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 agoda.com 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.

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