There can be few better feeling’s in this world than sitting in the open doorway of a moving train heading south in a hot tropical country with the cool air flowing over your face. This is how we travelled from the north east of Malaysia down to Tioman island in the south. We caught the ferry from the Perenthian islands to Kota Bharu we headed up to Tanah Merah to catch the jungle line down through the middle of Malaysia with plans to stop in Kuala Lipis and Kluang to break up the journey for the kids .We stayed in a nice little hotel just across from the station in Tanah Merah called Sri Chalet from where we would pick up the train in the morning. I bought the tickets that evening and got the train time, 8am, not a good time for a Ring, nothing good on the streets till after 11 so my old man used to tell me. ...... I think he ment 11pm but we applied it to the mornings .
After settling in we went into the little town for something to eat, chinese, there are a lot of them in Malaysia, cheap and good.If truth be told I re-discovered my love of chinese food in Malaysia. The chinese restaurants were the only ones where I could get a beer, I’ll can swallow just about anything so long as I have a beer to wash it down with. Lisa made friends with the daughter of the owners, who were two native chinese Malaysians. The daughter was a lovely , large, bored girl living in a town too small for her lofty ambitons and she gave us a lesson in making dumplings .She stuck to us like glue for a few hours and took so many photo opportunities with the kids that even Axel began to question the valitity of taking so many. It took us a while but we eventually managed to extricate ourselves from her homely photographic clutches, say goodnight and race off up the badly lit potholed road to freedom, with Elka shrieking all the way shouting ‘Up Down, Up Down Daddy’.
We managed to make it to the station in the morning in good time, I think the train was late, this helped. The platform was full of people going about there business. Little old ladies with fruit and vegetables going to the markets down the line, some we recognised, some not all cheerfully going about their business. We had the usual friendly enquiring conversations about how we happened to be there and where we were going and what we thought of this and that. Then our train arrived and we got on board.
It was a hot sunny morning with little by way of cloud to disrupt the blueness of the sky. The carriage had A/C but I preferred the natural A/C to be got by sitting in the open door of the carriage. Making our way further and further up into the hills which became greener and greener and junglier and junglier as we progressed. At times you could reach out and touch the trees and plants they encroached so close to the train line, massive palms and big hardwoods with orchids growing in their resesse’s and huge primevil ferns. It was a trip I was happy to have made.
The more we travel the less concerned we have become with the arrangements. What a great feeling to be able to get up late in the morning and decide not to have to move today. “Lets stay another day”. The freedom to decide to go here or there or wherever at the drop of a hat. “Lets go there today”. It’s a great feeling and I think it will difficult to let it go. These days we decide to go where we want to at such short notice, we hop on a bus or plane or boat and go. We look for accomodation when we arrive, it’s no problem at all, sheer freedom.
Kuala Lipus our next stop was previously some old administrative centre in the hills with a few crumbly old buildings of some note and the chocolatey brown Lipus river flowing languidly through it. Our hotel here was a small bed only no breakfast kind of place but was clean and cheap at 10 euro a night for a tripple room .
Once Axel saw the river I had no option but to agree to a fishing trip alongside the riverbank. We had no rod but we still had the fishing line, hook and weight we had gotten from the guys we went fishng with in the Philippines. So we made our best effort’s to catch a few monster cat fish, fresh water shark, snake fish and whatever else was in his imagination. Fishing is a great way to teach patience and the ability to while away a few hours doing nothing particularly productive other than enjoying your own company and if you have a partner their company. Our reverie was eventually broken by the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard. The weather had become overcast but didn’t seem to be too oppressive when all of a sudden, it must have been so near, the loudest most explosive flash of lightning followed instantaneously by a deafening crack of lightening happened right above where we were fishing. I have to admit my heart stopped for a second and Axel gave me a look as if to say, ‘i nearly shit myself there, maybe we should go home’. We figured it wasn’t the smartest thing to be doing and headed back to the hotel.
Ramadan was still being observed by the Malay portion of the community and we visited the food market that was set up for the purpose of feeding the ravenous, after 13 hours of abstinance, population. The stalls were heaving with food. Countless chickens being roasted on huge spits, sweet cocunut flesh in leaves, bizarrly colored fruit drinks, bright purples and pinks and greens. A riot of colour and food. We ate great chinese again and had the best lemon chicken which would be hard matched .
We went to bed and woke up late the next morning rejoin the jungle line train to our next destination, Kluang.
From Kuala Lupis to Kluang the train journey was less jungley jungley and much more agricultural jungley, all straight lines of pineapple and rubber plantations, man made jungley, not as beautiful but beautiful all the same. We boarded the train about 12.30 and it took us about six and a half hours to get there. From my seat at the open door of the carriage I watched the sun go down.
I spoke to Lisa later on about how I felt just sitting in that open train door looking out on the passing landscape, at the sun going down, taking photographs and how good I felt and she said she had been watching my reflection in the glass of the carriage door and thought how happy I looked, she was right, I was and am so happy doing what I am doing here and now with my family. I don’t want it to end.