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.