Forte K3 – The Journey To The West

The West to me is not just about Pulau NTU (Nanyang Technological University). Leng Kee Rd is considered West enough for me, and most recently, the Big Box, JEM and WestGate area too, but I shall leave the former till another day.

Since I can’t remember when, Leng Kee Rd has been one of my favourite roads. Lining its streets are showrooms after showrooms containing the flashiest made-from-sheet-metal wonders-on-wheels. These six-wheelers (counting the steering and spare) have never been out of my sight since young. Sitting somewhere in my home is a collection of Hot Wheels miniature cars, and not far from that are a number of remote-controlled cars parked in neat rows.

Trips to the West realised when I crossed my twenties. I would go there with friends and sometimes family, about two to three times or so a year, to enjoy the aircon (Singapore’s quite hot), savour the latest car designs, take short discussion breaks over free coffee/milo (yum), test drive and most importantly, evaluate the service standards offered by the various dealers.

My belief: It would do dealers good to treat young or young-looking visitors as potential customers, who may be the ones doing the first cut for their parents or friends. I have gotten the cold shoulder from a number, and no matter how good the car models seem, I would not want to step or bring anyone into their territory. It is said that frontline staff carry the image of the brand and have the power to shape perception. One less-than-ideal service experience is all it takes.

Cycle & Carriage

Thankfully, Mimi from Cycle & Carriage (C&C) warmly welcomed us when we stepped into the showroom about the month ago. KIA cars, including the last Cerato Forte variant, unlike the twin brothers birthed from its parent company, didn’t quite impress us. Body panels were soft, engine was weak and noisy, insulation was lacking and though C&C agents weren’t rude and dismissive, we didn’t feel welcome the past few times we visited, till Mimi entered the picture.

In this job for about five years, Mimi is knowledgeable, patient and eloquently explained the features of the Forte K3 and got us hooked. She is one of very few sales executives who demonstrate good customer service throughout the entire sales process. Meticulous, she was, and as a testament to her commitment, she stayed with us throughout the handover, which took close to three hours! My parents, to my pleasant surprise, were impressed.

C&C was our unexpected stop during this shopping journey, and now the rest is history. Trans Eurokars, you came in a close, an extremely close, second.

Before The Purchase

Do your research. Search the forums. For starters, try MyCarForum (you get a small gift for signing up and verifying your account) and for KIA, ceratofortekoup. Read reviews, dig up common service and product issues online. Importantly, find out how you can convince the sales person to give you freebies.

This post shall have only one photo, for I’m saving them for my next few posts.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The Forte K3 Emblem

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The Forte K3 Emblem

Till next time, goodnight! [delete; not valid Liao: Quote BIG_MOUSE to Mimi when you pass by C&C, if you want to of course.]

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What’s next in this series?

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Second Serving of Kimchi – The KIA Forte K3

The old has passed. The new has come. ‘旧的不去,新的不来’ is another commonly used phrase in this part of the world.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | A Sneak Peak

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | A Sneak Peak

And nope, paid to pen my thoughts I am not. I am not a professional car reviewer or transport correspondent. Instead, I am writing as a lay person, sharing my real-life experience with the vehicle, which came in after years of daddy’s blood, sweat and tears (okay, I’m exaggerating but you get the drift).

This is our second car, coming right after the Hyundai Avante, which served us pretty well for all 193,182KM till the last day it left us for the second hand market.

While waiting for me to get some inspiration on how to help you savour this new Korean dish made available in Singapore since July 2013, read my past articles on the Avante here.

To Korean car haters, I have said this, and will say this again. You gotta give kimchi cars a chance to impress you. The change started with the Avante in 2006. The momentum has not stopped, yet. And they are generally cheaper than the Thai-made ones. 🙂

### What’s next in this series?

Eight years and counting

Amid the glitter, there was a car. And the car didn’t have a personalised name. It just goes by ‘Hyundai Avante’, the name given by the manufacturer.

The Avante was bought at a price, which includes the compulsory Certificate of Entitlement (COE), just over eight years ago. The COE then was just one-seventh the cost today.

Instead of showing how well taken care the car is (no doubt it is), I’m gonna do something different.

The pictures below show the torture the car went through, at least externally. See the dings, dongs, doremons, scratches and interesting looking marks tattoos left behind by an act of a serial vandal, inconsiderate people who can’t open doors properly and who must push trolleys in between cars.

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Internally though, everything seems well. I’m no car mechanic, but it looks like it can serve us well for another two years till November 2017, when the COE expires. In Singapore, without a COE (among other requirements), the car isn’t roadworthy.

Malaysia, Truly Asia: The treacherous drive up to BOH Tea Plantation

I remember Dad telling us that we would go to a ‘safe’ BOH tea plantation. My expectations were subverted. Completely.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Warning signs are meant to be read

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Warning signs are meant to be read

This was the first (and only I think) warning sign we saw when we turned right from the trunk road into small road no bigger than two cars laid abreast. Here’s a tip – tap your car horn multiple times when approaching corners. You wouldn’t be able to see oncoming cars and vice versa.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Barely enough for 2 cars to pass

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Barely enough for 2 cars to pass

Road-coloured road humps are hardly visible to the naked eye, but are strategically-placed for a very good reason – to discourage suicidal drivers who speed. However, I am not sure how people can even think of speeding or driving recklessly. The roads are extremely small with just enough clearance for two cars side by side. Sometimes, it narrows to a point where it becomes a one-way road. One wrong move can send you plunging down the face of the mountain. Another silly mistake can cost you your side view mirrors or your body work when you scrap against someone else’s car.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | In such situations, drivers will need to reverse their cars to allow others to pass

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | In such situations, drivers will need to reverse their cars to allow others to pass

Please note that this is a documentation of the journey up the mountain to the plantation. What goes up, must come down. If you thought that was scary, you need to clear your bowels before leaving BOH plantation. Driving up the mountain, we have the benefit of sticking close to the left side of the road. There was no danger of sliding off the mountain. Driving back down, there was no barrier, no nothing to give us a sense of protection.

Also, the teas sold were only slightly cheaper as compared to the shops in and around Cameron Highlands. The packet of ‘Orchard Splash’ tea sold at the plantation costs exactly the same as the ones sold at my resort’s gift shop. Morale of the story? There is actually no need to tackle this treacherous drive up. If you prefer not to risk your life (and your car’s), spend a little bit more to get your BOH tea elsewhere in the towns of Cameron Highlands. And if you live in Singapore, your local NTUC sells them tea too.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | BOH Tea conveniently available at an NTUC outlet near you

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | BOH Tea conveniently available at an NTUC outlet near you

Malaysia, Truly Asia: Driving up Cameron Highlands (from Simpang Pulai)

Continuing from my previous post, I will now attempt to document our trip up to Strawberry Park Resort from Simpang Pulai Exit 137 of the North-South Expressway (NSE). Please do note that there are 2 trunk roads up Cameron Highlands with the route via Simpang Pulai being the newer and safer one. The older one (via Ringlet) is said to be more dangerous with sharper bends, higher risk of landslides, and lack of overtaking lanes.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Exit left at exist 137 to Cameron Highlands via Simpang Pulai

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Exit left at exist 137 to Cameron Highlands via Simpang Pulai

Driving along the NSE is a relatively easy task. Just remember to have a good rest the night before the long drive. Apart from facing the long straights along the NSE, it takes about an hour and a half to get from the foot of Cameron Highlands at Simpang Pulai Exit 137 to any of the small towns in Cameron highlands. Follow the road signs from here (see image above), and you should get to the foot of Cameron Highlands in no time.

The next leg of the journey is quite simple too even though the road is windy. The meandering roads are wide with plenty of space for overtaking. Speed limit varies from 60-90 km/h I think; can’t really remember (In comparison, the NSE allows you to drive at 110km/h). It doesn’t feel all that bad, and most importantly, no one got car sick.

This luxury slowly evaporated the higher up we went.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Turn right to get to Cameron Highlands

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Turn right to get to Cameron Highlands

The roads narrowed considerably when we neared the small Cameron Highlands town namely, Kampong Raja, Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Digressing a little, there is a 24-hour hospital in Tanah Rata, and Strawberry Park Resorts and many other recommended hotels and eating places are in Brinchang. More about Kampong Raja later. Back to the roads, overtaking lanes are mostly non-existent. To overtake slower vehicles, you will have to overtake (quite dangerously if) by cutting across into the opposite lane. There are many blindspots as the bends are considerably tighter (but still not as tight as the old roads via Ringlet), so please overtake safely and make sure you check for oncoming traffic and only overtake when road markings tell you that it’s ‘safe’ to do so.

We decided to have lunch in one of the towns, Kampong Raja, before making our way further up to Brinchang and then Strawberry Park Resorts.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Kampong Raja

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Kampong Raja

And if you were to drive up there, please stop by…

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Kampong Raja: Ngow Kee Restaurant

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Kampong Raja: Ngow Kee Restaurant

Ngow Kee Restaurant serves quite awesome Chinese zi char food. Their mince-meat toufu (fried beancurd) dish is one kind of awesome. And more importantly, affordable. Just be prepared to eat among houseflies, tonnes of them. We spent more time fanning the flies away than actually enjoying our food. I didn’t know that houseflies can make the journey up so high. I think we were more than 1,000 metres up then. The quiet town looked rundown, but the weather made up for that. It was super cool and breezy.

After a satisfying lunch (no pictures because we gobbled the food down super quickly to avoid sharing our food with the houseflies), we took about 45-90 more minutes due to a terrible traffic jam before reaching our destination – Strawberry Part Resorts – 1593 metres above sea level.

Next up: What we did 1593 metres above sea level 🙂

Malaysia, Truly Asia: Driving up North to Pahang

Running Man, stop distracting me from blogging. They are a funny bunch of comedians. Even though they speak and laugh  in an incomprehensible language, I can still burst out laughing in front of the computer. Of course, I watch the episodes that have English subtitles.

Kk, back to the main point. A few weeks ago, my family and I drove up North all the way to Cameron Highlands, Pahang. It was a great journey as usual. I love driving and nothing can steal that joy away from me. Add that to spending quality time with the family, what more can I ask for seriously.

Planning Stage

Driving up isn’t as simple as it sounds, especially with the media being ever so eager to report on the unpleasant going-ons. Since this is my first time travelling overseas with a smartphone, I jumped on the opportunity to make full use of it – by downloading ‘1 Malaysia Hotlines‘. This iPhone app allows you to easily search their comprehensive list of essential numbers. Super useful although it’s best that this app isn’t used at all.

The next thing to do is to map the route out well. Even though we own a Garmin GPS, we felt that taking time to familiarise ourselves with the route  was super essential. We also printed out turn-by-turn directions. Just in case. Mapsource, Garmin’s desktop mapping software, told us that we will need almost 7 hours to reach Cameron Highlands.

Leaving our homeland

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The KPE tunnel is deserted

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The KPE tunnel is deserted

With that in mind, we decided to leave at 4am to allow for a relaxing trip up with some buffer time to take frequent breaks. The need for us to check-in to our destination all the way up in Cameron Highlands at 3pm weighed on us as well. The drive towards Tuas Checkpoint (We don’t like crossing at Woodlands) at that hour was very smooth. Of course, we stuck to the 70 km/h speed limit along the KPE *yawns*. There wasn’t many cars and we made it to Tuas in good time.  We painstakingly filled up the white cards, but the immigration offer told us that it was no longer necessary for us to produce them. We were confused for a little while, wondering if we should trust the words from that officer’s mouth. We didn’t want to be jailed or something. Anyhow, we crossed into Malaysia quickly as there was only a sprinkling of cars then.

The North-South Expressway (PLUS)

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Driving in the dark along NSE

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Driving in the dark along NSE

I must say that driving in almost complete darkness was quite a cool experience. Cool as in cooling, and cool as in shiok. It was a new experience as we are so used to having uniformly-lit expressways in Singapore. It was quite scary at times too. At those speeds (about 110 km/h), any mistake can be deadly. I use the brightness road-legal Philip xtreme headlights, and they only can illuminate that far. At least I try to remain as brightly lit as possible. However, to me, it seemed that some drivers of trucks, lorries and 18-wheelers wanted to remain as dimly-lit as possible. It was frightening to ‘suddenly’ notice a slow-moving heavy vehicle right in front of me.

Rest stops

Here are some North-bound rest stops that we took breaks at.

Gelang Patah (N) Rest and Service Areas

  • Esso petrol station
  • Pre-paid mobile phone cards
  • Touch-n-Go top-up facilities (this is a stored-value card for you to pay for tolls)
  • Food stalls
  • Toilets

Seremban (N) Rest and Service Areas (Sha la la coffee)

  • Shell petrol station
  • Food stalls (My recommendation = Stall 4 at the main food court. It’s the stall selling Yong Tau Fu, noodles, Mee Goreng, etc. Must buy = their white rice noodles. Bagus!

Our destination: Strawberry Park Resort

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Strawberry Part Resort (Cameron Highlands)

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Strawberry Part Resort (Cameron Highlands)

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Strawberry Park Resort - 1593 km above sea level

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Strawberry Park Resort – 1593 km above sea level

 We safely reached our destination, 1593KM up in the air, 15 minutes before 3pm. Whee! I will skip the part on us driving from Simpang Pulai (NSE exit), up Cameron Highlands and finally to Strawberry Park Resort; will leave the juicy details for the next post.

Malaysia, Truly Asia: A series of posts to come soon

Pull: I am so tempted to blog about my recent trip up North to Malaysia.

Push: Temptations aside, it really takes a bit of effort to sit down and compile all the information necessary to churn out posts that do justice to the nice places that we went to.

Thanks to Nat Geo and Discovery for screening Air Crash Investigations and Seconds from Disaster, I have a phobia of flying. That may also explain why I am usually ‘stuck’ to having holidays in Malaysia as I feel safer driving up (weird, but yea. haha). Maybe I am easily contented, but I really think that Malaysia is a nice place too. I hope my subsequent posts will do just that – help draw people to the “Truly Asia” nation (lol).

So for now, I shall try to outline what I want to write about. Note that this is just a rough guide. The following outline may change. Stay tuned for

Car Spa after 5 long years: System 6

Just got back from a 1411km drive to and from Malaysia for a family (grad) trip. And it was wonderful. More details about the trip to Malaysia another time.

Now, about the trusty workhorse that brought us safely back to Singapore after a long long drive up north (and it has been serving us well even after 5.5 years and almost 140,000 km). Like a soldier coming home, our Hyundai Avante came back really dirty. Dead bugs, mud splats, tyres that looked like they were a hundred years old were just but a few battle scars.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The trusted Hyundai that brought us safely home

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The trusted Hyundai that brought us safely home

Knowing that a drive up north will take a toll on the car, we made an appointment for a nice System 6 treatment session. We have never spent precious moolahs on expensive car washes and waxing sessions as we can do it ourselves cheaply. But upon hearing that this System 6 Treatment thing costs (only) SGD 175 (w/o GST), and that they will be giving a special discount as we are Hyundai owners, we jumped on the opportunity to pamper the car. For once. Other Paint Protection System providers offered packages from 300 dollars and up. Some can even cost 500 bucks man.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Tuff-Kote storefront

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Tuff-Kote storefront

We sent the car in bright and early, and got the car back within 2 hours. 3 workers worked hard on the car – Soaping, washing, applying the sealant, vacuuming, treating the rubber surfaces, etc. More details about the System 6 process can be found here.

One particular worker made our day. He meticulously used the toothbrush to ‘scrub’ away the years of leftover car wax that dried in between the gaps in the panels. He even took the initiative to vacuum the interior a second time as the previous worker didn’t do a thorough job.

However, I don’t remember them blow-drying the car. They just manually wiped the car down, and without waiting for the car to fully dry, applied their sealant. This may reduce the effectiveness of the sealant (?, I think). Also, do note that if your paintwork is badly damaged (water spots, oxidised markings, deep scratches), this System 6 won’t help cover those flaws. From what I know, System 6 just adds a protective layer. It is not a magical solution to remove paint flaws as well. You need to opt for a polish instead (thus, you need to know the key differences between waxing, polishing and sealing).

Anyhow, it was a good experience overall. Am not really sure how long this paint protection system will last though, but they did mention that you have to go back every 6 months for re-treatment (70 bucks w/o GST). I don’t think that we will spend 70 bucks every 6 months on this. lol. We will just do it myself with my pails, hoses, car detergent and our trusty bottle of wax from Meguiars or Armourall. It’s still the cheapest option.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | 2.5 hours later, the result

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | 2.5 hours later, the result