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Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Naga City via Bicol Express Train

The Philippine National Railway (PNR) had its soft opening for Bicol Express train two months ago.  After the operation was revived, the maiden voyage failed to reach its destination on time, as the train was derailed while on its way to Naga City, Camarines Sur. This lets my plan to visit Naga City by train being disrupted and causing me to postpone my trip, for riding a train is my preference instead of commuting with a bus. Some follow ups have been made via the internet and phone to keep me updated about its resumption. It was 11 years ago the last time I had a train ride with PNR to Naga City, Camarines Sur.
Passengers from Tutuban Station ready to be on board

4 Beds in each group at Sleeper Coach

Being a backpacker, I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of riding a train because I love to watch places and just like the bus, it’s the best glimpse how the people live as you can see them by the window pane. It’s so good to hear the sound of an engine and a loud honk of a train as it’s like a music to my ear. I stayed at the sleeper area where the beds are large and comfortable as you’ll have your own privacy by closing the curtain of your berth and each have their own lamp. You need to bring your jacket as the temperature is cold due to the train's aircon is cooling the entire coach. Since the train has 4 coaches , you can walk to a hallway once you get bored sitting for couple of hours. This reminds me about my 3-day trip via Amtrak train from New Orleans, Louisiana to Anaheim, California, which they have a two-storey coach. They have rooms and reclining chairs, observation area, and bar and restaurants. Coffee is available where you can get it for free.
Regular aircon

Meanwhile its operation has resumed a week ago, and I never had my second thought going to Naga via Bicol Express train so I decided to call and made my reservation in advance because I knew it was going to be fully booked as Penafrancia Festivity is currently taking place in the city.
Naga City Station

From Tutuban station, the train leaves at 6:30 p.m and arrives at 4:30 a.m. The train had 4 coaches where passengers can choose between the Sleeper Coach and Reclining Chair. Sleeper Coach had 4 beds of each bank, two at the top and two at the bottom. Between these beds is a window and a small table you can use for eating or drinking. Each bed has its own lamp for personal use while the rest of the lights are lowed. According to the staffs, the Executive Coach, wherein passengers will have their own room will be available this month. The rest room is quite clean as there’s a staff cleaning the toilet from time to time. There’s no food available and passengers are advised to buy foods from the point of departure as the train only stops shortly at some of the stations. They said canteen will be available soon. You can charge your cellphone as there is an available outlet in the train's hallway. But it's better to bring an extra battery as the outlet are in used by other passengers most of the time.

Bicol Express train carries a whiff of nostalgia to many as we also used this mode of transportation when we were just kids from Manila to Bicol and vice versa. And I'd be happy to ride again instead of commuting through a bus. It's affordable and you'll feel comfortable on the entire trip where you can relax especially when you are on a sleeper coach, and reclining chairs are big enough so you can move freely.

Sameera Chathuranga

2 Responses So Far:

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this:) im interested to ride this train but I don't know of anyone who has.

john said...

Riding a train to Naga is a good alternative, plus you'll get to enjoy the rest of the trip. You just have to go to Tutuban or any station nearest to you and make sure that you book yourself as early as possible 'cause it might be quite full during peak season. Thanks and enjoy!