Part 1: Butterworth, Penang – Bangkok, Thailand
This multiple-part post is dedicated to those of you who take the road less taken and finds the excitement in travelling by road. I have travel by land to Cambodia personally and this post is a write-out on my first-hand experience. I am sure you will find some information useful for yourself and if you have any inquiries, please feel free to ask in the comment section below.
The journey started in Penang, particularly Butterworth. There are a few ways that you can travel to Thailand from Malaysia and being the traveller that I am, the train would definitely be my choice. Trust me, if you have never taken a train to Bangkok before from Malaysia, you should definitely try it.
Contrary to popular belief, the train ride itself is a pleasant experience! I’ve never taken the overnight bus to Bangkok before but I have heard some grumpy complaints about it before. But an overnight train to Bangkok, I can totally vouch for that. You can purchase the train ticket at any KTMB station, either in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur or Butterworth itself. I’m not sure if the rates did increase, but back when I took the trip, the fare was RM103.90 (upper berth) and RM111.90 (lower berth).
Travel Advice: Choose the lower berth if possible. It’s way more spacious and you don’t have to go through all the climbing up just to get to your bed. And it’s less creaky.
The train departs from Butterworth at around 2 pm – 2.30 pm and the journey takes around 21 – 22 hours. Yes, it may sound long but it’s a real experience. You have plenty of time to spend, either to read, to catch up on some movies, chat with other fellow travellers or just enjoying the view outside. At about 6-7 pm, the train will stop at Padang Besar, where you will be asked to take your luggage and disembark from the train. This is the border crossing between Malaysia and Thailand, where your passport will be stamped.
At the station here, you can get some food for dinner. There’s a cafe on the first floor, so you might want to get your passport stamped fast and make a quick dash for the cafe. Trust me, if you have no food for dinner, you would want to get some. They do sell dinner on the train (which you can pre-book early when they pass out the menu), but it’s not cheap. Dinner goes for about THB250 – THB400 per person. At the station, you could get a packed meal for as low as THB50. Consider yourself warned.
Travel Advice: Bring a substantial amount of snacks and water for this train ride. There will be none provided and getting hungry on a direct train is not something you would want to experience.
There will be a toilet (seated) on the train as well as a sink for you to freshen up or brush your teeth. Oh and there will be charging ports as well, so make sure you bring your universal charger with you as well. At about 8 pm, dinner will be served for those who pre-ordered. This is the perfect time for you to whip out that dinner that you bought for a fraction of the price. Moments of smartness. Once dinner is done, the train attendant will start preparing the bed for you. Armed with an L-Shaped tool and years of in-train experience, he will convert your seat to a very comfortable bed.
Travel Tips: It might get pretty cold at night, so bring a sweater or a sleeping bag. Also, bring your earplugs. The sound of the moving train might affect your sleep.
If you are not up by 9 am the next morning, our friendly train attendant will gladly wake you up. In a matter of minutes, he will again turn your bed back into what it was, a two-seater. The breakfast menu will be passed out again and if you are interested, you can splurge on some toast and omelette. By 12 pm or so, your train will come to a halting stop, signalling your arrival at Hua Lampong station. Yes! You are in Bangkok already!
Our next destination upon getting off the train is to head to Khao San road. The easy way, of course, would be to take a cab or a tuk-tuk but the cost will be extremely high and in Bangkok, unless you are very sure that you have the luxury of time, try not to take a taxi. Bangkok has been world-renowned for its traffic jam. So, being the traveller, we took the boat taxi.
But I’ll explain the options that you have here anyway.
1. Hua LamPhong Station to Khao San Road By Bus
Once you get off the train, head to the main entrance of the station. There will be a bus stop on your right, near the lamp post. If you are not too sure where to wait, ask the information counter. Don’t worry. Thai people are one of the friendliest people in the world and they have a good command of their English as well!
Get on Bus No.53 which will take you to Phra Athit Road for 10 bahts. Once you reach Phra Athit Road, Khao San Road is just walking distance away. Ask around the street vendors or the shop owners. They will point you in the right direction.
2. Hua LamPhong Station to Khao San Road By Taxi
If you really have to take a taxi, try not to take the ones waiting in front of the station. Those are usually touted or they will probably rip you off. Walk down a couple of blocks down the road from the station and get those taxis beside the road. Also, make sure they use their metre. A taxi ride to Khao San Road from the station would cost around THB70 – THB100. If you have a lot of luggage with you, a taxi would be a good choice. And a more comfortable one.
3. Hua LamPhong Station to Khao San Road By Boat Taxi
The boat taxi along Chao Phraya River is one of the main transport for the Thai community. If you want to experience what the locals experience, this scenic route towards Khao San would be your choice. From Hua LamPhong station, exit via the main entrance and walk toward your right, asking your direction towards Marine Department or you can just ask around for the boat pier.
It would take about 15 minutes to reach the pier and I don’t remember the exact road, so if you should keep asking along the route. Once at the pier, take the ferry heading towards Phra Athit Pier. For your information, there are 5 different types of boats that you can take to the pier:
- No flag (Local Line) – Stops at every pier
- Blue Flag Line (tourist boat) – Stops when you want
- Orange Flag Line – Stops at the main piers
- Yellow Flag Line – Large express boats for commuters
- Green Flag Line – Express boats for commuters
Once you reach the Phra Athit Pier, take a 10-minute walk towards Khao San road. There will be signs every here and there. It’ll be hard the first time but once you are familiar with the road, you will be surprised at how convenient it is.
We reached Khao San at around 3 pm and checked in our crib for the next few days, Green House Hostel (www.greenhousebkk.com). There is PLENTY of backpackers hostel in Khao San Road, so please don’t worry about not pre-booking anything. I am sure you can find a place that suits you with no prior bookings.
In the next post, I will be speaking more about the trip, about things you can find in Khao San Road, the almost being scammed experience and how we dined at one of the tallest towers in Bangkok.
Itinerary Download Link: http://bit.ly/1K9p4Zp
As usual, if there is anything that you would like to ask, please feel free to comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
Let us know in our PTT Outdoor Facebook Group, where we share a lot of good, valuable information for free: Malaysia Outdoor Community.