A Travellerspoint blog


meet Claude and Damien

on the way to Kota Bahru

sunny 30 °C
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Wednesday 23rd January 1985

Wake early, my companion has a loud snore and a loud sniff. Breakfast in the restaurant car. Shave in the wagon-lits. Pass through many delightful well kept stations. Train makes many stops in the middle of nowhere - I think its a one track railway. Meet two French speaking Swiss; Claude and Damien, on the train.
My large companion agrees to show us the way to Kota Bahru. He even pays for the rickshaw to the border. Customs man tells me Manchester City are playing Kota Bahru on Sunday. Catch local bus for 2M$ to Kota Bahru which is about 30 km from the border. Find Town Guest House, dormitory 4M$ inclusive of tea and coffee. Eat vegetable curry off a banana leaf and rambutan in the night market. Its very humid. Sleep like a teak log (heavily).

Posted by 1985 trip 07:03 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Monsoon floods

& tying friendship wristbands

rain 28 °C
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Thursday 24th January
This morning there was an ugly 1 ft cat fish on the doorstep. Swims up the dikes. Sim (or was it Lim) pops it a bucket. Spend the morning buying breakfast and exploring Kota Bahru. Have curry puff pastry rolls. In the evening eat at the Banana Leaf Restaurant - Indian curries. You have to eat with your fingers off a banana leaf as much veggie curry with trimmings as you can eat for 2M$.
Can’t work how to tie a diamond pattern in my thread tying. Visit rail station to suss out railway tickets onwards.

Posted by 1985 trip 07:06 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Town Guest House in Kota Bahru and wild boar BBQ

streets several feet under water

rain 28 °C
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Friday 25th January 1985

Day of Allah. Day of rest. Besides which we are having heavy intermittent showers. This is a bit unusual, must be the tail end of the monsoon. For about 2 weeks in December or January it rains all day and all night in this corner of Malaysia. The streets flood to a depth a several feet, and everyone wades about or has a little boat. The pavements are three or four feet off the ground, this looks very odd for most of the year.

Meet some interesting people; an American, a German and an Aussie have just come from Teman Negara. It has just opened again after being closed for the monsoon. Sounds quite an experience and get lots of info. Damien and Claude decide to come with me. A Burmese lady aged 54 comes to stay at Town Guest House. She has just popped over from Thailand in order to get a new visa. She fled Burma many months ago, fed up with the poverty and dullness of totalitarian isolationism. She borrowed some money to bribe someone to get a passport. She is teaching some English in Thailand to pay back the debt and hopes eventually to reach Australia she speaks immaculate English and had some English blood in her ancestry. She hopes to become an illegal immigrant in Oz and gets lots of advice from the anarchic types at the Guest House.
Town Guest House is very rickety affair, the dorm is more like a large garden shed several decades past its prime and rapidly returning to the jungle. It is run by a few young Chinese-Malays and has a very friendly atmosphere, there is no hassle and they patiently answer endless questions, very good guest book with lots of info.
Get ripped off in the night market, 5M$ for two pieces of BBQ chicken. Must remember to ask the price before. Pay 1M$ for 1.5 kilos of pineapple and 1M$ for a 2 kilo watermelon. Oranges are a expensive here. The evening is much enlivened by a wild boar and chicken BBQ in spicy sauce at Town Guest House. One of the owners had been up-country shooting. Enjoy a fine punch and the well cooked tasty boar all for 4M$.

Posted by 1985 trip 07:09 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

plan trip to jungle

with Claude & Damien

rain 28 °C
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Saturday 26th January
Plan to see the top spinning etc today, but get to the tourist office and find things not happening, as its the close season. Damien and Claude get soaked in the rain. I have my umbrella. Becomes a running joke that it will be useful when we get to the jungle in Teman Negara and meet a tiger. Occasionally one is seen, also leopard and bear. There are no crocodiles in the rivers though. The trees get enormous, reaching 250 feet.
We will have to travel to Jerantut on the day train, as there is no night train going south, overnight in Jerantut, then bus to Tembeling to catch the park boat at lunchtime. Manage to get through on the phone to the National Park Office in KL today and let them know we are coming. I hope more than us three turn up to catch the boat, otherwise it will be too expensive.

Posted by 1985 trip 07:11 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

football match with Manchester City

Manchester City 3, Kelamantan 0

sunny 30 °C
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Sunday 27th January.
Catch bus out of town to an area where several of the cottage industries can be seen. These activities usually take place in the cool shady place under the house which is wooden and on stilts. There is sarong weaving, particular specialty is incorporating gold thread, stringing the weft for the intricate patterns is very complicated. I have solved my own weaving problem getting the desired pattern on knotted friendship bands, so I do not need to ask their advice. Adrian and Mikael have come with us. See also batik and kite making. The kites are particularly impressive. Brief siesta on the beach of passionate Love. Adrian is a good laugh and may be in Europe by Christmas, so I give him my number.
Eat a murghibakt for lunch, a huge thick crumpet thing poured and cooked in front of you on a market stall, about 9” across folded in half over a sweet corn filling.
Meet Eddy an American, he is 68 and has decided to travel. He takes things at his own pace, he is well known in Kota Bahru, several locals owe him money and he has been here three months now. This is his way, to stop and stay and get involved locally. He is working in the kitchen of a chinese restaurant at the moment.
Bagus - good. Nasi goreng - rice and veggies plus a bit of what ever is going. Mee goreng - same but noodles. Setu, deo, tigre, 1,2,3. TeO - black tea, sesu - milk.
Five of us go to watch Manchester City play Kelamantan the home team and the town’s large stadium. Huge bats catch their dinner in the floodlights. We buy terrace tickets for 4M$, but are shown to the grandstand where we get front row mid field seats. Some of the Manchester lads are limbering up on the pitch, we let them know they have some supporters with an assortment of whistles from a toyshop. However they seem in a bad mood and are unappreciative, must be missing home cooking, and reply in coarse vernacular. However we remain unrestrained throughout the game. Our vociferous and frequently abusive shouts prove more entertaining to the hordes of small boys in the stand than the game itself. Despite the referee awarding a free kick every time one of the locals falls over (they are notably smaller than the Mancunians) the final score is 3 - 0 to City. From the turn out the army made and the extensive spiked fencing we were anticipating a lively crowd and hoped for some trouble, but although vocal everybody was very well behaved and remained seated throughout, they even stayed seated in the terraces.

Posted by 1985 trip 07:13 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

single track train to Jerantut

12 hours of jungle scenery

sunny 30 °C
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Monday 28th January
Up early, bus to Wakaf Baru, and train at 9am. Plenty of room in 3rd class with friendly passengers. Twelve hour journey along single track railway through highland jungle, beautiful little immaculate stations along the way and a man holding up a green flag at each. Several areas of lumbering activity, long train loads of huge hardwood logs.
Arrive Jerantut after dark and Damien does sterling work finding the cheapest beds in town while Claude and I wait with the bags. I change some sterling with local of Indian descent who wants to buy some english money. Sell one pound note and a king George 2/- piece. he is so pleased we have a free satay. Also eat good chicken curry for 2M$. On the way to hotel go up the wrong flight of stairs and interrupt a large mah-jong session. Several tables of players and everyone stops and looks at us, and 20 inscrutable chinese faces crack into smiles.
One room three beds 10M$

Posted by 1985 trip 07:18 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

fast boat up river Tembeling

tense negotiating cheap price to National Park

sunny 30 °C
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Tuesday 29th January
Catch local bus, after a lie in, up to Tembeling. Walk to the jetty in the countryside were we were expected. However no other tourists to fill the seats so its 20 dollars each. We say we will come back tomorrow and hope for more travellers. Bad vibes. Hang around in case things resolve. Several Malays are going, and at the last minute they take us for less than 8.60 dollars. Main difficulty was the efficient parks management who will expect the money, but they find some way to fudge the books. Three hour 60 km journey in a long thin boat up the fast muddy river Tembeling. Walls of dense greenery on either side. Occasional flight of muddy steps, or a grove of bananas are evidence of a small village. See families out for a wash in the river, lounging buffaloes, and fishermen with throw nets, also monkeys (?long tailed macaque) and kingfishers.
Arrive to find well laid out park quarters, lawns end suddenly in jungle, neat rows of white washed wooden bungalows in colonial style. At dusk boar and sambar deer come snuffling around the camp.
Teman Negara national park

Teman Negara national park

Posted by 1985 trip 07:21 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

jungle trek

tiger hunting with trusty umbrella

rain 30 °C
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Wednesday 30th January.
The view from Bukit Teresika

The view from Bukit Teresika

Up early, breakfast and buy provisions. Set off for a night in the jungle, in long socks, canvas shoes from Burma, shorts and shirt. Have a water bottle, small black bag and camera, my back pack has been emptied and refilled with three sheets, bananas, torch, candles and crackers. Trudge up Bukit Teresika and see large hornbills with noisy flight, and hear the bark of muntjak. Sweat runs freely, dripping off my nose and running in rivulets down my back. Grand views over the jungle from the top, Path is treacherous muddy and large roots.
Trudge along for 5-6 hours more to Kumbay hide, pass several large elephant tracks in the mud. From the mushrooms embellishing their dropping these are old trails. Hear lots, see little. Many leeches have to be regularly plucked from shoes and socks. You see them on the path and when they sense you near they stand up and wave !
Smeared my legs with Tiger balm as a deterrent before we left. It does not seem to discourage the leeches but should put the tigers off. Everyone seems to know someone who saw one last week. Claude has a cold and sneezes a lot in the hide. We see a tree squirrel and a hyperactive tree shrew the size of a rat but little else. People just before us saw a malaysian night heron. Got thoroughly drenched on the way to the hide by a tumultuous down pour. Sheets and T-shirt dry inside plastic bag. Dinner of bananas and crackers. Sleep well in log cabin.

Posted by 1985 trip 07:24 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

trek back to park HQ

shoes fill with blood

sunny 30 °C
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Thursday 31st January
Elephant spore

Elephant spore

Get up in the night and at dawn but nil to see. Force march back to main park quarters. Exhausted and aching. Four leech bites, painless but bleed a lot and canvas shoes filled with blood stains. Leave a strange purple spot on the skin like a meningococcal rash.
Cook up rice on a wood fire with onions garlic herbs 2 tins of baked beans a tin of sardines and a pot of tea. Sleep well in the dorm 4M$

Posted by 1985 trip 07:27 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

living off bananas and crackers

in the jungle

sunny 30 °C
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Friday 1st February
Jungle trek

Jungle trek

Meet two French speaking girls, after breakfast off last nights rice, we all set off across Sunghai and make for Yong hide. After about one hour come to a small limestone outcrop with narrow caves etched out by the stream. Fascinating crawl through by two of us. There was a rope to follow at the start but after 10’ I find a broken end. Many bats - round leaf horse shoe and fruit bats, also frogs and giant toads and a small catfish. Bat guano is soft and spongy because of the energetic work of the mites burrowing into it, quite pleasant like well rotted manure. Outside see a scarlet sunbird, and tall pungent ginger plants. Arrive at the hide in the mid afternoon after slow walk. Attractive setting, a dusky leaf monkey crashes about, someone else sees a muntjak. Bananas and crackers, again.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:39 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

everything coated in mud

after jungle trek

rain 30 °C
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Saturday 2nd Feb
Jungle salt lick

Jungle salt lick

Girls up and away early. We sleep in as it is raining again. March back in time for lunch, bananas and cake. Spend the afternoon washing everything starting with me, then clothes then rucksack. All filthy and mud coated. Cook rice with Malaysian army processed peas (a gift) and tin of beef curry slowly over a hard wood fire. Meet Australian Doc travelling to UK hoping to work as hospital junior for a couple of years. Give him Penny’s address.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:41 Archived in Malaysia Tagged trek malaysia jungle Comments (0)

the trekking bill

in malaysian dollars in 1985

sunny 30 °C
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Sunday 3rd February.
The bill for our 6 days comes to 30M$ which includes both boat rides, there are a lot of people going out today. Probably spent 10M$ on food, my worries about it proving too expensive were ill founded, but we kept to the very basics, six days of bananas and crackers.
Bus to Jerantut, roti chandia lunch yummy, then a walk out of town with my thumb in the air. Damien and Claude get a lift quickly, they are off to Kuantan, say cheerio and hope to see them in Brisbane, I promise a fondue if they turn up. It takes me over an hour in the hot sun, umbrella up. Creeps pester me for my address, one day I come to your country. Get sunburnt but eventually lift in large new air-conditioned Volvo driven by local GP from Jerantut and his administrator wife going to her confinement in KL. They feed me on buns and mangosteens. They leave me close to the mock arabic splendid colonial railway station in the centre of KL. Short walk to the YMCA, dorm 10M$ a night. Explore china town later, nothing available for less than 14 M$ a double.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:44 Archived in Malaysia Tagged trek malaysia jungle jerantut 1985 Comments (0)

awesome Thaipusan festival

Batu caves, meat hooks through chest

sunny 32 °C
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Monday 4th February

Thaipusam, the dramatic Hindu festival in honour of Lord Subramaniam at Batu caves outside KL. I promise to carry 5 kavadas if you cure my son’s asthma, plea bargaining by penance. DSC0000113.jpg A kavada can vary from carrying a flagon of coconut milk, to hauling up a vast decorated frame covered in peacock feathers carried on the shoulders and with lots of chains ending in fish hooks in your flesh. They fast for a few days, then parade and dance to a frenzied drum beat for about a mile before the long climb up to the cave. It is fiercely hot, the supplicants look a bit remote, helpers massage legs and a ready with a stool to avert total collapse and offer sips of water. The huge crowds of unto a million are better served than the devotees as we have charity drinking water stations. 6DSC0000120.jpg The climb up consists of 273 steps, I counted them, into the vast cathedral sized cave. Here the blackness is lit by flaming torches and pungent with burning smoking trays of camphor. The floor is awash with coconut milk. Chickens and monkeys scamper about. Hysterical fits and feints are numerous amongst the crowd and numerous first aid boys swoop and carry them off. Quite fancy a quick swoon myself. It is all quite splendid. Outside there is a carnival air, with stalls and a fair, lots of children are having their heads shaved. Apparently the crowd is about 700,000 strong. DSC0000114.jpg Hundreds are carrying kavadas, with a continuous stream of supplicants up and down the steps, most are quite alarming, like large spears through the cheeks. I feel exhausted after just a few hours just watching.
Eat well for 2M$ on chicken curry and rice.

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meet some Doctors

who kindly show me round

sunny 30 °C
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Tuesday 5th February
After an ordeal on the buses find the Malaysian medical association and knock on the College of GP’s door. Dr Goh’s secretary is not sure what to do with me, but eventually sends me with a little letter to his clinic. It takes me 2 hours to find it. The building is not named and turns out to be a vast shining prestigious office tower block. Looks more like the head office of a multi national than a GP surgery. On the 13 the floor find Dr Goh’s clinic, he is quite nonplussed by my appearance and rushes around introducing me to everyone. I feel a bit sheepish in my only pair of trousers and a creased shirt smelling faintly of the jungle. Have lunch with Dr Kara MRCP and make a date for tomorrow.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:50 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

best food for weeks

at the Rotary Club Kuala Lumpur

sunny 31 °C
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Wednesday 6th February

Up sharpish and off to spend morning with Dr Frank Tan DRCOG and another doc who has stayed at International Hall whilst working at St Johns and James Pringle. See antenatal clinic running, they do their own high quality U/S scanning, one lady in the clinic has an anencepahlic foetus at 18/40, not pleasant. American mum to be pops in for her acupuncture session. Well run clinic, not too much pressure, time to talk.
Taken for lunch to the Merlin hotel, wish I had a jacket. Sumptuous Malaysian buffet in very grand surroundings and company. The Foreign Secretary is addressing the Rotary Club International and a host of invited ambassadors. My shirt is clean after a quick overnight wash. Washing dries overnight, a length of string for impromptu washing line is essential traveling kit.
Get dropped off at the museum for the afternoon.

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