Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Train trip 4 - Butterworth to Bangkok

After 7 boring hours at Butterworth train station, I started my 22 hours journey to Bangkok, Thailand. I came fully prepared for this trip so I expected it to be memorable and comfortable as well. In fact, upon arrival at KL on 11 Dec, I immediately booked a lower berth for 15 Dec trip to Bangkok from Butterworth.

Actually, I have a confirmed booking by email on 16 Dec but I need to verify with the train ticketing staff first whether the flood in Thailand has receded. She has confirmed that the rail tracks going to Bangkok was now flood-free so I decided to push through with my trip one day earlier. It came to my knowledge that previous train trips were forced to stop due to flooded rail tracks and passengers were transferred to buses going to Hualamphong rail station.

There were only two coaches when we left Butterworth, coach 9 and 10. My place belongs to coach 10 place no 4 (lower berth)


That was my seat or bed. All even numbers were lower berth. The used beddings were initially placed in my front seat. However, after a couple of minutes, the train staff removed and stored them inside the supply room. I kept my other two bags underneath my seat; note the space.



The picture below is the supply room. There are two toilets at the far end corner. You can select a squat or seat type toilet; both are stainless. Beside the left toilet are two wash basins. Within these wash basins area are two covered power outlets. You can charge your mobile phone and laptop using these power outlets. Likewise, there are storage spaces where the used and new beddings are stored and hidden.

Smoking was not allowed inside this room but in reality, passengers were coming here to smoke. They simply activated and closed the 2 sliding doors to prevent the smoke from entering the main coach. You can open the sliding doors by pressing the green button on the right side.


Upon boarding, I noticed a stinky smell in our area but once the air curtain started and the train moved the smell disappeared. Perhaps they were draining the sewage water at that time.


It was time to leave Butterworth temporary train station. I spent 7 hours in this sleepy and desolate place but it will remain in my memory. The place was good for self-evaluation and meditation, just kidding.


Even from afar, Butterworth was a gloomy and sad place. I hope the new station will be more alive than the present one.


After several hours, we arrived at Padang Besar, Malaysian border. All passengers disembarked for immigration procedures. After completing the Malaysian side, all luggages underwent x-ray. Few meters away from here were the Thai immigration counters. Arrival form should be filled-up while the departure form will be stapled by Thai immigration officer on your passport.

Surprisingly, Thai immigration officer put a two weeks stay on my passport. I was expecting 30 days as a norm for any Asean country nationals like in Singapore and Malaysia. Anyway, not a big deal for I intend to stay at Bangkok for 1 week only.

During this trip, I befriended one Malaysian businessman seated in-front of me. He mentioned to me that I can leave some of my bags and carry only my important things. I decided to carry all my 4 bags to be safe with Thailand immigration officers. However, I noticed that several passengers were indeed leaving some of their heavy luggage behind. Returning back to our train after immigration formalities with four bags at hand was really inconvenient. I didn't notice any custom officers at the border.

We arrived at Padang Besar, Malaysian border with Thai, at around 6:45 PM. We completed the immigration formalities and left the border at 7:00 PM. However, we need to deduct 1 hour from our time so we left the border at 6:00 PM. I was surprised to see that some new passengers suddenly appeared in our coach. They were sitting on the arm rest of our seat. It seems the train picked-up some passengers without any reservation, after the Thai border.

Further, I felt that some passenger coaches were added to our train, I can't confirm this. One "canteen" guy also boarded our coach and started taking order for our dinner and breakfast meals. He gave us a set of menu to choose from then relayed our order by phone to Hat Yai.





We arrived at Hat Yai train station at 7:00 PM. The "canteen" guy prepared the passengers table. It was amazing to know that a detachable table was inserted at the base of our foot rest.









I ordered chicken with cashew nuts with soup and fruit for 180 Baht.


140 Baht for ice-cold Big Singha beer
We took our dinner while the train was at Hat Yai station. The "canteen" coach, as they called it, was connected at the other end of the train. My coach was at the opposite end so my initial plan of having some bottle of beers at the "canteen" coach was canceled. I didn't want to travel inside many passenger coaches just to have some beer. Anyway, I can order beer from my seat, courtesy of the "canteen" guy. It was better and more convenient to drink beer without leaving your seat. In fact, even when the beds have been raised, you can still order beers.

Some food vendors entered our coach. I didn't bother to buy from them. I simply waited for my dinner. I have noticed also a Robinson Mall at Hat Yai.


At 8:30 PM, our train left Hat Yai station.


The train staff started converting our seats into beds.


I LOVE THIS TRAIN TRIP!

 
I fell asleep immediately. I remember when I was assigned to work in off-shore oil rigs. One time we slept at supply boat for one week. It was blissful due to slow cradle-like movement of your bed. The temperature was a bit cold inside the coach. You can use the thick sheet provided by the train staff. The Thai provided sheet was better than the Malaysian sheet.

After several hours of sleep I was awaken by seeping sunlight on my window curtain.


Time for my breakfast.

130 baht breakfast
At around 8:00 AM, the train staff would start reverting the beds into seats again. It was very entertaining to watch these guys do their job efficiently and fast. I ordered hot chicken porridge with steaming coffee for breakfast. Hannibal was not included. I purchased it at KL Sentral for 10 RM. I have finished reading Hannibal Rising last time I visited KL, bought the book also at KL Sentral.










After breakfast, the "canteen" guy started collecting meal payment. Since I didn't have Baht, I paid in RM. My bill was 450 Baht. I should pay around 45 RM only but since the exchange rate was very low, I end up paying 50 RM. I advise you to buy some Baht at Butterworth station.

THAI TRAIN STATIONS

 
 

FLOODED AREAS





OTHER SHOTS

fruit vendor inside the coach

rail road intersection

rail road intersection

similar to our sari sari store

Finally, after 22 hours, our train has arrived at Hualamphong train station, Bangkok.



The two train coaches that left Butterworth became ten, excluding the driver/main coach. Yes, I counted them all.


I'd never thought that I'll be able to accomplish this dream of traveling to 3 countries by train. The experience was truly indescribable and unforgettable. Since we can't have this kind of travel experience in our country, I would definitely recommend this train trips to all pinoy travelers.

I am contemplating whether I'll do this trip in reverse because I might end up celebrating New Year on train. Otherwise, I'll just settle for Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam trips on my next vacation on February.

MY OTHER TRAIN TRIPS:

Train trip 1 - Singapore to KL (2nd class seater)
Train trip 2 - Singapore to KL (2nd class sleeper)
Train trip 3 - KL to Butterworth (2nd class sleeper)

2 comments:

  1. Nice trip! Looking forward to my train trips soon!

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    Replies
    1. Goodluck on your upcoming train trips.

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