It's been a great few weeks here in Kuala Lumpur but the time has come to move on. This morning I booked my ticket on Friday's 08.45 'Sinaran Utara' train from KL to Butterworth, which will give me a last night in Georgetown (my favourite place in Malaysia) before catching the train back across the border into Thailand. The weather was beautiful - sunny and cool, which made me decide to enjoy a last trip up the branch to Batu Caves. Sadly, poor old KTMB weren't having a good day. At Sentral, the underground platform used by Batu trains resembled a cascade as a drainpipe had broken letting a torrent of water through the ceiling. One elderly member of staff was doing his best King Canute impression to keep the area clear, valiantly brushing the floodwaters that threatened to engulf him over the edge of the platform onto the tracks!
That was just the prelude. The train I caught ground to a halt just outside Batu caves, sitting there without explanation for 20 minutes before turning tail and retracing its tracks (literally) to the previous station where we were told to get off and wait for the next train - working 'bang road'.
It turned out that a cement train right in front of my train had failed and stopped the job.
But, in their wisdom (and to their credit) KTMB had installed bi-directional signalling when the line was modernised a couple of years ago. Thus a plan B was soon put into operation and the Batu branch effectively became a single line again. Not that it was much fun for the crew of the cement train. No-one seemed in a hurry to rescue it so it was still sitting there 4 hours later. I hope the cab air-conditioning still worked...
Having had enough excitement for one day I retreated back to my room in Chinatown before nipping out for a beer and a spot of people watching at my favourite spot - a Chinese restaurant straddling a busy corner*. As an 'old lag' I've got to know the staff. They were in a playful and talkative mood tonight because it was the bosses night off. That was when I learned what they earn in an 8 hour shift wouldn't even pay for three beers (around £9).
I made sure that I left a tip...
* There'll be more about this in a longer blog.