IT TOOK me five hours on Jan 30 to drive my three- year-old Toyota Corolla Altis to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia's North-South Highway, including a half-hour break for a rest stop and drinks just outside Malacca.
Setting out just before 8am, I chose the Second Link, so I would not have to fight Johor Baru's city traffic.
With it being a weekday, there were no queues on the Singapore and Malaysian checkpoints, so I cleared immigration in quick order.
It also helped that visitors from Singapore now do not need to fill up the white immigration cards.
Thereafter, with the freedom of long, straight and almost traffic-free roads ahead of me, the biggest difficulty I faced was in keeping down my inner speed demon, which was tempting me to bust the 110 kmh speed limit.
The first warning arrived in the shape of traffic cops handing out speeding tickets to drivers just before Yong Peng in Johor.
Those who were not chastened into slowing down were caught by two other teams of traffic police along the highway. A massive operation involving over a dozen traffic policemen was underway just outside Malacca. Speedsters, including several in Singapore cars, were caught on radar, and their car numbers forwarded to officers at the roadblock.
The highway is well maintained, and I got a glimpse of the work it takes to keep it this way: I had to slow down at each of the eight road and gardening work sites en route, with the thoroughfare cut down to only two lanes.
After Malacca, however, the expressway broadened to three lanes.
Rest stops spaced 60km apart are each complete with a food court, clean toilets, a playground and snack shops. Most are wheelchair friendly and provide free parking.
I took a break outside Malacca, after just over two hours of driving. That rest stop was a huge one, with the shops lined up in an overhead bridge spanning the highway and servicing traffic in both directions.
The Colonel's finger lickin' good chicken and A&W burgers competed with lontong and nasi campur in eateries of varying sizes.
Further on, after the tollgate at Sungei Besi just outside KL, I came up against the dreaded KL gridlock. It was just past noon, so this was the lunch-hour traffic.
But the new 5km underground Smarttunnel was a godsend. For a toll of RM2 (S$0.90), it enabled me to bypass all the traffic snarls before leaving me at ground level at Jalan Tun Razak, minutes from the KL Convention Centre, my journey's end point.
I paid just under $30 in toll charges, and returned to Singapore with a full tank of petrol for $58.