By A. Jeyaraj
I decided to take a ride on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus after reading about it in Ipoh Echo Issue 303. I called the number given in the article and the girl who took the call passed me on to another girl. When I asked about the schedule and the route, she told me to go to the stop at the High Court. She was not of much help.
On a Sunday morning, I took the first bus for City Tour from starting point at the High Court. Aside from me, there was a father and son who had come from Kuala Kubu Baru. The son told me they had come to Ipoh to witness his sister taking part in a Drum festival. The bus had a tour guide who spoke fluent English and gave very good commentary as the bus moved along the route. She was dedicated to her work. She informed me that except during school holidays when occasionally parents took the children for a ride, the bus was empty. The city tour takes about 40 minutes.
When the bus returned to the High Court I took the feeder bus to the Meru terminal. Besides me, there was a British couple. The tour guide in this bus also spoke fluent English and gave additional information to the couple. I got down at MAPS and was told to wait on the other side of the road to take the return bus. There was no bus stop sign. The bus from Meru terminal was empty except for me. When I got down from the bus there was a couple going to Meru. The City Tour bus was empty.
I returned to the High Court stop late in the evening to see the situation at night. I was the only passenger for the City Tour. When the bus returned to the High Court, the feeder bus to Meru was there and there were no passengers.
Regardless of whether there are passengers or not, the buses are punctual and keep to the schedule.
The service was started in March, for locals they charge RM12 for adults and RM10 for children and senior citizens. Foreigners pay RM35. The ticket is valid for the whole day from 8.30am to 9.30pm.
The tour guide informed that currently, three buses are in operation, one with open deck. There are two routes, one is a city tour and the other feeder bus to Meru. Two more buses would be added soon.
The High Court is not the right place for a bus terminal which is along the main road. The best location for the terminal is next to the railway station so that passengers arriving by ETS can get onto the bus easily. I am sure that by just changing the location of the terminal, they could attract more passengers.
The service needs publicity and the tour guides said that the majority of Ipoh residents do not know of the service. I was told that a foreigner staying in a hotel asked the receptionist about the Hop-On bus and they said that they were not aware of it. This is embarrassing. It is normal for tourists to ask receptionists in hotels for information and advice. The management of the hotel should be ashamed for employing such people. Tourism Perak had a meeting with hoteliers and had briefed them of this service.
The pamphlet issued by Tourism Perak mentions the places where the tickets can be purchased during office hours on weekdays. There is no mention that the tickets can be purchased on the bus. It is also not stated that the service is only on Saturdays and Sundays. The tour guides said people called and wanted to travel on weekdays and it is not practical for tourists to go to the places mentioned to get their tickets.
The City Tour should include Kampung Kacang Puteh where the snacks are produced and exported to other towns and countries. My friends and relatives who come from outstation make it a point to go to Kampung Kachang Puteh to buy the snacks. Many parents who have children studying overseas buy snacks in bulk. Tourism Perak can discuss with the traders to allow tourists to see how the snacks are made. By including this place the tour would last about an hour.
When additional buses are available, the route should include Gunung Lang, Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong, Buddhist/Hindu cave temples in Kampung Kepayang, Herbal Garden and Kellie’s Castle.
Tourism Perak should put up banners in Singapore Airport and KL Sentral to announce the availability of the service. Banners should be printed in Mandarin and Tamil to attract tourists from China and India.
The buses are mostly running empty. For a start, Tourism Perak should provide free service and get publicity. Once it is established, they can start charging. What is the point of running empty buses?