This is the first part of my travelogue on my solo overland backpacking trip to Thailand & Laos in 2013.
I never thought this trip would ended up the way it ended but I really consider this to be the trip of the year. I had just resigned from my job 4 days earlier. I did not book anything in advance, be it accommodation or onward tickets. To be honest, I did not properly plan for this trip. What I wanted was just time and space of my own, to be independent for a while and to embark on an adventure that I never thought I would take.
Aku tak pernah sangka yang trip ni akan jadi sebagaimana yang terjadi, tapi bagi aku, inilah trip of the year bagi tahun 2013. Aku baru je berhenti kerja 4 hari sebelum aku pergi untuk trip ni. Aku tak ada book apa-apa, tempat tinggal ke, tiket ke… Memang main redah je! Jujurnya, memang tak rancang langsung untuk trip ni. Sebab masa tu, apa yang aku nak cumalah masa dan ruang untuk diri aku sendiri, untuk berdikari sendirian buat seketika.
Not so many people know about this trip. Only the close ones, family and friends. Throughout this short journey, I did not update my Facebook account. I just wanted to enjoy the moment for a while, to experience new experiences while being away from my comfort zone. True enough, some did not agree about this trip. I admit, I was selfish when I embarked on this journey. But I learnt a lot, saw a lot within the short span of time.
Tak ramai pun yang tahu pasal trip aku ni. Yang tau pun teman rapat dan keluarga. Sepanjang perjalanan singkat ni, aku tak update langsung akaun Facebook aku. Aku cuma nak hargai momen-momen tu sambil tengok dah belajar benda baru, keluar dari zon selesa aku. Ada sesetengah pihak tak setuju dengan tindakan aku pergi untuk trip ni, dan aku akui memang aku pentingkan diri sendiri masa aku buat keputusan untuk pergi juga. Tapi, dalam tempoh singkat aku berkelana, aku bersyukur dengan apa yang aku alami.
And this is my travelogue on the journey.
Dan inilah travelog perjalanan aku.
Day 1: Monday, 26 August 2013
I have booked an Air Asia ticket to Hat Yai a few days earlier for a bargain price of less than RM 50. The flight was supposed to be at 11.00 am. But I was still contemplating whether or not to go for the trip. Finally, I missed the flight. My mum was shocked to see me not going when I went to her workplace at 11.30 am. “Tapi, Iwan nak pergi jugak. Nantilah Iwan pergi KL Sentral beli tiket tren / But I still want to go. I will go to KL Sentral station later to buy a train ticket”, I told my mum.
Aku dah book tiket Air Asia ke Hat Yai beberapa hari sebelum hari ni dengan harga durian runtuh kurang dari RM 50. Sepatutnya, flight pukul 11.00 pagi, tapi aku keliru lagi, nak pergi ke tak nak, nak pergi ke tak nak. Fikir punya fikir sampai terlepas flight tu! Aku pergi kantin mak aku dalam pukul 11.30, mak aku terkejut tengok aku ada kat situ. Dia ingat aku pergi dah. Haha. “Tapi, Iwan nak pergi jugak. Nantilah Iwan pergi KL Sentral beli tiket tren”, aku beritahu mak.
Soon, I brought my sister and we took the LRT to KL Sentral station. Deep in my heart, I prayed that there will still be a ticket because I planned to leave on the same night.
Tak lama lepas tu, aku bawa adik perempuan aku naik LRT buat teman aku ke KL Sentral. Aku berdoa sepanjang perjalanan, tolonglah bagi tiket ada lagi. Sebab aku plan nak pergi malam ni jugak.
I reached the KL Sentral station and straightaway rushed to the KTM Intercity ticket counter. I took the number and was shocked to see another 35 people were waiting before me. Whilst seating and waiting for my turn, then I realized, on my last overland backpacking trip to Thailand in 2011 [read here: in Bahasa], I took the train to Padang Besar and then to Hat Yai. “You have never tried taking the International Express from Butterworth to Bangkok, and I think you should do just that“, my mind was telling me.
Sampai-sampai KL Sentral, terus aku pergi ke kaunter tiket KTM Intercity kat tingkat atas stesen ni. Sementara tunggu giliran, aku teringat, last trip aku ke Thailand, aku naik tren ke Padang Besar lepas tu terus ke Hat Yai. Aku fikir, dah alang-alang aku nak buat overland trip, baik cuba naik tren International Express, direct dari Butterworth ke Bangkok.
When my turn came, I asked the girl manning the counter, “Tiket Butterworth 3rd class malam ni ada kak? / Do you still have the 3rd class ticket to Butterworth for tonight? (Being cheapskate me. Lol)”. “Dah habis lah, dik. 2nd class ada lagi kalau nak / Sold out, bro. But we still have the 2nd class ticket“, she informed me. So, 2nd class it was. I bought that ticket and an onward ticket from Butterworth to Bangkok before going home, planning to pack my bags for the journey.
Sampai giliran aku,aku tanya kakak tu, “Tiket Butterworth 3rd class malam ni ada kak?”. Dia jawab, “Dah habis lah, dik. 2nd class ada lagi kalau nak”. 2nd class pun 2nd class lah. Aku beli tiket tu dan tiket International Express, lepas tu balik semula ke rumah.
After packing up, sending my sister to clinic, and bidding farewell to my family members, my little brother sent me to the Kelana Jaya LRT station for me to take the LRT to go to KL Sentral station. It was 9.00 pm when I reached the LRT station, and the train for Butterworth will leave at 9.30 pm. But thanks to the punctuality of the LRT, I managed to arrive in time.
Dah kemas beg, hantar adik aku ke klinik, bye-bye famili aku, adik lelaki aku pun hantar aku ke stesen LRT Kelana Jaya sebab aku nak ke KL Sentral. Dah lewat masa aku sampai Kelana Jaya. Berdebar jugak. Mau tidak, sampai Kelana Jaya pukul 9.00 malam, tren dari KL Sentral ke Butterworth pulak bertolak pukul 9.30 malam. Nasib baik LRT punctual, ngam ngam soi sampai KL Sentral.
Sharp at 9.30 pm, the train left. As I did not manage to meet my dad before leaving, I texted him in the train:
Tepat pukul 9.30 malam, keretapi pun berlepas. Sebab aku tak sempat nak jumpa ayah aku sebelum pergi, aku Whatsapp dia:
I tried to sleep in the train but I could not. But I managed to catnap, at least.
Aku cuba tidur sepanjang perjalanan, tapi tak dapat. Lelap je dapat.
After 8 hours of train ride, I reached Butterworth at around 5.30 am. It was my first time reaching the Butterworth station as an adult. It was also my first time, reaching the Butterworth alone. I did not know where to go or what to do. I walked here and there. The train to Bangkok will leave at 2.30 pm, 9 hours from now. So, what should I do? Where should I go?
Lepas 8 jam perjalanan, aku sampai Butterworth lebih kurang pukul 5.30 pagi. Pertama kali sampai stesen ni masa dah besar dan pertama kali sampai sini seorang diri. Tak tau weyh nak ke mana atau buat apa. Tren ke Bangkok pukul 2.30 petang baru berlepas. Ada 9 jam lagi. Aku dok mundar mandir seorang diri. Nak buat apa ni? Nak pergi mana ni?
To be continued: Part 2
KTM provides for train service to the northern regions everyday, leaving the KL Sentral station at 9.30 pm. As of August 2013, the 2nd class train ticket from KL Sentral to Butterworth is RM 34.00 while the International Express from Butterworth to Bangkok costs RM 104.00 for upper deck and RM 112.00 for lower deck.
A continuation from FINALE
My first ever trip to Indonesia and to the island of Sumatra. The people might look and speak almost the same language as Malaysians, but they are distinct. I felt the difference. Medan is a big city. When I was there, the main airport was still the infamous Polonia International Airport. A very small international airport situated right smack at the centre of the city close to residential areas. Thank God they have shifted to the spanking new Kuala Namu International Airport.
Apart from Medan, the other city in Indonesia that I have been to was Semarang in Central Java. As compared to Semarang, Medan city proper looks less crowded despite still very crowded as compared to KL even. Everything looks so packed and closed by. Dust was everywhere that I caught a cold within several hours of reaching the city. It is a developing city, old enough to be a developed one but the development is still ongoing and looks unplanned.
But Danau Toba really saved us from the hectic life in Medan city. Although a few hours away, Danau Toba is very beautiful and fascinating. To think that the lake was in a volcano crater adds up to the overwhelming feeling of seeing before my own eyes. Even the historical places were amazing especially with the Batak Karo’s houses designs.
The major setback for me was the road condition. Some of the roads were really bad, I am sure that the van we were in will need a major repair frequently.
Otherwise, a visit to Medan is incomplete without visiting Danau Toba and the surrounding highlands.
As a conclusion, I really love Danau Toba, but not Medan city. It is just too hectic and the traffic is crazy. If given the chance, I would like to stay longer at Danau Toba, appreciating the views and the nature.
TAMAT | THE END
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Previously: Part 7
Early in the morning, I woke up and realized, this journey has come to an end. After taking our morning shower and packed our bags, we went for breakfast. Funny because although we were in Thailand, the breakfast offered in many restaurants in the town were Malaysian’s. Some of us had nasi lemak while I had roti canai.
Bangun-bangun pagi, aku sedar, perjalanan kami dah sampai ke penghujung. Lepas mandi pagi dan kemas-kemas beg, kami terus pergi sarapan. Pelik pula rasa, ada kat Thailand, tapi restoran-restoran kat sini banyak yang hidang sarapan Malaysia. Kami pun makanlah nasi lemak dan roti canai.
After checking out and returning the key to the receptionist, we proceeded to the border. The distance from the town to the border were not far but no highway to go to the border, that the only available road was a single lane road for each side, cutting through deep jungle with several small villages along the way.
Lepas daftar keluar dari hotel dan pulangkan kunci kat receptionist, kami terus ke pintu sempadan. Tak jauh mana pun dari pekan Betong nak ke sempadan, tapi tak ada highway, jadi lalu jalan biasa je, sehala-sehala. Sunyi dan tenang je sepanjang jalan, adalah satu dua kampung lepas tu hutan.
After a few while, I saw a big striking white building on top of a hill which I assumed is the immigration checkpoint, which turned out to be true. If at Sadao Immigration checkpoint, people and cars were queuing up to get their passport stamped (read here – in Bahasa), things were different in Betong. We did not have to bring our bags along. We just need to park our car at the parking lot provided and queue at the corridor of the building to stamp our passport.
Tak lama lepas kami teruskan perjalanan, aku nampak satu bangunan besar warna putih atas bukit. Aku rasa itulah bangunan imigresen (dan memang betul pun). Kalau kat Sadao, beratur orang dengan kereta nak cop passport (baca di sini) tapi kat sini, tak langsung okay. Beg pun tak payah bawa keluar. Parkir kereta lepas tu beratur je dekat koridor dia, bawa passport.
Then, everything came to an end. We proceeded to the Malaysian checkpoint at Pengkalan Hulu, Perak and we were back in Malaysia. My dad drove for another 20 km from the border to my mum’s hometown in Baling, Kedah and we attended my cousin’s wedding in time.
Akhirnya, perjalanan kami pun berakhir. Dari Betong, kami teruskan ke imigresen Malaysia di Pengkalan Hulu, Perak dan akhirnya kami kembali ke Malaysia. Ayah aku pandu lagi 20 km ke kampung mak aku di Baling, Kedah dan ngam-ngam timing kami sampai ke kenduri sepupu aku.
It was an unforgettable road trip adventure. 3 days and 2 nights over Hat Yai – Pattani – Yala and Betong, we had covered the whole deep south provinces of Thailand saved for Narathiwat.
Memang satu perjalanan road trip yang tak dapat dilupakan. Perjalanan 3 hari 2 malam ke Hat Yai – Pattani – Yala dan Betong, kesemua wilayah di selatan Thailand kami dah jejak kecuali Narathiwat.
This concludes my road trip to southern Thailand travelogue.
Dengan ini, maka tamatlah travelog road trip ke selatan Thailand.
To be continued – Epilogue
One of my #TSBreakaway friends, Anis went to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB) for one of the assignments of the programme. Upon knowing this, I was so eager to go there and see with my own eyes, what the town has to offer.
So, on Christmas Day last year, I dragged my mom, my siblings and my fiancée on a day trip to the town which managed to stand the test of time albeit being a bit forgotten. “Mana nak pergi ni sebenarnya? / Where are we going actually” asked my mom. “KKB”, I answered, “…by train”. The whole group was shocked with my answer but what other better things to do on a public holiday than to embark on a journey to an unfamiliar town?
From Sungai Buloh KTM Komuter station, we bought the ticket to Kuala Kubu Bharu station, the northernmost station in the Komuter train system for the state of Selangor. From there, the train will proceed to the state of Perak. It was a fun ride, for me at least. The feeling of experiencing something new always trigger my mind and made me smile.
Upon entering the train at Sungai Buloh, I noticed that the train looked empty. There were not so many people in the coaches. Perhaps, being a public holiday, most people wanted to rest at home. Or maybe, they fancy shopping malls, as what other so-called ‘Malaysian urbanites’ like to go to. I looked outside and could see the view along the route. It felt isolated. Along the way, there were hills, factories, and very little evidence of development. It was not long before we heard the announcement in the speaker “Rawang…Rawang”. We reached the Rawang station and it was time to change train.
From Rawang, the train will pass through 3 more stations before stopping at the Kuala Kubu Bharu station. I saw the train at the platform and summoned my family to enter into the coach. The coaches were actually the old coaches of KTM Komuter, being used in the Klang Valley before. But with the extension of Komuter service, the coaches are used for the shuttle service from Rawang up until Tanjung Malim in Perak.
Not long after we entered the coach, the train proceeded to go to its destination. I looked around. Still, only a few people inside. Tired from the heat and the journey so far, my family members fall asleep in the train. As for me, being my usual self, I looked around through the glass windows to see the views.
First time taking a train to this territory, I was overwhelmed by the views. Greenery all along the way to Kuala Kubu Bharu station. Soon, after 4 stations, we reached Kuala Kubu Bharu.
“…………………”. I looked around the platform and the station. The station is big. Bigger than Shah Alam station. But it was awfully quiet. So quiet that I was sure, even a pin drop can be heard. The location was weird too. It looked like a hill was cut into two to build the station and there was nothing else there, apart from the station.
Kuala Kubu Bharu is a town 60km north of Kuala Lumpur. To get here by train from Kuala Lumpur, take the train at KL Sentral station, heading towards Rawang. At Rawang station, change to the Rawang-Tanjung Malim shuttle train service. The train leaves every one hour or so and it takes around 30 minutes from Rawang station to Kuala Kubu Bharu station.
Being humans, I believe it is our nature to love the new ones while forgetting the old ones. While this may not be applicable to everyone, I noticed that every time we have something new, we will tend to forget the old ones. Well, where am I going from here? I don’t know. That is why I call it as a Friday rambling.
Anyway, recently I went on a personal tour to Kuala Lumpur. Whilst walking alone, pretending to be a foreign backpacker while in fact I am a local guy, I can’t help but to notice a lot of buildings in a state of despair. Well, maybe despair is such a strong word for the condition. I shall rephrase my sentence: a lot of buildings are in a state of abandonment.
I love history and architecture, though after high school, I ended up doing nothing related to my two passions. So, when I saw such buildings, I became sentimental; and angry at the same time.
Last 2 years, when I went to Semarang in Central Java, Indonesia, I went to the Old Town or Oudstadt. There are a lot of abandoned old colonial buildings there. But I understand why. Most Indonesians hated the Dutch who colonized their land and they earned their independence the hard way. So, I was told that after independence, they did not really want to take care of the buildings.
It is different in Malaysia. As a British protectorate, Malaya was not really colonized [or so we were told by a professor from Majlis Profesor Negara?] and theold colonial buildings were mostly being used until the government decided to build new ones replacing them.
Take the Magistrates Courts building near Jalan Tun Perak, for example. It was well used by the British then and by us until early 2000s, when the government decided to build a new court complex in Jalan Duta. We were told that the building was acquired by the Ministry of Tourism and bla bla but is the building really being used?
Well, I don’t think so. I saw with my own eyes its current condition. It is a shame to have such a beautiful building, at the city centre, near public transportation, and close to travellers spots, but is of no use except to admire it from the outside.
So, I think I have a valid reason then to believe that when we have something new, we will forget the old ones.
Don’t you think so?