We left Penang island very early in the morning on the ferry. We met two girls on board the ferry who have been backpacking in Malaysia and were now on their way to Thailand too. They were catching the same train as we were. John was very happy to chat with the girls and hoped they would be in the same train carriage as us.
The distance from the ferry terminal to the train station was not far at all and we soon got to the platform and boarded our train. To John’s delight the two girls were indeed in the same carriage and he soon disappeared off to sit with them. I did not see much of John until we arrived at the border of Malaysia and Thailand at 5 pm.
Crossing the border on a train was very easy. We leave all our belongings behind on the train and with just our passports and valuables, we get off to the train to a building where we go through the Malaysian Immigration to exit stamp our passports. Then walk walk round the corner towards the Thai Immigration to put in the entry stamps on our passports. Then back to board the train. Simple.
Unfortunately, Alex hit a hitch. His Thai entry Visa required a passport size photo for Alex and we had not known of this. Sadly there was no photo booths in the building or anywhere nearby. We had to turn back to Malaysia.
So a mad scramble to gather all our belongings on board the train, say goodbyes to the 2 lovely English girls we befriended and we left train.
Thank God my spoken Malay was still good enough to get us help to locate a place to stay for the night. We had very kind station staff who helped make the call to the local resthouse which sent someone round to pick us up. It was a quaint little place, styled in a traditional manner with very basic amenities. I was happy to have a place to stay and have dinner.
We had wanted adventures and to experience the local life. We had it in abundance that day – we encountered some great people and are staying in a place we would never have done otherwise. The dinner was absolutely yummy – the cook was fantastic. The only downside was that I seem to be the only person kept awake that night being bitten to death by bed bugs!
The next morning we found a man with a large pick up truck who would take us to the nearest large town in Thailand called Haadyai where we could buy a train ticket to continue our journey. We were first driven to the border and at the Malaysian immigration office, we found a photo booth to get Alex’s photo.
What a stress free way to deal with border controls. A drive through area – we were driven up to the Malaysian immigration window where we all trooped out of the car to hand over our passports and to show our faces. Our passports are stamped with the exit dates.
Then a short drive of a few yards to the Thai immigration window where we got off the car again to another small booth for our passports to be stamped. This time we needed to wait for the head of immigration to deal with Alex’s visa application (which required the infamous passport size photo). The head had gone off to the train station to deal with a batch of passengers just arrived at the border.
The whole area was so relaxed, anyone could just walk in and out. They were not strict on checking the people walking through the area. However, as we do need the stamps on our passports, we were patient and waited. It did not take long and we were soon on our way to Haadyai for more adventures.