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Heading back into Malaysia after a long two year hiatus? Jason Chew from Pitcrew Events catalogs his journey and some key pointers to take note of.

15 Apr 2022

The date was 26th March 2020, as I drove the family back from a well-deserved break in Pangkor Laut. Three days after border lockdowns were announced, we passed through eerily empty highways and deserted checkpoints. Little did I realise, that was the start of a very long and painful journey. As an operator of a travel agency that specialises in driving holidays, not only did my business come to a grinding halt, but so did my sense of freedom.

As weeks turned into months and months sadly into years, many of our clients were bored stiff. We found temporary relief by organising local drives but there were only that many routes and locations available locally before the perennial question arises: what's next? Some of our clients even started selling off their supercars, as it was just parked at home collecting dust.

For some, its been over two years since they've had the chance to reunite with family across the border
The launch of VTLs gave us a glimmer of hope and I recall how excited I was when putting together a media drive to Korea. Besides the hassle of having your nose pocked at least four times and the multitude of paperwork required for travel, we were slowly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. When the reopening of borders between Singapore and Malaysia were announced, we were grinning not only because our work phones hasn't stopped ringing, but we could finally see our families in Malaysia again.

I naturally jumped at the opportunity to head back to see my parents in Malaysia but I wanted to do it somewhat differently. I needed that special spark to make my first road trip after two years just a bit more epic. As I've been doing some work for BMW Asia on their EV range, I thought why not turn this into an EV road trip? After a few emails with BMW Asia, I was set with the iX.

The BMW iX offered a special way to embark on the journey back home
As news got out about my intended road trip into Malaysia, I received numerous texts from concerned friends. Are you sure it's safe? Will you get robbed? Won't your car be hijacked? Have you not seen the videos online? Crime can happen anywhere, not just in Malaysia. We're a little bit more fortunate as crime rates are a lot lower here in Singapore, but we still have parang wielding dudes going on a rampage and the occasional kopitiam uncle bust ups. So, low crime doesn't mean no crime. If you're concerned about driving into Malaysia, here are some simple pointers that you should keep in mind. 

Planning ahead

Planning ahead ensures that you'll get to your final location safely
Before even starting out, you should definitely plan your routes beforehand. Know where you want to go, but also give yourself time to rest in between.

With apps like Google Maps or Waze, getting lost is a lot less likely (assuming you can follow simple instructions) to happen.

Also, always have more fuel/battery range than you require. This goes hand in hand with planning your route in advance. 

Check your car

Ensure that you have packed the basic essential tools
If you haven't had your car checked in a while, it's best to send it for a quick look over. Inflate your tyres to the manufacturers recommended pressures (these can be found on the side of the driver's door sill).

Also, check if your spare tyre is properly inflated. If your car only comes with a tyre inflator and sealant kit, make sure it's in working condition.

You will also need to consider buying or bringing basic tools. These are a must (car jack, wheel nut key, wrench).

Ensure EV readiness

Driving an EV? It's best to pack your own cables, just in case
If you're driving an EV, apps like PlugShare lets you know various charging points along your route and the operators of the charging terminals, and this will be useful in planning your route as well.

One thing to note is that not all charging terminals in Malaysia may be equipped with the appropriate cables, so its advisable that you bring along your own Type 2 or CCS cables.

If it's a rental EV, do remember to check with the rental company to ensure you've got the suitable cables.

Be smart and situationally aware

In these Covid times, packing spare masks, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitiser has become almost second nature now
Know your surroundings. If you don't feel safe parking your car at a particular location, move on. It would be prudent to have a habit of locking your doors immediately after entering/parking.

I've had the unfortunate experience of someone opening my car door to sell me a 'Rolex', then becoming pretty angsty when I declined.

And, as we learn to live with Covid, you can never be too careful. Always pack spare masks, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitisers. I also have an in-car germicidal ioniser for that extra layer of protection and peace of mind.

Remember basic rules 

Just because you see an empty highway doesn't mean you should immediate gun the throttle
It might have been more than two years since many of us have driven in Malaysia, but the basic traffic rules and driving etiquette obviously still apply. Don't start driving like a maniac just because you see open highways and meandering B-roads.

Please also refrain from dry humping your car when refuelling and then pleading ignorance after 'accidentally' filling Ron 95. And, remember that if you need to answer the call of nature, toilets are readily available at most petrol stations and rest stops.

So how did my trip turn out in the end? It was bittersweet as I brought my five-year old daughter to finally see her paternal grandparents after two years, but we also paid respects to her maternal grandfather, who had passed on recently. Hitting the open roads to Muar and Johor Bahru brought back many fond memories but the sight of abandoned shop lots was a stark reminder of the casualties from the pandemic. Before crossing back into Singapore, I made one last stop at my usual car wash in Johor Bahru. Happy that they were still operating, I took the chance to catch up with the owner. Speaking with a tinge of resignation, the recent border reopening gives him a glimmer of hope that his business would soon return to some sort of normalcy.

We all hope so too.

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