Its been more than 14 years since my last train ride, back then during the school holiday we took the train from Kuala Lumpur up to Butterworth and back to visit Penang with my classmates. This time, I am helping an online food portal to do some interviews and reviews in Kota Bharu in Kelantan and I had decided to take an overnight train there (and I terribly regret it) to save time.
I visited KTMB’s website and book the tickets online, the site is a bit slow but its quite easy to use and you can also choose the seats/bunks that you want. The only problem is the way they named their stations, if you depart from Kuala Lumpur, you have to look for Sentral Kuala Lumpur but its better known as KL Sentral. And if you are going to Kota Bharu, guess what, there is no station by that name, you can stop at Pasir Mas, Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat depending which part you are heading to.
I booked the class 2 tickets, which have overnight sleeping bunkers that cost less than RM100 for 2 per way. Print out the e-tickets and I am all gamed for it.
On the travel date, I took the LRT to KL Sentral to depart, basically the train come 10 minutes before departure and leave on time since its the first station. Basically for the sleeping bunk, the beds are allocated according to your tickets and its divided into the upper and lower bunk. The lower bunk is ok and I still managed to sit in it but the upper bunk is just go to lie down. The lower bunk have a small shelf for your small bags but the upper one have none, so most of the passengers would leave the bags next to their bed.
The airconditioner is centralised in the train, can be a bit warm a first but freezing cold in the middle of the night. Each bed have its own reading lights and most of the people would cover the curtain for the night. There will be big rubbish bags hang in between a few beds, so far no foul smells, as the janitors remove them once its filled.
As the train rocks, we depart from KL Sentral and headed south where the train will make a u-turn at Gemas in Johor before heading up north on the east coast. Our train was stucked in Gemas for almost 3 hours because of a delay in Singapore, that means my 13 hours train ride to Kota Bharu is now 16 hours!
Besides rocking, the noise is another factor as the automatic door in our coach is not working and therefore its opened most of the time, I really pity those sleeping next to the door. Make sure you never ever book those beds!
Going to the toilet is another challenge, firstly, the train is really old, so the toilet is not in its best condition. Toilet is clean but smelly and the door doesn’t close well. Taking a leak is a challenge too as the train shakes non-stop, I was really trying to hold my balance what more aim, no wonder the toilet is wet most of the time!
Through out the night, there will be this guy who pushes the trolley back and forth selling food and drinks but I prefer to go to the canteen at the end of the coach for a cup of coffee and some toast and noodles for breakfast. Price is decent, for 2 cups of hot drink, a set of toast and a plate of fried to order noodles, cost me RM10. Its not great but ok to eat, so really no worries on food.
There are all sort of travellers on the train, from the mak cik and pak cik going back to Kampung to city slickers like us to foreign tourists (mainly going to the islands). So far, I don’t have much security issue on the train and people tend to mind their own business. But its the occasion mak cik that brings a sack of durian up the train (leaving it by the toilet!), or the crying kids or the worst are non-civil minded folks, this one guy who actually took his shirt off to sleep and don’t bother covering his curtain yet snoring! Now I know why so people bother to pay double to take the first class sleepers which 2 persons share a room.
In terms of handphone coverage, pretty much once on most of the way on the east coast, my Digi line is dead! This is because the railway tracks goes through forest and small remote villages, which does provides an interesting view during the day. It sort of reminds me of my little adventure during the Peninsular Malaysia Makan Trip where we had to cut through small remote villages road to get through landslides when travelling south from Kelantan to Cameron Highlands.
One thing nice is that you get to get down of the train, just for 2-3 minutes in most major stations and Gua Musang offers a great photo opportunity as the train stops behind beautiful limestone caves. Otherwise, for train departing from Kota Bharu, its good to catch the sunset.
In the morning, we got some free packet drink (Rex brand, I thought they make canned tuna, don’t dare to drink ) and piece of cake as the train is delayed. It was 3 hours late when we got to our destination. We immediately went to the ticket counter to see if we can upgrade the return tickets to class 1, which are roomed sleepers but unfortunately is all booked. You can refund but probably get back 30% since its last minute.
The trip back was on time, only about 30 minutes late but after a tiring assignment, its was quite a bad trip back for us as we are feeling sicked and tired.
I probably won’t take the train again, one experience in a decade is good enough for me, hehehe. Its not that bad but If I do, it will definately have to be a class 1 roomed sleepers, but that won’t happen anytime soon, easier to fly nowadays probably .