Traveling on Trains – KL to Moscow in 5 Weeks (Part One)

written by Carolyn Chon July 7, 2014

This was a trip almost one year in the making, what started off as a month around Myanmar plan became a trip that took us from Kuala Lumpur to Moscow, traveling on trains in a hurried 5 weeks and under the great budget of RM8,000.

Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok

For the first leg of the trip, my travel partner, Jules and I decided to make it a real quick one. Having been to both Thailand and Laos, and seeing how close and accessible they are, we breezed our way through these two countries to make our way up to the border town of Laos and China.

We shared a ride up to Butterworth, Penang where a friend had dropped us off to catch the train to Bangkok. This was going to be my third time on this train route. Now, I know not many can sit with the thought of being in trains for too long, let alone sleep in it. However, this is something the both of us really love!

Our train ride took us approximately 24 hours due to some delays, fortunately for us we had a nice group of people who were on a mission trip who kept us well fed with drinks, food and fruits. For those who worry about their devices dying on them on these train rides, fear not, most trains these days have power source for you to charge up.

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Jules, my travel partner on board the Bangkok bound train.


Upon arrival at the station in Bangkok, we got our next overnight train tickets to Chiang Mai that was to depart 6 hours later. So, what do two girls do in Bangkok when given half a day to kill on a weekend? You know it! Hello, Chatuchak!

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Sawadeeka Bangkok!

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Quick pit-stop for a refuel.

A full tummy, two sweat soaked tops and two Casio knock-offs later, we were making our way back to the station.

The train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai took about 12 hours, I don’t remember much of it, but the one thing that has stuck with me to this day is the cafeteria a few compartments down. It was like a little mobile Thai disco. The lights were of, there was a disco ball with colourful flashing lights and pretty-damn-loud doof doof music playing. It was definitely an interesting train ride.

At the station in Chiang Mai, we got ourselves a cheap but decent place to stay for a night, or possibly two. Can’t remember much now, this was a trip that took place about a year ago. Long story short, we rented bicycles and checked out nearby attractions, and by that I mean mostly second hand bookshops.

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Disco cafe on the train!

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Chiang Mai!

The next morning, we made out way to Chiang Khong, which is the border town that sits right across Laos. The van that took us there made an apparently mandatory, but unannounced stop at Chiang Rai for us to check out that white temple, Wat Rong Khun.

To be really frank and at the risk of sounding like a snob, we had not interest whatsoever to see the temple, so we ended up hanging outside waiting for the rest, while Jules checked out some local instrument for sale. Another hour or so before we got to the river crossing, yes we were to get to Laos by a long boat that would take us across the Mekong, a ride that cost us probably RM2-4… for a less than 5 minute ride.

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Wat Rong Khun

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Crossing the Mekong river


By the time we got to our desired destination, Luang Namtha, which is the border town to China, it was pretty late. The bus we took from the Lao border, was even so packed that some passengers had to resort to sitting in the aisle, it was a first time for us seeing something like that.

On this ride, Jules sat next to an elderly man called Ron Tucker. We’ll never forget him because we almost got him lost and almost got him stuck in the middle of God-knows-where in Laos. He followed us on a tuk-tuk headed to Luang Namtha, when in fact I think he was waiting to get on another bus to Luang Prabang. One of the friends we made, Stu (a crazy but awesome Aussie) had to shout at the driver for him to turn around. Truly, all of us on that tuk-tuk will probably never forget Ron Tucker.

Next morning in Luang Namtha, we had slept in and missed the bus to get to the China border, so we ended up spending most of the day cycling around the beautiful paddy fields and villages, got ourselves soaked in rain and had a wonderful dinner in the local night market. We also discovered that there was actually a curfew where no one is supposed to be on the streets after 11.

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The good life

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Storm clouds were chasing after us!

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Pathway to adventure

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Bright, blue skies on one side and dark, stormy clouds on the other.

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Night market

And with that, we’ve come to an end of Part 1.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll take you through from Southern China right up to Western China.

Read the rest of the series :

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

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