The time had come to leave Thailand and while it was sad to leave this beautiful friendly country, it was time to move onto another. This time, Malaysia!
I had decided to take the real traveller option and head south via an overnight train. The flights weren't much more expensive but I had time to kill and it would be interesting to see more of the country by rail. I'd done a couple of overnight trains before so I knew what to expect and after the awful buses in Nepal, it would seem like luxury!
My train was to leave at 3:30pm and not get into Padar Besar until 9:30am the next morning! I found my train compartment and dragged my huge backpack through the tiny aisle. There was a large Malay family sitting right where my seat was but after some confusion I realised only three of the ten people were actually catching the train, the rest were just there to say goodbye. Thankfully the rest of the train wasn't that busy so I actually had plenty of space to spread about my (many) belongings!
The train slowly made its way out of Bangkok, stopping at smaller stations along the way. Hawkers came on at every stop with baskets of snacks and drinks. As I watched the countryside whizz by, I decided that I quite liked train travel. It was nice to not have to deal with the busy Thai traffic! As the sun began to set, the stewards came through the cabin changing our seats into beds and I realised I'd made the rookie error of choosing a top bunk. Thinking I was being clever by choosing the higher bunk, I was rudely mistaken as the bottom bunk was not only wider but completely blocked out the light. My narrow top bunk had a sliver of bright light shining through the curtain which ended up staying on all night. I managed to block out most of the light but next time I'll know to choose the more spacious bottom bunk! I didn't fall asleep until around midnight but it was definitely less interrupted than sleeping on an overnight bus!
Before I knew it, the night had come and gone and we were at the border in Padar Besar by mid-morning. A quick walk through the very casual immigration office and I was officially in Malaysia. From here I had to catch another train to Butterworth, which took about two hours. This was more like a subway than a train and every stop people filed in an out, squeezing into the busy compartments. I made friends with an Irish girl who was doing the same journey as me, which was good because it made be sure that I was actually going the right way!
Finally we reached Butterworth station and there was one more bit of transit before I reached Penang. A ferry ride across the Penang Strait where the cool sea air was very welcome and I was finally in Penang! The Irish girl and I shared a taxi to Georgetown and by 4pm I was in my hostel, thankful to not have to lug my huge backpack around anymore! 24 hours later I'd finally reached my destination! While it certainly was an experience to travel via the overnight train, I don't think I'll be doing that journey again for awhile!
Now to explore Penang! Famous for being the foodie capital of South East Asia, I am so ready to explore!