Echosera in Transit: Sleeper Train Ride from Butterworth, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand

My very first sleeper train ride experience was back in 2012 when my sister and I traversed that 13-hour route from Bangkok to Nong Khai just so we could haul our awesome selves to Vientiane, Laos. It was actually fun looking back at it now. Emphasis on: looking back at it now. I certainly thought otherwise at the time. The Actress and I definitely have the option of making our lives easier by booking plane tickets and flying out from Penang to Bangkok, but where’s the thrill in that? Like they say, you only live once. Live on the edge sometimes; risk pressure ulcers or disfigurement on those precious, silicone-implanted buns.
Express train ride to Bangkok, Thailand.

Total travel time will take 22 hours. Yes, almost a whole day and that’s already their express sleeper train. We really should clarify and standardize what express should mean, but anyway, the experience was fun. Painful on the butt and spinal cord at times, but generally fun. This Echosera in Transit post will hopefully give you an idea what to expect if you do decide to try the 22-hour sleeper train ride from Butterworth to Bangkok.
Leaving Georgetown
We already bought our tickets when we arrived in Penang. You can, of course, purchase your ticket on the day you will travel if that’s how you want to do it. The Actress and I just wanted to be on the safe side and make sure we’d actually get our butts inside the train considering that we visited Malaysia during its peak season. It’s highly improbable that the Butterworth terminal will look like the Ayala MRT station at rush hour while you’re on your way home after a stressful day at the office, but let’s not risk it.
Leaving Peanang Island.
The Actress and I woke up early to… do our laundry. Yes, because a good traveler is a regularly laundering traveler. Thankfully there’s a self-service laundry shop that was just a short walk away from our hostel. We also scoured a nearby hawker center and a convenience store in search of food we can bring with us and eat for the entirety of our trip because we were not sure if there are food stalls at the train station.
We checked out by eleven in the morning and we made our way to the nearest bus stop. The Actress and I were deliberating if we should wait for the free CAT buses going around Georgetown, but when the first bus heading to the port stopped in front of us we only had to take a momentary glance at the bags we were carrying and we stepped inside without hesitation. Never mind that we are 1.50 ringgits poorer. The price you pay for getting old.
We had to wait a bit at the port because the ferry was still on the other side of Penang. You don’t need to pay anything here; you just need to show up. The ticket you purchased at the Butterworth port is already good for going to and going out of Penang Island.
Waiting for our train to arrive was not much of a hassle, really.
The Actress and I arrived at the Butterworth terminal an hour before our scheduled departure and we went straight to the waiting area that is fully air conditioned, is lined with comfy seats, and has its own water dispenser and flat screen television. I told you, Malaysia makes it easy, convenient and comfortable for tourists to commute and travel in and out of the country. I also went to the bathroom to freshen up and it was spotless, in fairness.
Boarding the Express Train
They ushered us to our designated platform on time, but they gave us an extra 20 minutes to get settled, use the toilet, buy anything we might have missed for our trip, or make a phone call while they put the coaches in order and checked the engines. The Actress and I went inside to find our designated seats and we arranged our bags to make sure we would both have enough leg room because we have, unfortunately (or fortunately if I need to kick somebody in the face), long limbs. One of the train’s staff went around to check our tickets and to make sure that everyone is indeed inside before we officially leave for Bangkok.
Beautiful view from our window.
A few minutes after we left Butterworth this guy wearing a brown, short-sleeved batik button-down shirt went to each coach and handed the passengers a menu for dinner. Turns out we didn’t have to worry about food that night, after all. As expected, the prices are on the expensive side. You can choose to pay in Malaysian Ringgits or in Thai Baht and they won’t mind. The Actress and I ordered meals that were priced at 200 BHT, and they were going to serve it at around five in the afternoon. when we stop over at Padang Besar. We initially thought that 200 BHT was expensive, but when they finally served the food we definitely thought otherwise. A single serving size could already feed two people, and the food wasn’t shabby either, plus it also came with a slice of a huge watermelon. It’s a travesty to complain about food like that when some people are dying of hunger, trust me.
Arriving at Padang Besar
We arrived at Padang Besar at around four in the afternoon. Padang Besar is where you will get your passport stamped so that you can officially leave Malaysia and enter Thailand. The Malaysian and Thai immigration offices were closed when we arrived and they only opened up when we started lining up. The officials manning this border are very efficient so the whole process didn’t take too much time. I think it only took me less than 15 minutes to get everything done. They close their offices again once every one is finished; they just basically wait for the train passengers to arrive and cross the border before calling it a day. The Padang Besar station also has duty-free shops selling a wide assortment of alcoholic beverages, so if you have plans of drinking yourself into a coma while the train is on its way to Bangkok… well, I just gave you a grand idea, didn’t I? 
There is no point in dieting, I tell you.
The Actress went back inside our coach while I headed upstairs to check out what was in that part of the train station. Basically the second floor is a waiting area and a food court, and since we already ordered dinner for that night I didn’t bother to go around and see what they were selling. I went back at the platform and when I entered the train they were already starting to serve dinner. While The Actress and I were having a very random conversation over a sumptuous meal, the train’s engine roared to life again, signaling that it was time to continue with our journey.
The Great Flood
It was a little past seven in the evening when the train’s personnel started going around converting our seats into beds. They’re already used at what they do and it only took less than five minutes to convert our seats and prep it for the night. The Actress took the lower bunk, while I hurled myself and my belongings to the upper bunk. If you’re scared of enclosed spaces and of heights, I’d highly suggest that you take the lower bunk, plus it’s more spacious.
It’s time to sleep.
At around nine in the evening I went down from my bunk to use the loo. I had to wait a bit because somebody else was using it. I was already falling asleep on my feet when the door suddenly opened and out comes this handsome, spectacled Asian guy with six-pack abs, wet hair and torso, who was only wearing a pair of black shorts that hugged his crotch and butt perfectly, and who clearly had just finished taking a bath. He trudged back to his bunk while I ogled at his smooth and muscular back and his meaty behind. I opened the restroom’s door and… I was greeted by a flood of biblical proportions. Handsome Spectacled Dude apparently has no concept of water conservation, has no consideration for the next person who is going to use the restroom, and he obviously does not have the common sense to know that you should not use a toilet like a friggin’ bath tub, but least he’s good looking and has screw-able buns. Well, like they always say, you can’t have it all. I went back to my bed and even though I was a bit claustrophobic and the train’s movement felt like it was going to topple over, I easily fell asleep and went to purgatory.
Good Morning, Thailand!
When I opened my eyes the next day, I was elated to know that the train did not fell off the rail track and killed us all like I feared it was going to do last night and that I am still alive. I grabbed my phone from underneath my pillow and checked the timeit was almost six in the morning. I went down from my bunk to brush my teeth and on my way to the sink I noticed that some of our fellow passengers were already gone. I assume they’ve already alighted at their destination some time the previous night. When I came back to our assigned bunks, The Actress was already awake as well. We huddled inside her bunk while waiting for the train’s personnel to convert our beds back into seats. It was already past seven when The Actress and I ate breakfast.
Hello there, sunshine! We’re on our way to Bangkok.
It was an uneventful first morning in Thailand. I just listened to my music playlist and I surfed the net (thank God I bought a SIM card back in Kuala Lumpur because my telecom’s roaming service is pretty much useless overseas). The train made a few more stops along the way and by lunch time we already arrived at Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station. The Actress and I were greeted by glaring sunlight, humid air, and a bustling railway station. Not exactly the welcoming committee you’d expect, but I didn’t mind. I’m just happy to be back in the land of pad thai, lady boys, cheap cosmetic surgeries, and Mario Maurer.