Reserved seats at Bangkok station and an odd incident at the pictures in Kuala Lumpur

We rushed through Thailand and Malaysia, if the long distance trains and buses that take seven hours to do 200 miles can be called rushing. We stayed mainly in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, with in between stops just for overnight rests. And with our focus on coffee and tea places still taking centre stage that didn’t leave much time for anything else.

Bangkok station

The building housing Bangkok station is in a classic old colonial style, hardly changed in the 90 years since it was built.

Bangkok station

Reserved seats for monks at Bangkok station

We loved the section of seating on the station concourse set aside for monks and novices. And very well used it was, too. It’s just hard to imagine UK stations having reserved seats for nuns or people wearing dog collars, but I guess monks have a special place in Thai society…

Bangkok is hot all year round, and the traffic is terrible. So, a good option for staying (relatively) cool, seeing the city from a different perspective and having a cheap ride through town is to take the river ferry.

River ferry in Bangkok

We used it several times to get to and from our tea and coffee venues, in one case way beyond the usual tourist parts of town, raising questioning looks from the ticket sellers on the jetties.

River ferry in Bangkok


We switched to buses to get through Malaysia because the Thai trains had been so slow. I won’t dwell on the weirdness of Malay bus drivers here, but what I will show are the typical views from the bus all the way through the country to Kuala Lumpur.

Palm oil trees in Malaysia

Palm oil trees are everywhere as far as the eye can see. And you suddenly begin to see how this lot contribute to global warming, since presumably before they put the palm trees in there was virgin rain forest all over Malaysia.

Palm oil trees in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur gets a bad press generally, often because of the pollution. But we actually liked the place. It has a fantastic mix of modern and colonial architecture…

Kuala Lumpur

Best of all, we think, are the old 1920s cinemas that still show films.

Odeon cinema in Kuala Lumpur

This is the Odeon, which looked more like a market from the outside, but still has a cinema entrance round the side. We didn’t fancy the film on offer there, so moved down the same road to the Coliseum…

Coliseum cinema in Kuala Lumpur

The Coliseum has a wonderful entrance area with overhead fans that must have been there about as long as the cinema itself. It’s been split into a two-screen cinema now, but that still leaves space for about 500 in each room.

Entrance lobby to Coliseum cinema in Kuala Lumpur

We opted for a Tamil ghost story called Aaaah!, and joined the 50 or so people for a matinee showing. We’ll review the film elsewhere on our film blog (, but this was a fascinating experience also just to see what going to the flicks was like in Malaysia.

About half way through, we heard the sound of liquid pouring onto the floor in the row behind us, a sound that was repeated a few times before we realised that this was actually a man a few seats along from us vomiting all over the floor in front of him.

We moved a few rows away, but heard over the next half hour or so further bouts of illness as the man continued to pour out the contents of his tummy onto the cinema floor, with extraordinary volume (in both sound and quantity), and no sign of him rushing down the aisle to the loos.

A whole string of men in the audience did however head to the exit for the loos, often in quick succession, making us wonder if in fact this cinema matinee might be a starting point for some other sort of activities aside from the usual ablutions, which might explain why the tummy troubled man didn’t fancy going down there.

Of course it may just be that men drink a lot before they go to the cinema in Malaysia, which might explain both the illness and the frequent loo visits, but who knows?

As the lights came up at the end of the film we watched in horror as several people slipped along the row where the sick man had been sitting. But our horror was nothing compared to the poor cinema cleaner who turned up right at the end of the credits. So it may be that this was not a normal occurrence at a KL cinema.

Funny how trips to the cinema have been part of the most colourful moments of our journey, from gangland Russia, through scooter riding in China to national heroes in Kyrgyzstan. If I ever do write a book on this trip, the cinemas will have a section of their own…


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