I was in the papers today! Not for what you think it is.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian railway company announced that it was launching a new service called Shuttle Tebrau which will link Woodlands Station to JB Sentral.

A reporter from local broadsheet Straits Times found me through my most popular post and wanted to ask for my comments on the new service. Thankfully, I caught his e-mail in time as my e-mail notification pinged while I was staring at my phone.

I prepared for the interview by reading on the background of the new service. I even jotted down “juicy” quotes that would make me look slightly unhinged but endearingly colorful to the audience.

The reporter called and we had a 12-minute chat during which I sounded bipolar. I was totally against the service at one point, talking passionately about its cons but at another point, I discovered its merits. I couldn’t make up my mind.

Still, the reporter summed it up in two sentences and made me look like a very practical traveller (which I am).

I did request that he use “travel blogger” as my job title as “marketing exec” seems like a totally irrelevant commenter on this subject. He obliged. Thank you, good sir.

Liau Yun Qing in the news as travel blogger
My sister sent this this morning.

The report came out on Page A2 on Straits Times and also on My Paper. I can now officially say that I was on the news as a travel blogger. 

You can read the full report and my not-juicy quotes on My Paper “New JB-Woodlands train service from July 1”.

I love train travel and you should too: Day 4 of #indie30

YQ Travelling About Me liau yun qing

Prompt #4: What is your favorite method of overland travel and why?

I didn’t mind bus travelling a lot but after being violently car sick in Peru, I’ve decided that my favorite overland travel is by train.

With train travel you get to:

  • skip traffic jam
  • go at a slow pace with not as much sudden turns (so you won’t get motion sickness)
  • see cute babies
  • have more leg room than a plane or bus
  • eat train bentou (Japan and Taiwan have these)
  • sleep on beds (To be fair, China has long distance buses with beds too. I slept in a bunk next to the toilet before.)

It’s unfortunate that KTM (Malayan Railway Limited) has removed their private 2-bed bunk on their overnight train. I really wanted to try one.


This post is part of 30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project.

Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu [YQrtw Day 107 Jul 25]

Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu

Location: Ollantaytambo -> Aguas Calientes, Peru

Finally, it’s the day I take the train to Machu Picchu. Or at least that’s what it says on my train ticket.

In reality, the train to “Machu Picchu” stops at a little town called Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters). This town is deeply hated by travel guidebooks and sites, I’ll talk more about it tomorrow since today it’s all about my train ride.

My train to Machu Picchu starts at the town of Ollantaytambo. I spent two nights there but you can easily access the town from Cusco in not more than 2 hours’ time.

Ollantaytambo train station
Ollantaytambo train station

Ollantaytambo’s train station is at the very end of the road where the two ticket counters are. Along the road, there were stalls selling woollen things and even food.

There was a group of school children who were about to take the train when I was at the station. They were quite prepared as most of them each had a roll of blanket strapped to their bag.

All aboard the Peru Rail train!

The train ticket says everyone needs to be at the station half an hour before the train leaves. They let passengers into the train area well before that.

The guards checked everyone’s ticket with their identification so remember to have your passport in hand.

After the ticket check, I tried getting onto a carriage. The lady in the carriage asked me, “What do you want?” and then “You cannot come in yet. Thank you.” when I told her that I was looking for my seat.

I got out of the carriage with a cheery “You’re welcome!” and stood by the side of the train. At least the view was good.

View of mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo
View of mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo

Soon, the Peru Rail employees started putting out the carriage letters. It was strange since the order was A-C-B. Anyway, I got onto my carriage after the carriage attendant checked my ticket and my passport once more.

Machu Picchu carriages are not in alphabetical order
Machu Picchu carriages are not in alphabetical order

The Expedition carriage is the cheapest ticket for foreigners. The carriage has windows on the roof so passengers can admire the sky and tall mountains and get a bit of sun bathing.

Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Seats on Expedition class train to Machu Picchu
Seats on Expedition class train to Machu Picchu
See the sky from your seat
See the sky from your seat
Seat number on Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Seat number on Expedition train to Machu Picchu

My A-1 seat was right next to the window, in front of the food preparation center. The person beside me never came so I had the two seats to myself.

Drink station on Expedition class train
Drink station on Expedition class train

I also checked out the toilet before anyone else came on board. It was the largest train toilet I’ve ever seen. I think it can fit 5 people standing up.

Huge toilet!!
Huge toilet!!

While we were waiting for the train to leave, I looked outside and saw several passengers and a Peru Rail employee on the phone, huddled in a circle. It seems to me that there were problems with the train tickets. One of the passengers had a large backpack with a hiking stick.

I tried to imagine if that was me and that Peru Rail told me that there were problems with my ticket and that I cannot go to Machu Picchu. It felt like yesterday all over again so I stopped imagining.

When the train pulled out of the station, the people-with-ticket-problems did not get on board. I hope they eventually reached Machu Picchu.

Coffee or tea?

About 30 minutes into the journey, we were served one drink and one snack. I got myself a black coffee and a muffin.

One drink and a snack is included in the Expedition train ticket
One drink and a snack is included in the Expedition train ticket

While the Peru Rail employees were serving the drinks, I realized that the guys were a lot taller than the average Peruvians. I really wanted to ask them if height was included in the job requirement, as do flight attendants.

Back to the train ride. The view along the way was great but the sun was so bright that I kept my face hidded next to the wall to avoid sun face.

View from Expedition train to Machu Picchu
View from Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Mountain view (not Google's address)
Mountain view (not Google’s address)
Not the Swiss Alps but beautiful in their own way
Not the Swiss Alps but beautiful in their own way

On the far right of the was a snow-capped mountain, which I found out is called Veronica, while on the right were grass-patched mountains. We even passed the Inca Trail, as a tour guide for the group sitting in front of me announced.

The lady who sat on the seat across mine was Taiwanese. She gave me a lot of information on sights in Peru, allowing me to narrow down what I want to do these last 10 days.

The train ride ended quite soon and we got into the concrete town of Aguas Calientes. My hostel sent someone to pick everyone up which was a good thing since the tiny paths can be quite confusing.

The "ugly" town of Aguas Calientes
The “ugly” town of Aguas Calientes

As promised, I’ll write more about Aguas Calientes tomorrow.

Sri Lanka: Colombo-Anuradhapura train ride [YQrtw Day 1 Apr 8]

bubbles on a train

Missed the 1:45pm train from Colombo to Anuradhapura by 15 minutes (or 30 minutes if you count the time it takes to elbow myself to the ticket counter).

Reached the ancient capital late at about 9:00pm. Guest house has one hidden electrical plug in my room.


At some stops, a little person in the front carriage would blow bubbles. I didn’t manage to catch any of the bubbles on film but it was a nice distraction from the same old view.

[Today’s summary: Missed train. Bought Kandy-Colombo train tickets. Took 4 hour 40 minutes ride to Anuradhapura. Guest house’s Wi-Fi wonky.]

FAQ Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

The person didn't give me permission to take the photo so I gave him sunglasses.

The original post Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia brings the most search traffic to my post. It’s been more than a year since the post went up and thanks for your support.

Besides encouraging comments, I’ve also gotten A LOT of questions about this particular train route. Some questions were stuff I didn’t think about when I was writing the post while others were questions about stuff I’ve already mentioned in the post (this drives me nuts).

Instead of answering the repeated Qs, I’ve gathered the questions here.

1. Where can I book train tickets from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
2. My online booking didn’t go through. HELP!
3. I picked Kuala Lumpur as my destination, why isn’t there a night train?
4. Is it safe to travel on the Malaysian train?
5. How do I get to [location in Singapore]?
6. Where do I board the train at Johor?
7. Is there food at JB train station? (No one asked me this, actually.)
8. On the online booking, If I am coming to Singapore, which KTM train stop should I stop?
9. How do I get to JB’s train station from the rest of Singapore?
10. How much is the price of bed/seat/chamber/narnia’s closet?
11. How do I get to Bangkok on train?
12. Hey! Your post is about Singapore to Malaysia. But I’m in Malaysia, how do I get to Singapore by train?
13. Do they still give blankets for the common carriage?
14. I need to get to [location in Malaysia], can you help?

FAQ begins here! I hate the formatting too!

1. Where can I book train tickets from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
If you are booking online, the link is https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/Login.aspx Sign up for an account and you can check past reservations.
You can also visit the train stations to buy the tickets but I don’t recommend doing that for night trains.

2. My online booking didn’t go through. HELP!
Check your bookings in your account. I’m not sure what the phone number for KTMB is.

3. I picked Kuala Lumpur as my destination, why isn’t there a night train?
Pick Sentral Kuala Lumpur, not Kuala Lumpur (which is one stop after KL Sentral).

4. Is it safe to travel on the Malaysian train?
Have you watched too many wild wild west movies? I don’t think there are any robbers ambushing the trains. It’s safe.

5. How do I get to [location in Singapore]?
Check out http://gothere.sg/ or https://maps.google.com.sg/.

6. Where do I board the train at Johor?
Johor train station. Map here (click to enlarge):

7. Is there food at JB train station? (No one asked me this, actually.)
There is a 24-hour KFC. A Starbucks is open until 10pm (I think).

8. On the online booking, If I am coming to Singapore, which KTM train stop should I stop?
Pick Woodlands. This isn’t the Woodlands MRT, it’s a KTM train station near Woodlands MRT.

9. How do I get to JB’s train station from the rest of Singapore?
If you are at Bugis, you can head to the Queen Street terminal where there are buses to JB. There are also Causeway Link buses to JB from Kranji and Newton.

* Woodlands train station is at the checkpoint. It is different from Woodlands MRT.

10. How much is the price of bed/seat/chamber/narnia’s closet?
It’s best to check directly on the site. https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/Login.aspx

11.How do I get to Bangkok on train?
I’ve never taken the train from Singapore to Bangkok (but it’s on my wish list!) So check out the wonderful Seat61: http://www.seat61.com/Malaysia.htm#Singapore_-_Kuala_Lumpur_-_Penang_-_Bangkok

12. Hey! Your post is about Singapore to Malaysia. But I’m in Malaysia, how do I get to Singapore by train?

Just reverse engineer my tips for Singapore to KL. Pick Sentral Kuala Lumpur as your starting point and Woodlands as your destination.

13. Do they still give blankets for the common carriage?

They didn’t have the thin sheet the last time I was on the morning sleeper to Singapore.

14. I need to get to [location in Malaysia], can you help?

Unfortunately, I come from Sabah so I am clueless about travelling in Peninsula Malaysia (unless I did research on it for a trip). Please check out the rest of the internet.

Heading to Malaysia’s East Coast

River seen from door of Jungle train

It’s been more than a year since I made the promise to visit all 13 Malaysian states. Now, I have only two states to conquer.

Can you believe it? I didn’t really think it was possible when I made the goals but here we are with only Pahang and Terengganu left on the list.

Good news is, I’ll be crossing out these two states very soon. D and I have made plans to head to the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia and visit the towns in the two states.

Next Friday night, I’ll be taking a night bus to Kuantan. The rest of the plans have not been confirmed but our general plan is to head to Kuala Terrenganu and back to Kota Bahru.

From Kota Bahru, we will take a morning train back to Singapore. The train route is known as the Jungle Line and has a great view. I’m looking forward to the magnificent view but not the 14 hour train ride on a seat.

I haven’t discussed the itinerary with D but I’ll list a few interesting places which I hope to check out.



When I was in primary school, I did a project on Kuantan but I still get it mixed up with Kelantan because the name sounds so similar.

Kuantan is famous for its nature stuff like beaches and waterfalls. I’m not sure how much nature we would be seeing but it’s a good-to-know.

State Mosque, Kuantan
State Mosque, Kuantan

Image credit: Phalinn Ooi


When I first found out about Pekan, I was very amused by its name. In Malay, “pekan” means town. And this town’s name is Pekan. Imagine a town called town. Haha!

After I calmed down, I read a little more about Pekan (on Wikipedia). Turns out, it’s the royal town of Pahang and the hometown of our current prime minister (which means this place gets a lot of perks!)

Masjid Sultan Abdullah, Pekan, Pahang
Masjid Sultan Abdullah, Pekan, Pahang

Image credit: Shamsul Liza


Poor Terengganu, despite having so much land, it is most famous for its islands and beaches (which isn’t too bad, I guess).

Kuala Terengganu

The state museum is said to be really good. (I’m still hurting from the not-that-awesome museum in Alor Setar.)

Terengganu State Museum
Terengganu State Museum

Image credit: macloo

I am interested in the Chinatown. Terengganu is one of the muslim dominant states, I’m curious how the Chinese community lives. (This brings back memories of the kopitiam in Perlis where the shopowner was Chinese and the stalls owner was muslim. I couldn’t figure out their living arrangements.)

Kuala Terengganu Chinatown
Kuala Terengganu Chinatown

Image credit: kayb_82

Jungle Rail

The train ride to end all train rides in Malaysia. (Is that how you use the phrase?)

River seen from door of Jungle train
River seen from door of Jungle train

You know what long train rides mean? PICNIC!!

Image credit: Albert Freeman

Have you been to Pahang and Terengganu? What do you recommend doing there?

The Silken Serenade to Kuala Lumpur

Trains are the new planes.

(Caution: Content is not optimized for blog posts.)

I had the chance to take the overnight Malaysia train on Feb. 10 from Johor to Kuala Lumpur to meet my friend who was visiting from Ho Chi Minh.

As it was my first Malaysian night train, I was excited even when buying the tickets. The train that I will be taking was called Senandung Sutera. Singapore’s Prime Minister’s Office translated it as Silken Serenade which I took to mean the train would emit a low hum while on the tracks.

I’m not a train romantic but since it was my first overnight train in Malaysia, my imagination run wild.

In your dreams

I imagined that I would leave for my train with a small hand carry and a gorgeous vintage travel dress (much like Nellie Bly’s round-the-world outfit).

On the train, I would sleep like a baby as the train gently rocks me. In the morning, I would wake up fresh from the night’s sleep. I would then alight the train with light steps and in my hand, I carry the small lady-like hand luggage.

In my gorgeous vintage travel dress, I would step out on the platform while the wind blows and tousles my hair. Something like what these ladies are doing.

Of course, things never quite work out the way I want it to. For one, I have two luggages–a backpack and a gaudy Lesportsac sling bag. Then, I have unflattering glasses and messy hair. My only consolation is that I do have a nice sundress. Good enough, I suppose.

Continue reading “The Silken Serenade to Kuala Lumpur”

Read: The Great Railway Bazaar

I was introduced to Paul Theroux’s by a travel writer on Twitter. The tweet wasn’t directed at me and I’m not even too sure who it was.

The tweet made Paul Theroux sound like The Best Travel Writer in the World™. I then decided to check out The Great Railway Bazaar from the library.

Synopsis: Writer takes train after train after train from London all the way to Japan (with some flights in between), passing by Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and back through Russia.
Continue reading “Read: The Great Railway Bazaar”

Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

malaysia train ticket



Update [March 23, 2013] Check out the FAQ too

I went on the overnight train to Kuala Lumpur last weekend and it was really fun–the train ride and the trip. For those who have been wondering how to take the old rail train to Malaysia, here are some money saving tips that you can use to save on the train trip from Singapore to Malaysia. My guide will focus on buying tickets online.

1. Leave from JB Sentral instead of Woodlands, Singapore

Actually, you can stop reading from here because this is the best tip I have. As noted in my previous post announcing my trip, you will save half the amount if you leave from Malaysia instead of Singapore.

Based on the 2nd class sleeper ticket, I

Since the Singapore and Malaysia train stations are just a causeway away, it really makes more sense to travel to JB Sentral on public bus and board there. Plus, the KFC at JB Sentral is 24-hours, eat all the fried chicken you want!

If you really want to leave from Singapore (so you can skip the torturous bus ride across the causeway), I’d suggest you buy a cheap seat (about S$17) from Woodlands CIQ-JB Sentral. When the train reaches JB Sentral, you can hop off and go to your carriage. (The ticket checking for the JB passage starts when the train moves.)

2. But come back to Woodlands not JB

Am I confusing you? Yes, you leave from JB but come back to Woodlands. Why? The ticket from Malaysia to Singapore is in RM so it’ll still be cheap. You’ll also skip the horrible traffic jam on the causeway, especially if it’s commuting hours.

3. Choosing where to buy tickets

Back to ticket buying, I’ll assume that you are based in Singapore. Buy the ticket online instead of heading to JB Sentral’s ticketing counter. Plus, you’ll be charged in Singapore dollars if you buy directly at Woodlands.

My guide here will focus on buying online. KTMB’s Web site is a bit old school–it even has frames. But it gets it job done.

First check the timetable to figure out which train to catch. I picked the 23.55 train from JB because it arrives at 06.30 in KL. Saves me travelling time during the day. Then sign up for an account to book your tickets.

4. Selecting the tickets online

This part is slightly confusing because of KTMB’s naming convention:

  • JB Sentral=Johor Bahru train station
  • Sentral Kuala Lumpur=KL Sentral
  • Woodlands CIQ=Woodlands station

Pick the timing that you want to leave. Then you choose the type of sleeper/seat you want. I’d recommend the sleepers for overnighting to KL. There are 5 types of seats/sleeper.

  • ADMFB: Air-conditioned Day Night First-class Berth
  • ADNFD: Air-conditioned Day Night First-class Deluxe
  • ADNS: Air-conditioned Day Night Sleeper
  • AFC: Air-conditioned First Class
  • ASC: Air-conditioned Second Class

I’ve only been on ADNS’s upper bunk. It was quite a pleasant ride/sleep, minus the shaking and snoring man.

I was on the upper bunk

The page says you will need to key in passengers’ names and identificaiton number. They never checked mine against the ticket so if you are in a hurry, I think you can just put fake names/ID number.

5. Payment and proof

Pay using a regular credit/debit card to buy the tickets.

They will not send you a proof of confirmation, so remember to save the page. I usually save my Web pages in PDF form so it prints out nicer. I use PDF Creator which shows up as a virtual printer in my Print tool. (Don’t click the toolbar when installing).


Printing out the ticket is necessary. DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.

6. Things to bring on train

Waiting for the trip to arrive is the hardest step. Here’s something you need to know about the trip: There is no food and drink station onboard so bring your own munchies and liquids.

Attention! During my trip in October, I found out that KTMB stopped providing blankets. Please bring something warm for the ride, it gets really cold.

Safety pins to pin your sleeping curtain will be very helpful. I found myself peering into curtains on my way back from the loo. Not much privacy for whoever was in it.

The only bus that seems to be on duty around 23.00 is the SBS and SMRT buses. So there is not much choice in the bus leaving Singapore to JB. Oh, the train might break down, like it did on my trip. Just sit/sleep through it with a smile.

BONUS! JB Sentral map

Many have been asking me about how to get to JB’s train station. I’ve used Google Map to show you that it’s really really easy to reach JB Sentral (where the station is). Map of JB Sentral, train station

Update [March 23, 2013] Check out the FAQ

Update [December 24, 2013] Comments are now closed.

Upcoming trip: KL light bulb trip

I’ve bought a return trip ticket to KL for the Feb 11 weekend. This will be my first time taking the overnight train in Malaysia.

I named the trip the “KL light bulb trip” because I’m joining N and her boyfriend (whom I’ve not met) who are both coming in from overseas. “Light bulb” in colloquial Chinese means a third person among a couple. (Coincidentally, my first overnight train trip in China was with N.)

Continue reading “Upcoming trip: KL light bulb trip”