We recently came to Bangkok after staying for two weeks on the lovely island of Penang. What nobody told me about Penang was that it’s a long way away. An overnight train is needed to get there, and to get back from there as well. I won’t reiterate the trip from KL to Butterworth, because my mother posted about it here and she pretty much got it all down. Except for the bit where because we waited so long to book tickets, we had first-class seats and not sleepers. That meant a whole forty minutes of sleep for me the entire trip! Not cool.
Always book your tickets ahead if possible. Don’t think it’s lame, don’t tell yourself you’ll be spontaneous and whatever happens, happens. Because if you know you need a sleeper in order to be in any kind of human state the next day, getting seats will not make you happy. Not even first-class seats! Book ahead!
Also, it’s freezing on that train. If you get seats, take a blanket or something similar to wrap yourself in. Trust me.
So, after a really lame time on the first train, we still had issues convincing my mother that we should book the train tickets as soon as we got to Penang. You’d think she’d agree. But no. She’s adopted this “we have all the time in the world” attitude which leads to no plans, arguments, disarray and the urge to smack her. I’m big on plans, even if we just make them and don’t stick to them. I just like to have them.
So a few days before we had to leave, we went to get tickets and she was so close to learning the lesson of booking ahead! A man in the office informed us the train was sold out until next week. Next week! Worried-ish discussions of flying to Bangkok or catching a bus came up, but I’m actually glad that the guy was just mistaken and there were tickets after all. Mum can learn a lesson another day, right?
So after travelling to Butterworth on the ferry where I met a lovely woman, we waited for hours for the train to arrive. It was extremely late, but apparently that’s totally normal! Not surprising, but not pleasing either.
After finally getting on the train, we discovered that from Butterworth to the border of Thailand, anyone could buy a ticket and jump on the train. Which meant that our allocated seating was actually rendered useless, and people just sat where they wanted. This wasn’t terrible either, but it would have been better if perhaps my mother had notified me. She reads things like this, but then doesn’t tell us until after the fact.
It was a pretty uneventful ride if you take out the drunks, the smokers illegally smoking in-between carriages, rude men and being served soup for dinner while on a crazy rocking train. Other than that, a totally mundane ride. We got out at the border, left Malaysia and I was the first to enter Thailand. And then we all hopped back on the train and waited until they served dinner, and then a short while later, the beds were pulled down and everyone eventually retired.
Helpful hints: If you want a solid sleep, try to get beds with numbers 20 – 30 because they are the furthest from the doors, which will open all day and night and waft smoke into your bed. Make sure whoever is sleeping on the bottom bunk has turned off the fan next to your bed as this will get very, very cold in the night. If you want snacks, buy them beforehand or follow people buying them at the border. The food carriage only serves dinner and breakfast, and beer.
You can read part 2 of this post, about what happens during the night and the next day until you arrive at Bangkok.
This is a post I was meant to write a week ago, but never got around to it. Sorry for posting out of order, but there are just some helpful hints that I think everyone needs to know!