On the last day of my stay in Malaysia, I wanted to try to visit a small town in 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 of 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 an ocher robe walked up to me and talked in Chinese or Malaysian language to me, trying to force a charm and 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 for a donation to each of them and was refused one after another. I guessed he should be a fake priest. It was the 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 the 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 Lumpur.
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.
They are the 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.
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 kinds of smells was in the air in JB, Gemas, and every city in Malaysia.
Make of most cars there was Proton, a Malaysian carmaker, 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.
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.
That train was older and dirtier than the northbound train. Some of the 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 the 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 the building there were immigration counters in charge of passport control of Singapore. We had to fill out a disembarkation card, hand in it 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 were 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 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.
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 the Singapore terminal at about 9:40 pm, keeping 30 minutes delay from a regular schedule.
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 the Tokyo station should be like this.