Friday, July 16, 2010

Mini Odyssey

For almost a week I was in Bangkok again, savouring the Thanon Khao San lifestyle and enjoying every moment away from my daily reality back home. It's always good to be traveling somewhere, and it's even better when that somewhere is Bangkok aka Krung Thep aka the City of Angels. Pom rak Krung Thep mak mak, ching.

Since it's my second trip up north, I decided to shake things up a bit and travel by the express train from Butterworth to Bangkok which would take 22 hours but I would be ensconced in air conditioned comfort plus considerably comfy berths to sleep in. So last Thursday I hopped on the earliest bus from KL with Yam to get to Butterworth to catch the train. We arrived at around 1pm, and had time for a quick lunch at the bus station before making our way to the adjacent train station to get on the 2.20pm train.

We arrived at the station all eager to hop on the train and sleep the journey off, only to be told bluntly that the train was canceled due to a derailed train the day before. WTF! We got a full refund on the tickets but now have to find an alternative way to Bangkok. After asking the KTM staff for tips, we rushed to catch the 2pm bus heading for Hat Yai. Paid RM38 for the bus ticket and headed north to the border and afterwards Hat Yai in about 4 hours from Butterworth.

The bus conveniently dropped us in front of it's office/travel agent and was immediately crowded by touts telling us to get on their tuk-tuks (in actuality a song thaew) to catch the 6.30pm bus to Bangkok for THB800 I think. After a quick discussion we decided to take a gamble and forego the bus and took a song thaew to the train station (despite the song thaew's driver's protest saying that all trains are off). Turned out, trains were running normally and we managed to secure tickets to Bangkok for only THB 339 (about RM40) but with one catch. We had to ride third class since all other tickets are sold out.With a 'what the hell' shrug, we got ourselves to platform 5 and boarded the 7pm train. It is going to be a 16 hour ride at least, no air-conditioning, no berths, no problem. The seats were reasonably comfortable and since the carriage is not full we secured a 'compartment' each to ourselves.

It's a different travelling experience, the wind blowing in your face as you see the Thai countryside roll by. We went through Songkhla, Phattalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and soon I fell into an awkward contorted sleep (which would be continually interrupted by screaming muscles and joints, which requires a change of position).

I woke up very early next morning and was greeted by a breathtaking dawn vista somewhere in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Soon the paddy fields and faraway hills faded and the sea comes into view.

Pretty soon, the more familiar names of Hua Hin and Cha-am comes into view and we are only a few hours away from reaching Hualamphong station in Bangkok. At around noon, we finally pulled to a stop and here we are finally in Bangkok after 30 hours of non-stop travelling from KL.

Truth be told, that's the most fun I've had going to a destination. I was tired, hungry, body aching all over, face probably grimy from 16-17 hours of air blowing on to my face but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It costs only about RM100, but I get to see breathtaking sights and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Thai countryside. I strongly suggest you try the overland trip, but make sure you get on the journey with an open mind and a strong love for travel. Since the train is actually running the route of Sungai Kolok-Bangkok, you can even try starting your trip from almost the southernmost tip of Thailand (Sungai Kolok or better known as Golok is a Thai town bordering the Kelantan town of Rantau Panjang).

That's it for the first part of my Bangkok trip, will write of the rest of the trip in a later post since I gotta go eat (gosh I miss the pad thai in Khao San!) and you people have more things to do than read about my trip. Stay tuned!


idya said...

this used to be my dream mase single life dulu.. pegi bangkok naik train.. huhu

YaM said...

not to forget our dinner with teh ais kaw & mister potato..fuh..that feeling will never go away! and we sat there thinking...what a life!

The Banker said...

idya: kau kena tunggu anak besar dh la baru bleh buat, time single dulu apsal x buat beb? serious best

yam: yezza, teh ais kaw + mister potato, dinner terbaik..haha

Miss Aida said...

Sounds awesome.

Will think about that at the end of the year! :)

cacah said...

fun fun!!! :D

The Banker said...

aida: please do, and then tell me all abt your experience!

cacah: very much!

Anonymous said...

I did the train journey from Butterworth thinking that it'd be sorta cool a few years back. Too tiring to ever contemplate something like that again. cheers.

The Banker said...

anon: if a train trip complete with a berth is tiring, you really should try 3rd class without the berth haha