Asian adventure day 6. From Johore Baru to Kuala Lumpur…

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I’d fully intended to write a long blog about this fascinating trip but I’m currently holed up in my hotel in Kuala Lumpur after another busy day and I’ve realised I’m really not going to be able to do the trip justice is such a short time. I need a full morning to write about the trip, not just half an hour, so the trip report will come tomorrow.

After 6 days constantly on the move I’m having a day off tomorrow. I’m staying in a hotel with all the facilities I need like a desk, plenty of power sockets and wifi and if I get lonely there’s a big mirror over the desk so I can always talk to myself. I even have a TV with Netflix, so this is a cut above where I normally stay. I’s in the old Chinatown district where I’ve been staying for years – although it’s changed as Covid sounded the death-knell for many businesses. There’s a lot of vacant shops but life is slowly returning to the place. I’ll explore more tomorrow and explain as I’m having an admin and rest day, rather than gallivanting around the city’s public transport network. I’ve got plenty of time for that in the next few days. So, my apologies if you were expecting a magnum opus today. Still, here’s a couple of taster pictures for you.

My train heads North on the early part of the trip. As you can see, it’s not just a case of laying another track next to the old one. In many places there’s a completely new formation and all flat crossings have been replaced with overbridges. The lineside also has much improved drainage and many gradients have been flattened.
An increasingly rare sight on Malaysian Railways, once there were a network of sleeper trains carrying you around the network. Now there’s just on on the ‘jungle’ line from Kuala Lipis. Here’s the Southbound working passing us at the huge new station and yards at Menkibol.
The old Victorian colonial railway has well and truly vanished. A single track line with station that often just had a single platform and a loop or two have been swept away with four platform places like this which have level access to all areas.
The old station at Gemas, the junction for the jungle railway with the new station in the background. This is currently the Southern limit of double tracking and electrification. The old stations’ been preserved but plans to turn it into a museum have fallen by the wayside. Even a few years ago it still maintained an excellent cafe/restaurant but this has fallen on hard times. Now it’s just teas, soft-drinks and boiled eggs. Still, it’s cool for cats (many occupy the station as someone feeds them). As for the rest of the place, Gemas isn’t exactly a thriving town, it’s not even one-horse…
I made a friend…
An all to common sight around KL’s Chinatown at the moment.

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. Hopping the border…

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I’m writing this from the comfort of my hotel room in Johor Baru, Malaysia where I’ve retreated to after crossing the border from Singapore earlier. I’m only staying here one night, it’s little more than a pitstop that allows me to catch the early morning train to Kuala Lumpur without any hassles.

Despite the fact I had a really god nights sleep last night my body clock is still all over the place. I was wide awake at 5am Singapore time so I cut my losses and spent a couple of hours picture editing, which means a fuller selection of shots are starting to appear on my Zenfolio website in this gallery. There’s plenty more to do. I’m hoping to get a few more done this evening as Johor isn’t exactly the most exciting place. As I still had several hours to kill as I was in no hurry to leave I went and had a coffe in a place in Little India and watched the world go by for an hour before showering and packing

Getting here was easy enough. I wasn’t bothered about faffing around with the KTMB shuttle train from Woodlands as I travelled the whole line to the former Singapore station many times in the past. Here’s how it used to look like when it was still the terminus. of the line all the way from Bangkok. The station’s been preserved and it’s being incorporated into one of the new metro route stations, so not all’s lost. Instead, I got the MRT from Rochor, on the downtown line which was around the corner from my hotel as far as Stevens, which is the interchange station on the new Thompson line that takes you to Woodlands, where buses run across the causeway to Johor Baru. The metro cost me a couple of dollars (less than £1.50) and the shuttle bus $1.90 (just over £1).

Woodlands itself is a fascinating place as it’s packed with food stalls with all manner of tasty treats. I treated myself to a takeaway of a mix of different noodles and breaded chicken for all of $2.60 (£1.63). Part of the the huge Woodlands bus station has been taken over to be used as a drop-in Covid vaccination centre, but it doesn’t affect the single-deck buses to Malaysia which run roughly every 10 minutes. You join a queue then get on the first one that turns up. They’re all pack of course. I was fascinated to see that the vast majority using them were young people/students, as you can see from this picture of the queue I was the head of. Talk about feeling like Grandad!

The bus takes you to the monolithic Woodlands checkpoint. It’s a modern building across multiple levels with an imposing tower which has a touch of 1984 about it. That said, once off the bus I breezed through the biometric passport check and was back on another packed bus within 10 minutes. Arriving in Johor Baru was much the same process, except no biometric checks. Instead I got my passport stamped than had to undergo baggage customs check from some very nice but impossibly young women customs officers.

And that was it. I’m now in Malaysia. I popped into the railway station to book an onward ticket from Gemas to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, which was no problem. That cost me all of 32 ringgit (a few pence over £6 for a three hour journey). After that I wandered over to my hotel but the pleasent girls behind the counter (I’m starting to see a theme here) were adamant check-in wasn’t until 14:00. At least they agreed to look after my suitcase, so I went for a wander to try and rediscover places I remember from when I was last here in January 2017.

Sadly, the place hasn’t fared well. The town centre anyway. There’s vast amounts of Chinese money here that’s been invested in massive housing complexes, but the place has never really taken off as a destination. It’s tatty and dirty and the artisan coffee shops that were meant to be the brave new world are either struggling or closed.

Sandbrewed coffee? It’s a bit niche and this place faces onto a bypass along the Johor Straits, which is hardly scenic

One good thing about crossing the border is my smartphone’s restored to full functionality I’ve had this problem in Singapore in the past, they don’t seem to get on with O2 for whatever reason. I’d just got used to not having it although the lack of maps was sometimes interesting as I hadn’t any paper ones either so I was reliant on memory, which only caused one lengthy detour…

Whilst waiting for my room to be ready I discovered Jalan Meldrum and old guys like this. More of which later…

Beer, fags and the Malaysian version of the Racing Times, plus watching the gee gees live on smartphones…

Having relaxed for a little while, had a shower and composed this blog, I went out for a wander and headed over to the old Johor Baru station which nestles in the shadow of the modern station. The building’s still intact but it’s looking rough. There were plans to open it as a rail museum, and to that end a number of locomotives and other rolling stock were moved onto the site, but nothing ever happened and now they’re derelict and rusting away. The building seems to be used as a staff messroom at best, a car-park at worst. Such a shame.

Then again, the area around the station’s undergone huge changes as opposite there’s now a massive shopping mall that looks like so many of these beasts. Bizarrely, despite the huge sums spent on building the new, multi platform JB station, it’s criminally under-utilised. Apart from the Woodlands – JB shuttles, there’s just four trains a day in and out Northwards. Tomorrow, I’ll be on one of them, the 08:30 departure to Gemas (the junction for the ‘jungle railway’. I’ve fond memories of travelling between KL-Singapore on sleeper trains back in the 1990s. Now there’s nothing like that. Electrification should have spread South from Gemas in 2020, but there’s no sign of it yet. I’ll be interested to see hoe the line’s changed since my last trip in 2017.

As the weather was crap due to leaden skies and lousy light I gave up and came back to the room to resume blogging. I’ll nip out later when it’s dark and more photogenic as by that time I’ll be starving!

So, first impressions having crossed the border again? Obesity and smoking. Now, admittedly, Singapore has banned vaping so there’s more smokers because there’s no alternatives, but I was surprised to see a number of young Muslim women in JB smoking Admittedly, their religion doesn’t cut them much slack when it comes to vices and that one was never mentioned in the Koran, but even so…

Whilst JB will never be in the top 10 tourist hotspots it is an interesting place to people-watch as its a real collision of cultures, economies and social attitudes. I’ll write more about this later.

Happy consumerism! Inside the shopping centre across the road from the railway staion and entry port from Singapore. I’m assuming Malaysian prices are meant to attract Singaporean day-trippers.

It’s half past 8 Malaysian time and I’m putting my feet up back at the hotel as the weather’s been very wet these past few hours, which has put a damper on much of the evening. I’d intended to nip out, get something to eat, then have a mooch around and get some pictures, but unless pics of empty streets are your bag…

Anyways, here’s a few from this afternoon/evening – and this morning in Singapore..

Several buildings where I was staying had these classic old spiral staircases at the rear, but the shapes and colours of this one really stood out
Little India’s normally deathly at 10:00, but this one entrepreneurial shopkeeper was ahead of the crowd.
The former clocktower and centre-piece of the former Johor Baru station,
Thanks to the weather it was a quiet night for the food hawkers in the alley behind my hotel. Here’s where I ate, stuffing myself with curried fish and rice.

I’m literally going to call it a day now. Tomorrow’s another day and no doubt I’ll be awake early…

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: Singapore, day 2

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It’s lunchtime here in Singapore and I’ve retreated to my room for a couple of hours to rest avoid the heat stickiness of midday and download the pictures I’ve taken this morning. I was up early as my body-clock is still all over the place. I had about 5 hours sleep then decided I might as well start rejigging my trip in light of what I learned about Chinese New Year. This meant cancelling a few hotels and rebooking some others as well as extending my time in Kuala Lumpur where I’ll be for New Year – which should be fun!

Afterwards I headed out on the metro to explore and have a look at some of the new extensions plus ongoing work. I ended up walking miles which is another reason for coming home – I need a shower as I’ve already got 14,000 steps and 6.5 miles under my belt!

Here’s a few pictures from this morning’s trip out to Expo station (Designed by Sir Norman Forster) and the construction of new flying junctions out at Bukit Timah where the existing line is going to be incorporated into the new Thompson line. This will leave some of the old viaducts redundant. There’s talk of turning them into Singapore’s version of New York’s ‘high line’ which could be quite a sight.

Bridging the gap. The massive Changi metro depot is out of shot to the left.
Big boys Lego!
I hope all the sections are numbered as there’s bits lying everywhere.

I’m off out again in a minute once I’ve had a shower, so I’ll update this blog later. I was lucky with the weather this morning as I managed to get some sunshine. Whilst I’ve been sitting in my room writing this we’ve had clouds roll in and claps of thunder. Time to dig out the umbrella methinks!

I’m now back from my afternoon amble out to Jurong East. Sadly, the weather did produce heavy rain and grim skies, so there wasn’t much wandering going on. Here’s the platforms at my ‘local’ station – Jalan Besar. As you can see, the quality of fitting out is rather good.

The trains were busy, but not rammed, and everyone was wearing a mask.

En-route I stopped off at Dover station, which is unusual. Most metro stations are island platforms, but not here. This was a later addition to the line with the station opening in 2001 whilst the line opened in 1988.

Piling work adjacent to the existing station at Jurong East. Covers have been placed over the tracks to the West of the station due to the closeness of heavy plant to the running lines.

Rather than doubling back I continued on along the North-South line to the interchange with the Thomson East coast line at Woodlands. Last time I was here this was nothing more than a very large hole in the ground. The line opened in stages between 2020 and 2022. This was my first trip on it and I’m impressed. The trains were very busy and the stations are excellent.

New escalators from the existing Woodlands station take you down to ground level before more sets take to down to the Thomson line. The system is confusing for ex-Londoners like myself because here you stand on the left of the escalators, not the right. I’ve just learned that lesson, and now it’s time to move on!
Woodlands station on the Thomson line
Interior of one of the new Thomson line trains, which are automated.

I leave Singapore tomorrow but I’m not going far – merely nipping over the Causeway to Johor Baru in Malaysia, where I’ll be staying the night before catching a morning train Northwards to Kuala Lumpur. Watch this space…

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: Singapore day 1.

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Despite the jet-lag and not getting to bed until after midnight local time I was up at 7am this morning in order to catch up with the world back home and get some work done. Duties done I went for a wander around ‘little India’, as the area where I’m staying is known as. No prizes for guessing that it’s the old centre of Singapore’s Indian community! It’s a fascinating place to wander around although it’s quiet in the mornings as the place doesn’t really spring to life until later. Singaporeans are night owls!

Despite not being here since 2017 I immediately felt at home. Everything was so familiar. The sights, sounds and smells reminded me of so many parts of Asia that I’ve seen. I spent some time browsing local shops just to get an idea of how much prices have changed. The answer is some – but seemingly not as much as the UK. The one thing that has increased is the price of alcohol but then Singapore is a bit of a ‘nanny state’, which is what amuses me about the Tories ambitions to turn the UK into ‘Singapore on Thames’ – they don’t actually know much about the place. Year ago you used to be able to buy T-shirts that said ‘Singapore is a fine place – there’s a fine for everything’! It’s true to an extent. You name it, from fishing to rubbish dumping, chewing gum or smoking – there’s so many things that are not allowed. On the positive side, it means the country’s actually very safe and there’s certainly not the obesity epidemic that we see in the UK. I’ve been out all day and I haven’t seen a single person who would be classed as morbidly obese. In the UK I’d see several. It was one of the things that really struck me. The other was the fact that so many people are still wearing masks, not just on public transport, but in the streets – and that applies to all the Singaporean communities.

After wandering around little India I caught the metro to do some exploring. Mask-wearing was almost 100% on public transport, which was such a contrast to the UK – even at the height of Covid. But then, society is much more cohesive here. There’s far less the cult of the individual. It’s not that you can’t express your own individuality though fashion or style but you still show consideration for others when it comes to stuff that really matters.

I could blog for ages about my day, but it’s getting late and I’ll have to be up early as a Singaporean friend has just reminded me of something I’d forgotten about that’s going to affect my travel plans. I’d been intending to be on the move during Chinese New Year – and that’s a really big deal where I’d be travelling, so I’m going to be spending a few hours in the morning rebooking a few things and adjusting the amount of time I’m spending in Kuala Lumpur where I’ll be for New Year.

In the meantime, here’s a few pictures from today.

On the metro. One car has a central area devoid of seats for the disabled and people with lots of luggage.
Strap-hanging is alive and well in Singapore!
Masks are mandatory on the metro, but smart phones are de rigueur!
The modern metro lines are built underground, but the North-South line onwards from Bishan was one of the earlier extensions to the original 3 lines. it opened in 1996. Here’s a train heading South from Khatib station. The next picture was taken a bit further down the road. It shows a North-South line train skirting the edge of the lower Selator reservoir. Unlike the more modern lines, these trains (built by either Kawasaki or Rotem) still have drivers.
Here’s another later extension to the original network. This is Tuas Link. Its the new Western terminus of the East-West line. This 7.5 kilometre extension from Gul Circle opened in June 2017.
Inside Tuas link station looking along the island platform to the exits.

Right, lots more tomorrow! But for now – goodnight…

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!

Arrival…

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The time’s 10 past midnight here in Singapore. Despite the fact I’m tired after such a long trip from the UK I’m also elated to be here so I wanted to get a few memories down in a blog whilst they’re still fresh in my mind.

My flight from Doha was another good one. Rather than the Boeing 777 I’d expected we flew in an Airbus A350-900. They’re decent planes. OK, ignore the fact that when they named the company ‘Airbus’, thus destroying any cachet air travel still had, their planes are good and Qatar’s internal fit-out adds to that. I enjoyed having decent backseat TV screens to watch films on and the archive is excellent – there’s just so much to choose from that it’s impossible to find something you won’t enjoy. The crews are very good too. Predominantly Asian (at least on this sector) they’re only too happy to help.

The seven hour flight meant we arrived at Singapore at night but as I had an aisle and not a window seat I wasn’t too bothered. Plus the A350s are fitted with several external cameras which you can view on screen. The lower body camera’s great fun as you come into land because you can watch the nose wheel deploy then hit the runway!

We touched down a little after 21:00 local time but it took a while to get out of the airport. Immigration were good. My biometric passport wasn’t accepted by the machines so I had to join the manual queue but the woman whom I dealt with was polite and efficient and never asked me for some of the more onerous paperwork-checking like Covid certificates, onwards tickets or suchlike. That said, you don’t even get your passport stamped anymore as you’re required to fill out a form online 3 days before you arrive. I’m not complaining. I’ve enough Singapore stamps as souvenirs and I need the space in my passport for all those EU stamps we get thanks to the Brexitshambles (don’t get me started)!

Finding my way to the metro was a bit of a chore as I’ve not done that route for several years, but in the end it was fine, I just had to negotiate the maze of corridors and escalators to terminal 2. I even had enough credit left on my old ‘EZ card’ from 2017 to get me into the city. The difference in public transport is marked. Everyone’s still wearing masks here in Singapore. Plus, you don’t get the same sort of moronic/rowdy behavior out here that you can do in the UK. I had to change at Expo to get the Downtown line to Jalan Besar although that’s an easy cross-level interchange and everything’s well-signposted. My hotel’s almost right across the road from the metro station (apart from the cheapness, it’s why I picked it). The only chore when I arrived tired after a long flight was that they’d put me on the 4th floor – and there’s no lift! You know it’s the sort of place that might generate a few stories when you arrive to find reception dark ‘cos the staff have gone home – but they’ve left you a room key with a note on the desk and the first guest you bump into is a tipsy Indian transvestite…

Duly settled in I decided to nip out for a celebratory beer. Only one mind. There’s a nice little hawkers market two doors down the road which sells all manner of food – and drink. The food prices don’t seem to have changed that much, but I winced when I bought a large bottle of Tiger beer, which cost £4.80 – in a hawkers market! I suspect I’m going to be on a health kick whilst I’m here as a decent meal will cost you half of that.

The eye-watering Tiger! I hate to think how much they’re charging the city-boys at the posh bars in the financial district nowadays…

Beer prices aside it’s lovely to be back. I’m still getting used to that fact but sitting in the hawkers market, watching the world go by made me feel very at home and at ease. Now for a good night’s sleep and a busy day 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!

Neither here nor there…

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02:00 (UK time).

I’m here in Doha airport in between flights. It’s changed a bit since I was last here. I take that back – it’s changed hugely! I’m currently sat in the indoor forest, listening to birdsong whilst a waterfall provides background sounds behind me. It really is quite a place, which is just as well as I’m here for the next five hours!

My flight from the UK was fine. I shared the row with a friendly and easy-going young Indian couple. The stewardesses were excellent and the food was fine. The only problem was when we hit some turbulence and I ended up wearing part of a glass of red wine! As it was 18:15 UK time when we took off there was no point trying to sleep so I watched a couple of films instead, including ones I’d missed at the cinema like ‘Dune’. Based on the Frank Herbert book I read as a teenager it was certainly a visual spectacular and very enjoyable. After that I dipped in and out of a couple of films based on the Marvel comic books but none of them were much cop.

Now tiredness is catching up with me so I’ll head off to a quiet part of the airport where I might be able to get my head down for a couple of hours, ready for the next leg to Singapore. Well, once the call to prayer has finished, it’s just shattered the peace of the airport as it’s piped across the PA system. In the meantime, here’s a couple of shots taken in the airport. I got told off for getting my SLR out, so these are camera phone pictures.

There’s acres of seating here but very few places you can lay down and stretch out without being chided by staff, so I’ve found the Male ‘quiet room’ which is equipped with a couple of dozen loungers and carpeted floor space where such activity is permitted.

04:00 (UK time, 7am Doha time).

I managed to get an hours kip in the (not very) quiet room, then went for another wander. By this time the sun was up and a lot of flights had arrived as the airport was far busier. I have to admit, it’s an impressive place. I couldn’t resist having a trip on the cable operated railway which runs the length of one of the buildings. It’s very swish. I’ll post pics later as I managed to get some SLR shots without being told off! Meanwhile, here’s the sun rising behind my Boeing 777 as it waits for us to board.

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!

Rolling blog. Departure day…

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09:10.

Time to enjoy a coffee as I pack the final items I’ll be needing these next few months, enjoy a last breakfast and quality time with Dawn, then head off. Fingers crosses that there’s no problems on the trains. The good news is that I’ve looked up real-time information on my train and the empty stock to form Grand Central’s 10:40 from Halifax to London has left the depot which is always a good start! I’ll be posting throughout the day so feel free to pop back and see how my journey goes…

10:50.

I’m on my way! The weather here in West Yorkshire’s bloody awful – it’s been raining all morning leaving many roads flooded or resembling waterfalls. Dawn drove me to the station for a tearful farewell on the platform as she waved me bon voyage. It’s a shame Dee couldn’t have come with me – even if it was for part of the trip – but there’s where freelance life has its advantages. I’ll miss her wide-eyed enthusiasm and exclamations ‘oh, wow’ when it comes to seeing new sights.

Right now I’m on Grand Central’s 10:40 to London Kings Cross. It’s bizarre, but this is the first train I’ve been on in 2023! The only time that normally happens is if I’m already abroad for New Year, this time it’s been down to the strikes and preparations for this trip. My train’s busy, but I have a seat in 1st Class and (for now) a table bay to myself which has allowed me to set up the mobile office and get some work done.

On my way…

12:00.

After the usual stagger around the West Yorkshire backwaters and exotic places like ‘Pontycarlo’ (aka Pontefract) we’ve finally reached the East Coast Main Line and Doncaster, where dozens of people are joining what’s already a busy train. Standard class is rammed and First Class loadings are now healthy too.

12:30.

We suffered a minor delay at Doncaster but now we’re speeding South at line speed with the expectation of making up time. The weather’s a little better now as the rain’s stopped and the sun is making a valiant effort to break through the clouds but the amount of standing water in the fields, overflowing streams and swollen rivers betray the fact it’s been a very wet year so far. Cloud level remains very low but there’s now a multitude of shades and shapes of grey as differing formations have taken over from the thick ceiling of dullness we had earlier.

13:00.

We’re now the right side of Peterborough and cruising rather than speeding South, just 5 minutes behind time. I’m assuming we’re stuck behind slower services like Thameslink. I’m not too bothered as I’ve time in the bank – my flight doesn’t leave Heathrow’s terminal 4 until 18:15 which gives me plenty of time to get there on the tube rather than the much more expensive Heathrow Express. Plus, I’ve credit on Oystercards, so that leg of the trip won’t cost me anything. You can tell I’ve been living in Yorkshire for a while, can’t you!

14:10.

Part 1 of the trip’s complete and it was the one I was most edgy about as rail reliability hasn’t exactly been at its best recently. I was lucky with my GC service. The unit sprung a leak through one of its windscreens. Fortunately, it was in the trailling cab, not the leading cab, otherwiseit might have been a much more stressful story!

Made it to Kings Cross…

I didn’t hang around at Kings Cross. Instead I made a beeline for the Piccadilly line and stepped straight onto a train heading for Heathrow Terminal 4. Now I can start to relax a bit! The tube is quiet so there’s no problem with getting a seat.

Next stop – Heathrow…

16:10.

And – relax! The trip to Heathrow was hassle-free. Terminal 4 is pretty quiet so checking-in was a doddle with no queues. Even security was a breeze and for once my camera bag didn’t attract any attention at all. Now I’m airside. Having wandered up and down the terminal I’ve managed to notch up a few steps and explore. There’s not really much here at all apart from the usual posh but empty shops selling designer gear which are staffed by bored looking young women, the obligatory WH Smiths (closed, of course) and a trio of expensive cafe/bars. The plus side is there’s plenty of seating available and even a viewing gallery, although that’s of limited use as it’s dusk – and it’s raining. I’m sat outside the best of the three cafes, nursing an expensive pint and catching up on some emails whilst I’m still in the same time zone.

Heathrow T4. Not exactly buzzing…

17:00.

My gate’s been announced so now it’s time to hunker down, top up my phone at the handy free charging station and wait. My plane’s a Boeing 777-300 and I’ve a window seat for the 7 hour flight to Doha so I might get some rest. My fellow passengers are a rainbow of ethnic groups and nationalities with (thankfully) few young children in sight!

17:40.

All aboard! Well, not all – that may take a while yet but I’m ensconced in seat 37K and settling in out of the way of the chaos. See you 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!

9th January picture of the day…

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This is my penultimate blog from the UK for a while as I head off to Heathrow tomorrow morning before catching an evening flight to Singapore. Today’s been spent preparing, getting (nearly) all those last minute chores ticked off the list before completing my packing and picking up a few last minute odds and sods. Anything I’m missing now will be acquired in Asia – but not Singapore as that’s ‘chingy’ (not Changi, that’s the airport). Much as I enjoy Singapore it’s economy means prices are steep for that part of the world. Even so, I’m looking forward to getting back there, although from what I’m seeing of the weather I’d better keep hold of my brolly! I’m going to be swapping a cold, windy and wet climate for a humid and wet one – so a brolly is ideal – and it can double as a sun-shade.

I’m flying with Qatar Airways whom I’ve used before but not for some time. This morning was spent reserving my seats as well as securing my Singaporean e-pass. It’s great that so many of these formalities can be done online nowadays as it removes the need for a stamp in your passport – which is just as well in post-Brexit Britain as mine’s now filling up with EU stamps (*mutter, mutter – brexitshambles*)…

Qatar Airlines gave me a 25kg baggage allowance but I’m not expecting to use it. Compared to most people I travel light. Well, if you ignore the camera bag! I’ve filled out my case with plenty of clothes, many of which I’ll probably never wear much – if at all, but they’ll provide padding, especially on the return trip for the exotic prezzies I’ve promised to bring back for Dawn!

Packing’s certainly changed from my old backpacking days when your rucksack would be weighed down and bulked out with books, batteries, film canisters and tape cassettes. Now there’s far more room for other stuff but what a plethora of cables and chargers I carry instead! A Kindle’s replaced all the acreage of books and I wouldn’t really need that if it wasn’t for the fact I can’t edit pictures on a tablet, so I carry different devices for reading and working. Plus, I wouldn’t really want to risk taking an expensive laptop to a beach just so that I can read the latest potboiler.

Now it’s time to finish off the final bits and settle down for final night with Dee before the adventure begins tomorrow. I’ll be blogging en-route and have a several hour stopover in Doha which should allow me time to write. In the meantime, here’s today’s picture which is from a previous visit to Singapore. I’ll be staying in ‘little India’ which – as the name implies is the centre of the city’s Indian community. Here’s a typical Hindu celebration outside the Sri Mariamman temple on the 5th October 2009.

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!

8th January picture of the day…

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*for some reason my internal clock seems to be stuck in December – so apologies for those confused on seeing the titles of these blogs before I realise my mistake and correct them!*

Apologies for absence these past couple of days but I’ve been both a busy bee and social butterfly – if such things are possible at the same time! I’ve been trying to get various things in order before I head out to S-E Asia on Tuesday. Mostly stuff around the house, plus finishing off a few work pieces whilst prepping stuff to take with me to keep me occupied on quiet evenings or days when I’m relaxing by a beach – if I find the time, and a beach!

Plus Friday was a social evening as it was the last chance I had to meet up with friends in our local before I leave. Dawn joined me and the pair of us had a very convivial evening doing our regular quiz whilst quaffing a few ales (or in Dawn’s case, San Pellegrino) then chatting and joking with the rest of the pub. Saturday was in similar vein as Dee and I had brunch with her parents at Hinchliffes (billed as Britain’s oldest farm shop) where I enjoyed something I won’t be eating out in Asia – a full English breakfast!

Heading back to the Calder valley we said another farewell, this time to the fabulous Moorcock Inn at Norland Moor. We popped in for one last drink in order to say goodbye as Aimee and Alasdair are closing the place on January 20th as they’re giving up the lease. It’s a crying shame as in the five years they leased the pub for they’ve turned the place into a ‘must visit’ culinary experience with superb food and a great choice of drinks. They’ll be sorely missed by both locals and people who’ve travelled for miles to enjoy what they offered. We’ll certainly miss popping in after a bracing walk around the moor for a well-earned drink and a bowl of their sublime smoked roasted potatoes.

We continued our culinary these in the evening only this time it was just the two of us. Dawn took me out for a bon-voyage meal to a place neither of us had visited before, the Manor House at Lindley, on the Western edge of Huddersfield. It’s an old Victorian mill owners mansion which has been brought back from dereliction to become a hotel, restaurant and bar. The new owners have done an excellent job with the restoration. We had a drink in the bar before being shown to our table, which allowed us time to see what a mixed-age clientele frequented the place. The restaurant itself is stylish yet cosy and the food is excellent. As both Dee and I both enjoy cooking we’re not easily impressed and often find dining out a bit of a disappointment, but last night both of us were enthused by the inventiveness of the menu and the quality of the food. The place isn’t cheap but for once we felt we certainly had value for money. It’s not somewhere we’d go every month, but we’d have no hesitation in going back.

Today’s been more of a lazy Sunday, with a focus on more household chores and (in my case) packing whilst Dawn’s busying herself in the kitchen before we have a penultimate cosy night in – hence me blogging earlier than usual. So, all that remains now is for me to leave you with the picture of the day – but what to choose? I deliberately left my cameras at home these past few days as the time was about Dawn and I – not pictures – there’ll be plenty of time for those over the next few months! That means digging into the archives. One of the little projects I’m taking with me to Asia is another batch of old slide scans that need editing. There’s a real mixture (all from the late 1990s) but most were taken in India – including this one – which is of the delightfully battered and archaic Calcutta trams.

Sadly, the network has been cut back even more since those days. I’d love to go back and have a look at what’s left as I’ve not returned for a decade. Here’s how they looked in February 1998 when a queue of trams were stuck behind a common event – a derailment on the life-expired and rickety track.

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!

5th January picture of the day…

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Another quiet day here in Bigland Towers – made all the quieter by the fact our four-legged lodger has now gone back to her owners after they arrived back in the UK this morning. It’s been fun, but the two of us agreed that whilst we’re happy to dog-sit on occasion we wouldn’t want the task of having a mutt of our own. An independent creature like a cat is our limit but now our old boy ‘Jet’ has passed on we rather like the freedom of not having the responsibility – or the vets bills!

Once ‘Bernie’ was collected the two of us knuckled down to another day working from home. I’ve been occupied weeding out a lot more old paperwork as well as cleaning up digital files and booking parts of my trip to Asia. Much of what I’ll be doing I’ll make up as I go along, but the first couple of weeks need planning, including my transition from Singapore into Malaysia and train from Johor Baru up to Kuala Lumpur. I’d be amazed if I couldn’t get a ticket on the day to get me from JB to Gemas (junction for the ‘Jungle’ railway and limit of electrification South from KL) – but I’m taking no chances. Instead I’ve taken the recommendation of Mark, the ‘Man in seat 61‘ and booked through one of his recommended agents. The first site claimed there was nothing available but as they said that for the next 2 months I’m assuming it’s a glitch. Instead, I’ve booked with ‘baolau’ which was easy as their website’s user friendly. All I’m waiting for now is my ticket confirmation. Let’s see how that goes.

The rest of my ticketing I can book when I’m in Malaysia. Their trains are good but I’ve never known long-distance ETS services to be full, although they do get very busy at holiday times. I’ll be stopping in Kuala Lumpur for several days so I can easily book onward travel there when my plans are firmed up for the first month’s travel.

I’m starting to get that frisson now that I’ve only a few days left in the UK. However, there’s still lots to do before I go which means the last few days will seem like a blur so I suspect it’s only when I’m on the plane on the runway that I’ll relax. What I’m really looking forward to is seeing how much things have changed in the countries I’m visiting. All have been busy investing in their rail networks so I’m expecting lots of interesting sights. Today’s picture is from my last visit to Singapore in February 2017.

This is a view of the North-South metro line with a train leaving Woodlands station. It’s a fine example of integrated transport. I took the shot from the roof of a nearby multi-storey car park whilst underneath the elevated tracks is a bus/coach station. Looking at all those construction cranes on the horizon makes me wonder what the skyline will look like 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!