Category Archives: travel

All Routes Led To Puduraya

Of course this is an exaggeration (not all roads led to Rome, even in its heyday).  But this was the base terminal from which many express buses from all over the country operated.

During the 4 years of my studies at UM (1975-79), I called at this “mother-of-all-bus-terminals” at least 2 dozen times, as I travelled between Kuala Lumpur, and home in Penang.

Back then, it was already a hive of hyper-activity.  The upper floor which housed numerous ticketing booths and eating spots was always swarming with travellers of all shapes, sizes and colours, as well as hordes of bus touts crying aloud the names of almost every major town in Peninsula Malaysia.

The lower floor roared with high decibels of engine noise and fumed with diesel smoke from the arriving and departing buses. 

Those were the days – I have not been back there since 1980.

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Every Seat A Window Seat

Haha, this “ancient” piston-engined, propellor-driven, 9-seater Britten-Norman Islander BN-2 had something to offer that no modern airliners can!  And best of all, if odds were in your favour, you could land up next to the pilot in the cockpit…and that is full frontal view.

Years back (I think in the 70s), MAS had 4 of these rugged flying workhorses plying the rural routes in Sarawak and Sabah.  I have heard of many interesting stories as well as some hair-raising tales about flights on this plane.  Folks originating from East Malaysia should have some fond memories to share.

I was told that all passengers (apart from their baggage) had to be individually weighed and allocated seats in order to preserve balance in the air.  Sometimes live animals would be among the payload together with the passengers.

Tunnel Visions @ Bukit Berapit

The last time I rode a KTM train on the KL-Butterworth sector was about 25 years ago.  In the early days, the journey took something like 9 gruelling hours with the train making umpteen stops along the way.

But as a kid, every trip was an adventure.  The most eagerly anticipated events were the encounters with the 4 tunnels of Bukit Berapit.   Two long and two short ones.  (The British were clever not have made it Three Long and Two Short, 三长两短).  If I remember correctly, the second tunnel south of Taiping was the longest of the four.

With the opening of the new twin-tunnel in conjunction with double tracking and electrification,  these tunnels (and tracks) would probably fade into history or else be reclaimed by the jungle. There are some proposals to preserve them…will there be new light at the ends of these tunnels ?

A Steamy Love Affair

The North Borneo Railways photo here shows the only surviving specimen of an operational steam-engined train in Malaysia.  Brings back fond memories of the days of travelling on KTM trains between Butterworth (from Prai, initially) and Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s.

Those were the days when every trip was filled with great expectations.  I was always peering out of the windows to catch glimpses of the locomotive in front, with black plumes belching from the top, and steam hissing from the sides. Not forgetting the frequent whistling (I believe was also steam-operated).

KTM has come a long way.  Now as more sections of the rail network switch to electric trains, raw steamy love affairs have evolved into more refined electrifying experience (hopefully).   (Well, the intermediate diesel-electric locos were totally boring).

Human Rides In Penang

My much beloved and most favored means of transportation during my kiddo days was the Penang trishaw.

Back then, Penang Road was the go-to place, and the journey from Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda would cost my late mum a grand 30 sen !  By comparison, the fare on the rickety City Council buses was only 10 sen (kids traveled free).  But thrifty mum could not persuade me to opt for the economy plan.

Alas, I had a very bad habit of leaving things (mum’s shopping trophies) behind on these trishaws — maybe the rides were so enchanting that I forgot everything else.

Well, human rides were also practised in other towns.  But Penang’s are the best — the customers come first, whereas in other places customers are cast aside (oops, I mean they ride on the side).

The Friendly Flying Dutchman

Built in Holland by the Fokker Aircraft Company, this short-range turboprop airliner, called ‘Friendship F-27’ was extremely popular worldwide.  The forerunners of MAS – MSA, and even Malayan Airways – were early adopters of this reliable workhorse. Besides MAS, later on smaller airlines like Pelangi Airways also flew these types (for some time)

It began life in the 50s, and was upgraded many times – culminating in later versions as F50/60.  However, in the fierce dogfights of the aircraft industry, friendship was not enough for survival and Fokker had to shut down in 1996.

Honey They Shrunk The Plane

Boeing’s stubby B747-SP

This Special Performance jumbo was introduced in 1978 in a makeshift response to the advent of the trijets, namely Lockheed Tristar and the DC-10. It was 48 feet shorter than a regular 747. The project was a commercial flop and only 45 were ever produced. In 1986, I had the privilege of flying in this aircraft from HKG to SFO and back via operator Pan Am.

it cruised higher (@45,000 feet) – supposedly above the turbulent layers of the atmosphere, and 10% faster.  Among other operators were Saudi Arabian, Iran Air and South African Airways.    The last Iran Air 747SP was retired on 23 September 2014.