singapore. from the long and winding road
The essay linked above lovingly remembers an era of rail travel.
Sunday was the last ride of the Eastern and Oriental Express* train service out of Singapore. Nicely, it was also when the rains poured the hardest, gushing waters breaking the risen curbs into orchard road malls; you can see the murky colours rising along the tracks by the train, hear the insistent thud of the tropical rain in the video uploaded by the green corridor project. There, the leaves and grass are a verdant green and the rains are savoured – how amazing context changes things.
I simply remember the train for the welcome respite it allowed me. I took it for my shortest ‘long-trips’ out of singapore (invariably ipoh and kl). As the train rolls in, the carriages linked point into the darkness (i invariably take the night train). It honks, loudly.
I love how the tracks promise not just a destination, but a journey. A plane ride to our neighbours burns a mere hour or a few, but it is disguised by more hours before and after, and comes with bureaucracy and the unique anxious-excitement of airport crowds. Up above, only the ticker on the screen tracks your progress.
Trains allow your eyes to travel the miles as well, and forces you to slow. Is that not the point of journeys after all, to allow your soul to breathe. Indeed as the rumbling tracks sieve thoughts and give slow slumber, it feels like i arrive at my destinations (invariably kl or ipoh) in a state of metamorphosis, better ready to soak in the new place.
I’d mentioned earlier that the ktm train itself was a step into malaysia. And every singaporean knows that’s a rare quality here.
My lil brother thinks it all sounds very quaint. Of course, he will likely not have the chance to take the train before the end of june now, and it is easy for every generation to feel nostalgia for the batons no longer relevant to pass on. I think he would have enjoyed being able to buy an RM40 dollar for a 12-hour slumber to kl and beyond. Where strapped into his basic bunk by a broad vista of rolling greenery, he must reflect and relax. Turn comfortable, and admire simplicity. Feel grateful, feel travel. Instead of surreal, i’d be confident he would feel it the most natural way to be.
And what of the green land around. We wait and see.