Traveling 旅行 Yuki's Diary 日記

Rail travel in Malaysia

On the last day of my stay in Malaysia I wanted to try to visit a small town of Malaysia accessible by train. I thought that Gemas, Negeri Sembilan was the most appropriate town to visit for a one-day trip.
I checked out the hotel one hour before the train departure time (9:02 am) and asked the taxi cab parked in front of the hotel to send me to KTM JB station.
The waiting room of JB station was a bit dirty, and only a few people were waiting for the train. While sitting on a bench to wait for the train, a priest-looking man with ocher robe walked up to me and talked in Chinese or Malaysian language to me, trying to force a charm and a prayer beads upon me. I told him that I couldn't understand what he said because I didn't speak Malaysian. He then switched the language into English and said, "Doe-neh-sen, doe-neh-sen." I understood that he was saying "donation," so I refused it. He moved out of the waiting room and went somewhere else.
Half an hour later, quite a few passengers gathered in the waiting room. Then the priest came back, and asked a donation to each of them and was refused one after another. I guessed he should be a fake priest. It was only morning and my feelings were hurt by him.
About fifteen minutes before the departure time the boarding gate was open. We had my ticket punched and was allowed to get out to the platform. The rail had a 1000mm gauge, a little narrower than that of Japan Railway. As far as I could see, it had almost the same width as JR's rails, though. All the operation section is single-track, and non-electrified except certain sections in Kuala Lunpur.
KTM Johor Bahru station platform
No sooner had I get out to the platform than a train came in.
Ekspres Rakyat train
It was Express Rakyat, which had departed Singapore early in the morning and was to Butterworth late at night via Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. A diesel locomotive was pulling coaches.
Ekspres Rakyat
Inside view of a coach. Seats were hard like a bench and windows were dirty, just like a Japanese old train. Oops! It's not a coach, it's a dining car.
Ekspres Rakyat
A coach was like this. It was much cleaner with soft seats and a LCD TV equipped on a wall, which displayed a movie while driving non-stop sections.

The train departed JB at 9:02 am, just on time. It stopped at Kempas Baru and Kulai, and ran for about an hour and stopped at Kluang. After departing Kluang it drove for almost two hours before stopping at Segamat. Every station was simple.
View from the window of KTM
View from the window of KTM
View from the window of KTM
View from the window of KTM
View from the window of KTM
It's views from the train, which sped across jungles where palm trees, cycad trees and other trees of tropical rain forest were growing in colonies.
Several minutes past twelve noon the train arrived at Gemas.
KTM Gemas station KTM Gemas station
KTM Gemas station KTM Gemas station
Gemas was an important intersection of two major lines of KTM so it was a large-scale station. The station building was as simple as any other station, though.
At the moment when I got off to the platform a stinky smell attacked me. It stank just like a dustcart collecting garbages. All the town was covered with such a smell. I don't want to say that, but such kind of smells were in the air in JB, Gemas and every city in Malaysia.
Street of Gemas
Street of Gemas
Street of Gemas
Street of Gemas
Ministry of Transport Malaysia

They're the streets of Gemas. I don't want to complain, but buildings were old, roads were partly broken with no sidewalks nor traffic signals. You have to cross the street just looking right and left and making sure no cars are coming. Trucks were running emitting much exhaust, just like trucks of an old age in Japan.
A make of most cars there was Proton, a Malaysian car maker, but most of them were what I'd ever seen before. I guessed that abandoned cars in Japan had been brought to Malaysia and just replaced brand tags into Proton. Seeing that such old cars can drive on the roads much worse than those in Japan, maybe cars can be useful much longer than we expect.
Post office
A post office. I couln't see if it was open.
Telekom Malaysia building
A Telekom Malaysia building.
Telekom Malaysia working car
A working car in front of the building. A ladder and other equipment were almost the same as those of NTT.
Elementary school for Chinese Malaysians
An elementary school for Chinese Malaysian pupils. I heard every ethnic group in Malaysia had different education in different schools.
Street of Gemas
A playground.
Islamic building in Gemas
An Islam building. At first I thought it was a religious facility but there were restaurants inside.
Sekolah kebangsaan Gemas
A national school.
I wanted to eat nasi goreng in Malaysia. I tried to look for it in Gemas and at last I found it at a restaurant. It looked comparably clean.
A restoran of Gemas
Nasi goreng
It's nasi goreng, costed three Ringgit. It tasted spicy, but good. It was enough to satisfy me.
Gemas station departure platform
Although the train for Singapore was to depart at 5 pm, it came in delaying 30 minutes from regular schedule. It would be natural in Malaysia seeing that nobody looked irritated.
Ekspres Rakyat train to Singapore
That train was older and dirtier than the northbound train. Some of tables were broken and the picture on the LCD screen was sometimes blurred. Because I was assigned a seat of a coach just behind the diesel locomotive, I was forced to inhale exhaust it emitted and my throat was hurt by that.
When the train stopped at Kulai, I saw it stopped just beside the platform, then suddenly reversed a little, then it moved forward again and it stopped at a track a little away from the platform. Probably it was supposed to stop to let an oncoming train go, but a pointsman at first mistakenly switched the train. I wonder if such mistakes would be Malaysian.
At about 8:30 pm, the train arrived at Johor Bahru, stopping for a while for passport control by immigration officers coming onto the train. They checked each passenger's passport, took away a disembarkation card of Malaysia, and signed with a red pen on a visas page of the passport. It meant that we departed Malaysia. An immigration office was in the station building. Passengers from JB were to have passport control in the office as well.
About ten minutes later everybody's passport control was complete and all passengers from JB got aboard as well. Then the train moved again, crossed Causeway, and stopped at Woodlands Checkpoint, where everybody was forced to get off with luggage. When we entered into the building there were immigration counters in charge of passport control of Singapore. We had to fill out a disembarkation card, hand it in to the officer in the booth along with a passport, and had the visas page of the passport stamped for entry. Every sign in the building was written in English, and scents in the air was as floral as in Changi Airport, in contrast with the garbage smell in Malaysia. The officer smiled at me when she invited me, unlike immigration officers in anywhere else.
After finishing immigration, we had our luggage screened and cleared customs, and then we had to wait in a wide waiting room until the train got ready.
Woodlands immigration
Woodlands immigration
Note: if you'd like to stop riding a train and get out to city in Singapore, you can get out from the way out on right. Once you get out you can never come back again.
At 9:10 pm, the boarding gate was open. We got on the train and it moved again. Views from here were quite different from those until a short while ago. Everything was organised. Cars driving on the streets looked clean. Buses on the streets looked up-to-date. Everything looked bright for me.
Running for 20 minutes or so, the train arrived at Singapore terminal at about 9:40 pm, keeping 30 minutes delay from a regular schedule.
Singapore station
Singapore station
Singapore station
The station building was gorgeous, just right for an opening gate to the Malay Peninsula and Bangkok. On the contrary, stations in Japan are, even in Tokyo station, look poorly, too commercialised. I hope at least Tokyo station should be like this.

By Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi