The Special Express 35/36 (International Express) is no longer in operation.
Replacing its timetable will be the new Thaksinarath running between Bangkok and Hat Yai with new CRRC-manufactured coaches. Through service between Bangkok and Padang Besar will be served by the new Special Express 45/46 (Thaksin Express) using 2 ANS40 coaches.
Special Express 35 to Butterworth (?) is the next departure from Hua Lamphong. I certainly knew that the train wasn’t going to make it that far, but it was still listed as terminating in Butterworth in SRT’s system.
UPDATE: Since 1 September 2016, SRT officially sells tickets only up to Padang Besar, removing such confusion when KTM is no longer hauling the SRT coaches into Malaysia.
My ticket from Bangkok to Butterworth on Special Express 35, more commonly known as the International Express. I was going to make as far as Butterworth, no doubt, but not 100% on the Thai train.
The Special Express readies herself at Platform 5, one of two central platforms in the grand Hua Lamphong Railway Station.
The attendants for the train getting one final briefing before the departure in the background.
Time to depart from this beautiful station once again.
The Special Express 35 ready for departure.
Inside the ANS40.
The day configuration of the ANS40, me seated at my favourite seat once again.
Another backpacker came by, holding a ticket for berth 36. Referencing to the seated number (which seats 2 people in 1 row), he told me that it was his berth (because everyone would want my favourite berth). I had to explain that he should follow the red numbers as this is a sleeper train, so 1 person gets 1 row each.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes, I’ve taken this train many times.”
And disappointed, because he has no access to power sockets, he went off to his correct berth at the end of the coach.
Departing Bangkok once again.
The last views of Bangkok city from the train.
Passing by Chitralada Royal Station, which the royal family traditionally uses for train journeys.
The construction of Bang Sue Central station from the current track.
In future, most trains will have Bang Sue Central as its origin and terminal, which may remove the essence of train travel as compared to boarding from Hua Lamphong. Do visit Hua Lamphong to tak a train while you can.
Exiting Bangkok at Ban Khlong Naraphirom.
As I have not gotten lunch in the city, I had a late lunch on board the train. Here’s my typical meal of khao pad rot fai or Railway Fried Rice.
I also bought 2 boxes of Kway Teow from the vendor who came on board at Ratchaburi station. By now, I was full enough to skip dinner.
Passing through the countryside with rain clouds approaching.
My attendant skillfully converting my seat into a berth.
Getting the bedding from the upper berth.
My readied bed in less than 1 minute since it was a seat.
And with the rain and wide bed, I fell asleep in no time, just after sunset.
Evening came and morning came: the thirty-ninth day.
After my mess I made on the attendant’s masterpiece after the long night’s sleep, he came by again to put everything away, as skillfully as he laid it out.
This was perhaps the longest uninterrupted sleep I had on a train for the whole trip. Maybe indeed it is the best sleeper coach in Europe and Asia? Or could it be that I’m used to sleeping on the ANS40? But factually, it is the widest single bed I have experienced on a train so far.
In another minute, I had back my seat once again.
Just in time for breakfast, which I ordered the previous day. The restaurant staff set up the table almost as soon as my attendant put away the bed.
My section of the train gets decoupled with the others which terminate at Hat Yai Junction station. Here, vendors will come onboard selling fried chicken and glutinous rice, but I already had my fill with the restaurant car’s breakfast.
Exiting Thailand once again…
… and back in Malaysia.
The Hat Yai – Padang Besar Shuttle Train in front of the KTM Komuter Northern Sector train at Platform 1 of Padang Besar.
The locomotive decouples from the rake while all passengers disembark from the Special Express 35.
The new terminus of the Special Express 35. KTM no longer hauls the train in Malaysia anymore, so this is as south as it is allowed to get with a Thai locomotive.
As the passengers queued for immigration, the locomotive hauls the empty rake back to Thailand, with some passengers puzzled by this arrangement.
Price I paid from Bangkok to Butterworth (terminating at Padang Besar): ฿1210 (S$47.27)
From here, most passengers will be in for a big surprise for their onward connection to Butterworth.