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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Thailand Travel Itinerary 2014 - Part 1

Day 1 - Started my Thailand holiday trip with my hubby who can speak a little Thai.  Since our trip is about 18 days, I will share our itinerary and travel tips/news in parts for easier reading and reference which won't be too overwhelming.  It would be good reference for those travelling alone or in twos.
We travelled direct to Chiangmai in time for Loy Krathong festival on 5 November but a short stopover at Bangkok for several hours until the Bangkok/Chiangmai train departs at 7.35 pm.  Travelling directly to Chiangmai from Butterworth takes 2 nights, that is Butterworth to Bangkok [about 17 hours] then Bangkok to Chiangmai [15 hours].  Do expect to encounter some delays on the way.
We took the Express International Train 36 which is actually the SRT Train [Siam Rail Transport] from Butterworth Railway Station.
Train 36 schedule from Butterworth to Bangkok [stopping at several stations on the way for a short while].  Notes - train may delay due to railway track or weather problems.  Our train was delayed at Hatyai for 1 and 1/2 hours thus arriving only at 1.00 pm.
Train Fare BW-BKK - Class 2 with sleeping berth.  Lower Berth  is Ringgit 111.90 and Upper Berth is Ringgit 103.90.  Notes - lower berth is very spacious, comfortable and clean.  Sheets and pillow cases are washed after use.
Departure Time [Butterworth] - 2.00 pm on 2 November 2014
Arrival Time [Bangkok] - 11.40 am on  3 November 2014
Notes - Butterworth railway station has been demolished and rebuilding, there was no proper waiting area for passengers, poor condition of passage way to get to the platform and  coach. It could be rather inconvenient if you have much luggage or especially when you travelled to Butterworth with the ferry as the routes leading to the platform is not smooth at all.  Until the station is ready, the old and disabled should not choose to travel by train from Butterworth.  Wonder what happens when it rains or during the night? Hopefully the new station will be ready soon.  You would understand what I meant from the photos below.
Once you embarked in the coach, the attendant [very friendly man] will give you the Arrival and Departure papers to fill up for immigration purpose when the train stops at Padang Besar. The attendant will also show you the dinner menu.  You have a choice of 4 set menus and each set costs 170 Bahts [RM17.00].  He accepts both Malaysian and Thai currencies.
A set menu consists of rice, chicken/vegetable dish, fried chicken, fruits and hot beverage [coffee/tea/milo].  Dinner is served immediately after immigration clearance.  The dinner wasn't that good for the price but lots of fruits were given in this Malaysia/Hatyai sector. We were given Dukung, orange and bananas.  Compared to Taiwan Rice Bento you get at the railway stations in Taiwan which costs only 65 - 80 TWD, it isn't that worthy.  Notes - this schedule may changed overtime but you can always order your meals from the attendant [fried rice].  You can even bring your own dinner if you don't mind that it will be cold.  But when you are hungry, any thing edible tastes good. 
It takes about 1 hour for immigration clearance and dinner on coach before the train departs for Hatyai.  Immigration clearance at Padang Besar is hassle-free and fast, you need not cart down your luggage.  Just bring with you your passport will do.  Took some nice shoots along the Malaysian route, one thing I like travelling by train, you can get to see places too.

The train should arrived at Hatyai by 6.30 pm and automatically the time changed [difference of an hour].  Notes - in our case, the train delayed departure from Hatyai for 1 and 1/2 hours.
Notes - it's a long journey, I suggest you bring Poker cards/books/games to pass time if you can't sleep early.  The sleeping berths will be prepared immediately after dinner around 8 pm.  The attendant is very efficient doing the task - less than 5 minutes he can finished 2.
Once you cross the Thailand border, there will be people coming in to the coach to exchange currency.  The rate is slightly higher.  There will be attendants coming to ask you for breakfast orders at the same time.  The breakfast set costs 110-140 THB which consists of sandwiches, sausages, orange juice and hot drink.  Notes - suggest that you buy some sandwiches/buns/biscuits for your breakfast instead of ordering from the train restaurant.  Of course, you can order coffee from them at 20 THB.  Sometimes they charged 30 THB but the actual price is 20 THB.
As there was a delay, train reached Hua Hin for a short interval [10 minutes] at 8 am instead of 6.30 am.  Notes - When you reached Hua Hin, you can go to the coach entrance, there will be people selling hot congee or other breakfast food at the station for only 20 THB, too.

Almost all railway stations along the Hatyai/Bangkok routes are old and some do have food vendors.  It's about 5 hours journey from Hua Hin to Bangkok.  At around 6.30 am, the sleeping berths are converted back to seats for them to serve breakfast before the train reaches Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Bangkok at 11.40 am. Due to the delay at Hatyai, we arrived at about 1.00 pm.  

Bangkok is rather humid and warm in November. The railway station is packed with tourists and locals.   Everywhere seems busy with people walking around, sitting and even sleeping.  You can have late breakfast or early lunch at the station's food court.  Prices are quite reasonable and convenient.  Hot coffee costs only 10 THB.

Once you bring down your luggage, you can leave your big luggage at the railway station since you have about 7-8 hours in Bangkok before you take the train to Chiangmai which leaves at 7.35 pm so that you go roam around the vicinity.  They charged about 50 THB for 1 bag. Notes - You can also go for a shower at the railway station toilets  for 20 THB before you get to the coach for Chiangmai. I suggest that you bring along a small towel and soap in your personal travelling bag for convenience.
Since you have several hours before departing Bangkok, you can exit the station from the side door to get to Chinatown at Yaowarat Road which is nearby the station.
Here you can have lunch and also buy some food for dinner, drinks and sandwiches for breakfast too instead of ordering from the train restaurant which costs about 170 THB per set.  Advisable to do this cos' the train may be delayed and you will have to pay more for your meals from the train restaurant. However, you can order some fried rice [Khao Pad] for 40 THB from them.
With the several hours we had:
- lunch at Chinatown ferry pier, that is at the end of Yaowarat Road.

- see the Golden Buddha Temple and Kuan Yim Temple along the way if you like.  These places is packed with people.
Our lunch at a local Thai economy rice shop [2 plates of rice with 3 dishes and 2 cups of ice cubs with a bottle of drinking water costs 110 THB.
- After lunch, we did some light shopping for snacks like cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, pickled fruits and lots more from the shops in Chinatown if you don't mind carting them to the train.
Along the streets, there are street vendors selling fruits and ice cold drinks like fresh orange and fresh pomegranate juices from 40 THB per 250-300 ml bottle. 

We also bought 1 big seedless guava for 25 THB from a fruit stall along the walkway which is good and cheap.  The vendor will cut it for you upon request.  We bought a packet of cashew nuts [250 gm] for 100 THB from a Chinese grocery shop [Siang Heng Hua Kee Ltd] but you can get it cheaper in the market but be aware it may weigh less.

-  Since it is dinner time when the train leaves Bangkok, we bought at Chinatown earlier since we didn't want to order food from the coach restaurant.  There is a Hongkong style noodle shop at the beginning of Yaowarat Road, Chinatown [very near to the railway station] selling duck meat rice and noodles.  We packed duck meat rice, per pack is only 60 THB which is very cheap for the portion given and its delicious and tasty.  The rice portion is quite big with boneless meaty duck meat, cucumber or boiled mustard leaves and sauce.  Diagonally opposite this shop is a 7-Eleven outlet where you can get some drinking water, buns, sandwiches for the next day's breakfast.  The prices for buns and sandwiches from 7-Eleven are very reasonable.   That is if you don't want to order breakfast from the train and just in case there is a delay.  [This is a must do if you are travelling with a tight budget].
-  After all these done, we went back to the railway station for our shower before the train departs for Chiangmai.
We bought the Bangkok/Chiangmai train tickets through a friend in Hatyai.  I supposed you can book online for this sector on a safer side just in case you can't get it from Bangkok when you arrived during the peak season.  Many people travelling to Chiangmai in early November for the Loy Krathong festival which is celebrated on a grand scale annually.
Click here to see Thailand Travel Itinerary 2014 Part 2 [Bangkok/Chiangmai]
Click here - See More on Thailand Food
Click here - Chiangmai Street Food
Click here - What To Eat in Chiangmai?

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