Sep 2

Its been more than 14 years since my last train ride, back then during the school holiday we took the train from Kuala Lumpur up to Butterworth and back to visit Penang with my classmates. This time, I am helping an online food portal to do some interviews and reviews in Kota Bharu in Kelantan and I had decided to take an overnight train there (and I terribly regret it) to save time.

I visited KTMB’s website and book the tickets online, the site is a bit slow but its quite easy to use and you can also choose the seats/bunks that you want. The only problem is the way they named their stations, if you depart from Kuala Lumpur, you have to look for Sentral Kuala Lumpur but its better known as KL Sentral. And if you are going to Kota Bharu, guess what, there is no station by that name, you can stop at Pasir Mas, Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat depending which part you are heading to.

I booked the class 2 tickets, which have overnight sleeping bunkers that cost less than RM100 for 2 per way. Print out the e-tickets and I am all gamed for it.

On the travel date, I took the LRT to KL Sentral to depart, basically the train come 10 minutes before departure and leave on time since its the first station. Basically for the sleeping bunk, the beds are allocated according to your tickets and its divided into the upper and lower bunk. The lower bunk is ok and I still managed to sit in it but the upper bunk is just go to lie down.  The lower bunk have a small shelf for your small bags but the upper one have none, so most of the passengers would leave the bags next to their bed.

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The airconditioner is centralised in the train, can be a bit warm a first but freezing cold in the middle of the night. Each bed have its own reading lights and most of the people would cover the curtain for the night. There will be big rubbish bags hang in between a few beds, so far no foul smells, as the janitors remove them once its filled.

As the train rocks, we depart from KL Sentral and headed south where the train will make a u-turn at Gemas in Johor before heading up north on the east coast. Our train was stucked in Gemas for almost 3 hours because of a delay in Singapore, that means my 13 hours train ride to Kota Bharu is now 16 hours!

Besides rocking, the noise is another factor as the automatic door in our coach is not working and therefore its opened most of the time, I really pity those sleeping next to the door. Make sure you never ever book those beds!

Going to the toilet is another challenge, firstly, the train is really old, so the toilet is not in its best condition. Toilet is clean but smelly and the door doesn’t close well. Taking a leak is a challenge too as the train shakes non-stop, I was really trying to hold my balance what more aim, no wonder the toilet is wet most of the time!

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Through out the night, there will be this guy who pushes the trolley back and forth selling food and drinks but I prefer to go to the canteen at the end of the coach for a cup of coffee and some toast and noodles for breakfast. Price is decent, for 2 cups of hot drink, a set of toast and a plate of fried to order noodles, cost me RM10. Its not great but ok to eat, so really no worries on food.

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There are all sort of travellers on the train, from the mak cik and pak cik going back to Kampung to city slickers like us to foreign tourists (mainly going to the islands). So far, I don’t have much security issue on the train and people tend to mind their own business. But its the occasion mak cik that brings a sack of durian up the train (leaving it by the toilet!), or the crying kids or the worst are non-civil minded folks, this one guy who actually took his shirt off to sleep and don’t bother covering his curtain yet snoring! Now I know why so people bother to pay double to take the first class sleepers which 2 persons share a room.

In terms of handphone coverage, pretty much once on most of the way on the east coast, my Digi line is dead! This is because the railway tracks goes through forest and small remote villages, which does provides an interesting view during the day. It sort of reminds me of my little adventure during the Peninsular Malaysia Makan Trip where we had to cut through small remote villages road to get through landslides when travelling south from Kelantan to Cameron Highlands.

One thing nice is that you get to get down of the train, just for 2-3 minutes in most major stations and Gua Musang offers a great photo opportunity as the train stops behind beautiful limestone caves. Otherwise, for train departing from Kota Bharu, its good to catch the sunset.

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In the morning, we got some free packet drink (Rex brand, I thought they make canned tuna, don’t dare to drink :P) and piece of cake as the train is delayed. It was 3 hours late when we got to our destination. We immediately went to the ticket counter to see if we can upgrade the return tickets to class 1, which are roomed sleepers but unfortunately is all booked. You can refund but probably get back 30% since its last minute.

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The trip back was on time, only about 30 minutes late but after a tiring assignment, its was quite a bad trip back for us as we are feeling sicked and tired.

I probably won’t take the train again, one experience in a decade is good enough for me, hehehe. Its not that bad but If I do, it will definately have to be a class 1 roomed sleepers, but that won’t happen anytime soon, easier to fly nowadays probably ;).

May 21

We started day 2 of our trip by visiting White House Kopitiam (N6 07.890 E102 14.212) in town, its supposed to be famous for their nasi dagang and toasted bread. This place is packed with almost all the tables occupied. Local of all races eat here and this places is operated by an old chinese uncle with the help of local malay ladies. We tried their nasi dagang, nasi lauk, toasted bread and half boiled eggs.

White House Kopitiam Kota Bharu Kelantan

The nasi dagang is basically rice steamed in coconut milk serve with fish curry but I find the rice a bit hard. Nasi lauk are normal rice serve with fish curry too and I find my liking more to nasi lauk here. The toasted breads are just ok but the kaya is not as good as the one we tried in Tong Kok Hotel in Kuala Lipis. Prices, not that cheap, almost normal KL prices I would say. On the way leaving the place, we also stopped by a famous local stall (N6 07.726 E102 14.931) for some fried keropok lekor losong and fried sweet potato, both are excellent, about 5 pieces for RM1. I would have to say, this the thing I miss most about Kota Bharu!

Toasted bread @ White House Kopitiam

sweet potato guy

We then visited Wat Pothivihan (N6 07.815 E102 08.252) which have a big reclining Buddha followed by Wat Machimmaram (N6 11.053 E102 06.577) (thanks to correction by Tien Soon!) which have a big sitting Buddha. We took a short break at Wat Pothivihan to have fresh coconut juice and some somtam (Thai papaya salad) which is served by all the 3 local-Thais stalls found in the temple. At Wat Pilkulyai, I got a pre-blessing (for Wesak Day) from a monk who speak very good English, chatting with him after my blessing sessions. He told me to also visit Golok which is nearby and that the next temple is where they will celebrate Wesak Day. The monk took me by surprised a little as he look nothing like someone who can speak fluent English, so there we go again, don’t judge a book by its cover ;).

For lunch, we headed to U-Lang Corner after packing up our bags from Ah Fai siew’s house. Its located at Jalan Wakaf Mek Zainah in Kota Bharu (N6 08.348 E102 14.476). Their specialty here is basically Nasi Kerabu which is also known as khao jam in Thai. The version here is a bit different, its green and its cooked with the many varieties of herbs planted and found around the forest next to the owner’s house. The rice is green in colour, top with a salad like of veges and herbs. The rice mixture is a salty taken with either fried chicken or fish. Its a very nice and not heavy feeling meal, I really like that. The khao jam and by 1 plus, its already sold out, but they also sells Laksa here if you fancy some. The friendly uncle here also told me that his “fei chai” (chubby son) have opened up a branch in Bandar Puteri, Puchong and told me that I can also get it there.

U-Lang Khao Jam

Before heading off, Ah Fai siew, our valuable local guide recommended that we try the local cendol. So I asked what’s the different, he explained that its cendol as it is but served with pulut (glutinous rice) and tapai (pronounced as tar-peh in Kelantan). I wasn’t too keen with pulut at first but tapai did it and I just had to try it since tapai is my favourite ;). Tapai is basically a type of fermented food which tasted sweet or sour alcoholic liked which is basically made from pulut or tapioca.

Kelantan Cendol

The cendol stall (N6 08.221 E102 14.721) here is operated by what looks like a Malay family which sells the yummy cendol with pulut and tapai (made from tapioca type) in it. Sounds weird, but taste fantastic and I really enjoy the cendol. RM1.80 for the normal one and RM2.80 for the special one, not sure what is the special one but the normal one already have pulut and tapai in it ;).

After the nice lunch, we had to say goodbye to Ah Fai siew and continue on our journey to Merang in Terengganu as our next stop. So far, impression of Kota Bharu is quite good to me, not as bad as many have thought and the different kind of other goodies like ayam percik, nasi kerabu, etc. that Ah Fai siew told me about makes me wish I had more time to spend here, so maybe next time, it’s a great idea to spend some time in Kota Bharu itself ;). Thanks again for everything Ah Fai siew, hope to see you in KL soon :).

Photos compliments of Law Tien Soon

Peninsula Makan Trip Part 2 Intro

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 1, Update 1, Kuala Lipis

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 1, Update 2, Gua Musang

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 1, Update 3, Kota Bharu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 2, Update 1, Kota Bharu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 2, Update 2, Merang, Terengganu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 3, Update 1, Kuala Terengganu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 3, Update 2, Chukai, Terengganu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 4, Last Day, Kuantan, Pahang

May 21

Our first stop in Kota Bharu is Wat Pracacinaram, which is a Siamese temple in Wakaf Bharu. The temple is located in a village with loads of Thai food restaurants and you can see there are plenty of local boys playing basketball at the temple’s court. Here at the temple, we visited their herbal steam bath, which requires a minimal donation of RM5.00 per person (to help the upkeep of the steam facility).

Wat Pracacinaram

There is basically a steamer being heated by wood fire, the boiling water in it is then added with herbs, ginger, onions and garlic by the monk there. The steam is then release into a steam room. Before entering the steam room, there are lockers provided to store your valuables and showers are available. The steam bath is quite cool, firstly, of course you almost sweat like mad instantly, this is to help your body release all the toxic in you, especially us city slickers. I like the herbal and strong ginger scent in the steam and even after coming out and taking a shower, the nice fragrant is stucked with you for a while ;).

After the relaxing sweat out, Ah Fai siew then lead us to Orchard Garden Seafood for dinner in Kampung Brinjal, Cabang Empat, Tumpat (N6 09.642 E102 10.356). We had wanted to visit Cheng Mai Thai food in Wakaf Baru but its fully booked for a wedding, so Orchard Garden seems to be a good choice especially since its being recommended by Ah Fai siew.

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We had a big dinner here, I mean big with 10 dishes! Tomyam seafood, curry prawns, thai steam siakap, fried eels, deep fried pork knuckle, fried bees, etc. All together it cost RM352.00 for the whole dinner is not too bad as out of the 10, 3 dishes are fishes. The highlight of the dinner is the fried bees, yes literally bees being fried. Sounds yucky but really, it tasted great and crunchy, so tasty that our kaki Edwin got the Bee King title for finishing up the whole plate of the bees.

My visit so far was quite different than what I perceived of Kelantan, the Islamic State of Malaysia to be, the many temples, pork easily available in Chinese restaurant plus the skimpy dressed lady I saw in the restaurant really changed my perspective. So, really, don’t believe what you read, especially newspapers in Malaysia :P.

That night we checked into Ah Fai siew’s house which is big enough to host all of us and we really appreciate his hospitality, really a nice guy I must say. I was a little sick from the lack of sleep and intense travel. So I had to sleep early with a flu while the rest went out for supper and also, visiting the “forbidden” in Kelantan ;).

Photos compliment of Law Tien Soon & Lim Ken Wei

Peninsula Makan Trip Part 2 Intro

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 1, Update 1, Kuala Lipis

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 1, Update 2, Gua Musang

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 1, Update 3, Kota Bharu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 2, Update 1, Kota Bharu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 2, Update 2, Merang, Terengganu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 3, Update 1, Kuala Terengganu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 3, Update 2, Chukai, Terengganu

Peninsula Malaysia Makan Trip Part 2 – Day 4, Last Day, Kuantan, Pahang

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