Wednesday 21st August: Butterworth To Bangkok
Ticket: MYR 103.90 bought at the ticket office in Georgetown the day before.
Scheduled departure/arrival times: 14:30 to 12:30 Thursday
Actual departure/arrival time: 14:30 to 13.48 Thursday
Second time around the train arrived, so things are looking up. This is my first overnight train with 23 hours scheduled onboard (Malaysia is one hour ahead of Thailand). It completes the 1223 mile Singapore to Bangkok leg.
I have high hopes of this train as it is run by Thai railways and not Malaysian. Every Malaysian I have spoken too has held their trains in extremely low regard and recommend using any other form of transport. However, in defence of KTM (the Malaysian rail network), travelling across Malaysia it’s obvious there is a huge investment into improving the rail network. Nearly every station is either brand new or currently being upgraded. Plus there is new track being laid for high-speed trains, so perhaps a golden age of Malaysian rail travel is just around the corner.
This train starts with just 2 carriages with others added along the way. On board you sit on large padded bench seats meant for two, facing your bunk mate for the evening. After dinner your bed is made up and I’ve learnt the bottom bunks are quite a bit bigger. They only cost a premium of a few ringgits, so well worth it. Unfortunately, they had sold out so I’m on the top bunk while my bottom bunk companion (barely 5 foot) claims the extra space and the window. One downside to the train is the windows and doors can’t be opened which make any photography difficult.
There is good a mix of people on the train, european backpackers, people travelling home to Thailand, Malaysians off for a shopping fix in Bangkok and Malaysian Chinese going to visit temples in Thailand as it is the Hungry Ghost Festival. Which explains the burnt paper offerings I saw in the Chinese part of George Town
Leaving Butterworth the scenery goes back to palm oil plantations. Before changing to open green fields with mountain high rocks bursting out of earth in the distance. After about four hours we hit the Thai border and all file off the train to complete the necessary formalities. This is when I noticed this golden nugget of Thai immigration law. I ignored the no photography threats and snuck a picture. The Thais don’t like hippies!
A restaurant carriage is added to the train in the evening once the border is crossed in Hat Yai, a southern city in Thailand. I went off to spend my evening in the resturant cart, which had lovely tartan tablecloths. Plus a electic mix of music playing loudly on the TV from the Cranberries to Kylie. For TB160 you can get a freshly cooked 4 course meal! Plus for the first time a chilled beer. It really is excellent and puts the overpriced reheated microwave meal or soggy sandwich with a packet of McCoys on trains in the UK to shame.
This train was much more social, people I met included; a mum on her way to see her kids back in Thailand, couple of sailors on the beer going home for leave, a mother and son on a trip to Bangkok, a married Malaysian couple off for a holiday in Hua Hin and a German chap travelling round monasteries in Asia.
After dinner, I went back to find my bed made up and got a surprisingly good nights sleep. However I think this because the train was stationary for most of the night.
We were told in the morning that the train was going to be 4 hours late, although it ended up just 78
minutes late. Which meant I missed the connecting train to the Cambodian border. One night in Bangkok, one night in Bangkok. . .