Saturday, March 22, 2008

From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok : Tales of Day 2

9th March 2008, the day Malaysia changed. It was also the day when Penang got its first ever King, DYMM King Jasni AJ, installed exactly on his 45th birthday.

What a wishful thinking, but it does not deter me from donning the crown on my birthday and declare myself as the King of Penang for that special day. By sheer co-incidence, it was here in Penang where I was born some 45 years ago (you don't have to be math genius to figure this out as I have told you that it's my 45th birthday!). So basically, I was at the right place and at the right time to celebrate my one and only 45th birthday.

Though I'm just jesting and strictly just for a laugh, I sincerely hope that I have not offended anyone with the self-proclaiming as Penang's new King as from the last time I checked, the state is still without a royal ruler hence there is absolutely no Penang royal family.

And my first royal chore of the day was to pay a visit together with the new royal family to Butterworth Railway Station.

You may ask, why the Railway Station and not the Airport? Well, we were there to board the Thai State Railway's Butterworth - Bangkok Express Service.

Yes, we're getting to Bangkok by train and not by plane! A journey that would only take about 1 and a half hours if taken through a flight from Penang will now be a trip of some 20 hours trekking the padi fields of Kedah and Perlis as well as those in southern territories of Thailand and all the way up to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.

It was also a sentimental trip as I had taken the same train before, some 18 years ago, for my first ever visit to Bangkok with a bunch of friends, all of whom were OKUs of the Armed Forces.

So basically, as this visit to Bangkok would be the first ever visit there by the rest of my family members, I thought it would be nice to relive the excitement and experience I once had when taking the train trip to Bangkok then.

The fare was not cheap, that's if you're wondering, as it would cost more or less the same if you're to take an Airasia flight to Bangkok (provided that you can get the zero fare promotional tickets, that is).

If you're still wondering, well the fare is approximately RM100 for each passengers one way. Not cheap right, for a train ride, but it does have its own charm that would be registered in your mind for a long long time.

And the coach was not bad too. Fully air-conditioned, it was two seats facing each other with a table in between to allow us to play chess and scrabbles as as for having meals, each seat for a passenger. A seat that could comfortably seat two passengers.

Come evening, the seating arrangement changed when the personnel in charge start converting the seats to sleeping berths. One lower and one upper making them simply just comfy for a nice and good night sleep.

But something went amiss, something very wrong that had made me thinking that I had made a grave mistake by choosing to take the train ride instead of a flight.

These two pictures tell everything. Yes, you might be thinking that these two pictures were taken from the third class coaches where there would be standing passengers, passengers without assigned seats.

But the sad truth is that these two pictures were taken from the same "comfy" coaches I was bragging about just a couple of paragraphs ago.

It seemed that KTM finds it justifiable to load in passengers indiscriminately right from Bukit Mertajam station all the way up to Arau station, a journey of some two hours!

That two hours was simply beyond my comprehension as we were forced to be part of KTM's scheme of "profiteering", taking in passengers in a supposedly express service by turning the the second class assigned seated express coach into a third class free to all commuter service, much to the annoyance of other "paying" passengers. I say "paying" as I doubt whether all of these "tumpang" passengers were all paying passengers as well as no ticket inspector came over to check the tickets! In fact, we could have taken a free train ride from Butterworth to Padang Besar without anyone knowing as nobody seemed to be checking the tickets until we got into Thailand! Interesting isn't it?

But the Bukit Mertajam to Arau train ride was simply a letdown. An experience that will go down in the memories of all the other "paying" passengers of whom were mostly foreign tourists, a bad reflection of how KTM render its services.

I was dumbfounded, the coach were so full, packed to brim, especially for the journey from Sungai Petani to Arau. I can't even see my children sitting on the other side of the passageway and had to be on the look out every five minutes of so just to see that they were not harmed by anyone!

Fortunately the coach reverted to its actual status once it entered into Thailand territory and remained its status quo all the way to Bangkok. Thank god we were in Thailand!

And that's the end of our Day 2 of our family vacation to Bangkok, Thailand. Stay tune for tales of Day 3 tomorrow.

Jasni AJ

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