By Anthony Dylan
Travelling away used to be a normal yearly event for many of us. Those who had the monetary capability would do more than others. Some of us would have made plans to travel to countries which we would have saved up and meticulously planned for. Travelling would either be on a Free and Easy based on your own itinerary or one which is created for by your tour agent. The latter would have you be part of a larger group, enough to fit a small bus at least complete with an accompanying tour guide. Of course, when you are in another country, the same tour guide would be your go to person as countries or regions regulate the necessity for a licensed local guide to take you.
Whether domestic or overseas, the joy of travelling has been stopped in its tracks. The COVID-19 epidemic has caused global fear and anxiety. These are further cemented with a barrage of advisories from multiple quarters on protecting yourself. Fear mongering is the flavor of the day. However, some have chosen to rebel and form their own ideas of the risks. Another group would seek freedom of movement but with self discipline in taking care of themselves and others. On the other end would be a group who is paranoid to the extent of paralysis. It reminded me of a phrase I was given by a wise man who has since passed. “Analysis to Paralysis”
The airlines have started to open up their domestic flights whilst some countries are trying their best to create a travel bubble to kick-start their tourism industry. In the meantime, what is certain is the emphasis on domestic tourism. Our hotel rates are still cheaper for foreign travelers but our own people still think they are expensive when the rates are in 3 digits for typical hotels. That is the very reason why some cheaper options like Air B&B and smaller boutique ones previously had the upper hand when it came to domestic tourism. With the COVID-19 menace, it seems that safety remains a huge concern in the aspect of sanitization. There is also the worry of job security. These have impacted the tourism industry as well.
The local airlines when they began domestic flights have upped their ticket prices. This did not augur well in the beginning with the general populace. Luckily, some sense have come about and the prices seem to have somewhat regularized. This could have also been the effect of the Government excluding the need for physical distancing (the typical 1 metre) on board. The only real change is the need to go through a longer procedure to check in and to board and to disembark.
We would never know too far in the future as the past weeks, Kuching saw worrying spikes of COVID-19 cases. This has caused the Government of Sarawak to initiate and implement the rule where all passengers would need to undergo mandatory quarantine form 1st till 14th August 2020. This is in addition to the requirement for a police permit to travel inter-zones within Sarawak. They have also required all airlines to reduce flights. This was required again after weeks of good work and then, a sudden spike.
Travelling domestic has its own charm as you discover your own backyard. There are various methods to do so. Some would think of running the length of the train tracks. Even with our KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu), you have 3 choices to try as you discover domestic travelling.
The ETS (Electric Train Service) is an intercity line which came into service in 2015. It connects from Gemas in the South all the way to Padang Besar in the North. It has a maximum speed of 140km an hour.
If you would like a more leisurely ride, then the KTM Intercity line would be one of interest. It goes through many quaint towns and villages along its route towards Thailand or Singapore or to the east coast on the Peninsula of Malaysia. The KTM Intercity line is run by its nostalgic diesel powered trains.
For those who just love to move around even closer to home, then discovering places via the KTM Komuter would be ideal. This is fully run by electric and began operations in 1995. Today, most major stations are connected with the LRT and MRT lines. Heading to Kajang for Satay, to Batu Caves, to Pulau Ketam or even to Seremban would be easy.
Another great way to travel is by car. It is also easy to just rent a car with GoCar or even SoCar as they are very easy to use. The traditional alternatives for car rentals are still around to choose from. But if you have your own car, it is even better. Planning a trip on your own could be cool. You could do short excursions towards Sekinchan, Ulu Yam or Banting. There are interesting sights and places to both visit and to look for local eat.
The ultimate one would be to do a round the Peninsula of Malaysia road trip. I have been thinking of doing one. This would take me South through Seremban, Melaka, and Johor Bahru before heading up the east coast to Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bahru. From there, the trip is envisioned to cut across west via one of the world’s oldest Rainforest; the Royal Belum heading towards Kangar. From there, it would a trip southwards through Alor Setar, Georgetown, Ipoh and finally back. This would touch every capital city or town of the 11 states in the Peninsula of Malaysia and 2 Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
I guess overseas travel would have to be postponed for awhile and it would likely take a year or two before one is done. This very much depends on the global COVID-19 situation. Till then, let us use this time to discover those near us within the country. You would be pleasantly surprised of what you would be able to discover.