Friday, July 12, 2013

Impressive Kuala Lumpur Public Transport System Is Impressive

There was one thing that surprised me about the warm, humid, and busy capital of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur. It is not the beautifully preserved historic and religious structures, which Kuala Lumpur has in abundance. It is not even the high supply of good Kuala Lumpur restaurants. I had known for a very long time that Kuala Lumpur locals loved to eat. Food-loving KL-ites mean a plethora of good Kuala Lumpur restaurants. At the end of the day, it is the Kuala Lumpur public transport system that impressed me the most.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan
Not an airport. That is a bus station. Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The best bus terminal I ever set foot on.

I know. I know. KL-ites would readily enumerate to me the ills and problems of their city's public transport system. But you have to admit, it is an impressive infrastructure for a metropolis of more than five million residents. The Kuala Lumpur public transport system certainly makes it easy to get around for the nine million tourists who visit the city yearly. That includes someone like me who grew up in a similar Southeast Asian city—Manila—except our public transport system is leaps and bounds behind that of Kuala Lumpur. Maybe that's why I was impressed as much.

Let me enumerate three simple reasons I was impressed by the Kuala Lumpur public transport system:

1. The main transport hub, the Kuala Lumpur Sentral, is well, central, functional, and comprehensive.

Kuala Lumpur Sentral
By Akira Mitsuda | CC BY 3.0
KL Sentral, a comprehensive transport hub. And I thought I'd never find one of these in Southeast Asia.

I thought I would only see these kinds of infrastructures in cities as glitzy and developed as Shanghai or, from what I heard, Tokyo. Most of the large cities in Southeast Asia rose from the grounds without any urban planning. Thus, getting around can be a big pain. Kuala Lumpur Sentral addressed that by becoming a comprehensive transport hub near the city center. City buses terminate here. Kuala Lumpur Airport buses and trains also terminate here. The city's suburban rail service—the KTM Komuter—has a station here. The same goes for one of the city's three MRT lines and the KL Monorail, too. Additionally, there is a long line of taxis outside. I mean, what more for could a traveler ask for? Everything is here!

2. The long-distance bus terminal, the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, is huge and ultra-modern.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan
Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. You'd think you were in an airport, but you're just in a bus terminal.

As far as bus terminals are concerned, the Bandar Tasik Selatan Integrated Transport Terminal, otherwise known as the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, takes first prize. And I'm taking into account bus terminals not just in Malaysia but the whole of Southeast Asia. The facility is located south of the city center and is easily accessible. Airport trains stop here. An MRT station can be found here. There is also a station here for the KTM Komuter. It has six floors this terminal. The lower floors have the waiting lounges and bus departure gates (yes, like an airport's departure gates). The higher floors have restaurants and shops serving all travelers in transit.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan
Waiting lounges and bus departure gates. I seriously found this bus terminal to be better than the KL airport's low-cost terminal.

I used this terminal to catch a bus to Malacca. As soon as I walked in, I saw the large LED display board and the row of counters of the bus service providers. I went up to a counter and ordered a ticket. The process was like I was paying to see a movie in the cinema, complete with open schedules, seat assignments, and all. I was seriously impressed. The terminal officers may or may not have seen me gushing in delight. Truth be told, it left me wishing that my home city Manila also had this ultramodern facility. But I dream!

3. Historic railway stations are not forgotten: the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station.

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
By Jimmy Harris | CC BY 2.0
The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station reminded me of the monuments I saw in India actually.

As functional as Kuala Lumpur Sentral is, or as ultramodern as the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan is, Kuala Lumpur has retained one of its historic transport infrastructures. Long before Kuala Lumpur Sentral existed, there was the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. The building as it is today was completed in the early 1900s and what a beautiful building it is!

Kuala Lumpur Komuter
What's more impressive is that it's a functional railway station for the KTM Komuter.

British architect Arthur Benison Hubback created this beauty and based the design on the monuments he saw in India, which like Malaysia was a British colony. The spires resemble those of the gates of the Taj Mahal in Agra or those of the beautifully preserved Mughal buildings of Fatehpur Sikri, a historic site located an hour outside Agra. The fact that it is still a functional railway station, for the KTM Komuter that is, makes me admire it more really.

Bonus: They have graffiti!

Graffiti Wall, Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur
I am a big lover of street art. These ones are found by the Pasar Seni MRT Station, right on the concrete banks of the Klang River.

Note: To get the full lowdown on the public transport of Kuala Lumpur (what you can take, what is most ideal for you, how much to pay, etc.), do head over to the Wikitravel page of Kuala Lumpur.

In your travels, which city impressed you the most in terms of public transport? Maybe we can refer them to Metro Manila authorities so that my city may have a semblance of organization?

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