Apr 16 2009
For old-time train travellers like me (well, in the 60s and 70s), Kuala Krai was deemed the last station in ‘civilisation’ before the Tumpat-Gemas line plunged into the dark, foreboding rainforest of peninsular Malaysia. Yes, in those days, the tar road from Kota Bharu ended here, and the only way southwards was via this lonesome rail track, snaking its way across thick jungles, across countless rivers, through seven tunnels, around mountains and across valleys. So how is ‘Krai’ today, since we now have a nice highway all the way to Kuala Lumpur?
Krai welcomes visitors. Unfortunately it has been bypassed by the Kuala Lumpur - Kota Bharu highway, so only the odd people find their way here … such as us.
Like Tumpat it’s a totally new characterless station. I can still remember the wooden verandah with the unmistakable colours of cream and brown of Keretapi Tanah Melayu of yore.
Yay, we are lucky, there’s the rare train at the platform, ready to leave for final destination at Tumpat, 85km to the north. It’s a ‘local train’, meaning it stops at every station and halt along the way. Never take this type of train unless you have plenty of time to kill.
Ready to leave, the whistle sounds, and the driver waves his green flag.
The guy in the goods coach reciprocates and the green flag waving propagates to the back of the train. Seldom failed, this green and red flag signalling technology.
The diesel locomotive roars and the shortish train heaves as it slowly moves out of the station.
Soon the train is out of sight, and the cars and the kids are back on the track.
Empty platform, and it looks so different from the Krai I remembered from the 70s when I was a frequent visitor.
But as I gaze across the yard, something strikes me. The whole thing suddenly looks eeriely familiar to me.
It’s like coming face to face with a long-lost buddy. Yes, some parts of Krai Station have not changed in the last 3 decades or so!
Apart from Krai Station, the town has another quaint point of interest - The Bradley Stairs or ‘Tangga Bradley’. Built in the late 1920s (a Mr Bradley was District Officer then), it has 81 steps leading down to a floating platform where passengers can board boats for the 320-metre river crossing to the other side. And just 1,300m south of this spot, the mighty rivers Galas and Lebir meet to form Kelantan River. Along the steps there are depth markers, very useful during end-of-year monsoon season when the depth of the inundated river at this spot provides valuable flood forecast for Kelantan River, especially for Kota Bharu almost 100 km downstream. That’s why Tangga Bradley is so famous, it’s a matter of life and death.
Ordinary folks use the stairs to access the boat mooring at the river bank for the crossing.
Well, it’s one helluva steep river bank, if you ask me.
There’s a village on the other side of the river, and the commute is sporadic.
Flimsy-looking boats, more like sampans with outboard motors, are important river transport. Do you spot any life jackets? Nobody really cares.
A 320-meter crossing, but that’s one swift and deep river. A capsized boat would be tragic.
I look up at the top of the stairs. 81 steps, huh?
Imagine during the monsoon season, the swollen river swiftly flows with levels reaching these heights. It’s a scary sight, I can tell you, especially with the debris it’s carrying.
Before departing, a bit of self-education, as always.
> THE END