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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As promised, I’ll write more about Aguas Calientes tomorrow.
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?
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.
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.
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!)
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.)
(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.
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”→
UPDATE [JANUARY 2015] KTM STAFF TOLD ME THAT THE NIGHT TRAINS ARE STILL RUNNING. HOWEVER, THEY REFUSED TO BELIEVE ME WHEN I TOLD THEM I CANNOT BUY THE TICKETS ON LINE. KTM CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HORRIBLE. TSK TSK.
THE SELECTION APPEARS ON THE WEBSITE BUT SEATS CANNOT BE CHOSEN. LET’S ASSUME IT’S CANCELLED, UNLESS SOMEONE CALLS KTM TO CONFIRM.
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.
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.
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).
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.)