Friday, November 29, 2013

Around Malaysia on The Train. Again!!!!! Dec 22, 2012 - A Very Wet KB, Day 3

Shoot! I am up and blaming the phone alarm again for not doing its job. The truth is I went to bed late last night and slept through till day break. We make the best of the situation and get ready to go out. The plan is to walk to Pasar Khadijah to have breakfast and have fun exploring again. Then come back to our room to check out exactly at noon. 

Going into a wet market exploring has always been my thing during my travels. Pasar Khadijah definitely high on my list of wet markets simply because I can expect a lot of unexpected. Different kinds of kueh, vege, fruits, stuff and of course foods. We starts with a quick march pass along the corridor of kueh-kueh and continue walking up to where we had laksam yesterday. Today the mission is nasi dage for breakfast. Yes, I must and I do not care LOL

Surprisingly not many stalls selling nasi dage and we decide on one that already serving few ladies. Most of them are having nasi belauk the staple breakfast for the state he he. I have not learnt the art so I stick to a slightly heavier stuff. I order my usual drink and once again the lady stall owner reconfirm with me that I do not want to have sugar in my drink. In the land of sweet things it is a shock to their systems I guess. We take time eating and I, as always observing things around me. 

I am eating my nasi dagang slowly to make sure I taste the full flavor. Then I look up for awhile and see a cat climbs into a sink across the isle in front of me. WIth its head just popping up I wonder what the cat is doing until I see the expression on its face. Ha ha ha the cat is pooping there. I nudge Sam and ask her to look ahead and ask her to guess what’s the cat is doing. ‘Berak’ she says, not too loud and enough to make both of us laugh. Amazing cat of Pasar Khadijah toilet trained but the wrong toilet LOL.

Although the food is good, I have and know my limit. We continue to sit, but to be fair to the owner, not too long as the design of the place would not allow us to stay longer. We start to walk around again, not exploring, enjoying the surrounding and the atmosphere. From stall to stall we walk. Enough with the top floor we go down again to the floor where they sell the vegies and kueh-kueh. Walking and looking at things slowly. The ladies must be amazed to see me photographing almost all items on display. When we are at the end of the long table like structure where they sell their kueh-kueh we just walk out. We have a bit more time before we need to walk back to our room to check out.  explore a bit more of the area outside Pasar Khadijah.

 As I walk on the pavement near a local shopping mall I notice a pile of rain sport jackets on sale. Realising that I need one for the rest of my travel I step in to check. I see what I want and within the price range. Sam decides she does not require one. We continue to walk and now with the intention of going back to our hotel but via a different route. We walk the length of the block and turn right at the end to walk towards the hotel. As we walk we see a Chinese Muslim Chicken Rice restaurant and I say to Sam we have to try this before we leave KB. Unfortunately we never did.
Once at the hotel we collect our luggage in the room and check out. We walk out where there are a lot of people checking in so I guess the hotel must be popular with tourist. Being at the centre of the town it has its advantages. The room although a bit shabby is acceptable to most. For this kind of trip I am just using a small rucksack with few clothes inside so I just sling it on my back and walk out of the hotel with Sam. It drizzles a bit but nothing that’s going to stop us from walking. I do not know exactly where Royal Guest House is but my sense tells me where I should walk. I just follow my instinct with Sam close behind. By now the rain gets a little heavier. As we pass Pasar Khatijah I walk ahead a bit unitl I can see the signage to Kraftangan and I know we are on the right track. The Kraftangan is on our left. When we reach the sign I see a lorong like entrance and I can see more interesting things. One obvious thing there is the entrance to the Kraftangan and another is the Nasi Ulam place. I know straight away where we are going to have lunch. We walk in expecting at the other end will be at least a short cut or the right way the Royal Guest House. As we pass the Nasi Ulam place we can see a lot of ulam-ulam and food that we really fancy. Lucky that we are still full after breakfast if not we would have sit down to eat ha ha ha. 

We are almost reaching the other end when to my delight I see the Royal Guest House. Not that we are only on the right track we are spot on. We are very early to check in and I approach the counter to try my luck. The room is obviously not ready I can check in first but wait for the room to be ready. The girl at the counter reminds me that check in is at 2pm. I reply to her, yes I know I just trying my luck if there is a room ready for us. With that we store our luggage there and walk out towards the Kraftangan to explore the place.  

It is drizzling when we walk in the compound of the Kraftangan and we choose the left side of the place where there are souvenir shops as our launching pad to explore the space. Nothing much or interesting there just normal souvenirs. We walk up the stairs to explore the upper level and we walk pass the main entrance to the museum but nothing interest me to pay the fee to go in. One main deterrent is no camera allowed. Fine, still old world thinking and old logic to me. Who in the world today do not carry a camera. Such places might as well stop everyone carrying handphone or iPad. We walk to the other side where I can see art class in progress my interest perk and walk faster to enter the class to have a look. Where there is art class there must be art studio or shops somewhere. True enough they are at the ground level. We stay up at the corridor watching the art class and admiring the compound from high level a bit longer. We stand there soaking in the environment. I must say that the place is not well maintained. Even so, it is a nice place to be. After a while we walk down to check out the arts. I am expecting to see good paintings and maybe one of two worth taking home ha ha ha. There are two studios there and basically open for artists in Kelantan to use to showcase as well as creating new beautiful arts. 

Try as I may none of the painting on display is to my liking. Too amateurish as well as old. We continue our walk to the other side and the sky suddenly really open up bringing down water like waterfall. The rain is so hard so much so we cannot move without getting wet. We inch ourselves towards the other end passing through another nasi ulam place underneath the museum. We decide to wait the rain at the corridor on the upper level we first entered. The rain is really pouring now with no indication of stopping anytime soon. Sam starts to update her diary and I messing around with my camera.

As I am standing looking out at the rain two ladies under an umbrella approach the staircase. Someone from the top of the stairs usher them in and I can see the lady wearing high heel. I can not stop myself from saying, ‘high heel in this rain’. I mean the ‘heel’ is really high man!. So much so she has to take it off to come up the stairs. I just do not pay much attention to the lady until I see a camera crew waiting for her. Must be a model shooting at the place maybe. I walk to where Sam is sitting trying to find other interesting things. In between finding nice objects and angle for shots Sam remark to me something about Misha Omar. Striking a conversation I say, ‘Yes she is from KB. Ibu dengar lagu dia ke?‘ ‘There she is, sitting in front of the museum counter.‘ ‘Where!?‘ ‘There’. Ha ha ha it is the high heel lady. Since I do not have my long lens with me the 17-55mm suffice he he he. Whatever it is, it is not a big deal for me as celebrity has never been my thing. 

The rain ceases a bit and we decide to dash across to Tengku Anis Complex next to the Kraftangan to explore. 

Walking around the complex I cannot but feel disappointed as well as sorry for the tenants there. To me, nothing there that is different from what we can get anywhere else in KB. No speciality or peculiarity that makes the place unique. It will be another ghost building soon. Well, I sincerely hope not but all indications are pointing towards that. We walk around nevertheless and try our best to enjoy it ha ha ha. As we are going around it starts to rain again. Nothing else to do so we just wonder around. It is a multi floors complex but I just do not want to disappoint myself further by finding nothing on the upper floors. We limit ourselves on the ground floor. We decide then once the rain cease a bit we are going to dash across to have our nasi ulam and then retire back to our room. 

The nasi ulam place is packed with people. The place is really popular by the look of it and because of the variety being served it is even more popular I guess. The trick is to get a table first. We manage in the end to secure one at the end close to the road of our hotel. It is a self service place and the process is for you to pile in whatever you wish to eat and drink and later the waiter will come over to ‘kira’ and present you with a bill. I take a lot of ulam and fish to our table and we have a feast. For sure the place and the food worth coming back for again. The next train ride to KB then.

The rain is still dripping away outside but not as heavy as before. We just walk across to our hotel from the ‘nasi ulam’ place. All the rooms in the hotel had just been refurbished and ours is cosy and nice. It is not that big and enough for what we paid for. Just nice for those who want to just relax and sleep off the tiredness. After the big lunch that what exactly we need 

The nap do us good, refresh and raring to go out again. Azie, my niece, and her husband are coming to pick us up to take us around. We get ready quickly and go down to wait for them at the lobby. It is still drizzling outside and we just sit at the lobby waiting. Together with us is a family and Sam start a conversation with the lady next to her. They are visiting from Singapore and first time in Kelantan. The conversation initially evolve around their visit and inevitably move to the topic of the day, the wet season. They are here in KB at the wrong time. I wonder what they think about Kelantan. I do not ask.

Azi arrives but not after she mistakenly entered a wrong building. It is still drizzling outside .
‘Pak  Ngah dan Mak Ngah nak pergi mana ni?’ Azi’s husband, Nasir, asking us in a polite tone if there is anywhere in particular we want to go. 
Pak Ngah tak tahu, mana-mana pun ok tak de mana-mana nak pergi. Bawa je la mana pun.’ 

‘Ok la kita pergi KB Mall la.’
‘Ok juga Pak Ngah pun tak pernah pergi sana.’

A three story building, KB Mall is just like any common mall you have in any city. Well at least it is good getting out of the rain for a while. While Nasir go for his maghrib, I decide to jamak mine later, I sit down at the Mc D to have my coffee fix and we chat a bit.

Since I do not bring a long pant and with the possibility of meeting my friends up north I decide I need at least one to match the sweater I bought the day before. I walk into one of the outlet and walk out with a loose cotton pant that I always wanted to have.

Sam mention she never been to Kubang Kerian and with that remark we are on our way there. It is about 20 minutes drive there and Azi and Nasir start to share more information about the places we pass through and Kubang Kerian. When we reach the area it is still drizzling and a lot of cars.  Nasir pop out his instictive question whether or not Pak Ngah and Mak Ngah wish to stop and explore. I let Mak Ngah to answer and she says no need.

Cruising back towards the city Nasir ask us what do we wish to have for supper. We are not that particular and game for anything. Nasir takes us to Wakaf Baru near their place to eat. 

We chat more than we eat. Azi is thinking of going into food business and she share with us her intention. I fully encourage her to do that. In fact doing that in KB or Kelantan for that matter would be easier. Kelantan is a business friendly for women. Nasir come from a family of business people so it would be even easier for Azi. The rain keep pouring and a very good reason for us to continue to chat.

We are back at the hotel after two hours of chit chatting with Azi and Nasir. I thank both of them and they answer by saying that the next time we are here on the train do not waste our RM taking a very expensive taxi. I smile. I told them before we took RM25 taxi from Wakaf Baru Station to town the day before.

Friday, June 28, 2013

On The Train, June 27, 2013

For a month already now that I have been going home very late. The necessity of the profession ha ha ha. Or maybe I am suck at managing my time now. But then again riding an empty train is always a pleasure for me LOL. Today I am a bit early than the usual and I find it a bit strange to be on the train with so many people. Ha ha ha

There is a row of guys sitting on front of me now and the third from my right is an Indian guy. He is dozzing in a scary way with his eye lid open and the eye balls pushing up showing the white part. I tell you, you do not want to see this guy sleeping in the dark somewhere he he he. He just disembarked at BTS. 

This November will be my 11th year as the member of the Komuter train community. Composition of this community has evolved through out the years. For it is getting younger or maybe I am getting older. LOL. Less readers and more browsers, Facebookers and Twitterers. I did not realise it initially but the evolution is profound that now I could not explain properly. One thing for sure the atmosphere is refreshing with almost no stress seen or being felt. Most are tired but they are happier now. Especially knowing that they will be home on schedule. KTMB should know this they are contributing to the wellbeing of the nation by giving not just good but excellent service. This is what community building is all about as well.They should strive for more and seriously there are money to be made.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On The Train ( The new beginning ha ha ha), June 25, 2013

I have not been writing about KTMB nor Komuter services for quite awhile here now. The frequent outlet now is my FB status timeline. Not that I do not have anything to write either. I am yet to finish writing the train journey around Malaysia that my wife and I took late last year. Recently, the whole family except for Kakak took our first long ride on the train to Bangkok. 

All credit to KTMB the Komuter service is much much better now with the new six-car trains. Only occasionally they stumbled due to technical reason and miscommunication. They really have a lot of opportunities to improve further. Soon with the completion of the double tracking project on their intercity line I could see further improvement. Well, unless they fail to see the bigger opportunities. They will be shuttle train like the ETS soon going down north and south which going to make train traveling more viable, Not only that staying away from the city also has more merit and easier. To the romantics like me however would still want to have the intercity express like now. 

Now I could see a lot of new faces on the Komuter train, which is encouraging. Foreigners being en-cultured with their home country’s train service would of course prefer train to taxi. This is where KTMB needs to understand. More happy faces on the Komuter now especially on the train home and I suppose in the morning as well. The reason I am saying the last part is because about 90% on us in the morning try our darnest to capture or gain some lost zzzzzz. I for one now go to sleep as soon as I sit down ha ha ha.

I went through a lot of changes on the train and the way I use the Komuter service also somewhat evolved. Those days I used to read a lot now more collaborating or communicating online. I still write like before but now I publish to the world less. Thinking mode is still there. I guess more than just thinking as the one hour ride home is also medicinal to me, seriously. The one good thing with the new trains is that they have power points for me to pluck in my laptop or to recharge my handphone.  I am doing it now ha ha ha

Saturday, May 18, 2013

On The Train (Very Sad), May 17, 2013

My legs are heavy not because I am carrying a heavy load or tired but I am very sad. Witnessing life slipping away slowly in front of you is something I try to avoid but I know I cannot. The weight of the sadness is so unbearable. Even the new Chow Kit night that I am beginning to enjoy again is not helping. The bright path seems dark and gloomy reminding me of the hospital on my left. To my surprise the heaviness materialize itself into resolve of not wanting to waste my life with something I do not like to do anymore. I have to be happy as before again. Stress free

I force myself to the Monorel station, something a routine now that today has no meaning. The train travel is also not interesting for me today, although accompanying me are Friday night happy face riders either going for home or dinner.

It is the same on the Komuter train home. I just cannot wait to be home.

On The Train (Being a fighter), May 15, 2013

I am not just talking about being any kind of fighter. To me this is a true fighter fighting on his own and knowing the opponent is really formidable. Luckily or otherwise a few of us are onlookers trying to understand and almost pretend to help. But we know no matter what we do, say or try we will never really know.  We just can do our best and pray.

I was helpless looking at my brother laying there in pain. I was sad, very sad witnessing the inevitable. All of us were praying hard and being brave for each others sake.

A group of student, my guess from UKM, was on board sharing the coach with me. As any students there were happy and chatty, joking with one another. I look at them and somehow relieve a bit of my burden of thinking what’s ahead of me. Enjoy your student life kids. Believe me you are going to really miss it one day.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Around Malaysia on The Train. Again!!!!!, Day 1 and 2

(When I wrote this I was really being influenced by Frank McCourt)

Dec 20, 2012 KL Sentral - JB Sentral - Tumpat, Day 1

Driving on the highway at my normal cruising speed, which means 150 kph he he, I am already virtualizing our journey in my mind. Every steps, trains and  places that we are going to take and be are very clear to me. We have done this before albeit now in reverse to what we did before and the travelers just the two of us this time. 

We arrive at KL Sentral at 0650. 

We left the house at around 0635 with Baqir sleeping at the back. If he was not part of the adventure Baqir has always been the one to send us off. 

Some part of the KL Sentral are getting ready for another day whereas others still quietly sleeping. Office workers and some on holidays are steadily streaming into the people mover hub. Making connections from one train to another walking like ants with no definite queen around. One interruption within the flow will disrupt the entire human system and the sweet early morning faces will turn sour in seconds. Unfortunately  KTM Komuter has always been the culprit. I persevere for ten years already and despite all its limitations my daily train ride home is still a stress buster somehow. I just love that one hour ride home. Not this morning, everything seems to be flowing nicely. Suddenly I ask myself, ‘Is a hub necessary for information or knowledge flow?. Maybe we just let them through raw and let the receivers to interpret the meaning?’ Big question? A good topic for a World Cafe conversation ha ha ha.

No matter how frequent I have seen this scene, it is still fascinating to me. Again, apart from capturing it in my old bad sector prone memory I took another shot with my trusted Nikon. Just to make sure.

The first order of the day is my shot of coffee and breakfast. I choose Swiss Oven because of convenience. My breakfast is coffee, croissant and egg. Swiss Oven is a traveler friendly outlet with internet access as well as enough power points for everyone to recharge their phones or laptops. In my experience and to those who expire to open eateries like this please take note of these important requirements. I mention to Sam that I somewhat missed this place. Whenever I had to go to our old PJ office I’ll normally stopped at Swiss Oven for breakfast and check my emails first. 

Sam decides just to have coffee and drinks hers quietly beside me. I, like clockwork is dreaming and typing this. After a while the ants like streaming in front of us bothers Sam. ‘Pening la tengok ramai orang ni.’ she says to me in Malay. It is in my sub-conscious track already so to me it is normal. In fact my concentration has never been affected by crowd and loudness
Pening la tengok ramai orang ni

This adventure was not in my year end holiday plan by any long shot. I intended to have a quiet leave at home reading, writing and maybe a little bit of gardening. All that changed when in late November I received a memo from our HR stating that since I had reached certain milestones in my career in the organization I was given an extra five days leave. 

Five days!!??

I have problem trying to go for two days now I have 7 days to clear, despite selling back 10 days. In fact, still, I had to forfeit 0.5 day. 

Resurrecting the old Thailand On The Train holiday plan was out of the question with everyone’s schedules in a mess. I decided to do Malaysia On The Train in reverse as we did before instead. The plan originally was for us to travel KL Sentral - JB Sentral - Tumpat - KL Sentral - Padang Besar - KL Sentral in 6 days as below but when I studied the map and situation I had another two options to explore.

The Original Plan

20 Dec KL Sentral (0900) - JB Sentral (1527)

20 Dec JB Sentral (1905) - Tumpat (21 Dec, 0900)

21 Dec Overnight at Kota Baru

22 Dec  Wakaf Baru (1902 - KL Sentral (23 Dec, 0755 )

23 Dec KL Sentral (2100)- Padang Besar (Dec 24, 0930)

24 Dec Padang Besar (1845) - KL Sentral (Dec 25, 0530)

The second option that I explored quite hard was to take the Thailand train from Sg Golok to Hadyai and from there to Padang Besar. It was really a viable option. I researched and have the information I needed. I seek advice on this option and had to abandon it due to safety reason. Furthermore, I am traveling with my wife I did not want to risk it. This was confirmed later on the trip when I seek advice from the local. In the end I decided and booked as below. The difference with this option is that instead of coming back to KL and go up again we will be taking an express bus ride from KB to Kangar. We had crossed the East West Highway three times in our Ranger. This is the first time for both of us on a bus. The only thing is I made a blunder when I booked the train tickets instead of just an overnight in KB we had to extend another night. Well! life is full of surprises.

The Real Thing

20 Dec KL Sentral (0900) - JB Sentral (1527)
Premier Class (AFC), Coach S4, Seats 9B-C

20 Dec JB Sentral (1905) - Tumpat (21 Dec, 0900)
Superior Night Class (ADNS), Coach T3, Berth 22 & 24

21 Dec Sabrina Court Hotel, Kota Baru
22 Dec  Royal Guest House, Kota Baru

23 Dec Kota Baru (0930) - Kangar (1900), Transnational Bus Express 
23 Dec Putra Place, Kangar

24 Dec Arau (1906) - KL Sentral (Dec 25, 0530)
Superior Class (ASC), Coach L6, Seats 9C-D

When I asked who want to go only my dear wife said yes. Even little big Mar said no to the idea this time. For the first time we are having our own adventure without our family. A precious moment it would be for both of us. That is the reason why both of us are having early breakfast at KL Sentral now. We will board our first train to JB at 0900 and take the next one up to Tumpat from JB at 1905.

Finish with our breakfast and getting anxious, we walk out to wait for our train.

The Sinaran Selatan train to Woodland departs KL Sentral 3 minutes late at 0903. I am a bit quiet as I slept a bit late last night and I am thinking catching 40 winks early. Sam starts on her reading immediately but I am more interested looking around and commenting how shabby the Premier Class coach is. I mean it is really sad that KTMB can not even try to maintain the coach properly. Broken, chipped seats, bad black ceiling and discolored padding all around. It is not that they do not have ridership, I remark to Sam, it is just not doing the small things quickly. Teasing me, Sam jokes they need me as their CEO to which I reply not in my lifetime LOL. Seriously.I feel they could do more if the top management traveled on the train more often. If you must know I paid RM64 each for the seats. All we are getting extra are a small bottled mineral water and a piece of banana cake. Other than that you are on your own.
All aboard!

The Premier Class

When we were waiting, looking around at all my would be fellow passengers I could not really distinguished whether they were Malaysians or SIngaporeans. In this coach now it is so obvious to me most of them are SIngaporeans and those going to Singapore. The Premier Class, due to the size of the seat and space, seated us in pairs on the left and individually on the right. Our seats 9B and C are comfortable but really look old. Next to me an elderly  Malay lady from Singapore going home. So does a lady behind her. I know this from their own conversation. The lady on my right spent most of her time on the trip either reading religious book or napping. Behind us are a sweet mixed couple from French, this is my best guess, and by the look on them I deduced to be either musicians or teachers. The seats in front of us are empty and most of the time occupied by the conductors to rest. So why are they on the train? My guess, convenience, they hate to fly and they are train nuts like me. 
Novel - 'Aku dan Keretapi' LOL

I doze off soon and as if being programmed I wake up at Soromban and it is 1014. The connection too strong and the air in Seremban must be different LOL. The double tracking of the train line is very much in progress and has changed the outlook of the surrounding areas. No more the old wooden buildings along the line which is good. I honestly believe the future train travel looks good but if they keep on ignoring the small things it will be the same old things. To me different train culture will emerge with the change. Historically the busiest and most popular train stations would be those in the city where you can find boarding schools, colleges and universities. These students create certain culture and add colors to the train travels. My personal train travel experiences as a student in the 70‘s are something that I’ll will always cherish and talk about. The other main group of travelers would be the not well to do and locals along the tracks that revolve their life around the train schedule. This is another amazing group that has a slight different culture on the east coast and west north lines. 

I am already witnessing the change now. Different set of people taking short rides, business travelers as well as foreigners, not backpackers. The double tracks and electric trains will make it possible for those staying as far as Melaka to commute daily to work in Seremban or KL. The property along the track especially those within the vicinity of train stations will develop and viable. That is why I am a bit perplex as to why KTMB is taking their time. It can be a chicken and egg dichotomy. To be really successful to me the state government has to be involved. 
New station

Sg Gadut is really one new station built for the future. Passing that I decide to sit at the door like the old times enjoying the scenery outside. Of course it is far from the truth. The old days the gap between two coaches would really be an open air area where we used to park ourselves most of the time talking, smoking and sometimes being nuisance to others. Life along the track still interest and surprise me. Now beautiful Minangkabau houses and new buildings. In the future I do not know what. I sit there long enough to reminisce before going back to my seat to rest to prepare myself for our long ride to the east immediately after. 

We are at Gemas at around 1215 and I was sleeping then. I overhear somehow the attendant talking to someone over the walkie talkie that the air-condition system is malfunction. I discovered later it was not the air-con but major electrical problem. We wait of course for KTMB to solve the problem. The solution is pretty easy it seems but it took KTMB more than an hour to get us on the way again. I am like a school boy again walking up and down and getting excited. In the old days we were sure to be waiting the minimum of three hours at Gemas for all the three express trains from the south, north and east to arrive, dismantle and reconnect again before we could continue our journey. 
The new Gemas Station

The Old Gemas Station

I step out on to the platform while waiting like most people and I realise that we are at the new unfinished Gemas station. I just could not believe myself when I look at the old station down 400 metres away on my right from the new one. I am looking at it with the current eyes but seeing the station in the 70‘s. I am sad really and the nostalgic fool in me starts to kick in and misses the old station where we had a lot of memories. Thirty or thirty five years ago once I was on the platform my Peter Stuyvesant would come out from my pocket and I would start to smoke immediately. Today I just sit at the bench and look around. I see a group having sort of picnic lunch around the bench on my right and passengers as long as the train on the platform on my left talking and a few really concern faces. In situation like this there are no less wannabe experts crowding around the train technicians trying to solve the problem. I just watch them for a far.
Wannabe train technicians

Because it is getting hotter in the coach Sam joins me on the platform and we start to talk and joke around. What’s a journey with out unexpected adventure. We discuss that if we were delayed for more than two hours we may run the risk of not making our connection or rather next train to Tumpat. My solution to that is simple I tell my wife. If we were really late we just disembark at Gemas and wait for our train there as it will travel up through Gemas. Otherwise we could just disembark and wait at major stations along the way to JB like Segamat or Kluang. That would be fun. In the end we do not have to.

Clearly to me there are two types of passengers on this train. One group that are used to KTMB’s shortcomings and another group of newbies or first timers. The first group they are relax and seem to enjoy themselves knowing not worth their salt to bitch about KTMB but make the most of the situation. The second group - well you should see their anxious faces and their understandable failure to understand why this has to happen.

A big relief to everyone we are finally on our way at 1320 and jokingly the conductor says the driver will hit gear 5 straight away when I ask what time the ETA for JB. We will make it after all as the conductor tells me we would reach JB Sentral at around 1630 or 1645. BTW the solution to the problem is to change the engine car where they have a few at Gemas.

The conductor was not joking as the driver really hit the floor now and we are flying towards JB. Along the way to Segamat I can see the water is rising in several rivers. It worries me a bit looking at the dark sky and knowing the area. Further more we are going east where flood is the norm at this time of of the year. 

We arrive at Segamat Station at 1340 and several people disembark including the Chinese gentleman that is so concern about the delay.

The train by now stops at almost every small stations along the way and a lot of passengers get on board at places like Bekok and Kempas. All of them are bound for Singapore. It must be easier to enter Singapore by train.

My phone indicates1632 as we approach JB Sentral. Expecting it to be as big as KL Sentral I am not disappointed. We walk up to the escalator that takes us to a level where customs officers usher us to the right escalator to the main lobby level. The customs are there of course for those going to or coming from Singapore. The lobby floor consist of the main waiting area for KTMB customers, information counters and retail outlets where you can find the normal outlets like Mc D and Starbucks. Of course there are local eateries as well. Comparatively the area is not as impressive as KL Sentral. The first thing that we are looking for is the surau and I ask the man at the information counter and we follow his direction. Why I am not surprise to find the surau tucked in a corner next to the restroom. Convenience of course but I cannot get myself away form thinking that the surau was built as an after thought. In fact for most buildings surau is probably the last consideration. Architects and designers please take note. The most important thing about building a surau is the direction of the qibla and that will determine the size and the shape. When I enter the surau at JB Sentral on my right is the wuduk area and on my left immediately I am facing those praying inside. Muslims in their right mind would know firstly it would be difficult to enter with someone already praying directly facing you and worse those praying would not be able to concentrate. The design is wrong and I am not wrong it was done as an after thought. I believe architects and designers should think firstly where to place the surau in the building. This is another irony in a muslim country.

JB Sentral is an integrated transportation hub of Johor Bahru, situated in the centre of the city of Johor Bahru. JB Sentral is one of the main components of the Gerbang Selatan Bersepadu (GSB) project of National and Strategic importance, which has high multiplier effects and spin-offs that brings various economic, social and political benefits to the country and its people.
JB Sentral has been officially launched and proclaimed by the Sultan of Johor, DYMM Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar on the 26 June 2010.

JB Sentral which has a gross floor area of 89,417 sq-meters will ease traffic movement in the city’s commercial centre and acts as a main stop-over for people commuting between Malaysia and Singapore. JB Sentral offers city railway facilities, 6 platforms with a 25,000 persons per day capacity.

For public convenience, JB Sentral offers public multi-level car parks with 726 parking lots and 18 commercial lots and 30 kiosks.

Located just next to Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (BSI), the Custom, Immigration & Quarantine Complex, and walking distance to town, JB Sentral houses taxi stand with coupon counter and a public bus bay area providing ample public transportation facilities.

JB Sentral also houses Malaysia Railways (KTMB), complete with its ticketing counter which start selling tickets on 16 June 2010 and provides international train services to Thailand and Singapore as well as domestic destinations.  Other facilities provided for public conveniences are multi storey public cars, toilets and “surau”.

The retail area includes western and local favourite restaurants, 24 hours convenience shops and a fast food restaurant, money changers, apparels & cosmetic shops, entertainment, gift & souvenir outlets.

Property and Land Management Division of the Prime Minister’s Department is the owner and custodian of the building that has been given the mandate by the Federal government to manage BSI. Advanced Maintenance Precision Management is honoured to be selected and given the opportunity to undertake the Facility Management Services to this BSI Complex. AMPM’s main task is to ensure the smooth running of its operational aspects, including safety and security controls within the building perimeter.

Above, a cut and paste from

We have approximately 2 hours to spare before we board our next train to Tumpat. Out side the surau you can find ringgit operated lockers if you want to store your luggage there. Initially we are thinking of doing so but when we look closely it is way too expensive for our liking. RM10 peruse per locker. I do not know the rate at KL Sentral but I just do not wish to pay RM10 to store our luggage for less than two hours. After all what we have are not that heavy or big to carry. 

We have not had any decent lunch yet. Finding the outlets at JB Sentral not something I would like to take. With our luggage we walk down across to City Square Shopping Complex to find something better. Both buildings are connected by a pedestrian bridge. The two-level escalator takes us down to the bridge and we walk across. It is Thursday evening and I am surprise to find a lot of people at City Square. 

I prefer to have sandwich but the Subway we pass is full. We do not have time to wait so we walk further ahead into the complex. Breek seems to be the right place for me, western food, not because I have been westernized  but I cannot just take any food now days. So salad and steak are good to last for my travel up to Tumpat. Sam sit charging her Galaxy Tab accompanying me with her drink. Anxious, I rush my food in and as soon as I am finish we walk back to JB Sentral. 

With us there are already several would be traveling companions waiting for the train to the east coast. Since I need to charge my phone we walk to a corner where I can tab the power outlet. The designer, architect and the management of JB Sentral are still living in the stone age. Everyone, especially travelers like us, will carry smart phones or devices and one constant need is to recharge them. Yet, almost no power outlets available for us to do so.  I have to resort to being McGyver or rather like a thief crossing the barrier to charge my handphone. 

We do not have to wait long as on schedule at 1906 the train arrive from Singapore. We walk down to Platform 2 to board. We do not have to walk far on the platform as our coach, T3, is just a few steps away from the escalator. Once onboard we immediately settle down at berth 22 and 24, across each other. Being too familiar with train travel we know the drill already.

The train rolls out of JB Sentral at 1922

We depart JB with the coach still empty and I am wondering where would be the rest be boarding as I know the train is fully booked. I have my answer when we arrive at Kempas when most travelers to Kelantan get onboard. Our top bunks now are occupy by teenage girls and they are talkative and full of energy. It spells trouble for us and I am right as they parked themselves in one bunk and start to enjoy themselves. 

As anticipated the conductor comes into the coach to check us in. Although I know what the answer would be I still have one standard question for him. While he is checking our tickets I ask him is there a surau on the train. He says no and stop there without offering anything. I am not picky or being difficult as we know what to do already but that is another irony living in a muslim country. 

Well, I am a bit tired and manage to get an early sleep but when the train stop at Gemas at 2230 the loud talking and laughing by the girls awake me.

Dec 21, 2012 - On The Train and Wet KB, Day 2

Gemas is too bright to my liking and as if wanting to provoke my old memories the train stop exactly where I could see the old station clearly. We were almost at the same spot this afternoon. Still lighted I easily go back to late 1970’s. Then, there would be one train from the north coming down to Gemas carrying passengers and coaches destined for east coast and south. Second train from the east will come down to Gemas carrying passengers and coaches going to south and north. The third train was coming up from the south carrying passengers destined for east coast and north. The three trains will meet at Gemas and their coaches were ‘dismantled’ and ‘distributed’ for the respective destinations. Any of them got delayed the rest will be late leaving Gemas. So Gemas is the KTMB passengers distribution point and a very important one. That is why Gemas is so known and dear to all of us train travelers then. We were so season in this process we just got down at Gemas at whatever time we arrived, normally around 1 am, and parked ourselves somewhere to kill time. At three in the morning when all the three trains ready to move out again we knew exactly where our coach would be. The first few times the process of cutting and joining the train was fun to watch but after a few times we got bored and started to be mischievous. I do not know when exactly KTM stopped this. Obviously it is not economical and practical to do that anymore. Also, to cut travel time between these destinations. Now we have dedicated train from the south going up to the north and east, from the east to the north and south and from the north to the east and south. 

I am awake because my body could sense that the train is standing at a station and not moving for quite a while. I look out and directly on my side is the sign of Jerantut station. It is really bright lights and the time is 0214. I have to go to relief myself and sadly have to wake Sam up. No, I am not afraid to go alone ha ha. I need her to look after my laptop and camera.

I stay up a little bit trying my phone and I have a reply from my niece in KB asking what time will we be arriving. I ignore it as I do not want to bother her. We will just be happy on our own. That is me and nothing personal. In two hours we will be in Kuala Lipis, another well known station for all of us in the 70’s. I want to continue to write but the battery is so low that I abandon the desire. Staying up waiting would be fun. Somehow as if being sedated I just go under. 

I am up again somewhere in the mountainous part of the journey and it is nearly seven. Still a bit of darkness out side but I know we had passed our normal prayers time. I did not set the alarm to save the phone battery and I thought I would be up on the auto mode. I was wrong. We went through Kuala Lipis, Gua Musang and Dabong in our dreams. 

After a bit of cleaning up we decide to have breakfast at the buffet car. Getting there means going through bodies sitting, leaning and even laying down on the floor.  That is a normal scene on the train going east I inform Sam. These people most of them boarded without tickets hoping to get seat and to pay on board. Of course the risk is not getting any like many of them now. It is either the station master at their stations allow them to board or the conductors on the train taking their money, legally of course, that make it worse. Well, the old days were even worse. It is the culture along this route as well as they do not have any other traveling option. That is why I am not surprise there are a lot of people sleeping and lounging at the buffet car when we arrive there. Of course they are not suppose to be there but the conductors turning their heads away. Lucky for us there are two seats at the table where a lady and her son already having breakfast. So we share table for a while. Breakfast on the train would be the normal Malaysian hot drinks, boiled eggs and ‘roti bakar’.

We remain at the buffet car to kill sometimes. Furthermore I know passengers will start to disembark group by group soon. The first is when we arrive at Kuala Krai station at 0755. Roughly about 20 to 30 people disembark and 2 to 3 locals get on board for a short trip somewhere. I have been on this line since my school days so I know what to expect already. I wonder what else could I write about it. The train will stop at only major stations such as Tanah Merah and Pasir Mas. Passing Temangan at 0821 indicates we are making good progress and we are still lounging at the buffet car. The train travels at a constant speed through kampungs and paddy fields. Remnants of debris, flooded fields, and even houses are exhibits of past heavy downpour. The normal scene in Kelantan in December. Funny thing is I am not expecting anything worse than that. Well, I had love to experience wading in waist high water around KB. Looking at the situation I do not think I am going to get it.

The train rolls into Tanah Merah 10 minutes after Temangan and the station’s signboard appears on my left to confirm it. Another big group of passengers disembark making the train emptier and lighter he he he. Next will be Pasir Mas. We continue to sit at the buffet car and talk. Sam mention about the morning street market she saw the last time we were passing through. It is Pasir Mas I reply and she suggest we get down at Pasir Mas. It would be a bit longer taxi ride to KB then I counter. Just before we reach Pasir Mas the buffet car attendant tells us that they are closing and would be locking the car soon. All of them are getting down at Pasir Mas, going home for a day. Another crew will take over the next day. After their day off they are not sure whether the will be going down to JB or KL when they take over. That is their life. The train is actually their second home.

Nothing much has change with Pasir Mas station since the last I passed through. Not as many people on the platform as before maybe due to the rainy season. It is 0856 and we are making good progress for Wakaf Baru. Back before we came into Pasir Mas we decided to disembark at Wakaf Baru instead of Tumpat. We sit in our berth waiting to disembark in few minutes. We talk and sit to enjoy the journey. Sam tells me where ever we walk people will look at us, especially me. I am acting like me so I do not realise I am an attraction, I joke. The truth is you will take whatever you love to do for granted and sometimes you are totally oblivious with what your projection is to others. With my Discovery pants, Cap Ayam t-shirt, vacation hat, Pallas sandal, a bulky camera and most importantly my demeanor Sam tells me most people think that I am a professional photographer on assignment. 


We arrive at Wakaf Baru at 0910 and ninety percent of the train is empty now. The moment we are on the platform I request Sam to wait for me to take few shots of the station and train. Again being myself I go searching for what I think good subjects or angles. The spirit of adventure and wanting to explore really gets into me now ha ha ha.

Sam was waiting at the entrance and overheard a group next to her  actually talking about me. Of course they were talking in a local slang, still Sam managed to decipher the conversation something along the line that I am a photo journalist on assignment about the train service. LOL . That reminds me of ZZ’s, NJ’s and Shaari’s joke about me being a Watan’s tabloid photographer. The best part Sam cheekily leads them on ha ha ha.

I am too tired to argue or negotiate the taxi fare. That much I need a shower and a good nice sleep. So I agree to pay RM25 to take us to Sabrina Court. I know it is not that far and I used to pay RM25 for a taxi fare from Tumpat to KB. I do not mind really. As usual I strike a conversation with the taxi driver. It has been raining for the last four days but today a bit of a dry spell. So no sign of flood yet. He tries to solicit more information from me and I know his intention. So I play along and reply his questions accordingly. At the same time I seek the opportunity to ask about the possibility of train travel from Sg Golok to Hadyai. Yes I can do that and the train will leave Sg Golok train station at 1100 Thailand time, which is 1000 in Malaysia. The only thing he says he would not advice my wife and me to do it now. The situation in Sg Golok is still a bit unstable and he himself has not been there for a while. He is not the only person to say about this. Which means we are sticking to our third option

Of course we are early to check in but still I am hoping for the room to be ready. The two ladies at the counter gladly check us in and and with the key we take the lift up to the second floor. I put in and turn the key and discover the room has not been made up - not ready. I take the lift down again and after a discussion the ladies change us to another room and the room will be ready in half an hour. Half a hour is a long wait for us so the only thing to do is to walk to check out KB. We have had sort of breakfast already so eating is not in our agenda. We walk pass The Store and our legs in automatic mode direct us to Pasar Khadijah. Might as well check it out and buy whatever we need there. The pasar seems deserted to us but we love it and continue to explore at will. I take few cliche shots of the place and move on to look for something that one not use to find in Klang Valley. One of my missions during any travels is to look, record and share things that are out of the ordinary. That is why I love to walk in cities or towns so much. Serendipity, again, if you wish.

No matter how many times I have been at Pasar Khadijah there is always something to be excited about. Fruits, fishes, fresh vegetables and of course the colorful people in there. Mostly the colorful people that you meet. They will help you to give certain perspective of your own life. What matter to them may be something that you have taken for granted and vice versa. It is that simple life that we crave no matter how we define simple.

Sam wishes to buy one or two batik sarong for her collection at the Pasar Budaya Baru. Well the place is not baru at all of course. We walk up the stairs and suddenly we realise we are really tried LOL . It is time to turn back.

Considering the location and the name Sabrina Court could have been maintained better. Again the lack of maintenance mentality prevails in our culture. All the small things that matter left ignored. I did not expect much so I am not surprise when I walk into the room. Basic stuff for back packers.

Across the road in front of the hotel is Restoran Pok Sen and suppose to be opened 24 hours. the two of us lovers on an up-tenth honeymoons walk across the road to find something for our lunch. A very late lunch at 1500.  Options not that many, still, enough for both of us to be satisfied. Because of the lauk-lauk, against all expectations, I ask for a plate of rice and request the lady to pile it up with all that I wish to taste. Of course Sam’s eyes grow as big as a coconut looking at the pile. Against all expectations Sam order mee goreng he he he. Later she regretted the choice.

We have walked KB before and sure there were not anything new to see. Nevertheless early on we decided to go to Kamdar for site visit ha ha ha. Kamdar is a block away from Restoran Pok Sen. The truth is outlet like this in different towns can get you similar but different products. Huh!? What I mean is that you can get almost similar shirts, pants or what ever but of different product lines. Or sometimes everything similar but in different sizes and colors. 

It starts to drizzle when we walk

The building that house Kamdar is in a mess. In fact for whatever the reasons most  buildings in KB are like that. We brave it anyway and start to browse. I am always the one to say what else to buy we have everything already and I am also the first to buy in the end LOL. The one that breaks my resolve is a smart sweater supposedly designed by Pierre Cardin. Why not!? At RM15 it is really a bargain and the most important thing is it looks good on me. Because of the sweater I have to find a matching cotton pant ha ha ha. Yes, I must! But after moving from isle to isle I cannot find any. The search will continue. Now I have legitimate mission at Parkson after this LOL. 

KB looks gloomy under the constant drizzle and being Friday very empty as well. We walk along the corridor towards the KB bus station two blocks away. The reason we are heading that way is because I intend to claim our Transnasional bus ticket for our journey to Kangar on Sunday. I had booked the seats online and with the printed payment voucher I need to claim the proper tickets at their counter. The moment we enter their premise I produce the paper to the man at the counter. Man!!! is he the most unfriendly front office personnel I have ever met. The weather is already gloomy outside must you make it worse by imitating it as well. He must be thinking the reason we exist in his life is because of him.  We walk out not fast enough as soon as we have our tickets. The good thing is Parkson is just next to the bus station.

Walking in at the perfume section I realise I need to buy one. As usual Sam decides how I should smell. Today it is Polo and when I pay up I receive RM30 free vouchers. That sends us into another excursion on the upper floors. 

As we are walking outside where night market stalls are taking shape I notice there are movement at the top right side of Pasar Khadijah. I suspect must be something good that we have missed before. We walk across and on the ground floor is where all the ladies selling local kueh-kueh. A very good indicator to another good thing and with that we walk up the stairs, to our delight, to find a lot of food stalls Kelantanese style. The kind of food stall you can only find at fresh markets in Kelantan. 

Finding a good spot we sit ourselves and I order ‘laksam’. Fuh! what a taste and if my doctor happened to be around he would drill me on the spot. Yes, that good ha ha ha. As consolation I ask for ‘kopi o kosong’ to go with the ‘laksam’ ha ha ha. We just sit there to enjoy the moment. After a while we walk down to cross the road. It is still early to go back to our room so we adjourn to Mc D to have coffee. Coffee in Kelantan sure taste different, even a McD coffee. We spend the rest of the evening sitting there watching the world of KB passing by.

Click for the rest of the visuals