Blitzing across Malaysia; and we’re back in Singapore!

All good things must come to an end

So that’s…
19,000 kilometers,
70 days on the road,
14 countries,
12 train connections,
7 bus connections,
1 amazing race adventure,
and 0 flights!


After some very serious chilling-out in Koh Tao, we were about ready to head back home, and fast. Getting across Malaysia in theory, was supposed to be easy, given that we’d visited often and have bus-sed around frequently in Malaysia. Or so we thought. Here’s an account of the journey from Koh Tao to Singapore, via Butterworth.

Read on, also, to find out how to lose your shoes in Thailand and find them in Malaysia!

In Koh Tao, we picked up a ‘joint’ ticket from Koh Tao to Butterworth in Malaysia. This entailed a ferry ride to Chumphon, a bus from the ferry terminal to the train station, and a night train from Chumphon to Butterworth.

The speed ferry left Koh Tao at 2.45pm, and arrived in Chumphon at 4.15pm

Clear blue skies 🙂

A bus from the ferry terminal brought us to the train station by about 5pm

Given that our train left Chumphon at 10.45 pm, we had over 5 hours to kill close to the railway station. The good thing was that there were a number of restaurants that, fortunately, catered specifically to tourists like us – places with wifi, food, restrooms, power points, and even rudimentary showers!

On schedule, our train rolled in at about 10.30pm.

.. here it is, rolling in

We got to our second class compartment. Some trains in Thailand, like this one, don’t have a first class compartment. The second class layout in Thai trains, however, seems to afford passengers more space than the second class on European trains.

And that was supposed to be it – this train was supposed to get us all the way to Butterworth. At around 10am the next day, we arrived at Padang Besar in Malaysia. This was border control, and we were supposed to take all our stuff off the train, go through Thai and Malaysian immigration and get back on the train.

Being the experienced border crossers that we were, we decided to just take our backpacks, and left our other barang barang (Bahasa for ‘goods’) on the train. So we left our shoes, kindle, food items, and other junk on the train. Little did we know that that was the last we would see of them. Well, for a few hours at least.

Due to an unforseen circumstance** at immigration, we were delayed and couldn’t get back on the train. By the time we were about done, we saw the train pull away. In a blind panic, we ran towards the platform, only to be stopped by a train official holding his hand out. “Relax, relax,” said the most relaxed train official ever. All I could think off were my shoes. “My shoes! They have fitted insoles!!” N was in a bind too, because of her Kindle that was left on the train.

**To be discussed in person, over drinks, with any interested parties

Dejected, we walked back into the train station. Luckily for us, the Thai immigration officials (who probably felt guilty about the delay) sprang into action. Through a high level, bilateral dialogue between Thai and Malaysian (immigration and train) personnel, the station master at Butterworth was contacted, and was informed of our predicament. We were assured that our stuff would be held safely at Butterworth. In our own way (and through our shoes), we were glad we were able to foster better relations between the two neighbours.

Having solved the problem of the almost-missing luggage, we still needed to figure out how to get to Butterworth. Luckily an electric train was leaving for Butterworth in a couple of hours and we managed to get seats. Again, a few more hours of waiting, and we finally got onto the (very clean and spanking new) train to Butterworth.

This was starting to get ‘real’ – our last train ride of the journey was about to commence!

Reading our last train schedule, and getting onto our last train!

Thankfully, a spanking new electric train and a smooth, quick ride

The blue skies of northern Malaysia – unaffected by the haze

Arriving at Butterworth at 4.15pm that evening, only 4 hours behind schedule

Just as they promised, the officials were able to hand us our bag of knick knacks – shoes, books and food. And, even that hat that N is putting on. Win!

We spent the night at Butterworth, and got a direct bus from Butterworth to Singapore the next day in the morning. The bus left at 10.45 am, and got us into Singapore by 10.45 pm. A comfortable, uneventful ride, punctuated only by regular restroom and food stops.

Large, comfortable seats, and our last, 12 hour, bus ride.

Managed to pick up some Ramly burgers on the way

At around 11pm, we pulled in to Woodlands checkpoint, ending our epic adventure

Travel facts
TOTAL COST OF TRIP, for 2 PAX: GBP 6386, all inclusive
Approx. 3,200 GBP per person

Cumulative cost of travel so far
GBP: 3,871 plus EUR: 1,308 plus RUB: 43,765 plus USD: 508 plus SGD: 1210

*Optional extra: Diving: 219 GBP
One night in Butterworth, 13 GBP
Koh Tao to Butterworth joint ticket (ferry, bus and 2nd class train travel) – 62 GBP. Bought from a travel agent on the island about 3 days before travel
Padang Besar to Butterworth, electric train. 20 SGD for 2 pax. Bought from Padang Besar train station about 3 hours before travel
Bus from Butterworth to Singapore – 24 GBP for two pax. Booked online through 4 days before travel
70 GBP

  1. Man, that sounds like an awesome trip to make, adventures and all. Don't think you're gonna make another one of these trips for some time now…

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