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Published on July 23rd, 2010 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Lotus Owners Take A 3,000km FUN FUN FUN Drive

Writer’s block was all I experienced as I tried to write this article. Oh well, an incentive so here I am by a pool enjoying the Thai “incentive” as I re-live our drive on these pages. When the Lotus Enthusiasts Car Club (LECC) was contemplating the next location for its annual drive to the Kingdom of Thailand, the Royal Resort town of Hua Hin kept popping up BUT 1,500 km (one way) was a worrying distance. Hence, the caption X’treme was coined as it was an EXTREME drive indeed. We were initially pessimistic due to the political fiasco by the Red Shirts in Bangkok which eventually spread elsewhere with curfew being declared in other some parts of Thailand. As always, the Lotus enthusiasm was high and to our surprise the final figure for our convoy was 13.

Every LECC overland drive to Thailandseemed to coincide with a political incident in Thailand. This time is was more serious as Hua Hin is practically at the doorstep of Bangkok! Fortunately, the Thai Authorities kept us updated on the situation and assured us that because Hua Hin was the royal resort of HRH The King of Thailand, the Red Shirts would avoid it out of respect of the King. So our destination would be undisturbed (hopefully) but what about our route there? Non problemo! A vote was put to the participants and we received a unanimous 100% “Go! Go! Go!”

Then it was a mad rush to get everything ready for the drive with the normal nightmare for the organizing committee to co-ordinate with all parties and authorities from Malaysia to Thailand to ensure a fun but safe journey as we always emphasize the utmost importance in SAFETY for all participants. All the hard work and sleepless nights paid off when everybody got back home SAFE.

On the day of our drive, our group met (as always) under the cover of the early dark morning skies at about 5 a.m. at the Proton Centre of Excellence (COE) in Shah Alam. Unfortunately for us, the very dark morning sky was accompanied by a very heavy rain which had not let up since 2 a.m. Despite the bleak skies, spirits were high and it was laughter all around as everyone geared up for the drive ahead. Our cars got dressed with Top 1 Oil’s (our main petroleum sponsor) decals as well as that of the other sponsors (see pics). To our surprise Top 1 Oil was a very well established product in Thailand although just starting new in Malaysia. For our cars, Top 1 Oil stood up to the gruelling test of the longest Lotusdrive ever. We must especially thank Mr Frank Ryan, Vice President of Top 1 Oil for their confidence in us when the economics was not at its very best.)

It was “Kan Cheong” time as dawn broke and all the 11 Lotus cars of different colours (accompanied by 2 back up cars which were as always graciously provided and sponsored by Proton Edar) started revving their engines ready to be flagged off by the Top 1 Oil and Proton representatives ……and then…. Yipeeee, off we went!!!

It rained all the way up to Kedah (which caused us to loose quite a bit of time) but once across the border (Sawadeekah) it was bright and sunny all the way. We headed for Hatyai where we took a break and had a scrumptious lunch (Tom Yummmmy, of course). We made good time time on the Thai leg and arrived at our half-way stop in Thong Song for a well deserved rest at the newly launched Grand Southern Hotel. Dinner was a simple fare at a small restaurant down by Grand Southern which surprised us with fantastically good food. Some of us even braved eating fried grubs ….. worms-lah!! Not bad!!

At 7 a.m. the next morning, we made our way to Hua Hin and was met by the escort vehicle from Alila Cha Am, Resort (our home for the next few days) at the outskirts of Hua Hin. It was a sight for sore eyes (and bums) when we arrived at Alila. VIP treatment was laid out for us as they had even allocated us VIP parking on their nice new grass lawn in front of the reception. (Uh hmmm…, apologies but some of our Lotus drivers could not resist the temptation (even after 1,500 km of hard driving) to drift into the parking lots the Lotus way!!! 1,000 apologies to Alila for the skid marks on their lovely manicured lawn. However, we did pick up the dislodged pieces of the lawn and quickly “replanted” them!

The management and staff at Alila (“Alilians”) were top class and all of us would like to especially thank them for a lovely (but too short) time there. Everyone commented on the fantastic rooms and especially the rain shower (the ongoing jokes about the showers were that many would be flexing their muscles and admiring themselves while showering!!!) We were treated to the Alila signature massage which was so relaxing and appropriate after the x’treme drive there. There was just so much to see in Alila but insufficient time to enjoy and absorb it. Hua Hin itself had many things to offer but there was only so much we could achieve in the short time that we were there! We did the tourist thing by visiting the Phra Nakhon Khiri or Palace Hill which was a beautiful summer palace on a hilltop and could be accessed by tram or walking up the hill. The scenery was breathtaking as you were at the top of the hill and had a 360 degree view. The walk down was long (our poor friends who took the tram had to wait for us as it was a 30 minute walk) but scenic as there were so many things to enjoy. You had to mind the monkeys which were just as vicious and cunning as any of its other primate friends all over the world in tourist parks! To other car clubs planning a drive to Hua Hin, forget about the golf clubs as it will never leave your vehicle, as a few of the Lotus owners can testify to that.

Then it was to the various night markets, day markets, outlets and so forth for shopping plus a stop to the local go kart circuit. Whilst the men indulged in their massages, the ladies indulged themselves in filling the empty space of the Lotus boot (which is not big!). When the Lotus boots were packed to the brim, the ladies had to think of other alternatives …… “loan” the massive boot space of the support cars! The meals at Alila were also really good! The first night at Alila, we were treated to a gourmet Thai meal prepared by the Alila chef! Yum Yum indeed! For our gala dinner (which was romantically set on the beach), the food was unbelievable. The roast beef and the chocolate mousse were simply to die for! Just thinking of it is making me hungry for it again!

Sadly, our trip was marred by some unpleasant experience with the Thai police. We had requested for police escort for the convoy from the Thai Highway Police (THP) and the relevant departments as it had been provided to us for our drive to Krabi last year and previously in Koh Samui. Not surprisingly it was declined in light of the political situation. What was surprising and shocking was what happened to some of us when no police “support” is given:- Encounter (i), a Lotus Exige S was stopped in Hua Hin town by the local police who harassed him. It was only after the owner (a first timer) who had no choice but to make some “donation” that he was allowed back to his car only to find that the one and only wiper had been broken off! Encounter (ii), another Exige S who had broken off from the convoy was stopped by THP at the highway and received similar treatment where he had also to make a “donation”. The main convoy was also stopped and given similar treatment by the THP but we got through without much hassle after showing them our official letters. We hope that the THP and Thai Authorities will avail our future requests for police escort, as it would be preferable due to our cars attracting a lot of attention. It left a bad taste as it was a bad impression of the Thai culture and courtesy which we had learnt to know and love. Apart from the harassment by the Thai Police, the whole drive was excellent and x’treme. Despite some things negative, we would definitely visit the Kingdom of Thailand again (We are already starting the wheels for next year’s drive as we write this article!)

On our way home we also made a stopover at Tambun, Ipoh on a special invitation by The Banjaran Resort who had also graciously prepared high-tea (scrumptious) for us. The Banjaran with its hot springs is outstanding as it blends nature with healthiness into one lovely package. Kat Khun Krap (terima kasih) to The Banjaran and we will definitely see you soon (July) to be pampered and rejuvenated. At The Banjaran, we said our farewells as many would soon leave the convoy whilst making its way down south. As always, I was only contented when the e-mails or sms flowed in to indicate that all participants were safely home. All the hard work and sleepless nights paid off once everybody got back home SAFE.

We would like to convey our sincerest thanks to Top 1 Oil, Proton Edar, Lotus Cars Malaysia, PDRM, The Banjaran Resort and not forgetting the resort, Alila Cha Am and their Alilians who made us feel extremely special. Until the next drive ………….. Sawadee for now.

Written by Joyce & Tony Panjalingam
Pictures by Lotus CLUB members

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