Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jungle Railway : JB, KB, KT

I wrote this on my to-do-list some time back, so this is part of my quest to step foot in all Malaysian states, if I want to call myself a Malaysian :)

So, of course it's better to do it in some kind of style, right? I decided to confirm the starting point (JB) and the ending point (KL), in between, I kept a loose itinerary, however the must-do part was definitely the Jungle Railway. And for this trip I had the company of a travel buddy in form of Acat, who managed to pry himself away from his desk and skip down to JB for a meet-up.

I flew in to Johor Bahru on AirAsia, spent a night there at this hotel called Hanya Satu (sounds like a title of a song?). The location of the hotel is its saving grace, the room I got was average and Lilliputian. The streets outside, Persiaran Meldrum which is just next to City Square, were brightly lit and had plenty of food stalls nearby. We had dinner elsewhere though somewhere toward Danga Bay - murtabak Singapore, ikan bakar, sotong bakar, and yummy otak-otak. All the dinner calories were burnt in our leisurely walk back to the city centre.

Lilliputian rooms. At least there was an elevator.

Gerbang to Persiaran Meldrum. Food stalls and night market stalls aplenty.

In the wee hours of the next morning, we trundled to the train station just across the main road, and from there we boarded the 0538 Lambaian Timur after breakfast at a corner shop.

Waiting to depart JB.

Station signboards looked like this right up to Gua Musang.

The train was going quite fast in terms of speed but it stopped at almost every station, big and small. I kept thinking and asking 'we're not out of Johor yet'? I think we crossed into Negri Sembilan at about 0900 hrs, stopping in Gemas.

Gemas, as we learnt in our Geography lessons, is that small town where the railracks diverge into two, to the west and east.

Erm. Yes that's Acat in his current signature pose so I've noted.

Railtracks always remind me of Stand By Me. By default the song will immediately play in my head.

Then the train went through Pahang and lastly into Kelantan, and we pulled in Gua Musang at about 1530. Phew. Loooooong journey completed, another one ahead.

Rocky limestones of Gua Musang.

By this time I was starving and we located a kedai makan that served simple chicken rice that was so sedap! One hour whizzed by quickly, and soon we had to be back at the station to catch the mail train no. 92.

After lunch. On Main Street of GM, walking back to the station.

Now, the mail train was a revelation. Haha. It was not clean; there were baby roaches happily roaming, seats were dusty; I dare not imagine what the WC looked like. Anyway, it could've been worse I guess. We sat in the same carriage as the train conductor/officer, it was a little bit cleaner and the fan was working.

The windows are left open like that for ventilation.

My knuckles went white trying to hold on. The train was just rumbling so roughly and noisily. Not for the faint-hearted.

I wanted to dangle my legs but that proved too dangerous.

This lucky baby was given a bath on the train by his mother. How great is that? I wish I could take a shower there and then because the heat was getting unbearable.

Anyway, 'grin and bear it' was the order of the day and hey, we survived another 5 hours journey to Wakaf Bahru, reaching the station at about 2130 and got a taxi to Kota Bahru. I was already wilting and tired, probably dehydrated cos I didn't want to drink so much for fear of the need to go to the WC. Haha. Not very smart, but I think I had no choice given the condition of the train.

The next day, we spent the morning exploring KB. The town was small yet above my expectations. They have this new complex called KB Trade Centre that houses Parkson and Giant and other shops.

The newish KBTC.

Pasar Siti Khadijah - I wanted to take this picture here cos I've seen it a million times.

Laman Khadijah near the pasar, where we had breakfast. I had nasi dagang Kelantan.

At the other side of the town, various beautiful buildings caught my eye - old palaces and such - which showcased the traditional Malay craftsmanship and architecture.

In front of Istana Jahar.

Align Center
The streets were lined with gold golden balls.

KB's very own Eiffel Tower, right in the middle of town. No need to go to Paree.

And one thing that KK doesn't have : parking meters like this. Tsk tsk tsk, how come-lah Datuk Mayor?

So you don't see any parking attendants on duty.

This too.

By noon we checked out and then took a bus to Kuala Terengganu, a 3 hour journey. Arrived late afternoon and first agenda was to have lunch! I had nasi kerabu and keropok lekor.

At Pantai Batu Burok. We went there by beca, I pitied the old pakcik. It's actually not that far from KT City, we walked all the way back later. Passed by the Primula, the Batu Bersurat roundabout, some new gallery and food stalls by the roadside.

In front of Istana Maziah, if I remember correctly. We went to the central market as well cos I wanted to buy some keropok ikan.

Hot fuchsia bins. DBKK should have these too!

Chinatown @ Kampung Cina.

A beautiful all-white mosque, as seen from the roof of our hostel. Didn't manage to find out its name. My local 'tour guide' didn't know either ;P. On the bus, we passed by Masjid Kristal, also very beautiful - I saw it again very early in the morning on my way to the airport. Pretty, all lighted up like that.

This was taken from the airport. I noticed the white roof and thought this must be the infamous collapsed stadium! Oh the KT airport architecture is beautiful I must say. I took a flight back to KL via AirAsia.

Well, after this trip I must say my impression of the East Coast has been corrected. KB and KT, although small, are much more developed than I thought (can I blame it on the media or am I just ignorant?).

Will I be back in the future? I don't know yet, depends. I might want to check out Perhentian and see how it compares with Mabul.

Anyway, after this journey I think I may just plan to get to the other half of the railway and head for the northern states next :)


  1. Never been on the jungle railway. But if u do go to Ipoh, do take the first class train from KL. Only RM18 and air-conditioned!

  2. The mail train didn't look too bad in your photo. Trust me, those in Sri Lanka were a lot worse: I had to think many times before I sat down. And you have to lean in your seat because those standing would huddle around you. If you're lucky, there will be occasional lights working (if you travel at night) otherwise you travel in the dark. We stood all the way to and fro Galle (2.5 hours each way) - there was simply no space. As for yr impression on the East Coast cities, I say blame the biased media!

  3. Thanks for sharing your travel from Johor Bahru to the East Coast. :)

  4. J-LT : Ya, thanks and I will get Ipoh tips from you when I make that trip :)

    Ms Fabregas : Hmm, I'd probably get claustrophobic in those kind of trains! Me no like crowds like that :(

    Robo : You're welcome :)

  5. No choice for us, I'm afraid. All trains were full. People were clinging onto the train for dear life. Trains and buses are dirt-cheap there.