Leaving Kuala lumpur
We left Kuala Lumpur resolute on traveling from Malaysia to Thailand by train. Kaina has had her heart set on Thailand forever. There was even a time when she thought she wanted to work in Thailand before we met, THANK God that didn’t happen or I would have missed out on meeting her.
Out train was at 10:30 pm out of Kuala Lumpur and our host was kind enough to let us stay past check-out. We are SO GRATEFUL for that, after all, it would have meant going around Kuala Lumpur with about 15 Kg of luggage on our backs for the whole day.
We got to the ETS station with less than 5 minutes to buy travel snacks and were on the train and whizzing to Pedang Besar comfortably. The train took about 7 hours and we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere at 5 am.
Thankfully we were in good company as the train station had a few other travelers on their way to Thailand as well. Groggy from too little sleep, we ended up passing out in the station. The train we were going to be at 11 a.m. (SPOILER!!! we were so wrong).
11 a.m, sluggishly came around and we wiped the sleep from our eyes and went to buy our tickets. Only to be told we had to go through customs first and even WORSE that our train would be at 5 pm, not 11 am.
When everything went wrong
They took us to this small room where our passports were inspected by this old dude, who promptly told us, we had to show that we had the money to survive in Thailand, 10000 Baht EACH! We do not like to travel with that much on us because you never know what may happen. Which left us with a conundrum, where to get the money to show this man that we were cool and wouldn’t end up as beggars in the middle of Bangkok, or worse…
Now to give you some context on Pedang Besar, and the problem of getting money, let me tell you about this train station. The station has two platforms, one into Malaysia and one out. It looks like they pulled it out of an old 20s noir movie and has the plumbing to match. There is a store that sold some of the vilest, most torturous attempt at coffee, outside of a TV police station.
Immigration and customs are only a few stalls set up with a column separating the Malaysian and Thailand side. I’ll let your imagination run wild at this point.
I was told I had to go into town to use the ATM. At which point I tightened my belt, took a swig of my coffee and kissed Kaina goodbye(I know I had to be dramatic, the moment demanded it).
I walked into the small town that had sprung up around the station, after consulting a coin (yes, I flipped) and the odd taxi driver I set off in a direction with hopes of bumping into a bank, ATM or an old man selling MAGIC beans….
The bank was only 500m away so I didn’t really have to go far, but was told my Union Pay card wouldn’t work with their ATMs because they only take Mastercard or Visa ( the ELITISTS). I was told the other ATM in the area was 500 m away at the gas station.
I got there stood in line for 15 minutes and when I was next the lady using the ATM turned around pointed at the ATM said “BROKEN”.
So there we were in the middle of, no border of Malaysia and Thailand, in a small town with two ATMs we couldn’t use, and we had to produce money we didn’t physically have in order to continue our trip. OW the DESPAIR!!
I shuffled back to the station, where Kaina and I spent 30 minutes wallowing and then we spoke to customs again only to find out the problem was my passport or rather my nationality and she did not have to show any money (THE INEQUITY!)
Anyway, we put on our big girl pants and found out there was a bigger town 40 minutes away. Kaina went, and found a taxi driver and his son who took her to 5 different banks. She came back with the money and we were READY to go.
We are not alone after all
On a side note, I started chatting with a Belgian dude, who was on his way to Myanmar. He also needed a bank because he took it for granted they would accept electronic payments…they did NOT!
He ran down to the banks I had gone to, only to find out his 4 digit MasterCard pin did not work, because, for some inexplicable reason, the ATMs and bank demanded a 6 digit pin. They advised him to add a “0” at the beginning or end of his pin. He tried once and ran away before his card got blocked. And now he too was sitting with very little physical money in the middle of “NOWHERE”.
The police officers at the station advised him to walk over the border(it’s legal). Go through customs there and just take a minibus into Thailand. Where he would be able to use his card. So that was a happy ending.
We waited out our sentence on the platform. When the time came to go through customs, they had changed shifts, we went through without ANYONE mentioning ANYTHING about 20000 Baht. After that, we got on the train (concealing the pit of anger and frustration deep down inside), got over the border into Thailand and it then promptly proceeded to rain.