This isn’t going to be a magnum opus. It’s 18:45 here in Thailand and i’m settled in on the overnight sleeper train from Padang Besar in Malaysia to Bangkok. There’s no wifi, these 1988 built sleeper cars only have a few shared plug sockets and my laptop couldn’t charge on the Malaysian train even though we had plugs as they weren’t working. That means this is being typed on my phone (so forgive any glaring typos).
I’ll blog about the trip at greater length when I have time. It’s certainly been an interesting trip. KTMs Electric Train Service (ETS) left KL at 09:50 this morning. The train was sold out and busy almost all the way to the border. It was only after Alor Setar, the penultimate stop before Padang Besar that the numbers thinned. The ETS sets are pretty good. Mine was one of the later 2018 batch from CRRC that were assembled in Malaysia. Apart from the plug socket problem I’d no grumbles and the staff were very good.
Bowling along on meter-gauge track at 140kph is a rare experience but the quality of the rebuilt railway means the ride quality’s really good. We even arrived on time at Padang Besar. I’d not got an onward ticket but I suspected I’d be able to buy one on the day without a problem. True enough the Thai ticket office sold me a lower berth on the 18:00 departure for 918 baht. They don’t take credit cards but I’d a large stash of cash from previous trips so I used some of that. It’s a good job I wasn’t trying to get Southwards to KL, the next door KTM ticket office had a notice saying all trains were fully booked until the 30th January!
All I had to do then was wait. Immigration doesn’t open until around 30 mins before the 18:00 leaves, so there’s a fair bit of hanging around to do and not a lot of amusements. You can’t get back on the platforms so you just hang around upstairs. When immigration did open it was a breeze. Both sets were efficient and there were no questions asked before getting my Thai visa. You used to get a shorter one if you arrived by land rather than air (14 days instead of 30) but now you get 45 days whichever way you arrive.
Before the sleeper arrived the local train to Hat Yai departed. Four third class coaches hauled by an old Alsthom diesel. There’s plenty of freight to observe as intermodals arrive/depart on a regular basis, there’s just nowhere to get a decent shot of them.
This being SRT the sleeper was late! Eventually, a loud Hitachi built diesel of the 45xx number series backed 2 sleeper cars and a 3rd class coach into the station. The couple of dozen of us waiting soon boarded it and we were off with the Hitachi making lots of noise despite the light load.
On arrival at Hat Yai our two sleepers were detached by the station pilot, a battered old ‘Shovelnose’ which deposited us on the rear of the Bangkok train. There’s no buffet car anymore but hawkers came through the train selling water or chicken with sticky rice (40b) so hunger and dehydration aren’t a problem. Within 15 minutes we were off – Bangkok bound, where we’re due to arrive at midday. I’ll be amazed if we’re on time! Now the crew have made all the beds up and I’m laid out on my lower bunk relaxing. An early night beckons methinks.
See you tomorrow!