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Diaries: AROC MALAYSIA CHALLENGE TRIP SUMMARY 2002
KL-Bangkok-Pattaya-Chiengmai-Mae Hong Son-Hua Hin-Hat Yai –KL

DAY 0 – Monday, 25 March
All gathered at Sarpinos Pizzeria in Mont Kiara Plaza, Mont Kiara, KL by 10pm for the flag off. Participants and members that attended were treated to pizza and lasagne at Sarpinos. The total number of participants for the trip was 23 persons which included 7 persons from Milan Auto and one Alex Lo from Taiwan (the AROC Taiwan president).

Flag-off was officiated by the RACM (Royal Automobile Club of Malaysia and SIC chairman, Tan Sri Basir Ismail at 11pm with a TV3 camera crew covering the flag-off. The 9 cars in the convoy flagged off comprised of 2 units 166 3.0V6, 5 units 164 3.0V6 12v, and 2 units 156 2.5V6. (All V6s, where are all the Twin Sparks?) A lone ’84 GTV6 3.0 from Ipoh was expected to join the convoy in Hat Yai. The 9 cars from KL regrouped at Rawang R&R shortly after flag-off.


DAY 1 – Tuesday, 26 March
We regrouped again at the Gunung Semenggol R&R at around 2am and arrived at Changlun by 4.30am. We had early breakfast, rest, and changed currency at the Changlun stop while waiting for the border to open at 6am. We went thru the immigration and customs checkpoint at around 7am.

Our guide, Ekasit was already waiting at the border checkpoint and joined us from there. Our convoy of 9 cars proceeded north and was joined by the lone GTV6 from Ipoh just after Hat Yai. The convoy, now 10 cars complete proceeded northwards. A Thai Highway Patrol car escorted our convoy just after Hat Yai. Police escort was arranged throughout the entire journey in Thailand.

Lunch was at a seaside restaurant near Surat Thani. We reached Bangkok at around 9pm and checked in Novotel Lotus Hotel at Bang Na, Bangkok which is just a few kilometres away from BITEC (Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre).


DAY 2 – Wednesday, 27th March
Bangkok, Free and Easy during the day. Shopping was the order of the day as the participants made their way around Bangkok doing their shopping and wandering about.

We had light dinner at BITEC where we had VIP passes courtesy of Rocco Basta, the Regional Director of Fiat and Alfa Romeo SpA. With the VIP passes, we had a sneak peek at the entire Bangkok Motor Show with other invited guests well before the general public. The Motor Show was slated to be open to the general public on the 29th. It was much easier to walk around and inspect all the booths without massive crowds.

We marvelled at the bright red 156GTA on display but only see and no touch. Dark tinted windows all round prevented viewing of the interior which is a left-hand drive model. The other exciting prospect was the facelifted 156 Selespeed assembled in Thailand. Typical of Malaysians, we sat in the car, knocked on the body, fenders with our knuckles, kicked the tyres (ahem) to check the build quality. The new interior drew much interest. Surprisingly, the 2001 Ferrari F1 car on display between the new 156 and the 156GTA did not draw as much interest.

We proceeded to check the other cars on display but spent more time at the Alfa Romeo stand. We left BITEC by 10pm and proceeded back to our hotel where the participants proceeded with their own programmes, i.e Hard Rock Café, Pat Pong etc.


DAY 4 – Thursday, 28th March
Bangkok to Pattaya. We left Novotel at around 11am and proceeded towards Pattaya. We reached the Pattaya Park Beach Resort at around 3pm. Again, shopping was the order of the day as the participants wandered around the beach side and roadside stalls. After dinner, we converged at the Hard Rock Cafe Pattaya while others wandered around the pedestrian malls and beach side road stalls till late.


DAY 5 – Friday, 29th March
Pattaya to Rayong. We drove to the Rayong GM plant about 60km away for the factory visit and arrived at the plant at about 11am. After a safety briefing, we were led to the section where the 156s are assembled and briefed about the entire assembly process. No pictures allowed in the factory for secrecy purposes. We departed the Rayong plant at around 1.30pm back to Pattaya.

The rest of the day was free and easy. More shopping, massage and more Hard Rock Café action during the night.


DAY 6 – Saturday, 30th March
Pattaya to BITEC, Bangkok. We left Pattaya at around 10am and proceeded towards Bangkok. Along the way, we stopped by Thai Prestige Auto, the local distributor of Alfa Romeo. Here we rested while their mechanics checked our cars. Our cars were also given a wash before we proceeded to BITEC at around 1pm.

We parked our cars at a section the car park where AROC of Siam held their Alfa Day. Approximately 40 cars in total from Thailand gathered. We were given lunch at a reception room by AROC of Siam members where we mingled. Shortly after, we walked around BITEC to see the Motor Show again. Dinner courtesy of AROC Siam was held at a restaurant in the BITEC centre at 6pm where speeches were held and tokens were exchanged.

9pm, we were flagged off by Rocco Basta from BITEC as we headed towards Chiengmai (approx. 750km away). Along the way, we stopped by one of the new Alfa Romeo dealerships in Bangkok to pick up a brand new 156 Selespeed (Thai-assembled, facelifted model) to deliver to the Chiengmai dealer and for the Chiengmai Motor Show. This was also a shakedown test to see if the car performed as it should. Honour and privilege of the assignment was given to one of the Milan Auto sales person, Rohsdi and Alex Lo as co-driver.

One of our participants came down with food poisoning after BITEC. We suspect that the clams he had during dinner at BITEC as the prime cause. We stopped by a local hospital for about an hour. He was discharged after given medication and we proceeded with our journey.

We were advised by AROC of Siam to travel to Chiengmai at night. The road from Bangkok to Chiengmai is a major artery as many trucks, buses, cars and bikes travel the road during the day. Night traffic is very light and we could travel up to speeds of 180kmh on the dual carriage highway. The new 156 Selespeed had no problems keeping up with the V6 equipped convoy as both Rohsdi and Alex took turns driving the car. The car was driven the way it was meant to be driven, hard and fast, and there were no problems with the car whatsoever. The tiredness shows as we make many stops along the way for short naps and fuel.


DAY 7 – Sunday, 31st March
Arrived at Chiengmai at around 7am. The Chiengmai dealer was already waiting at the Pornping Tower Hotel to collect the new 156 from us. We went for breakfast nearby the hotel as not all the hotel rooms were ready for us. The hotel was fully booked and some guests have not checked out. Most of us ended up waiting and napping in the hotel lobby after breakfast while waiting for rooms to be assigned.

Lunch was courtesy of the Chiengmai dealer but not all attended as some have retired to their rooms to catch up on sleep. The Chiengmai dealer also took those awake to the Chiengmai Motor Show (smaller in scale as compared to Bangkok). Test drives in the 147 and new 156 were arranged.

Dinner was courtesy of the Chiengmai dealer at a traditional restaurant in town. After dinner, it was usual shopping, massage and discoing routine for the participants.


DAY 8 – Monday, 1st April
Chiengmai, free and easy.

4am, Alex Lo of Taiwan came down with food poisoning and was hospitalised. Again, we suspect the clams he had for lunch the previous day as the culprit. (Clams again!!!)

Two 164s which had earlier complained of slightly high engine operating temperatures in the past day had their fan switch replaced, and the problem was resolved in the hotel car park.


DAY 9 – Tuesday, 2nd April
Chiengmai to Mae Hongson. Our guide Ekasit picked up Alex Lo from the hospital early in the morning. Alex looked much better.

We left Chiengmai at around 10am. The distance to Mae Hong Son is approximately 250km of which 200km comprises of hilly sections with tight sharp twisty corners. Once we approached the twisty sections, the lead police escort car let us go on our own as they did not want to have all our cars breathing down their necks thru the corners. All 10 cars, excited at being let loose, started tackling the twists and turns with gusto and flair. The roads seemed like it was made for Alfa Romeos. I have never seen so many vicious corners, going uphill and downhill, such tight corners in all forms, you name it, blind ones, 90 degree corners, hairpins, horseshoes, chicanes, etc all in one stretch for such a distance. The hill gradient is also very steep with hardly any guardrails to stop you from plunging into the ravine below. “Vicious” is an apt word to describe the stretch.

The number of corners thru this section varies depending on who you ask. There are some that will tell you that there are approximately 1,600 corners while others tell you that it is more than 2,000 corners. Whatever the number is, it just seemed never ending, I can tell you that. Too much of a good thing is bad for you. The average speed thru this section was only 50kmh to 80kmh.

We were informed that just 2 weeks prior to our visit, a group of Malaysian bikers had gone thru the same stretch. This stretch is no stranger to Malaysian and Singaporean bikers, and 4WD enthusiasts from Malaysia. However, we could well be the first Malaysian car club to tackle this stretch.

This section is most punishing on the brakes as 2 cars found out. The two leading166s in front overheated their brakes after just about 70km of corners up and downhill with more than 100km to go. The sight of the two cars resting by the roadside rest area waiting for their brakes to cool down knocked some sense and restraint in the other drivers as they started to slow down. Those cars that had already fitted steel-braided hoses and higher temperature range brake pads were counting their lucky stars as they made a wise investment. They were left faster than the rest as the others had slowed down. We had lunch halfway in a valley where we also rested. After lunch we continued tackling more and more corners, again uphill and downhill with no end of corners in sight.

15km away from Mae Hong Son, we detoured to visit the Karen Longneck tribe. This tribe is known for their womenfolk that wear metal rings around their necks to extend their necks. Along the way, we passed a few army checkpoints and army camps due to their conflict with some Myanmar rebels. We were told that the area is safe for visit. We marvelled at the sheer simplicity of the nomadic tribe. We left the Longneck settlement before sundown as advised and we reached the Mae Hong Son Riverside Hotel at around 7pm.

We had dinner at a restaurant in town. After dinner, there was a farewell toast to Alex Lo who was leaving for Taipeh the next morning


DAY10 – Wednesday, 3rd April
Mae Hong Son to Hua Hin. Another killer day. We left Mae Hong early at around 8am. The distance to Hua Hin is approximately 1,200km but we have to go thru almost 300km of hilly sections and corners before we hit the dual lane highway. The route this time in the south-easternly direction has gentler corners and less steep gradients as compared to the previous day. The number of corners is estimated to be around 800 plus. The drivers, wiser this time, took the turns and twists with less speed and more restraint.

The previous day’s hard cornering antics had started to take its toll. One of the164 3.0V6 5-speed manual lost its 3rd gear and had to start shifting from 2nd to 4th. The car was still driveable though. Another 164 with heavy load in the boot had problems with its right rear tyre scrubbing the fuel inlet hose inside the wheel arch resulting in leaking fuel. Another 164 with fouled spark plugs had engine jerking problems.

Once we reached the motorway, we stopped at a petrol station which had a nearby tyre shop. One 164 had its sparkplugs changed while another transferred its heavy load to another car and had the right rear tyre replaced with a spare. No other untoward incidents along the way as we reached the Hua Hin Grand Plaza Hotel at around midnight.


DAY 11 – Thursday, 4th April
Hua Hin to Hat Yai - 800km. We departed at around 9am and reached Hat Yai at around 5pm. No untoward incidents along the way. Upon reaching Hat Yai we proceeded to the Lee Garden Plaza Hotel. It was free and easy and the usual routine of shopping, wandering around, massage, discoing etc. well till late. We were glad and relieved as our journey was almost over.

DAY 12 – Friday, 5th April
Hat Yai to KL. It was free flow back home. We were free to leave as and when we wished. All the weary 20 odd participants shook hands, exchanged stories, jokes and wished each other well before proceeding towards the border from noon onwards. All 10 cars and all participants reached their homes safe and sound.

THE END

Posted: TheTaj @ Thu Apr 07, 2005 3:54 pm


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