Day 70: Gua Masang & Kuala Lipis, Malaysia. This morning we headed to Gua Musang train station to catch the 10.10am train to Kuala Lipis, a small town around 110km south.
Before we left the guesthouse, Lil commented that the last couple of places we’ve stayed in have had green arrows stuck to the ceiling, indicating the direction of the fire exit. In last night’s room, the arrow was pointing out the window which, given there’s no fire escape and we were on the second floor, doesn’t seem too handy.
When we arrived at Gua Musang station, the waiting area was heaving with dozens of kids and some adults. Once again, lots of little faces turned to stare at us, as we pushed through the crowds wearing our backpacks and western clothes.
We headed to the cafe at the far end of the station for a bit of peace and quiet, and had a coffee while we waited for the train. A guy sitting at the table next to us spotted an opportunity to practice his English. He started chatting, asking where we were from, where we’ve been and where we’re headed, and in return Jim asked him why there were so many kids at the station. The guys said they were from a local school and were going on a train outing to Kuala Lupis (which is exactly where we were headed).
When the train arrived, we did our best to sit as far away from the gaggle of kids as we could. About eight or so ended up in our carriage but the rest were thankfully packed in elsewhere.
The bunch of kids sitting in front and opposite us were funny – they spent the first hour or so continually turning and staring at us, and watching our every move. Meanwhile they were scoffing all sorts of lollies and chocolate, and once the sugar rush kicked in, they became totally hyper. The volume in the carriage went up considerably, and as part of some game they were playing, shoes started flying up and down the carriage aisle.
It was another very scenic journey, albeit a lot shorter than yesterday’s. Once again, lots of jungle and lots of little train stations along the way.
We arrived in Kuala Lupis a few minutes ahead of schedule, and after finding our accommodation we dumped our bags in our room, and headed out to check out the town.
Kuala Lupis was the state capital of Pahang from 1898 to 1953, and a hub for gold mining. During that period, a number of grand colonial buildings were constructed and the town prospered. When the state capital was shifted to Kuantan in 1955, Kuala Lipis fell into decline. There are still over a dozen significant historical buildings to visit today, but many are in a state of disrepair including the Pahang Club, a black and white timbered building which used to be a members’ clubhouse, but closed down in 2004.
By late afternoon, we were hot and tired and a cold beer seemed like a very good idea. There were no obvious bars in town, however Lil had read online that there was a bar called Bar 55 tucked away on a back street that sounded interesting, so we went to see if we could find it. The short online mention said ‘look for the white saloon doors’ and gave a street name. After a bit of roaming about, we spotted two very small white doors with 55 painted on them, and swung our way into the bar.
The bar inside was pretty dimly lit, with round concrete tables, one rectangular wooden table and stools, and an old fashioned sofa. We were the only people there, apart from the girl who was serving, and her kid brother who lay on the sofa the entire time playing a video game (apart from one quick burst of energy when he shot up to turn on a fan, then lay back down comatose again).
When we’d finished our beer, we headed off in search of food. A lot of restaurants were shut (we’re not sure why), but we found a small Chinese cafe in an open area at the end of town. Lil asked for chicken and rice (playing it safe as always), and Jim pointed to one of their specials, which turned out to be a sensational mixed seafood dish in chicken and egg soup.
As we were tucking into our food, a Chinese guy appeared at our table and sat down next to us. He introduced himself as the husband of the lady cooking food behind the counter. He told us he had been at home, when his wife (who doesn’t speak much English) called him to say that two tourists had arrived, and she ‘wasn’t able to entertain them’. So he drove over specially to introduce himself, and make sure that we had everything we needed. How incredibly kind and thoughtful. His name is Fowzi, and he worked in the tourist industry for 15 years before retiring, so guess he is well used to dealing with Lil & Jim types.
After dinner, we headed back to the hidden bar for another beer, and this time we found we had company. A guy called Liew, who spoke excellent English, chatted to us to ask where we’re from, where we’re headed etc. It turns out that he and his mates used to be members of the Pahang Club that closed in 2004. They decided they needed somewhere else to meet and drink beers, and that’s how Bar 55 came to be established. These days, despite the 55 number painted on the saloon doors, it’s called Aramaiti cafe.
Then we headed home to book transport and accommodation for the next stage of our adventure. Tomorrow we catch the bus from Kuala Lipis to KL, and then on to Malacca (or Melaka, to use its local spelling).