Days and Days on KL’s Trains

Kuala Lumpur’s commuter train system is quirkier than Singapore’s efficient MRT network, but if you’ve got no interest in the quickest trip from A to B, the KL trains offer better value. I had read what a mess the system was to build, with four different companies winning development bids. There was no disappointment: it was a pleasure to see and ride the result – if only for the amusement of making a connection. No overall design integrated the development plans of the four companies, and switching between lines usually means exiting one station and walking to another. My favorite such “interchange” is Hang Tuah, where you can examine the mural painted on the external walls of KL’s infamous colonial era Pudu Prison as you walk station to station.

During my most recent visit to KL, I managed to ride every bit of the city’s rail, and the best ride out and back was to Port Klang. The line ends near the ferry terminal, where regular boat rides can be caught to ports in Sumatra and Malaysian islands in the Straits of Malacca. I spent a pleasant hour exploring the small bustling terminal and watching the comings and goings of boats and passengers. A small nautically-themed café offers coffee, tea, and snacks, and customers can sit on an enclosed deck over the water and watch the doings in the harbor. The train ride from KL Sentral is a little over an hour, so it’s a good way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Another pleasant long ride is out to Gombak, the terminal for the useful Putra Line at the northeastern suburban limits of KL. There are views of jungle-covered sandstone ridges and cliffs along the way. The Putra Line also gets you to the Petronas Towers shopping and entertainment complex (KLCC Station), where free Internet is available at the Sony store on the third floor of the shopping mall. Each user is supposed to be limited to 20 minutes – so it can be frustrating when store staff allows extra time for friends and sweet young things – but it’s the only convenient place I found to check e-mail and the news.

For an outing combining a train ride and a walk back to town central, drop at the Chow Kit Station on the KL Sentral-Titiwangsa Line. If you walk back in the early evening south along Jalan Pahang (with the monorail running overhead), you’ll pass several streets that have been closed off for a night market. On your left hand side in the vicinity of the Stanford Hotel will be the Chow Kit market, an interesting place to explore for the number of different virility medicines on sale – one of which did wonders for a brown worm that supposedly displayed the desired combination of firmness and elasticity – although I’m not sure why the seller kept putting the worm on his head.

On the same walk, look for the side street on the left with the string of outdoor Malay seafood stalls. The rust-red corrugated roofs of a Malay kampung can be seen in the river valley behind. And watch out for the backstreet, abandoned colonial mansion being taken over by banyan trees and creeping vines. Once you’re back where Jl. Pahang becomes Jl. Tuanku Abdul Rahman, you are close to a rewarding cold beer at the Coliseum Hotel. Several small Indian restaurants nearby offer inexpensive dining options if you haven’t already had your fill at the food stalls in the market.

Copyright © 2006 Tropical Tramp