Train – rail journeys

Malaysia’s Jungle Line – (Malacca to) Gemas to Kota Baru by train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 3/4 – late 2017 update

13/10/2017 UPDATE

Talking to a KTMB representative today she told me that this line is open again and has been since repairs finished last year.

24/06/2014 UPDATE

Yesterday I noted an interesting article in the Star newspaper concerning this line. If you are planning a trip, you should check to see if this service is running before committing to travel plans.

However, in case the link disappears, here is the text copied from the Star site above:

Continue reading here.

2015 trip around Bangladesh – 4/4 Srimangal to Dhaka

DAY 6 – SUNDAY

 

Bicycle shop

Bicycle shop

I rented bike for 300 at around 8am and rode across the railway tracks, but I couldn’t follow the Lonely Planet directions for bicycle routes. Never mind. I just rode around, and looked at tea plantations.

one of the main tea companies

one of the main tea companies

off the main road

off the main road

I had some breakfast and seven layer tea at a place I spotted – fully air-conditioned was attractive as I was hot.

this is actually opposite a five star resort hotel

this is actually opposite a five-star resort hotel

another delicious breakfast

another delicious breakfast

seven layer tea

seven layer tea

Continuing on I went a little into the national park a little, but I needed to get back to the hotel to have shower and check out before 12:00 so I started back.

washing

washing

After I checked out of the hotel I went to Noors for lunch, and later wandered down to my friend’s place and waited until he came a few minutes later.

We went by jeep to the seven layer tea place where we talked to some German NGO workers,

seven layer tea again

seven layer tea again

and then to the station, where the train was about 30 minutes late.

the train finally arrives

the train finally arrives

ordinary carriage

ordinary carriage

full carriage this time

full carriage this time

Every seat was taken in my carriage. This time all I could get was second class, so the windows open, but I had an aisle seat so it was hard to photograph anyway. And it was going to be dark in about an hour. The landscape was flat, with tea and rice plantations mainly, so nothing much to photograph. At around 8PM suddenly we had a plague of flying insects.  They didn’t bite, but they bothered us for around the next half hour to an hour.  Presumably these weren’t a problem in first class with the sealed windows.

The train got in to Dhaka after 11PM,  stopping first at the airport station on the way. I guess it was about 30 minutes from there to the main station.

ticket barrier at the station

ticket barrier at the station

All signs were in Bengali, and I didn’t feel like trying to work out the station, so I went to look for a hotel. With the traffic it was hard to cross the road – I was told there was a good hotel opposite the station, but I couldn’t find it. The first hotel I found was Tk600 for a fan room – but it was a miserable room. I went around the corner to the Hotel Tower. It was better.  Air-con, but no hot water. By the time I’d done the Internet and washing it was 2AM.

Hotel Tower

Hotel Tower

DAY 7 -MONDAY

I uploaded some photos – wifi was very good in this hotel. Breakfast next door was delicious.

restaurant

restaurant

dhal and paratha

dhal and paratha

Later I rang Mr I, and he picked me up and we drove around a bit, then went to his office and just hung around and chatted. We went to mall. And after dinner went out to the airport.

flying out of Dhaka

flying out of Dhaka

Some Details:
Bicycle hire – Tk300 per day or part thereof. You just pay the fee – no ID or deposit necessary. They are open from 7.30AM. You can find it on the right side of the road as you walk from the station towards the main Dhaka – Sylhet Road.

Sathrong Restaurant (seven colour tea) – Radhanagar, Bhanugach Road, Sreemangal – 01738980567. It’s about 4 or 5 KM from Sreemangal – an easy mostly flat bike ride.

Hotel Tower – Tk1500 with a-c. Cross the road from the station, turn right, and take the first corner left. It is on the left, about three or four minutes from the station. Not great, but OK if you arrive late at the station. 2/A Kobi Jashim Uddin Road, Kamlapur, Dhaka +88 01705 199840

Malaysia’s Jungle Line – (Malacca to) Gemas to Kota Baru by train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 3/4 – mid-2014 update

 
Find a newer version here: http://tropicalexpat.com/malaysias-jungle-line-gemas-kota-baru-train/

24/06/2014 UPDATE

Yesterday I noted an interesting article in the Star newspaper concerning this line. If you are planning a trip, you should check to see if this service is running before committing to travel plans.

However, in case the link disappears, here is the text copied from the Star site above:

East coast line to undergo repairs

KUALA LIPIS: Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) is expected to close down its 321km Gemas-Gua Musang stretch along the east coast railway to conduct major track repair works soon.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that despite its earlier notice to KTMB ordering its closure on Thursday, he expected KTMB to appeal the decision.

“We have noticed that KTMB has continued to operate despite such risky conditions,” he said.

It was important to stop as the Government had approved RM400mil to im­­prove the current railway track, he said after conducting a joint inspection with KTMB president Datuk Elias Kadir and KTMB chairman Datuk Nawawi Ahmad, senior SPAD officials and KTMB staff along the stretch yesterday.

The major track repair works involving 11 affected areas are expected to take up to two years to complete.

Among the affected parts along the stretch are railway bridges along Kuala Krai and Gua Musang in Kelantan, which face the problem of rotten wooden slippers, as well as soil subsidence and erosion affecting the tracks along Kuala Lipis and Jerantut in Pahang.

It is learnt that 13 minor derailments have occurred on the railway line since 2012.

Syed Hamid said while the notice issued was made in the interest of public safety, a final decision would not be made until KTMB had formally made their appeal.

“We understand KTMB’s situation and their services are a real need. Therefore, their position must be improved from time to time,” he said.

When asked whether the changes in the notice could affect those travelling during the upcoming Hari Raya season, he said the safety of the public remained the biggest priority.

“We have suggested KTMB to provide alternatives as we do not want to risk a big tragedy during the balik kampung rush,” he said.

Admitting their financial shortcomings, Nawawi thanked the Government for approving the allocation, but hoped that SPAD would delay the closure notice.

“We will discuss our appeal during the KTMB board of directors meeting on Thursday and will hand it over to SPAD soon.

“While we are very concerned about the safety aspects of our passengers, we would also need time to adjust to the possible closure,” he said.

—————

Malaysian rail network

Planning:

The plan was to catch a taxi from Malacca to Gemas, have breakfast if time, and then board the train for Wakaf Baru, the station near Kota Baru, where we would spend the night.  There is only one day time train a day, and so if you wish to see the scenery you have no choice but to take it. It only has second class carriages. They are in worse condition than the west coast trains.

Malacca to Gemas.

As there is no train line to Malacca, the branch line having been destroyed during World War 2, and having had no desire to spend the night in Gemas, we found ourselves having to catch a taxi early in the morning to Gemas Station.  There may be a bus, but I wouldn’t reply on being able to get to Gemas on time for the train. And as the train comes from Singapore there is no good train connection from Kuala Lumpur to meet this train.

Google Maps showed the following about the route by road from Malacca to Gemas:

  • Route 1 91.4 km, 1 hour 32 mins
  • Lebuh Amj and Route 1 89.2 km, 1 hour 36 mins N15

The taxi stand in Melaka Sentral quoted us RM140 to Gemas, and a driving time of up to two hours.

The Jungle Line – Gemas to Kota Baru:

Train 14 to Kota Baru [Wakaf Baru] (EKSPRES SINARAN TIMUR  17-Sep-2012 09:38 17-Sep-2012 18:52) is scheduled to depart at 9.38 from Gemas.

The other question is where to alight the train. There is no actual station at Kota Baru. This is what The man in Seat 61 says:

“Which station for Khota Bharu?  The closest station to Khota Bahru is Wakaf Bharu, about 5 km (3 miles) away.  A taxi from Wakaf Bharu to Khota Bharu costs around 12 Ringgits.  However, if you want to travel more cheaply by bus, there’s a better and more frequent bus service from Pasir Mas, 19km from Khota Bharu.  Buses run from Pasir Mas to Khota Bahru every 15-20 minutes from 06:45 to 19:00 from a bus station just 100 metres from Pasir Mas railway station.  If you want to complete the whole train journey to Tumpat, no problem, buses also link Tumpat with Khota Bharu every 45 minutes 06:45-19:30.  Bus information for all these routes is at www.cityliner.com.my, select ‘Kelantan’ then ‘Khota Bharu’ as your location.
Heading into Thailand?  Bus 29 runs every half hour from Khota Bahru bus station near the central market via Pasir Mas to the Thai/Malay border point at Rantau Panjang, fare 5 ringgits (£1), distance 45 km, journey time about 1 hour.  A taxi will cost about 17 ringgits.  Walk across the border from Rantau Panjang (Malay side) to Sungai Kolok (Thai side) and keep walking straight on for 800m to Sungai Kolok Railway station for trains to Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Bangkok. “
As most Malaysian trains do not have a dining car or even trolley service, we brought some food and water which we’d bought in Malacca the night before.
We booked a hotel in Kota Baru in advance as the train was scheduled to arrive around 7PM, which was a little late to be hunting around for a hotel.

The Trip:

We had  a taxi booked for 7AM, as we were told it could take up to two hours.  We were told the going rate was RM140, but were charged RM120 as the hotel managed a discount for us. As the traffic was light, it being a holiday, it took only one hour 20 minutes.

So we had over an hour to explore Gemas and the station, and to breakfast.  Most of Gemas was still closed at 8.20, and there did not appear to be so much to see anyway, but The Curry Point was open, and busy.

a great place for breakfast

We asked for Dosa,and a cup of coffee each, and the dosa was delicious. Cost for both of us, RM5.80.

dosa

Gemas station also has a cafe, but we were too full to even properly look in. It was open by 9AM, though.

Gemas station has a new platform, but all prospective passengers waited on the old platform until the train was shunted in to the new one, and then the way was opened for us to enter the new platform and board the train.

old platform

The main rail line is electrified, but the Jungle line uses diesel locomotives, so changing locomotives took time.  The train was only three carriages long, and they were all second class. Not long after boarding the train it departed, at about 9.45AM.

new platform and train

The point of this trip is to see the wonderful scenery. There is a report by a traveller on the The man in Seat 61 web page, which is what enticed me to make the trip in the first place. But as we continued to travel along the line, what we saw was mainly palm oil plantations, or land that was cleared, presumably for more palm oil plantations.

By 15.00 this had not changed, and we were still passing by the palm oil plantations or the devastated cleared land. This was disappointing.

There was a trolley on the train with snacks and sweet drinks, but no actual food.  It was wheeled through the train a couple of times, but was kept in the last carriage. We were happy we’d brought our own supplies.

At around 15.15 we arrived at Chegar Perah, little suspecting that we would spend the next 2 1/2 hours there. Of course, it was not announced, and even if you ask the conductor you don’t get much of an answer.  Apparently there was some breakdown somewhere up the line, and we were kept in a siding until other trains had passed. It is only a single line, with some sidings along the way for passing.

We amused ourselves watching the cows, goats and hens with their chicks wander past the train. The goats could actually walk on the rails without falling off.

goats walking along the rails at Chegar Perah

We walked around the train. Looked at the cows.

cows crossing the lines to where the grass is greener

There was a shop we found, by watching other people go there, but it wasn’t selling any food or drinks we were interested in.

the siding on the left, and the main line on the right

We got too hot outside and sat in our seats, as the air conditioning was still on.  A couple of trains went past in the opposite direction. We tried to sleep. Eventually around 17.40 the train moved off.

we finally move off

And from now the scenery improved.

At 18.45 we arrived in Gua Musang, and the train shunted into a siding again, and we waited for perhaps 30 minutes while trains passed by going  in the other direction.

It seemed to us that the train controllers had decided our train’s punctuality was a total lost cause, so they might as well make us even later, and keep the trains going south on time. Of course, there was still absolutely no information from the conductor, the driver, or the train company as to what was happening. By now it was almost dark, so we knew we were not going to see the scenery we had ridden the train to see.

Once we finally moved off it was dark and we couldn’t see anything. We stopped at Bukit Abu around 21.04 for about 10 minutes, and then at Kuala Krai at about 22.00, where we shunted again and went backwards and waited for a while. At last, around 23.50 we pulled into Wakaf Baru, five hours late, and with no apology or explanation from any of the train staff.

The locals get picked up by their friends, but there were quite a lot of foreigners, who no doubt wanted taxis, and not many taxis, so we had to hurriedly agree to a fare of RM35 (which probably should have been RM20), for the 10 minute ride to our hotel, or wait perhaps half an hour until the taxis returned and try for a cheaper fare. It was the only time we were cheated on our trip.

Hotels:

Malacca: River Song Residence, 100 Lorong Hang Jebat, Jonkers Street. This hotel/residence is inexpensive, new, clean, and has terraces right on the river, but the best thing is how friendly and helpful the management/staff are. We made a couple of requests, and they were 100% reliable.  In the past I have usually stayed in the Equatorial, which is exponentially more expensive, and a totally different atmosphere, but nice.

view from rear terrace of Melaka River

Kota Baru: Tune Hotel. I wanted to stay in one to see how it was. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the rooms were surprisingly large for the image of the hotel.

Tune Hotel room is quite spacey

Conclusion:

It appears the best scenery is probably from Chegar Perah to about Kuala Krai.  As I missed seeing this due to it being dark I am thinking of taking the day train from Kota Baru next time, and then turning around and catching the train back to Kota Baru once I have seen the best part, or perhaps catching the 17.16 evening Intercity train and seeing most of it before it gets dark. There are other possibilities, too.

Overnight train from Penang-Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur – November 2013 – the trip

I made the booking, and I have just now made the trip, by ferry from George Town to Butterworth, and then the train to KL.

The first thing I noticed is that the taxi fare to the terminal has gone up 33% after the government raised the petrol price about 10%.

The next thing is that the Penang ferry terminal entrance is undergoing some construction work, and it is even less clear how to get to the ferry. You just go straight in the direct of the water, past a few shops, following the path around to the left, and where the path divides, take the left side (where the sign says Masuk = entrance) up to the waiting area.

Take the left side

Take the left side

At that time of night, the sign said there were four ferries operating, arriving at about every 15 or 20 minutes.

waiting area

waiting area

There is WiFi available – Penang Free WiFi, but otherwise it is an un-airconditioned, covered area with some seats. There is no WC.

When the ferry arrives, the passengers disembark, the cars then drive off, the embarking cars drive onto the ferry, and then the passengers catching the ferry are allowed on.

boarding

boarding

There are toilets onboard.

The trip across the water takes about 15 minutes, and passengers are allowed off as soon as the ferry arrives.

about to arrive

about to arrive

It’s about five minutes walk to the station – go straight ahead, and turn right at the end – where the sign says – then follow the path. The station ticket office / waiting room is air-conditioned and clean. It had taken me about one hour from when I caught the taxi in Pulau Tikus to when I arrived at the station.

waiting room and ticket office

waiting room and ticket office

The rest of the area around the ticket office is under construction. I went to the ticket window to find out how to get to the platform.  They are using new platforms, not the ones next to the ticket office. I told the ticket office attendant which train I was on, and she told me the train was departing at 11PM. The web site, and ticket says 10.28, so I said to her that it was going to be late. She said that it arrives at 10.28, so it will not be late.  Interesting definition of late. The toilet in this office is OK.

To reach the platform you have to return to under the stairs which brought you to the ticket office, and there is a track across the rails to the platform. The staff opens the gate about half an hour before the departure and you are free to board the train.

platform at Butterworth station

platforms at Butterworth station

As they are changing the station area I suggest you arrive in plenty of time to find the route to the platform.

the train

the train

I had a look at the other carriages. Here are a few photos.

Second Class sleeper

Second Class sleeper carriage

Second Class sleeper

Second Class sleeper carriage

Second Class berth

Second Class berth

Second Class seats

Second Class seats

Second Class seats

Second Class seats

seats with tables

seats with tables

I was in Coach L3 – which was easy enough to find, as the coaches are in order, and in Place 7A – which means Cabin 7, berth A.

First Class compartment

First Class compartment

 The quality of the facilities and service has deteriorated markedly. In the previous first class sleeper there was an attached bathroom, with shower, basin and toilet. In this cabin there is only a  wash basin. Previously the berths were attached and parallel to the side of the train, but now the berths are across the compartment, so they are shorter and you can’t stretch.  I think the carriage corridor is narrower as a result. On the top berth your head is very near the luggage rack, so if the train had to brake suddenly your head would be hurt. If you remade the bed the other way it would be safer.  I was pleased to discover there were two power points, as I wanted to recharge my phone, but disappointed that they didn’t work.  Anyway, they are high up, so you need a long cord. You used to be given a 500ml bottle of water, and some more or less inedible food, but not any more. During the night it became cold and the blanket wasn’t enough.  A jumper would be a good idea.

The train departed at 11.15, it was a bit of a bumpy ride, and from around 5AM there were annoying but unintelligible announcements about the next stop.  The train arrived on time!! At 6.30AM.

KL

KL

There is a lounge in KL Sentral railway station for first class passengers on the third level, very near the hawker centre. Previously I think it was always open, so I went there to clean up and charge my devices.  But now it seems to open for an hour and a half before a train departure.

waiting room times

waiting room times

I returned later when it was open.  Now it is infested with cockroaches in both the bathroom and lounge, and some mosquitoes are around,too.

VIP room / First Class Waiting Room

VIP room / First Class Waiting Room

There are showers on the bottom level, again with cockroaches.  And nearby, lockers, the smallest and  cheapest being RM5.

lockers

lockers

I went to the ticket office on the second level to book a return journey,but the train was completely booked for the next five days.  So, early booking is advisable.

If you can get a booking – book early –  it is still a reasonable way to travel from Penang to KL, as you save a day travelling by night, and save a night’s hotel costs. It is now worse than in the past, but still OK and quite comfortable.  But, ensure you use the toilet in the station before you board.  Take something to drink onboard, but don’t drink any more than necessary because you really don’t want to use the toilet onboard if you can avoid it.  Have something warm with you, like a jumper. And for safety consider sleeping with your head in the other direction.

Once the line is electrified it should be a much faster trip, and I don’t know if they will still provide a sleeper service. If they do, I hope they have new rolling stock.

You can see more photos on my older blog on the night train.

Overnight train from Penang-Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur – November 2013 – booking

It has been over a year since I last caught a train in Malaysia. When I went to the KTM website – http://www.ktmb.com.my/ I noticed some changes.

There are now only two trains a day to KL, and two back. These are:

Penang-Butterworth to KL Sentral:

Ekspres Rakyat: Departure – 08:00 Arrival -14:00

Senandung Langkawi: Departure – 22:28 Arrival – 06:30

KL Sentral to Penang-Butterworth

Ekspres Rakyat: Departure – 15:50 Arrival – 22:00

Senandung Langkawi: Departure – 21:30 Arrival – 05:30

In my experience they usually arrive about an hour late.

If you wish to book you can click the link on their web page, or this copy:

https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/login.aspx

Note that their website does not necessarily work, so you may have to try several times, or try again later.  Now you can book online up to four hours before departure time. Previously it was two days.  But if you want a sleeper you should book as early as you can, as they often sell out.

I see that there are changes to the first class sleeper compartment configurations. This is snappily named – ADNFB – Premier Night Standard Class. Previously there were two berths in the first class compartments, and a separate bathroom with toilet and shower.  Now it appears to only have a wash basin.  It is cheaper than the previous configuration, with the lower berth costing RM89 and the upper berth RM80. No food is now provided, which is no great loss.

First class sleeper

First class sleeper

There are also second class sleepers (labelled ADNS), and it appears these remain unchanged. If so, the whole carriage is lined on both sides of the aisle with upper and lower berths, with privacy provided by a light curtain. The lower berth costs RM46 and the upper berth RM40. More sociable as you can talk to previous passengers before you turn in.

2clsleep

second class sleeper

Otherwise you can sit up all night. The site is a bit confusing on the price of these seats.  Maybe RM34 for ASC and  maybe RM19 for AEC, but they look similar.

2cl

ASC second class seating

You can see more photos on my blog on the night train.

Well, that’s it. I am all booked.  After the journey I will write it up, and see if anything has changed from last year.

Malaysia’s Jungle Line – (Malacca to) Gemas to Kota Baru by train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 3/4

Malaysian rail network

The latest version:

http://tropicalexpat.com/malaysias-jungle-line-gemas-kota-baru-train/

Update February, 2017

It has been raining a lot and there has been much flooding and thus disruption in these areas.  The text immediately below I copied from…http://www.travel-penang-malaysia.com/ktmb-train-schedule.html

Jungle Line Intercity Trains

Unfortunately the scenic “Jungle Railway Line” in Malaysia has had a lot of disruption over the last year or so.

Firstly, all daytime trains were stopped while much needed maintenance was carried out.

Then massive flooding in the north-east of Malaysia caused major damage to railway tracks and railway bridges.

This repair work is still ongoing, so very few trains are running and none are running all the way.

From the south there is just one train a day that travels as far as Gua Musang.

From the north there are just shuttle trains as far south as Kemubu.

For the latest information we suggest you contact the KTMB call centre on 1-300-88-5862.

End of update.

Planning:

The plan was to catch a taxi from Malacca to Gemas, have breakfast if time, and then board the train for Wakaf Baru, the station near Kota Baru, where we would spend the night.  There is only one day time train a day, and so if you wish to see the scenery you have no choice but to take it. It only has second class carriages. They are in worse condition than the west coast trains.

Malacca to Gemas.

As there is no train line to Malacca, the branch line having been destroyed during World War 2, and having had no desire to spend the night in Gemas, we found ourselves having to catch a taxi early in the morning to Gemas Station.  There may be a bus, but I wouldn’t reply on being able to get to Gemas on time for the train. And as the train comes from Singapore there is no good train connection from Kuala Lumpur to meet this train.

Google Maps showed the following about the route by road from Malacca to Gemas:

  • Route 1 91.4 km, 1 hour 32 mins
  • Lebuh Amj and Route 1 89.2 km, 1 hour 36 mins N15

The taxi stand in Melaka Sentral quoted us RM140 to Gemas, and a driving time of up to two hours.

The Jungle Line – Gemas to Kota Baru:

Train 14 to Kota Baru [Wakaf Baru] (EKSPRES SINARAN TIMUR  17-Sep-2012 09:38 17-Sep-2012 18:52) is scheduled to depart at 9.38 from Gemas.

The other question is where to alight the train. There is no actual station at Kota Baru. This is what The man in Seat 61 says:

“Which station for Khota Bharu?  The closest station to Khota Bahru is Wakaf Bharu, about 5 km (3 miles) away.  A taxi from Wakaf Bharu to Khota Bharu costs around 12 Ringgits.  However, if you want to travel more cheaply by bus, there’s a better and more frequent bus service from Pasir Mas, 19km from Khota Bharu.  Buses run from Pasir Mas to Khota Bahru every 15-20 minutes from 06:45 to 19:00 from a bus station just 100 metres from Pasir Mas railway station.  If you want to complete the whole train journey to Tumpat, no problem, buses also link Tumpat with Khota Bharu every 45 minutes 06:45-19:30.  Bus information for all these routes is at www.cityliner.com.my, select ‘Kelantan’ then ‘Khota Bharu’ as your location.
Heading into Thailand?  Bus 29 runs every half hour from Khota Bahru bus station near the central market via Pasir Mas to the Thai/Malay border point at Rantau Panjang, fare 5 ringgits (£1), distance 45 km, journey time about 1 hour.  A taxi will cost about 17 ringgits.  Walk across the border from Rantau Panjang (Malay side) to Sungai Kolok (Thai side) and keep walking straight on for 800m to Sungai Kolok Railway station for trains to Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Bangkok. “
As most Malaysian trains do not have a dining car or even trolley service, we brought some food and water which we’d bought in Malacca the night before.
We booked a hotel in Kota Baru in advance as the train was scheduled to arrive around 7PM, which was a little late to be hunting around for a hotel.

The Trip:

We had  a taxi booked for 7AM, as we were told it could take up to two hours.  We were told the going rate was RM140, but were charged RM120 as the hotel managed a discount for us. As the traffic was light, it being a holiday, it took only one hour 20 minutes.

So we had over an hour to explore Gemas and the station, and to breakfast.  Most of Gemas was still closed at 8.20, and there did not appear to be so much to see anyway, but The Curry Point was open, and busy.

a great place for breakfast

We asked for Dosa,and a cup of coffee each, and the dosa was delicious. Cost for both of us, RM5.80.

dosa

Gemas station also has a cafe, but we were too full to even properly look in. It was open by 9AM, though.

Gemas station has a new platform, but all prospective passengers waited on the old platform until the train was shunted in to the new one, and then the way was opened for us to enter the new platform and board the train.

old platform

The main rail line is electrified, but the Jungle line uses diesel locomotives, so changing locomotives took time.  The train was only three carriages long, and they were all second class. Not long after boarding the train it departed, at about 9.45AM.

new platform and train

The point of this trip is to see the wonderful scenery. There is a report by a traveller on the The man in Seat 61 web page, which is what enticed me to make the trip in the first place. But as we continued to travel along the line, what we saw was mainly palm oil plantations, or land that was cleared, presumably for more palm oil plantations.

By 15.00 this had not changed, and we were still passing by the palm oil plantations or the devastated cleared land. This was disappointing.

There was a trolley on the train with snacks and sweet drinks, but no actual food.  It was wheeled through the train a couple of times, but was kept in the last carriage. We were happy we’d brought our own supplies.

At around 15.15 we arrived at Chegar Perah, little suspecting that we would spend the next 2 1/2 hours there. Of course, it was not announced, and even if you ask the conductor you don’t get much of an answer.  Apparently there was some breakdown somewhere up the line, and we were kept in a siding until other trains had passed. It is only a single line, with some sidings along the way for passing.

We amused ourselves watching the cows, goats and hens with their chicks wander past the train. The goats could actually walk on the rails without falling off.

goats walking along the rails at Chegar Perah

We walked around the train. Looked at the cows.

cows crossing the lines to where the grass is greener

There was a shop we found, by watching other people go there, but it wasn’t selling any food or drinks we were interested in.

the siding on the left, and the main line on the right

We got too hot outside and sat in our seats, as the air conditioning was still on.  A couple of trains went past in the opposite direction. We tried to sleep. Eventually around 17.40 the train moved off.

we finally move off

And from now the scenery improved.

At 18.45 we arrived in Gua Musang, and the train shunted into a siding again, and we waited for perhaps 30 minutes while trains passed by going  in the other direction.

It seemed to us that the train controllers had decided our train’s punctuality was a total lost cause, so they might as well make us even later, and keep the trains going south on time. Of course, there was still absolutely no information from the conductor, the driver, or the train company as to what was happening. By now it was almost dark, so we knew we were not going to see the scenery we had ridden the train to see.

Once we finally moved off it was dark and we couldn’t see anything. We stopped at Bukit Abu around 21.04 for about 10 minutes, and then at Kuala Krai at about 22.00, where we shunted again and went backwards and waited for a while. At last, around 23.50 we pulled into Wakaf Baru, five hours late, and with no apology or explanation from any of the train staff.

The locals get picked up by their friends, but there were quite a lot of foreigners, who no doubt wanted taxis, and not many taxis, so we had to hurriedly agree to a fare of RM35 (which probably should have been RM20), for the 10 minute ride to our hotel, or wait perhaps half an hour until the taxis returned and try for a cheaper fare. It was the only time we were cheated on our trip.

Hotels:

Malacca: River Song Residence, 100 Lorong Hang Jebat, Jonkers Street. This hotel/residence is inexpensive, new, clean, and has terraces right on the river, but the best thing is how friendly and helpful the management/staff are. We made a couple of requests, and they were 100% reliable.  In the past I have usually stayed in the Equatorial, which is exponentially more expensive, and a totally different atmosphere, but nice.

view from rear terrace of Melaka River

Kota Baru: Tune Hotel. I wanted to stay in one to see how it was. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the rooms were surprisingly large for the image of the hotel.

Tune Hotel room is quite spacey

Conclusion:

It appears the best scenery is probably from Chegar Perah to about Kuala Krai.  As I missed seeing this due to it being dark I am thinking of taking the day train from Kota Baru next time, and then turning around and catching the train back to Kota Baru once I have seen the best part, or perhaps catching the 17.16 evening Intercity train and seeing most of it before it gets dark. There are other possibilities, too.

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by night train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 1/4

Malaysian rail network

After a full Saturday, it was time to start the adventure.  A 9 PM taxi to the ferry terminal, and then the short ferry ride over to Butterworth, and short stroll to the station  meant I was over an hour too early for the 11PM train to Kuala Lumpur.  I love the romance of night trains, the sound of the train on the tracks, the dimly lit stations one passes through…

But this is supposed to be a “how to” blog, so some information… The ferries run until about 12.30 am, and at 9.20 PM the ferry was crowded, which was reassuring, as the Internet was correct about the ferries still running at this time.

Continue reading on my new site: http://tropicalexpat.com/penang-to-kuala-lumpur-by-night-train-aka-circling-malaysia-by-rail-mostly-1-4/