Sam is graduating next week from uni in the Netherlands and Ian and I, of course, want to be there. Joshua, global nomad that he is, knew his one time best friend, Joel, lived in Singapore and voted to go stay with him while Ian and headed to Europe. It was high time I visited my great friend Jacinta and so Josh and I decided to try the train out for our trip. The website was pretty unfathomable and mostly in Bahasa Malay but the one thing we could work out was that this a first class ticket cost 68 Ringgit (about £13), there was a buffet car, airconditioning and the trip took eight hours. We fancied the scenic route and I went to the station to buy the tickets in person. Bargain, right?
If you read my last post about the visit from the Powells, you may be interested to know that the day before our train trip they had tried out the bus journey. It cost more than the train but supposedly took half the time and, if you paid more, you could have wifi on board. I still felt complacent that we had the best deal. We’d really be able to chill out and enjoy a game of Scrabble on the iPad.
The train left KL Sentral 45 minutes late. They don’t let you onto the platform until the train is in the station. No wonder it had a delay if they need ten minutes to get everyone on and off.
We found our seats.
Disappointing. They look nowhere near as cold, crap and clunky in the photo as they are in real life.
After about an hour a man came round and gave us a doughnut.
An hour later we received a bottle of water.
And then we realised it was getting colder and colder. We’d only packed changes of clothes and a not a long sleeve amongst them. Boy, it was cold. Freezing. I decided to wear my trousers on my arms, like sleeves, Josh lent me his socks (I hope the fashion police did not spot me wearing them with flipflops), I put a tee-shirt on my lap like an apron and I piled a few tops on top of each other. It helped … and only six hours to go!
The train juddered and stopped for half an hour at dusk, then it went backwards for a bit, then forwards and I wondered whether we would ever get there. We’d left late as it was, so that meant we’d get into Woodlands in Singapore about 10.45pm. Tired and cold, we tried leaving the carriage to see if anywhere else was any warmer, like economy class for example. I hit on the bright idea of finding the buffet car. And yes, I found warmth! Seeing daylight where carriages connected I found myself opening one door, gingerly stepping outside for a moment, then back in again. Those seconds outside were bliss. The buffet car sold instant milky tea and instant milky coffee or hot chocolate. Hurray, another source of warmth, however sweet and unpalatable. Hungry and not a fan of doughnuts I bought us a microwavable nasi goreng shiny with MSG (don’t tell Josh) and faced the return to The Ice Station wobbling along with two hot drinks and a nasi and only two hands, one of which was required to open doors.
Around 9pm (6 and a quarter hours after we left KL) we found ourself in the glitzy shiny and empty immigration hall before the bridge that joins Singapore to Malaysia. Half an hour later we were at Woodlands. After all that we had arrived 15 minutes early!
Two days later, I sit in bed at Jacinta’s, a nice coffee beside me, while shiny, neat, perfect, efficient Singapore buzzes outside. I’m having a lovely time blogging and heave a sigh of relief that in a few hours I am taking the plane back to KL. Josh, meanwhile, I think is going back on the bus, because the Powells had told us that, apart from it being a bit warm and rickety, took under four hours.
In less than three days I’ll be in Holland. No, I’m not going by train.