To get to Singapore, I boarded the train at Bahau, Malaysia. They said it would be a nice, comfortable, air conditioned 5-hour trip. Instead, it was an uncomfortable, overcrowded, 8 hour trip with a rattling air conditioned unit that broke 30 minutes into the trip.
I was in good spirits, though, so I didn’t let that get to me.
There was a slight drizzle when I arrived at the station that turned into a downpour that only let up just before we got to the Singapore border. And all the while, I was shrugging off the unbelievably smelly, older Chinese man that kept falling asleep on me like I was his wife. Eventually, I found that it was a bit more comfortable (and hidden away from the slight smell of human bodies cooking in the humid air inside the coach) sitting at the opened door of the back of the train. Thankfully, the rules are much more lax on these third-world transit monsters.
I can say with all confidence that I was very pleased at my forethought to bring along food with me on the train. Something told me that it would be a non-stop train on which there’d likely be no in-transit food service. When the train left, 25 minutes behind schedule (6:10am), I figured it would be a bit longer than they told me. But the food (some plums, bananas, a couple ramly burgers and a hotdog cooked into a croissant) definitely stayed me over what would otherwise have been an uncomfortable, hot, elongated trip while starving – and therefore likely being very cranky.
The night before I left, I only got a couple hours sleep because I was busy catching up on things and packing for the early morning trip that left after a long day at work (when I was called in unexpectedly). So I actually wound up getting some sleep along the way.
Once aboard the train, I asked the coach official where I needed to go to find my seat because the ticket was written in Malay and of the 10-or-so words that I know in Malay, the ticket included none of them. He shrugged, not seeming to care that much whether I found my way and I brushed past him with my equipment in tow just to passively let him know that I was not in the mood to give him any more patience than he’d offered me.
I was panting and sweating all over the bags that I’d just finished organizing in a safe and out-of-the-way place (as much as possible on the zoo of a train car that it was), when the same coach official came to me and asked for my ticket. It was then that he began to care about where my seat was located. He then directed me to move from the slightly uncomfortable, air conditioned car that I’d slumped over in, to the very uncomfortable, hot one for which my ticket was designated.
I made little fuss and grabbed up my things to give him a second pass at the back of my tripod bag, ensuring that he knew I was still aware of his universally translating distaste for foreign travelers.
In any case, I spent the next 10 sweaty minutes wading through overflowing luggage, pushing open steamed glass doors to each next car and tripping over the little, Asian feet sticking out into the aisle to finally get to my seat.
Reluctantly, but with optimism, I made myself as comfortable as possible and positioned myself to catch some shut-eye after eating a little bit of my breakfast.
Once past customs, I found out that my train would not be continuing any further into the country. So I had to head for the taxi queue outside.
Next stop: Little India, to lock in my accommodation at the Shop House Hostel and take in the flavor and atmosphere of the Kampong Glam – the sauciest, hippest gathering of restaurants in the east-of-center downtown area.
Once I’d exchanged some money I checked in, locked up my things, ate the rest of my food and took a quick shower, I napped for a few hours in hopes of catching up to the non-groggy, non-agitated person that I strive to be. Then it was off to explore Singapore.