Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Thailand (Bangkok, Koh Chang Island, Chanthaburi, Pattaya & Hatyai) - August 2018

" Wishing to be friends is quick work. But friendship is a slow-ripening fruit " 

" Friends come & go, like the waves of ocean ! But the true ones stay, like an octopus on your face " 

" Inhale the future. Exhale the past "

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Map of South Thailand 

" My Cuti Cuti (Vacation), Jalan Jalan (Walkabout) & Makan Makan (Eating) 12 days free & easy overland trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bangkok, Koh Chang island, Chanthaburi, Pattaya & Hatyai, Thailand with my travel buddies from Klang & Singapore on 3 - 14 August 2018  "

This is my 4th overland train trip (a long winded way instead of flying by air) to Thailand travelling with my Klang buddies (Chim, Wong, Boon & Tee) from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand. Lam, my travel buddy from Singapore joined our group for this visit as well - so a total of 6 people traveling together ! A big thank you to Lam who had helped our group to pick the right hotels in Pattaya, Chanthaburi & Koh Chang and also act as our "navigator" to various tourist attractions in the visiting cities ! Also thanks to Boon as he speaks some Thai and this helped our group a lot especially when ordering food, haggling with tuk tuk drivers etc 

In my previous 3 overland train trips from Malaysia to Thailand / Laos, my Klang buddy group visited a number of cities / towns / tourist sites in Thailand ie Hatyai, Songkhla, Hua Hin, The Bridge of the River Kwai, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, The Golden Triangle bordering near the Thai, Laos & Myanmar & Nongkhai. Other cities / towns I had visited (travelling solo) in the past were Phuket, Krabi & Koh Samui. In Laos, our group visited Vientiane, Van Vieng & Lua Prabang ! 

In March this year, together with my Klang buddy group, four of our members took a flight from Kuala Lumpur and visited Siam Reap, Angkor Wat & Phenom Penh in Cambodia. 

Border crossing & changing of train in Padang Besar, between the Malaysia & Thai border (after the Malaysia/Thai immigration clearance) was pretty smooth & straight forward. The shuttle train ride from Padang Besar to Hatyai took around 45 minutes ! Thailand is one hour behind of Malaysia. 

For this 5th visit with my group to southern Thailand, our itinerary covered cities like Hatyai, Bangkok, Koh Chang Island, Chanthaburi & Pattaya. Our group used government buses for our travel from Bangkok (Ekamai Bus Terminal) to Central Pier (Koh Chang) & Koh Chang to Chanthaburi; Pattaya to Bangkok etc - so pretty comfortable rides ! Ferry crossings between Central Pier to Koh Chang island (vice versa) which took 45 minutes were well serviced by a local travel & ticketing agent (spoke good English) stationed at the Central Pier. Even though August is a wet season, the sea in the Gulf of Thailand was calm though occasional drizzle / small rain may cause a slight inconvenience in walking in an open area or on a slippery floor ! 

August is a wet season (cloudy & occasional drizzling at times) but also a low season for tourists in Thailand. So it was quite easy for my group to book train / bus tickets & hotels in Pattaya, Chanthaburi & Koh Chang island. For this visit, our group stayed a total of 4 nights in Bangkok, 2 nights in Pattaya, 1 each in Koh Chang Island & Chanthaburi & Hatyai; 2 overnight sleeper trains from Hatyai to Bangkok and return. In the Pattaya resort city, a double room in a 3 star hotel near the Pattaya Beach road costs around Rm100 (US$25) per night - a real value for money ! 

For Makan Makan (Eating), our group enjoyed eating Thai food ie pineapple & seafood fried rice, Tom Yam, stewed pork & offal, Padthai fried noodle, hotel buffet breakfast & dim sum, chicken rice, mango sticky rice, ice dessert, hot coffee etc. Street food was our group's favorites ! My Klang buddies ate twice in our Pattaya hotel's restaurant both for breakfast & the following day lunch ie two yummy Royal dim sum meals - like eating till you drop your wallet - what a way to end their stay in Pattaya, a vibrant & lively beach resort city, 2.15 hours by bus from Bangkok . 

So another Cuti Cuti (Vacation), Jalan Jalan (Walkabout) & Makan Makan (Eating) accomplished this year in the Land of Smiles for my Klang buddy group - hope all our members (age around 67 to 74 except Boon & Lam - naturally at this age, none of us would like to travel in a Fast Lane ! My senior buddies prefer the tuk tuk rides, if easy to flag one !) do more exercise, morning walks & stay healthy (make health than wealth !) and look forward to another overseas visit in 2019 ! So let's say "Sawadikap" to Thailand again when we show up in this Land of Smiles in the near future ! Well done, KM group of travel buddies from Klang Valley & Singapore ! 

Total Expenses Incurred (12 days): 10,715bht = Rm1,317 (US$326)

1) Hostels / Hotel (9 nights) : 3,605bht = Rm443 (US$110)
- iSanook Hostel Bangkok (2 nights) - 260bht x 2 = 520bht per pax (dorm)
- Koh Chang Hut (1 night) - 225bht per pax (double room)
- Kasemsarn Hotel, Chanthaburi (1 night) - 565bht per pax (double room)
- A-One Star Hotel, Pattaya (2 nights) - 627bht x 2 per pax = 1,254bht (2 single beds room)
- Chic Hotel, Bangkok (2 nights) - 387bht x 2 =774bht (2 single bed room)
- The Aree Hatyai Hostel, Hatyai (1 night) = 267bht per pax  (dorm)
2) Train tickets (Total): 2,110bht + Rm97= Rm357 (US$88)
- KL Sentral > Padang Besar - Rm42 (Gold seat - senior citizen)
- Padang Besar > Hatyai > Padang Besar (return) - 50bht x 2
- Hatyai > Bangkok > Hatyai (return) - 1,005bht x 2 (upper bed)
- Padang Besar > KL Sentral - Rm55 (Platinum seat - senior citizen)
3) Bus / Van tickets: 623bht = Rm77 (US$19)
- Bangkok > Koh Chang (bus) - 239bht
- Koh Chang > Chanthaburi  (bus) - 76bht
- Chanthaburi > Pattaya (van) - 200bht
- Pattaya > Bangkok (bus) - Rm108bht
4) Ferry tickets: 150bht = Rm18 (US$4.60)
Centre Point Pier > Koh Chang Island Pier > Centre Point Pier (return) - 75bht x 2 
5) Tuk Tuk (cost sharing of 6): 425bht =Rm53 (US$13) per pax
- Koh Chang - 1,300bht @ 216bht
- Chanthaburi - 420bht @ 70bht
- Pattaya - 500bht @ 83bht
- Hatyai - 340bht @56bht
6) MRT / Sky Train tickets: 330bht = Rm40 (US$10)
7) Orange boat tickets: 38bht = Rm5 (US$1.25)
7) Food (12 days) : 3,434bht = Rm422 (US$105)

Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur > Padang Besar, Malaysia > Hatyai > Bangkok > Koh Chang Island > Chanthaburi > Pattaya > Bangkok > Hatyai > Kuala Lumpur (total mileage for this train & bus trip starting from Kuala Lumpur to various cities in southern Thailand & return - 3,844km) 

Kuala Lumpur > Padang Besar - 555km
Padang Besar > Hatyai - 40km
Hatyai > Bangkok - 945km
Bangkok > Koh Chang Island - 349km
Koh Chang > Chanthaburi - 98km
Chanthaburi > Pattaya - 169km
Pattaya > Bangkok - 148km

Exchange rates: 10bht=Rm1.23; US$1=Rm4.04

My travel buddies from Klang - the A team ! (Wong, Chim & Tee), Petaling Jaya (Boon), Singapore (Lam) & Subang Jaya (KM) - Birds of a feather flock together !

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From Left to Right: Lam, Tee, Cheng, Chim & Wong

Travel Highlights: 

1) Bangkok, Thailand

2) Koh Chang Island, Thailand 

3) Chanthaburi, Thailand

4) Pattaya, Thailand 

5) Hatyai, Thailand

Day 1 Malaysia (KL Sentral & Padang Besar) & Thailand (Hatyai) - August 2018

TGIF (Thank God Is Friday) - The starting day for our 12 day overland trip from KL > Southern Thailand 

Day 1 - Friday 3rd August 2018

1) Taking a Rapid KL LRT train (Kelana Jaya Line) from Subang Jaya SS15 > KL Sentral (Rm2.10 senior)

2) Boarding the KTM ETS train (Gold seat -Rm42 Seniors, Rm76 Adults) from KL Sentral > Padang Besar (10.04 > 15.55 Malaysia time). Thai time is one hour behind of Malaysia ! So if your arrival time in Padang Besar is 4pm, Thai time is 3pm so you gain 1 hour ! 

3) Countryside scenery from Kuala Lumpur > Padang Besar, Malaysia / Thailand border

4) Upon arrival at the Padang Besar Malaysia / Thai train station cum Immigration Complex, just proceed to the Thai train ticketing room (a table manned by a Thai train staff) & buy your Thai train ticket (50bht one way) for a train ride to Hatyai (45 minutes). Next, just queue up and present your passport to a Malaysian Immigration counter for processing and then another queue up at a Thai Immigration counter for passport stamping. 

Boarding the Thai Shuttle train from Padang Besar > Hatyai (15.40 > 16.35 Thai time) - You have about 15 minutes free time (depending on the crowd) after the customs protocol at both the immigration check points to board the Thai train ready to leave for  Hatyai ! 

5) Arriving at the Hatyai Junction Train Station (16.45); if you are not staying overnight in Hatyai, just take a sleeper train from Hatyai to Hua Hin (arriving 06.00) or Bangkok (arriving 10.30) and continue your journey to see a greater Thailand to suite your own pace !

6) Our group dinner (750bht) at an aircon restaurant near the Hatyai train station - our first yummy Thai dinner meal in Hatyai ! 

150bht - Thai Tom Yam seafood soup !
100bht - Thai fried seafood Padthai (kway Teow)
100bht - Thai fried rice with egg

7) Boarding the Special Express sleeper train from Hatyai > Bangkok (18.45 > 10.30, train arrival time delayed by 30 mins); upper bed 1,005bht, lower bed 1,105bht); aircon, clean, more comfortable than the Rapid train, beds ready for sleeping from 19.30 …. hope you are a sound sleeper as the train will rock & roll for 15 hours until your arrival in Hua Lamphong train station, Bangkok ! You may like to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa drink or coffee at the train's canteen till 22.00 before retiring for bed ! I had 7 hours of sleep on the train so a great evening train ride for me on this lucky Friday !