Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Rocking, rolling, riding.. Malaysia 27 March 2012

Bangkok Station
Rocking, rolling, riding...Into Malaysia Part 1

Could there be a song in here somewhere? Riding the bus to Bangkok station, a last minute change of plan. The initial idea to get the express boat to the marine pier then hike it to the station went awry for 2 reasons. First, hiking around with 2 backpacks in 35 deg c is hard work and secondly, the boats are always packed and there might have been problems with me taking the space of about 3 people! Since the boat pier and bus stand are side by side, just beside the Grand Palace, then the diversion was no big deal. Bus 53 or 25 stops near the train station according to the tourist office, simple enough, it's not all that far away. The 25 is ready to go, 6.50 baht and plenty of room. 35 minutes to travel the couple of miles, stop, start all the way, but I had considered a longer time than that and timed things accordingly - 2 hours before the train go's, time enough to stock up on food and drink. Plenty of food and beverage options as I navigate my way around the station hall and at good prices - 80 baht. Just under a couple of pounds for bottled water, 2 pastries, a coffee and a fried chicken noodle takeaway, cooked to order!

Very Comfortable
Rolling out of Bangkok Station 2 minutes late at 2.47! Train looks quite smart. On the outside, clean, good paintwork and inside, equally smart. Bright, airy, with air-con and clean-ish, all good for a long international journey, 22 hours according to the Schedule. Slow going as the train creeps north, before heading south and away from the urban sprawl of Bangkok city into a sparsely populated rural scene - rice paddies, cranes, herons and egrets by the hundreds. Each carriage is  split into 8 sections with 4 passengers to each section. Lots of room, enough to semi-stretch out for the first 4-5 hours before the bunks are prepared around 9ish according to the ' seat61' website.

Mostly Asians heading south, although the attendant remarked that I was the only one going to Butterworth, hard to believe, I mean a whole train to myself in Malaysia, ok, we'll see. A few Western tourists way to the rear of the train, perhaps it splits and they go elsewhere. It's dark by 6.45 so nothing to do but go and grab a coffee from the restaurant car, 30 baht, about 70p! and wait for the attendant to prepare the sleeping quarters. They do offer food, set meals only according to the menu distributed by the attendants. Cheapest is 160 baht for a set main meal consisting of jasmine rice, fried chicken with cashew nuts, soup or spicy soup, roasted duck in red curry and fruits. Most expensive is 400 baht for a seafood meal, enough for two apparently, drinks included! Not bad prices for a westerner but quite steep for the average Thai I would think, judging by the lack of ordered meals in this carriage.

7.30 and the bunks are prepared. Top bunk is pulled from the wall whilst the bottom bunk is constructed out of the 2 day seats underneath. Fresh bedding is applied, curtains hooked up and it's an early night for some, the gentle rocking motion making a few passengers sleepy! Probably a good idea to load the iPod with a good selection of audio. I downloaded a bunch of these shows beforehand, highly reccomended. Several crime thrillers and ghost stories later it's time to get some sleep - screaming kids, the snoring old timers opposite, good job I bought some fresh ear plugs!

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