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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My FB friends can view photos for Day 6 here

Sunday, May 14, 2017


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

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

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

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

Damnoensaduak Floating Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017


Day 4, April 28, 2013, Saturday - Chatuchak Weekend Market and Bangkok city night

The plan was to have our breakfast delivered to our room a bit early and walk to the MRT to board the earliest train to Chatuchak. Our breakfast, western, was served in our room every morning. You can have a choice of two sets of western breakfast and serve at your preferred time. 

We want to be at the weekend market as early as possible to beat the weekend crowd. Indeed later we found out it was the smart decision.  After our breakfast we walked towards Si Lom MRT station. Not many people waiting and on the train. We were really early and beating the crowd.

When we arrived we knew straight away the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market is really huge. Vendors already were there along the street leading to the market selling their wares. When we walked along and knowing us as foreigners they started with their look, look, see, see and cheap cheap ha ha ha. As we walked towards the market we can feel a huge stream of people joining us. Thousands of visitors/shoppers that comprise of locals and foreigners.  

To visit Chatuchak market you certainly need a strategy. My strategy was simple enough. Beginning with the outer ring walk around to check every outlets until we reach the middle. Ha ha ha ha that is why you need a whole day there. That was what we did and it happen that the outer ring where we entered was where the jeans, denims and dungarees outlets were. The main reason of my strategy was that I wanted to really explore the place and soak everything in. The other strategy was if you like what you see and want it, bargain like hell and pay. Do not wait or think you can come back later. You will never ha ha ha. I did not have anything in particular to buy just to explore and have good experience there. 

When we reached one of the entrances we started to do as planned. We walked exploring the first outer ring walking inside. It was indeed a huge ring ha ha ha. Beginning with the denims and jeans area to t-shirts, leathers, shoes and shirts. I could not remember exactly but I think we managed to walked about three rings and decided to have a rest. It was at about lunch time we were a bit tired already and in need of food. Based on my research of the market there would be a couple of halal stalls and surau to pray. Indeed we found the stalls as we walked out to the middle of the rings. We settled for one a bit inside and we knew we had made the right choice when we tasted the food.  

After we finished our food we sat a bit to rest our tired feet. We talked about coming back to Bangkok in the future and continue of train journey to Chiang Mai.  Chatuchak market would be a definite must visit again and we know how to tackle it the next time.  We also discussed our next plan of action. Since it was already passed zuhor we decided to say our Jamak prayers first before we continue our exploration.

As explained by the guide that I had and explained to us by the food stall owner we walked to find the surau. Indeed it was not that difficult to locate. The surau is behind a blue colored Bank.  Take the alley and the surau will be on your left. 

After we said our prayers we continued walking inside the maze until we decided there were nothing interesting more to explore. As a finale we decided to walk the ringed parameter in the middle and observed from outside. By now there were already a lot of visitors at the market and getting difficult to move around. We decided to call Chatuchak a day and explore another part of Bangkok.

The best way to go to Chatuchak is either by taking the MRT to Chatuchak Park or BTS to Mo Chit stations. Going back to downtown we decided to take the BTS at Mo Chit which was easy enough to find.

We planned to disembark at Siam Centre station and once we were there we embarked on another walking excursion around Bangkok. Being weekend this time around the shopping areas were packed with people. We checked out Siam Centre and Siam Paragon anyway knowing that we did not have anything to buy there. We checked out the latest and biggest shopping mall there and Sam found the best Pulut Mangga and until today she is urging me to go back there for it ha ha ha. The main reason I am going through the shopping complexes there was to find Grand Sport outlets. Nostalgic fool that I am I needed to find this Thailand brand sport shop to buy something as souvenir. Back during our school days Grand Sport was top and most sought after brand among us. Primarily because it was of good quality with good price and secondly due to our association with King’s College of Bangkok. Unfortunately there was not one in the many complexes. 

Below the BTS train track was a skybridge/walkways that run and connecting all the major shopping malls and building around the area. This makes pedestrian life easier to move from one building to another. We leveraged and made full use of the facilities. After the exploration of all the new shopping malls, using the walkway, we walked towards MBK, a shopping mall that used to be the landmark for many tourists from Malaysia. Nothing in particular that we want to buy there just walking around to window shop and observe the malls culture in Bangkok. Apart from that we were going there to have dinner as based on my research there would be halal restaurant and surau there.

Once a while when we were tired we just sat down for a short breather. We did not care if we had to sit on the floor.

MBK was not to our liking as shopping wise you can get whatever there cheaper somewhere else. Thus, our main objective was dinner at Yanna Restaurant. From the directory the food court and where we can find Yanna Restaurant was at the top floor of the mall. Once we were there we straight away got our table and started to explore the menu. It was quite a familiar list that we did not have problem ordering. Not a bad selection. The price range is acceptable. All of us ordered two dishes each thinking it would be in small portion. What came were American size dishes that piled up our table. No worries though. There were too delicious and we were very hungry not to clean them up ha ha ha. Somehow I felt we rushed our dinner ha ha ha.

As we could not locate the surau after few attempts we walked out the mall. Using the elevated walkway we proceeded towards Siam BTS station. As we walked we could see down below a pasar malam like atmosphere and realised, since it was Sunday night, there was Malaysian uptown like sales going on. It was every where along the corridor and five foot pathway. We perked up and excited as that would be the best opportunity to find something unique and special. We walked down and explored.

Indeed you can really find what you want and also what you think you want ha ha ha. I successfully resisted. But it was enjoyable walking along admiring at how innovative, entrepreneurial and determine they were. After a few blocks we had seen enough and walked unto the nearest BTS station and took a train back to Saladaeng station. Of course when we arrived at Saladaeng a full blown uptown was in progress. Again we decided to explore. Knowing  that Patphong Road was nearby I directed my family to the opposite side of the road. Even that I could not avoid the outlets selling things that not supposed to be seen by my family. Mar did ask me about something she saw but I ignored her ha ha ha. Susah nak explain oooooo.

After a while we had enough and walked back to our hotel. Along the way we bought a lot of fruits.

My FB friends can view photos of Day 4 here

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Day 3, April 27, 2013, Saturday - On the train to Bangkok and city of Bangkok

I set my alarm at 5am and duly awake when it went off. Since I had decided the night before to take my normal early morning bath I prepared myself. Taking a bath on the train is easy and fun. The good thing about this express is that one of the toilet has shower bidet. So it was even easier for me. The trick is to have flip-flop, or selipar jepun to us Malaysian, small towel and loose attire. Knowing I had to be quick I still took my time with my bath. There was a small opening above the closed window and I could see still dark morning outside. 

After I said my suboh I changed my cloth and as ready as I was on any normal morning. The only exception today I was sitting in bed watching Thai’s morning passing by and breaking in front of me. I did not know really where we were then but the yellow streaking sunlight breaking over the horizon indicating to me we were close to the sea and it was beautiful morning. A bit further along the journey a picturesque morning was breaking at the horizon courtesy of Allah All mighty and I sat looking out enjoying it. I took few photos and the outcome did not do justice to the actual scene.

My breakfast on the train was a simple bread and coffee. Another art of traveling light. A lot of people asked me this. So travel really light and to me that means packing what really necessary only. For this trip I packed inside my work backpack  a traveling pant, apart from what I was wearing 4 extra dry fit T’s, small towel, kain pelikat, short and enough underwears. Of course traveling accessories and toiletries. I suggest to wear a suitable sandal for this kind of trip unless you are expecting a winter ‘sonata’ he he he.

By now I was really enjoying the journey. After miles of natural landscape slowly the scenery changed to paddy fields, farmland and villages. Although the climate and contour of the earth is similar with Malaysia I found out the landscape is different. I wondered while looking out why is this so. I was looking at the same paddy fields and the same types of shrubs and trees found in Malaysia. But definitely different scenery. It took me awhile and suddenly it struck me that the people and the culture actually shaped the environment and the landscape, even the landscape.  We may have the same type of earth, rivers, contour and crops but the way we treat the land make the difference. 

We arrived at Hua Hin at 6.30am Thai time. Hua Hin is another town along the route that is close by the sea.

My fellow travellers on the train started to wake up one after the other and made a bee line for the washroom and water basin to clean up. To avoid this it is encouraged to do it early like I did. Breakfast was sold on board but it is not advisable for muslim to take. I continued my leisure admiring the scenery outside. Town after town we passed and a change in scenery. The towns started to grow bigger and bigger indicating we are moving closer into Bangkok. By now the attendant started to make up the bed and we were back to the sitting arrangement. However my dear wife persisted a bid longer to enjoy the bed.

We reached Nakorn Patorn station at around 9.25am. Nakorn Patorn is a town I know and visited once before, alas years ago as a 19 year old rugby player. It indicated that we were not that far away from Bangkok. I calculated that we would be in Bangkok about two hours earlier of  the schedule. I checked with the attendant and he confirmed we will be in Bangkok at around 10.30am. 

Then came the first of the several long waits at certain stations. I just do not understand until I saw the many crossings that we had to pass through to Bangkok.

Going into Bangkok on the train slowly means passing some of the backyards of somebody’s home or the slump area of the city. No different from any other cities in Asia. You will see the other part of Bangkok or the other life of Bangkok.

Finally, we arrived safely at Hua Lamphong Station at around 11.20am Bangkok time. It was sort of unexpected to me. Yes the attendant did announce the arrival that the train crawled into the station without much funfare. We excitedly disembarked as finally we were in Bangkok after years of postponement.

We were not tired but vibrant and could not wait to explore Bangkok. Knowing that there was still plenty of time we took our own sweet time at the station acting like tourists taking photos and all. Also, knowing that there were halal food there we decided to have our lunch before we proceeded to our hotel to check in.

Halal stall at the food court would be on your left as you exited into the main waiting and ticketing hall of the station. You have to purchase coupons first to buy the food. Do not worry if you could not used the total amount of the coupons as you can return them for refund. So we ate our first Thai food, especially Pad Thai for the girls, in Thailand. They were different but nice. An indication to us that the food in Thailand are fabulous. 

After our lunch we did not go straight for the MRT station to our hotel but lingered a bit at the station to do a bit of exploration. As I was at their information counter I saw a Bangkok city map on sale and I thought it would be useful addition the the ones that I had already. It was a mistake as I found out in the room later. The map was at best just indication where things are and not at all helpful for travellers like us. So, my advise is do not waste your Baht to buy them. You are much more adequate with whatever you have already. This actually the first sign to me to indicate the other culture of Thailand. In summary train is still one of the major transportation for the Thais. We observed a lot of them buying tickets and waiting to board their trains. The main atrium of the station was full of passengers sitting on the floor waiting. Just like a pasar minggu without the goods in session. We noticed also about three quarters of them are muslims. 

The Hua Lamphon MRT Station is on your left as you exited the station. You are not going to miss it. Our first MRT in Thailand and we were heading for Si Lom station. We bought our tickets from the counter as we were not sure of the fare and how to use the ticket machine. The MRT token to Si Lom was B12 per person  The underground train was as good as what we have in KL. We enjoyed our first ride and definitely excited to be in Bangkok after so many years of planning. Though excited I knew that everyone was still tired either due lack of sleep or because of the long train ride. Being Saturday not many people on the MRT and the ride was smooth. In no time we were at Si Lom station already.

According to the map that I studied our hotel would be about 400 hundred metres  after we turned left at the first junction and I am pretty sure of it. Nevertheless a very helpful tourist guide or police at the exit asked us where we were going. I told him and he duly said just take the left corner at the junction 20 metres from where we stood and the hotel would be a short walk from there. 

Saladaeng (pronounce Saladeng) Colonnade was a hotel apartment that I had booked. The two bed rooms apartment could accommodate all the six of us comfortably. However when we checked in I made a mistake of letting everyone into the small lobby and submitting all the passports. The lady clerk straight away notice the number of us and being a bit of a high end apartment did not allow all of us to check in one apartment. I did not know they were that strict or maybe because of their small lobby and no other entrance making it easy for them to spot us. I asked her what’s our option and of course she said to take another room. Upon checking initially she said unfortunately there was no room available for the next 3 days. So she suggested and asked her bell boy to walk us to the nearest hotels around the area to enquire. I followed with the boys and to cut the story short after three hotels we still could not get a room for the boys. I did not realise it was peak season. When we were back at the Saladaeng the lady clerk rechecked her booking and managed to find a room for us. Alhamdulillah, we got to stay in the same place. So, we took one 2 bedroom apartment that I had paid as well as a deluxe room for the boys. When we entered our apartment I was right in my earlier assessment that the 2 bedroom apartment can comfortably accommodate us. Even the boys’ deluxe room was big enough for all of us. nevertheless, the place was one of the best that I have stayed. The rooms came together with either American or European breakfast that going t0 be served in our rooms. We chose American and when the breakfast was served the next day it could last us until evening. Our two rooms apartment was 307 while the boys at 208. 

While Sam and the girls were taking a bit of rest I started to plan our day. Without thinking I knew I wanted to walk Bangkok straight away and I pour out all the street maps that I have and charted our assault for the day. The plan was to take a BTS to one of the pier at Chao Phraya River and walk the historic sites along the river. My main reference was the Walking Tour of Bangkok guides that I sourced from/through the Net. You can find a lot of these guides online as most backpackers or travellers like me would write and chart the experiences to share. 
Once I was done I waited for awhile to give everyone a bit more rest.

Refreshed we started to walk out of the hotel towards Si Lom BTS station. Si Lom Shopping Complex was just beside the BTS station and in trying to get the feel of how branded things are priced in Thailand we walked into the shopping complex to check out.  We found out the price for branded items were the same if not slightly higher compared to Malaysia. Also we found out there was a supermarket on the ground floor that stocked with our food supply.

We took the BTS train to Saphan Taksin station to get down at the pier of Chao Phraya River to start our walk along the river. When I boarded I immediately saw a group of European with their bicycles. I remarked to one of them 'Can you do this here in Bangkok?' They said yes and they have been doing it since 9 am this morning. I was astonished and said, 'We can never do this in KL.'. Not unless it is a folded folding bikes. So take note to all cyclists, you can take your bike on the BTS Skytrain in Bangkok. They seemed to having fun and seriously not a bad idea touring Bangkok on a bike especially after I knew how was it like walking Bangkok. 

Once at Saphan Taksin we walked down towards the pier and when we arrived there only I realised it was not possible to walk along the river all the way as there was no walkway. We stood at the pier for awhile absorbing the activities around us. 

We turned back and walk through Bangrak Market. Bangrak Market is a mix of everything market. We just passed through without shopping anything in particular. Guided by three maps I led everyone to walk as close as possible along the Chao Phraya.

We walked and walked. The tourist map was quite confusing so I abandoned it for the map I bought in KL. You can misjudged the size of the block on the map here as some of them could be a big block in reality. The main road we were on was Charoenkrung Road and once in while we walked in towards the river and two of such places were Royal Orchid Sheraton and River City. I thought we could take a boat cruise at one of the jetties and I was wrong. There was only a crossing service to the other side. So with that we continued to walk and from the map we were walking towards the Hua Lamphong Train Station where we can get on the MRT back to our hotel.  

It was indeed a long walk especially for my wife and luckily the boys were around to help their mum. Mostly there were nothing much to see as most shops were close. Only a surprise or two along the way. One of them was a very old rundown wood building by the river.

When we arrived at Hua Lamphong we stopped at the food court to buy take aways for dinner. I did not but anything as I planned to buy bread and canned tuna or sardines at either Silom Shopping Complex or the 7-Eleven on our walk back to the hotel apartment. 

When we disembarked from the MRT at Silom we found out a flea market cum pasar malam was every where. We traversed the street looking for good bargains and only later went into Silom Shopping Complex to by our food supplies.

As we were walking along down the street I noticed ‘strange’ objects on sale openly and I tried to shield them from Mar but I was too late. In fact later on, right in front of us a road sign says Patpong Road ha ha ha ha.   

Nevertheless, we went round zigzagging trying to find something nice and interesting to buy. In the end nothing materialised. We walked backed towards our apartments where along the way we bought a lot of fruits. 

Really tired all of us slept early and soundly. Another big exclusion the next day.

My FB friends could view photos of Day 3 here

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Day 2, April 26, 2013, Friday
Penang and Butterworth - Bangkok Express, Coach 9, Berth 8,9,10,11, 12,13

I got up properly when we reached Bukit Mertajam at 6.00am. The journey was a non event so far as I slept through most of the journey. The train will always sway and shake, and those that are not used to it will find it very difficult to be on the train. Let alone to sleep comfortably like me ha ha. I am a veteran I would say as train ride is a second nature to me now. Regardless whether it is a bunk or seat I will just go to sleep if I want to. 

The attendant came around at 6.18am to alert everyone that we will be arriving at Butterworth soon. We were ready. I was more then ready for the Line Clear fish head curry ha ha ha.  We arrived at Butterworth station at 6.29am, on time. The station was still a makeshift one as the new station was still under construction. It has been years and still not completed. I guess it is following KTMB’s planet time schedule as usual he he. Nevertheless, we made do with what we had as the boys went to say their Suboh at the Surau, I used the station’s restroom to clean myself. I came out fresh and ready for Penang. The next thing we need to do was to store our luggage at the station so that we do not have to lug them around Penang. I asked one of the train attendants in the office was there a place we could store our luggage and he said yes and one of the porters at the platform could help us to do it. I waited for a while until I saw the porter walked in. I asked him nicely and he showed us their office and where we could store our luggage at RM3 for a bag. I paid him RM18 for 4 backpacks and two cabin size luggage. With that we walked out of the station towards the ferry terminal about 800 metres away. The walk was taxing for Sam and the boys helped her going up the staircases. On the way to the terminal we witnessed the progress of the construction of the station. I do not like to bet but I can say we are lucky if it is ready by next year. 

The ferry terminal is getting very old and need renovating as well. My observation is that they do not have to do a major one as all they need to improve is the waiting area to make it a bit more comfortable for the users. Although we had enough change with us we still struggled to get in. The attendants duly helped us. The ferry fare was still RM1.20 each for adult and RM0.60 for Mar. We did not have to wait long as the next ferry arrived after few minutes. Once the ferry docked and the gate opened the attendants let the cars in first. It is their logical system so that the pedestrian would not be in the way of the cars moving in to park.  Furthermore pedestrians can walk in to fill in the gap left by the parked cars if necessary. That was actually the case as there were limited seats for us, pedestrians. Clearly their main customers are all kind of transportations and not pedestrians like us. I sure hope the ferry operator knows the value of the service and what it means to their customers. The ferry service is not just a mean of transportation across the strait to Penang island but more than that. 

The name of our ferry is Pulau Payar and that should give someone a clue as to why the ferry service is important and nostalgic to some people. Mar and I stayed standing at the side of the ferry looking out enjoying the breeze blowing against our tired faces. Once in awhile I took a shot at the sea or anything I fancy capturing. The ferry ride ended when we were about to enjoy it. The anticipation of our longest train ride yet brought out the best in us. We seem to be enjoying everything now especially each other company. Traveling together as a family is always the best for me. I am pretty sure the train ride over other country would not be our last and we will take whatever opportunity that we will have to do it.  

We walked across out of Penang ferry terminal. I did not feel that hungry but I know Sam would like to have a light breakfast before we push on to Penang Road. I have only one thing in mind - Line Clear. I would like to have breakfast there. As we walked out under the covered walk-way we stopped at one of the stalls selling kueh. They are the normal kueh-kueh so I did not bother to buy. Sam and others picked up some and Mar started munching one of them. BTW the name of the stall was Pak Ya Kueh. The strange thing is that the name Pak Ya is always associated with people from the east coast. As we walked out of the walk-way I was still thinking on how to go to Penang Road. My options were the cab, bus or walk.

We were standing outside of the covered walk-way thinking what to do next. The town bus terminal was on our right and the taxi stand on our left when a gentleman, the taximan as usual asked us where we would like to go. I in a way ignored them as we had to take two taxis and it would not be fun. The bus is an interesting option but we had to find out the right bus to take. While we were standing there and the rest waiting for my decision a taximan, also a good samaritan, came over and asked us where we were going. I told him so. He explained that we can either take two taxis there at RM10 per taxi, take a bus or to go on the Hop For Free shuttle that was already waiting by the roadside. We thanked him and Hop For Free we went he he he.

The bus pulled out at 7.57 am. The Hop For Free tourist bus took us around the heritage sites around Penang and looped back towards the Jetty. It was an enjoyable ride accompanied most of the time by senior citizens or unties and uncles going and coming back from their morning tai chi or walk. Their happy faces and banters among each other were really refreshing. There were a couple of office workers on board as well at times. 

We disembarked at Chowrasta Market bus stand along Penang Road and walked back towards Line Clear for breakfast. However, when we got there I discovered they do not have Chappati. Its neighbour also did not have chappati for me so we walked back to another mamak restaurant that I knew would have chappati in their menu. I cannot remember the name of the restaurant but it is opposite of Cititel about 20 metres to the right. I ordered my chappati and kopi o. Actually I wanted to have more but with fish head curry waiting at Line Clear I paced myself ha ha ha. We spent a good time there talking and joking what lay ahead of us. Eventually we walked out of the restaurant and up towards Chowrasta area. We were too early for Penang’s shop owners to window shop. With nothing to do and while waiting for Line Clear to really operational we explored the area around the Chowrasta wet market. Interestingly we discovered the unexpected. Unexpected like a Chinese guy selling a fresh four season meat. It was katak my friend and they look delicious ha ha ha. Only RM12 per kg. Several good eating places were also available around the wet market and since we just had our breakfast we just settled for titbits here and there. After awhile we got tired and need a rest. We lepak ourselves at the bench on the five foot pathway. By now I was like a zombie due to lack of sleep and I tried to catch few winks sitting down at the bench. By now the new morning world of Penang took shape in front of us. Street vendors getting very active, shop owners opening their shops for the day. All kind of business from different walks of life. We just stood there admiring and observing them. Their actions indicated to us the time of the day and without looking at our watch we knew it was 10.30am and the fish head curry should be ready soon for us to devour ha ha ha.  

Eventually we walked back towards Line Clear and without missing a beat ordered our fish head curry and our other favourite dishes. We focused ourselves on the food ha ha ha and hingga menghirup kuah kari. As big as the fish head was we finished it effortlessly. Fresh, hot, spicy and super delicious. What can I say I am a sucker for fish head curry. 

We walked out of Line Clear satisfied, at least I was, and clueless as to what we should be doing next. Wandering along Penang Road the obvious hit us. At the bus stop in front of Chowrasta we waited and hopped onto the Hop For Free to the ferry terminal. 

Luck has it, it was the same ferry we took this morning. The weather is getting very hot now and I already could imagine, although short, the unbearable walk to the Butterworth railway station. As we were walking up to the ferry terminal I noticed a Mat Salleh carrying a big and heavy backpack. When I saw the flipper I knew straight away he was carrying a diving gear. The backpack must be really heavy as he was really perspiring and puffing when he arrived at the top. He just drop everything on the bench and walked to the kiosk to buy a bottle of 100Plus. He dried it immediately and, must be to his dismay, soon the ferry arrived.

The plan was to retrieve our luggage, settle ourselves at the surau and wait to board our train at 2.45pm. That what we did as soon as we reached the station. It was Friday except for musafir like us we did not expect anyone else to be at the surau. It was a makeshift surau made of a cargo container. A bit unpleasant with one or two of the fans not working. The boys and I took turn to take our bath at the toilet. I must say the public toilet was not well maintained. It crossed my mind to walk over to the restroom inside the waiting area to take my bath. But it was a bit too far to walk in a sarong.

There was still a lot of time after we said our prayers so we had a short siesta. A good one hour sleep did wonder to my demeanor. I was even more positive about our long impending ride to Bangkok in a short while. We tidied ourselves and left the surau for the waiting area. There were a lot of people already waiting and I thought all of them were fellow riders to Bangkok until an express train arrived from Singapore. I checked the platform and saw our train was already there. I enquired from the attendant and he told me the crew was cleaning the train we will be informed when to board. At least I knew we would be departing on time. There were several Caucasians in the waiting area and I was pretty sure they were going to Bangkok with us including the guy that was carrying the heavy diving gear. He must be going diving in Thailand

We were called to board eventually and everyone was really excited. We walked on the platform with a gait of someone going to collect the biggest prize ever on stage. Oh yes, we were that excited ha ha ha. It was a four coaches orange-purple train with Express Butterworth - Bangkok plague firmly attached on the side of the train. Our joy was almost dashed the moment we boarded when we found out an Indian family was occupying out two of our seats. I double checked and they were indeed at our seats. I asked them for their seats number but there were none and I told them that they were at our seats. They, in Malaysian English, made don’t know of my concern. I asked them where were they going and they told me Padang Besar and only then I realised why they were there. I happened to read this from somebody’s blog before. For the information of those reading this, KTMB to make extra money would also sell tickets for locals travelling between Butterworth and Padang Besar if there were empty seats but their tickets would not be numbered. So the Indian family just picked and choose. Furthermore each seat, before it is turn into bed, is big enough to sit four people each side. Not wanting to spoil our mood and since there were a lot of empty seats and we definitely going to get our seats back at Padang Besar I asked the boys just to sit somewhere.

Feeling tired and still needed to recover some lost sleep I dozed off after we left Bukit Mertajam. I woke up when the train was slowly entering Alor Setar. I knew straight away  that I will be awake until Padang Besar simply because of the breathtaking scenery of vast paddy fields along the way. By now, at 3.28pm,  several of my friends already knew of our adventure after we posted our status and shared few photos. My phone could not stop beeping either of FB replies or Whatsapp queries. A few of them were excited and thinking of doing the same with their family. Of course I fully recommended them to do it but if you do not like train at all better not to do it. If do not like train you would not like train what can I say.

As I predicted I spent most of the journey looking out the window soaking in the view as well as thinking about the adventure the next few days. At times I was asking myself why I could not do what I was doing for a living? Traveling on the train and writing about it. I know certain authors like Palin and Theroux are doing it but I do not want to be just that or at least a little bit different. Maybe different in style or model. Both of them no doubt already famous and their books sell. But me, I need a good business model and point to start. 

When we reached Padang Besar we immediately disembarked to clear the immigration which was on the other side of the platform. You can leave your luggage on the train but make sure you secure them. The process was quick and we did it in few minutes. We had enough maggi and bread on board just to make sure we decided to tapau some food. As advised by the train attendant we went up to the cafe at the station to buy rice and snacks for our dinner for the night. The food were nothing to shout about and if you have better option along the way buy somewhere else. I just wish it was the train in the early 70‘s. For sure you will get to a lot of food sellers on every platforms that we stopped selling their food. The train stopped there for about 30 minutes and we had more then enough time to buy our food. When we boarded the train again both the engine car and the crew had been replaced with the Thailand Railways engine and crew. Soon enough after we boarded the train pulled us out into unfamiliar territory. We left Padang Besar at around 6.30 pm Malaysian time and with that the train took us into Thailand night. Looking out with Thailand getting slowly dark and with the horizon getting red brought certain kind of feeling in me. I thought it was just me until I realised that all of us were a bit quiet. The cool early night maybe or maybe because everyone was thinking of what to expect.  I knew that it would be a short ride from Padang Besar to Hatyai

We arrived at Hatyai at around 7.30pm their time. Immediately our coaches were detached of the engine car and hooked to the Hatyai Bangkok Express making it a 10-12 coaches train to Bangkok. Slowly our fellow passengers to Bangkok fill up the seats making it a full capacity train. The new passengers being still fresh created a vibrant atmosphere inside the train. By now another set of crew came on board and most of them ladies. These ladies started getting busy preparing and I was not sure for what at first but when they were going up and down the isle with a menu only I knew they were there to serve dinner that was pre-ordered by the passengers. Seeing others having dinner we started to unpacked our own and chowed down with vigour even though the food were tasteless.

After dinner the attendant started to make the beds for everyone and we cannot wait for him to do ours. It was not just the beds that we were anxiously required for our tired bodies but also to watch the process of converting the seats into beds. Being very experience at it the attendant took less than five minutes to do ours. With the bed ready we were ready to call it a day. Of course we did what we have to do as a muslim and once done I started to change into my version of a pyjama. The romantic me was telling me not to sleep and to enjoy the train journey as I used to do in Malaysia. My body though said I need a rest and my practical mind agreed as I would be doing a lot of walking when we arrive in Bangkok.

I was warned before about the uneven track at the early stage of the journey after leaving Hadyai. I thought it cannot be any worse than what we had at home.I was wrong! As I was trying to sleep or already in a slumber I was jolted by a lot of rocking and shaking. Quite interesting though ha ha ha. On one of this episode I was awaken to see a beautiful moon up in the sky. It somewhat lit the space outside a bit. I checked my watch and it was 8.54pm. I just stared out a while trying to make a sense of the place. I could make the silhouette of secondary bush and intermittent of patches of low land. After a while I saw a lot of small shiny dots everywhere in the bush. Initially I thought I was seeing a reflection but as I focused my eyes better I instantaneously knew there were fireflies. Straight away my perspective of looking at the scene as a whole changed. With the moon spraying a bit of light on the ground the fireflies flickered like ceremonial lights. Amazing sight.  

I was in a deep sleep most of the journey after the rolling and shaking experience. I woke up to the stillness around me. For a while I thought I was in my bed at home. The train actually was on a platform stopped for quite a while. It was 2.39am very early in the morning. I was initially clueless as to where we were until I saw the sign saying Cumphon. I checked my map and found out it is a town by the sea. I saw on the platform disembarked one Mat Saleh who was carrying a very heavy diving gear from Butterworth. Obviously this is the station for divers going for excursion. After about half an hour waiting the train rolled out of Cumphon at 3.09am. I did not go back to sleep immediately trying to enjoy the night ride. We crossed with an antique train at a small station. I was amazed by that for two reasons. The first was of course the train itself and second the fact that we were on the outside track rather than inside as usual. It was getting really dark outside and nothing much to see so I dozzed off again.

My FB friends could view photos of Day 1 and 2 here