14.10.2006 33 °C
The minute we entered Malaysia via the small town of Kota Bahru, some jolly dude was offering us a ‘special price’ to the Perhentian Islands. These islands are supposed to be absolutely gorgeous with one of the best beaches in South East Asia on Kecil Island. However, we’d just spent two weeks on a beach, plus it is now monsoon season. The dive shops, beaches & hotels are all closed until March or so.
So we kindly rejected his offer and hopped onto the number 29 bus to Kota Bahru – the most Malaysian city in Malaysia – according to some Polish dude we met at the bus stop. He was a bit odd in my opinion as; he LOVED Bangkok, he didn’t like the rest of Thailand as it was too developed, he had a tinchy ponytail, he wanted to stay in Kota Bahru for five days even though there is nowt to see there as he thinks it is a purer part of Malaysia and wasn’t going to do the islands or get the jungle train but go straight from Kota Bahru to Penang. Hmmm. He said he had work to do. He he
Trying to get ourselves and our bags onto the bus itself was a bit of a pain in the nads. We had to step over a bunch of young fellas doing their best English impressions – “my names is michael Jackson, ooh you are so beautiful, do you have a map of Malaysia etc” and sit down the back in front of Madser McGinty himself. A slightly jovial, crazy dude who was telling me he was from Australia (yeah right you are buddy) and then tried to make friends by giving me a present of some money. I wouldn’t mind but it was Thai money. No good to me now, ‘mate’.
We jumped off the bus, bid adieu to the Polish guy – who had opted to stay in the scuzziest backpacker joint in town (probably to be cool) even though it was the same price as the nice one we were off to, (it’s even described as ‘grungy’ in his guidebook??) and headed up the road.
Kota Bahru was a nice enough joint, but more of a stopover town. The hostel we hit was quite homely and we got a fairly breezy room for our one night there. We headed out to get a bit of grub. The majority of people in Kota Bahru are Muslim and they’re all off their food at the moment for Rahmadan. So basically it’s tough to get a decent bite to eat round these parts. It is also not a good country for a vegetarian. There is a huge Chinese & Indian population in Malaysia too and of course they all have their own restaurants. There is a large amount of Chinese restaurants but everything contains pork. In contrast Muslims don’t allow the eating of pork, and they don’t like pork on their premises. It would have been very difficult and maybe even dangerous if I had been travelling with a small pot-bellied pig.
Anywho, grub was basically rice as some people obviously don’t know how to make chicken noodles with vegetables into a vegetarian dish.
Off we rambled around town but there really wasn’t much to see. We went to ‘The Store’ and bought some supplies. Wow. I know.
The main reason we had come to KB was to catch the Jungle Line Train from Kota Bahru all the way down to Mentacab, and onto Kuala Lumpur. So the next morning, it was up and atom again at half five and off to the train station with another couple – one English bird and her fella. The train itself was a bit like a truck attached to a carriage attached to a carriage attached to another truck. It stopped at every little kampung along the way and lots of ladies in headscarves and men in tiny hats lugged bags and boxes and carts of beans, chillies, fish, potatoes, vegetables and other assorted goodies on and off the train. We had very comfy chairs however and we settled down to enjoy the ten hour journey through the jungle.
Weeelll it wasn’t half as scenic as I thought it would be, but it was comfy and there was a toilet. We got to see some ladies praising Allah in the seats in front of us and there was much hustle and bustle going on to amuse us no end.
There was a couple of Canadian lads beside us and the couple we had arrived at the station with had sat down the back of the carriage. Towards the end of the journey, the English girl – Vicky – told us that while they were asleep, some guy had propped a towel up around their seat to cover what he was doing, and stolen their ipod, camera and money from under their seats. Apparently the robber had been sitting behind all of us Gringoes at some stage or another during the journey but luckily for the rest of us, he didn’t manage to get his greasy paws on our junk.
The couple were getting off at Mentacab with us, but they had to take a detour to the police station, so we jumped in a private car and headed to the bus stop to kick on down to Kuala Lumpur. We could have waited with them, but Jimbob wanted to watch the Liverpool match so we had to get to town to watch it.
Well twas the speediest of connections. Within a half hour of getting off the train, we were on an icy cold bus to Kuala Lumpur. We arrived at our hostel and were showered and ready to go and watch the match by 9.50. Wow.