Posted by: The Travelling Mallorys | July 28, 2010

Kuala Lumpur (again) to the Cameron Highlands to the Jungle Railway and Kota Bharu

We are smiling again! Praise be to Malaysia. What a place.

As soon as we got back to Kuala Lumpur we felt much better. We stayed at the same place as before as we were arriving late so we thought we’d head where we know. The night guard let us in. We weren’t sure if he was the right guy as he was just sat outside wearing a vest

Looking like a hobo

but he let us in and everything was fine. We got up really early the next day to go to the Cameron Highlands.

This is where the Malaysian people go to cool down apparently as it’s some-thousand feet above sea-level.

We went there and had an awesome time. They did proper fry-ups for breakfast so I was happy

Beans on toast

Beans on toast

and we went on a really good tour with Mr Singh to the butterfly farm, the rose garden, a temple, the honey farm, a strawberry farm where I had the best milkshake in the world ever and to the Boh tea factory where they make tea the proper way using machines from the 1930’s. It was amazing.

We also went on a jungle trek. This is me before it:

And this is me after it:

Why? Well we were expecting a stroll through the woods. What we got was climbing, landslips and edging across sheer drops fearing for our lives! Most unnerving.

We got a minibus from our hostel in the Highlands to a place called Gua Mersing. That took a couple of hours. The driver dropped us off at the station and off he went as we stepped into the unknown!

The unknown being the Jungle Railway. We had both read about this before coming away and were really excited to go on it.

The man in our hostel had told us to get his bus as it would be quicker and easier, but I insisted we went on the train. It’s not every day you get to go on the Jungle Railway!

We had heard the timetable was irregular, subject to change and delay so we got to the station early.

Jungle Railway timetable

Jungle Railway timetable

About 3 hours early so we could sort ourselves out, get the tickets and get some food. Only thing was that the ticket office was closed. I managed to find a man who just told me to “buy ticket later” which seemed fair, especially as he let us leave our bags in his office while we went off to try and find some food.

The first thing we found was a man selling durian. That old chestnut!

He shouted “Hey boss” at me, which I liked, but then tried to make us eat the so-called king of fruits which we politely declined because it’s like gone-off custard with a stone in the middle.

Then we saw a KFC but we didn’t want to go in there especially as we were the only westerners in the town (and the only ones that had been there in a while judging from some of the stares we got) so we ploughed on up the hot street.

We saw a place packed with people so we went in and asked for a menu. They said “chicken rice – two?” at which point we realised it was a chicken rice place and the chicken and the rice was all on the side being enjoyed by a swarm of flies. We smiled and slid out.

We headed back down towards the station and found a Chinese place and we were lucky that the guy in there understood ‘vegetarian’ and sorted us out with some lush lunch.

Get a move on love – there’s much more interesting stuff to tell people than this.

Sorry, so yeah we ate some food and then went back to the station (waving at the durian man who was trying out “Hey mister!” to tempt us over) and waited for a fair old while before the ticket office opened and we got our tickets. Two people, four hours, 450km, £2.80 all in. I love a bargain!

The train was pretty nice compared to our mental image of the Jungle Railway. Although the doors were open the whole time so people could smoke, it was pretty decent. Ladies walked up and down the carriage selling fruits and beans and durian (of course!) and the ticket man was a good chap too.

We saw loads of jungle as well as loads of people and their houses. There was obviously a lot of poverty along the way – why else would you live in a corrugated iron shack in the jungle by a railway? – so it was interesting and saddening at the same time.

We got to Wakaf Bharu (the nearest place to Kota Bharu and right on the Thai border) pretty late and jumped in a cab to take us to our hostel.

The driver was charging us 20 ringgit so we made sure we got our moneys worth – he took us on a mini-tour of all the sites and we had a good old chat. I asked him where most of the tourists come from. He said “I don’t know. You’re all white people!” which we all thought was pretty funny.

I think you had to be there.

We got to our hostel and popped to the night market for tea where I had some of the most amazing food I have ever eaten – a proper Tom Yam.

And then we saw some of the biggest rats we have ever seen so made our way back to the hostel.

The next day we explored Kota Bharu. It’s a really interesting place. When all the states joined together to make Malaysia, this place didn’t join in, and still hasn’t so it has a different feeling to everywhere else we’ve been so far. It’s very religious, so all the ladies are in headscarves. In the supermarket they have a man queue and and a lady queue. Being a couple we were confused where to go, so we shopped together then one of us paid while the other loitered around!

The cultural differences were really interesting, and the people were so friendly everywhere we went that it made our time in Kota Bharu really good fun. We ate funny and fantastic food (banana pancake things, crazy fiery laksa, that Tom Yam), went to awesome museums – the war museum was a particular highlight – and had a nice trip on a boat across the chocolate coloured river to a place where they cook beef. They don’t sell it to you, they just let you watch them cook it. We were starving afterwards!

Nasi Kerabu

What Gavin ate when we didn't get any beef floss - rice with wild herbs and fried chicken with a sort of peanut sauce and some wholemeal cracker things. Lovely!

We also met a man who worked in the tourist office who kept saying “Cor blimey guvnor” and “lemon squeezy” for no apparent reason, then, rather than recommend places to see in the town he represents he tried to get us to go to his house for a cooking lesson. We declined and he responded with another (more heartfelt) “cor blimey guvnor” and we all went our separate ways.

Anyroad, we left there bright and early for Penang – the island from which we write to you now – and it was lovely. Next we go to Langkawi, another island. We’ll write about that soon.

With less details about finding somewhere to eat lunch hopefully!



  1. Hey Gav, have you had a meal or a drink yet without Erin being forced to take a photo?

    I’m enjoying the foreign food but your beans on toast look like my beans on toast. So get out there and eat more strange stuff.

    • Look a little closer and you’ll see the beans are twice the size of the ones back home, but yes point taken – I will get back on the freaky stuff, though I’m drawing the line at (i.e. before) fish head curry!

  2. Hey there… Are you back on the meat now? That looks a lot like fried chicken to me?

    The bananananan pancakes are my favourite thing… The ones in vietnam are delicious too, as is the coffee but I guess you’ll to that later.


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