A Nostalgic Train Ride – Part 2

Disused coaches at Gemas

What was to be a short nap, turned out into a full-blown three-hour sleep. The tension at work, coupled with the travel and visit to the oil rig, operations report, editing marketing report, going through figures determining IRRs, and hunting for interim vessels for jobs must have gotten to me. When I got up, we were already at Gemas. And because I was in a deep sleep, the ticket inspector could not wake me up to inspect my ticket. When he saw that I was already up, he immediately asked for mine.


The ticket inspector would make that staccato on the headrest with his single-hole puncher.

“Tiket! Tiket!” (Ticket! Ticket!)

This 40-something malay ticket inspector with the most unfriendly face asked me for my train ticket. I was travelling back to Kuala Kangsar with my friends that afternoon.

Ticket Inspector: “Adik punya dah potong ke?” (Has yours been cut? – what he meant was: have I had my ticket inspected)

I looked down at my crotch and replied, “Mesti la dah potong. Umur dah 17 tahun dah.” (Of course mine has been cut-off. I’m already 17 – I was referring to my foreskin)

He looked strangely at me, puzzled initially, then gave out this stupid laughter and went off.

A jolt by the coach as the train took a corner brought me back to the present. There was this ticket inspector, Indian, in a friendlier-looking uniform, with a friendly smile, still waiting for my ticket. I smiled back at him and handed my ticket to him.

Sudah potong

I looked out the window, and saw a row of rubber trees in a plantation. My thoughts were then returned to that same train ride I was on 26 years ago.

“Your country is amazing. Even the trees in the jungle are in lines.”

I nodded at this foreigner, a backpacker who was with his girlfriend, I presumed. I wanted to laugh, but kept on a straight face.

“Those are rubber trees, you plonk!” I thought to myself.

26 years on, the view is still very much the same, save for some pockets of development, both legal and illegal, on both sides of the track. Somehow, I miss those days, my salad days – so carefree and the only responsibility I had was to pass my exams and not get scolded (the least) whenever I had to shove my report card beneath my father’s nose for it to be signed on the penultimate day of each school holidays. Those were the days when all we had to do was wake up in the morning, go for classes, go for meals, go for the daily swimming and water-polo training, go for prep, and sleep…or at least, pretend to sleep. Then, later at night, sneak out of the dormitory doing everything and nothing in Kuala Kangsar town, get chased by cops patrolling in Land Rovers, and jump into the Perak river to escape them.

View from my seatA plantation in Labis

Suddenly, I felt the urge to go to the toilet. Someone was in the sitting toilet, therefore I had to use the squat toilet. Since I was only going to urinate, I only had to stand. It is already a challenge trying to aim into a normal toilet bowl; imagine doing the deed, the bowl opening just half the size of a normal squat toilet, in a moving train. You can imagine how good my aim was…NOT. The difference 26 years later is that although the toilet did not look clean, it smelled clean!

This is how you do itThe paraphernalia

To be continued…

A Nostalgic Train Ride – Part 1


For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by trains. I remember when I was 4 years old, one of my toys was this train set. The locomotive was battery-powered and had a light at the front, and if you pour a drop of sewing machine oil through its funnel, it would emit a puff of white smoke. When I was 6, along Jalan Bangsar there used to be railtracks crossing it going towards what was the Lever Brothers godown. Whenever my mom visited her tailor at the still-existing shoplot at the entrance of Jalan Riong, I would alight from the car just to touch the tracks and see if I could steal some length of it and take home.

During my five years at the Malay College, the train was the only free ride home for most of us. Some who came from Perak never got to travel by train as they would be picked up by their parents, while some of the more clingy ones, also got picked up by their parents and sent back once school holdidays were over. For me, it was always the train…right to the day I left the college after SPM: I took that free train ride.

Recently, Wifey had had to attend a management retreat in JB. She drove down on a Friday. Then, I decided to join her in JB so I could drive her back. I decided to take the train down to JB. I went to buy the ticket after work on Friday. After thinking about the safety of my belongings, I decided to travel First Class – the same class I would travel in when I was still an Air Force officer.

First Class Ticket

Saturday morning – I got up at 6.30 and quickly showered. I left the house at 7.15am to take the LRT to KL Sentral to board the train. I had a quick nasi lemak breakfast, bought me some reading materials, then boarded the train.

Riding the LRTMy Nasi Lemak breakfast

The train left on time at 8.30am. I sent a few text messages to Wifey informing her of my departure, checked my Mobile Facebook account, then reminisced a bit of those days, more than a quarter of a century ago…those train-rides to and from Kuala Kangsar.

I was a 7th-grade student, first time away from home, though not really the first time on my own. And it was already April, close to the first school-term holidays. The prefects would brief us on our travel arrangements: those whose hometown are in the vicinity of a rail station, would receive a return ticket, 3rd Class (Coach Class, as they are called now), while those without, would be on specially-chartered buses to take them back (ex-KL). And we were told that there would be special coaches for the Malay College students. We were all so excited to be able to travel on our own.

Special coaches, my foot.

Ekspres Sinaran Pagi to SingaporeAll comfy

When the mail train arrived at the station, all the coaches were full. The civic-consciousness (or the lack of it) among Malaysians were on full display that day. Our coaches had been taken up by millions of others. We boarded anyway and looked for whatever that could seat us. As we were the most junior of the college population, those of us who had managed to get a seat were expected to give it up for seniors; therefore, my first train ride back to KL was done standing up – all the way, for 8 long hours. By the time I got home, I smelled of stale sweat, other people’s stale sweat, and diesel fumes courtesy of Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railway). Over the years, we wised up, that during Aidil Fitri breaks, I would light-up firecrackers just to get people out of the seats. Whenever that failed, the luggage compartment above the seats would be the best 8-hour bed: of course I was much smaller then.

Quarter of a century ago I would have fitted up there

I was quickly brought back to the present when an announcement blared over the PA system saying that we were approaching Kajang station. I took a few photos, then took a short nap…