Arrive late in Kota Bharu but where to stay? Read our reviewers take on the Crystal Lodge Hotel
For a number of years now I have been interested in taking the Jungle Railway from Johor Bahru the southernly most tip of peninsula Malaysia to the most north easterly point Kota Bharu at the border with Thailand.
After meticulously planning my journey from Penang via various pit stops on the way I finally boarded what is billed as one of the most scenic train journeys in SE Asia and I felt an exhilarating excitement I haven't felt about a journey in a long long time, it's been a while since I have been on a train.
The first 4 or 5 hours are a fairly mundane affair with quite a few stops amidst an ordinary Malaysian landscape but it was the subsequent 8 hours of my journey I was really relishing as the Jungle train cuts through mountains, traverses mighty rivers and gives a view of the jungle not seen by the motorist or airline passenger en route to the same destination.
The jungle train journey lacked any way of taking good photographs. The windows in the carriages are all double glazed, do not open and try as hard as KTM staff do, impossible to keep clean.
This as you can imagine is not a safe thing to do and if you do not want to miss any good photo opportunities you have to stay there permanently which is plain crazy.
Because of this I missed some of the very best photo opportunities by being stuck inside the carriage.
Travelling the jungle railway was a great experience I thoroughly enjoyed, however, there was one issue that really limited my ability to record the journey photographically as I would have liked; The lack of a photography carriage.
From a humanitarian standpoint you have to admire the tenacity of the Kelantanese for their ability to overcome these conditions year in year out.
I travelled in January and Kelantan was just recovering from some severe flooding brought on by the monsoon rains. I could imagine if I were travelling on a day less cloudy the setting sun would have created some spectacular photo opportunities as dusk set in across the Kelantan flood plains.
After Kuala Krai the Kelantan topology eventually plateaus down to reveal the palm oil plantations and padi fields of the Kelantan river delta with the many traditional Kelantan houses built on stilts acting as a quaint backdrop.
The journey continues through the delightful Kelantan countryside with fantastic photo opportunities of rainforest tropical jungles, some mighty Kelantan rivers and scenic rock formations at their SE Asian best.
These days there is accommodation on offer here for the intrepid tourists curious to venture into the many national parks of this area and the adrenalin seeking extreme sports enthusiasts keen on mountaineering or caving in this vicinity.
As the journey progressed into Kelantan you reach the unmistakeable station at Gua Musang with its limestone cliffs faces dominating the scenery this is another good photo opportunity for the camera happy. It is noteworthy that not so many years ago the only access to this town was through the jungle railway.
Once you get past Kuala Lipis in Pahang the terrain starts to get interesting. The plantations of bananas and palm oil start making way for tropical jungle and karst outcrops of limestone rock formations.
The way this planet has evolved has always fascinated me and these limestone rock formations have been sculpted over millennia to reveal captivating images that are very pleasing to both the eye and the camera lens.
The landscape of this area of Pahang leading into Kelantan is a mesmerising mix of jungle terrain surrounding these karst hills with sprinklings of civilised life never too far away in the small villages of this region that also covers part of Taman Negara (national park).
The Jungle Railway - The Jungle Train From Johor To Kota Bharu
Jungle Railway Review
Heading north, once you get past Kuala Lipis in Pahang the terrain starts to get interesting. From a tourists perspective this is where the jungle train journey really begins
Journey on the Jungle Railway through the delightful Pahang and Kelantan countryside with fantastic photo opportunities of rainforest tropical jungles, some mighty Malaysian rivers and scenic rock formations at their SE Asian best
Written by: Michael Joseph
Date published: 26/01/2011
Jungle Railway Star Rating
From a tourists perspective this is where the jungle train journey really begins.
I could not help to wonder about the back breaking hard work many men put into carving this stretch of the jungle railway through what must have seemed at the time like impenetrable terrain.
This left me no alternative but to go to the end of the carriage, open the door and literally hang out of the carriage trying to take some good photos.
I walked up and down the train and got talking to some other tourists who were also hanging out of the carriages trying to take a good scenic photo and they had the same view as me; A photography carriage on this train would be a sure fire winner.
The buffet carriage however left a lot to be desired, it was very basic fried rice and fried noodles.
Jungle Railway Travel Conditions
This is exactly the tourist experience I was seeking to compliment this journey. I also got into an interesting conversation with an elderly couple from the UK about the same subject.
From a tourists perspective the jungle train journey really begins once you get past Kuala Lipis in Pahang.
The seating is comfortable and adequate for the journey; Without the ageing carriages actually giving an old colonial feel it does convey the impression of this is how travel used to be.
They were travelling around SE Asia staying in 5 star hotels but they were thrilled that the seating was 1960's/70's style giving a travelling feeling of days gone by.
Sure enough I did not starve on this journey but I did have a splendid appetite to unleash on the unsuspecting Kota Bharu eateries upon my arrival.
Jungle Railway Stations To Exit For Interesting Locations On Route
Jerantut - for Taman Negara
Kuala Lipis - for Kenong National Park
Merapoh - for Gunung Tahan (Mount Tahan) or Taman Negara
Gua Musang - for Kuala Koh National Park
Dabong - for Mount Stong State Park
Wakaf Bharu - for Kota Bharu or Perhentian Islands - via KB
Pasir Mas - for Thailand
"The seating was 1960's/70's style giving a travelling feeling of days gone by"