Arriving at Padang Besar, our adventure continues. Stepping off the train and tugging along our luggages, we are another step closer to discover the answer to the questions in our heads:
- Do they still have tickets to Bangkok?
- Will we be able to continue on our journey to Bangkok?
As mentioned in our guide – DECEMBER 2014 – TRAVELLING ON TRAIN FROM SG TO BKK, the immigration clearance is within Padang Besar Station itself, where the building forms a loop for commuters to clear the Malaysia Immigration, followed by the Thai Immigration before heading back to board the same train to Bangkok.
Here’s a visual aid to the layout and to better illustrate the cute immigration process:
Stepping into the ticketing office was as though we have just stepped into the police station of Nepal. Of course, we have not been to Nepal yet, but our description might give you a good sense of the environment we were in. Naturally speaking, we quickly draw attention to ourselves with a clear look on our faces that tells the world “Hi, we are travellers, lost and confused.”. The ticketing officer ushered us over to his desk and after a few basic English conversations, he dug into his CRT monitor to show us the available tickets left.
Much to our relief, we were able to book 2 upper berths out of the last 3, and our berths happen to be just across each others. We were initially hoping for lower berths for they are much wider, but then again, we were thankful enough so long as we are able to continue on the journey. Essentially speaking, the train that we boarded from Butterworth will continue to run across Thailand over the night.
Hence, the seats during the day, will be converted into sleeping berths during the night. We will provide more juicy information later in the post!
The two tickets from Padang Besar to Bangkok (Hua Lamphong Railway Station) costs THB 1740. For more information about the prices and how to ensure you have tickets, do read our detailed guide here.
Boarding the train once again, this time with a huge sigh of relief, relaxed shoulders and wider smiles! The first interesting event we encountered is “the money changer”. Apparently it is a norm for this man to board such trains to offer money changing services. In his hand, he holds a stack of the local newspaper of the day, unfolding them to show commuters who had doubts in his rates. The money changer will claim that he has the best rates across Thailand and follows strictly according to the daily rates published on newspapers. We were unsure if we should change our Malaysian Ringgit for his Thai Baht, hence we hesitated. In a rush, this man disappeared and when we decided we can take the risk, we did not see him again for the rest of journey.
While waiting for the train to depart, another man came along and handed us a dinner menu. Thinking that they were just collecting orders so that dinner may be served later, we submitted our orders and settled the payment. Everything then happened very quickly after the yellow sheet of invoice was handed to us.
The same man treated us like guests of a restaurant and went around looking for another sitting berth where the collapsible table could be erected. The previously non-existent tables were actually stored at a compartment under the passenger seats. Very quickly, the man revealed insights of this magical train. Every notch and slot has a specific purpose in the train. Once the table was fixed, we found ourselves served with fresh fruits on a disposable paper plate. Though unpeeled, we thought the banana and orange make very good desserts for our dinner, especially in an environment like this. Still amazed by all that has happened, we carefully observed the duo that were rushing up and down the train.
The man had a female partner, who then first set on our tables 2 disposable cups filled with powdered Milo. A few moments later, the lady appeared with a flask and politely filled our cups with hot water. Voila! Hot milo to go with our dinner set! (Fascinated by all these happenings, we took some videos of this experience!)
Interestingly, the disposable cups had fold-able ears to make it look like a cup with ears! I can only assume these cups were designed specially for containing hot liquid.
Nevertheless, to complete our dinner experience on this cross-border train, we were actually quite satisfied with the overall taste and quantity in our dinner boxes. Contained in clear plastic, our dinner set was nothing shy of being little in quantity. By the end, we were both full and satiated.
Ordering Set C and D, we paid THB 170 per set, amounting to a total of THB 340! Apparently there is a breakfast menu as well, so you may try ordering them. We do not know how that works since we decided to forgo the breakfast one.
It wasn’t long before the sky turned dark. Here comes the exciting part! We were actually looking forward to witness how they convert the passenger seats into sleeping berths.
To make things real straightforward here, we took a short clip of the process:
What the train operator essentially did was to do a few magic clicks around this transformer train, and voila! The lower berth now becomes a wide and comfortable sleeping berth. The upper berth is docked upwards during the day and cannot be released unless the correct tool is inserted into the ports. As the train operator lowers down the upper berth, it reveals mattresses for 2 sleeping berths, fresh bedsheets, blankets, clean pillow covers and pillows. So in a way, this is like a moving hotel!
What really pleases us is how professional they seem to be, with their job!
There are ladders by the side to allow passengers to access their sleeping berth and if you notice in the photos, each sleeping berth has been blessed by curtains to provide passengers certain privacy when they snooze! Lined on the wall of each berth is also a small reading light and net basket to hold your valuables. While we are not sure if everything has been well thought of, we were still very impressed by all the tiny considerations put in place for our comfort.
We would recommend travellers to pack their slippers and toiletries in bags that are easily accessible. Speaking of which, luggages may be stowed under the passenger seats while backpacks may be stored on the overhead docking platform.
For travellers who are concerned about the temperature in the train, bring along your jackets. We estimate the temperature was about 22 – 24 degrees Celsius. The train has been air conditioned throughout and may get pretty cold during the night (depending on your tolerance).
Supper or Second Dinner, you say?
As the photo shows everything, through the early hours of the evening, and the next day, there will be food pedallers coming onboard at certain train stations to try sell food to the passengers.