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Recollections of sitting; Malaysia’s Jungle Train

March 23, 2009

Sometimes journeys can take the romantic traveller on fairytale adventures only found in lost stories: expeditions to faraway castles, overland treks to pyramids; or hair raising car rides around chaotic cities. Sometimes, journeys just take us to the corner store.

While trying to find a thoughtful message to fit in with this post, I was struck by the truthfulness found within Robert Thomas Allen’s quote.

“Most of my treasured memories of travel are recollections of sitting.”

At first I had to research who this wise person was, then I realised that no matter how thought provoking and insightful I wanted my quote to be, the simple truth would be more effective.

Trains, sitting, stories

Train journeys; you either love them or loathe them, depending on your outlook. Romantic notions of yesteryear lodged in the back of nostalgic minds, while electric rails zoom these minds in carriages to destinations. Whenever I think of train journey’s I imagine train life being in line with the Oriental Express: rich, luxurious and indulgent.

Journeying overland through Malaysia by train put my wild imaginings back into perspective. True there is a luxury train journey aptly named the Eastern Oriental Express, which runs through western Malaysia, but my train trip was on the eastern side; the jungle side. Here the trains are not opulent and the journey is less romantic.

Being an adventurer and small time nostalgic buff, the Jungle Line journey was extremely appealing. Notions of virgin jungle mixed with exotic reptiles, rubber plantations, and whatever jungles contain, were running through my mind while planning this trip.

Ten hours from a northern town called Gua Musang in Malaysia direct to Singapore. Time to soak in the scenery, reflect on my travel; and sit.

Train journey’s offer tasty treats you seldom find on planes these days. Delicious treats found in the people you meet, talk with, and share a portion of yourself to. Interesting morsels  are in the time spent inventing stories about those around you; who have no other reason to be on the train, but to get from A to B.

by Cate

by Cate

My story: Elderly Muslim man, anxious about being on a train that uncontrollably jolts and jiggles underneath him. Continuously praying to Allah to safeguard his journey, praying up till he disembarks 3 hours later.

Like a heavily laden slow moving horse, the train picked its way through overgrown jungle where leaves slapped windows and knocked on roofs. Slow enough to see life outside: lizards feasting in trees, birds perched on branches and dwellings scattered in jungle clearings.

by Cate

by Cate

And more stories to be created.

Sitting and reflecting are expected from long distance journeys. These journeys give you time, no matter how fast it travels, to gaze outside lost in thought only to catch yourself staring back . Some train journeys give you extra time; to sit.

Trains will take you into parts of towns, villages, and cities where others dare not venture.

by Cate

by Cate

Life around these stations can be harsh, but there is also history and relevance in this harshness. Rusted tracks and tired wooden buildings have welcomed traders, visitors, and enterprise ever since steam was introduced. Historically wealth has resided alongside main trunk line communities. These small rural towns, no matter how backwater they seem, hold within their crumbling appearance the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of ordinary people. The same people who form part of the culture and country being explored by train.

by Cate

by Cate

The journey in Malaysia was long and numbing, but well worth the time. I want to thank Erica at Travel Blissful for her wonderfully written posts on train journeys. There are several to choose from, just click on the blog link.  These posts  inspired me to book a seat on this train instead of taking a bus.

Travelling around Malaysia by train or bus is relatively easy and cheap. Check out the amazing man in “Seat 61”, an excellent site for up to date information on train travel.

Caffienated Traveller

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14 Comments
  1. March 23, 2009 1:10 pm

    A most excellent account–true travel journalism.
    Thanks!

  2. Jas permalink
    March 23, 2009 6:15 pm

    I have to agree with Michael – impressive post. And being someone who has also been on a few train journeys around the world, I can attest the truth of your comments on sitting and reflecting. A train journey can be a remarkable experience, but it’s different for everyone.

  3. March 24, 2009 1:16 pm

    I haven’t had a train ride since childhood. I enjoy that sort of reflecting during long bike rides, but it’s a more isolated experience than what you describe. Nicely written, Cate.

  4. March 24, 2009 2:12 pm

    Reading from the excellent post, I am shameful as I have not been taking train for long time since my primary school days. I am thinking to go to Gua Musang Kelantan vie the new highway from Cameron Highlands as it is much shorter journey. I think I may try to take a ride on train next time.

  5. Bear permalink
    March 25, 2009 12:56 am

    You raise an important point, I think. As we advance we leave things behind — an observation of the natural order of things. But as we travel faster — going from walking, to riding a horse, to taking a train, to hopping on an airliner — we leave behind the time to ponder. Especially pondering as something subtly rhythmic is happening like our footfalls or the clickety clack heard in a rail car. It’s this sort of pondering that is relaxing and often surprises us with our most contemplative thinking. So, I agree … it is good to take the slow option at times 😉

  6. March 25, 2009 1:45 pm

    Micheal, Jas, Heather, Bear – thanks for the great comments

    Visuallens – thanks and welcome. Yes I travelled on the new highway and it is very comfortable and quick. Plus it was empty when I went through. I look forward to hearing about your journey (and I am envious)
    I’d love for you to add some tips to my current post about travelling around Malaysia. It’s always good to have local knowledge.

  7. March 25, 2009 5:25 pm

    Thanks for the mention Kate. Nice to hear I could be of some inspiration. This is one of your best posts so far. I love how you start it off with the quote by Robert Thomas Allen.

    • March 28, 2009 6:23 am

      Erica – credit given where credit is due. Your stories and ideas around travel are fresh and thought provoking, not to mention inspiring.

  8. March 25, 2009 5:28 pm

    Sorry about the misspelling. I obviously meant Cate 🙂

  9. Dot Andrew permalink
    April 1, 2009 3:31 am

    Having spent 2 years in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I am about to return to Australia. I have travelled by train from CM to Butterworth, to Surat Thani and many times to Bangkok. You have convinced my that I should take the jungle train to Singapore on my way home.

    Thanks!

  10. ruthie permalink
    April 2, 2009 10:52 pm

    Hi Cate, thanks for your info. I was wondering if you had any advice on taking the train from KL to Hat Yai, either through the jungle or on the west coast. I hear that it is not very safe to do so?

  11. July 7, 2009 4:42 am

    I really enjoyed this post. your pictures are amazing. what camera do you use and where did you learn to shoot like this?

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