Dumaguete Info Search

Quick Trip Through Thailand and Malaysia

Discussion in 'Other Destinations in the Philippines' started by SteveB, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. SteveB

    SteveB DI Forum Adept

    Trophy Points:
    +17 / 0
    When I booked our flight to Bangkok, it never dawned on me that March 31st, our departure date, was Easter Sunday, one of the busiest travelling days in the Philippines. To avoid the traffic gridlock, we decided to take a bus to Cebu a day early and get a hotel near the airport. We chose Hotel Cesario, a symbiotic partner of a bigger, more luxurious thus more expensive hotel, The Bellavista. Cesario gave us access to Bellavista’s rooftop pool as well as free Wifi and a really good (free) buffet breakfast. After a sunset swim and hefty supper at a local Barbeque restaurant, followed by a couple of drinks at the hotel, we were off to bed to prepare for next day’s flight.

    We arrived at Bangkok’s international Airport Sunday at 7:30 pm and then had to figure out how to get around the Skytrain and Subway System into the city and to our hotel. Luckily, we found a young lady that was very friendly and helped us get our tokens and directed us to the right train. We had to make two transfers but finally checked in around 9:30 pm. We didn’t see much of Bangkok but it appeared much more modern than I was led to believe and much cleaner also. However, you don’t have to go far of the main streets to find the slums, typical of a city this size.

    The next morning, Monday, our adventure began with a train ride to the Bridge on the River Kwai (pronounced like quar, not like why. If you pronounce “River K-why”, you are actually saying “River Buffalo, in Thai!”). We took a taxi to the train station; since I had misinterpreted the information I got from the internet, Thonburi Rail Station was considerably further than expected but still under $5US. Note that there is also a tourist train on weekends from Bangkok’s main train station at Hua Lamphong. Our train was a third class train, vinyl seats, windows open, and no dining car but lots of food vendors walking the aisle. Travelling on third class trains in Thailand means forgetting the schedule and doubling expected arrival times. We decided, after some bad internet advice, to stay on the train over the bridge and on to the final station, Nam Tok; then returning to Kanchanaburi on the same train. Although the scenery was nice, it was not exceptional. Considering the 40 degree heat in April, I would suggest either taking the trip earlier in the year or getting off in Kanchanaburi on the way west, then renting a scooter or taking local transportation to make the trip to the bridge and see the other sights in the area. Another side note; over 100,000 lives were lost making that “Death Railway” to Burma, including 16,000 POW’s (mostly Brits and Aussies). The rest were Asian slave labour.

    We got back to Kanchanaburi late, about 4:30 pm. There was no local transportation available around the train station and very few people spoke any English so it was difficult to find our hotel, over a kilometer from the station. An hour later, we were finally checked in, hot, dirty, and frustrated, so, it was a quick shower and straight to the pool. We stayed at the River Inn, once again paired with a bigger hotel, the River Kwai Hotel so we were able to use their pool. The town itself is much bigger than it appeared on the internet and in my Lonely Planet guide, so, without help from the hotel staff (they couldn’t speak English) and poor local transportation, we had supper across the street then retired to our room without seeing any of the local attractions.

    Tuesday morning, we jumped on a bus bound for Ban Pong. We had planned to take the train to Nakon Pathom but were informed that it would probably run late and we would miss the connection to our next stop along the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin; an apparently beautiful seaside city that was once a retreat for Thai Royalty. Once on the train for Hua Hin, and based on my previous misinterpretation about the size of Kanchanaburi, we decided to go a little further to a smaller, more manageable town on the coast called Prachuap Khiri Khan. This turned out to be a good decision but once again the slow, third class train reduced our available sightseeing time. The town is very nice with long, white-sand beaches, and breath-taking scenery; definitely worth the stop-over.

    Once again, however, the trains played tricks on us; we were not able to get seats or sleepers from Chumphon (our next stop) on to Penang, Malaysia as everything was booked well in advance. Luckily, we had met a nice Canadian couple (he is of Indian descent and she is from the Magdalen Islands, a ferry ride away from my hometown of Souris, P.E.I!). They provided good advice on minivans that saved us both time and money, so….

    Wednesday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we took two separate van rides; the first to Chumphon (three hours) and the second to Surat Thani (another three hours). After finding a hotel near the next day’s departure terminal, we went down to the river promenade to look for supper and to catch some of the sights. We were a bit hesitant but finally decided to take a 30 minute, long-tail boat tour (google “Thai long-tail boat” for information and photos) along the river. It was worthwhile as we got to see how people live out on the small river delta islands and we got a different perspective on the town itself. Although not a prominent tourist area, we enjoyed the town as we were starting to see the pronounced Muslim influence from the south, both in the culture as well as in the food. After some unexpected fireworks, we had the boat driver drop us at a riverside market that we noticed along the way and found some interesting food stalls; one with assorted fried bugs! Since I had previously eaten some kind of spicy, fried cricket during our previous trip to Phnom Penh, I coerced my wife and brother into tasting some of the local fare, arthropods, so we bought an assorted bag of crickets, larvae, and other unknown insects for our taste test. We all tried them and have pictures to prove it! I actually enjoyed the bigger larvae but couldn’t get past the plastic-like pieces of cricket exoskeleton!

    The week was passing us by too fast! We were spending too much time travelling and not enough time actually being tourists but we were committed, so, without ado, around 10 am Thursday morning, we were sitting in another van on our way across the Malaysian border to Georgetown, Penang. The ride turned out to be six hours, much longer than we had been told! However, it was worth it because Old Georgetown, a Unesco World heritage Site, is a quaint 18th century town enveloped by a large, modern, multi-cultural city. The city itself, another one known as the Pearl of Asia, was a major port in the spice, silk, and opium trade in the 1700 – 1800’s and has substantial Chinese, Indian, and Malay communities. More expensive than Thailand, there are still hotels and guest houses covering all budgets. We stayed at the Cathay Hotel (google Cathay Heritage Boutique Hotel) and enjoyed the historical atmosphere. Most people here speak English since Malaysia was once a British Colony. Combine that with an efficient public transportation system as well as helpful hotel staff and it is easy to get around the Island. We toured the Penang on city busses (cheap way of seeing the sights) and had the best meal of our trip at a local Indian restaurant. Penang alone is definitely worth another look; it would probably take a full week to see and appreciate everything.

    Before we knew it, Saturday morning was upon us and time to get on the bus again; this time to Kuala Lumpur. The scenery through the mountains along the highway was very impressive; rolling fields of pineapples, rice, sugarcane, palm trees; limestone caves and cliff faces; wild monkeys running along the side of the road; temples and mosques dotting the countryside. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get out and see Kuala Lumpur; not even time for a photo of the Petronas Towers, so it was a quick supper in KL’s Sentral Station and a high-speed train to the airport, passing by the Malaysian Formula One Circuit on our way to LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal). Following a late flight with an overnight layover in Cebu, we were home for Sunday breakfast, tired but satisfied with our two-country recce mission.
  2. Broadside

    Broadside DI Forum Patron

    Trophy Points:
    +16 / 1
    Over the last five decades or so Malaysia has improved leaps and bounds. I lived there (more accurately stationed there) for a while in the 60's, when it was called Malaya, at Terendak Camp in Malacca and the R.A.F had a flying station at Butterworth. There was some grief going on at the time from communist insurgency, but it was contained. Since then it has become a very stable country, standards and quality of life have risen dramatically, and outside of KL it is still a very affordable and safe country to live in. It is a member country of the British Commonwealth and one of the few places on earth where Christians and Muslims live side by side in mutual respect and harmony. Along with Cambodia, it is the other country in my Plan B if things ever go pear-shaped here.

    Great report Steve. It made good and interesting reading.
  3. London3

    London3 DI Junior Member

    Trophy Points:
    +0 / 0
    good experience:o