Ekspres Kesatuan: Penang Sentral (Butterworth) to Alor Setar (Terminal Shahab Perdana) by Bus

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As I (a) was exploring Penang Sentral, (b) had lunch at Penang Sentral, (c) missed the KTM Komuter Northern Sector train and had to wait 2 hours for the next train, (d) wanted to actually try out using Penang Sentral and (e) all of the above, I decided to get a bus from Penang Sentral to Alor Setar instead so that I didn’t have to spend 2 hours sitting around the new terminal and hopefully get me into Alor Setar earlier to catch my flight back to JB comfortably.

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Seems like the next departure is at 1.15pm to Alor Setar, with two bus services, operated by Konsortium and Ekspres Kesatuan.

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I found that the Penang Sentral kiosk prices were RM1 more expensive than those of Easybook. Also, Konsortium was operating with a 2+2 bus on this route to Alor Setar, while Ekspres Kesatuan offered a 2+1 bus for the same fare. As such, I purchased my ticket online through my phone and redeemed the code immediately at the ticket counter.

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There are 2 dedicated “Exchange Boarding Pass” counters, though the counters seem to be selling regular tickets as per normal too.

Once it was my turn and I presented the Easybook email to redeem for the boarding pass, I was informed by the staff that I needed to pay RM1 for the boarding pass print-out. Well, this is new. Considering that I can’t board the bus without printing the boarding pass, I have to pay the printing fee no matter what. And no, any pre-booked tickets are subject to this RM1 print fee. Great way to earn money from all passengers.

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My boarding pass for the Ekspres Kesatuan bus to Alor Setar which I printed for RM1 just for the QR code to be scanned. Now I know why the kiosk prices were RM1 higher than Easybook.

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Heading to the long-distance bus platform and to get my boarding pass scanned in. This check-in costs me my RM1. Sigh. I wonder why the special need for this fee here when TBS and Larkin prints the boarding pass out for free just fine. Makes it pretty much an RM1 increase in total fare for buses departing from Penang Sentral.

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Heading down to the long-distance bus platform.

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My bus would be departing from Gate 5.

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Seems like the gate would be serving a bus every 15 minutes.

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The waiting area for long-distance buses.

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The Ekspres Kesatuan bus pulled into the terminal right on time, with the gate staff calling out my name personally. I would soon find out that I was the only passenger from Penang Sentral heading to Alor Setar. Hmm, I guess everyone was taking the train or Konsortium then.

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My Ekspres Kesatuan bus bound for Alor Setar Terminal Shahab Perdana This bus came from Kuala Terengganu according to the destination sign in front, probably departing the night before.

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The interior of the Ekspres Kesatuan bus.

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The legroom on this Ekspres Kesatuan 30-seater 2+1 Super VIP bus. A great way to travel compared to standing on a crowded long-distance KTM Komuter Northern Sector train on a Sunday.

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The Ekspres Kesatuan bus waited for a while here while some passengers headed for a toilet break.

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The view of the Ekspres Kesatuan bus from my seat.

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The Ekspres Kesatuan bus departed from Penang Sentral at 1.26pm11 minutes late.

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Heading out of Penang Sentral.

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Passing by a container train waiting to enter NBCT.

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A rare view of a train with KOMTAR.

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26117 Tanjung Sepat waiting to enter NBCT.

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Goodbye Penang.

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Turning inland towards the PLUS Highway.

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Heading on north.

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Crossing the Muda River from Penang to Kedah.

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Welcome to Kedah.

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The bus turns off the highway to head to Sungai Petani first. Hmm, maybe I should have went for Konsortium instead.

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Exiting the highway at Sungai Petani (South), like a Rapid Penang Intercity bus.

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Entering Sungai Petani.

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Crossing the Petani River (Sungai Petani, geddit geddit?) to Sungai Petani main town.

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The bus terminal is just a left turn from here.

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Making a brief stop outside Sungai Petani Bus Station, where most passengers alighted.

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Continuing on.

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Crossing the KTM tracks north of Sungai Petani Railway Station.

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Heading into the PLUS Highway again.

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Heading on north.

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“Crossing” with a container train heading south.

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So this is what it looks like on the other side. I’ve only ever travelled this parallel track-and-road route by train so far.

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The bus skipped the first exit to Alor Setar city to head directly for Shahab Perdana.

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Exiting the PLUS Highway on the exit to Alor Setar (North).

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Crossing the KTM tracks again after the highway exit.

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Crossing the Kedah River.

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Hello Alor Setar Tower. Too bad I actually haven’t visited the town before despite passing by it countless times.

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As with all good local Malaysian bus terminals, a big KFC marks the entrance of it.

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Turning into Terminal Shahab Perdana.

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Passing by the local bus side of the terminal.

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Turning into the long-distance bus berth.

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Arrived at Alor Setar Terminal Shahab Perdana at 3.22pm, making this a journey of 2 hours and 7 minutes, including the delay in departure.

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The exterior of my Ekspres Kesatuan bus at Alor Setar Terminal Shahab Perdana.

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Seems like a big terminal. I wonder if it gets full.

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Here though, I couldn’t seem to find an Ekspres Kesatuan counter for Butterworth, with the popular companies being Konsortium and Transnasional only. Hmm, maybe I got on a rare bus service? I don’t know.

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From here, I called a Grab to get to Alor Setar Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in good time to make it for my flight back to Johor Bahru.

Overall, it was a good ride with Ekspres Kesatuan with ample space to stretch out for this journey. Unfortunately, it took a bit longer than what I had expected the journey to take though. Between the KTM Komuter Northern Sector and this, I would say go for the KTM Komuter Northern Sector if you are tight on schedule and the timetable fits, or get the bus when you have just missed the train or simply want a guaranteed comfortable seat.

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