I had surprisingly good sleep on the overnight train from Bangkok but awoke with little sense of what time it was.
The upper berths don’t have any windows and most of the lower berths had their curtains drawn so periodically I would pop down and check one of the windows at the end of the car to see if it was finally light out yet.
The elderly couple sitting next to us was friendly enough to ask the train staff to put our bunks away so we could sit and see out the windows again. When the train seemed to be stopped for far longer than regular at Hat Yai, they offered a helpful explanation that they were switching lines and removing some train cars off the end. Local vendors even came around selling fried chicken so you know we had to have that for breakfast.
The cultural difference between the bordering nations was already present at the border crossing. Loud border officials assigned us to different lines and the never ending calmness of Thailand seemed to quickly fade away.
When we got through without any troubles, a helpful Malaysian man approached us as we seemed confused and asked where we were trying to go. We said Langkawi and he suggested that instead of a bus or train as we had thought, a taxi directly to the ferry dock at Kuala Perlis would be a much better option.
A young university student aged boy seemed to be listening intently and I asked if he was going there too. He was, and accepted our offer to share a taxi there. Azim-Jon, or John for short, was from Uzbekistan and just recently graduated from Informations Technology studies at a Malaysian university.
We headed up over the bridge out of the station and still found ourselves a bit lost on the other side as the cars and trucks rushed past approaching the land border crossing.
With eerily perfect timing, the friendly Malaysian from earlier showed up and offered to take us to the taxi stand. The three of us followed him as he non-chalantly strolled through bushes, on pipe bridges over deep drainage ditches, all within 100 feet of the border crossing as he led us to the main road and pointed us to the taxi.
He explained all with a smile how he was a pharmacist who worked at the border enforcing Malaysian laws prohibiting transportation of more than one months supply of drugs. We thanked him for helping us to the taxi and we parted ways.
Even though he had living Malaysia 5 years, John was similarly surprised by the customs officers helpfulness. We certainly didn’t expect this type of hospitality so immediately after crossing into Malaysia but it was a great start to our travels in this new country.
The taxi smoothly wove around slow cars and motorbikes as it curved through the lush tropical landscape of northern Malaysia.
Noticeable after our train trip in Thailand was the seemingly higher standard of living here. Homes were nicer even in rural areas and I was left curious how the two countries economics statistics compare.
At one point, an approaching police motorcycle with flashers approached waving us over and we came to a halt. He kept on driving and more and more police motorcycles cane flying over the hill, a biker gang sized convoy of them taking over most of the two lanes road.
We asked John and the driver what this was all about, and they were mum not saying anything.
The lush tropical vegetation was beautiful. Large rock mountains seemed to emerge from the ground in places, some even with carved out caves.
We caught the ferry from Kuala Perlis after trying some local street food. The ferry TV had some interesting programming, a rather violent show re-enacting beatings of women and incinerations of men in some historical or fictionalized medieval setting.
Coming from a North American culture that continues to add trigger warnings to much more tame content, this was a bit of a surprise to see, especially given all the children on the ferry.
The port of Kuah on Langkawi Island has Legends Park which was beautiful and intriguing even as we saw it from just the ferry exit with a soaring eagle overlooking the bay.
We caught a Grab to our Airbnb on the North coast of the island. On arrival, our host, Jeff, showed us the one month old cottage we’d be staying in and even offered to walk down with us to the beach when we asked where it was.
Safe to say, I think we’re going to like it here.