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Kota Bahru

- contributed by Ang Chong Lee-

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The uninitiated must be forewarned that Kota Bahru may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Forget your romantic Hollywood notions of Third World getaways, Kota Bahru is without the idyllic charm of expansive padi fields, cascading waterfalls and buttock-swaying oriental maidens. Expect instead the gritty reality of commerce within grey concrete apartments and expect the traffic smog invading your lungs in the mid-day tropical heat. If one might realistically manage his expectations, there would be unexpected gems to be uncovered for patient traveller.

I travelled to Kota Bahru from Singapore by overnight express rail. Having endured a night of incessant chatter from a tour group sharing my cabin, I woke only to find that I had missed my intended train station stop at Wakaf Bahru, arriving at Tumpat instead. The party who was to receive me at Wakaf Bahru was later to be amused by my tale involving muffled train announcements and signage-deprived train stations. Word of caution to travellers on Malayan Rail: Pay close attention to the train’s progress and know clearly where and when you should disembark. Ask where exactly you are.

Train station at Wakaf Bahru

The consequence of my blunder was a happy detour to cross the Malayan-Thai border, which was a mere 20 minutes away from the Tumpat Train Station. I figured, "So I miss a couple of cultural showcases of ancient Malay dance and martial arts, what the hell, I am probably happier getting a juvenile kick out of crossing the border instead." So let it be known that full-time marketing professionals are led by boyish juvenile whims, spontaneous decisions and a bad sense of hearing while on backpacking holidays.


 

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