Veteran motor journalist Yamin Vong enjoys his holiday driving in a trusted pick-up truck on a shoestring budget by the beach without blowing up the bank.

It seems presumptuous to talk about travelling off the beaten track because segments of what may seem like travelling off the beaten track could well be another person’s daily routine.

So really then, it’s about travelling as a Free Independent Traveller (FIT) as the tourist trade describes this segment of consumers. Or, you could opt for what the easy choice of what is known as Sit in Coach (SIC) in the travel trade.

Then, there is the Visit Friends and Relatives (VFR) group where there is no need for hotel accommodation. You could then categorise me as a FIT and VFR for this holiday story that I’m going to describe.

After working for 40 years in an automotivethemed career mostly focussing on automotive journalism, I had planned to reward myself with a holiday upon completion of the final event of my professional calendar with the launch of The Cars of the Year Malaysia held at the tail-end of 2019.

And, so it was that at 6:30 am on Tuesday, I was on board the mass rapid transit (MRT) heading for Kuala Lumpur Sentral via the Museum station. The seat in a Business Class coach utilizing the KTM Electric Train Service (ETS) had been booked online weeks earlier and the boarding pass with the QR code already printed out at home. Passengers who had arrived earlier were seated at a waiting lounge outside the boarding gate.

The boarding process was faster than that of boarding a plane. Remember too that access is so much more convenient via a train because there are many coaches and several doors plus a long platform for you to navigate freely.

The fascinating thing about the KTM intracity Electric Train Service is that it is punctual almost to the minute.

After lunch in Penang, several travel options abound to get to the Malaysian border at Padang Besar and across to Sadao. I figured that my best option was to get a ride from my Penang friends to the Padang Besar duty-free shop. From there, I walked about 400 metres across to the Thai side, pulling along my newly acquired wheelie bag. This is the strategy to beat traffic jams.

Travelling on a working day during the off-peak season is something that makes your FIT travelling more enjoyable. From Sadao, share a taxi or charter one for about THB700 (RM 92.91) to Hatyai which is just an hour’s drive.

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