Chris

Lee

Freelance writing

&

Content strategy

Taking the train from Chumphon to Kuala Lumpur


January 8, 2020

One end of the platform is Thailand. The other, Malaysia. A rectangular room separates the two.

In the room, you briefly join a conga line of tourists to snake out of one country and into the other. In between is a lobby-sized hinterland complete with a duty-free kiosk.

Upstairs are curries, ringgits, and stickers professing Islam faith. Gone are sculptures of Buddha and portraits of kings; in their place are prayer rooms and headscarves.

It’s always amazing crossing a border by train, especially after an overnight crossing, and especially one as comfortable (if initially clinical-looking) as last night’s –

You sit and read a little under the measured dimness of the reading light, tucked under a starched blanket, in a small-but-cosy bunk (or bear cave, as Bethan called it).

Then, you’re lulled to sleep by the train’s gentle motion.

At random points in the night, you’re woken by various horrific clonks that sound just like train crashes but are actually just carriages being coupled and decoupled at interim stations.

Then, you’re lulled back to sleep again.

The change between departure and destination is more tangible this close to the ground. Instead of sterile airports stripping the cultural residue from you and providing over-expensive lounges to neutralise in, the change unfolds around you. Suburbs and miscellaneous rural views give snapshots of life in both countries and hint at how each merges into the other.

And so it is that after eleven hours on trains (with five more to go, and an hours’ delay so far) you feel refreshed and enlivened, rather than ground down.

The endless supply of 40p coffee helps, too.