28 June 2017

The dreaded rush hour home

About this time last year, I was still working on the second last day before Raya. My wife can only go on leave on the last day before Raya so it made little sense for me to take any earlier leaves. I can still remember the dreadful feeling when most of your colleagues have left for the holidays but only you and your Indian manager doing pretty much everything at work. It’s not pleasant at all. So this year I wisely asked my wife to take an earlier leave and me myself took my leave two days earlier than last year so I don’t have to repeat the blues of working on raya eve. That said, I still need to wait for my eldest son to come home from boarding school before we can begin the journey back to our hometown. That leaves us just one day left before Raya so you can imagine the impending traffic rush.

Hence why I devised in my head, a cunning plan to skip all the major road that is usually congested with traffic and use alternative routes instead. First I used the Hulu Yam - Batang Kali - Gohtong Jaya road instead of the usual MRR2 - Gombak - Bentong road. It was clear all the way to Gohtong Jaya and Genting Sempah with a little bit of traffic after that, nothing major. Then we took the Mempaga - Raub alternative route which is almost void of traffic. Everything looks good until then. Sure there was a little bit of crawl from Raub to Kuala Lipis but that was expected since we had no other routes to ply.

But nothing prepared us for that epic 4 hours plus crawl along the central spine road. You know that new little highway just after Lipis and before Merapoh? The road was smooth when we entered around 4:30PM but 30 minutes later the jam lasted until nearly 10:00PM. We had to break our fast a couple of cream breads cause there’s no rest stops or restaurant anywhere in site. Despite my immaculate planning beforehand I was completely ill-prepared for this one. I don’t remember facing this horrid jam the year before or else I would have taken another route.

We didn’t have dinner until well after 10:00PM that night in Gua Musang. From there we took another alternative route via Dabong and Jeli which is a lot longer than the usual route but at least we were spared the horror of that long crawl near Kuala Krai. We finally got home in Tanah Merah around 2:30AM. From Gua Musang I was so tired and sleepy, it’s a little miracle that we arrived in one piece that morning. I even had to stop for a while to rest and shut eye. It’s a horrid experience that I don’t want to repeat ever again. Overall we took over 15 hours for that single journey, longer than anything I’ve experienced before.

For the return journey, we took the Grik - PLUS Highway route to Ipoh because we were giving my sister in law a lift. Traffic was smooth all the way to Grik and then disaster struck. When searching for the fastest route to Ipoh using Waze, the app instructed us to head to Kulim/Butterworth instead of the usual Kuala Kangsar route. At first I didn’t give it much thought because I thought there will be an exit to the highway somewhere ahead of us. Little did I know it was 69 kilometres before we found the exit to the highway near Juru in Penang. By the time we realized our mistake, we wear already near the Kedah border and it would be too late to turn back then. Basically we took a detour through Kedah and Penang before going to Perak instead of driving straight to Perak. Thank you very much Waze. Remind me to just follow the bloody signboard next time.

I thought going back on the fourth day of Syawal would spare us anymore traffic jams but boy how wrong were we. Traffic was horrendous from Kuala Kangsar all the way to Ipoh and a few more kilometres after that. Although it was not as bad as the one before, my knees and body still hurts from all the braking and driving. So what’s the moral of the story here? Get to know more alternative routes and prepare backup plans in case your best laid plans go wrong. Second, don’t always trust Waze blindly, especially when Internet is spotty and the app can get traffic time horribly wrong. Or maybe I should just stay quietly at home and avoid all that altogether?