I think we forget there are other options when we travel from country to country than just the easy flight. In South East Asia, I recommend traveling by alternative means whenever you get the chance. Traveling is about the journey not the destination.
We took a 21 hour overnight train ride from Penang (Butterworth), Malaysia all the way to Bangkok, Thailand. To say the least, we made ourselves at home on our train journey.
The converted sleeper. Top bunk is cheaper than bottom, we were like who wouldn’t want the top bunk? let’s get two. But turns out bottom is bigger, can actually fit two if you’re easy sleepers…if you’re traveling alone, top is fine but if you’re a couple book one bottom and one top in the same unit. You have the whole area to yourself and the option of sleeping or hanging out together in the same bunk.
Important Words of Advice:
When we got on the train, we noticed for some strange reason everyone was bundled up in coats, scarves, beanies and to top it off one family was putting on gloves. I was like huh? It’s 26 degrees, these guys are nuts.
Turns out, they weren’t nuts. As the train started chugging down the tracks, the temperature of the train dropped down to negative degrees. To our horror, we realized we would be stuck in this refrigerator for the next 21 hours.
I actually caught a cold.
Bring warm clothes and bundle up! Socks, scarf, sweater, pants
You can buy some little plastic box meals on board for dinner and breakfast for 220 baht per meal. If you’re on a budget, definitely pack a dinner and breakfast.
The Malaysia-Thai Border
The train stops at the border. Everyone must disembark and exit Malaysia and then enter Thailand. If you enter Thailand by land, you will get a 15 day Tourist Visa. If you want a longer visa, you can apply for a Thai visa at a consulate prior for a 2 month Tourist visa that can be extended to 3 months. We did this in Penang, there’s also one in Kuala Lumpur.
I really enjoyed the train from Malaysia to Thailand. The scenery through Malaysia isn’t great, mostly Palm Oil. Once you get to Thailand, it’s quite enjoyable. The beds are comfy and you will definitely get a good nights sleep as long as you wear warm clothing and arrange for a seat in the middle not near a door. There was one point where I was so scared I would lose Jonas somewhere in Thailand. He got off the train to go to the ATM (to pay for our overpriced train food) with one of the train employee’s friends and didn’t come back. The train started moving again. I get up and run to the cabin attendant who doesn’t speak much English.
“Are we leaving?”
“Yes. Train go now”
“My boyfriend not in train”
I frantically run the other direction to find another attendant. A couple minutes go by and I haven’t made any progress in finding Jonas and getting him back in the train. Then, I hear the cabin attendant yell out the door
I run back down the alley and peer out the open train door. There’s Jonas in a little Thai village! Smiling Jonas runs and jumps on the moving train.
All the passengers and crew on board laugh and relax.
Price for the train from Malaysia to Thailand
103 RM (Around 30 USD and cheaper than the bus!)
train Penang to Bangkok (you can also go from KL to BKK or even Penang to Singapore)