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20060226_P_0444
Breakfast at Fartini's

As I sit and write we can hear the local muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in the Islamic town of Kota Bharu. We left the west coast of Malaysia this morning and headed across country for eight hours by bus to reach here. It was a pretty uneventful journey. The bus was the same type as the one we got up to the Cameron Highlands. With only twenty seven seats on board a full sized coach (two seats on one side of the aisle, one seat on the other) it meant that everyone had lots of space and you could easily recline your seat without bumping into the person behind you. The only snag was that we were in the back row and above the engines so it was a pretty noisy trip all the way, although this did drown out the sound of the local radio so there was also a positive side.

We both dozed off and on throughout the journey, slightly defeating the purpose of taking a day bus rather than a night bus. Partly this is due to boredom setting in and partly due to the heat as the aircon was not very effective. When I was awake the scenery we passed through was more of the same tropical jungle with palm tree plantations lining the roads at some stages. We passed through an industrial area that seemed to be a prime area for making cars.

The road climbed up through the central mountain range and as it dropped down the other side we crossed over the Tasik Temengot, a large reservoir with a few hotels dotted around the shores. In the villages we passed people again seemed well off compared to other Asian countries we have been in. The hosues were made of bricks and most had cars parked outside.

When we reached Tanah, a meeting point with the railway, the bus stopped briefly to let people off. A chap came down the back of the bus to us asking if we wanted to go to the islands, which we do but not today. I thought he was from the bus company saying that this is where the bus went to rather than Kota Bharu but Stef had got his measure. He was a local taxi driver plying his trade and trying to entice us off the bus early – cheeky chap!

Kota Bharu itself soon appeared, another sizeable town whose welcome monument proudly confirms that it is an Islamic City. Having seen Tesco and Courts furniture store in Georgetown we were met here by A&W, a Canadian burger chain that served us well for lunchtime stops as we made our way from East to West Coast. The bus dropped us somewhere where lots of taxis were on hand and we were soon whisked away to our hotel of choice, the Safar Inn. It is clean and comfortable but I am not sure that pink walls with orange skirting boards and door frames is really my ideal colour scheme!

We spent some time this evening trying to plan out our last few weeks in Malaysia. Time seems to be running out on us so we put a stake in the ground in KL and booked our onward flights to Africa. Now we are struggling to try and fit in all we want to do and see in Malaysia before we leave. The lack of easily accessible and up to date information about bus, train and plane connections makes it a complex task.

In the evening we headed out to try and find somewhere to eat that would match up to the tasty food we had in Georgetown. Our map showed hawker stalls by the river and that was our first port of call. Althugh a couple were open they had a distinct lack of food and we decided to carry on. We turned back towards the main centre of town following the rbight lights to be met by the golden arches of a McDonalds, one of two in very close proximity to each other. The street, Padang Garong, led us down past what should have been the night market but what now is a building site. A couple of LP recommendations were further on and we passed another A&W and Pizza Hut on the way there.

Even here in the centre of town the streets were quiet and not much seemed open. We went to the Golden City restaurant which, at nine pm, told us their kitchen was already shut but they could do us a bowl of noodle soup. I opted for the soup, Stef picked up an A&W on the way home. Back at our hotel we opened the door to see a cockroach a couple of centimetres long scuttling away under the bed. We attempted to find it to no avail, no doubt it was long departed and, more importantly, it did not pay us a repeat visit during the night.