Recently, I headed to KL to complete my college enrolment. I was really excited about it – furniture shopping (which didn’t materialise) and trains. But I found myself exasperated and missing Hong Kong sorely.
1. Transportation is a pain here. The rail system covers more than 100 stations and is operated mainly by RapidKL Rail, KL Monorail and KTM Komuter. Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of integration of the systems. Going from system to system is a hassle. For example, KL Monorail’s ‘KL Central’ is more than 100 metres away from the KL Central hub. It requires plenty of walking, stair-climbing and road-crossing. I’ve always wondered why the need for a women’s coach on the KTM. My first experience on intracity KTM provided a revelation. The platform was densely crowded. When the train pulled up, it was already packed. An accompanying friend told me to push and steered me in. Everyone literally pushed and off we went. I was tightly pinned between my pal and a pole, and had someone’s glorious armpit chucked right at my face. We exploded out of the train the moment the doors opened. My train also got delayed 3 times which amounted to over 30 minutes. Monorail and Rapid trains are mostly 2-coach trains which don’t possess adequate capacity for the crowd volume. And the trains move at turtle speed.
2. So, KL Central is South East Asia’s largest intermodal transport hub. The thing that struck me when I first arrived was, “Is this a market?” Little stalls, that Malaysia is so fond of, are planted in every space of the hub, selling run-of-the-mill goods like clothes and bags. Crowds could be thinned and more areas for waiting could be installed (since trains are not punctual) sans the stalls. It’s hot inside, and sign boards are not idiot-proof enough. Platforms and walkways are poorly lit simply because of poor maintenance. Malaysians fail to see that crime thrives in the dark. Toilets are (God bless us all) in the most deplorable states of cleanliness. Floors are disgustingly wet and the stench.. a Malaysian staple. How I dream of HK toilets that smell like apples. Really. Ticket machines are always ‘ROSAK’, displaying red Xs even when queues are long, or just barring this Touch n’ Go user from going through. Traffic flow is highly important with voluminous crowds. Simply directing pedestrians to walk on the left at all times using arrows makes life simple for everyone. And the escalators crawl.
3. Because police presence is so rare in Malaysia (I only see policemen patrolling my area after a robbery happens.), people feel fearful whenever they see the men in blue. In HK, police officers are at the corner at every other street that it is so common. And you actually feel safe. I felt well-protected even at 4 am at LKF because police officers, equipped with necessary equipment, were present to ensure no drunken acts get dangerous. Residents of housing estates in KL have to resort to hiring private security companies to protect their area from break-ins and other crimes. It is the duty of the police force to provide that security.
4. After 54 years of independence, Malaysians still possess third world mentalities, which is the root of all the malfunctions of this nation. I waited at my college for a good 30 minutes for my offer letter which could’ve taken a few minutes. Oh, the need for efficiency and consideration! Sometimes, the actions of Malaysians puzzle me because they defy all possible logic. We think it’s OK to litter, cut queues and be impolite to customers. We believe we are smart drivers when we drive in the emergency lane and overtake like idiots. Commuters cough generously onto train poles and drivers toss snot-filled tissue out of their vehicles. When you get into a train, move straight in quickly and don’t block the doorway. Walk on the left always instead of weaving from left to right like a figure skater. You cross the road when the stick man turns green. Let people get off the train before you get on. Common sense says, you need to empty before you fill. On escalators, stand on the left and let others pass on the right. And please, do walk faster. The issue of integrity which affects virtually everything is also on the list, but that would take too long to comment upon.
Malaysia prides itself in possessing first world infrastructure. Tell that to a Malaysian and he’d laugh his socks off. Only 16% use public transportation in KL. There are so many things that can be done in simple and practical manners for the convenience of all, but either it is not done or it is overdone with frills and lacking in functionality. We don’t need funky lamp posts, we need proper bus stops and safe pedestrian walkways.
Efficiency and promptness, with an adequate amount of general courtesy is highly appreciated. And do come up with a rail system with good coverage and integration. HK trains stretch as long as the stations which are clean and well-lit. The stations are informative too. That’s why 90% of Hong Kongites rely on public transport. The Touch n’ Go card needs to be an all-uses card like HK’s Octopus, which can be used for transport, food and 7-Eleven. Probably two reasons public transport in Malaysia can never take off is due to the government-backed national line of cars and our off-shore petroleum.
HK is highly concerned about hygiene due to the many epidemic scares it has undergone. I really hope it doesn’t take an epidemic to get Malaysia to keep its toilets clean, use auto or pedal flush systems, disinfect escalator rails, and sneeze into handkerchiefs.
People in HK walk real fast, and escalators zoom up and down quickly. Without sign boards, they respect the need to stand on the right to let people pass on the left (opposite of ours). They know that you must empty the train to fill. The way they flawlessly execute these makes non-HKites conform their unwritten and unspoken rules. Taxi drivers wave thanks to the car behind when they change lanes. Advertisements constantly educate the public on safety, courtesy and anti-corruption. This is First World. Get real and working, Malaysia.