Sleeper train
Sleeper train

Malaysia’s national rail (KTM) has its southern-most station in Singapore. To get to Thailand from Singapore, you need to buy 3 tickets:
1) Singapore – Kuala Lumpur
2) Kuala Lumpur – Butterworth
3) Butterworth – Bangkok

Each sector costs under SG$40 (approx US$25?), but when I bought them at Singapore station on the day before departure, I paid SG$175.90. I thought, ‘hmm, that’s pretty expensive!’ and I did mention that to the ticket officer, but no real reply from him. Each of the 3 tickets is printed in English and the 3rd one clearly states SGD103.90, so I thought it was expensive because the Thai rail sector is more expensive than Malaysia or something.

KTM Singapore station - passport check
KTM Singapore station - passport check

The train from Singapore departs at 7:40am from Keppel Road KTM train station. Keppel Road is towards the West Coast from CBD. If you are planning on taking this train but don’t know Singpaore, the best thing to do is take a taxi as it is not really near any MRT station. Before boarding the train, there is a gate where they make sure you have a passport and Entry/Departure document. It is exciting! Train to go through borders!

Woodlands station
Woodlands station

In a short trip, the train comes to Woodlands immigration, where we get off the train to go through an office on platform to receive stamp on passport for departing Singapore. This is the same procedure as when you cross the border from Singapore to Malaysia by bus. You get off the bus once on Singapore side (Woodlands) to depart from Singapore, travel the bridge/causeway for 2 minutes, which is no-man’s land, then get off again on the other shore to be allowed into Malaysia. Back on the train, it crosses the causeway. The view outside of window is so familiar as I am used to crossing the same border by bus. On the other side of the causeway is Johor Bahru, or commonly called ‘JB’.

The train slowed down and came to a halt at the platform built under the new Immigration and Custom complex Malaysia recently built ( a major improvement from the stinky hot and dusty facility that was in use till last year! Malay people are not very good at soft skill, as my Chinese Malaysian friend says. I am often frustrated to see how poorly they design navigation. It is just stupid, if you ask me. The old immigration facility was a disaster; the E/D card which all foreigners need to fill out but not needed by Malaysians are stacked up near the office deep inside the path for Malaysian passport holder – because Malay immigration officers keep themselves cool in the office and don’t want to move, while the foreigners sweat in their long queue because there is no air-con. The new facility has a bus terminal which confuses the hell out of people because the designer really had no brain to think about how people move.). I grab my bag and get ready to walk to immigration. But there was no announcement this time advising us to go through the passport control. I’m puzzled and a bit nervous. After all, this is a border and without going through Malaysian immigration, I couldn’t possibly travel on. Some local passengers get on board and the train departed. Outside the window, now all I see is palm tree plantations, typical of Malaysia. I am in Malaysia, though my passport doesn’t say how I got here.

Family sending a girl off at a station
Family sending a girl off at a station

The 2nd class car is unexpectedly comfortable. There is an LCD screen on the end wall of each train. As soon as the train is in Malaysia, conductor walks around playing DVD on each car’s screen. I watched Monster’s Inc. and some long promotional video about some organisation in Malaysia twice before the train arrived in Kuala Lumpur in early afternoon. Pretty much on time. Not bad.

And oh, by the way, I still have not entered this country…

Alana from Auckland, NZ
A fellow passenger, Alana from Auckland, NZ
Remains of the old days
Remains of the old days
Kuala Lumpur Sentral station - located in the southwest corner of KL city. Connection is good with LRT and Monorail going in circle towards major areas like KLCC.
Kuala Lumpur Sentral station - located in the southwest corner of KL city. Connection is good with LRT and Monorail going in circle towards major areas like KLCC.
Wai Kit, my friend since the university year in Perth '94
Wai Kit, my friend since the university year in Perth '94

Booking your seat is recommended for trains, especially the night train where all beds seem to be booked out. The booking can be made as early as 60 days prior to the travel date. I found this website extremely useful and encouraging:

seat61.com – How to travel by train in Malaysia

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