It was supposed to be a simple matter of taking three connecting trains to get from Bangkok to Singapore. With advice from seat61.com, we made a quick online purchase for the last two legs of the train ride going through Malaysia without adversity. We had to buy the first train ticket directly from the Bangkok train station but discovered they were sold out! So we had a train to catch in Butterworth the following day and a bus from Bangkok to Butterworth was our only option.
We purchased the bus tickets directly from a travel agency near the train station and were assured we could get to Butterworth on time with only one transfer to a second bus. Well we successfully made the connection to the second bus only to be dropped in some unknown city in Malaysia. As usual when we travel by bus, we had no clue what was going on and travel agencies always seem to be great at attempting reassurance during confusing circumstances – regardless of us not speaking the same language. Not having any other option, we waited at the small bus station for a few hours until we were told to board a small van that should finally get us to Butterworth.
Some few hours of driving into the night, we were dropped off on the side of the road and the driver indicated that we had arrived. “Here”, he said as he pointed where the train station should be. We didn't see it but once we got our bags out, he was on his way. It didn't seem like a sketchy area, but we just wanted to find the train station. Seeing a security guard, we asked if she could point us to it and to our relief we found it a five minute walk away! It took us three buses to get to Butterworth and we still had two more trains to go until we arrived in Singapore – which went smoothly. The whole ordeal took nearly 48 hours of travel.
The lesson to be learned: do not buy tickets for the last part of a journey before you have tickets for the first part!