Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the Train to Singapore, Dec 14-15, 2007

(This is the write-up of a trip we took last year)

As if trying to keep my record of not being at home on every weekend in December, late Thursday evening I decided to take the whole family down to Singapore by train for a day. Immediately after work I stopped at KL Sentral to buy the tickets. I called home first to ask if there were anybody else would want to follow us and I was told three more from Mohd Hanafiah’s household. Prior stopping at KL Sentral I checked over the Net to see if there were tickets left and I was confident waiting for my turn at the counter. I managed to get 9 sleepers going down but only second class seats on a special train coming back the same day.

On Senandung Malam Express to Singapore, Dec 14, 2007, L6, Sleepers 21 - 30

All aboard!!!

I decided to be early and took the commuter to KL Sentral just after I changed my clothes just before Maghrib. The plan was for me to come from the office, my family from Bangi to board at KL Sentral and for Ngah, Fatah and Imah to board at Seremban. Everything went as planned until we were called to board and encountered another unpleasant disservice of KTMB. By now I already coined KTMB as ‘Keretapi Tak Mahu Berkhidmat’ and my first two reasons are these. All of us were very happy waiting for the train and we were even happier when we went down the escalator to board. When we reached the bottom of the escalator we were not greeted by the KTMB attendant but I had to say my coach number and asked first only then I was ushered, rather pointed, towards my coach. I brushed it off as normal, I am still polite I guess, and walked down to where coach L6 was and we were still happy as we walked towards our sleepers. That was when our joyous mood suddenly crushed by the incompetent KTMB. I had booked 9 sleepers and the numbers given, computer printed, were 21 to 30. When we were there we discovered there were already two other passengers occupying our 21 and 22. From their slant they were Indian nationals or at least someone from that continent. We compared our tickets and to our astonishment we had the same ticket numbers. Exactly the same number 21 and 22. I was already pissed off and it was not our fault so we walked back to the attendant and complaint. He came back with us to the coach to check as if we were lying and when it was confirmed he stared to talk to his walkie talkie to someone. We waited for awhile and did not get our answer. Eventually he asked me to walked back to the coach to see if that were the only two sleepers double booked. I asked him to repeat his instruction, the tone he used was like instructing me as if it was my bloody mistake, and that pissed me even more as that suppose to be his job not mine. But being nice and not wanting to spoil our short excursion I relented and walked back to check.

Baqir pretending to sleep

KakCik my ever willing model

Mar who could not keep still

I told him that they were the only two and he made another enquiry through his walkie-talkie. He came back to us saying there were two sleepers that were empty that we could take, sleeper 23 and 24 at coach L1. We took that at face value and walked towards coach L6 and I told my family we have two options Baqir and Fatah to use L1 while the rest L6 or all of us sleep at L6 with Mar and Kak Cik sharing with somebody. Since Ngah, Fatah and Imah would be boarding at Seremban we waited before we decide what would be the best option. Before we arrive at Seremban I walked towards coach L1 to check and true enough Sleeper 23 and 24 there were empty. Around 2300 or so we arrived at Seremban station where Ngah, Fatah and Imah boarded. We told them what had happened an automatically they opted to stay together and took up option two. Since I did not want to be tired the next day I decided to sleep rather doing whatever I normally do on night train. Anyway I bought the sleeper for a reason. Anyway I was awake when the train stopped idle waiting for the signal at Batang Melaka. I had a feeling the train was there waiting for awhile already. I went to the restroom to ease myself and then decided I need a drink and took Kak Cik, who happened to be awake, to the buffet car. It was 0251 in the morning and we stayed there long enough to enjoy the cool and quiet night scene outside. On our way back to L6 passing through L1 I realized something that made, even in that cold morning, my heart boiled with anger. There were actually somebody sleeping at suppose to be our sleeper 23 and 24. This proved to me that both of them were not empty after all when the attendant asked us to occupy the place. Had we been sleeping there and confronted by the other would be occupants I would hit the roof. I can tell you I would not be nice anymore to the person in-charge. So that was the third time I was pissed off with KTMB.
I think it was 0300 whne i woke up and need a drink. Kak Cik was the only one awake. So we headed for the buffet car

Everyone is sleeping

At our coach I went to sleep again and I was successful at it so much so I missed my favourite station, Gemas. I actually was awaken by my trusted alarm at 0600. After I had cleaned myself I saw an attendant passed by and asked him if there was any place for me to say my Suboh. I knew the answer already but I just asked him anyway. A train service own by Malaysian government carrying predominantly muslims and yet they did not provide even a small place for us to pray. Yes, I understand that for other journey we may not need it but for a night journey that scheduled to arrive way after Suboh you need a place to pray onboard. Is that so difficult to understand or think about? No wonder they were not making any money. I managed myself.

Daylight was breaking outside and I knew JB would not be long so I announced to everyone that I was going to the buffet car. By now almost everyone was awake.

JB Station, Singapore, Dec 15, 2007

JB Station

Everyone is awake whenwe arrived in JB and gathered at the buffet car

Just musing at JB Station. Ftah, Mar, Kakak and Kak Cik

All of us sat in the buffet car and ordered small breakfast just as we say ‘alas perut’, meaning eat just enough to last for awhile until we were properly in Singapore. We arrived at JB station at 0650 and as I expected held up for sometime there for the Malaysian Immigration officers to come on board to check the validity of our documents. That morning JB station bore witness to our happy mood in the buffet car. It was so obvious that everyone was enjoying the moment. As usual I took enough photographs to commemorate the occasion. Eventually the train departed JB and began the anticipated journey into Singapore. It was the first time for everyone except Ngah. First time for me to go to Singapore by train and the first time for the others to be in Singapore and by train. I could read what they were thinking but they were expecting something new and interesting nevertheless. Of course to enter we have to go through the Singapore immigration at Woodland where everyone had to disembark with their luggage to be checked. We were among the last group to be cleared through and for the whole passengers in the train it took less then 15 minutes for the immigration to clear everyone. In the end the waiting time to board the train again was longer. We took the opportunity to clean ourselves a little bit in the waiting area’s restrooms.

I was so disappointed with the interior of Tg Pagar Station that I decided to make this as our signature photo

Waiting for their first MRT ride at Tg Pagar

Almost exactly at 0900 we disembarked at Tanjung Pagar station. Once we were out in the lobby of the station we waited looking around to get our bearing around the place. Already with my map opened I explored the area and found out that there were several stalls at the station. However all decided that they did not need to eat. I did not know whether it was due to the excitement or just plain ignorant that halal food would not be that easy to find. To keep their excitement level intact and with the map in hand we walked to the Tanjung Pagar MRT station. During my days at SC I used to frequent Singapore and one of the hotels that I used to stay in was Amara Hotel. I knew on the way to the MRT station we would be passing it and was really surprised I could not remember it much when I looked at it.

All of us experienced our first MRT ride in Singapore and from Tanjung Pagar I decided Orchard Road as our first destination. When we arrived most of the shops were still closed but we walked the shopping complex anyway. In the restroom of one of them we cleaned ourselves a bit and changed into fresh cloth. We did not have shopping in mind really when I decided to do Orchard Road first but just to show everyone what and how it is. We went in and out of shopping malls the length of the road and if you trace our movement on a big paper you will see a trace of line zig-zagging across buildings, malls and walkways. If it was a test for our next proposed trip half of this party failed as after just two shopping malls almost everyone crying for water and a place to rest. This shopping malls touring was not all lost as Baqir got his t-shirt at Bossini, my dear wife two handbags at Robinson, my D80 lens cap and few other things.

By the time we finished touring Robinson we were almost at the end of Orchard Road and very hungry. We were lucky we managed to locate a Muslim stall in one of the shopping malls and the food was good. While eating I was also planning our next assault the options were either to go to Arab/Bugis Street or Little India where we can walk to Mustafa. Apart from the obvious potential shopping area these two places offer a place to pray. Even after we came out of the shopping malls where we had lunch I was still undecided of where to go next. Only when we were walking I decided to walkup the way we came to take a train to Little India. By this time we were walking for few hours already and I can see faces in agony. To ease the tension we went into the malls that were closed before and explored a bit more. With few new purchases and handbags some of us were smiling again. From Orchard Road at about 1345 we took a train to Little India. I knew what Little India was all about but the heat was too much for all of us as if saying we were really in India. I knew it was a painful walk for everyone but I prodded along to keep the momentum. When I saw the minaret of the Angullia Mosque I decided that would be our next stop and a place to rest for a while.

Of course the ablution and the restroom are clean and when I was inside one of them I could not resist the temptation to have a bath. I peeled of my sweaty shirt and pant I ad a long nice bath. It so refreshing that I did not want to stop and get out. Reluctantly I came out refreshed and said my combined prayers inside the mosque. We did not straight away left the mosque but stayed inside for awhile to rest our tired bother. In fact the heat outside was still at the peak and the thought of dozing off for while crossed my mind. When we finally came out of the mosque the weather drastically changed. The sky was growing darker which of course something that we would not complaint and maybe wishing for.

I was not sure whether it was because of the sale or a normal everyday phenomenon Mustafa the shopping mall was packed with shoppers. To get our bags stored was already negotiating a long queue let alone to move inside. Since we were already there we went inside anyway. Once inside we discovered it was a mistake. We harried our tour of the place and came out with heavy downpour welcoming us outside. We had no choice but to wait the heavy rain and after awhile decided to have a drink, that eventually became a second lunch, at the nearby mamak restaurant. We waited in the restaurant until the rain became a drizzle.

We were walking back towards Little India when I saw the sign to Ferrer Park MRT station on my right and cut off straight away there. I did not realize it was the better choice if we were going to Mustafa. But then again we have missed a lot of things and it won’t be adventurous he he he. Once at the station I decided to take everyone to Clarke Quay to enjoy the riverside scene.

Clarke Quay is of course a watering hole for a lot of Singaporeans and a meeting/hang out place for the younger generation. Beside the riverside atmosphere my objective was also to show my family the other part of social Singapore. I did not know whether I was successful to make a difference as I can only hope a good perspective would register, especially, within my children. It was still drizzling we were there and we took shelter at the nearby Novotel. We stayed around the area until almost 1800 we I decided enough of the place and walked out towards Central Mall. However when we reached the Mall I realized we were still very early to go to Tanjung Pagar so I decided to walk up a bit more and we ended up at Chinatown Mall where for no reason we sat at the McD to kill some times. I thought we were just only ordering something to drink. But I guess you can never do that when Baqir is around and we ended up ordering meals. I did not feel that hungry so I restrained myself. Close to 1900 we left the place and took the MRT at Chinatown to Tanjung Pagar via Outram Park. At 1938 we were the Tanjung Pagar KTMB station sign post taking photographs. Looking at the faces around I knew the hard seat of KTMB second class coach won’t stop my family from sleeping soundly. They were that tired walking for the whole day.

Singapaore-KL Sentral, Dec 15, 2007, Seats 1 A-D, 2 A-D, and 3A

Our train home was at 2100 so we had around one hour an a half to clean our self, pray and have dinner. What mazed us was how different the place was compared the rest of Singapore. It was like walking into a totally different zone. If we want to give a good impression for tourist before entering Malaysia KTMB certainly failed miserably. The place was really pathetic comparatively and I felt so sad looking and being there. I just could not wait for the train to take me out. Eventually around 2100 the train did and I was glad my agony of being there was relieved.

The journey home was boisterous in the beginning but soon enough very quite as everyone settled down in their seat sleeping. I somehow as if my body clock still remembers the timing from 20 years ago woke up at around 0215 when we reached Gemas. We reached KL Sentral early in the morning at 0533. We said our Suboh and lepak at the only place opened, McD, for breakfast and to wait for the Komuter service to start.

I have been complaining quietly through my writing about KTMB and it seems it never lack resources to piss me off. After we had our breakfast I gave my son RM50 to go and buy our tickets home. He came back to us shortly saying that the girl at the counter said she did not have any change nad had the audacity to complaint to my son ‘pagi-pagi buta ni mana ada duit tukar!’. I was really mad hearing that but seeing it was a pregnant lady I restraint myself. I mean I had to really restraint myself form yelling at her. I just stand there and wonder for all their short comings how they can treat their customer like that and the girl really missed the point big time. Let give a blow by blow points to make it clear.

1. The customer, in this case us, for no fault of theirs happened to not having a small domination. She admitted it was very early in the morning
2. The service provider in the first place should not even ask whether or not the customer has a small change.
3. The service provider must be prepared for this kind of situation. Through the world that I have been no service provider had asked me this question. They will accept whatever domination tendered to them.
4. This particular girl, although at the frontline, do not know what customer service is
5. Of course the girl should be so rude to remark as she did.
As I said if not for her being pregnant I would have yell and give her my piece of mind.

So for this trip KTMB really failed big time at the beginning and the end of our journey. KTMB management should spent more money to send all they staff to Stakeholder Management or Customer Service training not just personal grooming to be sitting pretty. I know despite all these I’ll still be using KTMB simply because I love traveling on a train

We were safely home at 0747 and straight away went to bed.


Rienna Abdullah said...

I'm surprised to read your 'unpleasant' travel on train. Honestly, my trip to kelantan previously was very pleasant fact there was also a small room ready for prayers as we were also travelling from nite time to early morning when we arrive in kelantan..and to add, the staff were helpful from the beginning till end..I don't know what else to say.....

Ghaz said...

Well the travel was pleasant the unpleasant part was the KTMB staff's attitude and lack of customer service orientation. However remember this was last year before the new management. But then again after last week's incident I guess bad habit is hard to break.

Taufik said...

Saya terfikir untuk 'berjalan-jalan dari KL ke (satu destinasi) dengan family dengan keretapi. Nampak macam seronok. Any suggestion detinasinya?