Category Archives: travel

The Crossing Was Level, The Playing Field Was Not

Decades ago, a bus journey from Butterworth to Padang Serai (where my aunty lived) would take us through a little town called Tasik Gelugor (半路店 in Chinese, meaning ‘halfway shop’).

There was a gated railway level crossing at the fringe of this town.  For a young boy, the Great Expectation was, hopefully, the bus would arrive in time to witness a train passing. (And many times it happened!)  Wow, what a delight to watch the long string of heavy coaches and metal wagons go rumbling by, preceded by several long puffs of the airhorns from the locomotive! Choo-oo! Choo-oo!

There was a railway worker stationed at the crossing, to manually move the gates into positions to barricade the road traffic whenever a train was due to cross.  Size did matter – and always had the right of way. 

Taken For A Ride

One morning, sometime in my 2nd year of stay in China, my wife and I hailed a red VW Santana taxi for a trip to downtown Shenzhen.

The agreed price was RMB80/=, and the ride proceeded smoothly, till we were about 5 km to the destination.  Suddenly the car stalled. The driver told us to pay him the RM80, while he would call in a replacement car. 

So  I gave him a RMB100 note, but he quickly returned to me, saying it was a fake note. Stunned, I pulled out another RMB100 note for him, and the same happened.  Incredibly, it happened a 3rd time.

After we got home, I discovered in my wallet three RMB100 notes  with identical serial numbers!  Oh Silly Me!  That driver had swapped fake notes for my real ones. 

Press Here, There and Anywhere

In public buses of the old days, there were a number of “Push Once” buttons placed along the length of the interiors.

Apparently, passengers were “warned” to push or press any of these buttons only once, to tell the driver that they wanted to disembark.  And “dire consequences” awaited those who disregarded the warning.

But as these buttons were spaced out at quite big intervals, sometimes it was hard to reach anyone of them, especially when the buses were jam-packed with passengers.

Thus at a later time, newer buses with fitted with a kind of continuous “bell strip” that ran the whole length of the interior, on both sides.  These were usually mounted above the window frames.  With these strips, it meant that the bell could be activated by pressing anywhere along the central rubberized zone.

But the high placement was a problem.

Look Ma, No Props !

In 1962, Malayan Airways inaugurated their Silver Kris jet service with a single De Havilland Comet 4, leased from BOAC. 

Renamed Malaysian Airways in December 1963, it expanded the jet services by propping them up (pun intended) with two more BOAC jets.  By September 1965, it had purchased a total of 5 Comets from the British company.   These jetliners, each powered by 4 “Ghost” turbojet engines, cruised at 800km per hour and well above 30,000 feet — much faster and higher than what propellor-driven planes could do.

For financially well-endowed folks who were not afraid of heights, and had a need for speed,  a new label was conferred upon them – the jetsetters !  

Malaysian Airways morphed into MSA (Malaysia-Singapore Airlines) in 1966, with the Comet fleet serving regional routes in South East Asia.  The entire fleet was retired in late 1969, and replaced by newer ones, viz., the Boeing 737 and 707.

Terminal Recall

This photo was probably a scene from the early 60s, after the Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim was opened in 1959.  Oh, so peaceful and serene, as compared to today’s bedlam.

I was barely 10 years old then.  But I can still remember the 5 beautiful ferries that plied between this terminal and the one on the Island.

Four main bus companies made their “bases” there – they were the UTC, the Central Province Wellesley, the Sam Lian Omnibus, and one other which plied between Baling/Kulim and Butterworth.

The voices of those ‘bus ushers’ with umbrellas, hollering “Bukit Mertajam, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal, Kuala Muda, Kepala Batas, Titi Timbol, Padang Serai, Alor Star, Sungai Petani” etc., still ring in my ears.

Oh yea, we had Mercedes-Benz  taxis parked nearby too. And the sea waters came almost right to the bus/car park.

Da Plane ! Da Plane !

Hong Kong could well be a Fantasy Island to many folks from around the world, but landing on the old Kai Tak Airport was something of a nightmare for airliner pilots.

Kai Tak was un-enviably sandwiched between the mountains (of southern China) and the deep blue sea (of the Fragrant Harbour), and the landing paths airliners took had to almost scrape the rooftops of the densely packed high-rise buildings.

One misjudgement could crash the plane into the mountain sides or the buildings or the sea. 

For the passengers who survived those landings, looking out the windows was either a thrilling or harrowing experience to recall.  Sometimes one could see people waving up from the roof-tops.  “Da Plane ! Da Plane !” perhaps.

The last flight out was on 6 July 1998 – some 20 years ago.

On Wings Of Gold

The Gold Wing GL1000 marked Honda’s foray into the “touring bikes” category and Honda sprouted wings of gold as it hit the motherlode in the US market.  It was quite a sight to behold – with a flat-four boxer engine with a water-cooled radiator.

Over the last 44 years, the Gold Wing underwent many upgrades and refinements, often with increased gross weights, physical dimensions and engine sizes.  The 2018 edition is a consummate melding of beastly beauty on two wheels.

The GL1800 has a 1800cc flat-six engine and even a reverse gear, plus a 7” TFT display, a hi-fi music system, and a host of apps, so that the rider and pillion companion can experience many happy hours on long rides.

Wow !  So, will the next version will have a bathtub and kitchen sink built in ? 

Trails Of Two Kebaya’s

In 1972, the inevitable happened: the joint flag-carrier, MSA split into two distinct national airlines, leaving each free to mark the skies with trails and contrails of its own, wherever and however it desired.

They parted but then somehow each arrived at the same conclusion on the choice of uniforms for their female crew.  Yes, kebayas and kebayas.  One cannot deny the simple noble elegance and graceful feminine aura these exude.

SIA’s more daring design by Pierre Balmain is already 46 years old (as of 2018).   The slightly more conservative MAS design currently in use was introduced only in 1986, supposedly by the creative minds at the School of Fashion, MARA Universtity of Technology. Nevertheless, it also stood the test of 32 years.

The two kebayas have flown apart from each other, but the common heritage background is unmistakeable.

“I’ll Meet You Halfway”

You needed not be a member of The Partridge Family to sing this out in celebration of the climactic thrill generated when the upgoing tram met the downcoming one, and passed each other at the mid-point of the funicular railway – with passengers on one car waving and hollering at those on the other track.

Yes, Penang Hill had always been a favourite destination for family outings.  My first visit was made when I was around 5 years old.

Back then, the trams were of wooden construction and without airconditioning, but the natural ventilation was cool and refreshing, and the trams travelled at a tranquil, leisurely pace.

Sadly the trams today are too modern – fully enclosed, with aircon, and shoot up and down like express trains.  To rub it in, the Middle Station has also been eliminated – sorry, can’t meet you halfway.

Of Side-Cars And Sidekicks

I wonder how many of us here remember, or have seen one, or have taken a ride on the “car side” of the three-wheel contraption ? I remember the last time I saw one was like 50 years ago – I think back then it was kinda chic with the better-off folks.

These machines had proper suspensions for both the side-car, as well as the motorbike itself, with creature comfort taken well into conideration. 

Well, in old war movies, this mode of transportation was popular with the German troops.  The side car of those times usually had a machine gun mounted in front, to take care of any unfriendly encounters.

Am not sure if present-day JPJ (Road Transport Department) approves of this kind of vehicle.   But never mind, let your memories flow….don’t forget to take your doggie along ….