Learning New Things by Travelling
Travelling is fun. Apart from to wind down from our usual hectic life, it is a great way to experience something new and learn something different. My buddy from Germany, Martin, once said, “My grandmother told me that we must learn at least one new thing everyday“. Well, by travelling, we can learn tonnes of new things everyday. To travel, some prefer to do it by air, some prefer to do it overland, either by driving or by bus or travel by train. The choice is yours.
I love to travel by train. I just love train rides. My first experience riding a train was when I was in kindergarten, where we had a train ride from the Shah Alam station to Subang Jaya, and mind you, there was no KTM Komuter back then. So, the ride was a long and joyful one. Since then, I have always been fascinated with trains, just as Azuan is fascinated with aircraft.
I can give 9 reasons, why you should travel by train – in South East Asia (from my point of view).
It is cheap!
Trust me. It is cheap. Well, true enough, when Air Asia is having their promotions, you might get RM 0 fares and only pay for the fuel and airport tax. But then, does it include your luggage? It is a luck game with airfares. Plus, when you are buying last minute tickets, the price escalated like rockets! Whereas, train fares are the same regardless of when you buy it. Driving? Considering the fact that most roads here are being tolled and the increasing fuel price, why not travel by train then? 😉
Travel by train = awesome views!
If you are driving, yes in other countries like Thailand, maybe the view is different and you love it. In Malaysia, well with the long-never-ending highways and the jungles, it doesn’t have much of a view, unless it is your first time driving along the North-South Expresway, or any other highways for that matter. Taking an airplane? If it is a short journey, maybe it is fine but 4 hours of clouds without any in-flight entertainment? This is when travelling with train is fun! Train travel provides different views along the way. From paddy fields to town to houses to slums. You will be amazed by the views!
More luggage when you travel by train
No-frills airlines only allows about 7 kg of hand-carry luggage and the other luggage must be checked-in, with extra payment of course. Other hybrid or premium airlines might allow you to check-in your luggage free of charge if it weighs from 15 kg to 20-30kg. But one day, you go travelling somewhere and decided to buy whatever you can and realized your luggage is now 40 kg! You decide to take a train and how much do they charge you? Free of charge! As long as you can handle your belongings, normally train operator won’t charge you a single cent for your luggage.
The Sound of Chu Chuuuu
No other transportation can provide you with a variety of sounds during travelling. If you are on an airplane, it will be so quiet except for the passengers. Even most of the time, the passengers keep to themselves or sleep, so that even a pin drop can be heard (Ok, I think I exaggerate). My experience riding a train in Thailand was an unforgettable one. Apart from the whistle, the moving train and the bell’s sounds (Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think we still use bells in Malaysia), the sounds of the sellers selling their food and drinks on the couch were amazing. Throughout my 18 hour journey from Hat Yai to Bangkok in 2011, not less than 20 times these vendors went back and forth the coaches sounding [at least it sounded like that to me] “pad dai mai tai kap kun krap“.
Air Asia’s Hot Seats? Emm.. no, thank you. Yes, almost all trains have bigger legrooms as compared to the no-frills airlines. In fact, even if you take an economy class train in Malaysia [which is air-conditioned] or a 3rd class Thai’s train [non air-conditioned], I think the legrooms in the trains are better. In the trains, you can stretch your feet comfortably as compared to the cramped rooms in the flights.
Read my experience travelling by train from London to Windermere here.
When you are on an airplane, you have to turn off your electronic gadgets during take off and landing. Throughout the flight, you can only use your camera and your music player. Try making a phone call, and the stewardess will ask you to switch off your gadget altogether. If you are driving, you know what awaits you if you use your gadgets. It’s either a ticket from the police or a ticket to heaven/hell, if you are unlucky. With train travel, it’s unlimited. If you have Internet plans, you can even do your usual selfies and check in on Facebook!
No security checks
A disclaimer from me. I am not encouraging you to smuggle drugs or any other illegal stuff via train. But come on, even on domestic flights, you have to take off your ring, coins, phones, belt, you name it. But taking a train? Just enter the train, no groping!
Train travel is one of the medium for travellers to meet new people. Generally, people in train seems to be more friendly and approachable. Besides, if you don’t like the people seated next to you after a few minutes, you can walk from coach to coach or spend the whole journey at the cafe. And if you like the people seated next to you, the conversation can be continued at the cafe over snacks and drinks. In a flight, well, you’re stuck. Enjoy your company!
No speeding tickets
This applies if you choose to drive. Trains in Malaysia travel at around 100-130 km/h while trains in Thailand travel around 130 km/h to around 150 km/h. Try driving at those speed, AES (Malaysia’s Automated Enforcement System) will definitely take a good photo of you with your nice car.
That’s about it. 9 reasons why you should travel by train. Everyone might have different reasons but for me, those are the main reasons. The memories when you travel by train are different. Train travel is more than going to Point B from Point A. It is more than that. It is a journey.
Well of course I do travel by driving and taking flights too, but as regards to train travels, everyone should try it, at least once. Don’t say that you don’t like it even before trying. And, every train in every country is different. So, don’t generalize. Just try it. Learn something new, experience something different. “…we must learn at least one new thing everyday”.
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This post was first published in December 2013. Revised version was published in April 2020.