Sunday, February 14, 2010

Malaysia-Thailand by train

Malaysia to Thailand by train.Express from KL “Sentral” leaves 2000hrs for Butterworth and on to Hat Yai [Haad Yai] arriving next day 1050. Schedule on time and 2nd class air-con seat RM44 one way. Seats comfortable and lay back, but take a jacket as air-con gets too cold early hours. If over 60 inquire about special rate tickets. KTM online booking extremely easy and a very good fast site.
Thai Rail can't book on line yet and as we found out at Hat Yai, chances of getting the connection you want can be slim. So book via a travel agent. We found that we had to to wait till 5 trains left before we boarded out train at 1805. Hanging around Hat Yai is not all that fun. The only seats we could buy were 3rd class with fan. Not so bad, but the seat are VERY hard for the 17 hour trip. [train was an hour late into Bangkok] Price 3rd class fan Bht 339 or 2nd class air-con Bht 675 if available. Most of the way is a single track, so much stopping to let others by. Don t rely on being on time.
As we were going onto Pattaya and the one train a day had left, we checked out the travel agent on mezzanine at Bangkok station. Very helpful, but the mini bus connections they had were full up till late afternoon. We finally found a taxi who would use the meter to take us to “EKAMAI” Eastern Bus Terminal. Cost Bht 85. Buses leave every hour for Pattaya, but as they typically try and fill the bus along the route [bit like Rawang bus up Jln Ipoh] a 1.5 hour trip takes 3 hours. Cost around Bht 90.

The Quality Resort @ Pattaya Hill is the free accommodation we were given and is up on the hill at the southern end of Pattaya beach. The rooms are excellent and the views great. About 1.5 km from the main girly bar area. Prices normally start from 1300 Bht a night usually min 1 week stay.
The interesting thing about this hotel is that its the same model as the one KC and I help set up in Port Douglas, with the minority unit owners setting up a smaller hotel within a larger hotel. This one is most successful and has an arrangement with RCI, the biggest holiday club/time share company in the world.
While there are still large numbers of German and in particular Russian tourists, its obvious that numbers are way down with most bars, restaurants etc almost empty. There are a few establishments who have dropped prices but maintained service and they are doing well. The vast majority have not cottoned on to the formula. From Hotel at sunset South headland Pattaya Part of Pattaya City

Probably one of the nicest places in Pattaya is “Buddha“ hill at the south end of Pattaya and close to the hotel. There are 2 Wat's there and one in particular is really nice. There is also a Navy monument with a fantastic view over the whole of Pattaya. There is a very pretty park and walking/exercise paths and in the mornings and evenings all those wanting to stay fit descend on the hill. Generally in the town the bars and restaurants are about what you would expect. Pretty sleazy with overpriced beer, hawkers and noise. Further away from the main beach side prices get better and the sleaze increases. On 3rd road there is a pretty good night food stall area down the south side. Somehow I liked the place where Phuket I hated. “Some things never change”
We did a huge amount of walking, but if you want to ride anywhere, the rip off by taxi buses, pillion bikes etc are worse than Hanoi or Penang...and that says something. The taxi buses [pickup trucks with open seats at the back] charge locals 10 Bht a 1-2 km ride and will try and hit tourists 200 Bht and think its a good deal at 150. Pissed me off no end and I had great delight in telling them all so!!
The official bus station for long distance buses is way up the north end close to the highway. Unlike the bus up here, these buses have allocated seats, comfortable, run to a schedule and air-con that works. The trip is more than an hour faster as they are not driving all over town touting for passengers. B113 was worth the extra B23 from the trip from Bangkok.
From Ekamai Bangkok bus terminal we had to first get a BTS skyrail 3 stops at B20 each, then change to the metro line for B27 each for about 6 stops to Hua Lamphong central station. The inner city train system works well and very efficient.
The main station thankfully, has plenty of places to park your bum for a while, with lots of small food and drink shops.
Thai Rail intercity 2nd class is way better than 3rd class. We were given a snack [chocolate bun and water] when we got on board at 10 to 11 pm. Breakfast the next morning of custard bun and coffee and a lunch of rice and Thai pickled veg swimming in typical fish and chilli sauce...and bloody hot. Seats are pretend leather and recline and the air-con goes flat out all night and freezes your bum off. Then during the day it broke down and so we all sweltered like mad onto Hat Yai. It was a relief to get off.
Along the way was patches of jungle, and patchy agriculture. At times there were serious rubber and oil palm plantations and well done, either large family or co-op rice fields, but generally small plots badly maintained as often as not. Views of distant hills as a backdrop all made it most enjoyable scenery.
Well KTM was 20 min early and arrived in Kuala Lumpur Sentral at 0500 and guess what. Nothing moves in KL Sentral at 0500 except McDonald's who were doing a great trade. We got the first train to Kepong Sentral at 0615 and arrived 20 min later. Kepong is the closest station to where we stay near Selayang and guess what again. No buses go our way at that hour and taxi's will only do city or airport trips at that hour. .... so 7km with packs, on shank's ponies, ending our trip at around 0820. The trip from the hotel in Pattaya to home, over 59 hours...without a shower or shave. Ripe I think is the word!!.From Train Pattaya at sunsetBangkok Central Station Pattaya from South HeadlandPattaya toward North Headland Temple gardens Pattaya

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