07 September 2009

I Like Trains

Just have to love it! Sitting here in cool air-con (hot outside) with my feet up feeling the train swaying from side to side as we roll along the tracks to Kuala Lumpur at night time. I thought I'd get first-class sleeper since the price was less than AUD 30. Second class was about AUD 15. It's an overnight train from Butterworth (near Penang) in northern Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur. It takes 8 hours (I think maybe about 300 km?), and, the speed this train is going, I now know why it takes so long! Train left at 9pm and arrives a bit after 5am tomorrow morning.

I just locked the door to this 2-bed cabin on the train. Then put the chain on. The conductor emphasized to me that I should keep an eye on my things. A few minutes after we left Butterworth, I heard a small bang, an orange thing alight move towards the train and a few guys about 10 m from the train. I think it was harmless... maybe just some youths having some fun (I hope!) Anyway, hope it'll be a safe trip!

It's a nice cabin... TV, fan, mirror, sink, 2 beds (one up one down), little table, roomy enough. You can tell the train is kind of old, but this is comfortable. Nice clean comfy bed. And, some powerpoint which you can charge up your phone and laptop from :-)

There are toilets on the train (which you would expect). There are economy sleeper beds which are just beds... not real place to put your things, so not very safe as far as others taking your things is concerned. There are sitting cars (glad I don't have to try and sleep in that tonight). And, there's a restaurant car. They don't have much to buy... well, not now anyway. It's getting later in the evening.

And, the have the doors of the train open as it's cruizing along in the night at about 70 km/h. You could just fall out! Then I talked with the train officers and it's because the air-con is not working in that carriage. Bit dangerous, but I'm not complaining. To be honest, it's kinda cool. Sticking your head out the door of a moving train at night, feeling the wind blow past your face, is a nice experience.

Then, a bit later, I looked out the train door again as we were going along, I could see the moon in the night sky, the train slowed down for the corner, the wheels squeeked on the tracks, I could see the jungly-rainforest in the moonlight, and touched some of the leaves as we rolled along. Then we went through a tunnel and back out again into the dim-dark blue summer evening sky as the train continued to snake its way through the mountains and forest of remote Malaysia towards Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier today, I arrived at Penang Airport from Bangkok. Short trip of about 90 minutes, and had to change my clocks 1 hour forward. The first thing that caught my attention after arriving in Penang Airport was the presence of Muslim ladies having their heads covered. After being in predominantly Buddhist countries in my travels so far, and, Malaysia being the first coutry I've been in with a strong Muslim presence, this was quite noticable.

Also, there are many Indians, Chinese, Malay and also tourists, that I've seen. Most signs are in Malay (which uses English letters A-Z) but English speakers can't understand them. But, this is easier than Thai or Chinese etc. There is also lots of English, and a fair amount of Chinese.

The other thing that struck me after arriving in Penang, was that it really reminded me a lot of Queensland! It felt a little like home, and I was surprised at the similarities... the weather, the vegetation, building and town layout, and, probably some other subtle things. I've been in quite a few different Asian countries lately (and away from Australia for more than 8 months), and Penang has come the closest to being like my home, as far as physical appearances is concerned.

I was really tired after arriving in Penang (after only a few hours sleep the night before because I uploaded photos, got a Thai massage, and woke up at 4:30 am to get my 7am flight). Caught the bus to George Town, and then another bus to Batu Ferringa, which is a nice beach resort area. I was quite tired (and feeling a little sick because of the bus travel, but that passed soon).

Ate half a Malay-style pizza and relaxed down at the beach. I could have gone parasailing, jetskiing, horse-riding or probably something else, but I just decided to lie down and rest a bit, then I played in the sand and water for a bit. I needed this, and I felt good afterwards.

Then, after shower and massage, made my way across on the ferry from Penang to Butterworth to get on this train. Now for some sleep. Good night!

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