I was very excited about taking Malaysia's Electric Train Service (ETS) from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Arau, Perlis, for the very first time.
It was probably the best decision I made on this trip - to travel by electric train instead of car or plane during the Labour Day long weekend in April/May, to participate in the Perlis Marathon 2017.
I bought my Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) ETS train ticket online.
When I fly, I prefer an aisle seat in the centre of the plane. I decided to do the same on the train. From the online ticketing system, I couldn't tell if the seat I had chosen was facing the direction the train would be moving or the other way around. And I also couldn't tell if the cafeteria was in the same coach.
What I was looking forward to was a nice, cosy seat with peace, quiet and privacy so that I could get some sleep. I needed some rest in preparation for the marathon, which was to be held exactly one minute past midnight on the day I arrive.
While waiting for the electric train, scheduled to depart KL Sentral Station at 7:05am, I bumped into so many runners, some of whom I knew. They were also planning to take the same train and take part in the same marathon.
As I was about to board, I saw Kin K Yum (the marathoner, photographer and newspaper columnist) pushing his foldable bike and walking towards the train platform. I chatted with him for a while. He told me he was waiting for another friend Chan Wai-Yee, whom I met later, who also brought along a foldable bike. That was such an awesome idea - travelling with foldable bike for leisure cycling after the run in Perlis!
We found out that we were in different coaches. Mine was Coach C while his was Coach D. So off we went to our separate seats.
TRAIN TO PERLIS
As I entered Coach C, I passed through a nice-looking cafeteria.
My seat was in a four-seater arrangement, with two seats facing another two, and a blue table in the middle. Throughout the journey, I would not be able to stretch my legs comfortably. Or if I took a nap, strangers sitting across from me would be able to watch me all the time.
I was worried I would snore, or saliva would drool from my open mouth, in front of strangers. What if a fellow passenger decided to video-record my snoring and upload it onto YouTube or Facebook? That made me wonder how I could sleep throughout the five-hour ride.
Five minutes after the train had departed, Kin (or KK, as his friends call him) came over to ask if I wanted to join him and the other runners in their coach. I thought all the seats were sold out! KK then told me that he had bought an extra seat, which he was offering to me. My prayers were answered! I would have some peace and a restful journey.
FROM KL TO IPOH
The journey would have 14 stops before its scheduled arrival in Arau at 12.13pm. Pretty fast and efficient, I think.
I found out that the electric train was moving at speeds averaging 120km/hr to 130km/hr, reaching 150km/hr at times. However, inside the train, one didn't feel the speed at all as it ran very smoothly. It was a great way to travel, and we beat the traffic jams along the North-South Highway!
From cityscapes, the views morphed into smaller towns with lush green vegetation before arriving at the old and beautiful Ipoh train station.
Vast green padi fields and blue skies are a common sight in Kedah.
FROM IPOH TO ARAU
The journey from Ipoh saw an even more noticeable change in the landscape. I could spot more oil palm plantations, more forests, and finally padi fields, especially in Kedah. I got excited when the train passed the freshwater lake at Bukit Merah near Taiping. It was the lake I swam in when I took part in the 113 Triathlon last year.
We got off the train at Arau station. We then took the bus to Kangar, where the marathon would be held.
Before we arrived, I suggested to KK and Wai-Yee to assemble their foldable bikes in the spacious air-cond train coach.
To our surprise, the train attendant did not object to them assembling their bikes in the train. On the contrary, he was courteous and friendly.
I was so impressed by the whole train experience - it was unforgettable, awesome and pleasant.