Friday, October 07, 2005

Headache for travellers in Kl

LRT-ride

One of the trains easing into the station at Taman Paramount, view of Asia Jaya and surrounding in the background. Kuala Lumpur, 2004.

It’s been a while since I’ve hit the roads of Kuala Lumpur and am instantly reminded how at times it can be a chore to drive around town. The roads of Kl are always a challenge, never really settling down as their avenues, exits and pathways constantly change leaving you with a headache in trying to decipher the mind boggling signage to reach your destination. Take for example as you enter the Batu Caves area after the toll plaza near the International Islamic University, there are three to four signs that will tell you they all lead to pusat bandaraya (the town center) yet each in actual fact will bring you to different destinations though still in the vicinity to town, take the off ramp up and you’ll find yourself headed towards Batu Caves and the Outer Ring Road towards Kepong and Jalan Kuching where you’ll find yourself deposited near Putra World Trade Center (PWTC) headed for Dataran Merdeka. Take the fork down and you’ll be going straight to Gombak where the old road to town was and a junction forking to Jalan Pahang as well as Sentul, another path leads straight to Ampang, the Mines Resort and the Seremban Highway while another path down will find you heading the direction of the Klang Gates Ridge and also towards Zoo Negara (the National Zoo).

One wrong turn and you know you’ll be in hell of a time trying to find the correct route back to your original destination. Construction also seems to be never ending with certain stretches constantly being dug up, reworked, diverted or closed to traffic. Just like the time when I was driving towards Seputeh with the intent of heading to Midvalley while trying to avoid the jam along the Federal Highway only to find they have diverted the route making it necessary to make a gigantic U turn and rerouting. It might all be well and good if the drivers weren’t all trying to get you. Driving is hectic in Kl if you haven’t really gotten used to it and after so long an absence it seems I need to fine tune my resolve in confronting drivers that would not give way for you to turn into a lane; make sudden sharp cuts into your lane in between the smallest of space without signal; dash out through the red light as you’re about to move out; drive at over 120km/h on a straight road when you’re turning and not bothering to stop; shouting and cursing you with menacing glances as if you’re at fault and threatening more sinister retributions; follow you inches from the back with no recourse in case of a sudden need to brake; not stopping at a stop look go point; parking double to triple cars abreast and turning a two lane road into a maze for two way traffic to sort out; motorbikes racing in and out without a thought, mini busses and lorries acting like king of the road and you a mere flea; usage of emergency lanes in bumper to bumper crawl; cursing and making lewd gestures; honking incessantly; leaving highlights on at night; and the list goes on.

It just takes every ounce of your concentration to keep each and every detail in focus and to avoid any incident to the point that after a long drive you just feel all drained and exhausted mentally and physically. It’s ironic that it takes two and a half hour using the new East Coast Expressway to get from Kuantan to Kl but a two hour jam to get from town to Damansara. Toll booths also seem like a too common feature everywhere, pay pay and pay, not to mention that they raised prices again.

Traveling by public transport the next few days to get from point A to point B in town is no cakewalk as well. The public transport system is in such as mess that a circuitous route with several train changes is needed to get anywhere. It doesn’t help that some of the fare prices are absurd like a single station hop from Kl Sentral to Midvalley on the Komuter costs RM1, the same that would allow you to travel from 4 stations from Putra to Kl Sentral. To get from Taman Bahagia to PWTC I had to catch the Putra line to Kl Sentral and hop onto the Komuter else take it to Masjid Jamek and then take the STAR line to PWTC station. From there I needed to get to KLCC which again I had to hop to two different train systems to do so and don’t even mention riding to Bukit Bintang which actually takes 3 lines, STAR to Putra to Kl Monorail.

To add the standard between all three lines are as different as night and day, Putra must be the most packed line I’ve known with people as squashing in with nary space to wiggle, especially for high congestion stations like KLCC and Masjid Jamek. Often even by the second station there is hardly a place to sit. STAR line is more pleasant mainly because it is underutilized, boarding from Masjid Jamek you can be assured of a seat most of the time and there are hardly need to squeeze. Komuter must be the most enjoyable ride there is, plush seating (unlike the aluminum constructs of other lines), cooling air conditioning, smooth rides and ample space for seating with corridors wide enough so that in case there is a need to stand walking is still possible. Kl Monorail also faces some of the crowding problems of the rest and the ride is quite bumpy, plus prices are a bit high comparatively. Did I mention all stations are not connected so each change of system requires you to exit one before entering the other?

Plus don’t let me start on the busses. If I need to get to Damansara Perdana I wouldn’t find anything remotely convenient to take there. Not to mention that the bus service is erratic, the drivers parking the busses and taking their sweet time before deciding to continue as people all wait. I think without a personal transport it is hard to get anywhere in Kl but then I would have to articulate on the parking problem wouldn’t I?

1 comment:

s'mee said...

YIKES! If I ever need to travel there I am calling you first! Whew! the read was great, but made me exhausted!