Despite being in plain sight in a well-populated area, surprisingly few people knew that we had a functional railway station. Specifically, one that brought us to Malaysia.
I must have passed by this building a million times but have always thought that it was some government building due to its atas colonial exterior. It might have looked welcoming 50 years ago but not in my lifetime.
Anyway, back in 2011, it was in the papers everywhere that the old railway station was going to shut. We did a bit of research, packed our bags and took a weekend trip by rail…to Penang (which is really mostly an island that didn’t have a rail connection but I didn’t think this through).
There was a few things we found out. The first was that tickets cost numerically the same in Singapore dollars and Malaysian ringgit if you bought them in Singapore/Malaysia respectively. This is quite substantial since the Singapore dollar is at roughly 2-2.5x the value of the ringgit back then. There were people who would buy a ticket to the nearest Malaysian stop and then buy another ticket onward to save on costs. We were short on time so we never did that.
Since this was before the age of #nofilter and I did ashamedly just discover the use of filters, I had to apply Nostalgia on everything. Entering the station seemed like a step back in time. As someone evidently not great with multitasking, working a camera while gawking is #toomuchbrain.
The interiors were architecturally British but the atmosphere felt more Malaysian than Singaporean. The was a small food canteen which was reminded me more of the ones from the 20th century than of anything from the 21st century. I’ve always wanted to use that phrase in a sentence somewhere.
We took an overnight train to Butterworth in Malaysia and I think night time was an appropriate time to travel by train to soak up the melancholy. Unless there’s no other reasonable option, I do think train travel takes a certain amount of pensiveness. Or an obsession to live in a Wong Kar Wai film.
Since we were travelling in the night, there’s no stories to be told here of how we were wowed by the sights of green pastures, rolling hills and farm animals that harmonized in sync with the sound of the doves. People who rave about their tranquil, enriching 12h train journey have either inhaled too much engine exhaust or are evil manipulators who want you to believe them enough to forgo shuteye on such a trip.
Those aren’t your friends.
We slept through most of the night. And day. And arrived at Butterworth in the morning.
In 2016… or maybe 2015, there was news that the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (in Singapore) was going to be rebuilt or re-purposed in 10 years’ time. Since most Singaporeans have this running joke that we’ve never seen <insert area> not in the process of renovation/construction since memory serves us, I don’t think we weren’t expecting that.
When we do see the station in its new form though, I think the only thing that will remain is its facade.
This is me. This blog mostly talks about how to have grand adventures as an unrepentant Singaporean.