Wednesday, May 29, 2019

One day trip to JB (Johor Bahru) by train - Part 1

Let's go jalan jalan, makan and belanja!!! Day trip to JB from Singapore!!!

Johor Bahru is the nearest place of Malaysia that connected with Singapore. It is the border that dividing the 2 countries. People cross over it every day to work, study, holiday, and so on; by car, motorcycle, public bus, taxi, truck, company bus, train and even on foot. They just have to pass through the immigration office of both countries with their passports and/or identity card to be checked (including stuffs that they bring in).

There are two checkpoints available - Woodlands and Tuas. The most common used one (and older one) is Woodlands checkpoint. Because once coming out from Malaysia immigration, you can just walk to the shopping center (no additional public transport required).

Every kind of vehicle crossing from Singapore to Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Many Singaporean go there for a day trip using few available public transport. Bus is the most common one. But usually the long immigration queue and hop-on-hop-off bus in between two immigration offices (long traffic jam on the road) have deterred people from visiting (although it is a cheaper way to reach).

Therefore, if you never go there before (or very seldom going there) and want to experience it in a much more convenient way, then this blog post is for you! With the good exchange currency (1 Singapore Dollar (SGD) to about 3 Ringgit Malaysia (RM)), you can consider to spare your free time for a JB one-day-trip for jalan jalan (walk walk), makan (eat), and belanja (shopping).

Few things to take note before going for a day trip to JB though! First, avoid peak season (e.g. school holiday, public holidays, weekends, etc.) Second, avoid peak hours (e.g. early morning there will be many Malaysian coming Singapore to work, also for those who works on midnight shift to go back to Malaysia and vice versa for evening time). If you choose both timings I mentioned just now, then I wish you good luck! Happy waiting and queuing lah! :P

Use to book your train ticket (Pic source:

Third, try taking train! Why train? First, it is easy to buy the ticket as you can get your ticket online. But try to book few days or even month earlier so that you can get the available timing that you want. Because especially on peak season, more people will be traveling and book the ticket in advance.

This is the link where you can book your train ticket. Under the train ticket, key in your information (see the sample above). Please take note: you have to select "one way" and book separately even if you want to book for the return trip ticket. After click Search for Train, the page will show you the timing available for you to choose. If it is not shown, it means, the train has been fully booked for that time.

It takes only 5 minutes from Singapore to JB by train. The timing available are: 8.30 am, 9.45 am, 11 am, 12.30 am, 1.45 pm, 3 pm, 4.15 pm, 5.30 pm, 6.45 pm, 8 pm, 9.15 pm, 10.30 pm, 11.45 pm. From the website, you will find out how many seats are still available and how much the fare is (MYR 16 for ticket fee and admin fee of MYR 1.12 which total up to almost SGD $6 per pax). After selecting your timing, the website will ask you to select the seat (however in reality, you can anyhow sit inside the train (not following the seat number).

Key in the train passenger details then choose if you want to opt for insurance at SGD $1 per pax plus admin fee for insurance at SGD $0.5. Once done, proceed to payment (through Easybook Wallet, VISA, Mastercard, and Unionpay). They will send you the train order booking summary with your train ticket status through your email. But that is not the final ticket confirmation yet. Easybook will send another email regarding your train ticket confirmation.

Email to print the KTM eTicket

There will be a heading like the above where they give you a link to print your e-ticket for boarding the train. Do not print the email itself. If the ticket is not confirmed (can be due to many reason), they will inform you in the email as well (with the money that will be refunded from credit card company).

So, once everything is done, get ready for the day!!! You will have to go to Woodlands Train Checkpoint to board your train. They advise you to come half an hour earlier than the departure time. I advise you to come at least 45 minutes earlier though as you still need to exchange your printed e-ticket to the smaller train ticket after verification at the office located near the entrance (level 1). Do not go up straightly after reaching there!

Woodlands Train Checkpoint - Singapore

Once you get your ticket then you can go up and join the queue. The immigration officer will open the door around half an hour before departure time. You need to go through 2 immigration offices (Singapore first, then Malaysia), both before departing the train (and is only separated with very less distance). For Singaporean/ PR, use the automated self-service machine to enter faster. There will be security check for your belonging as well.

Take note that you are not allowed to take photo or video recording once you go up to second floor. There will be many warnings about it and even not to take photo of the train. So just quietly follow the procedure and board your train safely! So get ready for an exciting day in JB!!! Will continue the post soon!!! Before that, do not forget to book the return train ticket online as well so that you can feel secure about your way back home!!! Same thing, print out and bring the e-ticket with you. So stay tune for more!!! :)

Saturday, May 25, 2019

San Bu Yi Bai (3 Step 1 Bow) Ticket Collection (三步一拜-光明山) - Kong Meng San Phor Kark See or KMSPKS Monastery

Happy Vesak Day 2019

Vesak Day 2019 was over last Sunday, 19th May 2019. For those who have a great interest to join the 3-step-1-bow in years to come and want to know the ticket collection process, then this post is for you. Let me share with you the updated process (started from the year 2018) where the Committee had made positive changes to create a fairer system and provide better environment for everyone.

Before that, let me share with you what 3-step-1-bow (or sanbu yibai 三步一拜) is.

"It is a gruelling yet meaningful journey as devotees meditatively circumambulate the perimeter of the temple, bowing once every three steps, while chanting mantras or the name of the Buddha."
- (Source: Kmspks Facebook).

3-Step-1-Bow Ceremony (Pic Source: KMSPKS Singapore)

Everyone from young to old are welcome to participate. Children below 12 years old do not require ticket. They can just come and follow their family members to join in this activity as the Management wants to encourage the younger generation to learn and practice this one way of practicing Dharma.

Worry not if you have pain on your knees as you are also allowed to just bow in standing position after the three steps instead of bowing all the way down to the floor. Because most important is that your body, speech and mind are kept being focused, calmed, and mindful throughout the whole process.

Sanbu Yibai ticket collection inside the Hall of No Form Lvl 4 - KMSPKS Singapore

Unlike in the past, people are no longer required to bring tents, pillows, chairs, or even food and/or beverages for ticket collection process. The culture of chopping places for your family members, relatives, or friends who would come late is also no longer practiced.

The ticket collection place is done inside the Hall of No Form at level 4 of the Venerable Hong Choon Memorial Hall. Click here to find out where the location is. It is still same on the First-Come First-Collection basis. As you come, you will be provided the shoe bag to store your shoes and the Volunteer will guide you to your seat (on the harden floor). The queue will start from the far most right, front to behind, before continuing to the next row. Each person will occupy a tile square size area to sit and store their items.

For people who are not comfortable sitting on the floor, the chairs are provided near the entrance. They can put their items in their queuing space and sit on the chair separately. And as mentioned earlier, no chopping place is allowed. Even if your family member come a bit later (for example due to some time required to park the car), the person will still not be allowed to join the seat with their family member who have been seated earlier in their queue. They can choose to wait until the whole family members arrive then entering the hall, if they do not want to have separate seat.

Vegetarian noodle is provided for free at the Dining Hall (same building at Level 2)

The vegetarian noodle is provided free for breakfast at the Dining Hall (located at the same building at Level 2) as early as 7 am. Vending machine for coffee, tea, Milo is available outside the Dining Hall for a little amount (coin required). Hot water and tea are also provided for free. That is why you do not need to bring any food or beverage or worry of getting hungry and bored while waiting. Fyi, only plain water is allowed inside the Hall of No Form.

When you are leaving your seat temporarily to visit toilet, Dining Hall, etc., just ensure you know well where your seat is, recognize those who sit next to you (left and right, front and back), and maybe some courtesy to inform them that you will leave for a while and request them to take a look at your unimportant belonging that you may leave while going out.

Temporary ticket number before collection

The timing for collection mentioned was at 12 pm. Since it is on first-come-first-collection basis, you can come early depending on how early you can join the actual 3-Step-1-Bow procession. The first group starts at 5 pm. By 11 am, the room will be packed and ticket number as shown at the above photo will be distributed.

Only by 12 pm the sticker with group number and timing information will be distributed upon leaving the room, which will end the process. You can continue having vegetarian lunch at Dining Hall or straight going back home. Other vegetarian food is also available for sale if you feel bored having the same noodle again.

3-Step-1-Bow sticker collected - KMSPKS Monastery, Singapore

Hope this post will be useful for your ticket collection next time. "No one said it is easy, but it is going to worth it." If you do not manage to get the ticket, worry not. You still can participate and experience the 3-Step-1-Bow at night time. There will be Open Queue after 10 pm onward and you can wait at the same hall. The whole 3-Step-1-Bow process will take around 1.5 to 2 hours time. It will be go on until 7 am the next day.

So wish you good luck and I hope that this practice will help you to purify the mind, humble the ego, and lessen obstacles along the spiritual path as one repents past unwholesome deeds of body, speech and mind, and aspire towards spiritual improvement. Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu.

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See or KMSPKS Monastery
Address: 88 Bright Hill Road. Singapore 574117

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

I miss Bhutan for

The last time I visited Bhutan was two years ago (April 2017). And since my very first visit in 2012, it was kind of a trend that after the year 2013, every 2 years I would make another visit to Bhutan. However, up until now, there is no such plan to visit Bhutan yet.

Many people have never visited Bhutan in their life. Some are on the way planning to visit for the very first time. Some have been there for many times. Some have been staying there for few years due to the nature of their occupation (be it full time worker, contract worker, volunteer job, and so on). Many have been married to Bhutanese and stay there permanently. Here, I am referring to foreigners (non-Bhutanese) by nature. 

I feel very grateful for being able to visit Bhutan for 4 times already. Earlier, I thought, it was enough to be there for so many times. Four times. And in those occasions, I was very grateful for being able to visit great number of places around Bhutan, even more than what the average Bhutanese had ever visited in their lifetime.

But, as I browsed the photos stored inside my desktop from my previous visit, it inspired me to write this post. Because after clicking through those images, I realized that I still love and miss Bhutan, very very much. And there were so many reasons for me to miss Bhutan, to visit the country again and again, in the near future. 

Among those reasons are:

Bhutanese bloggers meeting in Thimphu, Bhutan

1. Meeting my fellow Bhutanese bloggers cum friends (including those who were present but not shown inside this picture).

I know, this was a matter of year 2015. Since that period, everyone had pursued different matters in life. Many had flown overseas for further studies, work, earn extra money, etc. Those who stayed put in Bhutan were occupied by their work and/ or family matters. Those singles had got married and some had children. Many had realized their dreams, achieving what they wanted to achieve in life.

However, as I entered their blogs, many had stopped updating it. It just stopped, or with much lesser posts along the year. Very few tried their best in maintaining it alive. Writing needed time, effort, passion, patience, and hard work.

Well, no matter where they are now or what they are doing, I miss all of them terribly and so much!!! I wished we all could turn back time to who we were, who used to share the same passion in life, which was writing. And I knew many of them through blogging first before meeting them in person.It just felt so amazing and unbelievable!

We still keep in touch through Facebook, We Chat, Instagram, email, etc. but I really wish that one day when I visit Bhutan again, all of us will have such a reunion again, as friend,as a long lost friend.

2. I miss the rainbow - not just a rainbow, but double rainbow!!!

I miss double rainbow!!!

Yes, I miss the double rainbow, not just a rainbow. Sometimes I wonder if rainbow was only created in Bhutan. I had seen it many times there, and double rainbow made my happiness times two. Hahaha.... :D

3. I miss their beautiful nature 

River and mountain of pine trees

As I rode their public bus through the mountainous road, I loved sitting next to the window overlooking beautiful nature and view along the way, such as: river, pine trees, horses, cows, prayer flags, stupa or chorten, Bhutanese wearing Gho and Kira, and so on. It soothed my mind and chased away all my troubles in life :)

Beautiful paddy terrace and Punatshangchhu from Uma Village, Bhutan

Love the greenery and mountainous view very much!!!

4. I miss attending Tshechu (religious festival)

Nimalung Tshechu, Bhutan - Jun 2015

Masked dance and procession, Atsara (red faced clown with phallus - wooden penis on his head), colorful Gho and Kira, crowd pushing upon receiving 'wang' or blessing, kids with gun toys, nearby stalls selling stuffs, tea, lucky-dip, tent for VIP guests were among the things I loved and missed, and of course, amazing friends who accompanied me there and completed with picnic packed lunch sitting on the grass nearby the area :)

5. I missed village life with common room as sleeping place, traditional kitchen, the open-air bath and out of the house toilet

Village home in Kanglung, Bhutan

Hahaha... call me crazy, whatever you want, and yes, I miss this!!! Traveling life means living a life out of the boundary, out of mundane ordinary life. But this reminds me to always be grateful with what I have in life.

6. I miss shopping in markets

Shops in Bhutan

Hanging pork belly, frozen meats and fishes, displaying fresh local or Indian produced fruits and vegetables were among the scenes you would find in their markets. Simple part of daily lives that I enjoyed living with.

7. I miss plucking fresh organic vegetables

Plucking organic vegetables grown by Devi - Bumthang, Bhutan

I was very fortunate to meet Devi. With her, I experienced many things that Bhutanese lived with in their everyday's lives. This included plucking potatoes and carrots from her garden. Living in metropolitan city since I was born, I had little chance to have this kind of life.

8. I miss the variety of local Bhutanese food and drinks

Bumthaps Khuley, Nepali Sel Roti, Bhutan Kewa Datshi, Southern part Dorley chili

Not only that, she also let me exposed extensively to local food and drinks. She was afraid I did not have enough things to eat and many times she cooked and made few different dishes at the same time. She never failed to show me her capabilities in making Sel Roti, Juma, Khabsey, and so on. Thank you Devi!!! I miss you very much!!!  

Process of making Bumthap Puta - Buckwheat Noodle from Bumthang

The above was one of the day when she asked her tenant to help making the Puta noodle made of buckwheat flour, a traditional food from Bumthang.

Local liquor and beer from Bumthang

9. I miss the Bhutan tea time :)

Tea time in Bumthang, Bhutan

You should know, it wasn't just the tea, but the things accompanied with tea - zaw (beaten rice), khabsey (Tibetan fried sweet dough), thengma (beaten maize), variety of biscuits, and so on, plus the great accompany to chit chat and just relax enjoying the evening breeze.

10. I miss the private mask dance hahaha.... :P

Private mask dance at Samcholing Palace, Bhutan

My dear friend Rupa and I were very fortunate being invited by Khenpo who took care of the Lhakhang at Samcholing Palace to sit and watch the Buddhist ritual prayer musical instruments and mask dance performed by the monks who stayed and studied there. Only two of us were the guests for that night's performance and the feeling was indescribable, felt like going back to hundred years ago, perhaps I was there in my previous life to witness the same thing before.

11. I miss the Bhutanese homestay and hospitality

Bhutanese homestay in Tangmachu Village, Bhutan

Once in a while I had the opportunity to stay at Bhutanese homestay. Apart from dinner, they usually served ara (Bhutan local spirit) as part of their hospitality service. Felt the warmth and got closed with their culture and tradition were other things I treasured the most.

12. I miss the lunch break-stop on the road

Stopped for lunch break - Bhutan

There was no restriction where you could stop. Road would be where you sat and had your lunch. Food was prepared in advance before leaving the place. It was simple but very nice. I miss it so much!!!

13. I miss the local snack sold on roadside

Roadside seller selling local produced - Mongar,Bhutan

I remembered my dear friend, Luzee, who bought lots of things from roadside seller on the way back to Thimphu. She said, better to support them as many were depending their living cost from it. Apart from that, you got fresh local produced and specialty food from the area as well!!!

14. I miss the hiking

Hiking to Tiger Nest with Rekha - Paro, Bhutan

For Bhutanese, hiking has been part of their daily lives. For them, it was a piece of cake. But it had never been easy for me. Hahaha.... It was not part of my daily activities here in Singapore. Nevertheless, I was enjoying it so much over there. And Tiger Nest was only one basic hiking destination that every tourist must go. There were many other more!!!

15. I miss walking alone with nature

View from Sangaygang - Thimphu, Bhutan

And Sangaygang was always one of my favorite places to walk alone with nature. Went up using short-cut and walked down using a long way. Never felt bored as the beautiful view had always mesmerized me.

16. I miss the temples and many religious and sacred sites

Takila - the biggest Guru Rinpoche statue in Eastern Bhutan

I was very lucky for being able to visit many Buddhist temples and many sacred and religious sites in Bhutan. I never dreamt of visiting them before but fate and good karma simply brought me there. Thank you SB!!!

Our visit to Chorten Kora in Trashiyangtse, Bhutan 

Well, there are many more things I miss about Bhutan. It was not shown there, but I definitely miss all my Bhutanese friends wherever they are living now. I feel very grateful for all their friendships, kindness, and love that they have rendered for me.

For now, that was all I could share here in my blog post. Let's see how long more until I can visit the country again. The next time I go there, there must be a specific purpose of visiting, new places to reach and lots of beautiful memories to create with wonderful people there!!! 
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