Thursday, 29 March 2012

Rocking, rolling, riding Malaysia 27 March 2012 pt2

Occasional hills
Morning has broken...

Another song in there somewhere, I'm sure of it! But, yes, morning has indeed broken after a somewhat restless night. The train made frequent stops which of course woke everyone up - didn't seem like anyone was getting on or off though, so perhaps some dubious transactions as I kept at least 1 eye on my bags. I was able to chain by main backpack to a fixing attached to the train floor, so my only real concern was the secondary pack with my IPad inside. I knew from research that the restaurant car will decouple sometime soon, so it's off to get some breakfast. Pork in a rice soup, 2 slices of fresh pineapple, an orange juice and 2 cups of coffee for 100 baht, about £2.20. Wasn't the best meal of recent times, slightly better than the savoury porridge of a couple of weeks ago though. Other options were processed meats with fried eggs, or ham and cheese sandwiches, toast, fruits and hot drink for 120 baht.

Outside, overcast and misty with distant shadows protruding into the gloom. Not mountains, not even hills but giant rocks dotting the otherwise flat, sometimes marshy landscape. 7.30 and the attendants are busy re-assembling the carriage, back normality then apart from those still sleeping of course.

Old trains
8.30 the train pulls into Hat Yai Station and the exodus begins. Tourists get off here for onward travel to the various islands famed for their nice beaches, blue waters and alcoholic filled nightlife. All that comes at a price though - environmentally and monetarily, a debate for another time, or google the issue if you can't wait. About 15 minutes here as the carriages are pulled apart and hooked up again. The restaurant carriage has gone, so have the five carriages behind it. Just a handful of us left in 2 carriages for the onward journey Butterworth.

Onto Pedang Besar, the next significant stop as this is the border control point leaving Thailand and at the same time arrive on Malaysian soil.  About an hour from Hat Yai, passing close to some of those scattered rock formations and the train slows and abruptly stops. Officials board and sternly order everyone off, bags, everything has to leave the train. About 15 of us shuffle, dragging our bags along the corridor to the Thai immigration counters. A sign points up some steps to food and drink which sounds good right now, and a chance to stock up depleted supplies. But no, officials usher everyone along.  It takes 90 minutes to get in, just 5 minutes to get out, after another photo session, a quick tap on their computer and a stamp in the passport. Back along the same corridor to the Malay counters, less than 2 minutes for a passport stamp and off to the customs counter. Another couple of questions and they let me in, sparing me the hassle of pulling apart my backpacks, all easy, quick and simple. Signs frequently warning of harsh penalties for drug smuggling - its the death sentence! Back on the train, waiting, waiting and waiting. 10.30 and the train pulls out of Pedang Besar. Could have stocked up on food and water, but thinking about it now, didn't notice anywhere to change money -  I'll be better prepared next time. The scenery changes to thick vegetation in places and cleared land in others. A new railway is being constructed next to this one. I noticed that it started as the train left Hat Yai. Next stop then is Butterworth.

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