Qistna Express is the estranged sister company of Starmart, which can possibly stay afloat in the long-run only due to the success of the said parent company. Even with all the negative comments online and bad press, I tried it for myself anyway – and learnt that online reviews are pretty accurate.
Qistna departs from Little India Arcade at 48 Serangoon Road, facing Tekka Market.
After showing my Easybook printout to the counter, the staff ticked off my name on his booking list and shuttered down the counter. Great start. There’s also no sitting area to wait for the bus, only a small hole-in-the-wall counter as you can see.
True enough, the bus arrived at 11.50pm, but surprisingly left on the dot at 11.59pm. At least there wasn’t any double-booking on my seat.
The first thing that hit me when I boarded the bus was the extremely strong cigarette smell. I thought the online reviews were exaggerating when the driver started smoking but I was so wrong. The smell was probably embedded into the seat or something.
The staff counting off the number of people in the bus.
The rear of the bus with some empty seats, which I thought was for people boarding from Larkin.
If the interior looks a little similar, it’s because it’s the seat cloth design is the exact same one as the Starmart bus I took a few months ago. I wonder if the branding of “Star Qistna” on the exterior of my bus was because it was transferred from Starmart.
The bus went via Woodlands Checkpoint instead of Tuas Second Link as advertised on their website, but I kind of expected it already since they always have a transit stop in Larkin, and it would be kind of ridiculous to enter Malaysia via the Second Link only to return to Larkin.
The bus stopped at a Petron near Larkin to fill up on petrol but that was it – it didn’t enter the bus terminal nor pick up more passengers. I fell deep asleep at the Petron…
… only to wake up groggily at Pagoh R&R when the bus stopped for a toilet break at around 3.30am. I didn’t alight for a break since it was in the middle of the night and I didn’t drink much water to begin with, and continued my sleep with the bus engine off…
… only to be awoken by a staff telling me to change buses because “bus breakdown”.
This can’t be serious. I thought the online reviews of Qistna buses breaking down were just one-off instances. I thought to myself if this was a ploy to consolidate passengers halfway through the journey for economies of scale, and I checked the time on my phone – 6.33am.
I found that I was the last one to be transferred to the new bus, which belonged to Starmart, the parent company. And I wondered if they had actually forgotten that I was sleeping in the bus only to find me in the Qistna bus when the headcount was off.
Here’s me in my new seat because the Qistna driver said “mana-mana duduk” or sit anywhere, pulling away from the broken down Qistna bus at Pagoh R&R. The good news is that since I can sit anywhere, I found a double seat to myself for the rest of the journey. There’s no new passengers which means this was an actual replacement bus. I couldn’t fall asleep from here on since I slept pretty well for the past 3 hours. The delay was probably because they pulled the replacement bus from Larkin.
Goodbye broken down Qistna bus.
Not long after, the sun shone brightly on the highway.
I couldn’t believe it, a bus ride was actually going to take as long as the train.
On the bright side, for my future Starmart trips, is that since I was sitting on the double seat, I finally found the button for the massage for the single seat, tucked away along the aisle-side of the seat, not visible when you actually sit down.
The massage function was working on this Starmart replacement bus, which I used throughout the journey. It was more of just vibrations in the seat and not an actual trigger point massage like the Ogawa seats on Nice Imperial.
The replacement bus arriving at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, which will not continue on to My Hotel @ Bukit Bintang which was my booked destination. But considering the travel time, I would have gladly truncated my journey at TBS to stretch my legs and use the toilet anyway.
Alighting from the replacement bus.
The replacement bus finally arrived at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at 9.02am, making this journey’s total time of 9 hours and 3 minutes. And believe it or not, I still arrived before the arrival of the new night train combination from Woodlands CIQ, which the ETS will depart at 7.30am from Gemas and only arrive in Bandar Tasik Selatan at 9.27am and KL Sentral at 9.44am.
At least with the late arrival, there wasn’t a jam to the alighting berths and it’s a quick transfer to the LRT to continue my journey to the city.
Qistna is in such a sad state of affairs despite being owned by a reputable parent company. But it’s not the only such poor subsidiary in Malaysia, you might be surprised if you know about more affiliations, which difference can be compared almost between heaven and hell. I wonder why Starmart just doesnt shut Qistna down and concentrate fully on one business.
Will I take Qistna again or recommend it to others?