Wednesday, February 14, 2018

On The Train Around Indonesia, Feb 4-11, 2018

The train trip around Indonesia was not in my calendar this year. Well at least not early in the year. The opportunity came when I joined the NGO I am active with for a benchmarking visit to both Jakarta and Bandung. Not that I did not have anything to do within the weeks but since I would be already in Indonesia I decided to do ‘Around Indonesia By Train’. I chose major cities Bandung, Yogjakarta, and Surabaya as my pit stops. The first thing I did was to suggest and persuade the team to take the train to Bandung from Jakarta. Knowing that I am a season train traveller the team agreed with me. I informed them that the new service is not what it used to be years ago. The clincher that the journey or route would be a scenic one. With that my train brain worked overtime planning the trip. Once I got the dates I had to decide how many days for the whole adventure. Bandung, Yogjakarta and Surabaya are renown cities with their own histories and culture. Since I have not been to Yogjakarta and Surabaya I decided to stay for 4 days each in both cities. Thus, cumulatively, making it an eleven days Indonesian adventure from Jan 31 to Feb 11. 

I started with the flight tickets first. With the fare for the Red Bird already at the high end and wanting a better luggage capacity I opted for my current favourite airline, Malindo Air, to fly in and out of Jakarta. Once done I did a research how how to book Indonesian train tickets online. My first stop was of course the Kereta Api Indonesia official site  where I can get to search all the train fares and their schedules. However when I tried to purchase using my plastics, credit card, their payment gateway refused me. I tried several times to no avail. Another search and I found and I flew with it buying our tickets as shared below. The one mistake I made was booking in haste the Argo Bromo Anggerek night express instead of day. I wanted to do a day trip around Indonesia to see the country. Well Allah prevails as always as it was a blessing for us. Always look on the bright side Ghaz he he he. I also helped to purchase the train tickets for the rest of the team members.

With the the tickets in the bag I started to research and book our accommodations in Yogjakarta and Surabaya. The accommodations in Jakarta and Bandung were done and handled by my NGO. My criteria for accommodation were firstly those near the train station, conducive for tourists with intention to walk the cities, and centre of the town. 

Busy with other things that I needed to get done before the trip I asked Mar to plan for our excursion in Yogjakarta and Surabaya.

Date Travel

Feb 2, 2018 Jakarta Gambir (1030) Bandung (1339) Argo Parahyangan (24)/Ex EKS-1 / 7A 7B 7C
Feb 4, 2018 Bandung (0830) Yogyakarta Tugu (1552) Argo Wilis/Ex EKS-1 / 6C 6D 7A
Feb 7, 2018 Yogyakarta Tugu (0645) Surabaya Gubeng (1137) Sancaka/Ex EKS-1 / 2C 2D 3A
Feb 10, 2018 Surabaya Pasar Turi (2000) Jakarta Gambir (11/2 0500) Argo Bromo Anggrek/Ex EKS-1 / 5A 5B 6A

Since this is about my experience on Indonesian train and not our benchmarking visits I will start on the first train ride from Jakarta Gambir to Bandung.

Feb 2, 2018, Jakarta Gambir (1030) - Bandung (1339), Agro Parahyangan,  EKS-1 / 7A 7B 7C

Quite frankly this route had been very much anticipated as so many people told me it is going to be one of the best route going through high terrain passing gorges with bridges with no siding. Scary and beautiful at the same time. 

We arrived at Jakarta Gambir station with ample time for us to have breakfast before the scheduled departure at 10.30 am. Before that we printed our tickets first. When you buy and book your tickets through whatever channels available you will be given a ticket voucher with the a barcode and number. The first thing you need to do once you arrive at the station is to go to one of the kiosks available to scan you barcode and print your tickets. 

We chose Dunkin Donuts as the place to lepak as it was the one that familiar to us as well as there is a wifi connection for us social media animals. I could not remember how many thousands rupiah I had to pay for coffees and donuts but enough to root us there for hours. Dishing out thousands of rupiah became a norm for me then, We decide to stay there a bit longer and to check in at around 9.45am. 

The platform was on level 2 where we waiting for our train. Few minutes later our train came in from Bandung and knowing the drill I quickly moved towards the locomotive to take few pictures. Before I had taken a few of the station. Being a commuter train station as well there were a bit of morning activities at the station. The train duly shunted and the locomotive was reconnected at the other end to pull us out towards Bandung. So we were ready to board and started the confusion for me. We were to be in Executive 1 coach and logic and normal convention say our should be at the front so I waled to the front and indeed the cleaner told me it should be Executive 1. Mar and I we already inside with our luggage stowed when we were informed that the coach was not Executive 1 as they have rearranged it. Now since I was taking pictures before Sam boarded separately and join the rest of the team thinking she was inside the right coach. After moving to the ride coach which was in the middle next to the buffet car, a blessing actually, I walked to the front looking for Sam. 

After I made certain everyone was at their right place I be my train lover self again. I walked the platform taking photos. While doing so I notice the attendant and station supervisor standing nearby and I started a conversation about the train and being train traveller in general. They were glad to earn what I was about to do in the next ten days. When I was capturing the locomotive before there I noticed a premier, like our SK coach in Malaysia, coach was attached as well. I enquired form the supervisor about it. Later I found out it was carrying CIMB Niaga executives. For few millions rupiah everyone can rent the coach. Well, not like KTMB. JNK can make plans to rent one in the future ha ha ha. 

Inside the Executive coach was nice complete with a set of power socket for each seating pair. If you had boarded the old Inka coach of Express Rakyat you will feel the same and better. In this case the view form where you are seating will be 360 degrees view. As a recommendation the best seats to book are rows 5,6,7 and 8. As for the coach it would be the one in the middle or further far back. The reason being you can capture the locomotive and most part of the train at corners or bends. Since our Executive 1 that supposed to be just behind the loco that was rearranged to be in the middle was a blessing from Allah.

The train, Argo Parahyangan to Bandung departed the station on schedule. After a preliminary video shots I walked towards my team two coaches in front of me. We were separated because I bought my tickets earlier and I did for the team a week later. The were excited and I anticipated an enjoyable journey experience for them. 

The first station the train stopped was Bekasi (1055), one of the other major train commuter stations. As usual I jumped out to take photos. Dr Edzan and Has joined me and we had a photo shot with Bekasi as the background. When the train blew it horns we jumped back on the train. 

Finding that there were doing fie I walked back towards the buffet car and as my practise I stayed there for a while taking photos of the outside. The cafe was small with part of it an engine room or sometime that has the ticket conductors (TC’s) room. The counter was in the middle and two cubicle for customers to sit and it. One of them was occupied by my team already. I did not join them as I would not want to miss a good scenery. 

After a while my team left the cafe and I followed suit a few minuted later. Back at my seat I felt tired and very sleepy. I woke up for suboh at 4.30 am, took my bath and stayed awake in my room. So I decided to dozz off for awhile and reminded Mar who sat next to me to wake me up when the journey got interesting. She knew what I meant. I could not remember how long was I asleep but as soon as Mar woke me up I was in action and the train just starting to manoeuvre through the high plain. It was around noon, began one of the most beautiful train journey for me. Glued to the window my camera clicking away at will and at time I captured videos using my iPhone. I was as excited as I was when I was four year old taking my first train ride from Kuala Lipis to Palekbang. The train snaked through the mountain where at times up and down the valley. Both sides of the track were beautiful and if I wanted to choose which one is better it is on the right of the train moving towards Bandung. I had the good fortune of having a wide clean glass window and it was a wide angle view for me. Unfortunately, Sam got the worse of the glass similar to the like we had on Malaysian trains. The journey lasted for few hours where you will be looking down a valley with green paddy field across the plain with high mountains as the background. A river valley with terracing paddy fields on each side creating a green and beautiful feeling. Like you walking up a natural green steps. As the train turned you will be expecting even better view than before and you will not be disappointed. Especially when you have a view of a beautiful kampung down the valley that would want to make you to break your journey to spend a day of two among the kampung folks. Worse still when you are feeling envious of the folks to have a place like that for a home.

The paddy fields were another things to admire and be amazed about. The terraces were beautifully crafted as an art on earth with the ingenuity of their water systems going down the fields. Some could be seen close to the track. All these while I thought the terraced paddy fields were done like the paddy fields in Malaysia. On closer look I discovered they were dug in making natural dividers (batas) for each terraces and fields. Not like in Malaysia where we create the batas by piling up mud or earth. Thus, the terraces were really beautiful crafted. Although the train just flew away passing small stations but these stations worth the attention as most of them high on the mountain, small and cute. 

At 6 minutes to 1 pm the train entered the only tunnel along the route. Not a long one but enough to give you a sense how high was the place. 

One of the longest open bridge appeared at around 1306. Another exhilarating view for you and to add to the excitement you will be looking directly down.

At 1319 we came down into Cimahi. We were informed later the reason the name of the places in Bandung or even Indonesia start with Ci. Ci means water, not necessary river but any body or flowing water signifying the place is around or has water flowing into it. Cimahi was the last station before Bandung.

We arrived at Bandung on schedule something that I truly appreciate. Not like the train company that I know that always late making their slogan ON TIME EVERY TIME a big fat joke. To view the rest of the photos click here if you are my FB friend.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

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

Nov 8, 2015, Kluang (0044) - Ipoh (1052) - Padang Besar (1510)

Once boarded we went straight to bed. As usual, believe me of not, I was anticipating another good sleep. Which I did. My friends always look at me as if I am cray when I share with them this.

Right after suboh we approached KL. Outside it was just like going to work for me albeit very much early. I was already standing by the door stretching my legs and looking outside. With the dawn breaking at Salak Selatan and Sg Besi emerged the familiar KL skyline and I captured some

Approximately at 7.00am we rolled into KL Sentral. What I do not like with underground stations like KL Sentral is we do not see much activities. Unlike the old KL Station, Hua Lamphong, and other old stations. Quite a number of passengers ended their journey at KL Sentral and only a few boarded to start theirs going north to Ipoh. I guess most rather take the faster ETS to Ipoh.

No buffet car on Express Sutera only a chap two coaches away occupying two seats near the door selling packed food and simple drinks. We walked to him anyway for our breakfast. Just enough to last us until Ipoh which was about 4 hours away. Since there were a lot of empty seats there we sat close-by eating our breakfast. We chatted with guys selling the food and according to him the reason there was no ABC (Aircon Buffet Car) because there was none available. None that was in good working condition that is. After a while we started get bored and walked back to our coach. Sam decided to go ahead to our sleepers and I decided to lepak at the first class cabin to charge my handphone. Apart from charging my handphone I was busy looking life speeding away outside. The train moved at a constant speed and only stooped at major stations

One of the stations was Sungkai. It just stopped for awhile and departed again. While moving out I saw a lady cleaner engrossed with her handphone while taking a rest after making sure the platform was clean. I as not sure what other tasks she had for the day but I thought at least she got to see trains everyday.

For the rest of the journey I just stayed at the first class cabin. No one was bothering as there was no need to do so either ha ha ha. Just before we approached Batu Gajah I saw a group of cyclist on the road outside. Straight away I was jealous of them as I had not been cycling for awhile. I could guess they wee cycling all the way to Ipoh. Mind you there were not roadies but foldies. Oh, that’s  cyclist speak to mean they were not on road bikes but folding bikes. 

Shortly after 11am we approached Ipoh station. Slowly inching into Ipoh station as if to say to us passengers, ‘Hei this is my last stop so I am going to take it easy.’ I for once very eager to disembark immediately as I had another train to catch.

We stopped and disembarked at Ipoh at 11.15 am. 

Photos that I captured 

The ETS that we would be boarding was to arrive at Ipoh at 11.45 am thus we did not have to wait that long. At that point we already decided that we were going to have our lunch at the ETS cafe. 

Indeed the ETS arrived on time. We boarded immediately and the train departed Ipoh without much issue. When we were seated as usual the train stewardess will come to confirm our tickets and when I saw her coming into the coach I was glad to know that it was the same dedicated stewardess that had taken care of us in our last three ETS trips. From a far I smiled at her and she recognised us. We chatted a bit and mentioned to her it was nice to meet her again. I actually later took several shots of her at work.

Just before Taiping I chose the clearest glass to capture the scenery outside. It was the door next to the cafe. I just stood there shooting. The funny thing was I had been doing the same every time I was on board of the train going north. Never seems to bore me taking photo of the area. In fact I was eagerly waiting to capture Bukit Merah Lake under the blue sky. True as they say, you can never capture the same moment twice. No matter how many times times already it was never the same images. Everything is different from the previous one. Allah is great.

Bukit Merah was under a blue beautiful sky. Clouds formations created by Allah presented me another perspective that brought joy to my traveling soul. I was excited I captured the sky over the Bukit Merah Lake almost forgetting about it altogether. After Bukit Merah Lake I went back to my seat to enjoy the rest of our journey. 

We arrived at Butterworth Station at 1332 and we pulled out to continue our journey north after about 20 minutes waiting. 

After Gurun I positioned myself at the same glass window where I was before. The sawah padi scene between Gurun and Alor Setar never seem to bore me. And it was paddy replanting season where the fields were either filled with water or paddy seedling just being planted. 

Photos captured along the tracks from the train. Scene 1, Scene 2 and Scene 3.

It was the same after Alor Setar and knowing we would be arriving in half an hour or so I went back to my seat to relax.

At 1510 we were disembarking at Padang Besar. Our plan was to walked to the bazaar complex for our TomYam late lunch, grab few packets of cashew nuts and almond as stocks for chewing at home and walk to the taxi stand to take a taxi to Kangar to check in. Ha ha ha as always a straight forward plan became an adventure of sort.

As we walked across the station on the overhead walking bridge the sky started to show it was going to explode. Much as I wish we could not quicken our pace than it already was. Patiently we walked and came down at the other side of the station to cross the roundabout to the Padang Besar Bazaar Shopping Complex. It started to rain thus we skirted the building to avoid the rain. Once we were at the bazar complex we went straight away towards the food stall at the end of the old complex as we had eaten there a few times and find the food meet our taste buds standards and specification. We ordered siakap steamed limau and kailan ikan masin. To save time and while waiting for our food I walked into the old bazaar to buy cashew and almond nuts. As usual 2 kilograms each. I also bought few bottles of Tom Yam paste for my family. 

When I got back to the stall the food were already served and I started to eat.

Satisfied and full we left the warung to walk towards the new bazaar complex in search for nothing ha ha ha. Well in the end from my favourite outlet I bought triple A imitation All Blacks jersey. 

It was still drizzling as we walked towards the taxi stand. While walking we were already on a look out for any taxi passing or parked nearby. Because of the rain the atmosphere was a bit dark like night was setting in. AS we approached the taxi stand there was only one taxi and it was pulling out. The driver upon seeing us approaching asked us where we were heading. I told him Kangar and he told us to wait there as he was sending anther passenger nearby. He said he would come back and if another taxi arrive just go ahead. He also informed us he will let his colleagues know that we were there waiting. 

We waited anxiously for few minutes as the day was getting darker. A taxi did come and to our relief the taxi would take us to Kangar. As usual we chatted the driver and he told us he was going to take us through an alternative route as the main route was flooded in some parts. According to him it was beginning of the rainy season in Perlis already and the usual places would get flooded soon. We told him we came from down south by train just neglecting to mention we were train nuts ha ha ha. I lamented the fact that there was no hotel in Padang Besar that we could stay. He told us there used to be one and there are two homestay near town. But I told him they were too big for just the two of us. Thus the reason I booked a room in Kangar. We told also we were going hoe the next day by train form Arau. He confessed that he actually work for KTMB and driving taxi on his spare time. Luckily I did not go on KTMB bashing too much ha ha ha. Nevertheless he actually agreed with me with what I had said about KTMB and its services. We agreed firstly that the Padang Besar Station was not built customer friendly. Facilities were dire and, knowing that the ETS service would even make Padang Besar as local tourist shopping heaven, did not work out something with the local authority to make visiting Padang Besar more enjoyable with budget hotels and chalets. It is a fact that now commuters are travelling all the way from KL to shop i Padang Besar and some of the wish to stay overnight rather than just returning home the same day. I am not a business man but I do not think the fare is where the money is for KTMB. It is the means or vehicle to where the real money is.

We arrived at the Hotel Sri Garden, Kangar at almost maghrib prayer time and paid the fare of RM25 to the driver. As the hotel staff knew I would be checking in the process was quick and easy for us. Once in our room I sent a message to Slair informing him that we were in Kangar. A few minutes later he replied to say that he will come over to pick us up and take us out for dinner.

Photos at the eating place 

Slair took us to his wife’s x-students eating place BBQ Kangar style. I do not remember where it is now but the BBQ style was different from what we used to. It was charcoal based and we BBQ the meat and fish by sticking it on the side of a dome like plate. We had a good dinner and enjoyed each other company’s. We were actually full from our late lunch still we could not stop eating. 

It was late when we were back at the hotel and we straight went to bed.

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 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


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