Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lost in Klang

Have you ever found yourself in a place you were never even consciously aware existed? At least not until you stepped on its grounds, getting off a bus. This adventure took me there.

I was in
Shah Alam. And so I took a minibus from beside Plaza Alam, after downing a bottle of coke. It was sweltering and I was thanking the heavens for Coca Cola (2.50 ringgit or $0.71 or PhP34.20). I hopped in a minibus aware that the driver nodded to my asking if this was headed to the Shah Alam train station. It was 3:30 PM. I sat somewhere in the middle of this rickety cramped little moving box – a public utility that’s a far cry from the usual comfortable AC buses that populate Malaysian cities. Knowing that my ride was just gonna take 20 minutes the most, I relaxed and enjoyed local color. Women fully decked in glimmery silks covering their hair and arms. It could get hot and sweaty under all those garbs, I thought, but they make for a polychromatic canvas. Very colorful.

But the minutes rolled on and on. 20 minutes passed by, but we were still going… where? The scenery outside started looking more rural, the streets a little less combed; the buildings a little craggy. If I had the whole afternoon and evening to spare, I wouldn’t mind. I always welcome such eventualities. They make for interesting discoveries.

But no! Not this time, please. I had to get back to KL, check out from my hotel, then take my night plane to Dhaka. The reality of a strange faraway city –
one of the poorest in world statistics – wasn’t lost on me. The thought made me nervous, but nevertheless excited. There are psychological mechanics involved in visiting strange new places like Dhaka. Bangladesh seemed so distant and exotic. I was still on the bus with these thoughts. Then 30 minutes passed, and the bus was moving into a highway. Oh dear!

I felt helpless. All I knew was that I’d have to sit this through and remedy the situation where the bus stops. I couldn’t just get off in the middle of nowhere –
highways can be deceivingly serene, impersonal. I was praying this ride wouldn’t have to be so far away. An hour later, we parked at the Klang Bus Terminal. It didn’t look like an “official terminal”. Buses just parked beside a row of small stores – like a market.

I got off the bus and started looking for clues as to where I am. This couldn’t still be Shah Alam. It wasn’t. Malay words paraded my vision until I read something a wee bit familiar – Klang! Oh yes, Klang is a city name – a destination, a final stop for a train ride, further away from KL.
I am in Klang! And am very lost!

The crowd outside was randomly scurrying along. There’s a small rotund – a roundabout standing beside a post office. There’s the Mydin Shopping Complex (Medan Selera Plaza) – a shopping arcade. But there was no train station in sight and I needed to be in THAT station soon. I asked around. They kept pointing south, so I headed there.

From a distance I saw a white mosque dominating the skyline – with a central golden dome and side towers topped by smaller domes of similar mold. To its side is a single minaret that looked like an inverted fountain pen. Ganda!

Two blocks and a busy intersection later, I was headed towards a bridge. The proverbial river runs through it – the Klang River. A river dividing the city into the north and the south part of Klang. The afternoon sun was still bearing down its heat at 4:30. This was a particularly long 15-minute walk. As I reached the other end of the bridge, I noticed a 3-tier winding stairs going down a street – 2 ½ stories below the bridge. I asked a passerby, “Train station?” The lady pointed down the stairs, under which was a commercial street of neatly lined shops. Jalan Stesen – or station road! MY train station road! ;->

Klang River

My feet took me through shops showing ready-to-wear items, fly swatters, floor mops, kitchen stuff. But there wasn’t a lot of business going on. So few people walking my way. Less than a hundred meters, I saw the signage. Wow! Finally! The Klang Train Station. I was overjoyed – like hitting a minor jackpot. Happiness is sometimes derived from little victories like finding a ride.

Jalan Stesen (Station Road) taken from the bridge

I headed to the station booth and got a ticket to KL – 3.60 ringgit ($1.02 or PhP49.10). My KL-to-Shah Alam fare was 2.50 ringgit and Klang was a stop away from the Shah Alam station. I saw a grocer and opted to end my long day-out with another can of coke at 1.60 ringgit ($0.45 or PhP21.70). I walked a hundred paces beside the platform and went up the flyover to cross the other side.

Klang Train Station along Jalan Stesen

I was right back on track! By 4:55PM, my Klang train left for KL, arriving after 14 stops at 5:40PM. I heaved a sigh of relief. Now I was ready for Dhaka. Or so I thought!

Just outside Klang train station.

Klang station platform

A service train at the Klang station.

Fast Facts on Klang:
Klang, also spelled Kelang, is the royal town of Selangor, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia before Shah Alam. The town is named after the Klang River, which cuts the town in half, and sits at the western end of the Klang Valley.
Things to see in Klang:

- Kris or the Kris Monument- Raja Mahadi Fort
- Royal Palace – sultan of selangor’s palace- Crab Island – if you want a little sand and sea adventure, its 30 minutes away by boat
- Fishing at the smelly
Port Klang- Little India enclave along Jalan Tengku Kelana – Malaysia’s biggest Indian street- Shopping Centers – AEON Bukit Tinggi Shopping Center, Bukit Raja SC, Klang Parade, Shaw Centrepoint, Centro mall, Klang City Square, Carrefour, Tesco, Giant Supermarket
Eat bak kut teh (pork rib tea) - the Hokkien-style dish of pork ribs cooked in a strong, dark herbal stock, served with tea on the side. This is the city’s specialty culinary pride.

And this is the
Eye in the Sky!

Little India, Malaysia's biggest Indian street. This photo only courtesy of wikipedia's keanloong.

Klang is a coastal city in West Selangor. KL is to its northeast. This map only courtesy of

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