Passing Kuala Kangsar, Juru, Butterworth, and then Sungai Petani — I’ve decided to pull over for a quick refresh at the Gurun layover. Power napping for 10 minutes after a continuous drive from Kuala Lumpur, which just took me three hours and 25 minutes to reach where I am now. It was indeed soul-draining. Best (or worst) of all, this is not even quarter of the journey yet.

Probably breakfast is what we all need for a quick energy boost. Nasi Lemak Ong was the selected venue for us four, and the rest of the participants, to stop by and indulge in some nice meals prepared by the friendly chef. Hearty it was, and it did make us all very happy and prepped up for the remaining 700km journey.

Filling up at a Shell station just a few blocks away, Bobby also pulled over at the pump right beside. While he fills up the S90 T6 R-Design to the brim, we discussed about how expensive fuel prices are going to be once we clear the Malaysian sector.


The spirits are high, and amidst the wee hours of the morning, a group of 45 cars are set to embark on a 2,000km drive from the comforts of Kuala Lumpur to the scenic island of Phuket. Nope, we’re not opting for a flight to get there — but instead — driving all the way up in a bid to verse ourselves up in the name of love for cars. Yes, this is the magnificent 2017 Evo Enduro escapade.

Words & Photography By KEEGAN DORAI & AARON LEE

I remembered the day when this idea was initially conferred to me. Well at least, to me personally. Not taking any other thoughts that’s running wild in Bobby’s mind prior to this. It was a very sunny day when we’re out shooting three wagons; one being my Volvo V50, Bobby’s Audi S4 Avant and a Subaru Levorg; in which was given to us for a four-day review.

While Bobby was busy doing his usual walkaround videos at the infamous Desa Waterpark (yes, this was quite a while ago before the area was cordoned off and earmarked for demolition), I was getting my camera ready to do some tracking shots. Soon after — we’ve got our desired clips — and then we headed back to base right before dispersing back to our respective destinations.

About to hop into my driver’s seat, he soon uttered this, “Keegan, I am thinking of doing something rather different. Commonly done in Europe like Mille Miglia, but somehow it isn’t really appreciated as an automotive tradition here on a yearly basis.” I asked nonchalantly, “You sure? That’s rather ambitions but knowing you, it wouldn’t be impossible.”

Bobby just scoffed at my dreary look, and soon he walked away. Knowing this would be a reality one day; it did came true after all. Months after, and here I am. Arriving at The Square in Publika around 3.00am on Friday. With me on this journey is Aaron Lee, a celebrity-like photographer from Malaysia’s automotive industry; Kate, which is our resident photographer’s wife, and Beng, our latest colleague to join in the fray.

Stickers on. All ready to rumble, and here’s where it all began:
The Great 2017 Evo Enduro Drive.‍‍‍

| DAY 1‍‍‍‍‍

Flagging off from Publika, the first leg involved a drive up to Alor Setar as our first stop before hitting the border town of Padang Besar. Taking the wheel of the new Volvo V90 T6 R-Design, it was a delightful choice as I could rest my laurels on it by providing me and the occupants enough of living space while embarking on this road trip.

With acres of rear head and legroom, Aaron and Kate settled in immediately well at the back, and Beng being my co-pilot in the front passenger seat. With all of the luggages tucked into the rear humongous boot, we departed off the venue at 5.00am sharp. Passing the Duta Toll complex on NKVE, we soon reached up to speeds of 140km/h. Though not so law abiding in at the wheel velocity, but the roads were absolutely empty and it was a doddle.

Pulling over at the Tanjung Malim stopover for a quick refuel, and a Touch & Go reload, we’re soon on the highway once more. The weather and surroundings were fantastic as it rained the night before. Emulating a scenery as though you’re actually driving pass the Pre-Alps in between Germany and Austria as the fog complements the mountainous districts of Slim River, Tapah and Ipoh.

Being the photographer car — or best known as the ‘crew mobile’ — time is indeed precious and I know we cant afford to reach Alor Setar later than the rest. With that set in due course, I push on vigilantly. Blessed be for the V90 T6 R-Design’s AWD drivetrain, it remained as planted as possible over ever-changing road surfaces. That equates from wet to dry, or uneven and slippery surfaces with a touch of oil slicks at treacherous bends.

‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍While passing through the infamous Menora tunnel, we’ve encountered numerous accidents along the way. Fortunately enough, these mishaps were relatively minor, and as to our experience, they commonly end up obstructing just one lane on this curvaceous section of the dual carriageway on the E1.

Over here, the tyres you use are vital as they ensures both you and your occupants are safe no matter how the situation changes. It doesn't matter if its a small hatchback, or a half-a-million Ringgit luxobarge.


While most of us do complain on our fluctuating petrol price over here, it’s still a far cry cheaper than what our neighbours pay up north. Yes, I am talking prices of up to RM4 per litre. And that is just for RON 95, which is considered a premium commodity for them. Want to save a few quid? Then do opt for the ethanol-based Gasohols that could potentially ruin your fuel system. More on that later.

Without hesitation, we filled both cars up. Hitting back the North-South highway, we soon take the exit just before Bukit Kayu Hitam, whereby it takes us to the less hectic and better appointed Padang Besar border post. Along Route 79, the sceneries were absolutely beautiful. Nothing beats a view that combines great open spaces with majestic mountains dotting the background.


At Padang Besar, the situation around the checkpoint was frenetic as usual on the Thai sector. Not for the faint of heart as this is not like your systemised CIQ when crossing into Singapore from Johor Bahru. Want to get across to the land of smiles? Then do park your car at a designated area, go down and join the queue to get your passport validated.


Though there are various ways for you to get a quick access in, it’s best if you stick to the usual way possible. Thanks to the Thai Tourism Board, we’ve got a lane that’s dedicated to us participants when we arrived at the checkpoint. With 95 people and 45 cars at the venue, you’d expect to spend some time over here. And it did took us at least three hours to get all things done before taking off.

‍‍‍‍‍‍Papers signed and passports stamped, we soon then assembled by the side of the road right after the border, waiting for the Tourist Police to give us an escort all the way to Phuket. Yes, this sounds like a great plan, an‍‍‍d indeed it was as we pressed on for another 202km along Route 4 to Trang for our lunch break, or best known as Asian Highway 2.

Passing Sadao, Nipha Thani and soon reaching Hatyai, we diverted our course westwards that takes us to the Province of Phattalung. Now with 150km left, we thought it would reach quickly but since our neighbour lacks a proper highway network, it felt almost forever. Traffic was building up a little as we near the fringes of the Khao Pu-Khao Ya National Park.

With Aaron tagging along in the V90, it was time to use this golden opportunity for some photo taking while the other cars are in motion. Proving that this can be easily done with the V90 as it comes with a sizeable sunroof, our photography guru then soon started blasting various shots in a bid to get everyone at one go in a frame. This involved me speeding up, slowing down and timing myself in according to his shutter.

Tiring it was, but it was damn worth it. The pictures turned out superb — and without a doubt — Aaron is indeed one of the best chap you can come across in the business. Now with 58km left to Trang, we’re doubting that we could reach there in time for lunch as it was already 4.40pm. Pulling over at a rest stop for a quick refuel, the V90 hasn’t consumed so much of petrol for now, but some of the guys tagging along are driving much thirstier machines.

At some rural areas, you do need to take extra precaution on the type of fuel you’re going to fill up. Unlike Malaysia, Thailand uses a premix of ethanol for its petrols in exchange for a lower price per litre, and cars sold here are developed to take liquids such as that.


Ethanols are known to devour your fuel line and plastic parts around the engine. That would be the last thing you’ll ever need after driving this far. If needed however, do not fill more than half tank, or leave a mix of pure RON 95 to balance the gasohol altogether and you're good to go.

Arriving at the Trang Andaman Getaway, we parked our cars for a quick photo op before proceeding to Khao Pubpa for our meal break. Nope, it wasn't lunch anymore, but dinner in fact, before pressing on for another 310km. Yes, this isn’t actually half-way yet — near halfway in essence. Phuket is easily another four hours in distance from where we are, depending on traffic.

Passing the fantastic curvy roads after our food stop, and soon out on the open roads once more, traffic once held us back a little at some stretches that goes through small towns. The sun is setting, and the time is 7.30pm. I told Aaron this, “We need to haul arse, or else we’ll be reaching Phuket way past midnight.” Seatbelts on, we hit the gas in earnest.

Nonetheless, we maintained progress pretty well. Much thanks to the Tourist Police escorting us all the way to the holiday island of Phuket. Now in the province of Krabi, we thought it would be great if we can actually stop for another rest — but the other guys proved the opposite. We continued pressing on for a good two hours before pulling over at a Shell station that’s situated right after the Krabi Airport.

“Hey, we’ve passed the airport,” Aaron said to me. But while I was filling up the V90 with RON 95 Gasohol in worry as I have no choice, I replied “Nope, the airport is before Krabi town itself so we still got a long way to go.” Yes, the mood was a little gloomy. It has been a continuous 16 hour drive so far since we’ve left Kuala Lumpur.

But on a sidenote, the drive did live up to its name. It was enduring, challenging and indeed intense. I looked on the positive side and think to myself about being grateful enough to make it this far without any unwanted hiccups. We’re knackered but smiles were abound. Everyone knew that this is done altogether with great passion.


Still on Route 4 but at the areas where the famous Phung Chang Cave is, the roads then soon turned into a stretch of construction chaos. As the Thai government focuses on expanding its major “highway” that connects both Krabi and Phuket, it wasn't really a convenience to drive through at that very hour.

We saw countless of diversions over broken surfaces, and a couple of accidents along the course. Best of all, there’s no street lightning so it is dangerous.

We pushed on with extra precaution, and soon, we’ve exited Route 4 and entered the provincial road of 402. And joy of joy, the landmark Sarasin bridge was soon in our sights. “So much for getting here first by sunset and taking some photos of those guys driving pass,” Aaron said in a laughing manner, but I replied “well at least we’re in Phuket now”. That's what matters the most now for a fact.

Now on the island of Phuket, we're driving on the Thepkrasattri road that takes us directly to town. Still convoying in a group with the Police escorting us, along these nice roads with lots of corners and at this late hour without traffic. We pushed on further in enthusiasm to enjoy the last bits of our drive.

The chaps from the Lotus Malaysia Club would’ve enjoyed roads such as these. Yes, they’re really driven and hardcore. Imagine a Mk1 Lotus Elise being driven by one of our participants all the way here. I bet it would have gotten me mad, but he was all in smiles.


After passing the hilly Phrabarami road — and now in town — we turned into our accommodation that we’ve marked for the next two days. The clock showed us that it’s 12.30am.

All shops were closed, and the sidewalks are eerily empty. But nonetheless we are grateful enough that everyone has made it this far. While everyone has checked in safely, Bobby and me headed out for a quick cigarette break and breathe a sigh of relief.

“We made it,” Bobby said to me. “Couldn’t agree more mate,” I replied. 1000kms it was. Well, close in fact at 982km and a dreadful 19 hours worth of driving all the way up. Still, it has been a wonderful journey in spirit. We then headed up to our respective rooms and called it a night.


| DAY‍‍‍ 2

The sun rose over Phuket, and everyone was out and about. I headed down to the entrance and came across Bobby and his mates. “No breakfast?,” Bobby asked me. I replied him with a smirk “You’re in Thailand, why bother having hotel breakfast while they’re splendid food stalls around town?”. I laughed and soon walked out to find some local cuisine with my colleague, Beng.

Done eating and now back at the hotel carpark, I took the V90 out for a quick wash before our grand photoshoot today that’s set at 3.00pm. We drove out to the Jungceylon mall (not sure why it’s named in such a way) and leave the keys to the guys manning the washing bay at the mall. Took a stroll around and spent a couple of hours checking out some goods that’s not available back home. Didn’t got any stuffs but Beng — however — bought a nice looking Converse bag at a really good deal, though.


Nearing our departure time, everyone gathered outside the hotel to flag-off. Our destination this time is to the Bang Wad dam, which is situated not far away from the city itself. Zipping past the usual moped and minivan-ridden roads, we’ve arrived at the dam. The view was majestic indeed. The lighting was just right. Aaron immediately briefed me on where to drop him in a bid to get some wonderful photos.


While he took position, both the convoy and me drove all the way up to position their beloved rides in an orderly manner and head down for a nice catch up session. Everyone gathered happily, exchanged views about their cars, talking about general stuffs and getting to know each and other. It was an atmosphere filled with joy and merry.

As both Bobby and me discussed with Aaron on doing some different photo angles, we then ushered everyone to pose with their cars this round. Next up, a groupie to top the cake — and as a finisher — we head downwards from where we are, and drove up slowly for some beauty shots. It was evening by then, and the sun-kissed skies did complement everything in a spectacular fashion. What a dazzling moment it was.

All done and dusted for now, we all then soon headed out from the area and took a 14km drive to our dinner venue. Kan Eang Pier its called, and this is where everyone gathered to eat and enjoy the remaining programme set for the day. Food then was served while the live band played some fine tunes, and a speech delivered by the Thai Tourism board soon followed to complete the overall pleasing ambience.


While everyone is relishing the moment, I stepped aside with Beng to do our hashtag count that’s done by the participants. It was staggering indeed. We’ve calculated close to 200 of them being posted up, and everything was so well received on social media. The results are set by then, and the winners were announced.

Taking our bespoke cover car models this round is TGTR, and Tom Goh from ZeroToHundred on the most creative postings, while Chris Wee from Autofreaks carted away a complimentary night’s stay at the Ramada Deevana Phuket.

Finally, snapping up an exclusive driving experience with the soon-to-come Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG around Sepang are four lucky winners with the most postings, starting from Fadhil Bin Mohamad Isa who drove his BMW 330e, BMW 135i driver Prakaash Karun, Volvo S60 T6 aficionado Lye Guang Quan — and finally — Lee Cheong Fatt, the one and only participant that drove his shiny and brand-new Volkswagen Passat B8 all the way here.

Now with our tummies filled up and tiredness kicking in, its time to head back to the hotel and call it a night. Yes, tomorrow is another big day as everyone of us will be departing back to Kuala Lumpur.

| DA‍‍‍Y 3

A free and easy drive back this time, we gathered at the lobby by 9.00am to begin our escapade back. Some did opted to stay back and further explore Phuket, a couple of them did proceed much earlier, and another handful has decided to make their way back by noon.

Now with a group of three cars, which is the V90 I'm piloting, Bobby’s S90 T6 R-Design and Zahir's S90 T5. We then left Phuket for our lunch venue in Trang.

With 300km to go, we passed the similar route we took on our way into Phuket. The only difference is that now we can see our surrounding as it’s daytime and the sun's up shining over. Knowing that the rural sections on our route back would lack proper fuel stops with RON 95, we stopped at what seems to be the biggest Shell station we have come across during our stint.

Unlike home, major petrol stations over here are prepped-up properly. Yes, you can have your lunch at a cafe, or do some light grocery shopping at the big 7-Eleven on site. While fuelling up, we stock up on provisions to keep us going for the next five hours at least. As mentioned earlier, using the term ‘highway’ is a bit too generous as the main arterial roads here in Thailand appears to be as big as Jalan Maarof.


Passing the hilly areas out on the outskirts of Krabi, the scenery did reminded me of Ipoh. Except that it isn’t. We’re nowhere near Trang yet, but we pushed on and enjoyed the picturistic surroundings that flew by as we drive pass mile by mile.

Reaching Trang just right after lunchtime, it is the last time that we will be seeing this venue where you’ll be dining with a spectacular view out while enjoying our meal. “Can’t imagine that its over so quickly and we are on our way back now,” Bobby said. But now the biggest worry is getting to the Padang Besar border before the sun sets. And to add on, it has been a long holiday weekend back home so we’re expecting a terrible mess on the E1 once we clear the border.

Completing 203km and more than four hours to Padang Besar, speeds then dropped once more as we passed through Hat Yai. Traffic did picked up pretty drastically, and this isn't a good sign at all.

Hell awaits us despite knowing that home is just right across that forest reserve we’re driving en route to the border. Time will only tell. And we hope that Waze has gotten its ETA calculations wrong this time.

Getting back in the V90, I soon drove pass the duty free shop. It was shut for business on that day. And that wasn’t a good sign to begin with. Clearing the Malaysian side, we pulled over at a Petronas to do a driver swap. Yes, I am worn out. Without further or do, Aaron soon then took the wheel over and we’re off.

While I rested at the back seat and going through Route 79, everything was pitch black. The time was 8.00pm, and things are seem to be progressing rather well. Exiting out and heading onto the Changlun-Kuala Perlis expressway, I was hoping that the E1 would be clear, and not a sight that’s filled with a haze of red glow illuminating this drizzly night.

Tough luck it was. It was a bastardised view of an endless queue of cars inching their way even slower than a snail’s pace. This is not even close to Jitra yet — so I whipped out my phone and consult Waze to see whether they’re any alternative routes to get us back in haste.


“How long will it take us to get back to Taman Desa?,” Aaron asked me while I look at my phone screen in utter dismay. All roads highlighted on the app are coloured red, and the number of accidents are just beyond belief. “12 hours it is Aaron, 12 bloody hours,” I replied. Looks like we’re not going anywhere for now, at least.

While some of the participants have chosen to stay back for another day in various places such as Hat Yai, Sadao and Penang, we knew it’s not possible for us at least. Aaron is due for another separate shoot at Sepang at 7am the following day, and I got another drive to attend two days later. Kate then soon asked us all; “How about we pull over at Butterworth for a nice hearty Lok Lok dinner?”.

Butterworth and Lok Lok it is. We continued on painstakingly slow for at least three hours. Turning off the highway ramp — and soon arriving in Butterworth. Hungry, tired but still positive in spirit, we headed out to the Lok Lok store and sat down for a meal. Energised after having some really potent ice tea, we hit the roads again by hoping the traffic situation would improve.

Traffic was relatively smooth as we exited Butterworth and along the stretch that passes Juru. Though it did backed up a little at the toll plaza. Again to our terrible experience, traffic is starting to slowdown to a standstill right before Simpang Ampat. We pushed on for a good eight hours straight in a bumper-to-bumper crawl before Aaron caved in.

“I can’t go on anymore, I am having a terrible headache,” Aaron said to me. We are nearing Tapah by now, so I told him to pull aside and let’s do a driver swap. He immediately slept off as he rested at the back seat. While I continued on inching with everyone else, the emergency lanes were filled with commuters sleeping in their cars. It was really a surreal scenario filled with chaos and confusion.

After close to four hours, we cleared almost every exit on the E1, and Jalan Duta is nearing. Everyone was asleep as it was already 3.00am. Taking the Penchala Link and soon reaching Aaron’s place, he dispersed off with Kate and wished us to rest well. I am grateful that he’s back in time with a few hours to spare before heading off to Sepang for his assignment.

Reaching Bobby's crib, both me and Beng soon gave Bobby a call. He’s nowhere near, so we told him that Aaron, Kate and the Volvo V90 are safe and back home comfortably. In total, we’ve spent close to 21 hours on our journey back. Torturing it was but likewise, I am glad that everyone who opted for Kuala Lumpur is back home safe and sound.

As I drove back home, dawn appeared to light up another day. It was a rather philosophical moment that time, counting my blessings on what a great drive it was that further reinforced my love for cars. And in this particular minute, I am happy to know that our 2017 Enduro Drive has been an amazing celebration for everyone else on the trip. Now let’s wait for the next one!