- Malaysian Route 1 (near Tampin, Negeri Sembilan)- Or the old road from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru. Traffic jam free on Chinese New Year's day.
Although this would be slightly belated, I'd like to wish all the readers of myautoblog a Happy belated Chinese New Year. Now some of you may have traveled up north into Malaysia during the holidays either for the traditional reunion or for some well deserved R&R. But traveling in Malaysia during any festive season tends to be a little tiresome and stressful. This is because everyone takes advantage of the holidays to go somewhere. Whether to their hometown, some holiday destination or just to travel to that certain prawn mee shop a few hundred kilometers from where they are at just to find some good food. It is because of this and the fact that Malaysia registers at least 150,000 cars a year and at each household has an average of one car or two per house. Add the fact that there is at least 26 million Malaysians and half reside in big towns or cities, there is bound to be a major exodus every festive season. And Chinese New Year is one big exodus where even those not celebrating go on a holiday someplace. As such, the North South Highway is usually jammed on the eve of any festivity, sometimes on the day of the festivity and the last day of the festivity or the last day of the holidays.
- My destination on Chinese New Year's day. But Kuala Lumpur to Seremban was a no-go. Average speeds were 30 km/h and stressful
This year's Chinese New Year isn't an exception. I was on the road from Kuala Lumpur to Muar and the jam started a good 35 kilometers from Seremban – (which is like being in a jam the whole length of the PIE (Pan Island Expressway). This isn't even halfway into a what usually takes 2 hours and a bit more journey and I estimated that it would take about 4 hours if we kept at a steady snail's pace of 30km/h up to Seremban/Senawang where the traffic clears a little and we could keep a steady 90km/h. But traffic would be heavy till Melaka and it would still be stressful whichever way you look at it.
Of course traffic from Singapore would be bad at both causeways if you left late in the morning or in the afternoon on the eve of holidays and then even before entering Malaysia you'd be a little stressed. I know that travel through the state of Johor wouldn't be that bad but if you are heading into Melaka (or Malacca) it may get hectic as a lot of the dual lane carriageways are jammed due to traffic lights every kilometer or so. Things may get bad when you are about to return to Singapore if you are at Kuala Lumpur, or Penang on the last day of the holidays.
But I was surprised when I took the old Route 1 from Seremban (after using the new tolled Highway called LEKAS from Kajang to Seremban via Nilai) into Melaka which was the old Kuala Lumpur – Johor Bahru main road. The road was scenic and stress free as while there were cars, you were still traveling at an average speed of 85-90km/h. This meant that while it took awhile longer to reach Muar (three and a half hours), I was basically taking the scenic route which was refreshing and calming without the monotony of a jammed highway drive. The reason for the lack of traffic is that almost everyone has gotten used to the idea that the highways are the fastest way to travel. But when everyone uses them, it gets congested and becomes worse than a single lane on each side carriageway. And when you add irresponsible and idiotic drivers that resort to use the road reserve/emergency lane things get more stressful. Sometimes, the old route becomes faster as a result.
I enjoyed the old route. I managed to drive through small towns and villages, got to look at those traditional Melaka-style houses and observe cows grazing alongside the road in the Negeri Sembilan countryside. Not to mention that all important fact of enjoying the corners that most B-roads throw at you. Attacking corners is what I enjoy doing most and it is a bonus when you throw away the traffic. What better way to enjoy your holidays.
So the next time you try driving into Malaysia during a festive holiday, arm yourself with a road map or make sure your GPS comes fully loaded with the correct maps, then give the highways a miss and try the toll free roads. And please ignore the GPS if it keeps on asking you to take the highway. Which it usually does most of the time.