Friday, 9 December 2016

A little adventure

There are still opportunities for little adventures if one goes about to look for them. As for me, I had one little adventure just yesterday. My wife went to the island in the morning to attend a whole-day seminar on one of the hotels there. That she had to attend this seminar came at a moment's notice; in fact, she only came to know that she had to attend it just the day before. Unfortunately, we had already made plans to go out to the island late in the afternoon to visit a relative in hospital.

We were in a small quandary. The seminar meant that we would have to drive two cars to the island, me going out in the afternoon, and then meeting up somewhere after five o'clock. But I didn't fancy driving two cars. Not with traffic congestion on the roads during evening rush hour. So I came up with a plan. Tell you what, I informed my wife, you drive out to the island for the seminar and I shall find my way there.

What I had in mind was a train-cum-ferry combination trip. It's a do-able mode of travel to the island, especially now when the train services are so much more frequent that the near-so-distant past. So at 3.15 pm, my car was already parked at the train station parking lot and I had purchased my KTM Komuter Utara ticket to Butterworth. Cost me 60 cents only because I was eligible for the senior citizen discount. Was pleasantly surprised to find no queue at the Komuter Utara ticket counter whereas there was a deep line of people queuing up for the ETS tickets.

Passengers alighting from the KTM Komuter Utara train at Butterworth Station - Starpic

The Komuter train arrived promptly at 4.05 pm, right on the dot. That was another pleasant surprise. Scores of people got on board the train with me. The journey to Butterworth was uneventful, took about 10 minutes, passing through familiar scenery and the new railway bridge across the Prai River. I sat and observed the people in the carriage.

Previously when one wanted to go to the ferry terminus from the train station, it was a simple matter to walk along a long sloping corridor to the ferry ticket counter. Unfortunately, all that has changed. When I exited the train station, there was a long flight of steps up and then down. Walk a short distance and then along a new slope to the ferry counter. I wonder how old people and the disabled would be able to climb up and down just to connect from the train station to the ferry terminus. with my constant walking speed, I took almost 15 minutes to the ticket counter where I had to fork out RM1.20 in coin - no discount given for people my age - before the attendant allowed me into the waiting area. 

Darn it, I had missed the departing ferry and had to wait for the next one. How long would it take for the next ferry to arrive, i wondered. With only four ferries plying from pier to pier, the ferry efficiency had become notoriously bad. I just hoped that the next ferry would arrive soon. By 4.50 pm, I was boarded the Pulau Payar ferry together with countless foot passengers and about 18 cars that somehow found their way onto the upper deck. And by 5.10 pm, I was already making my way to the exit on the island. 

The waiting area at the ferry terminus in Butterworth. It got crowded very fast.

The cars went into the ferry first, followed by the foot passengers. When the ferry arrives at the other end, it would be the foot passengers that disembark first, followed by the vehicles

The wooden seats were all quite occupied.

The more impatient foot passengers wandered to the front of the ferry even while it was still some distance away from docking.

Another look back into the ferry as I readied myself to disembark.

A breath-taking view of the cruise ships at Swettenham Pier from the terminus.

Some things never change: the stall holders selling magazines, drinks, fried banana fritters and a newer cafe.

I crossed the overhead bridge to the other side of Weld Quay and walked through the old foot court to Victoria Street. Then onto China Street Ghaut before ending outside the OCBC Bank in Beach Street.

Rush hour traffic along Weld Quay

The food court in what used to be the old Market Street Ghaut. It was all rather quiet at 5.30 pm. Anyway, mind the gaping hole in the ground!

Although this building is now occupied by the Customs department, it used to be the Malayan Railway building on the island. But one had to cross the Channel to catch the train in Prai.

All the buildings on this side of China Street Ghaut, stretching from the present CIMB Bank building right until the Weld Quay junction, used to belong to the Chinese towkay, Yeap Chor Ee. But the UAB Building was sold off to the United Asian Bank when it opened a branch in Penang.

The lift inside the Georgetown Chambers, together with the one inside the CIMB Bank building opposite, are remnants from the past.

Soon, my wife arrived to pick me up, not outside OCBC Bank but Maybank. She lost her way and turned into the wrong road. Now, the big question is whether I would repeat this trip to the island. All things considered, I think I would if the same circumstances occur again.

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