2nd ETS Ride

My wife was having two night stop in Penang and so happen I am free over the weekend, so I’ve decided to spend the weekend with her in Penang. Just like my previous trip to Penang, I must bring my bicycle there!

I can fly to Penang, but that’s going to be too easy and stuck with walking around in Penang during the time I am alone. I managed to buy the very last ETS ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth. Same process as in 2015, I bought the ticket online, this time it cost RM79 one way. The KTM website hasn’t really change this two years, still very crap.

This time, instead of using a car to KL Sentral, I took the newly opened MRT. Basically I rode on my bike to station, took the shiny new train to KL Sentral. At KL Sentral, I went to the KTM ETS counter to print out my ticket even though I don’t really need to. Instead of descending down to the platform nearby the ticketing counter, I had to go to Kommuter Platform C to board the ETS due to renovation work.

I was there pretty late this time, close to 10 minutes before departure, so luckily the baggage area of my carriage is empty! I have all the space I need to secure my bike there. I’m seat next to the aisle and besides me that day was an Indian guy. I later found out he’s a Catholic too and heading to Bukit Mertajam to attend the special event at St. Anne Church.

Brompton in ETS

The train departed on time, and I spent the next four hours in quite a comfortable seat with spacious legroom. Noise cancelling headphones is a Godsend during long ride like this, especially when you have kids making lots of noise and their parent failed to discipline them. My U Mobile line was spotty at best along the ride, I kept myself busy with iPad games and a bit of reading. The data connection got better once getting nearer to Ipoh and onwards.

The ETS ride was pretty comfortable, just like the first time. The seats are clean, and the air-cond only gets really chilly at the last hour of the ride after most of the people disembarked at Bukit Mertajam. The legroom is really spacious, and if that’s not enough, I am free to walk around the train when it is moving. This is very much different from flying or taking the bus which you have very limited space to move around, and potentially dangerous.

Almost an hour into the ride, I was served some snacks which included a bottle of soy milk and two packets of biscuits. That was enough for me since it was lunch time, so I made my way to the bar to order some hot meals. The people serving the snacks were also the same working at the bar, so I do need to wait a bit for them to prepare everything. Queue also quickly built up there due to the small bar with only two microwave ovens and one guy working there.

After arrival in Butterworth, I still need to carry my bike and stuff  up the pedestrian bridge, crossing the railways to reach the ferry terminal. There is a free shuttle bus which run between the ferry terminal and bus terminal for the people who have difficulties climbing stairs. However they still have to climb the ramp heading to the ferry terminal, because pedestrian are seated on the top floor of the ferry.

After my shot getaway in Penang, I took the bus back from Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal because the tickets for ETS has been sold out. Yes I do same some time and trouble not needing to cross the Straits with ferry, but the supposedly 5 hours journey turned 7 hours! The bus was stuck in traffic jam three times along the way returning back to Kuala Lumpur. So I’ll take the ETS anytime if I got a choice.

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2nd ETS Ride

Another Narita Trip

By the time I reach the hotel, it was already 10.30am. Could have reach earlier if not for the connecting passengers. I managed to sleep for 2 hours plus.

Something freaky happened halfway sleeping, all the lights in my room turned on automatically. I’m too tired to even think what have caused it, and just flipped all the lights off and continued sleeping.

I got up, took the 2.30pm shuttle to Terminal 2, and only able to catch the next bus at 3.40pm to Tokyo. By the time I reach Tokyo, it is already 5pm. That’s mean I have only 3 and half hour to walk around before I need to catch the last bus back to the terminal. How sad.

This time I decided to visit a bicycle store. I’ve chosen Y’s Road Bike store near Akihabara, thinking naively that I still got time to check out Yodabashi at Akihabara after I’ve finished browsing the bike store. The store doesn’t disappoint, so I overspent my time there.

There are so many Brompton bikes which made my heart itchy again for a Brompton bike after I’ve gave up on that idea last July when I visited London. They’re price pretty competitively without tax:

M3L Normal Color 160,000 yen
M3L 170,000 yenS6L Normal Color 178,000 yen
S6L 185,000 yen
M6L 184,000 yen

They also sell few Dahon folders and ther rest are expensive road bikes. Since they sell Dahon there, parts can also be found there, such as 20″ Kojak tires. I also get to try out Ergon grip which I think I’ll pick one up soon. Then there’s also quite a selection of Knog and Cateye lights, bicycle locks, saddles. Oh not forgetting quite a selection of Shimano gear sets.

After visiting the bicycle store, I walked around looking for dinner, which is also my lunch. I went into this bar called おかってや 御徒町店. I ordered a plate of sashimi, mix rice and some sake. The waitress named Ami are kind enough to guide me on how to drink the specially over-poured sake. The mix rice was sort of cooked on the spot on my table, and I was specifically told to only eat after 30 minutes. A timer was placed on the table together with the meal.

おかってや 御徒町店

The food is nice and I thought I could finish faster to continue shopping. End up after meal I had some small talk with the two waitress. There’s another waitress named Manami and her brother is also working in the kitchen. She’s a student and working part time. After taking their photo, it was time for me to catch my bus.

おかってや 御徒町店

I under-stimated the time needed to reach the bus stop, mainly because I got a bit loss at Otemachi station. I pretty much ran to the bus stop after I found out how far was I when I got the the surface level and checked Google Map. With so little time for actually spending in the city, I say the trip down isn’t worth the 2000 yen return bus trip.

However, thinking back again, I being able to discover some place new, talking a bit to the locals, and trying out new way of drinking sake. The trip isn’t that bad after all.

Another Narita Trip

Buying a Coffee Machine

It’s Christmas season, and I seem to be stuck in shopping addiction. I got a trip to Melbourne the other day, and was wondering what could be on sales there. The first thing that comes into my mind is coffee machine. I’ve seen my seniors getting coffee machine with pretty good deal from there. So I opened up Myers site and searched for DeLonghi machines. To my surprised there IS a product on sales, with discounts up to $110.

It’s the Destina series of coffee maker, model number ECI341 Black selling or $219 after discount. From the site, I wasn’t sure if I only get the discount when purchasing online. I’ve consulted my little brother and was told that I can buy online and pick it up at the stores. The nearest Myre store which has the machine in stock is at Chadstone. It is around 11km away from my hotel, and not at that city center.

Due to the uncertainty of my flight, I decided not the pre-buy online, and just try my luck at the store if I can just buy off the shelve. Since I got a solid day off in Melbourne, I decided to bring my bicycle even though it is forecasted for to rain in the afternoon that day. That sort of settles my transportation to the mall. Looking at the measurements of the machine online, I thought it isn’t very big and I should be able to carry it back to my room and pack it into my cabin bag.

Bad idea.

The 11km ride to the mall isn’t that bad. It is summer in Australia, and the temperature was hovering at 30ºC during my ride. I felt like I am having sun burn and recalling that the ozone layer is pretty thin on top of where I was riding. I don’t know where exactly is the bicycle rack at the mall, so I just lock my bike at a convenient place inside the car park. There were two other bikes parked there that time so I wasn’t worried of my bike been taken away.

The mall is very big, probably the biggest I’ve seen in Melbourne. I’m sure there are bigger malls, just that must be really far from where I’m staying. There were a lot of people shopping inside while I was there, since it was a Sunday that day. I headed straight to Myer and found the coffee maker. Good news is it was also sold at the discounted price, bad new is the box is really big. I need a plan B not only to bring it back to my room, but to also put it into the bag.

Chadstone Mall
Chadstone Mall
Chadstone Mall
Chadstone Mall

By the time I’m back to my bike, the sky has turned really dark, and I could feel cold wind blowing. Those are indication of some heavy rain approaching. I looked for the direction of the nearest train station – Hughasdale station. It was so difficult carrying the box and riding the bicycle at the same time. I’m sure what I was doing is illegal on the road too. I reached the station just in time before it rained really heavily.

Hughasdale station
Hughasdale Station

The best thing with riding a folding bike is that I have the freedom to choose the different mode of transportation when necessary. Without it that day, I would need to ride the bicycle back to my hotel one handed, with my other hand holding the really big 5.5kg plastic bag. I took the train to South Yarra station before transferring on another train to Prahran station. By the time I reach there, it wasn’t raining as heavily to anymore. So the short ride back to my hotel was bearable. I do hope that I brought mudguard and attached it to my bike that day as lots of water and mud were splash on me while riding.

South Yarra Train Station
South Yarra Sation

Back in my room, I found out the hard truth that the box is simply too big for my cabin bag. I opened it up the box and see how it was packaged inside. Good thing there’s a lot of buffer on the styrofoam padding, and if I cut those away, I should be able to fit the machine into my bag with the styrofoam in tact. Since I didn’t have a box cutter knife, I resort in using my hotel door card to “trim” the styrofoam. It was a tough job.

As expected, after trimming, the machine fit nicely into the bag. The next question is whether I can bring the machine into the cabin of the aircraft with me. I could check-in the bag but was afraid the process might break the machine.

One the day of departure, my luggage passed the very strict security at Melbourne Airport without any problems. Thank God for that. I can finally enjoy pressed coffee at home!

Buying a Coffee Machine

Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel

Entrance to the Capsule Hotel
Entrance to the Capsule Hotel

Since my hotel is near the Narita Airport which going back and fro will take around 3 hours minus waiting time, I decide to just book another room in downtown Tokyo. The last time I missed the last train while heading back to the airport, I took a cab back from the nearest train station to the hotel and that was the worst decision I have ever made in Japan. I cost me more than RM200 for the 20km trip. After learning the hard way how much the cab cost in Japan, I decided if I missed the next train again, I will stay in Tokyo instead of going back to Narita if I am not in a rush.

I always heard about Japan’s capsule hotel, and has always wanted to try it. There’s on in KLIA2 which I have yet to try. So I booked a capsule in Shinjuku just before I start my work. It cost me around RM80 with the so called discount from Agoda. I chose that location mainly because of the night-life there, not that I want to go clubbing or what, but seems like they’ll be a lot of restaurant or bar still open at night in case I am hungry at odd hours.

wpid-wp-1447396947363.jpg wpid-wp-1447397328404.jpgWith the help of Google Map, Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae capsule hotel isn’t hard to find. The reception is located on the 3rd floor which can be accessed by a small lift. The first thing to do is to put my shoes into a locker, before checking in. I have to pass my shoe box key to the reception when checking in. I was given a locker key attached to a wrist strap as well as a piece of notes.

wpid-wp-1447397125077.jpgMy locker is at the same floor as the reception. It is where I can put my valuables inside. I manage to put my backpack in as well. For those with larger luggage, they is another area where they can place their luggage. If I were to stay a few nights there, I have to clear the locker before 10am and get another locker key at 12pm. A lot of people has complained that being unnecessary troublesome, but since I’m staying for only a night, it doesn’t affect me. The large luggage however, can stay at the luggage area until check-out. It must be cleared upon check out if not the luggage will be disposed!

My capsule is located on the 6th floor, which is accessed from a different lift. It is another small lift, and the only one serving 6 different floors, so be prepared to wait a long time if there’s a lot of people using it. My capsule is located at a corner of the floor, I got the upper one, so I got to climb into it, which is pretty cool. There is a curtain to shut the capsule off from the view of the passer by.

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Inside the capsule is a TV, which I didn’t try turning it on. There’s also a control panel at the side for you to control the TV as well as dimming the light in the capsule. The air-cond vent in my unit doesn’t work. It seems to be a major problem that a lot of people is complaining too. It can get pretty warm if the curtain is closed, so I have to sleep with the curtain half open. Just low enough to block the light to my face.

wpid-wp-1447396947411.jpgI will rate the comfort there as 4/10. It was warm inside that the blanket provided is pretty useless. Then there’s the problem with noise. The capsule isn’t sound proof, even with the paper thin curtain shut off. Some time you can hear people around making conversation, or just whispering. It got real bad if you wanted to wake up late in the morning as one by one the people alarm rang. Worse still if they let it rang for a l-o-n-g time!

wpid-wp-1447396947389.jpg wpid-wp-1447396947453.jpgI’ve woke up at 9am, and check out after that. I passed the locker key to the reception in exchange of the shoes key, and I’m back to the middle of Tokyo. That’s the beauty of the capsule hotel, location.

Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel

ETS Review

Inspired by my friend Alan Bligh, I wanted to find a chance to take a train ride to Penang. Finally I got my chance when my primary school mate invited me to his wedding dinner at Georgetown, Penang. Taking another friend’s advice, I booked the train ticket early online. I don’t have a working printer at home, if had one, I would be able to print the tickets at home. However I can print at the ticking counter.

I arrive at KL Sentral quite early, not sure of how long is the queue to get my tickets printed. It turns out the queue isn’t long, and I got my ticket in less than 10 minutes. So after that I proceed to the waiting area. All the seats there has already been taken, but it wasn’t considered crowded. I only get to board the train 15 minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. Since the waiting area is so close to where the cab put you, there’s little reason to come and wait too early.

Boarding hall
Boarding hall

Coming down to the platform, I was greeted with a surprise. The train that I’m taking is the brand new one just started service since May. My seat is in coach E, finding the correct coach is a little tricky. There’s a rack just nearby the entrance to the coach, and I manage to fit my bike underneath it and locking together with bicycle chain.

My bike fit nicely below the rack.
My bike fit nicely below the rack.

The first thing I notice once I got to my seat is that the leg room is considerably bigger than the economy seats in the plane. Since it is a new train, the cabin is sparkling clean, which I hope it will be maintained like this for the years to come.

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The train departed on time at 0930HR and on the way to up north, the sun is shining in from the right side. There is shade for the windows if you don’t want the sun light, but they’re usually kept open and shared between two row of seats. So those of you who do not liek the sun light might want to take note.

There’s a TV screen playing a movie without any sound in front of the 1 row of seat, it also shows the train’s cruising speed. The train manage to run at around 140KM/h on a straight. Even at that speed, it doesn’t sound as loud as inside a jetliner. I don’t need to raise my headphone volume so loud to listen to music (I couldn’t afford active noise canceling headphones).

Surau in the train.
Surau in the train.

There are different kind of seat configurations in the coach. Half of the seats are facing backward, and the last row has table stye with seat facing each other. The toilets are at coach B and E. There’s another toilet which is wheelchair friendly at coach D. If there is no PRM on board, the hallway outside it has more room for folded bicycle.

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After a while, part of the cabin become really cold and I start to look for something warm to eat. Unfortunately, they do not stock hot meals until passing Ipoh station. They do have sandwiches and hot beverages before that. I got myself some nasi lemak and fried beehun since I was quite hungry then. Finally the train reach Butterworth at 1340HR and I enjoyed the ride very much.

wpid-dscf3480.jpgI took another train back to KL the next day, and this time it is the older electric train. The facilities are older and aren’t as clean, but they’re still pretty well maintained. This time the rack isn’t there, but there’s a really big space in front of the first seat, so I manage to place my bike there, on upright position, locking and securing it to the handle bars. The seating configuration is also different from the newer train, but they are well described in AhPek Biker’s blog.

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Even though it took longer time than taking a flight, but I find the whole process less stressful and best of all, I can even bring in a folded bike with me. I will definitely do this again, I can’t wait to spend more time cycling around Georgetown.

ETS Review

Dights Fall

It was a bad idea for not eating anything yesterday after work. I ended up waking up at 8am, 2 hours before my alarm because I’m too hungry. My flight was delayed, and that awfully long queue at the immigration, by the time I reach the hotel, the bar has already closed. There goes my plan of grabbing a beef burger.

The hotel don’t really serve any breakfast menu, so I went out in search of somethings to fill my stomach. With the help of Yelp, I decided to try Miss Jackson at Jackson Street not far hotel. I took the waitress’s recommendation and didn’t regret a bit. I don’t know how they cook it but the giant hotdog I’ve ordered was pretty good.

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I went back to the hotel to grab my sunglasses and lip balm before heading out to Dightys route I used was head north on Chapel Street, connecting to Church Street, went thru Dickinson Reserve. Crossing the pedestrian bridge will bring me to the Yarra Boulevard, and making my way to Johnston Street to Trenerry Street.

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The bike lane at Chapel St and Church St are pretty cool nice. The traffic was pretty heavy during that time. Lucky for me, most of the traffic light turned green when I was passing the many intersections along the way.

I reach the place when when the sun is right on top, which make the fall looks pretty dull. There are some interesting rock formation on the other side of the stream. And then there was this platform where below it was some water bypass system that allow their native fish to swim upstream more easily which allow them to breed better.

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After that I head west to Queen Victoria Market to grab some fruits before heading back to my hotel near Albert Park. I did stop by at Enterprize Park for a while to take some photos. The Southbank Promenade was quite crowded when I was passing thru during lunch time, There are many signboard thanking cyclist for cycling slowly over there,

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So within that short 3 hours, I manage to cover just 27km. I wish I have more time in Melbourne. Until next time.

Dights Fall

Bangkok Trip

I was supposed to catch the 7.20AM ERL but got into a bit of hiccups at the petrol station with the credit card, so I ended up catching the 7.50am ERL. Luckily we arrived before the check in counter close, in fact we have to wait 10 minutes before we get our seats. Thank God there are just enough seats left for us too.
The flight was uneventful and we reached BKK on time. The immigration and customs clearance was hassle free. Got a SIM card from True and coffee from 7E. Then after we make our way to our Hotel at Sukhumvit called Wellness Residence. We reached the hotel just before 1pm, one hour to go before we can check in. With a quick search in Foursquare, we had our lunch at Pak Bakery, ordering some Thai cuisine.

By the time we checked in and got ourselves refreshed, it was already 3.30pm. Our initial plan was to visit Wat Pho and the area, but we realized we’re out of time when we reached National Stadium BTS. The temple and offices closes at 5pm. We walked to MBK and Jass started her shopping spree.

Found another food court over at ground floor of MBK called Oasis. The food there is better value compared to the food court at top floor. After dinner, she continued shopping at the MBK night market before we headed back to our hotel.

We went to Chatuchak market in the morning on second day using the BTS. We used 2 hours and barely walked 5% of the area and our time is up. We headed to National Monument station to find a minivan to Santorini Fantasy Park. He had western lunch at Here Eat Are, seem like they’re many same restaurants at the same area.

After lunch we searched for the minivan to the park situated nearby Cha-Am. The police patrolling the overhead bridge over the big roundabout guided us to one minivan operator on the east side of the the monument. We were quoted THB160/pax for the ride, but we have to wait more than 30 minutes for the next van.

And the ride to the park? Freaking 2 hours, inside a bumpy van. I had to make sure the driver stop at the park too because true enough he’d passed the spot almost 100 meter before I’m was able to ask him to stop. The van didn’t u turn to the park which is at the other side of he road, so we have to walk pass that 3 lane highway whereby car speed at 100kmh on the fast lane.

Like all the review has mentioned, Santorini Fantasy Park MAY BE worth the visit if you’re passing by the area on a road trip, it definitely doesn’t worth the dedicated visit. Yeah they’re some white buildings and a ferry wheel, but that’s pretty much all about it, not sure if it’s worth the TBH150 entrance fee. Most of the buildings are unoccupied,and the 4 restaurants that were occupying, all opened for show after 7PM as the kitchen are closed.

I made a phone call to the same minivan operator to fetch us back to Bangkok, a van came within 30 minutes. 2 hours later we were back at north of Victory Monument, took the BTS back to our hotel. By that time most of the restaurant had closed, only a hipster pizza restaurant nearby, even that we can only order the slices left on the shelf. We planned to check out the alley after we unloaded our stuff bought at Chatuchak but changed our mind after hitting the bed. So tired!

On the last day we planned to go to church, but after we finally got ready, the final morning mass has already started. We went to the shopping mall next door named Terminal 21. Foursquare indicate that the food court there is really good, in actual fact, not only the food court is good, the whole mall is outstanding. It is a heavily themed mall with the floor representing cities around the world, while the escalators and elevator are airport terminals. The must do thing there – visit the toilets at different floors.

After that we took the public bus to Platinum fashion mall which only cost THB 8/pax. Without much time to play around, Jass only managed to quickly glance pass three floors, basically all selling women clothes. To save time, we took a tut-tut back to our hotel, which cost us THB 200. I wonder how much the taxi would cost…

The BTR, MRT and Airport link to the airport is pretty fast, we managed to reached the airport on time, but we were still put on standby for the 1955 flight. I really wanted to get on this flight because taking the next flight at 2130 will create lots of complication to get to my car.

At 1900 we got our boarding pass, but Jass and I weren’t assigned to be seated next to each other, which I fully understand since it was a full flight. Just like the flight heading to BKK, I don’t seem to recognize any of the cabin crews except for the CCIC. That’s pretty much about my first ever trip to BKK. I can’t believe I’ve finish this long one!

Bangkok Trip