Langkawi to Bangkok
12.12.2011 - 13.12.2011 28 °C
Catch a 2 hour ferry from Langkawi to Kuala Perlis on the mainland of Malaysia; take a bus to the train station in Arau and a catch our pre-booked sleeper train directly to Bangkok, Thailand.
The events as they unfolded:
We caught the ferry to the mainland, that went without a hitch and we were lulled into a false sense of security as our boat bobbed up and down in the water. Once on the mainland, we discovered that there was no bus available and so we would have to take a taxi to Arau train station. Our budget doesn’t stretch to the luxury of taxis.
Once we arrived in Arau, we discovered we were in the middle of nowhere (apart from a KFC which came in useful for a much needed morale boost later) and that the ticket counter was closed for the next two hours. We had only one hour before our reserved tickets would be released and so we had to make a mobile call to the customer service number in Malaysia to ask them to hold our tickets. We dumped our bags with a ‘security’ man who was sleeping in a cabin at the train station and went to KFC for some budget-busting lunch.
Back at the station the counter boy was stirring from his sleep so we eagerly waited in the queue whilst elbowing locals to stop them from pushing in. Once at the front of the queue we presented our booking information, to which we received the following response “no train here”. A confused Sully began a speech rally with him, trying to convince him that this was indeed a train station and that a train should be arriving here to take us to Bangkok. And why not, we had booked in advanced over the phone and had only spoken to someone again that morning. “No train here”, Soph took over and it soon became apparent that we would not be getting a train that evening or indeed the next as the train had derailed and no-one knew when the service would be back up and running. The surprised Thai rail call centre girl confirmed the ambiguity with when things would be back on track. So we decided to fly solo and wing it from here to the Thai border. We established from a taxi driver, who didn’t speak much English, to take us to the nearest big town. 40km later we made our way to a bust stop to see if there were any buses heading to Bangkok. None. Sully found a group of boisterous taxi drivers whom a joke or two later agreed to take us to the Thai border. What happened beyond that was still unknown. A couple of hours later we were at the border and found a Thai lad who would take us to the bus station on the other side. His level of English wasn’t great and we wished we had some basic Malay or Thai to help us along. Once through the border he dropped us off to an office in a southern Thai neighbourhood.
The difference between countries became quickly apparent even though we were not far beyond the border. The infrastructure was more consistently better in Malaysia, as was the town planning as well as the quality of buildings. We were pretty tire by now, with it being 8hours since we had left Langkawi. Our morale was boosted when we saw a double decker bus parked outside the bus office. Inside there was no mutual understanding of words with the two lovely Thai ladies. However, Sully pointed at the bus, made steering wheel impressions and moved his body around to describe Bangkok and soon we were being told we can jump on the bus. Sully rushed off to the local shops to get the obligatory munchies for the trip. Soph found him smiling and skipping back in the distance, but as he approached she knew she had some knowledge that would wipe the smile off his bearded face.
“I’ve got some water, some fruit, some squid flavour crisps…” Soph “Darling, the lady called the company to confirm we can get on this bus but unfortunately this bus is full. We cannot repeat what Sully said in response to this. Back in the office we spent ages trying to find out when the next bus would be or what our options would be now but we were just simply told “no bus here”. Soph had to stop Sully from explaining to them that there is a bus there and miraculously managed to get a ride on the bus to the nearest ‘big town’ a couple of hours away.
2.5 hours later we were dropped off at Hat Yai. Southern Thailand has a large Muslim population, with the local dish being fried chicken! We decided to give the fried chicken a miss and so a halal noodle soup later we finally managed to get on a 12hour bus to Bangkok! The arctic temperature on the bus was mitigated by the free flowing provision of biscuits. The next morning we rubbed our eyes to the urban sprawl of Bangkok, an imposing modern city that stretches out for miles and miles. The famous Bangkok traffic meant that our introduction to Bangkok was a slow scenic one but before we knew it, and 24 hours after we set out from Langkawi; we were on the pavement and having our backpacks hurled at us…it was ON again!