side and asked a few people where to buy insurance. None of them knew and some don't even understand Bahasa ... or English. This is where I got my rush. We were close the the check point and I don't have insurance yet. So we slowly drove to the Malaysian Immigration above and as a last resort, asked the last shop there where to buy insurance. And she said you can get it at a restaurant after Malaysian immigration ... it was like Mozart to my ears even though she spoke in broken Malay dialect!

There's a block of commercial area right after Malaysian Immigration and you could buy Thai insurance at the last shop there.

After getting the insurance and filling up the entry card (embarkation card?), we drove to the next step which was Thai Immigration (for passport) & Customs for importing the car into Thailand (that's what they call it).

Some photos click here.

I just remember one of my other concern was what is the best way to get to Kangar from Penang. And after having gone there via the old Alor Star-Kangar route and return back via the Changlun-Kuala Perlis Highway (see google maps), I must say that I would have preferred the Changlun highway coz it will be less traffic that way I think. There are so many towns/villages in the old road and hence so many local traffic ... you don't want to be stuck there I think. So that's my two cents on getting to Kangar.


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Hi. Do you know what time does that insurance shop open? How much was it? Is driving in Thailand safe?