Road to Mandalay rally

Post-rally (Tuesday and Wednesday February 25-26)

On Tuesday was the long haul to Yangon.  Jo went in the car with her Dad while I hitched a ride in a car going south.
But prior to setting off we went on an amazing sunrise balloon ride over the temples of Bagan. A truly remarkable experience

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Wednesday was a day of cleaning out the car and dust out of the bags, delivering the car to the port and doing some last minute shopping.
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It was sad to see Xena go.  She is off to the UK to some endurance rally specialist mechanic and we will not see her again until the Rugby World Cup when Heather will make a trip to Norfolk to see her and then we will both go over and test drive her in the new year prior to her being shipped.  These mechanics have prepared a number of Amazons including one that placed fourth in the last Peking to Paris.
Home to reality tomorrow. What an amazing adventure – some great highs and terrible lows but we would not have missed it for the world!!!

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 Tuesday February 24 (Day 24)

Today was our last day of rallying and a drive from Mandalay to to Bagan, the ancient capital (from the 9th century to the 13th century) of what was a series of kingdoms that became Burma under British colonisation in 1855.
It was a strange feeling that we were finishing the rally.  Again we saw some wonderful sights.  Myanmar is such a wonderful diverse country and the people are amazingly friendly and kind.

 

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We crossed the finished line to great applause and Derek was there to greet Jo.
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Later that night there was the prize giving and the final celebration dinner.  While we came in 31st place we won the ‘Against All Odds’ award.  Certainly appropriate!!!!

Monday February 23 (Day 23)

Today we drove up over the mountains from  the madness of Naypiydaw, with its deserted 12-lane highway, over backroads and villages to Lake Inle, a beautiful part of Myanmar. We saw this man on a motorbike with his wife and her traditional headgear and basket sitting on the back – a scene which sums up Myanmar to us

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IMG_8961Then we went out on the Lake in a canoe to a series of villages – a sort of Asian version of Venice

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Sunday February 22 (Day 22)

 to come….

 Saturday February 21 (Day 21)

Another day on the road with Xena – she is going very well now she hums alone.  We are conscious though that we want to get to the finish so are not pushing her too much.
The first part of our day was through beautiful little villages.  People here are so industrious.  It’s market day and everyone is out buying and selling.  We passed a long row of young monks with their bowls collecting their breakfast from the villagers who brought out food for them.  An elephant comes up to the car with its owner.

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Then we take a turn inland and onto what is known as the ‘ghost highway – 190 kms of deserted highway – some donor’s folly no doubt.  This in turn leads us to Naypyidaw – the most bizarre capital city of the planet – worse than Canberra even. There is a huge 8 lane highway and massive buildings on the side of the road.  it’s completely deserted as well even thigh we are getting into rush hour.
We are now running with absolutely no electrics; no speedo, no fuel gauge , no horn, no Monit.  But we still make it in in time – although we are hopeless on the regularities.  We sadly find out that one of the Amazon’s has had a bad crash and is out of the rally

 

Friday February 20 (Day 20)

Today it was our task to get across the border into Myanmar and to the seaside town of Mawyamline. This is an historic day as we are the first car rally to cross the border. We were expecting a huge wait at the border but thanks to the ERA team we had a very easy time and all told it only took an hour.  Then into Myamanmar proper. What an experience. We were supposed to be going on the ‘new’ road around a mountain but the new bit only lasted about 5 ams – then onto red dirt reminiscent of the Aussie outback.

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Many kms of this and then onto the worst road – potholes were more like craters. When we asked an official when we would get to the main road he said that it WAS the main road.
But lots of cheers and waves – very friendly people and much more impressed with our old cars than people in Thailand
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As we drive further in to Myanmar we see lots of road construction and guess who is doing the bulk of the labouring work- with no wheelbarrow and carrying the gravel on their heads?

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Mawyamline is a cheerful seaside town with quaint, crumbling colonial era buildings.  We eat our dinner looking out over the harbour.
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Xena going well, but we have lost our place and are now back to being second-to-last.

Thursday February 19 (Day 19)

Today is a rest day and Jo spends the morning working on the car.  We realise that we have less than a week to go now.  We take Xena to the car wash and have some lunch at a little cafe on the side of the road – delicious simple food for next to nothing.  What a joy Thai food has been.

Wednesday February 18 (Day 18)

Today we go from Mae Hong Song to Mae Sot, edging closer to the Myanmar border.  The hills are not so high today – a respite for poor Xena and we are very aware of the overheating problem so we stop frequently and check the water. As well, the new engine seems to be runnig better and Jo is feeling better about it.
Today’s time trial is called the ‘Thai decider’.    We start extremely well and as it’s flat although on dirt Xena can do well.  At about the 3km mark we come round a corner and fail to take the bend and end up in a ditch.  We get Xena out and there is some damage – the bumper is pushed into the tyre and there is damage on the right front panel, but nothing too serious that a crowbar couldn’t fix.
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However we post 12 minutes which is the maximum time allowed.

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On the drive into Mae Sot we pass the Karen refugee camp along the border.  There are 140,00 refugees who have fled persecution in Myanmar and they are packed into ‘camps (which are really traditional houses) along a stretch of 8kms.
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Because of the accident we cannot improve on our time so still second to last

 Tuesday February 17 (Day 17)

Today we are back on the road out of Chiang Mai heading north to Mae Hong Son.  Before we left Jo was filmed by a Burmese TV station program about the Road to Mandalay rally.  Jo appears in the footage at about 4 minutes.
 As we set off, we were both nearly in tears it was so good to be back in Xena even though she now has a bit less grunt.  There are 2 regularities and 1 time trial today – we managed to stay in the middle of the pack in all of these (Jo was unable to pull of the great times she was used to).  The scenery is fabulous – out of rainforest now and into more alpine trees although it is still warm and there are bananas, coffee, and strawberries growing.  On the way out of Chiang Mai we saw some elephants.
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As the day wore on it was obvious that we had horrendous hill climbs and descents – in fact there are 1874 bends to Mae Hong Son – we got a certificate to prove it).  Xena did not cope very well – she overheated badly and we had to stop several times to put in new water and wait for her to cool down, although we made it to Mae Hong Son without time penalties.We are now 2nd to last because of our 3 days out of the rally (bit sad but that’s endurance rallying).

Monday February 16 (Day 16)

It’s a rest day for many competitors but today found Jo in ‘Jimmy’s’ workshop from 9am , alongside three brilliant Thai mechanics, who beavered away putting Xena’s ‘new’ motor back in, while Heather waited anxiously back at the hotel for news.  These mechanics were meticulous, overseen by owner Jimmy.
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Heather went out in a little bus (30 baht-$1 each) to lunch with Bill and Scott (who has lived in Thailand and knows all the best restaurants) for a traditional Chiang Mai feast.  Quite different – spicy sausage, pureed eggplant and some fronds that she had never seen- all incredibly delicious.

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The result: at 4pm the engine fired and by 9pm Jo was back in the hotel with Xena – all fixed.  Perhaps not as fast as before, but in one piece and ready to get to Myanmar.

Thursday – Sunday February 12-15  (Day 12-15)

We organised a rental car which we picked up on Thursday evening and then headed off in the morning for Bangkok.  Jo had no problems driving in the madness which is Bangkok.
The next morning we headed out to see the motor, which seems in reasonable condition, so we left the owner removing it and Jo managed to drive to the Chatachuk market which amazed me.
Did some hectic retail therapy and then off to pick up the motor.
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Early night and then off back to Chiang Mai with the motor in the boot.  good highway all the way there and made it in about 7 hours.  Of course we are the talk of the rally with our exploits.  Fingers crossed that the motor is OK.

Wednesday Feb 11 (Day 11)

Well, things have gone from bad to worse.  We started out with high hopes today, for a good run from Chumpon to Kanchanaburi.  50 kms down the road and there was a  terrible clanking sound, and Jo said ‘I think this is bad!’, and it was.  The car was pissing oil and was not going anywhere. We called the ERA mechanics and they told us to get her to the next time control.    Luckily a very nice Thai police officer stopped and called a tow truck who arrived and the young driver (who spoke no English) towed us to the time control
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At time control, the mechanics had a look and suggested we got her towed to the next overnight stop in Kanchanaburi, and the young Thai tow truck driver agreed to do this.
Very bad news of course.  The car has blown a con rod, and we basically need a new engine.  So we put a call out on Facebook (to Volvo Club Thailand and within 24 hours had located a new engine near Bangkok.
So off to Bangkok tomorrow to pick up the new motor.  Unfortunately the owner of the motor is not back in Bangkok until Sunday so we will have to have a day of sightseeing and shopping before picking it up

Tuesday Feb 10 (Day 10)

Well, we did it!  Jo got Xena to Chumpon without any disasters and Heather managed to get the parts and get back to Chumpon by 9pm.  Jo and the wonderful ERA mechanics worked on her to 3am and she is now up and running again.
By the way, Jo managed to go up one place in the overall rankings to 26th

 

Monday Feb 9 (Day 9)

Supposedly, a day of rest and relaxation.  However, as I reported yesterday jo’s accelerator pedal has been sticking and the mechanics had a go at fixing it.
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While out on a test run, the pedal stuck again in high revs, and the outcome was a broken piston.  So Xena is running on 3 cylinders at three-quarter power.
Of course there were no broken pistons to be had in Thailand and after desperate phone calls we managed to locate some in Britain and they are being shipped out and will arrive tomorrow afternoon in Bangkok.
So, Jo will drove Xena very slowly to the next stop (Chumpon) tomorrow  and Heather will fly to Bangkok from Phuket and then from Bangkok back to Chumpon with the new parts.

 Sunday Feb 8 (Day 8)

Today we drove from Trang to Khao Lak (near Phuket).  It was a long day of driving – 488 ams with 2 ‘regularities’ and 1 speed test.  A regularity is a test of driving for a set number of minutres at an average speed).
At the morning tea time control we stopped at a cafe run y the NGO ‘Cabbages and kings’ which was started in the 1980s by a Thai ex-politician, Michal Veravaidya, as a way to fight the HIV epidemic, particularly amongst sex workers.
We had some good discussions with the other competitors, and lots of people bought key rings etc to support the effort.

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Next came the first regularity – we didn’t do particularly well in this, but then neither did most of the other competitors and we placed in about the middle of the field.  Then off again towards Khao Lak and the speed test – a very big hill climb.  Despite having issues with a sticking accelerator pedal, we did very well, managing to come in 6th, tying with the VW Beetle that Jo wants to beat.  In the second regularity, we did much better (only 7 seconds off the pace) but the others did well too, so we again placed in the middle of the field.
We are at the Pullman Hotel in Khao Lak (a very nice resort) for 2 nights – a rest day tomorrow.
We are now in 27th place overall, although still 8th in our class

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Saturday 7 Feb (Day 7)

Day 7 and back on the road to continue our journey through drier and flatter countryside and over the border into Thailand,  But first we had a very difficult time test section.  While it was flat it was in a paddy field and consisted of driving across very narrow causeways with lots of right angles over tiny bridges etc.  Jo did brilliantly and we placed 6th.  People are amazed at Jo’s driving – we are right up against the boy racers in the Porsches and the Datsun 240zs.
Next the border crossing- long and tedious, but Jo bought some very nice Raybans at the ‘duty free’ (really a series of little market stalls) for $3 and $4
We then drove to Trang to the Rua Rasada Hotel – very weird place shaped like an ocean liner.  This is the first time we have experienced Heineken girls who tried to press beer on us.  Many HIV research colleagues have spoken of how these girls get paid by the amount of beer they sell and do sex work on the side to make ends meet.  Many have bad alcohol problems and because they do not identify as sex workers they are often at greater risk of HIV.

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Friday 6 February (Day 6)

A rest day and much appreciated.  We were exhausted.  We are staying in a beautiful hotel – the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang.  The hotel is quite like Raffles but without the panache, although we have a lovely room.
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A day of lying by the pool, shopping and eating food, followed by foot and shoulder massages

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Thursday 5 February (Day 4)

Today was a roller-coaster of emotions.  After a tortuous drive out of Kota Bharu we got back into lovely countryside again, where there are still rubber plantations that have been there since colonial times.  This area seems quite prosperous (possibly oil palm money as well as rubber).
The special section was a closed-road, with full police attendance, smooth tarmac and endless bends.- the ERA called it “a stonking hillclimb Test up the side of a jungle-covered mountain”. Jo’s driving was great, even though we thought it would not be great for Xena, and afterwards we anticipated a very good time.  We were trying to beat 7 minutes which we did.

The ERA said: “It was a day full of surprises, certainly for Jo Worth at the wheel of a Volvo Amazon, with her mother in the navigator’s seat …. they shot up the hill drifting with perfect lines through the bends to chalk up an excellent time of third overall” .
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After the special section we were driving though a small town and saw a carport with a bunch of Volvos and amongst them an Amazon.  Jo stopped and knocked on the door and the young man who owned the cars came out – it turns out he was a member of the Volvo Owners Club of Malaysia and so a great friendship was struck.       536257_328592657346939_5005822008877587860_n The drive into Georgetown was a beautiful one, over a magnificent bridge to Penang Island, then round Penang – up into a mountain where there was a passage control and then down to the coast.  Unfortunately we missed looking at most of it as Jo was desperately trying to get us in to the time control without penalty, Heather having made a navigation error and missing an expressway turn.  We followed right behind an ambulance with its siren going some of the way which was a little hair-raising.  We made it, but only just!!!!

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Disaster followed.  Jo came in third overall on the special section with a time of 6 minutes straight, but it later turned out that we had missed a passage control during the special section (goodness knows how; Heather probably had her eyes closed and Joanne had what one of the clerks of the course said was a “red mist”. AS the ERA said abut our 3rd acing:  “Too good to be true? It was then discovered that in their enthusiasm, they had failed to stop at one of two Passage Controls and once a one minute penalty was applied, they tumbled back down to 11th best on the mountain.
This pinged us 30 minutes overall penalty and a 1 minute time penalty, pushing us back to 11th – still very respectable, but we were not happy with ourselves because the time to stoop would probably have only been 20 seconds which may have put us in 6th place.  Our mistake to take on the chin.  Xena still performing brilliantly.
We are slowly climbing up the leaderboard – we are now 29th overall, but still 8th in our class although closing 0n our nearest competitor.  However, the early navigation disasters will keep us from doing very well overall.

Wednesday 4 February (Day 4)

A disappointing day.  Because of the rain there had to be new route instructions.  This meant that we missed out on some sections – and a ferry ride. We were looking forward to the hill climb which was today’s timed section.  But when we arrived the  police had not managed to close the road properly and because there were still vehicles and potentially children on the road the section had to be abandoned

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waiting to do the hill climb – note the Kiwi car in the background

We then made the slow journey down the mountains to a lunch-stop in a part of Malaysia that had been very badly hit by the December flooding.  Lots of houses abandoned, and ruined possessions outside.

The next section of the route had to be abandoned as the floods had washed out a bridge, so a slow crawl to Kota Bharu through hideous traffic.  Jo stopped at a little shop on the way and we bought a Ringgat75 ($25) bluetooth speaker system for the car and we cheered ourselves up by blasting Lucinda Williams for the rest of the way to Kota Bharu.

Tuesday 3 February (Day 3)

Another wonderful day. The drive was through beautiful dense jungle (marred only by hectare after hectare of Palm Oil palms). You can see the beauty of the rainforest next to hideous deforestation and the smell from the processing plants is ghastly. Excellent time trial – 3rd in our class and 7th overall and then a spectacular climb up into the Cameron Highlands to an afternoon tea house (tea and scones). You can see remnants of the old colonial houses where the poms used to go to escape the heat as it is noticeably cooler up in the mountains.
10906529_328195907386614_1571599490575018488_nCameron Highlands is a very weird place.  It is immensely steep but there are enormous plastic greenhouses everywhere – even on the steepest slopes and growing everything from veges to chrysanthemums.  Then there are the crazy downmarket tourist hotels and backpackers with little shops selling tacky souvenirs.
We are still in 8th place, but we made no mistakes yesterday. One of our mates on the tour did some major damage to his car today as he failed to take a bend. They managed to get the car going but it looks dreadful.

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Monday 2 Feb (Day 2)

Another great day.  However, lots of crashes and cars in the ditch – one of the vintage Bentley’s was written off and the driver and co-driver ended up in hospital with broken ribs and a broken wrist respectively. it was very slippery – rained on and off, so it made the time stage very tricky.

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We certainly performed better, in fact in the timed stage we came 2nd in our class and 6th overall. Sadly, Xena overheated and we had to wait an hour for her to cool down anxious that she may have blown another head gasket. Then we missed a turn-off so were pinged 15 demerits for being late to a passage control. Words were exchanged on both sides. But the mechanics helped Jo sort out the problem quickly, which turned out to be blown fuse which stopped the fan working, although we now have no horn.  She will need to have a good electrical overall before the Peking to Paris rally.  
The Yellowbrick tracking device is working brilliantly and our progress can be followed hourly by going to:  http://my.yb.tl/teamxena

Sunday February 1 (Day 1)

Today was the start of the rally.  We left from outside Raffles hotel.  As Xena was car 54 we left later at 9.51am.
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The race was on to get to the border, which even though we missed a turn it seemed to make no difference; we made good time and got through the border and into Malaysia with a minimum of fuss.
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While we missed a turn-off on the Malaysia motorway we managed to get back onto the correct route and got to the first time control in time.  However, Heather’s lack of experience meant that we missed two check-ins and that hurt by the end of the day.  Even though Jo drove a good time in our first time trial, we were penalised 60 points, putting us 4th to last, and in 8th place in our class.
Xena performed brilliantly- we are very happy with our car!  We are in a team of ANZACS – a 1930 Model A, with NZ crew Caroline and Roger Anderson, us, and an Aussie Leyland P76 with Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson.

January 31

We have spent the last 2 days collecting Xena from the warehouse and preparing her for the road.  She was cutting out when idling and Jo and her Dad managed to fix the fault this morning.  She is now driving beautifully and looks a million bucks.  We took her for a night drive around Singapore  with the Singapore Classic and Vintage Car Club and she performed really well.
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January 28

We had drinks in the famous Long Bar at Raffles Hotel and met some of the teams.  Great social event and made us feel very welcome.  Preparation continues after some tips about what to take on the journey.

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Jo, drinking a Singapore Sling,  in Raffles Long Bar with 3 other teams

January 27

Check out the ERA’s post on their Facebook page about teamxena
Heather and Jo Worth competed in the New Zealand South Island Targa Tour as a 'shakedown' for the Road to Mandalay in ‘Xena’ as they call their car.  Jo also won the Spirit of the Targa award for the team’s efforts. Will they add to their trophy cabinet next month?
Heather and Jo Worth competed in the New Zealand South Island Targa Tour as a ‘shakedown’ for the Road to Mandalay in ‘Xena’ as they call their car. Jo also won the Spirit of the Targa award for the team’s efforts. Will they add to their trophy cabinet next month?

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Automobiles and Parts · 2,107 Likes

· January 13 at 8:48am · 

26 January 2015
We are now in Singapore having a well-deserved rest and doing last minute shopping before the start of the rally.
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Jos farewell

Jo’s teamxena farewell with the lovely new T-shirts

Xena is now on the high seas between Auckland and Singapore.  Heather and Jo’s bedrooms are now full of clothes and items to take up to Singapore.  We pick Xena up from the bond store in Singapore on 31st January ready to depart on 1 Feb.

It’s all becoming a reality after months of preparation.

We will post daily blogs on this site from 30 January and will have a tracking device that will allow you to see – Where in the World is Xena? Ben-IMG_8059-(ZF-0160-34822-1-005)

 

The Road to Mandalay Rally

photo[2] The Road to Mandalay runs from February 1 to February 24, 2015.  This will be Xena’s first major rally.  There are 75 cars entered including 3 Amazons Myanmar

The Road to Mandalay Day by Day

Day 1: Raffles Hotel, Singapore to Desaru  356 kms

Our first day sees us depart from the iconic Raffles Hotel, one of Singapore’s most famous landmarks, for a short drive to leave the island and cross the border into Malaysia and Johor Bahru. After completing border formalities, we continue around the southern tip of the peninsular through low lying hills. We also have our first competitive section, with a Time Trial through a maze of roads of a rubber plantation before arriving for an overnight halt at the tranquil resort of Desaru Beach, the perfect end to our first day on the road.

Day 2: Desaru to Kuantan  423 kms

From Desaru we head north, travelling parallel with the coast before turning inland to join and follow the Pahang River and through a demanding jungle section that will test car, driver and navigator. Our overnight stop is the coastal city of Kuantan, with another relaxing night in a beach front hotel.

Day 3: Kuantan to Cameron Highlands   456kms

For day three we have changed the original planned route to Malacca, and instead head into the Titiwangsa Mountain Range to the Cameron Highlands. But don’t be fooled, we haven’t decided to take an easy short cut, and the day includes a 76km alpine climb and some “nadgery” navigation to get us to our destination. After a great day’s driving, we finish the day, perhaps with a cup, or two, of the local tea, at the Cameron Highlands,  Malaysia’s most extensive and famous old colonial hill station.

Day 4: Cameron Highlands to Kota Bharu   367kms

A downhill day! To accommodate a ferry crossing, the starting intervals will be increased which will result in an early, and probably misty, departure for the frontrunners, to descend the mountains to the Kelantan River valley which we follow, through a variety of jungle and plantation terrain to the coastal city of Kota Bharu

Day 5: Kota Bharu to George Town   364kms

From Kota Bharu, we run alongside the Thai border. A spectacular route crosses the mountain range, bound for George Town on the beautiful island of Penang, where two nights will be enjoyed, providing an opportunity for some rest, recuperation, and also fettle your car with the help of our travelling mechanics.

Day 6: George Town – Rest Day

Our first rest day is taken in George Town on the north east corner of Penang Island. A chance to rest and relax, attend to the car or explore the town or to roam further afield. George Town has been a World Heritage Site since 2008.

Day 7: George Town to Hat Yai   335kms

We leave the island of Penang behind, crossing the causeway back to the mainland then it’s “Selamat Jelang”  to Malaysia, and into Thailand via a border crossing at Padang Besar, followed by a fairly easy drive to overnight at Hat Yai.

Day 8: Hat Yai to Krabi   358kms

Again today we have a change of plan and our route now takes us from Hat Yai to Krabi. Leaving the city, we pass through plantations and paddy fields before crossing the mountains to the west. We finish the day with a final section to wake up the drivers before the final run through the “kargs” to an overnight on a beautiful bay, not far from the legendary island home of Mr Scaramanga – the man with the golden gun.

Day 9: Krabi to Phuket   308kms

From Krabi we drive to Phuket, and “a slalom through the Kargs” kicks off the day through the limestone outcrops made famous by the “Aston Martin man” – 007, followed by some interesting back roads, before turning off the main roads and into the jungle to the north of the Island of Phuket.  A short highway run takes us onto Phuket drive where we are rewarded by a couple of nights of relaxation and luxury at the legendary beach-resort of Phuket.

Day 10: Phuket – Rest Day

Phuket, called the Pearl of the Andaman, with a curvaceous coastline of wide sugary beaches strung between jutting peninsulas and craggy rock formations, the perfect place to relax, recuperate, fettle the car and enjoy some local entertainment. But just in case you feel no day is complete without time spent in the car you can follow a tour of the less populated areas of the island, set up with the help the local ex-pat community, the GOMS (Grumpy Old Men’s Society), followed by a party!

Day 11: Phuket to Chumpon   479kms

Our day starts by taking us north along the scenic coast road to leave the island of Phuket. We then take the west coastal road passing through many small towns and village. A short stint on a highway and we are back into the countryside as our route cuts across country along a twisting, undulating road including some demanding climbs and an equal number of steep descents, before joining the East Coast Highway for a relaxing run into Chumpon and an overnight halt, situated on a beautiful stretch of beach on the East Coast.

Day 12: Chumpon to Kanchanaburi   578kms

From Chumpon  we head to Kanchanaburi, and the infamous River Kwai, and its notorious association with the Burma railway of WW2.The first half of the day is relaxed as we travel north up the isthmus  before turning off onto more rural back roads.  There is the opportunity to take a 2 km detour and visit “The Bridge over the River Kwai”, built by Alec Guinness and Co. The route becomes increasingly scenic, climbing the Kwai valley toward Hellfire Pass, the notorious cutting created by the POWs on the Death Railway before we stop for the night.

Day 13: Kanchanaburi to Suphan Buri   369kms

In the morning we continue to climb the Kwai valley, before entering the jungle where a mixture of gravel, tarmac and concrete surfaces over steep climbs and descents present their challenges. We then return to tarmac roads and a non-stop series of rollercoaster climbs and hairpins to the Sri Nakarin Reservoir dam. From the dam we return to Kanchanaburi before turning north to the overnight halt at Suphan Buri.

Day 14: Suphan Buri to Phetchabun   436kms

Today, cars and drivers can relax, to an extent, while the navigators concentrate as we drive through the central plain of Thailand with endless paddy fields, where the 3,500 varieties of rice are grown, to arrive at our night halt in Phetchabun; a delightful hotel, crammed with collectibles and paraphernalia. We are now in Northern Thailand, and in for some truly scenic driving.

Day 15: Phetchabun to Phrae   412kms

From Phetchabun a quick detour to Khao Kho, site of King’s summer palace. Then an amazing 7km Alpine road climbing 5,000 feet to the top of Phu Hin Rongkla – site of the HQ of the Communist insurgents back in 70’s.There is a small museum there and a great drive down the other side to Nakhon Thai. The day finishes with a demanding gravel test over a jungle covered mountain and an overnight at the town of Phrae.

Day 16: Phrae to Chiang Mai   408kms

From Phrae we drive remote local back-roads in the mountains with some great sweeping bends and relatively little traffic through some stunning scenery.  First to Nan, then Payao, before heading south to Chiang Mai, trying to beat the school traffic, before reaching the hotel and a night market to put Marrakech to shame.

Day 17: Chiang Mai – Rest Day

Simply  enjoy this “day off” as a rest-day, a chance for some car servicing with our Team, or see the local sights. Chiang Mai is the cultural centre of northern Thailand with a wide variety places to go and things to see.

Day 18: Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son   240kms

We take Road 1095, more usually called “The Road of a Thousand Bends” – try counting them as you climb up. A truly amazing and fantastic drive. There’s time for a brief lunch stop at the top, then on to our overnight stop at Mae Hong Son – the end of another fantastic day. Very slippery if wet!

Day 19: Mae Hong Son to Mae Sot   392kms

We now head for the Burma Road, with a few short ascents, through the jungle, and then on and along the Salawin river which is effectively the Myanmar border. The route runs through some stunning scenery and many of the population are tribal, sporting traditional clothing. The overnight halt is just short of the Thai/Burma border, at Mae Sot.

Day 20: Mae Sot to Myawaddy   15kms

“La-korn” to Thailand and “Mingalaba” to Burma. We have a very short driving day as we cross into Myanmar, and into the unknown – with super-friendly locals, and authorities eager to welcome us in a demonstration of how this country is rapidly opening up.  We overnight at the town of Myawaddy, just the other side of the border to ensure that all cars cross the border with plenty of time and no need to be pushing on if formalities are prolonged.

Day 21: Myawaddy to Hpa An   150kms

We leave Myawaddy early and head into Burma along an infamous stretch of narrow mountain road, twisting and turning for 65km through spectacular mountains this road is run on a one way system basis, one day traffic goes up, the next down. A bypass is currently being built by a Thai company, which is due to be opened in due course during 2014 or 2015 but that would be no challenge!

Day 22: Hpa An to Taungoo   388kms

In Burma we have a more relaxed schedule, enabling us to savour the experience of driving along roads reminiscent of India many decades ago. We overnight at Taungoo, a former capital city of an old Burmese Kingdom.

Day 23: Taungoo to Mandalay   287kms

Finally we are on the road to Mandalay, immortalised by Kipling and the capital city of the last independent Burmese Kingdom before final annexation by the British, Mandalay remains the cultural heart of the country.

Day 24: Mandalay to Bagan – Finish  169kms

We originally planned for the official rally to finish in Mandalay but after visiting Bagan on the last route survey we knew there was only one place for the event to finish and that is ancient capital city of Bagan. We take a typically Burmese country road, passing through many towns and small villages before arriving at the most spectacular and iconic spot in Burma. The plains of Bagan are scattered with 10,000 ancient temples and we finish the official rally in a truly grand style, driving through the small interweaving lanes between the temples before celebrating a superb driving experience with the Prize Giving dinner overlooking the temples, lit up against the night sky.

Day 25: Bagan to Rangoon – Transit Day   600kms

From Bagan to Rangoon we give you the route instructions for the direct route back to Rangoon, but no timing. You can drive at your own pace, with the option of detouring through the unique capital city of Naypyidaw and a drive down an empty 20 lane high way before arriving at Rangoon, a bustling old city with air of a fading colonial grandeur absorbed by the pace of modern life. Beautiful colonial building stand empty and decaying, while just down the road a modern high rise hotel is being constructed. It is a chance to see the old Rangoon before it might be lost forever.

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