Monday 19th August: Woodlands to Butterworth

Monday, 19th August – Woodlands to Butterworth

Ticket: bought at the ticket office on the day for SG$60

Scheduled departure/arrival times: 08:30 to 22:00

Actual departure/arrival time: 08:30 to 23:00

Monday morning and the start of my journey, I spring out of bed eager for some adventure. This is tempered by the fact that I have done the first part of my trip before on a previous overland journey from Singapore to Chiang Mai and have pretty low expectations of the day ahead. Finally hailing a taxi, I make my way up to the North of Singapore to the international railway station. The taxi driver is fairly surprised when I respond to his question of where are you going with ‘London by rail’. He follows with some questions and incredulous chuckling. I think I have provided some conversation for his next coffee shop break.

The train ride begins at the Colditz styled Woodlands Train Checkpoint. A depressing place of high concrete walls, razor wire and floodlights all in a lovely shade of grey. However it is efficient and I shoot through immigration into Malaysia and onto the train.

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The train itself is not the best, very run-down with a slight smell of stale smoke and decay. Empty carriages greet the few of us who have chosen the train over the quicker and generally cheaper buses or planes. I have a carriage to myself. An overzealous air-conditioning unit on board has people shivering and wrapped in any available clothing. Oh well, only 14 hours of it…

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We start by crossing the causeway. Not that I can see anything out of the window, as the condensation hasn’t evaporated yet. We continue North towards Kuala Lumpur, occasionally stopping at quaint little stations to pick up a few more people travelling up Malaysia. The scenery is very green; I’m sure it was once all jungle but now it is mainly palm oil plantations dotted with the corrugated iron roofs of colourful little houses.

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If you do find yourself travelling by train in Malaysia, preparation seems to be key. Do as the locals do and bring plenty of food and drink, and perhaps a beanie in case you’re sitting below an a/c vent. The on-board facilities are best avoided, with some shameful sandwiches, greasy noodles and limited drinks. Also, they are the only country on my route that don’t serve booze on-board. (Which can help on a long train ride.) Unfortunately, I haven’t done any such prep and am really hoping that the train isn’t too late so I can get some late night dinner in the foodie hub that is George Town.

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People I’ve met today include Razi an undercover train cop (there is quite a lot of trouble on the trains, he tells me) and Stephen, a very loud little lad.

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Next stop Bangkok!

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7 thoughts on “Monday 19th August: Woodlands to Butterworth

  1. Pingback: [Reblogged] Woodlands Singapore to Woking England | 11800 miles by train, bus & ferry | mitsueki ♥ | Singapore Lifestyle Blogger - Food, Fashion, News & Utter Randomness

  2. As a Malaysian myself, I know what you mean by the sad sad conditions of the facilities on-board Malaysian trains. I love rail journeys and I take every opportunity to travel by rail, but I just wish the Malaysian authorities took a bit more pride in their service and upgraded their tired looking trains and made it more appealing to travelers.

  3. Pingback: He travelled from Singapore to London across 14 countries by land. It only costs US$2126 - Vulcan Post

  4. Hi Tom,
    I’ve been intrigued by the idea of rail travel ever since I stumbled upon your adventures. I don’t quite yet have the opportunity to replicate what you did. But I will have about a week to a week and half off soon, and would like to maybe do the Southeast Asian leg of your journey, perhaps up ’till HCMC, from Singapore. I do have some queries, though. Would it be possible for me to reach out to you via email?
    Cheers.

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