Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Exploring the Luboks 2: The Train Journey, Bangi-KLS-Kluang-Ipoh-Pdg Besar-Arau-KLS-Bangi, Nov 7-9, 2015

Nov 7, 2015, Saturday, Kluang

We were ready to go out for our breakfast and explore Kluang on foot early. At 7.55am we started walking the town and the first thing in the agenda was to search for chapati. The chapati that is famous in Kluang. We took Jalan Sultanah to the right and as pointed by the map in my mind we crossed the road to Jalan Captain Ahmad and strolled until we had to cross Jalan Mersing. About 10 minutes after we left the hotel we found the place but unfortunately for us the place was closed. My thought was how come it is closed because it was Saturday. But later I was told it will open in the evening from 4.30pm to midnight. 

Not to despair with that we back tracked and crossed Jalan Mersing again and this time we took Jalan Station with the intention of going to Kluang Rail Coffee Cafe at the Station for breakfast.

Jalan Station is partly little India in Kluang where most of the businesses there being run by Kluang Indian community. Passing the street I saw an overhead bridge across the railway tracks. Without even thinking I walked straight to climb the bridge and I took more or less around 15 minutes up there taking photos of the station and the tracks. It was a wonderful morning for nice photography.

We arrived at Kluang Rail Coffee at 8.24am and as usual the place was full of people. Is it because of the coffee or maybe the place being so nostalgic and welcoming to our yearning for old time sake souls? We have no choice but to join a friendly gentleman at a table. Knowing we were tourist of sort he asked about ourselves and we told him. I am not sure what he thought of us doing this crazy thing taking the trains endlessly ha ha ha. He himself originally from a Felda somewhere in Johor, he mentioned the name but old me forgot the name,  He own and eatery business and having his own breakfast there. He also shared with us interesting places to visit. Nice of him but our movement was limited because we came by train and we were taking anther train in the first very early morning to go north the next day. 

While having breakfast I knew Express Timuran from Gua Musang would be arriving so I excused my self and walked to the platform to spot it. The train came form Gua Musang as at that time the east coast jungle line was not yet ready after the devastating flood. The Express Timuran arrived at around 8.45am at the station. After the Timuran departed the station I went back for my breakfast.

The gentleman having breakfast with paid for our breakfast. We thanked him and he left.  At 9.07am I paid the extra that we ordered later. Went to the platform to shoot the station as well as the fortunate arrival of Shuttle from JB and Express Peninsular from the north. I was on the bridge shooting the station when an announcement came to say that the JB Gemas shuttle was arriving at Platform 1. The shuttle came in at platform 1 to drop the passengers off and I thought it would set off soon after but the shuttle pushed backed out of the station and returned to Platform 2. With that I knew straight away there would be a crossing. True enough soon an announcement come on air to say the arrival of Express Peninsular. I am one who is not so particular about train schedule so I considered myself very lucky. Actually that was the first time I was that close spotting the JB Gemas Shuttle. I went down to Platform 2 to check the train and there I found out that it was the Malayan Tiger coaches that were donated by the Japanese government. The one that was used for JB Sentral to Tumpat route. But it was short lived and I missed boarding it by few months when KTMB decided the coaches were not good enough for that route. At that point of time my thought was not because they were not good enough because they failed because of improper maintenance. How right I was then.

I took my time capturing both the station and the trains as both will be history soon. Once both trains departed for their next station I came down and to meet my ever patient wife waiting on the platform reading.

At 10.12am we left the station to walk back to the hotel to relax and checked out. Early on when we walked out of our hotel we saw a budget Hotel Ra across the road on Jalan Sultanah and my thought straight away deciding maybe a good cheap place to wait for our midnight train or rather a very early morning train to Ipoh. So, on the way back to our hotel we passed the budget hotel and went in to enquire about their room. There were rooms available at RM50 per room. I gladly paid for one room and told the guy we will check in as soon as we check out of Hotel Imperial which was just across the road. So we have a decent place for our luggage and place to wait.

At 12.08pm we checked in at Hotel Ria, Kluang. The room was pretty basic but perfect for our objectives. We had a lot of daylight hours to kill and made plan to explore Kluang town a bit more. After we said our prayers we went out to walk the town again. As a start we strolled along the five foot way of the hotel block. As we walked this morning we saw Cendol Kader that was closed and by then should be opened. It became our first target. We got there ordered cendol one each and apam bailk and sat at the table to take in Kluang a bot more. Ona scale form 1 to 10 I rated the cendol to be 7 still far away form our no one Cendol Bismillah of Taiping.

Enough siting down we got up and walked across Jalan Kaptain Ahmad to Jalan Yayasan ad from there we turned left at the KFC and started to walked up the two blocks on Jalan Dato Haji Hassan. Nothing particularly interesting along the blocks except a Restoran Nasib reminded me of my Aki. When we reached the corner of Jalan Dato Rauf we turned right and walked towards the river. 

It was quite a bot of walk and I constantly checking on Sam and she seemed to be ok we pushed on until we reached as we turned the right corner at Jalan Sultanah an old style mamak shops tak sell religious books and other islamic cloth just like Kedai Ali in Kajang. That intrigued Sam and we walked in to explore. Sam was looking for something and the shopkeeper helped her. I did not have anything in particular to look for os I lingered in the shop.  In front of the shop is Restoran Jamilah Tepi Sungai Besar. A mamak restoran I remember pretty well that we stopped for lunch during of our many family travels south many years ago. I told Sam about it as she could not remember anything.

We continued our walk along Jalan Sultanah and instead of going straight to a familiar area that we had explored we turned to Persiaran Dato Haji Ismail Hassan as we saw on our right a bit of clearing with walking path and relatively new buildings on our left. As we walked on the path we came to a girl selling kueh and one of the offerings was cekodok. Am always a sucker for cekodok I bought RM5 of them ha ha ha ha and started munching away as I please.

We saw a promising sport shop across the road and we crossed to check. One of the first thing I saw as I walked in was Liverpool jersey. Ahhaaa my kind of store. I made a beeline straight to where they were hanged. Unfortunately for the shop I had already what they had. But Sam was interesting with the sport shoe they had.  After testing and small talk I bought a pair for Sam. The name of the shop was Reble Sports.

Across the road we saw Restoran Nasi Padang Istimewa so we decided to have our late lunch there. Nasi Padang Restoran was ran by a Pak Cik who took care of his customer properly. The food not bad and you include the customer experience the Pak Cik gave us it was worth paying more than the price of the food itself. KTMB could learn something from this old Pak Cik ha ha ha. Being not normally a rice eater I broke all the rules with rendang, gulai and all the sambals.

After we have finished eating we decided the only next logical thing to do is go round the block and go window shopping at Kluang Parade. We walked every inch of the place ha ha ha and limited damage to my wallet. I bought a sunglasses there ha ha ha. From the mall we walked towards our hotel only to stop at McD to have coffee. 

Once at the hotel we rested and after prayers I took a nap. Was not sure how long I have been sleeping but I was awaken by a sound of heavy down pour outside. It was so unexpected cats and dogs downpour. I thought it was going to flood Kluang. However just before maghrib it stopped altogether.

After maghrib we walked in a cold windy Kluang night to the station to have simple dinner at a warong in front of the station. It was around 8pm and I knew Express Timuran would arrive soon. While waiting for our orders I walked to the station to capture the Express from JB en-route to Gua Musang. The train arrived at 8.05 pm.

I was snapping away when I saw a Pak CIk standing a fixed staring at the train, Initially I thought he was one of the regulars at the station until I moved closer to realise that he was actually sending off his family. His eyes followed the train until it was gone into Kluang night. Somehow I could feel him. It was not sadness but rather a pity that his family was going leaving him behind. Later I saw him walking quietly away from the station.

Dinner was not great but enough to last us until tomorrow morning. We walk back to the hotel and at 11.05pm we checked out of Hotel Ria and walked to the station. We arrived at a dark empty station at around 11.14pm. Eventually we were not alone as two families came to join us to wait. It was our turn waiting in the cold breezy Kluang early morning for Express Sutera to Ipoh. Enough time for me to capture the station in that serene early morning. Serene and so quiet that somewhat touched my soul. Imagine standing on the bridge looking through your view finder with early morning breeze blowing behind you. It brought different meaning to the pictures I was creating and capturing. 


Our train arrived at 0044 hrs and we boarded our sleepers. Another restful night on a rock and roll hotel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Exploring the Luboks 2: The Train Journey, Bangi-KLS-Kluang-Ipoh-Pdg Besar-Arau-KLS-Bangi, Nov 7-9, 2015

Nov 6, 2015, Friday, KL Sentral (1310 delayed to 1420) - Kluang (late arrival 1920)

The urge to take another long train trip beckoned, became stronger each passing day ever since the launches of several ETS routes by KTMB. It is possible now go go down south and then up north in a single day while making stopover at major towns along the route. Couple with so many writing projects and other business idea incubation I decided Deepavali weekend as one of the opportunities that I should take. 

I was too late to book my planned excursion. Slightly less than a month the route on the day that I wanted was partly fully booked. I wanted to do KL Sentral - Kluang, Kluang -JB, JB - Padang Besar and Padang Besar - KL Sentral in four days or less. I could get seats for the first journey but there was no bunk sleepers available from JB to Padang Besar. The comfort of my wife made it not suitable. I played on several variations with the booking systems. Firstly if I can take the shuttle from JB to Gemas and take the new ETS Gemas - Padang Besar. Unfortunately the schedule for Gemas Padang Besar ETS was not accommodative to my plan. I played on variations after variations until I had to sacrifice JB and settled for KL Sentral - Kluang, Kluang - Ipoh, Ipoh - Padang Besar and Arau - KL Sentral. From Kluang to Ipoh will be on Express Sutera that arrives at Ipoh at 1055 and to board the KL Sentral - Padang Besar ETS at Ipoh at 1144. I immediately made the booking and my wife and I set for another adventure. Using agoda.com I also made my hotel bookings a night in Kluang and another in Kangar.

The journey started with both of us taking the Komuter train from Bangi to KL Sentral. We were at Bangi station at 10.50am and half and hour later we boarded. A non event except that as usual my dear wife made friend with two college girls that sat near us going home for the long weekend break. When we arrived the KL Sentral at 12pm the first thing came on my mind was mi tarik that I love so much. We had lunch there. 

We scheduled to board at 1.15pm and immediately after lunch we rushed to Gate B on the second floor of the KL Sentral complex. KTMB or rather the Management of KTMB decided to streamline all the arrivals and departures at one gate. Thus, all departures since October were relocated to Gate B. Whereas all the arrivals at Gate A. 

There were already a lot of passengers waiting at Gate B. No doubt some of them were taking the ETS to Ipoh that was supposed to depart before us. It seems their train was already late and since our departure is dependence on the arrival of their train from Ipoh I knew straight away than our’s would not be on schedule. In fact a few minutes later an announcement came on air to deliver the verdict. The ETS from Ipoh will only arrive at 1.50 pm followed by our Express Rakyat at 2pm. Another longer wait for us thanks to KTMB’s Ontime Everytime tagline ha ha ha

At 2.21 pm we were called to board. Since we were late the Gate was packed with passengers already and this is what I failed to understand. Yes, the train was late. Yes, all tickets were numbered. Yes, the train attendants wii ensure everyone to board before departing. But yet people were rushing to the train like there were not going to have their seats. Unbelievably Malaysian. 

The few times we boarded Express Rakyat I unknowingly always chose the old second class superior seats. This time luckily my choice hit the new ones. It was our first time on this new refurbished coach. The best thing about this is that there was a working power point socket put in place on the wall of each of the pair seats. No worry of running out of power for my gadgets. 
As a matter of routine for me as soon as I had my wife seated comfortably and our luggages tucked properly I walked out on the platform to shoot few frames before we departed. By now I have taken a few that seems to be identical. Trust me there are not. They may look the same to others but to me they were totally new batch and new perspective in a different time frame and zone. 

The journey south is all too familiar for me so I spent the earlier part of the journey sitting and dozing in my seat. I woke up as we were approaching Sg Gadut and I felt like I had been sleeping for 5 hours. Ha ha ha maybe the train was too slow. I sat a bit and then asked my wife whether she wanted to join me to lepak at the buffet car for a drink. 

We walked to the back about two coaches away and was at the buffet car soon enough. i checked my phone for time and it was  4.27 pm. As we sat down Tampin/Pulau Sebang Station came into our view. We ordered our drinks and for a change a lady was at the counter. Yes, it was rare for the cafe operator to have ladies. 

We sat drinking and talking. Small talk nothing serious just enjoying ourselves. After awhile I took out my laptop to start writing, just writing bit here and there nothing stuck in my mind to write longer and serious. My wife started to check her phone and she saw I was writing she told me she would like to go back to our seats. I stayed back a bit as I thought I might got the flow to continue to write. Actually, I just managed a bit of writing but more thinking and enjoying the scenery outside. The train, although delayed by at least half an hour, was moving at a normal pace which I like. I felt so contented and blessed. Again, I really cannot explain to someone how I feel when I am on the train. I myself really cannot pin it down. So, I guess just enough for me to write my experience down to at least try to explain it even to myself. 

I sat at the buffet car longer as I needed to be. When I realised I was almost alone there I decided to go back to my seat. Once I was at my seat I put down my bag and told my wife to take note. My wife knew already after years of on the train she would just let me be me. I walked towards the door at the back of our coach and stood there in between of the two coaches next to the restroom. looking outside. When I was younger I would fire up my cigarette ha ha ha. At the door there was a pull down seat for the attendant to sit, I took over the place as I knew the attendant would not be sitting there. Furthermore that was not the first time I did that. It was almost my own place whenever I am on the train. One of the places that I could be myself and I can just sit there thinking. My thoughts just ran wild thinking about everything. This included my plan to retire early. I smile thinking what I would be doing a lot more when I am retired.

Outside the scenery changed from a bit of wetland to palm plantation indicating we soon would be in central Johor. We passed Segamat when I was at the buffet car. The first station in central Johor by train would be Labis. I knew we would arrived at Labis because the forest and plantation out was denser. If you look at the map you would know why, as Labis and the next town Bekok are located next to the Taman Negara Johor Endau Rompin. It was also getting darker a bit outside. We would be late arriving at Kluang for sure. The train move slowly manoeuvring through the terrain going up and down a bit. And down we entered Labis. Being a shuttle train there were passengers disembarked and boarded at small station like Labis.

The next station was Bekok and it was the same as Labis. While looking out of the windows I was more convinced that I should do a road tour of these small stations in Johor soon. It was already 1 hour off schedule when we arrived at Paloh followed by Chamek

In fact we arrived at Kluang Station at 7.27 pm. If on schedule we should arrive at 6.30 pm.


Once we disembarked we straight away walked out of the station. Strategically I have chosen Imperial Hotel as it it a decent hotel that is close to the station. Somehow when we walked there guided by the map in my handphone and my old brain I still missed it right under my nose. We had to circle the place only when I saw the signage of the hotel at the top. We checked in, said our prayers and went out for dinner somewhere near the Kluang Parade. It was our first time walking in Kluang but since it is at night we limited our walk around the hotel and close by. Luckily we did that as after a bit we felt really tired and walked back to the hotel.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On The Train, Hikayat SK2 Chapter 2


Saya katakan hikayat kerana ianya cerita yang bermula dari filosofi dan tabiat perniagaan KTMB yg bercelaru disebabkan pegawai atasan yg kurang cekap dan mahir. 

Firstly, let me introduce myself as far as railway service in Malaysia is concern. First and foremost I am a railway fan that have been a loyal customer to KTMB. For 13 years I have taken the good, the bad and the ugly of KTM Komuter services everyday to work. On top of that since I was 5 years old I had been using the intercity services for my travels in Malaysia. At least I would take an average of 4 times a year to travel in Malaysia by train when most of my friends and family members do not even want to think of taking one. Of course over time I met the like minded personalities yg gila keretapi like me. We grew up in a group as train fans and occasionally organise our own trips to Kelantan or up north by train.  We even did CSR projects with the train communities along the east coast line. We go nuts with anything about trains. In short we are not your normal Malaysian who takes train to balik kampung. We are fans who love everything about trains. I am not asking for KTMB to treat us like kings but don’t you think we deserve a decent treatment if not better like any other customers? Well! KTMB do not think so.

The trigger of this hikayat adalah our pengalaman yg ingin menyewa SK2 untuk aktiviti merasa perkhidmatan tersebut sebelum ia ditamatkan. Berdasarkan kepada iklan diatas kami telah menghubongi pihak KTMB and setelah berbincnag telah dipersetujui dgn bayaran deposit untuk menyewa SK2 untuk perjalan kami dari JB Sentral ke Tumpat. Memandangkan SK2 itu akan balik semula kosong pihak KTMB yg kami telah berurusan telah mempelawa kami untuk menggunakan SK2 untuk perjalanan balik dgn sedikit diskaun. Kami telah bersetuju.

Sebagai peminat keretapi yg teruja nak naik SK2 kami telah mebuat bayaran dan persediaan untuk perjalanan. I mean we came from all walks of life and most of us are working. Thus we need to apply for our leaves and to make additional arrangement to travel to JB to board the SK2. Mind you one of us has to travel from Terrenganu. All these were done in excitement and anticipation of the ride. To railway fans like us this is once in a lifetime opportunity. However it was not meant to be, just because a certain senior management of KTMB who is clueless about his role and responsibility. I say clueless because he did not even know the service exist and the price for the service. Just imagine you as a worker trying to create a business for your business unit and your boss did not event give a damn. We were made known that he does not even go to meetings. What kind of management style is this?

In fact he got to know about us renting the SK2 by accident. It happened that the SK2 was wanted by KTMB’s management on the same day of our proposed travel date. To cut the story short he did all things possible to deny us the service at the same time saving his skin. Among others he asked for us to list down our occupation. What!!!????. the first time in history I was asked for my occupation when I want to use a transportation service to travel. I have boarded train services overseas and not to mention the flights that I have taken and not even once they ask my occupation. 

Well, personally I am no stranger to this misadventure with KTMB services and management style. If you use google to search the Net to find all the complaints about KTMB and its services you can do your PhD. Worse on FB and other social media. I am not surprise if some of their staff are also fed-up with the incoherent management direction. From the many postings and based on my own experience using the service I deduce the followings;
  1. No proper strategy. If any they are flip flop and poorly communicated to their staff
  2. No or lack of proper communication strategy especially in managing crisis
  3. No coordination in business and almost all silos. Clearly indicated by their tagline On Time Every Time
  4. Silo loyalty programme if any. Some do not even know the meaning of customer loyalty
  5. Clueless top management for Intercity Business

Last but not least for the sake of train service in Malaysia and KTMB I’d love to be proven wrong.

To be continued.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

On The Train, 11 May 2017, KL Sentral - Gemas - JB. But denied the use of SK2 Chapter 1

This trip, apart from our trip to Bangkok in March, was meant to be a major trip for us this year. As we had planned to book the SK2 from JB to Tumpat. It would have been an Orient Express Malaysian style ride for us the railway fans. We plan Allah decides. A certain JJ at KTMB was ordained to become the rouge that spoilt it for us. Of course I am looking at this positively as because of the cancellation now I could attend my daughters commencement ceremony at the Majestic Hotel. Still the fact remains that JJ did not know what he is doing. He is. to protect his ass,  is alienating the rail fans further from KTMB. Frankly I do not know how the Intercity service going to make any money with this kind of management and attitudes. Any half decent managers would know the last thing they want to do is to chase away their customers. Not only that, their loyal customers who had been using the service good or bad for years. In my case a solid 13 years every day using the service to work. On top of that been going around Malaysia using the intercity trains when others would not even think or mention KTMB.

I had bought my train tickets to JB and booked us a hotel for a night earlier because of the proposed trip. I could have cancelled but did not as I love this bloody train so much so here I am with my dear wife on the ETS to Gemas and later to take the shuttle to JB. Going to JB by train now is a also a mess only KTMB could create. So inconvenience for the users. The users have been guinea pigs with their constant changes in train schedule. Mostly, all defy logic in management and customer relationship management. Yes they have been in red all these while, in fact they still are, but to treat your customers like shit is not making any sense at all. If traveling is going from point A to B KTMB is losing big time to the like of Airasia and bus express. For instance the fare from JB to KL by bus is only RM35 where by train it is RM52.

Despite my frustration I am enjoying this ride. The ETS is on time trying to keep to the promise of their tagline, On Time Every Time which was a sick joke that KTMB produced when their services were pathetic. When I first saw the bunting with that tagline I could not stop laughing ha ha ha. In fact I laughed right there in front of their ticket counter. It is slightly better now to their credit but that tagline is still a big joke with a punch line blowing in their face ha ha ha. I am so sorry for them. 

Well, we arrived at Gemas on time and straight away disembarked to wait for our shuttle from JB that also arrived on time. The shuttle was an INKA trains which were used by the now defunct Express Rakyat. I like the coaches, pleasant, with power points and modern flush VC.

The Shuttle 41 departed Gemas at 2.53pm. Initially the thought of doing what I do best while on the train prevailed but then after awhile I somewhat felt lethargic and sat down at my assigned seat. I spent my time playing with my handphone. Playing meant checking my FB accounts and chatting via Whatsapp.  However after Segamat I dozed off for a bit. I woke up just after Bekok. Knowing there was not a buffet car onboard I just sat at my seat looking out watching Johor passing by. 

The train stop longer at Layang-Layang that I thought we were crossing with another train. But no. The evening light was really brilliant shining onto the station that I quickly took out my camera to take a few shots.

The train eventually departed Layang Layang and later did cross with the JB Gemas shuttle at Rengam. After Rengam I was just not in a mood to do anything else but playing with my phone. I guess getting closer to JB Sentral and realising we were not going to board SK2 did play on my mood a bit. A bit of frustration rather than angry.


The train approached JB Sentral at around 6.40 pm and subsequently parked at 6.49 pm. Sam and I rushed out and up into JB.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bangkok By Train 2013 - KL SENTRAL - BUTTERWORTH - BANGKOK

Day 7, May 1, 2013, Teusday - Don Muang Airport and Home
We woke up as usual but since it was our traveling day home all seems quiet. After breakfast we finished or rechecked our luggage for the final time. After that we just waited quietly as it was still early. I have booked a van to take us to the Don Muang airport. Anticipating bad traffics a I had planned for the pick up to be early.  

We left our rooms and waited at the lobby. I must say the hotel apartment was well worth spending our money for the stay. Not only the room was comfortable and spacious the service was tip-top. If I were to come to relax I would come and stay there again. 

As soon as the van arrived we boarded and departed. I forgot that 1st of May was a labour day and mostly observed by most countries. Thailand certainly is and we had an easy drive to the Don Muang Airport.

At the airport I thought it was going to be just waiting and boarding. No, ha ha ha there were some loose Bahts left to be spent. Another shopping excursion inside the airport.

Our red bird is as usual late but most of us this time did not mind. Ha ha ha ha none of us looking forward to leave Bangkok and the next day to go back to our own routine. In my case go back to the office.


Two hours later we were home. Home sweet home and we could not wait for our next long train ride.

My FB friends you can view our photos for the last day here

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bangkok By Train 2013 - KL SENTRAL - BUTTERWORTH - BANGKOK

Day 6, April 30, 2013, Monday - Grand Sport outlet and Grand Palace

My family, especially my wife, had been walking a lot the day before so I decided to let them rest a bit more before we do Bangkok again. However, after breakfast the boys and I decided to go back to the Grand Sport outlet to buy our team's jersey. We took the Skytrain at Si Lom station and got down at National Stadium. Along the way we stopped at the stadium which was opened to take few photos. 

Of course we ended up buying a lot more other stuff he he. One of them is a big Grand Sport traveling bag. 

On the way back to the National Stadium station we saw a halal cafe just after the stadium. I straight away send a message to my wife asking for their orders. Thus lunch being taken care off for the day. 

With lunch and prayers done we went out for the last time to explore Bangkok. Our target for the day was the area of the old city surrounding the Grand Palace area

We took the MRT down to Hua Lamphong before proceeding by Tut Tut to the Grand Palace area. That was our first tut-tut ride in Bangkok. Actually we did not straightaway took the tut-tut we explored Hua Lamphong again for few minutes.

These guys are really speed demon moving effortlessly around busy Bangkok’s streets and alleys. So in no time we reached in front of the Grand Palace. Initially I thought of taking my family into the Palace as I have been there when I was a secondary school students but I was stopped at the counter when I saw the price of around RM50 perhead. We turned around and started to walked along the street in front of the Palace entrance. We noticed there was some sort of carnival going on on a big field in front of the place but my family saw anything that was even more interesting to/for them. It was a NaRaYa outlet and the girls almost running towards it. There were a lot of tourist around that area and it was worse inside NaRaYa. Baqir and I walked out bought ourselves cold drinks and wait outside. While waiting I took out the map and started to plan our walk. Studying the maps that I have I got really confused as to where we were exactly. Their tourist map was really confusing. Even with the big Grand Palace in front of me.

After the girls finished with their shopping I decided to walk towards where we could see a lot of sellers selling their wares along the street. We walked further up to the pier and only then Baqir got it figured up. Only later I realised that the concept of map and mapping is not a Thai culture. As we reached the pier my children got excited as the place was basically a location where the Korean shot the Thai episode of the Running Man.

From my research earlier I know we were at Thai’s Amulet Market area and true to the name along the street sellers were selling amulets in all sort of forms and sizes. We walked on knowing on the other side of the building was Chao Phraya River. As far as the amulets concern, nothing interest us. Only the old buildings on both sides of the street intrigued me. Since historically Thailand was not colonised by any western country the buildings are really culturally nice. I took few shots of them as we strolled along. One of them was two old buildings with covered walkway creating a warm atmosphere for visitors at 57 Soi Phra Chan
Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratch Rd.

As we came out from the Amulet Market in front of us was Thammasat University and we turned right at the corner to walk along Phra Chan Alley until the main road where across the Sanam Luang (The Royal Field). I look to my left and I saw the National Museum. We crossed the road to the field. There a lot of people gathered in various spots of the field and on the field there was some sort of traditional games competition going on. One of them is sepak raga played in a different way. The objective of this sepak raga is to either kick, head or shoulder the ball into the hoop hanged high above the ground. I was intrigued. At the same time a martial art competition was in progress nearby. So I sat there with my camera watching while my family, resting their feet, parked themselves at the park bench. Something I realised was the field and park was a place for joggers and local leisure riders with their bicycles.

I was enjoying myself watching the game going on when I was absorbed into a feeling that I could not explained. I was so relax and happy. 

After awhile we started to walk again just following our instinct knowing that we were walking in circle around a big circle around the old city. We continued our walk along the perimeter of the field until we reached the edge in front of the National Museum. The Museum was closed so we crossed Na Phra That Alley to Rachini Alley where I stopped to decide on our option.  I saw a road bridge crossing the Chao Phraya and another Rachini Alley going down to the river edge. I decided to take Rachini Alley with the intention of walking along Chao Phraya. That was what we did.

Again as we walked we came to lovely old buildings along the street making our walk bearable. It soothed our tired legs a bit. Then at a corner we saw an old fort like structure next to the river edge. Anticipating an interesting find we walked excitedly. It was Phra Sumen Fort and it was written on the signage,

‘Built in 1783 to defend against potential naval invasions and named for the mythical Mt Meru (Phra Sumen in Thai) of Hindu-Buddhist cosmology, the octagonal brick-and-stucco bunker was one of 14 city watchtowers that punctuated the old city wall alongside Khlong Rop Krung. Apart from Mahakan Fort, this is the only one still standing. Alongside the fort and fronting the river is a small, grassy park with an open-air pavilion, river views, cool breezes.’

After a bit of exploring and photo taking we moved on. A few blocks behind us we passed a mamak/indian restaurant and I sense we were actually close to a muslim community. As we walked a bit my intuition became a reality when we found a Halal stall stall along the street selling halal Thai’s food. We stopped immediately for drinks and the children could not resist having a go at their soups. They were nice. 

As the evening was coming to a close I asked my family to finish their food quickly to continue our walk. My sense was even vindicated when we heard azan mgrahib coming from nearby indicating a mosque. But we could not stop to explore further and we have to get back to new city. Consciously we began to look for tut-tut and we needed two. 

Naturally the best option is to walk to the main road and away from the river. As we were walking a tut-tut driver saw us from across the road and immediately maneuvered his tut-tut towards us. We had to get a Tut Tut back to Hua Lamphong. As I was negotiating for the price when he hurried us to board. All, the six of us in one tut tut. Apparent he could not stop there and a policeman was urging him to move on already. We boarded and cramped the tut tut in one adrenaline rush ride to Hua Lamphong for only 150 baht.


Once at Hua Lamphong we relaxed a bit. We went down to catch our MRT to Si Lom. Once there, knowing it was our last night in Bangkok, we delayed our walk back to the hotel.

My FB friends can view photos for Day 6 here

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bangkok By Train 2013 - KL SENTRAL - BUTTERWORTH - BANGKOK

Day 5, April 29, 2013, Sunday - Damnoensaduak Floating Market and Grand Sport

We started our fifth day in Bangkok by visiting the famous Damnoensaduak Floating Market. It is about 100km south of Bangkok. The market is being commercialise as tourist attraction now. It bound to be a lot of hypes and not worth the trip. Nevertheless, I decided to go to learn about their history, life and culture. It was a very good experience for us. 

Initially I was thinking to go there the backpackers way but considering the time we had I decided to book a van. I had booked a van the day before and it cost me around 2,000 Baht. I did this with the help of the front desk staff and we decided the pick up time at our hotel at around 8.30am. 

The van was on time and we departed immediately. We manoeuvred out of early Sunday morning Bangkok traffic. As we drove out I was not surprise to see worker cycling in the city street to work. The drive was quite pleasant going through Thai’s country side. As we approach the hour mark of the journey to Damnoensaduak I saw a lot of white watery farm as big as any paddy fields.  I asked our driver and he told us it was salt farms. Only then, after checking my map, I knew that we were actually driving by the sea. The ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the Thais amazed me.

Damnoensaduak Floating Market

The driver took us to one of the many boat operators that will take tourists around the canal and to end at the market. If you have time, on the budget and adventurous the better option is to take a bus to the floating market directly as you can experience the boat ride there cheaper. Understanding their operation and the choice of the operator by our driver I knew they were going for my wallet. So I played dumb and uninterested. I started the negotiation and in the end we settled for a price that I could not remember now ha ha ha.

The first part of the boat ride was going through somebody's backyard along the man made canals. As part of the tourist attractions they built a lot of stalls along the canal. If you found something that you really want, bargain hard as most of the items are available through out Bangkok as well. The boat driver took us through the maze and the sight was either more stalls or someone's kitchen and backyard. The boat driver would slow down at every stalls at the bank just in case we were interested to look and buy things. He actually stopped at one that was slightly bigger than the rest. It was a shop cum tourist area where they showed how a few local pastries were made. We were not looking for anything and they was nothing interest us to buy as souvenir. Eventually we got on the boat and moved on. The only place that we stopped that really had my attention was an art shop/gallery run by the artist himself. He was assisted by his beautiful sister. The artist was Supachai and after a few rounds the place I decided on a piece. The average price of his painting is 2,500 TB. I was very glad to find out I could pay using my plastic.

The driver continued to take us toward the main market area and by this time the canal was already quite busy with other boats coming and going. We eventually turned into the main entrance of the Damnoensaduak Floating Market. As we moved along we could see a lot of activities but since it was almost mid-day not as busy as in the early morning. Really live business activities were conducted around us on boats. The boys and Sam decided to buy fruits. Frankly there was nothing much when we were there. It is becoming to be more hypes than anything else. Well I could be wrong as maybe we were there at the wrong time. The boat turned a corner at the end of the market and we sped back to where we started. I am glad we got that one in the bag. Nothing really amazing about the place that I want to go back again. It is a place once you have had the experience and that’s it. No deep beautiful feeling that attaches me to the place.

The journey back to Bangkok was fast and quiet ha ha ha. 

Due to quite and early morning departure most were really tired by the time we were on the van going back to the hotel. So silence mode was on.

Once we arrived back at the hotel we decided just to buy something to eat and had our lunch in the room. In fact I was not that hungry I let my family rest a bit before deciding on another assault on Bangkok.

Thus, after lunch we went for another walk-about around Bangkok and this time we went to the National Stadium area with the intention of exploring the sport tourist area. We took the BTS to National Stadium station and started to walk towards the stadium area. Our expectation was not that high so we just kept on walking. To our great surprise, we found the elusive Grand Sport store next to the stadium area. In fact the whole two-row building there was actually housed sport stores of local brands. The biggest were FBT and Grand Sport. Grand Sport is the brand that was famous among us in the 70’s and anytime we were in Thailand it was a must buy. Being a nostalgic fool like me it was one of the reasons why I want to be in Bangkok again. There were couple of things on sale and we bought a few. We explored FBT and other stores as well. After a while and since the day is getting dark we walked back towards the MBK. Since we had explored MBK before we just walked outside and took the BTS to Siam Centre. There were two new shopping malls we just walked to passed the time to see something different if any. 

We finished the day with a sumptuous and the most delicious Tom Yum dinner at Farida Fartornee Restaurant. I knew of the place before hand and apart from being recommended by a friend I did some research on it. I decided it is worth the hassle. After the floating market and the long walk I thought I want to have it easy for my family and have a simple dinner. But then we would have a chance anymore as we were leaving soon so I made a brave effort to identify the best route to go there. From Siam Centre we took the BTS to Ratchathewi station and from there, with the help the map I downloaded, we walked to the restaurant. We ordered what’s recommended and we had the best tom yum that we had ever had. 


Famished and elated we walked out of the restaurant towards the BTS station. Disembarking at Si Lom station we walked the night market along the street before we headed to our hotel. 

To my FB friends click here to view photos for Day 5