Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Malaysia Day 10

My original intention was to get the ferry from Georgetown across the water to Butterworth where we would catch the 8.00 express train to KL. Had a train left a little later, I would have continued with this plan but getting there by eight by ferry could be a struggle, so I enquired at the concierge desk about a taxi. I was only asking but he took it upon himself to arrange it. I let him go ahead. I told him we wanted to be at the station by 7.30. 'It is a one hour trip in the taxi Sir. He will be here at 6.30. The fare will be MR90.' Wow, that is a bit steep, we thought. Our six hour train trip is less that MR50 each. What to do? Take our chances on getting our own cab? No, the foreigners will pay.

We were packed, showered and downstairs a bit after six, hoping the breakfast room would at least have something out to eat, even though it didn't open until 6.30. 'Your taxi is here Sir'. So we left early and had quite a bit of time to kill at the station, especially as the trip took thirty minutes, about what I thought, rather than the hour suggested. Then, in spite of the driver knowing we were catching a train, he dropped us at a the bus terminal and told us how to get to the station. There may have been a reason we had to walk so far, lug our cases upstairs and down when there was space, private cars and a taxi at what is the temporary Butterworth Station, but I could not see one. We were really feeling quite cheated. A thirty dollar cab fare is really getting up there.  We subsequently learnt that taxi drivers are very reluctant to go from Penang to Butterworth, so perhaps the steep fare was an 'encouragement'. The quicker they enforce the meter only rule in Penang, the better.

The train, Ekspress Rakyat, did make a few stops, especially early in the trip and a few locals as well as a group of school kids used the train. Obviously not in first class though. The car journey between Penang and KL takes about three hours, slightly longer by express road coach, but the train takes six hours and that is the fastest. Trains leaving at other times take even longer. We already knew this, but I do enjoy a distance train trip. Even R has found trains to be a very pleasant way to travel.

Our engine is getting up a head of steam before beginning its journey. Kidding, our train was diesel electric. This one is destined for a museum I suppose.

Now it is not quite first class by our standard and although quite old, the train was comfortable enough. R's seat back was broken, so we moved to the seats behind. When the conductor arrived, he moved us to unbooked seats with better views from the larger windows. 

I think our train was originating at Butterworth, but often the train travels from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and on to Singapore. One commuter put his seat back down and quickly fell asleep. We departed ten minutes late.

The dining car. The food was as expected, edible but pretty ordinary, but we were pleased to get something to eat and coffee. The train was very cool inside, a little too cool at times, even for me. After lunch we were back to our seats and I started feeling hot. I was getting uncomfortable. Can't the air con cope with the heat in the middle of the day? Shortly before we arrived at KL Sentral, a wave of cool air flowed through the train. Clearly the air con had been switched off for a couple of hours.

 Look, new infrastructure, miles and miles of it.

 And electrification, miles and miles of it.

I had noticed we were climbing and the train was travelling very slowly through the jungle. I suspect the track was quite old and there was a speed restriction. At times out the window I spied some brand new track running along the floor of the valley below.

 Waiting no doubt for Aussies steel rails, made in China.

Yes, straight out onto the tracks. The toilet wasn't nearly as bad as it looks. Clearly the western bowl had been placed over the top of a squat toilet.

The entrance and exit was almost at the end of the carriage and the toilet and conductors office beyond. Here in this area people could stand and smoke. Although there was an ashtray, no one seemed to use it. Quite good fun standing at the open door at over 100 km/h. Believe me though, I did hang on.

Looking out from the back of the train. Some people are interested in railway gauges, that is the gap between the rails. One source tells me one metre and another standard gauge, 1.435 metres. I'll go for the metre gauge as the gauge looked narrow to me.

There were train graveyard sidings along the way. The trains were in extreme disrepair but I noted that they all still seemed to have their air conditioning units intact.

Ipoh.....hmm, rings a bell. Ah yes, Melburnian VIP Jane Clifton lived there for part of her childhood.

After Ipoh the train really sped up. The tracks were new and the line had been electrified, but of course we were still on diesel. We slowed to a crawl as we approached KL. Obviously there was another train in front of us. We arrived about fifteen minutes late.

We were already quite familiar with KL Sentral. We went to the taxi counter and bought vouchers to get to our hotel. I think it would have been quicker to use the monorail but there were too many stairs for us with suitcases along with decent walks at both ends.

We checked into our hotel, same floor but a different room and Manny collected us later and took us to a Thai seafood barbeque outdoor restaurant for dinner. More shell fish to crack and noodles to eat.

Next morning Manny picked us up at 10.00 and drove us to the airport and joined us for a last cup of coffee. Check in was pleasurable, something I can't say about Australian airports, especially Melbourne's. We departed on time and arrived back to Melbourne on time at 11.30 pm and the airport was quiet and we were fairly quickly through.

So that is pretty well a wrap for our Malaysian holiday. I will write a bit of a summary or something later.


  1. Hi gay men. Don't be shy. The Babs Striesand award is a killer. Alexander the Great was never straight, King Kong was a gay gorilla.

    So hark old queens be cheery throw open the door hit the floor show your maiden aunt your thong call her dearie.

  2. Great effort old boy, great series.

  3. I loved the trains in Europe that had the open door bits, it's a bit exhilarating standing by them as you belt along!

  4. Ta RH.

    Fen, there is also a sense of camaraderie in the open area.

  5. Yeah you're right, I guess there's that element of trust that no one is going to push you out the open door!

  6. oh Fen.
    Thanks Highriser, although I didn't need to read all that to know NEVER GO THERE.
    The air-con 'Off' trick is so very very Malaysian-sneaky.
    so glad you got back safely

  7. At the time it didn't seem to me that you were away for ten days. Your absence seemed shorter to me.

    Your reports brought back memories of my own visit to KL and Penang in the 1980s.

    Very interesting.

  8. Ann, what happens underneath the superficial is of great concern, but for visitors it a good place for a holiday.

    Thanks Victor. It was actually eleven days but it did pass very quickly for us. I recall you once saying you had been there.

  9. New infrastructure! Electrification!
    Australia, please take note...

    It seems like a much longer holiday than ten-eleven days, you did so much, saw so much.
    My holiday was very different.
    There were so many days when I didn't even leave the flat.

  10. River, I am somewhat envious of you. I have forgotten how to sit and read a book for a few hours. Aren't some holidays about doing very little?

  11. I know you had a great time Andrew but were you a little bit pleased to get home? Now you'll have to acclimatize to the cold weather again for a while. Was your new aircon a reverse cycle? I did enjoy your train journey, I love train travel, loved the trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris, especially as they bumped us up to first class at no extra cost! I wonder where you'll be off to next.

  12. Very pleased to be home Grace. I always am. The cold does not really worry me, but heat does. Yes, the air con is reverse cycle. It is our heating. The train trip was great. What did you have to do to get a Eurostar upgrade? The train is amazing but then a couple of years later, I thought Japan's Shinkansen was better.

  13. Hi Andrew,
    Loved reading all about your holiday. I was there also in the 80's and it was good to think back about all the places I'd forgotten about. Welcome back to reality!

  14. Thanks Rob. I expect the place has changed rather a lot.