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.
No sooner had I get out to the platform than a train came in.
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.
Inside view of a coach. The seats were hard like a bench, and the windows were dirty, just like a Japanese old train. Oops! It’s not a coach; it’s a dining car.
A coach was like this. It was much cleaner with soft seats and an 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.
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.
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 kinds of smells were in the air in JB, Gemas, and every city in Malaysia.
On the third day of this trip, I went to Malaysia.
I exchanged my own 100USD bill into Malaysian Ringgit at a money changer in Orchard. The 100USD became 299 Ringgits.
I went to Woodlands by MRT to catch an SMRT950 bus, which would cross Causeway and go to Johor Bahru. Crossing Causeway on foot was possible so far, but now it’s forbidden.
People waiting in line at the dusky bus stop were, in comparison with other places of Singapore, in a weird mood.
After waiting dozens of minutes, a bus for Johor Bahru came. You can pay the fare by tapping your EZ-Link card. There were very crowded people on the bus. I’m afraid that, because I had such large luggage, it probably disturbed other people.
The bus passed MRT Marsiling station and then it was about to cross Causeway, but I couldn’t see outside very well because other people were packed on that bus.
Before crossing Causeway, the bus stopped, and every passenger, including me, was forced to get out of it to pass the immigration. After going upstairs to the building, there were immigration counters in charge of departing Singapore. The disembarkation card I had kept since Changi Airport was taken away, and a departing stamp was stamped on a visas page of my passport.
After clearing the immigration, I was caught by a woman with a hood on her head and asked me to fill out a survey for me. I accepted her request because I had enough time and I saw she had a validly authorised ID card. I was asked some questions, like airline name coming to Singapore, nights of stay, the amount spent per day, impression for Singapore. After the survey, a little strap was given to me.
I went downstairs and saw the bus stop. The SMRT950 bus was already gone, but the next bus came soon, and I got into it. That bus had fewer people than the previous one. While onboard, I tapped my EZ-Link card here as well.
I took a picture of the view from the bus crossing Causeway. I couldn’t find where the national border was. All I saw was the sign saying “Welcome to Malaysia” in the middle of the bridge. After crossing Causeway, the bus stopped again, and every passenger had to get off to have Malaysian immigration. Going upstairs as I did at Woodlands, I saw there were immigration counters of Malaysia. I filled out an immigration card behind the booths, handed in it to an immigration officer along with my passport, and had my passport stamped a Malaysian immigration stamp. At last, my immigration process was complete.
I made up my mind to keep going by bus, though taking a taxi to KTM Johor Bahru station was also available. SMRT950 bus would’ve taken me to Kotaraya bus terminus, but I decided to take another bus coming earliest because I had to wait for a long time to catch SMRT950. Most of them would go to Larkin bus terminus instead of Kotaraya, but buses going to Larking was more popular.
The bus came first was Singapore-Johor Express from Bugis and was air-conditioned and enough vacant seats. However, the EZ-Link card was no longer available, and I paid one Ringgit cash instead.
The bus ran on a wide road like an expressway for a while and arrived at Larkin bus terminus.
When the bus arrived, dirty-looking pimps-like people came around the bus, and they started asking us to take their taxis. I was frightened from the very beginning of the travel to Johor Bahru. Although they did nothing as long as I ignored, I felt I’ve come to the very place I least wanted to come, seeing many pimps around the bus stop and fierce-looking men walking boringly around there. Nevertheless, I got used to that mysterious situation after being there for an hour. The pimps didn’t follow me any longer once I said no to them. There was a police station in the terminus so I could rush into it if they attacked me.
Once I got used to it, I walked in the terminal building. Dirty-looking newsstands, markets, and mobile phone shops were crammed into the building with a stinky smell. I wanted to buy some pictured postcards if there was a souvenir shop, but no such shop was in that building.
Of course, I first dropped in on a mobile phone shop. I got a DiGi Prepaid SIM card for 10 Ringgit and had it activated there.
The building was a two-storey high. Mobile phone shops and newsstands were on the ground floor, and a Seven-Eleven convenience store and clothing shops were above.
I completely lost my way in Johor Bahru, so I was afraid that if I took a taxi to the hotel, I was gonna stay the taxi driver would charge me an unreasonable price. But I had no other way. I went to a taxi stand where red taxi cabs were because the red cabs seemed to be authorised. I asked a driver out of the taxis how much it cost to Thistle Hotel, where I was going to stay that night, and the driver answered he didn’t know where the hotel was. Then I caught the next taxi driver as well. He understood it, so I got into it. The cab arrived at the Thistle Hotel for ten minutes or so, for about 6.1 Ringgit. I didn’t know if it was reasonable because I didn’t know how much it should be. Probably it was acceptable because the taximeter seemed to work well and 6.1 Ringgit was equivalent to just 200 JPY or so.
Thistle Hotel is a British-capitalised hotel located in various places worldwide.
It’s the view from the hotel room. You’ll see typical Malaysian houses.
I went out of the hotel to see a downtown area before dark. Af first I walked Jalan Sungai Chat, where the hotel was on, then turned left on Jalan Abu Bakar. JB was a pedestrian-hostile city as well as I heard. There were no sidewalks or had broken one too poor-maintained to walk on.
I’m going on a trip to Singapore and Malaysia until next Thursday because we have the “Silver Week” in Japan, with two national holidays (next Monday and Thursday) and three days of leave. For me, this is this year’s second trip to foreign countries. As I have 20,000 miles of United Airlines’ frequent flyer program, I can get a round-trip ticket from Japan to South Asia. I chose Singapore because Singapore is the country where I enjoyed six years ago, and I have looked forward to visiting again. This time, I’m going to visit Johor Bahru and another city in Malaysia because they are close to Singapore and maybe I can have easy access to those cities.
I’ll bring unlocked iPhone bought from Hong Kong other than regular cell phones I use daily, to use it at cheaper costs by replacing Softbank’s SIM card I always use in Japan with prepaid SIM cards I’ll get at destination countries. Skype is installed on the iPhone so that I can receive calls at any time regardless of countries I’ll be in, even if a phone number will be frequently changed.
United 803 to Singapore
The plane departed Narita at 1735 and arrived at SIN at 2330. It was earlier than scheduled. Seven hours’ flight in the economy seat of United Airlines was kind of tough, and I had severe back pain when I got off 🙁