Thailand

The most popular – travel blogs in Malaysia

Most popular blogs – travel blogs in Malaysia:

The most popular blogs I have written over the past six years are travel blogs in Malaysia. About Penang, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, and travel by plane, train bus and car.

travel blogs in Malaysia

The blogs are ordered in the number of views, from the highest down. The top 14. These statistics are from my original Tropicalexpat blog. I have also updated and published some on my new Tropicalexpat site:

Penang to Langkawi by air, ferry; car, bus and/or train and ferry

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by plane, train, bus and car

Kuala Lumpur Sentral Train Station to Malacca by bus – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 2/4

A trip from Penang to Langkawi by car and ferry

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by night train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 1/4

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by bus

From Penang to Singapore by train

Learning to drive and getting a driving licence in Penang

Malaysia’s Jungle Line; (Malacca to) Gemas to Kota Baru by train; AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 3/4 ; late 2017 update

A trip from Penang to Langkawi by bus and ferry – mid-2014

Our trip to Langkawi mid-2014

Langkawi – some observations from my latest visit. And could I retire here?

Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Road trip to southern Thailand – driving one’s car from Penang to Songkhla – and parts north

And over the past 12 months – travel blogs in Malaysia again:

Malaysia’s Jungle Line; (Malacca to) Gemas to Kota Baru by train; AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 3/4 ; late 2017 update

Penang to Langkawi by air, ferry; car, bus and/or train and ferry

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by plane, train, bus and car

A trip from Penang to Langkawi by car and ferry

Cleaning my air-con

Visiting Pangkor Island – 10 best things to do

A six day road trip around Malaysia – 1/6

Perhentian Jungle Trek

Road Trip – Penang to the east coast of Malaysia by car

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by bus

Learning to drive and getting a driving licence in Penang

A trip from Penang to Langkawi by bus and ferry – mid-2014

Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Malaysian Airlines mobile phone check-in and boarding works

So again – travel blogs in Malaysia. The past 12 months is similar to the longer term trend. But recently there is also more interest in Pangkor Island and the Perhentian Islands.

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Southern Thailand by car from Malaysia

border crossing

A friend often drives up to Thailand and has given me some details which may be useful for some readers, so I share them here.

He has used the Bukit Kayu Hitam crossing many times…

http://tropicalexpat.com/southern-thailand-by-car-from-malaysia/

Bangkok side trip – visiting Ganesha

Ganesha

Ganesha

Fairly recently a big Ganesha has been erected outside of Bangkok, at Wat Saman Rattanaram.  See the size of it by Google Street view. It has proven so popular that other temples and statues have sprung up in the same area.  By private transport it would be a half day trip. We thought we’d try public transport, which meant we were away most of the day.

Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal

Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal

You can catch a train to Chachoengsao, but we read it’s very crowded and you’d have to stand for two hours. And after that you catch a pickup for the rest of the way, to Wat Saman Rattanaram.  We went by mini-bus (‘Rottoo’) instead to Chachoengsao, and then a pickup ( ‘Ten sou’) to Wat Saman Rattanaram.

inside the bus terminal - the ticket window for C is under that big orange sign

inside the bus terminal – the ticket window for Chachoensao is more or less under that big orange sign

The mini-bus to Chachoengsao departs from Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern), on Sukumvit Road, opposite BTS Ekkamai Station. We caught the 8AM minibus, but there are three earlier departures, and the next is at 11.00.  However, check the day before, as timetables change frequently.  A ticket costs THB18, from memory. It took us about two hours to arrive at the Chachoengsao bus station.  We were there at 10.10AM.

the mini-bus to

the mini-bus to Chachoengsao

the bus terminal at C

the bus terminal at Chachoengsao

The pickup to Wat Saman departs from a side street next to the market, about two minutes walk from the bus terminal. Our mini-bus driver showed us where.  We had to wait about 20 minutes for the next departure, at 10.30. The fare was THB30.

the pickup to Wat

the pickup to Wat Saman

on the pickup on the way to Wat Saman

on the pickup on the way to Wat Saman

Ganesha sign

Ganesha sign

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

on the way to Wat Saman

almost there

almost there

And then we arrived at Wat Saman at about 11.25AM.  It has no entry charge.

lots of stalls near the temples

lots of stalls near the temples

first time I've seen this one

first time I’ve seen this one – the sign for the timetable for the pickup back is in front of this.

time table for the pickup back to C

time-table for the pickup back to Chachoengsao – catch the pickup here

Erawan

Erawan

Ganesha

Ganesha

Ganeshas

Ganeshas

dragons

dragons

little island

little island

another Ganesha

another Ganesha

buddhas

buddhas

big Draemon

big Doraemon

huge statue

huge statue

another huge statue

another huge statue

lunch

lunch

my lunch

my lunch

It was interesting to do once and to experience the ordinary public transport.  Bangkok traffic can be bad, so consider which day you make the trip. And take some water to drink,  as usual.

In the Wat market area, we saw a lot of local produce shops, fruit, nuts, cookies, flowers, plants, spice, and charcoal BBQ chicken take away.

The hawker area serves food: food, quality, hygiene, volume and value all were quite satisfactory for a super touristy place.

If you became over heated you can escape to Amazon cafe which is the only air-con place in the Wat.  It is a couple of minutes walk past Ganesha.

September 2015 notes from Bangkok

I’m just back from a week in Bangkok.  So much has been written about Bangkok, I will just make a few observations, rather than duplicate others’ efforts.

  • Last month, August, as you’d know a bomb killed a lot of people at a popular shrine in Bangkok.  We stayed away from major attractions.
  • But now there is airport-like security at all malls. You have to pass through one of those gates, and maybe they will search your bag, if you have one.  Mind you, they also often ignore it when it buzzes, and don’t bother searching your bag, too.
  • The BTS and MTR have the same type of security.
  • Strangely, Hua Lamphong Railway Station had no security. And the bomber allegedly passed through this station.
  • And the airport is less stringent than some malls.Mostly escalators ascended on the right and descended on the left.  Except at the MTR,which did a bit of both, sometimes the left ascended, and sometimes the right.  If you are standing on the escalator you should stand on the right.
  • Sometimes when you ride the BTS you spot someone who is not glued to their phone screen.  You can see whole rows of seated passengers using their mobiles.  Either with earphones and listening to something, or looking at or interacting with the screen, or both.
  • Many surfaces are tiled in malls and entrances.  Occasionally they are very slippery, especially if wet.
  • Mostly, in the trains and malls you see no old people – except for foreigners.
  • One trend for girls seems to be distressed jeans. In some cases, very distressed jeans.
  • Buying fresh fruit at a market can be one fifth the price of buying it in a supermarket.
  • A Tiger beer in a supermatrket costs around THB35 – in its home country, Malaysia, the same beer costs MYR8.50, or more than double the Thai price.
Emporium food court

Emporium food court

  • I particularly liked the food court on the 5th floor at Terminal 21, Asok.  And the  Emporium food court on the 4th floor Phrom Phong.  The latter is smaller, quieter, and feels more upmarket, but still very good value.
  • I don’t drink so much soft drink, but I did buy a can of Coke once.  It tasted a bit funny, and I didn’t feel so good after it.  But I couldn’t read the ingredients as the labelling was all in Thai. I suspect that instead of sugar they used high fructose corn syrup.  Which could also be GM.  Thereafter I only bought drinks where I could read the labelling and see if the sweetner was sugar. The juices and juice drinks seemed often to have English versions of their ingredients on them.
  • In the toilets in the malls they had proper hand towels to dry your hands.  In Malaysia they supply only toilet paper, which disintegrates and leaves tiny bits of paper on your hands – so then you have to wash your hands again to get it off. I don’t use air dryers as they can spread bacteria unless they have a filter.
  • I needed more research on ATM’s as the ones I used charged huge commissions for withdrawal, even though my bank doesn’t charge.
  • And I found the mobile phone deals confusing and kind of expensive. More research needed here, too.  The data speed in Bangkok, and even in the countryside was quite good, though.
  • A note of caution if you buy duty-free and fly out of Penang.  One of the receipts in the bag they give you has all your passport details.  I’d rip it up and throw different parts away in different bins. It’s very insecure to just throw it away when someone could possibly use those details.

From Bangkok to Penang by train (and minibus) – Part 2 – the experience

I wrote a blog a while ago about planning the trip from Bangkok to Penang by train. For more information, as mentioned in the blog, see The man in Seat 61.

Now it was time to do it. But with no planning. I flew in to Bangkok with no advanced planning and no bookings, and caught local public transport from the airport to the railway station. See a recent blog about this.

There were quite a few English-speaking staff around to help you – at first I imagined when I was accosted they’d try to sell me something, but they were just helping you with any information you might need.

I have been told you have to book a few days in advance for the train to Butterworth (the train terminus for Penang). Indeed, when I arrived at the train station they told me the train was fully booked.

ticket windows

It was 12:00, the train to Butterworth departs at 14:45. I then asked for a ticket for the next train to Hat Yai, from where I thought I might be able to board the aforementioned train if it was running late, or otherwise get a minibus to Penang. Train 35 to Butterworth is scheduled to leave at 14:45 and arrive in Hat Yai at 06:35, on the way to Butterworth; and Train 171 leaves at 13:00 and arrives in Hat Yai at 06:45, but then goes on to the south-east of Thailand.

I got a lower bunk in the air conditioned sleeper for about 845 baht. They didn’t accept cards so I had to pay cash.

my ticket

Bangkok Station is old and run down.

shopping area

platforms

I looked around a little and then decided I may as well just get on the train as it was sitting in the station.  I didn’t bother to buy any food or drink in advance, although it was available at the station.  I just wanted to take things as they came, and probably pay a bit more buying on the train, instead.

Finding the train, carriage and then the seat number was easy as everything was labelled.

my train

easy to understand

At 13:00, with no whistles or fanfare the train pulled out of the station.  Amazed it was punctual, I sat and watched the view – for 100m until it stopped and sat for a while. Then moved another 500m and stopped for a while. you got a nice view of urban blight alongside the line.

inside the carriage

The train continued along with occasional stops for an hour and a half, and one notices some modern new stations being built along the route.

aisle

Otherwise mostly urban blight.

And then finally we seem to be getting out of the city.

seats

Sitting in the train seats is reasonably comfortable, but many people had their beds made up by the attendant quite early, and then either relaxed on the bed, or slept.

bed making

The lower bunk was then much better as you had a view.

easy to relax and look at the view

People walk through the train selling snacks, drinks – water (15 baht), beer (50 baht), or meals – egg, and beef (?) on rice. At some stations people also are selling things.  The first time I bought beer I was charged 75, and then the guy assumed he could keep the change and just walked away.  It also turned out he overcharged me, as I now know.

snack seller

snacks

drinks

As is predictable, the toilet is pretty disgusting. There are wash basins at the end of the carriage, which are OK.

wash basins

The train stops at some stations, and you never know for how long, or when the train is about to leave, so it is unwise to get off at all.

one of the stops

I didn’t see any mosquitoes, but I did get one bite.

nice view sometimes

We reached Hua Hin at 6:15. The attendant comes around and tells you just before you reach your stop. Otherwise, you have no idea where you are, or if the train is on time or running late. There are no announcements. When it gets dark you cannot read the signs at all at most stations.

At some stage I walked through the train.  It is kind of dangerous walking between the carriages, and sometimes the doors are open, so you want to keep a firm hold.  The second class air-conditioned sleeper carriage I was in was the last carriage.

non air-con sleeper

Next were second class non air-conditioned sleeper carriages, then a carriage of just seats,

seats

and then the dining car.  I don’t know if there were any carriages further in front, as the dining car was my destination.  I thought it would be perhaps better to wait until the train stopped to move through to the dining car.

dining car

Following are some photos of the menu, but they are blurred as the train is not very stable or smooth.

menu

menu

menu

I ordered chicken and cashews, and it was nice. The dining car was quite a pleasant place.

chicken and cashew nuts

By Surat Thani we were running one and 1 /4 hours late. On the platform I saw many foreigners sitting and waiting, although I have no idea why.

The train continued on through the night, and the attendant slept, and when it became light I was wondering how we were progressing.

early morning view

We arrived in Hat Yai around 8 am, one and 1 /4 hours late.

Hat Yai at last

Hat Yai

timetable

map of railways in southern Thailand

Hat Yai Station

outside station

I got off, but worked out I couldn’t continue on the Butterworth train, so decided to get a minibus.  A company across the road quoted me 550 baht to Penang, so as the normal fare is 300 baht I rang up another company and asked to catch their 9am service, and said I was at the station, and asked to be picked up – which they did at 9am.

minibus

We went back to the office to pay, and they wanted to see my passport.  Then we drove and picked up some others, and then headed south. Only the driver and front passenger had seat belts, so it wasn’t so safe. And the driver drove very fast.  At 10:40 we were at the Thai border, which wasn’t so crowded, and so were through in 15 minutes – leaving the luggage in the minibus, and just showing our passports and departure card.

Thai border

At the Malaysian border a few minutes later a lot of people were waiting, but we were processed fairly quickly. We had to also take our luggage and put it though one of those airport type scanners. By 11:30 we were on our way again.

approaching the Malaysian border

We were dropped at Komtar about 2:30 pm, for a total trip time from Hat Yai of 5 1/2 hours. We should have also had the option of alighting at Chulia Street, but the driver didn’t want to.

Overall, then, if I had the chance , I would book in advance for a lower berth in the train for the whole Bangkok – Butterworth trip.  It is safer, more comfortable, and easier.  Just don’t expect any alcohol to be served on the Malaysian side of the border.

From Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) Airport to the train station

There is free WiFi in the airport, airside, but not once you’ve passed Immigration and Customs. I found this out the hard way – the not getting any WiFi way.

After Immigration and Customs there is an airport information counter, and a tourist information counter, which will give you a map of Bangkok and erroneous information. There are a couple of ATM’s at the end of the hall. I found my cards didn’t work, although they should have, as the cards are members of the right groups.  I had some cash to exchange just in case this happened, and cash exchange booths are to be found near the ATM’s.

To get to the station go down to level B1, where there are also ATM’s, and buy a ticket to Makkasan, which costs 35. I bought from the counter so I didn’t have to struggle with lack of change and possibly incomprehensible machines. Actually you get a red token which you press against the sensor at the entrance turnstile. This station is the fifth stop. It’s very easy to understand.

The train to Makkasan

When you arrive at Makkasan follow the hordes out, put your token in the turnstile, and follow everyone downstairs.

Makkasan Station

There is a free shuttle bus that takes you about 100 metres up the road.It’s quite funny when you realise it’s taken you only a few steps – and had they organised the station better they could have had an exit there anyway.

free shuttle “bus”

Or you can walk it. Either way, at the end of the stretch of road,

Where the bus stops

turn right and walk about 50 metres

the short walk to the station

and you’ll find Phetchaburi station – it where everyone else was walking to, too.

station entrance

They have a security check, and I simply walked past the metal scanner and opened my bag for their inspection. ATMs are there, too. Then go downstairs to buy a ticket, which is 29, and again you get a token. The trains are further downstairs.

the station

The railway station, Hua Lamphang, is the last stop, so it’s easy to pick the right direction. It’s the seventh stop.

7th and last stop

Announcements are given also in English on both trains.

final stop

Once you arrive you take Exit 2, which takes you directly to the railway station. More ATMs in both stations.

Ticket windows for mainline trains

There are information desks there to help you.

The trip took about an hour, and cost 64. Another guy on the train caught a taxi, which cost 500 and took an hour and a half.

From Bangkok to Penang by train – Part 1 – planning and establishing the details

Health note: Bangkok airport now, it appears on a sporadic basis, employs full body scanners,  which scientific studies have shown cause cancer, and damage DNA.  In the US the machine attendants are coming down with cancer.  Besides, many dangerous objects have been snuck through them, and so they are not even effective. I for one will not fly out of Bangkok anymore.  An alternative to flying to Malaysia is catching the train south.

I am planning sometime this year to catch the train from Bangkok to Penang. The first step was to check The man in Seat 61. There you can find good information and photos.  The information here is in addition to Seat 61.

Then I asked a friend who has done the journey a number of times.

You have to buy a ticket at the station in Bangkok. They speak English.

There is only one class of travel to Butterworth.

However, there are upper and lower bunks.  The lower is far more popular as there is more headroom, and a window..

The ticket is about RM110 for the upper bunk, the lower a bit more.

The station is at the end of a subway line, so easy to get to.

There is only one train a day – around lunchtime. Two carriages go to Butterworth.  It arrives about lunchtime in Butterworth.

But the train can be three or four hours late arriving.

Food is available on the train – the conductor comes around and takes your dinner order fairly soon after departure.  Dinner is basically Thai food.  Beer is available anytime and isn’t expensive.  You can also get food when the train stops at stations.

The train is reasonably clean, and the bedclothes are clean. There is a basin and a toilet at the end of the carriage – which is not clean. There is no shower.  There aren’t mosquitoes.

The aircon is too strong so it is cold.

The beds are made up around 8 or 9pm, and then people tend to sleep.  And the beds are returned to seat state when people wake up – but it is done so noisily everyone wakes up.

Scenery tends to be paddy fields in Thailand and jungle in Malaysia.

The train stops at the border, and everyone disembarks, and goes through first the Thai Immigration and Customs, which is quite quick and not thorough, and then through the Malaysian equivalent, which is much slower and may check luggage.  Then it’s back on the train – which hasn’t moved. All told it takes less than an hour to cross the border.

At Butterworth the train terminates, and then you can catch the ferry across to George Town, Penang.

Addendum on 8th September, 2012:

Now I have made the trip, which you can read about here.