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as at 18 July 2008

Singapore to Macau provisional routePreliminaries: Singapore

Our starting point is a thriving, prosperous island city-state, one of the crossroads of the world, a vibrant mix of Chinese, Malay and European culture.

Mid January Vehicles shipped from European and USA west coast ports

Early February Fly in to Singapore at time of your choice, taking advantage of our special hotel rate, in time to see the sights. Don’t miss the superb shopping, from fine stores to traditional markets, and the multi-ethnic cuisine of the hundreds of excellent restaurants.

Thursday 5 February The Adventure Drive proper begins with registration at Raffles Hotel. First batch of car collection from docks. We look after your accommodation and dinner from now on. Welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Our base is Raffles Hotel, a legendary colonial watering hole, now lavishly restored, whose guests have included Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Noël Coward. “A great place to stay... immaculately refurbished” (Footprint guide). Raffles Hotel

Friday 6 February Complete vehicle collection. Vehicle Inspection and Briefing Meeting. Pre-start dinner. Raffles Hotel

Part One: Malaysian Meander
The event begins gently, with short daily runs on relatively easy roads through busy but often beautiful rural landscapes, giving glimpses of old Malaysia along the way, visiting scenic and historic places seen by relatively few tourists. Kuala Lumpur is one of Asia’s most exciting modern cities.

Saturday 7 February: DAY ONE: SINGAPORE - MALACCA (255km/158mi)
Chinese dragon, dancers, musicians and firecrackers will wish you bon voyage at the ceremonial start. We soon cross the international bridge to Malaysia, then take a short run up the expressway to the historic Portuguese and Dutch spice trading port of Malacca in time to explore the old city’s colonial, Malay and Chinese quarters, and have our evening meal in a traditional restaurant - all within an easy stroll of our hotel, where luxurious new bedrooms have been added to a fine refurbished colonial house. Majestic Malacca, Malacca

Sunday 8 February: DAY TWO: MALACCA - KUALA LUMPUR (145km/90mi)
Singapore to Macau provisional routeIn the morning, it’s another quick drive up the expressway to Malaysia’s thriving modern capital, Kuala Lumpur, arriving mid-morning. For the rest of the day you are free to explore and shop. In the evening, we have a sunset supper in the revolving restaurant of the slender Menara KL Tower - we will actually be higher, and have a better view, than the visitor walkway of the neighbouring Petronas Towers. Our nearby hotel is one of Malaysia’s finest. Mandarin Oriental

Monday 9 February: DAY THREE: KUALA LUMPUR - CAMERON HIGHLANDS (217km/135mi)
Leave late if you want to spend more time in KL. We start with a quick motor tour of some of KL’s sights. After a short run north up the expressway, we take a scenic road into the beautiful tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands, once a British hill station. Our hotel is a luxurious, traditionally styled mountain lodge, the best place to stay in the Highlands. Cameron Highlands Resort

Tuesday 10 February: DAY FOUR: CAMERON HIGHLANDS - PENANG (306km/190mi)

We take a twisting scenic highway back down towards the coastal plain, where we rejoin the expressway northwards. We pass close to half a dozen historic and beautiful places to visit: take a short detour to one or two of them. Then we cross the sea bridge to the historic island of Penang. We drive a scenic loop around the island before coming to our delightful oceanfront resort hotel. Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort

Part Two: The Seas of Southern Thailand
Singapore to Macau provisional routeThe sea is the main theme here. For the first few days, we wander up the fabulously beautiful Andaman Sea coast, stopping here and there for a swim or for a truly fresh fish lunch at a beach shack. We have a rest day at the stunning Rayavadee resort, then stay at one of Phuket’s most select hotels. We take the scenic road north, then cross the peninsula for the run up the Gulf of Thailand coast to Bangkok (with a chance to visit the Bridge on the River Kwai). After a rest day in this amazing city, we take a less travelled road into Cambodia, hugging the shore between the Gulf and the Kardamon Mountains.

Wednesday 11 February: DAY FIVE: PENANG - KRABI (575km/360mi)
After a quick run up the expressway, we cross into Thailand and take minor roads, first through attractive hills, then along the lovely Andaman Sea coast, passing beautiful beaches and islands, villages and temples. Our hotel near Krabi, reached by boat, is a sumptuous exclusive resort in a truly idyllic setting. Rayavadee

Thursday 12 February: DAY SIX: REST DAY, RAYAVADEE
Swim, snorkel, sail, or just chill out on the beach or by the pool. Rayavadee

Friday 13 February: DAY SEVEN: KRABI - PHUKET (185km/115mi)
We continue pottering up this stunning coast, before taking a four-hour longtail canoe trip around the famous karst-studded Phang Nga Bay, when we will pass through mangrove swamps and fantastic caverns on the way to see the famous James Bond island, stopping for a simple seafood lunch at a village on stilts. From here, it’s an easy drive to our luxurious resort hotel. Sheraton Grande Laguna

Saturday 14 February: DAY EIGHT: PHUKET - CHUMPHONG (450km/281mi)
A longer day’s run, first following the Andaman Sea coast north to Ranong, where there are views across the water into Myanmar (Burma). This characterful little town makes a good lunch stop. We take a scenic secondary mountain road across the isthmus, ending the day at a good resort hotel on the Gulf of Thailand near Chumphon. Novotel Resort

Sunday 15 February: DAY NINE: PAKNAM CHUMPHONG - BANGKOK (496km/310mi)
Today, you can pleasantly potter up quiet secondary roads along the unspoiled coast, or get quickly to Bangkok along the expressway. One good detour is into the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, another is to see the famous River Kwai Bridge. The routes to all will be in the road book - choose your own combination. Our historic hotel is “both a Bangkok legend and one of the finest hotels in the world” (Footprint guide). Tonight, there’s a riverside barbecue buffet at our hotel. Oriental Hotel

Monday 16 February: DAY TEN: REST DAY, BANGKOK
Use the express river boat service to get from our hotel to Bangkok’s wonderful historic core, the Grand Palace area; or take a tuk-tuk to one of the many markets. Explore the shops, and eat in one of the many little restaurants serving delicious local food. Evening: speciality meal in a local restaurant. Oriental Hotel

Tuesday 17 February: DAY ELEVEN: BANGKOK - KOH KONG (484km/302mi)
Expressways get us swiftly out of the city, then we take smaller roads eastwards through the hills and into the Kardamon Mountains, where we take little mountain roads south to the coast, including a short gravel section. We then travel a scenic road between mountains and sea to the frontier, crossing into Cambodia at the end of the day. Our hotel is at the frontier: a luxurious oceanside gambling resort built to entice wealthy Thais. Koh Kong International Resort

Part Three: Off the Beaten Track in Cambodia
Yes, we spend a day marvelling at one of the wonders of the world, the amazing complex of temples and palaces of Angkor, and another exploring the old capital of Phnom Penh, but our route in between takes us high into the mountains and deep into the jungles to find the impressive, half forgotten ruins of past rulers of this beautiful green country. This is true 4x4 exploring.

Wednesday 18 February: DAY TWELVE: KOH KONG - PHNOM PENH (450km/280mi)
Singapore to Macau provisional routeA long day. The lonely jungle road from Koh Kong has been rebuilt, and bridges already built should now all be open, replacing the river ferries by the time we get there. We head east along the coast to the nice old city of Kampot and the atttractive little seaside resort of Kep There’s some other interesting sights as we head north. On our way into Phnom Penh, we pass close to Choeung Ek, one of Pol Pot’s main killing fields, today a place of poignant remembrance. Lonely Planet calls our hotel a “classic colonial property... Phnom Penh’s finest hotel, with a heritage to match its comfort and class... one of Asia’s grand old palaces”. Briefing lecture tonight. Raffles Le Royal

Thursday 19 February: DAY 13: REST DAY IN PHNOM PENH
A chance to regather your strength between two hard days of driving, relaxing in this old city still redolent of France, with its tree-lined boulevards and fine colonial villas. The horrors of the recent past, which saw the city evacuated and laid waste, have been largely obliterated. There’s plenty of interest, and good shopping. Special dinner at the legendary Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Raffles Le Royal

Friday 20 February: DAY 14: PHNOM PENH - SIEM REAP (472km/295mi)
A dawn start for a long drive to find some of the finest monuments of the lost Angkor civilisation, who are to Indo-China what the Maya were to Central America: master builders of massive ceremonial stone structures built a thousand years ago but long swallowed up by the jungle. Among the little-known sites we can see today are the temples of Sambur and crumbling Pream Khan, the latter accessible only by primitive, rugged jeep trails through the rain forest - a real adventure drive. Those who prefer can take the main road straight to the city of Siem Reap, where our hotel is another beautifully refurbished grand old colonial establishment. Briefing lecture tonight. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor

Saturday 21 February: DAY 15: REST DAY AT SIEM REAP
The fabulous, vast ruins of Angkor - often called the eighth wonder of the world - cannot be fully explored in just one day, but to see the highlights you will have the option of a taking a guided coach tour, or of using our road book to follow a self-drive tour of about 40km around the main sites: Angkor Wat, the immense temple that is reputed to be the world’s largest religious building; Angkor Thom and its centrepiece, the Bayon temple with its huge sculptured faces; the great temple of Preah Khan; and Ta Prohm, its ancient stonework now in the implacable grip of massive trees. Optional excursions will take you to other, remoter sites; or you can visit the floating villages of Lake Tonle Sap. Or you can just stay by the hotel pool. Tonight, a special candlelit dinner in temple ruins. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor

Singapore to Macau provisional routePart Four: Northern Thailand: Temples, Lost Cities, Mountains and Rivers
This section, the heart of the event, is centred on Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second city and a place of captivating beauty. The first three days get us there by an interesting route, taking quiet scenic hill roads between impressive historic sites. Then we have three nights at a superb hotel in Chiang Mai, to explore the city and tackle the wonderful roads of the Mae Hong Son loop. Finally, we continue through picturesque hills and villages to join the Mekong River.

Sunday 22 February: DAY 16: SIEM REAP - KORAT (392km/245mi)
After a two-and-a-half hour drive through a remote corner of Cambodia, we cross the Dangre mountains back into Thailand. Then we travel on minor roads to two important historic sites - Prasat Meung Tam and Phanom Rung - before reaching our luxury hotel in the major city of Korat (also known as Nakhon Ratchasima). Royal Princess Korat Hotel

Monday 23 February: DAY 17: KORAT - SAPPRAIWAN (539km/337mi)
Today’s route zigzags across the hills and valleys of central Thailand using attractive country roads, many of them good gravel, to link places of interest. The first of these is Phimai, the impressive remnant of a 1,000 year old Khmer city. Later, there’s a very scenic (but optional) 45 km gravel section. Towards the end of the day, we climb to Khao Kho, a rugged mountain fastness that was the scene of fighting against terrorist guerrillas where we can see the King’s summer pavilion, then take a scenic highway to our overnight halt at the rural resort of Sappraiwan, which has its own family of elephants. There are faster route options if you prefer. Sappraiwan Grand Hotel

Tuesday 24 February: DAY 18: SAPPRAIWAN - CHIANG MAI (454km/284mi)
A day rich in things to see: stroll through the extensive ancient cities of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai, wonder at the superb temple of Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, be charmed by the pachyderms of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre. Footprint guide calls our home for the next three nights “A stunningly designed property built around the 1920s British consulate - itself a historical treat... expensive but almost certainly the best hotel in town... highly recommended”. Evening briefing lecture. The Chedi

Wednesday 25 February: DAY 19: REST DAY IN CHIANG MAI
For a quick look, we’ve prepared an 11km road book tour of some of the main sights; drive this at dawn, when the light is lovely and the streets are quiet. After breakfast, stroll through the magical old town, browse the shops and bazaars, take in one or two of the wonderful temples, perhaps climb Doi Suthep mountain; or just relax at the hotel, ready for tomorrow’s long day. The Chedi

Thursday 26 February: DAY 20: CHIANG MAI - CHIANG MAI (549km/343mi)
An unforgettable day’s motoring, the stunning loop of serpentine mountain roads to Mae Hong Son and back, some of it on gravel. There’s a very early start, partly because of the time it will take and partly to see the sunrise from the top of Doi Ithanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. The rest of the day is spent enjoying the wonderful roads and scenery, including a superb 20km stretch of jeep trail, and stopping at remote hill villages; but the distance is not as daunting as it looks, as most of the roads are well surfaced and engineered. You can of course stay in Chiang Mai if you prefer. The Chedi

Friday 27 February: DAY 21: CHIANG MAI - NAN (589km/368mi)
Another early start for a long day’s drive on remote roads close to the Laos border, through superb scenery and three National Parks, including spectacular Doi Phu Ka. The roads, although scenic, are good enough to enable brisk averages to be sustained, although there are several options for shorter routes. Overnight at Nan, a little-known town “steeped in history” (Lonely Planet). Dheveraj Hotel

Saturday 28 February: DAY 22: NAN - VIENTIANE (586km/366mi)
All our days are scenic now, and this is no exception, hugging the Laotian border to join the valley of the Mekong, one of Asia’s great rivers, close to the interesting old city of Chiang Khan. We continue along the fascinating Thai shore to cross the Friendship Bridge into Laos. It’s now less than 20 km to Vientiane, the capital, where we stay at the best hotel. Once again, good roads and lack of traffic enable the day’s kilometres to be easily covered. Lao Plaza Hotel

Part Five: The Undiscovered North of Laos and Vietnam
Until sixty years ago, these two lovely countries were part of French Indo-China, and even after the terrible decades of war, the French influence can still be felt; but they have a charm all of their own. Our route takes us from the Laotian capital of Vientiane to the delightful city of Luang Prabang, then through the remote northern mountains, the area least touched by modern life, to cross into Vietnam near Dien Bien Phu, a fateful name to those, especially the French, who remember the 1950s. Then we drive for two days on spectacular mountain roads through hill tribe areas to reach Hanoi. We have time for a brief visit before continuing to our last overnight destination in Indo-China, the amazing Ha Long Bay. We cruise this World Heritage Site, and stay the night, aboard a luxurious replica of a traditional junk.

Sunday 1 March: DAY 23: VIENTIANE - LUANG PRABANG (363km/227mi)
We spend an hour or so touring the sights of Vientiane before taking the main road north, through a green landscape of river valleys and karst mountains. The attractive old town of Vang Vieng is famous for its many limestone caves. In Luang Prabang, we stay in a characterful old hotel on the banks of the Mekong, used by classic car rallies. Grand Hotel

The Footprint guide says “Luang Prabang is the town that visitors often remember with greatest affection. Its rich history, incomparable architecture, relaxed atmosphere, good food, friendly population and stunning position, surrounded by a crown of mountains, mark (it) out as exceptional. Anchored at the junction of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, the former royal capital is home to a spellbinding array of gilded temples, weathered French colonial shopfronts and art deco shophouses.” So by all means just spend the day browsing, although a good excursion might be a boat trip up the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves. Dinner at an excellent traditional restaurant. Grand Hotel

Tuesday 3 March: DAY 25: LUANG PRABANG - DIEN BIEN PHU (400km/250mi)
We continue our journey northwards into ever more remote regions, passing through attractive mountain towns and villages like Udomxai and Muang La. Here, the asphalt of the twisting roads gives way to gravel, taking us up to the Vietnam frontier at a crossing point only recently opened to foreigners. Then it’s a short run down to Dien Bien Phu, scene of the siege and defeat by the Viet Minh that in 1954 effectively marked the end of French colonial power in Indo-China; tomorrow, we pass various reminders of this momentous event. Muong Thanh Hotel

Wednesday 4 March: DAY 26: DIEN BIEN PHU - SAPA (297km/186mi)
Today’s run is on even more spectacular roads through the mountains. We pass through the little town of Muong Lay (ex Lai Chau), climb the precipitous zigzag up to Sinho, then cross the spectacular 2,000m Tram Ton Pass (Vietnam’s highest) before arriving at the attractive hill resort of Sapa. Lonely Planet says of our hotel “This is the place where Sapa becomes Switzerland: a delightful mountain lodge with stylish service and smart rooms. This hotel has it all...” Victoria Sapa Hotel

Thursday 5 March: DAY 27: SAPA - HANOI (440km/275mi)
A long day of driving, back over the Tram Ton Pass, then following the scenic, quiet and well engineered Route 32 through beautiful countryside of mountains and terraces all the way to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. Our route into the city uses back roads along the river levees all the way to our superb hotel, one of its newest and finest, built on a series of islands. Intercontinental Hotel

Friday 6 March: DAY 28: HANOI - HA LONG (149km/93mi)
There’s time for an hour or so exploring and shopping in Hanoi before we set off on the short run to Ha Long Bay, a World Heritage Site where the sea is studded with spectacular, towering limestone karst islands rising sheer from the water. In the early afternoon we embark on our luxuriously fitted period junk for a four-hour cruise, before mooring for the night and transferring to a great cave for a breathtaking candlelit dinner. Bao Tho Junk

Part Six: Chinese Epilogue
We cross the Chinese border, then spend most of today and tomorrow speeding along new expressways to our final destinations, the two vibrant, bustling former European colonies facing each other across the Pearl River estuary: Macau and Hong Kong. Both are great places to explore and shop.

Saturday 7 March: DAY 29: HA LONG - BEIHAI (380km/238mi)
Back on shore, we follow the coast road east for 175 km (110 mi) to the China frontier, then take expressways to our luxury seafront hotel in the coastal resort of Beihai. Shangri-La Hotel

Sunday 8 March: DAY 30: BEIHAI - MACAU (570km/360mi)
We take advantage of China’s expressway network to travel quickly to Zhuhai, the Chinese city just outside Macau. Here, there’s a ceremonial finish of the actual Adventure Drive, before we hand cars over to our shipping agent to be returned home. We then transfer by coach to our luxury hotel in Macau, a prestigious seaside golf resort away from the main bustle. This evening, there’s a farewell prizegiving dinner in an attractive local Portuguese restaurant. Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Monday 9 March onwards: IN MACAU AND HONG KONG
Plan to have at least a few hours in Macau before flying out, using the high-speed ferry direct to Hong Kong International Airport (available only to flights departing after 11:30). Alternatively, why not opt to stay longer in Macau, or transfer by high-speed ferry to Hong Kong, or both? There’s a special package at our favourite HK hotel, the Harbour Plaza.

Total driving distance: 9,906 km (6,157 mi); average distance per driving day (24 days): 413 km (257 mi)

This programme is provisional and any part of it may be amended.

JB/s 18/7/2008