Saturday, May 3, 2014

Around Malaysia by Train. Again!!!!, Dec 24, 2012, Slair, Padang Besar, Kuala Perlis, Arau - KL Sentral - Last Leg Home, Day 5

We are really tired but as usual we are awake for our ritual. Soon after both of us pull over our blanket to sleep again ha ha ha.

We are awake again at mid-morning and miss our breakfast at the hotel. Expecting another long train ride that night we layan ourselves. Then, suddenly I am in a need my chappati fix ha ha.

Oh my chappati he he he

Outside the hotel I decide to walk right and try my luck. Observing the area I can see government offices and the day being a holiday (I cannot remember what holiday) I am expecting less opportunity for kueh sellers to be around. I walk further anyway until I can see a warung open across the road on my left as I walk. Initially I like to continue walking but realising I do not have much time I cross the road to check the warung. When I am about ten metres away I am comforted at least I can get few kueh and nasi lemak but as I walk nearer I am very glad to read their banner to say Chappati. I ask the lady seller and indeed they have Chappati and as original as any chappati by any Bengalli. I ‘tapau’ about 5 pieces as well as several kueh. Yeah too many for my own good but that is the first chappati after several days ha ha ha. I walk back to the Hotel fully satisfied and accomplished ha ha 

Slair call at 1125 when I am about halfway through my 5 pieces of chappati. Earlier, I left a message early to inform him that we are coming his way. I was not sure whether he is in town. Slair ask me what is our plan for the day so I say we are going to check out at 12.00pm take a cab to Kangar to lepak there until our next train to KL. ‘Ok’ Slair says ‘we will come over to pick your guys at the hotel.’

Slair and Jun walk into the lobby at 12.15pm as we are about to sit waiting after we checked out. 

Salir : What time is your train home again?
Me: Around 7 pm
Slair: Ok what is your plan
Me: Just lepak around Kangar
Slair: Ok. you want to go to Padang Besar?
Me: Whereever you are going to take us Slair. We are fine.
Slair: Ok. let us do that. Ko dah makan?
Me: Just had 5 chappatis ha ha ha
Slair: We will stop to have lunch on the way to Padang Besar anyway ha ha ha

That is more or less our conversation.

We drive slowly along route one to Padang Besar. Just going with the flow of s very good host. I have no intention of buying anything at Padang Besar but then if something I fancy it would not stop me from spending. Any distance you travel will become very short if you had great conversation with your buddy This is true as we cruise to Padang Besar. 

As suggested earlier by Slair we stop at Warong Pokok Sawa for lunch. It is not a warong at all more like restaurant. Although it is already 1.36pm I am still full thus I pick few ulams, fish and fruits. Apparently this place is one of the main eating place in Kangar or Perlis. I can see why. Not only the choices of food and recipes but most importantly the taste is good.

Warong Pokok Sawa

We reach Padang Besar at 1420 and bless straight away with a good parking spot. We walk with no particular reason and direction. Eventually, being a football fan, our natural instinct lead us to the first triple A imitation sport store. I am sold when I see the old design Liverpool jersey, the one with Candy as the sponsor. We walk around the food and fruits area as well and at around 3pm we drive out of Padang Besar for Slair’s place. The best part of the walk around Padang Besar bazaar is actually not the shopping but chatting with Slair along the way. Both of us lament the non existent of Grand Sport there ha ha ha.

Along the way back we talk about interesting places in Perlis and one of them is the lake on our route. As we near the lake Slair turn the car right into the lake parking area. We stay there enjoying the place for few minutes before we move out ( 3.44pm stopped at lake)

Back at Slair’s place we charge ourselves as well as our gadgets. After our prayers Jun serves us the mangoes she bought at Padang Besar and it is really delicious. Our eating for the day does not end there as Slair has one more dish to serve us -Laksa Kuala Perlis. 

At 5.54pm we drive out to Kuala Perlis. Along the way Slair keep saying do not worry we still have time. Slair takes us to Laksa Kak Su and we order in a splash and finish the laksa in a flash as well ha ha ha. This is because not only we are trying to save time but the laksa is really good and I have to finish it in record time.

Kuala Perlis floating masjid

Slair, Jun and Sam

We arrive at Arau station at 6.55pm 7 minutes to the arrival of the train from Padang Besar. We quickly thank Slair and Jun for their hospitality and walk to the make shift station. Most of the station in the north are under renovation and Arau station is one of them. There are a lot of people waiting on the platform already and since Perlis is fast becoming an academic state a lot of students either going home for the semester break or just for a few days leave. Sam sits next to one of them and start to chat. The girl is from UUM and going back to KL. She tells Sam that she has only a ticket to as far as Taiping and will gamble to find another ticket at BM when she gets there.

Sam sits next to the UMM Student and start a conversation

Surprisingly the train is on time (7.02pm) all credit to KTMB and because there are a lot of passengers boarding we depart a minute off schedule (7.18pm). Also with full capacity means no chance for us to upgrade to another class due to no turn-ups.

We had a good rest at the hotel and now we find both of us not really tired to sleep or whatever. WhenI look around me I can see all sort of travelers. I am sure many of them are wishing they are in a car now driving where ever they are going. But there are also people like us. The ritual of riding Malaysian train is sometimes amazing to witness. There are those once on board would straight away make themselves as comfortable as possible to have a nice sleep. There are those that come on board with all sorts of food and snacks. They just start to arrange their stuff and start to munch. A lot of younger generation that come on board with their ear plugin with something already and stay like that the whole journey. There are also that straight away make a beeline to the buffet car to lepak.  Those that are traveling with family will rearrange their seats assignment as if they are going to be on the train for ever. Not many with books though. For us just travel very light and chill with the motion ha ha ha.

The paddy fields outside are getting darker as we move on. From a yellow evening beautiful sunset to a very beautiful reddish sky and a complete night forming. A beautiful soul touching moment.

Alor Setar arrives at 7.46pm. After a while on the train sometimes you feel you are not moving but everything else outside that do. Everything come to you in sequence.

When Bukit Mertajam (BM) arrives at 9.26 pm we walk to the buffet car to have our ‘dinner’. BM station is still in heavy renovation and there are a lot of activities outside. We just order coffee, nasi lemak and burge to eat. Now this train do not enter Butterworth like it used before (KTMB changed it again years later) so the stop would be a bit longer simply they have to turn the train around and wait for another train to pass. What I mean by turning the train around is this. Any train from the north normally has to through BM and turn at Butterworth. Turning hear means to cut the engine car and reattach it at the other end so that it can pull the train down to KL. The train line was built that way and not a straight line from North to South vice versa. So the turning for this train is happening at BM station now. 

While waiting and eating we chat. There are a lot of travelers in the buffet car and most of them have tickets without assigned seats. They either short distance travelers or those got on the train somewhere and pay for their passage on board. Maybe out of kindness KTMB allow this to happen. One of those travelers is a blind couple with their small children occupying the table beside us. We overheard they are discussing their options and after a while leave the car. Amazing that hey can manage the situation with the children.

One of the topics of our discussion is that there is a different culture on different train lines in Malaysia. I explain to Sam that in the east coast the train line is a daily necessity to most so they treat the train as their guest room, family transport, kitchen and business place. They do not mind not having a seat as they just lay down the matt and sit in group on the floor. They are friendly and seem to know everybody from the train service. When lunch or dinner time comes the food packages or tiffin will come out and you’ll have a picnic. The best part they would have enough for the others in the coach. In the west coast they are a bit ‘proper’ and even more if you go down south.

The station master blow his whistle and the train slowly move on towards KL at 10.26pm. We also get up from our seat and walk back to our coach. 

I put on my sweater, sock and go to sleep.

We arrive at KL Sentral at 5.28am and another train adventure almost come an end.

The final leg is actuallly the 7.03 am Komuter train from KL Sentral to Bangi.

Home sweet home at around 8.00 am.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Around Malaysia by Train. Again!!!!, Dec 23, 2012 - KB (0930) - Arau (1700) on the bus, Day 4 KB - Kangar, Transnasional Express, Skydeck Seta 2A, B, RM38.50

We are awake as usual. Our room being in the middle we do not have the window looking  outside but into the atrium of the hotel. So we keep our window with the curtain drawn down all the time.

I am first to use the bathroom and once we are ready with our morning ritual we start to pack.

At 7.51 am we are sitting at the dining table to have our breakfast. No one else in the restaurant except us and I assume the service going to be very fast. Yes, it is the standard buffet breakfast but we need to order our drinks. Then I realise it is a one-man breakfast operation. No brown bread so I settle for local food and a lot of eggs. We take our breakfast slowly anticipating the new experience of taking the bus to Kangar. 

It is 8.15am and we are walking out of the hotel to the bus station. We take the walk through the place where we had nasi ulam lunch yesterday. Passing the covered area in front of the Kraftangan’s entrance. It is drizzling and getting heavier but we press on. I make a good use of the rain jacket I bought yesterday. My dear Sam is walking slowly behind me and I worry about her. A strong and committed girl she is.

We arrive at the bus station at 8.30 am. I walk into the Transnasional ticket office and ask the gentleman at the counter where we suppose to wait for our bus. The man, his look and behaviour is not the least gentle at all - the fallacy of service industry in Malaysia, says to wait at the end of the block of the next building. When the bus come there will be an announcement made. We wait out side of the office where there are a lot of travellers waiting already. By the look of them I am pretty sure they are not our fellow travellers. After awhile no sign of our bus and I am getting bored waiting. The rain persists and I am not complaining just worry a bit about our journey. Looking out in front of me is the Suria Hotel and I wonder aloud to Sam we could have stayed there and we can wait for our bus siting in our room ha ha ha. Alas Suria Hotel is not with Agoda. 

After awhile and needing a new perspective we walk across the road to wait there. There is a bakery called Bread Home there and I walk towards it as I know we need few supplements for the long journey across Banjaran Titiwangsa to the west. 

The first perspective I have when I look at the bus station from where I stand is RED. Red color everywhere around us. Being a Red fan I am happy. I can see behind the station is the shopping complex where we were yesterday where Parkson is. It is another wait for us and I do not see the bus coming anytime soon either. 

It has been awhile waiting and thinking the bus will arrive soon we cross to the other side where the bus will stop. The crowd is building up expecting their buses will arrive for the journey where ever they are going. Buses for destinations like Kuantan, KT, Ipoh, and JB start to show up. Finally at 10.08 am our bus show up and we get onboard. Out seats are at the top deck and it is a big let down. The front part of the top deck is a mess even the seat numbers are not right. Knowing that there will not be many passengers we just pick our fancy. The bus is a let down. The front part of the top deck not only a mess but, as they say in Kelantan, tirih (leaking) as well. Water from the rain outside is seeping in and the floor is already wet. The first two rows are left vacant. This is Transnasional Express and going to traverse the mountainous East West Highway. I am worry a bit there. Luckily we are traveling from a wet region to a dry one in the west. 
Seven minutes later we are on our way. One hour off the schedule.

As usual the air-condition is switch on full blast. With heavy rain outside now the bus is a big industrial fridge. Mist and water particles are getting thicker on the window panes now and I am only protected by the rain jacket I bought yesterday. I have to pull up the hood to be a bit comfortable. Initially I thought the bus was going straight to Jeli but now it is moving towards Pasir Mas. Must be picking up few more passengers there. I suppose I have to expect the bus will be going to Tanah Merah and other towns to pick up passengers as well. Meaning we are going to be late even more. Now I know we are not going to reach Kangar at 5.30pm. 

The bus slowly move into Pasir Mas town at 10.49am. Nothing much has change in Pasir Mas. The town where I lepak for almost two years doing nothing. We circumambulate the town to enter the bus station. Surprisingly a lot of traffics. 

Moving out of Pasir Mas I doze off. 

We are entering Tanah Merah and somehow I am awake. The clock tells me it is 12.02pm. We pick up two more passengers at Tanah Merah. I am bored a bit so I move myself to the front to sit watching the road and whatever else happening in front of the bus as it move on. I feel like sitting on the top deck of an open tourist bus with my camera. The ride going through Kelantan inner road. It is scary sometimes as you would see that the road is too small for the bus he he he. In no time we turn into East West Highway and as I expected the driver, in order to make time, drives a bit too fast for a double decker. I have a first class front seat experiencing him maneuver the corners and passing long haul trucks. Interesting as well as a bit scary at times.

At 12.51 pm we approach Bukit Bunga. Bukit Bunga is of course famous for its road-side Thailand’s products shopping area. A lot of cars park by the road side where barang-barang Siam on sale on both sides of the road. Familiar sight for me as I passed this way at least four times already. Really, nothing new to see. Since this is the first time I am doing it by bus I force myself to stay awake a bit ha ha ha. Soon we will be in Jeli.

I always thought Jeli was a one main road town until the bus turn left into a small town at 1.20pm. We stop at the bus station at Jeli town to pick-up more passengers... no, no one actually ha ha ha. Seeing no one board the bus I quickly ask the driver if I can go out to relieve myself. Cannot tahan woo.. All the while I thought there was a restroom onboard. Suddenly few of the passengers are also running behind me for the loo ha ha ha. 
As I walk back to the bus I see the driver smoking beside the bus. 

‘Kita berenti tak mana-mana nanti untuk solat dan makan?’ (Are we stopping anywhere later for prayers and food?)

‘Grik.’ the reply from the driver

It is two hours away from Jeli. I continue to sit at the front seat of the top deck until we start to climb. I feel I have enough of observing the road ahead and getting worried for nothing I walk back to my original seat to sleep. 

At 2.28pm I am nicely awake as we are crossing Tasek Banding bridge. I stay awake from there taking in the picturesque mountain and green around me. I am not that hungry but really looking forward to the rest stop at Grik. Initially I was imagining that the stop would be a Medan Selera type place but when we approach the Grik Baling junction at 3.07pm I know it is not going to be. Police roadblock greets us beyond the junction and few meters after that the bus turn to the left where what it seems a new RnR restaurant. Several Transnasional buses already parked there. For what it worth by the look of the place a new dedicated RnR for them. I do  not expect much. As long as we can say our jamak prayers we are ok. That is the first thing we do while the rest busy eating.

All the food look good and tasty. I pick up few dishes in small portion to start with and I am glad I do that as all of them are too sweet for my taste buds. They are really sweet even by Kelantan standard. 

At 4.00pm we depart Grik moving steadily high above the ground in between hills and terrains towards Sg Petani. The lunch beginning to take an effect on me and slowly close my eyes to sleep.

I am awake again as the bus entering Sungai Petani at 5.45pm. I cannot really figure up where exactly the bus stop but the station is almost deserted and the bus only stop for awhile to let a passenger to disembark. 

I move to the front seat when we are on the highway after Sg Petani for the rest of the journey. The view is quite breathtaking with the evening sun setting across the plain yellowish even more by the paddy fields. The double tracking of the train line is in progress parallel to the highway. Soon I would be able to take a fast or commuter train to Padang Besar. I just wish it is sooner.

At Changlun the driver takes off out of the highway into the inner road, a shortcut to the Changlun - Kuala Perlis highway. The effort is commendable to me but not enough to make time as I am sure we will arrive of schedule. As we enter Kangar the driver stop at the Petronas gas station to fill up for the next day trip back to KB. We can hear the azan from the nearby mosque or surau indicating it is Maghrib. 

The bus pull into Kangar bus station at around 1943. I look around to see what is the best way to Putra Palace Hotel. Of course I would prefer to walk so I ask a lady at one of the express bus counter if I could walk to the hotel. She strongly advises me to take a cab there. Thinking about Sam and our luggage, although not that big, I ask her where I can get a taxi and she points the direction which actually just behind her counter. 

The taxi driver is chatty as any taxi driver in town like Kangar. He shares with us that we are his last fare and he is going home after sending us. He lives with his family somewhere in Padang Besar. Everyday he would leave the house after suboh to start his daily routine. He is getting by with what he makes everyday which I do not ask him to elaborate. 

Once at the hotel we check in and up into our room. Not that really tired but in need of proper food we decide just to pray first and go down for our dinner. We do not want to go any further so we walk into the hotel’s restaurant. Once we are in I like it straight away, primely, because the music duo at one corner of the restaurant is playing old songs especially the Bee Gees. We choose a table nearest to the musicians. Not many people in the house which is fine for us. I order mi goreng and Sam something that I could not remember we enjoy both the food and the music. In fact I start to sing along to the delight of the lady singer. By the look of them and the way they converse they are locals. We chat about our adventure so far and what to expect tomorrow. Our plan is to just lepak at the hotel, check out at noon and go to town for lunch before going to the station. 

After a while Sam feel the need to recover from the long bus trip from the east. We walk up, take our hot bath and kiss each other good night.