Super Nice Grassland Bus from Old Johor Bahru Railway Station to Penang Sentral Butterworth Bus Review
Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express is 1 of only 2 bus operators departing from downtown Johor Bahru (not Larkin) to Butterworth. This once-a-day bus service is a long-haul route from Pasir Gudang to Hat Yai, Thailand. I wanted to try departing from JB Merlin Tower for the convenience of access from Singapore, to avoid the RM2 Larkin terminal fee, and also there are a lot more options to have dinner around Johor Bahru City Square and Komtar JBCC prior to departure.
I selected because of the Easybook promotion for the first few seats, and I paid only RM52.50 for my bus ride from JB to Butterworth.
While the departure point of is stated as JB Merlin Tower during booking, my ticket said the address was “JB Merlin Tower (Terminal Teksi Johor Bahru ke Singapura)” instead. That’s fine, since the taxi stand is just opposite Merlin Tower, but it’s also just outside the Old Johor Bahru Railway Station, which makes it perfect for a pretend train trip.
The façade of Old Johor Bahru Railway Station where the Terminal Teksi Johor Bahru ke Singapura is also located at. While the sign says as such, the actual cross-border taxi service now departs from JB Larkin Sentral.
Looking at JB Merlin Tower from Old Johor Bahru Railway Station.
At around 7pm, I got a call from Super Nice Express Johor Jaya office to confirm that I am boarding from JB Merlin Tower on the 7.15pm bus, and then WhatsApped me a picture of the boarding location which is indeed at Terminal Teksi Johor Bahru ke Singapura outside the Old Johor Bahru Railway Station and the picture of my bus, PMM1991. I was also advised that my bus will be “slightly delayed” due to traffic jam from Pasir Gudang.
The sun was setting past 7.15pm already. Where’s my bus?
To be fair, the Super Nice Express Johor Jaya staff manning the WhatsApp was very responsive and updated me whenever I texted.
At 7.56pm, I got a text saying that the bus was on the way to me from Johor Jaya.
Looks like I’ll definitely miss the very first KTM Komuter Northern Sector Ipoh Extension 2901dn train from Butterworth to Ipoh. Perhaps I should have paid the full fare for KPB Express instead and not take the Easybook discount.
It’s well and truly dark already.
The offices for KPB Express and KKKL had also closed already with their buses already departed.
At 8.37pm, my Super Nice Express bus was finally in sight… and zoomed past me.
The Super Nice Express bus stopped at JB Merlin Tower after all. Pfft.
Boarding was very easy here since the driver had a manifest on him, and knew exactly who I was and where I was going without needing to check my Easybook booking.
The interior of the 27-seater Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus.
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express departed from JB Merlin Tower at 8.39pm, 1 hour and 24 minutes delayed, immediately after I took my seat.
Lights were also immediately switched off, so no pictures of the seat yet.
Passing by Singapore on the way to Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral.
Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral
Arriving at Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral. This is the scheduled 7.29pm bus from Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral.
The electrically-controlled seats on board this Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus. The seats have not been switched on yet, so everyone is in the upright position, probably for ease of boarding for passengers still boarding at other stops.
The legroom available on board this Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express 27-seater bus.
It’s more limited than my previous Singapore Grantral Mall MacPherson to KL Plaza Berjaya ride with super generous legroom, but if compared to other operators, this legroom is pretty good, and more than what I had expected anyway. I was mentally prepared to get a normal 27-seater bus and with the potential to be downgraded to a 30-seater one with an additional row of seats.
As the electronic seats were not switched on yet, the recline function and USB power sockets could not be used yet.
Not many passengers boarded from Larkin, but I was not too excited as I knew that there will be more stops.
Pull-down blackout blinds are available, but do not cover the full window. The side curtains seem quite fixed when I tried to fumble with it, so I quickly gave up lest I accidentally break it.
An emergency break glass hammer was beside my seat.
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus departed from JB Larkin Sentral at 9.04pm – 1 hour and 35 minutes delayed.
Taman Ungku Tun Aminah (TUTA/T Sentral) Bus Terminal
Making another stop at Taman Ungku Tun Aminah (TUTA/T Sentral) Bus Terminal. This is the scheduled 8.00pm bus from Taman Ungku Tun Aminah (TUTA/T Sentral). With the delay, the stop here was brief.
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus departed from Taman Ungku Tun Aminah (TUTA/T Sentral) Bus Terminal at 9.37pm – 1 hour and 37 minutes delayed.
Kulai Bus Terminal
Making another stop at Kulai Bus Terminal. This is the scheduled 8.30pm bus from Kulai. The bulk of passengers boarded from Kulai, making this bus full.
The electronic seats were switched on at Kulai Bus Terminal, and the drivers who were not driving announced the seat functions to passengers and assisted the technologically-inclined to adjust their seats.
I was surprised that there were 3 bus drivers on board – 1 Malaysian driver who is currently driving the bus, 1 Malaysian driver who will take over from KL TBS, and 1 Thai driver who will probably be the one driving in Thailand. I’m surprised that the Thai driver was on board for the whole long Malaysian stretch of the journey.
Finally entering the PLUS Highway at Kulai Toll Plaza.
Tangkak Lay-by Northbound
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus made a stop at Tangkak Lay-by Northbound for a toilet break. I’m happy that there was no stop at Yong Peng, otherwise the stop would have been even longer.
The current toilets at Tangkak Lay-by Northbound were under renovation, but there are temporary toilets just beside.
I had a chat with the friendly second driver who will be taking over the bus from KL before re-boarding after the toilet break.
Kuala Lumpur Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS)
I was hoping not to see it, but alas, here I am at Kuala Lumpur Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS). I was hoping that this bus would take the ELITE Highway bypassing KL, but I guess not.
Surprisingly, a lot of Kulai passengers disembarked at KL. This was strange, as this short trip was not searchable on Easybook. Perhaps they all bought their tickets from the counter at Kulai only.
After alighting TBS passengers at the alighting berths, the bus continued on to the departure gates. This is my first time making this internal journey in TBS on board a bus.
Once at the gate, I took the opportunity for another quick toilet break while the TBS gate staff and drivers prepare for boarding of the next batch of passengers.
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus was departing from Gate 5. This is the scheduled 12.14am bus from KL TBS.
Re-boarding my Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express at TBS.
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus departed from KL TBS at 1.57am – 1 hour and 43 minutes delayed.
Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) Cafeteria
After departing from the departure berth, my Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus stopped at the driver’s cafeteria for a 20-minute meal break. Sigh, I might even miss the 3 morning KTM Komuter Northern Sector trains now.
At this point, I searched for potential “insurance” on the KTMB Mobile app found the last available seat on board ETS Gold 9321dn from Butterworth to Ipoh, and quickly purchased it as insurance. I couldn’t take the fourth KTM Komuter Northern Sector Ipoh Extension train of the day as this will mean that I will miss my flight back to Singapore.
Yes, I am on a mad marathon non-stop journey from Singapore to Butterworth to Ipoh and back.
With the 20-minute break, I decided to get a hot drink since I was freezing on board the bus even with my air-conditioning vents closed, as there was 1 aisle vent pointing directly at me from the right side.
My hot Milo from the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) Cafeteria. This costs RM2.
Heading back to board the bus with the drivers who had just finished their meal too.
The bus headed through KL city via Jalan Sungai Besi and Jalan Damansara to get to the NKVE and onwards to the PLUS Highway.
Heading back into the closed toll at Jalan Duta Toll Plaza.
Along the way, the bus made a stop at Shell Hentian Sebelah Tanjung Malim for refuelling.
I tried to get as much sleep as possible on this stretch to Butterworth Penang Sentral, which was not very easy with the winding roads after Ipoh.
Butterworth Penang Sentral
Finally, Butterworth Penang Sentral is in sight. And I was quite pleased that it was still dark. I had resigned to fate that I thought I might see the sunrise from the bus, but dark is good. There’s hope to catch the KTM Komuter Northern Sector Ipoh Extension to Ipoh.
My Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus arrived at Butterworth Penang Sentral at 6.32am, making this a journey of 9 hours and 53 minutes, or 11 hours and 17 minutes if taking into account the ticketed scheduled departure time from JB Merlin Tower.
This bus will continue on to Alor Setar, Changloon, Bukit Kayu Hitam, and Hat Yai in Thailand.
Looks like I will be able to make the 7am KTM Komuter Northern Sector Ipoh Extension train.
The arrival berth leads to the local stage bus waiting area.
Heading up the escalator to the concourse.
The concourse of Butterworth Penang Sentral.
Heading out of Penang Sentral to the junction of linkbridges.
No ferry to Penang Island for me this time.
I quickly turned left to catch the KTM Komuter Northern Sector 2905dn from Butterworth to Ipoh to properly take the new KTM Komuter Northern Sector Ipoh Extension, thus donating RM34 to KTM for my ETS Gold 9321dn “insurance” that I paid for while in KL.
I have mixed feelings about this Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express bus route.
On one hand, the route is rather ambitious travelling from Pasir Gudang, Johor Jaya, JB Merlin Tower, JB Larkin Sentral, Tun Aminah, Kulai, KL TBS, Butterworth, Alor Setar, Changloon, Bukit Kayu Hitam, to Hat Yai in Thailand. On the other, any traffic jams will result in a massive knock-on effect for the whole route, as seen in my experience with the massive jam from Pasir Gudang to Johor Jaya, the very first leg of the route.
And yet on the flip side, I had these details because the Super Nice Express Johor Jaya office were very active to update me on the real situation and my bus location. The 3 drivers on board my bus were also friendly and helpful, doubling up as cleaners at TBS to prepare the seats for the next batch of travellers, and possibly most uniquely, smiling behind me and looking at my camera screen while I was taking pictures of their bus. Excellent customer service by Super Nice Grassland Zenwan Express all around.
But it did get me thinking, the Easybook promotion discounted fare was for this “stopper” bus, which was certainly attractive, but it made me miss the first-ever KTM Komuter Northern Sector Ipoh Extension train.
Would I have made it in time if I had paid the full fare for KPB Express from JB Merlin Tower? KPB Express starts only from Johor Jaya, and I saw the 3 evening hourly buses depart on time-ish.
I guess I will have to wait for a very long time to find out. I don’t think I would like to do this through-service again, and I salute whoever from Johor is continuing on to Hat Yai, including the drivers.