Asian adventure day 17. From Kuala Lumpur into Thailand…

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This isn’t going to be a magnum opus. It’s 18:45 here in Thailand and i’m settled in on the overnight sleeper train from Padang Besar in Malaysia to Bangkok. There’s no wifi, these 1988 built sleeper cars only have a few shared plug sockets and my laptop couldn’t charge on the Malaysian train even though we had plugs as they weren’t working. That means this is being typed on my phone (so forgive any glaring typos).

I’ll blog about the trip at greater length when I have time. It’s certainly been an interesting trip. KTMs Electric Train Service (ETS) left KL at 09:50 this morning. The train was sold out and busy almost all the way to the border. It was only after Alor Setar, the penultimate stop before Padang Besar that the numbers thinned. The ETS sets are pretty good. Mine was one of the later 2018 batch from CRRC that were assembled in Malaysia. Apart from the plug socket problem I’d no grumbles and the staff were very good.

Bowling along on meter-gauge track at 140kph is a rare experience but the quality of the rebuilt railway means the ride quality’s really good. We even arrived on time at Padang Besar. I’d not got an onward ticket but I suspected I’d be able to buy one on the day without a problem. True enough the Thai ticket office sold me a lower berth on the 18:00 departure for 918 baht. They don’t take credit cards but I’d a large stash of cash from previous trips so I used some of that. It’s a good job I wasn’t trying to get Southwards to KL, the next door KTM ticket office had a notice saying all trains were fully booked until the 30th January!

All I had to do then was wait. Immigration doesn’t open until around 30 mins before the 18:00 leaves, so there’s a fair bit of hanging around to do and not a lot of amusements. You can’t get back on the platforms so you just hang around upstairs. When immigration did open it was a breeze. Both sets were efficient and there were no questions asked before getting my Thai visa. You used to get a shorter one if you arrived by land rather than air (14 days instead of 30) but now you get 45 days whichever way you arrive.

Before the sleeper arrived the local train to Hat Yai departed. Four third class coaches hauled by an old Alsthom diesel. There’s plenty of freight to observe as intermodals arrive/depart on a regular basis, there’s just nowhere to get a decent shot of them.

The State Railway of Thailand are still an oasis of (mostly) vintage diesel traction.

This being SRT the sleeper was late! Eventually, a loud Hitachi built diesel of the 45xx number series backed 2 sleeper cars and a 3rd class coach into the station. The couple of dozen of us waiting soon boarded it and we were off with the Hitachi making lots of noise despite the light load.

On arrival at Hat Yai our two sleepers were detached by the station pilot, a battered old ‘Shovelnose’ which deposited us on the rear of the Bangkok train. There’s no buffet car anymore but hawkers came through the train selling water or chicken with sticky rice (40b) so hunger and dehydration aren’t a problem. Within 15 minutes we were off – Bangkok bound, where we’re due to arrive at midday. I’ll be amazed if we’re on time! Now the crew have made all the beds up and I’m laid out on my lower bunk relaxing. An early night beckons methinks.

See you tomorrow!

Asian adventure day 16. Kuala Lumpur day 10.

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Day 10 and last day in KL as tomorrow I head North for the border and into Thailand to make my way to Bangkok. With it being my last day I was determined to make the most of it and thankfully, the weather played ball insofar that it didn’t actually rain today!

I was up early as usual but this time I headed straight out, breakfasted on roti, then made my way to the old Kuala Lumpur station to begin my trip on the electric train service to Port Klang, a trip I’ve done many times in the past. I’m not going to blog about it in detail here as I took copious notes so it’s worth doing as a separate trip report. The Klang valley rail routes are being modernised, which is causing a lot of chaos in the interim, but no pain, no gain – as they say.

I really enjoyed being able to get out and about again and see the changes in the decade since I last traversed the route (some good, some bad). On the way back I stopped at Klang itself in order to get some shots of yet another metro extension, the Bandar Utama – Klang line. I photographed some of the Northern works the other day but this was my first chance to see some of the Southern works. The station at Jalan Meru on the North bank of the Klang river is especially impressive due to its size and height.

To the right of the new metro is the 1961 double-deck bridge which is ‘preserved’ with the lower level used as a walkway/cycle path but it’s in a bit of a state.

I’d visited Klang a few times as it’s the base of SMH rail, a company maintain the ‘blue tiger’ locomotives for KTM but also build other traction for export, including monorail cars for India. What I hadn’t done is explore much of the town or even cross the river. This time I did and found a thriving Indian community with so many clothing and bangle shops it reminded me of India. That said, there were what looked like some excellent Chinese eateries too. Oh, and a humongous new park and ride multistory carpark next to the railways station that looks very recent but has 4 of its 5 floors abandoned.

Heading back to town I stopped off at Subang Jaya, the only intermediate station on the ‘Skytrain’ service from KL Sentral to Skypark Terminal. Converted from a former freight line the route opened to passenger services in 2018. It’s not been a success. I travelled on the hourly service the other day. I was one of only 4 people on the way out and the only passenger on the way back. Today there were two of us! The reason I wanted to catch it today was that the stock on the route is formed from old EMUs from 1995 and today I’d seen a vintage Class 81 on the route. The Class 81s were designed by UK company Hunslet but built by Jenbacher. They were based on the Class 323 units used in the UK and sounded exatly the same. They were withdrawn in 2012 when the new Chinese units arrived as they were in a real state due to a lack of spares, but in 2018, 5 of the 18 strong class were refurbished and returned to service. Only now they’ve been re-tractioned and the familiar 323 whine is gone. Even so, it was great to be travelling on one again.

Set 05 approaches Subang Jaya from the airport.
I had no problem finding a seat!

I timed my visit well. It seems the service is going to be mothballed from February 15th due to a lack of patronage, the large subsidy required and the fact the units are required elsewhere. There are doubts it will ever return. Plus I’m told 81s are rarely used on the route, so I was lucky!

Whilst I was waiting for the service I nipped out on the nearby MRT system to kill some time and stopped off at the imaginatively named SS16 station. Built high above the suburbs it give an interesting view of suburban life in KL.

KL ‘Coronation Street’ – or ‘Neighbours’?

Now I’m back at home packing, ready for moving on tomorrow. I was going to nip out to Jalan Sultan for a last beer but my ‘local’ is closed today and everywhere else is packed which made me change my mind. It’s been fun here, so I don’t mind. But I’ll miss my early morning alarm call from the Muezzin at the Mosque across the road, and Roti Canai breakfasts. Still tomorrow’s another day and there’s lots more to see and do yet…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

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Thank you!

Asian adventure day 15. Kuala Lumpur day 9.

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The best laid plans and all that…

I’d fully intended to have a day out with the camera today but yet again, the weather conspired against me. When I looked out of the hotel window at 7am this morning the rain was already on the way through heavy grey skies, which put the kibosh on my plans. So, another day working from Bigland Towers KL branch it was then! It was a wise choice the day was one of perpetual heavy showers. I was here in January 12 years ago but I don’t remember the month being as wet as this. Ah well…

Having reconciled myself to working from home I did nip out for for food and enjoyed another excellent roto canai breakfast. For most people the holidays seem to be over which meant Chinatown was much quieter than it has been the past few days as a stroll around before returning home confirmed. Back at home I settled into a similar routine as the one I had when I was here over a decade ago. Work rest and play – only without the same photographic opportunities due to the weather!

The day passed speedily and profitably enough. The rain even held off long enough for me to have a wander, get my daily exercise and explore outside the bounds of Chinatown as I was looking to stock up on some Indian Ayurvedic soap. Malaysia’s one of the best places for buying it outside of India but the only place I could find sold it in bulk and I’m not ready to carry a couple of kilos of it around just yet!

By 18:00 I was more than happy to nip out for the beer that I’d planned to have the other night but just as I did the heavens opened once more and we were treated to yet another torrential downpour. I wasn’t going to let it put me off so I sat outside a familair haunt to shelter from the rain and watch the world go by as I recreated an old picture,

When I was here in Kuala Lumpur for several weeks in 2012 there was a particular Chinese restaurant on the corner of Jalan’s Sultan and Hang Lekir that became a favourite haunt. The food was good and reasonably priced, the beer cold and the location was ideal for people-watching. Across the road was a collection of hawkers stalls, one of which prepared and sold claypot chicken rice. I often used to sit and watch the chap juggling the various pots as it was a popular place and he was always busy. Here’s the picture I took from across the street on the 15th January 2012.

I went back in 2017 but my favourite restaurant had closed down and the pavement outside was covered in stalls. It’s still closed now but there’s a new Indian foodstall that’s taken over the pitch so I can sit, have a beer and recreate the picture – because the same guy is still cooking those claypots! Here’s how he looks almost exactly 11 years later. He’s wearing well!

Tomorrow’s my last day in KL so (come hell or high-water) I’m getting out to explore…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Whatever happened to the anti HS2 campaign?

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I’ve not blogged about these people for quite some time for the simple reason there’s been nothing of interest to blog about. But I wanted to do a round-up and potted history as I still get asked where they went and my last blog on the subject is way out of date. So, what did happen to them?

The short answer is, in 2022 their campaign collapsed completely with the demise of the Extinction Rebellion inspired ‘HS2Rebellion’ and the last remaining protest camp. Politically, their campaign had given up the ghost several years before.

This was always going to happen. Support had been ebbing away for years as it had become clear to all but the most blinkered that pretending HS2 could be stopped when construction was well underway was a fools errand. The protest camps were always a sideshow. They were an attempt to attract publicity and raise funds but they never stood a chance of success as they were poorly supported, many were in the wrong place and the people in them were such a rag-bag of conflicting ideologies and interests. A mixture of Nimbys, part-timers who just turned up to party plus a tiny hard-core of ‘professional’ protesters who drifted from one lost cause to another. The camps also attracted their fair share of ne’er-do-wells and damaged people, hence some camps getting reputations for thievery, sexual harassment and violence. Some young idealists attracted to the cause through social media soon had their dreams shattered by the reality of life in the camps and never returned. Plus, wealthy Chiltern Nimbys and a rag-bag of anarchists and left-wing dreamers (and a few thieves) were always going to be uneasy bedfellows – as it proved. Many opponents of HS2 in the Chilterns weren’t too sad to see the back of the camps.

The kamikaze tactics of people in the camps also limited their effectiveness as once people were arrested they had bail conditions imposed which kept them away from HS2 sites. Other had injunctions taken out against them which kept them away from places like the first protest camp at Harvil Rd near London. Support also waned when the camps nearest to London were evicted as that’s where the biggest pool of weekenders and party people came from. The final camp was in rural Staffordshire, far away from the Nimby heartlands of the Chilterns and London, plus local support was lukewarm to say the least. Money began to dry up too. In the past people had donated 10s of 1000s via various crowdfunders but these became mired in controversy as no-one ever knew where the money actually went. This led to some very public spats and fallings out which I’ve documented in the past.

The final nails in the coffin were the eviction of the ‘Bluebell’ camp in Staffordshire which fell extremely quickly. Three activists retreated into a tunnel that had been dug underneath the camp and stayed their for 47 days in an attempt to attract publicity, but they received very little. No-one was really interested in three people in a hole in the ground that was so far away from the Londoncentric media. Euston Sq gardens it wasn’t!

Meanwhile, events in the High Court in Birmingham were about to hammer home the final nail…

HS2 Ltd had applied to the High Court for a route-wide injunction that would ban any further disruptive protests or trespass on HS2 land. Over the years HS2 security and bailiffs had amassed a huge amount of evidence showing the dangerous, disruptive and violent nature of the protesters and this evidence was submitted to the Judge. Ironically, evidence was also provided by the protesters themselves through some of the video recording and livestreams they’d stuck on social media in an attempt to drum up support and funds. This backfired spectacularly in court! The old adage about ‘give ’em enough rope’ couldn’t have been more apt! There are thousands and thousand of pages of court documents, which you can find here.

After months of deliberations, Mr Justice Knowles granted the route-wide injunction on the 20th September 2022.

Contrary to claims from the protesters, the injunction did not make protesting against HS2 ‘illegal’. The injunction’s very specific in its wording about what it covers, which is;

(2) PERSONS UNKNOWN ENTERING OR REMAINING WITHOUT THE CONSENT
OF THE CLAIMANTS ON, IN OR UNDER LAND ACQUIRED OR HELD BY THE
CLAIMANTS IN CONNECTION WITH THE HIGH SPEED TWO RAILWAY
SCHEME SHOWN COLOURED PINK, AND GREEN ON THE HS2 LAND PLANS
AT https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hs2-route-wide-injunction-proceedings
(“THE HS2 LAND”) WITH THE EFFECT OF DAMAGING AND/OR DELAYING
AND/OR HINDERING THE CLAIMANTS, THEIR AGENTS, SERVANTS,
CONTRACTORS, SUBCONTRACTORS, GROUP COMPANIES, LICENSEES,
INVITEES AND/OR EMPLOYEES


(3) PERSONS UNKNOWN OBSTRUCTING AND/OR INTERFERING WITH ACCESS
TO AND/OR EGRESS FROM THE HS2 LAND IN CONNECTION WITH THE HS2
SCHEME WITH OR WITHOUT VEHICLES, MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT,
WITH THE EFFECT OF DAMAGING AND/OR DELAYING AND/OR HINDERING
THE CLAIMANTS, THEIR AGENTS, SERVANTS, CONTRACTORS, SUBCONTRACTORS, GROUP COMPANIES, LICENSEES, INVITEES AND/OR EMPLOYEES WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE CLAIMANTS


(4) PERSONS UNKNOWN CUTTING, DAMAGING, MOVING, CLIMBING ON OR
OVER, DIGGING BENEATH OR REMOVING ANY ITEMS AFFIXED TO ANY
TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT FENCING OR GATES ON OR AT THE
PERIMETER OF THE HS2 LAND, OR DAMAGING, APPLYING ANY SUBSTANCE
TO OR INTERFERING WITH ANY LOCK OR ANY GATE AT THE PERIMETER
OF THE HS2 LAND WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE CLAIMANTS

With the injunction in force it was game over for the protesters who’ve never attempted to set up another camp, or break the terms of the injunction. To reinforce the seriousness of their position, a couple of protesters were given jail time for contempt of court. As usual the protesters tried to spin this as being jailed for protesting. It was no such thing, but you flout the authority of the courts at your peril! One of the protesters, Elliott Cuciurean (aka ‘Jellytot) remains behind bars now.

In October 2022 one of the protesters named in the injunction (James Taylor, aka ‘Jimmy Knaggs’) started to raise money for an appeal, but his application was refused on the 9th December 2022. There will be no appeal. In typically underhand fashion, the news of the refusal of leave to appeal has been kept quiet. It’s not mentioned on any of the protest groups Facebook pages. Instead, there’s still a Crowdfunder running to raise money to fund the non-existent appeal – although no-one’s been mug enough to donate for quite some time. Here’s a screenshot from today.

No update since May 2022. No news the appeal was refused but the crowdfunder’s renewed for another 30 days every time it expires. With just 10 days left that means it was last renewed Early January – long after the appeal was refused!. Sounds like a scam to me…

So, it’s game over for the protest camps and the protesters trying to interfere with HS2. Now scattered to the four winds with many of them having simply disappeared, there’s no way back for them. HS2 ‘rebellion’ exists only as a few social media accounts which occasionally recycle the odd newspaper article critical of HS2 or try and raise more money for the lad in prison. No-one’s trying to stop HS2 anymore…

The political campaign died even earlier. Originally, there had been 2 main groups opposing HS2. The High Speed 2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) based in the Chilterns and ‘StopHs2’ based in Kenilworth in Warwickshire. HS2AA gave up in 2016 after getting the Wendover tunnel extension as that was on their doorstep. StopHS2 staggered on until 2020. They were only two people, Joe Rukin in Kenilworth and Penny Gaines in err…Bournemouth! Joe was the main mouthpiece who would do the media interviews where he’d often lie through his teeth – all to no avail! He’s left behind an interesting legacy on Social Media – a trail of lies and half-truths which really haven’t aged well.

During the injunction proceedings Rukin was named as a defendant and was forced to admit that StopHS2 had given up campaigning against HS2 in 2020!

As for the supposed ‘StopHs2 North’, it doesn’t exist. There’s no such organisation. You can’t find any trace of it anywhere. Stop HS2 have even given up posting stuff on their website now. From posting stuff daily they only managed 6 stories last year, the last of which was in June 2022. There’s been nothing in 2023 and I doubt there will be.

Political pressure was the only hope of stopping HS2 but it never stood a chance as it never had any real political support in Parliament, especially in the Lords which has always been very pro HS2. When the Phase 1 HS2 bill passed 2nd reading in 2014 only 41 MPs voted against the bill. More than half of them are no longer MPs!

The Phase 2a Bill (West Midlands to Crewe) passed 2nd reading on the 30th January 2018 with another crushing majority of 295 to 12. Interestingly enough, some of the 41 MPs who voted against Phase 1 voted FOR phase 2a whilst others abstained! I blogged about it at the time here.

Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester) passed 2nd reading on the 20th June 2022. By this time those voting against had dwindled to just 6 whilst 206 MPs voted for. The 6 were the usual suspects, including Greg Smith the hardline Brexiter from Buckinghamshire and (equally Brexity) Bill Cash. In fact, a Venn diagram of MPs who’re rabid Brexit supporters but who also oppose HS2 would be an almost perfect circle. This would encompass the few former Labour MPs who opposed HS2, like Kate Hoey. Co-incidence? I think not. You can see the malign influence of the Tufton St cabal at work here. After the 2019 election when there was a new intake of MPs noises were made about reforming a Parliamentary group of MPs who opposed HS2 called the HS2 Review Group but it never came to anything.

The problem for these few MPs and the Tufton St cabal is there are no more Parliamentary votes on HS2 for quite some considerable time. Legislation to build HS2 all the way to Manchester has passed. 2nd reading is the only stage that really matters as that establishes the principle of the bill. 3rd reading in the Commons and the process in the Lords can’t change that. By the time the next Hybrid bill appears we’ll have a new Government. Barring a disaster the Tories will be out on their arses and Labour will be in with a huge majority – and Labour are committed to building HS2 in full.

So, there’s really nowhere for the remaining opponents of HS2 to turn. They’re a dead duck politically and the protesters are finished. All that’s left is a dwindling bunch of Nimbys, right-wing libertarians and faux ‘greens’ wasting their time ranting in their social media echo-chamber. No-one sees them as a threat to HS2.

Meanwhile, HS2 construction is speeding up unopposed. Many of the major structures on Phase 1 are already under construction (for example, the Chiltern tunnels are already 50% complete) and work will only ramp up more this year. Civils Work on Phase 2 a to Crewe will be starting shortly whilst the Petitioning Ctte for Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester will be sitting through 2023. It will be interesting to see how many people actually petition this Ctte as there were always so few StopHS2 ‘action’ groups on this section of the line.

I suspect this will be my final blog on the anti Hs2 campaign as it’s ceased to exist in any meaningful way. Oh, there might be some mad ones to poke fun at sometime during the year, but that’s it. It really is all over now. Most of my time now will be spent reporting on progress building HS2, not on those who so spectacularly failed to stop it!

Stop HS2 is dead. Happy New Year!

Asian adventure day 14. Kuala Lumpur day 8.

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Whilst the Chinese new year has been quiet these past few days (apart from fireworks every night) the holiday finally burst into life this morning. I’d been out for breakfast to a new cafe serving a range of Indian dishes including my favourite Roti Canai. Apart from the excellence of the food the restaurant was great for watching the food being prepared as there was a sub-kitchen with a griddle at the front where a young Indian lad was cooking Murtabaks, Rotis and keeping busy with a wok. He was happy for me to get shots of him working which made for great shots like this.

Throwing Roti dough from the pile of balls you can see in the foreground. The dough thrown around in a circular motion to stretch it wafer-thin then its folded over several times to form the layers that help make rotis so light.

Heading back to the hotel I found the local Chinese temple was packed with people celebrating the new year and a group of lion dancers had turned up to add to the festivities, which made quite a spectacle. The combination of raucous percussive and acrobatic performances drew a large crowd. Here’s a few pictures.

Prayers and incense inside the temple.
Two lion dancers leaping from post to post. The skills they display are amazing as the co-ordination needed between the two men is intense. One slip…
The lion flicks oranges into the crowd.

The whole area was buzzing as so many people appear to still be on holiday because of New Year – and not just the Chinese community. I’m assuming many building sites remain closed judging by the numbers of young Indian men I saw out and about. The numbers made me decide against venturing far as I suspected all the trains would be packed. Instead I wandered over to the old station for a couple of hours to take pictures there. It’s on my doorstep after all. The place was busier than I’ve seen it since I arrived, manly with Indian families catching trains up to the Batu Caves to visit the Hindu shrines there. Mind you, the fact the train service is so poor now added to the numbers waiting. When there’s only one train and hour instead of two they’re bound to be busy.

A KTM Komuter service to Batu Caves calls at KLs original main station.

Despite the absence of a lot of trains I had a pleasant couple of hours mooching around the wonderful old station whilst managing to get a few worthwhile library images including shots of the new fleet of Intercity electric trains that have been purchased to expand the service. They’re in a different livery to the earlier ETS fleet so stand out.

Set ETS213 calls at KL whilst working a service from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur Sentral. Clearly, the nose cone over the coupling has taken a beating at some point. On the plus side, I only saw one broken window on this set!

Retiring to my hotel for a couple of hours to edit pictures I’d intended to maybe pop out for a rare beer tonight and get some pictures but the weather had other ideas. We’ve actually had a warm and fairly sunny day. So much so I decided to leave my brolly at home when I went out to eat. That was a big mistake! Whilst I was out we got hit with a torrential rainstorm which meant I got a soaking on the way home, so tonight’s been another quiet one at home listening to the thunder and fireworks. Maybe tomorrow…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Asian adventure day 13. Kuala Lumpur day 7.

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Have I really been here a week already? Time’s flying! I’ve settled into routine that’s governed by the weather as we’ve had a lot of rain these past few days – especially today. I’d planned to have a day out exploring but when I looked out of the window at 7am this morning the weather really wasn’t playing ball. Heavy grey clouds dominated the skyline and it wasn’t long before the torrential rain arrived – hardly the conditions for decent photography so I decided that a day sat in my hotel room editing hundreds of pictures would be a better use of my time. You can find the results of my efforts in this gallery. Eventually the rain eased long enough for me to nip out and find some brunch. I fancies something different this morning so I checked out a couple of eateries around the old market which is now full of tourist shops, but the nearby streets still have some traditional local eateries. One was packed, but I did find a table in this establishment where I enjoyed a very typical Malaysian breakfast – Roti Canai. Accompanied by a rich curry sauce these flatbreads are both delicious and filling.

I wandered home via a very subdued Chinatown. The combination of the weather and the fact it’s Sunday had really dampened its spirits, not that I was too bothered as I’d plenty more to do at home. Trying to keep on top of picture editing on trips like this can be quite a chore. You’re torn between going out with the camera as you’re only passing through and there’s so much to see, but you also want to show off what you’ve taken. At least the weather solved that conundrum for me!

By mid afternoon I was edited out (researching captions is even more time consuming than editing) so I decided to have a mooch around on the trains to check out a possible new location and check on engineering work outside Sentral station. Sadly, by the time I’d got to my first location the heavens opened again – and this time they stayed open! I did manage to find one thing of interest, this old Japanese Bo-Bo-Bo locomotive imported for use on contractors trains.

The three bogie arrangement has never caught on in the UK, only the ‘Chunnel’ shuttle trains use it, but it gained traction (if you’ll pardon the pun) in both Italy and Japan. If anyone can supply any background on this particular type of loco I’d be grateful.

Sadly, the location scouting was a bust. Still, it was my first trip out on the LRT system on this visit, which was quite entertaining as the trains were packed with loads of young Indian men out shopping as they’d got a day off from the building sites they’d have been working on during the week. It was the same when I got back to Chinatown. Guys were huddled under walkways and bridges trying to make the most of their holiday whilst staying dry! I sought shelter in my usual eating house and stuffed myself with chicken curry, rice and veg before waddling home to dry out and relax.

With it being the weekend Dawn and I had arranged to video call each other through the wonders of Whatsapp. My, how technology has changed! No more waiting for letters or making expensive telephone calls, now you can talk to each other face to face for free! As someone who travelled a lot in the ‘olden days’ I still can’t quite get used to how easy it is to keep in touch now – but it’s lovely being able to do so. The distance between us just melts away…

The rain finally stopped so I went for one last wander around Jalan Sultan to watch the world go by and look at filming a short video that illustrates a problem the street suffers from. This stretch of Jalan Sultan’s a vibrant place to eat with all manner of restaurants, cafe’s and street stall to suit every taste (and budget). The smells are delicious. But. It’s also a one-way street that’s often so clogged with cars its like having a slow moving metal wall down the middle. All those fumes and noise hardly add anything you’d want to eating alfresco. If only the street could be pedestrianised the way nearby Jalan Petaling and Hang Lekir are..

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Asian adventure day 12. Kuala Lumpur day 6.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

It’s been a quite one here in Kuala Lumpur, mainly because the weather has been awful! We’ve had thunderstorms most evenings whilst I’ve been here although they’ve cleared pretty quickly but this morning I woke up to heavy rain which stayed with us until the early afternoon. I decided this seemed like a good day to work from home so spent much of the day indoors, taking it easy and editing some of the several hundred pictures I’ve taken over the past few days. The desk in my room’s adjacent to the window so I could watch the world go by as I worked, observing people huddled beneath umbrellas as they went about their business. The streets were actually pretty quiet but that was hardly surprising as many shops and restaurants have closed for the next few days. The Chinese community takes New Year seriously with many businesses closing for several days or even a week.

Eventually, hunger and the need to stretch my legs got the better of me so I mid-afternoon wandered through Chinatown to see what was going on. The answer was – very little! Some businesses were beginning to prepare for the evening and the Malay food stalls on Jalan Cheng Lock were open as usual. I fueled up on curried chicken rice, jackfruit and salad for the princely sum of 8 ringgit (£1.50) before returning home to continue work. You can find the results of my efforts here and here.

This evening I played tourist and visited the ‘River of life’, which is rather good. It’s an art installation on the confluence of the two rivers from which Kuala Lumpur allegedly got its name. The rivers are filled with smoke then illuminated at night. The backdrop is spectacular as it’s formed by the Masjid Jamek and business district.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to exploring. There’s so much to see that the few more days I have here will soon fly by. Hopefully, the weather will play ball – unlike today.

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Asian adventure day 11. Kuala Lumpur day 5.

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It’s a short blog from me tonight as I’ve had a very busy day and I’ve a bucketload of pictures to sort out after travelling the length and breadth of the Klang valley. It’s been a fascinating experience as I’ve been able to say how the different areas connect, the styles of housing, where certain communities have bases – and how the whole place hangs together. Admittedly, it’s not the bread and butter of your normal tourist, but then I did all that stuff a few times back in the 1990s. I’ve plenty of material for a couple of blogs on the importance of public transport and how it makes cities livable, but that’s for the future.

Tomorrow’s Chinese New Year so I’m going to take a break from exploring and stay local. Well, I am in Chinatown after all. To be honest I’ve no idea what may happen as I’ve not bothered checking so anything and everything will be a surprise. If everything shuts down that’s equally fine as I’ve plenty to keep me occupied, but I suspect that won’t be the case.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures taken during the day.

A Putrajaya line metro arrives at the interchange station of Sungeh Boluh to the North West of the Klang valley. The picture was taken from atop yet another station multi-storey car park. This line is only part open. The majority of the route (which heads South-East) is due to open in March, which is unfortunate timing as I’ll just miss it.
Here’s what’s known as a challenging work environment! I’d hate to have been the person putting the safety case together for this lot. This is the new Shah Alam metro line under construction at Glenmarie. Building over a live railway and roads complex whilst surrounded by pylons and high-voltage cables? Nice!

I know I’ve been concentrating on railway pictures these past few days – so much so that I’ve had a complaint from my sister! – but I promise to post some other stuff from Chinatown tomorrow. It’s not that I haven’t been taking any, it’s just that they’ve not been a priority. Anyways, here goes…

This is the local fish and meat market which is tucked away down a series of alleys near where I’m staying. Public Health inspectors look away now.!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Asian adventure day 10. Kuala Lumpur day 4.

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I’ve had another day exploring the changes around the Klang valley today which started by heading to the opposite end of the Kajang line to the one I’d previously explore. The route down to Kajang opened a few months after my last visit to Malaysia in 2017 so this was my first opportunity to explore. Starting at Pasir Seni station just outside my hotel, the route traverses the centre of KL underground with the first surface station being out at Taman Pertama. The line then runs above ground all the way to Kajang where the terminal station’s built next to the KTMB ‘Komuter’ station. I found it a fascinating trip as I’d only ever explored that part of the Klang valley by conventional rail. What struck me was how much new building has been going on. We’re not talking small, low-rise developments either. Take a look at this lot around Taman Pertama station! The picture was taken from the rooftop of a multi-storey carpark at the next station on the line.

At Kajang there was a similar car-park (both are part of the station infrastructure and billed as ‘park and ride’) that allowed me to get similar shots only with the advantage of having the conventional railway as a contrast..

A Kajang line service reaches the end of the line. The trains are from Siemens ‘Inspiro’ family. The bodyshells were built by CRRC Nanjing Puzhen and shipped to Malaysia where the vehicles were assembled. There’s 58 four-car sets available to provide services on the line.
An Inspiro passes Cheras Christian Cemetery en-route to Kajang.
An Inspiro leaves Kajang and heads for the city centre seen in the background. You can just make out the twin Petronas Towers in the right background. What I find interesting about the Klang valley is that, despite all this development, it’s still quite green – as can be seen from this picture. It’s hilly and most of the hills are left untouched. The undergrowth’s really quite thick too, almost qualifying as jungle, whilst other areas are more manicured.
Yet more new high rise developments under construction right next to a metro station. Note how these are normally built atop large car-parks, then have a garden area and shared facilities surrounding the actual tower blocks. Many of these complexes have direct access to the metro stations in the form of covered walkways.
as the trains are driverless passengers can get a grandstand view of the journey. Here I’ve blurred passing underneath central KL…

Needless to say, I’ve a lot more photos to edit and get on my Zenfolio site, this is just a taster. Now I’m back at the hotel after having a few hours people-watching in Chinatown. I’ll elaborate on that tomorrow. Right now I’m about to switch off for the evening and relax. We’ve got another heavy thunderstorm hitting us this evening. We’ve had one every day since I arrived, but at least I’m out of harm’s way as the rain is torrential! Time for an escapist film methinks…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Asian adventure day 9. Kuala Lumpur day 3

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Having been pretty much confined to Chinatown these past few days so that I could catch up with picture-editing, blogging and financial stuff I spread my wings today. It wasn’t difficult. My hotel room window looks out over the new Pasir Seni underground station on the Kajang line MRT. When I was last here this was still a building site as the central underground section of the new line had yet to open although some of the outlying (elevated) route had. Fast forward to 2023 and history repeats itself, today I used the station for the first time to travel on the first section of the Putrajaya line which only opened in June 2022.

I’m always impressed by the Klang valley metro networks. They’re incredibly photogenic due to the fact most of the routes are elevated and they have amazing backdrops. They’re also a massive investment in public transport which is desperately needed to stem the rise of car dependency and improve air quality in the valley. My one concern is that in the time I’ve seen the network grow I’ve also seen car use grow. Central KL’s traffic jams appear to have got worse, not better and rail ridership remains low (not helped by the poor performance and cuts to the KTM ‘Komuter’ services. Here’s an example of how photogenic the area is.

Metros everywhere! – seen from Kwasa Damansara MRT station. The new Putrajaya services are the trains painted red.

One of the beauties of these routes is that they’re driverless, so passengers get to experience the best seat in the house that’s normally reserved for the driver.

Having changed routes at Kwasa Damansara MRT station I travelled on the Putrajaya line as far as it currently open to the public, which is Kampung Batu, the interchange with KTM Komuter services from central KL to Batu Caves. What a contrast that was. KTM services have been reduced from every 30 mins to hourly, which is a PITH to be honest as they’re not that reliable at the best of times. Still, I did manage to make it to Batu Caves where I grabbed this shot of the local passenger services whilst I waited to see if one of the cement trains would turn up.

I was lucky as soon after one of the popular ‘Blue Tiger’ locomotives turned up with a long cement train and immediately ran round to begin shunting.

The ‘Blue Tiger’ was designed and built by ADtranz. 20 of them were supplied to KTM back in 2003-04. They’re probably the most reliable loco in the fleet. They’re certainly the most popular – and the most powerful. The ‘blue tigers’ weren’t a commercial success for ADtranz or Bombardier – who took them over. Only 61 were ever built.

Moving on from the caves my next stop was at Sentul which was the site of the railways main workshops – the Malayan Crewe that in its heyday was reported to have employed 5000 people. All that’s long gone but there’s still an EMU depot nearby and a few roads full of retired and redundant trains like this.

Literally put out to grass!…This is one of the Class 83 EMUs built by Hyundai and Marubeni in 1996. The 22 3-car sets were one of three different fleets that were the mainstay of KTM Komuter services until 2012 when the new Class 91 EMUs arrived from China. Many like this one are dumped and used as a source of spares to keep their sisters running as they’re used on the ‘Skypark’ airport rail link and also work local services between Butterworth and Padang Besar and Butterworth – Padang Rengas.

In keeping with the colonial theme my final stop was at the magnificent but sadly fading former main station in Kuala Lumpur. I was rather shocked to see how tatty and underused the place is now. It used to be buzzing – even just 6 years ago. Now it’s not just the buildings that are empty, the platforms are too…

Covid seems to have removed a lot of the traffic due to many of the nearby banks, offices and hotels having closed. This has been compounded by the opening of the new MRT route at Pasir Seni. Ironically, the two are linked by a new bridge but that sees hardly any traffic. The main station building is a delightful Indo Saracenic structure that used to house a hotel. I stayed there in 2009. It was very rundown but still quite an experience. Sadly, it closed in 2011. The restaurant on the ground floor has also gone. The concourse of the building became (yet another) half-hearted railway museum but that’s disappeared too, leaving parts of the building occupied by a few railway staff and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the structure’s in slow decline. It’s such a shame. There used to be regular daily freight services from sidings at the North end. Every evening a couple of bogie parcels vans would depart for the north but today I saw these sidings have been lifted, as have the others on the opposite side of the station where you could often find the odd loco stabled. On the bright side, these have been replaced by a pair of electrified tracks for stabling EMUs. Even so, it’s a story of decline, not growth. I’ll have more of a mooch around the building later this week.

Returning home I found the light had changed enough to finally allow me to get a decent picture of this major new addition to the KL skyline. Trying to gauge its size is difficult, especially up-close. That’s my hotel at what appears to be the base of the tower. In reality it’s at least 500m away! Having posted the picture on Twitter I’ve been informed that – at 118 floors tall this edifice is twice as big as the ‘Shard’ in London and is (in fact) the 2nd tallest building in the world!

After my travels I’ve had a quiet evening in, partly helped by the fact we had a very heavy thunderstorm with torrential rain, which was great fun to watch from my hotel room window, but it can’t have been good for business for all the street-traders. Once it stopped I did nip out for food but Chinatown feels very subdued. I’m assuming people are keeping their powder dry for the forthcoming New Year celebrations – as am I!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!