The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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I begin here a letter from Malaysia which ran to 9 pages before I closed and mailed it.

Malaysian Coast

Major towns on the NW Malaysian Coast

Saturday 26 October 1968

Hello again to all~
After 6 thoroughly delightful days in Penang, I departed Friday AM. And lo! While driving around in Penang without bags and baggage I discovered that the rattle I’d thought was in the right muffler was actually just the rest-stand, having got slightly bent, rattling against the outside of the muffler—it was easily fixed. And I got & installed a new coil in Penang (even Bangkok didn’t have one) which has perked up the engine slightly. All in all, the Honda is running better now than since leaving Saigon—it will be hard to part with it in Singapore. I’d planned to go & stay in Taiping for a day. Just short of there, though, I had another flat tire—rear again. I pulled out two nails, then broke it down to find the nails hadn’t penetrated the tube, but that there was a casing-break that had worn a hole in the tube. Since the tire was getting pretty thin anyhow I replaced it in Taiping, and hopefully should have no more trouble of this sort. But Taiping really isn’t much, and one has to hire Rovers to ascend Maxwell’s Hill behind the city (it was cloud en-shrouded anyhow) so I decided to proceed to Ipoh. Although it was raining when I left Taiping, as soon as I got about 1/3 the way up the grade over the intervening mountains, the rain stopped & it was thence a lovely trip to Ipoh. This city is the Capital of Perak State, nestled at the foot of some nice mountains amidst a large number of tin mines. It’s a fairly large & reasonably up-to-date place, though certainly off the tourist track—I haven’t even seen any Aussies here! Naturally I went straight to the railway station. Now, apparently it was once otherwise, but the Malaysian RRY system is very poorly run & operated. I’ve not yet seen an engine that appears to have even been wiped in years, & the rolling stock looks pretty grotty. Nevertheless, I still hope to ride from K. Lipis to K. Bahuru on a steam train.

BACKSTORY: Instant coffee (from Africa!) had been introduced in Malaysia shortly before I got there, and it was rapidly adopted by larger restaurants. But by now, I had come to love the “local coffee”—the instant stuff was like drinking water. So, after taking dinner at a decent restaurant, I would seek out a “hole-in-the-wall” that still made the good stuff. In Ipoh that night, I found such a spot and repaired to a table with the brew. At another table was a group of 8 fellows, known as “cowboys” at the time. They were all handsome guys, but dressed somewhat sloppily with what some might have considered a rather menacing demeanor. To my great surprise, one of these fellows left his buddies and joined me at my table. He was curious about me—who I was, what I was doing there, why I was driving a moto—all information I shared willingly. Far more surprising was that he invited me to his place: we rode two-up, he directed me to a moderately decent home which had a cottage where he lived by himself. Once there, I was all but raped (insofar as the willing can be): it was one of the best romps I had on the trip, completely spontaneous, done with complete abandon. He was 20, and stunningly handsome. I got back to my hotel late, worn out!

Today, I departed around 9 for Lumut which is situated on the coast about 67 miles away. The drive out is lovely, going through an area knows as Dindings (for obscure reasons). Being off-season, the ferry (passengers only) to Pangkor Island was erratic, so I passed that one up, settling instead for exploration of some charming beaches, little by-roads and such. One of these ended at a very charming trail leading to a jungle-bound waterfall (not on map!) to reach which one has to wade—but the short wade is certainly worth it. I relaxed here for an hour, dangling my feet in the rushing water, which was cool, but not cold. Picked up no leeches during the wading. On the road to Lumut, incidentally, I passed a positively huge (& positively dead) snake that had gotten in the way of something: it stretched from the edge of the road out across the white line, which would be near 2 meters. Saw numerous smaller ones—guess this is good snake country!

Between Ipoh & Beruas one crosses the Perak River; there were two bridges, but floods in January 1967 took out both. In one case the pylons were left, so some marvelously temporary steelwork & lumber truss-work has replaced the original roadway. The other bridge was totally destroyed, now a jumble of concrete chunks rapidly being broken up by the water. Hence I had to retrace my steps more than I’d have liked, but as it was now raining it really didn’t matter. Tomorrow, I hope to get a very early start, hoping to get to the turn-off & road to Cameron Highlands before it rains, then on the K. Buru for the night.

No Ferry today

No ferry to Pangkor Island

On the Ferry

Ferry crossing somewhere

There had been  many bridges destroyed the previous year; I failed to record where this crossing took place.

Monday 28 October 1968

Well, plans do change! I departed Sunday early as planned, reaching Tapah after a short 30+ mile drive along the base of the mountains. There I turned inland for the 38 mile drive to Cameron Highlands—and a stupendously beautiful drive it turned out to be. One climbs to not quite 5000 feet; it was cool, though not so much as I had expected. The road is about as twisty as one could ask, and the jungle beautiful!!  Many nice waterfalls, lovely birds, huge butterflies, and various “things” crossing the road here and there, including a millipede over 8 inches long that I stopped to investigate. A few snakes, though small ones. I got to half-way tea-house—with a beautiful collection of butterflies—and on to Tanah Rata about noon, rested there, then retuned to Tapah. The road down is perhaps more fun than up, though the last 8 miles or so it was beginning to rain. Stopped in Tapah for a leisurely late lunch, and decided to go back to the coast for a while. So I proceeded as far as Teluk Anson for a night, where, about 5:30 I lay down for a nap that ended at 8 PM! After a poor plate of fried rice, I went right back to sleep. Consequently, this morning, I awoke very early & was on the road about 7:30. I thought some of returning to Lumut for a longer stay; but when I got to Bagan Datok (at the mouth of the Perak River) the boats large enuf for me and the moto run alternate days, I found, and today was the “off” day. So instead I proceeded on down the coast; when I got to the turn-off to Rawang (towards which I was more-or-less heading) it was obviously raining inland; so I came to Klang (Kelang), where I am lodged in a cheap hotel. I drove out to Fort Swettenham, visited the Immigration Office there; they say I must go to K. Lumpur for my extension, so tomorrow I shall do that—quite possibly by taxi, as I expect to return to K. L. by moto later. Assuming I get the extension, I will go around K. L. towards K. Lipis, for the railway ride, then back to K. L. for a few days’ stay. But as mentioned, plans do change, so we shall see!

Tower at Telok Anson

Built in 1885 as a water tower, still standing

The ride up to Cameron Highlands was one of the highlights of the entire trip. I love back roads, and they are best traversed on a motorcycle! I was so impressed with the trip that I took a dozen photos shown below. The half-way teahouse is still there, much enlarged!
Road to Cameron Highlands 01

Along the road to Cameron Highlands

Road to Cameron Highlands 02

There were streams and waterfalls everywhere

Road to Cameron Highlands 03

Lush scenery, lovely day

Road to Cameron Highlands 04

Twists and turns galore

Road to Cameron Highlands 0

One of many waterfalls along the way

Road to Cameron Highlands 06

A rare flat spot on the road, being repaired

Road to Cameron Highlands 07

Road marker

Road to Cameron Highlands 08

Incredibly lush vegetation typical of Malaysian mountains

Road to Cameron Highlands 09

Another waterfall: cool fresh water

Road to Cameron Highlands 10

Yet another stream

Road to Cameron Highlands 11

No part of the US has vegetation like this

Road to Cameron Highlands 12

Welcome to Cameron Highlands

Wednesday 30 October 1968

Yesterday was a lazy day. I just poked around Klang in the AM, & in the afternoon a chap I’d met in a store volunteered to drive me to K. L. to see the Immigration People about my visa extension. This was accomplished in a very brief time, getting 3 weeks more which ought to be more than I need. Did a bit of sight-seeing in K.L., but not so much, as I shall return there later; then back to Klang for the night, getting to bed early so I could get up early this morning. This I managed to do, getting on the road before 7:30. It was a typical grey day, and as planned I went around K. L. to the main N-S hiway, and north on it through Rawang to Kota Kubu Baharu; from there there is a fabulous drive through Fraser Hills to Raub. First a long but easy grade about 25 miles long up to about 4700 feet, then down into the valley where Raub is located. The road (surface fair to excellent) is a real twisty “stomach-churner & chain-stretcher”, passing through jungle all the way. Most of the large trees were cut when the road was put through, so one doesn’t see them from the road; but lots of logging is still going on away from the road, & they bring the logs out to the hiway, logs 4 & 5 feet in diameter oft-times. And bamboo that grows 30-40 feet high is everywhere. I think one of the astounding things about the jungle is the sheer volume or weight per unit area of the vegetation: it is amazing how much there is and how fast it grows. The roadways have to be constantly maintained, with about 6 feet of shoulder being mowed (sometimes cattle-cropped) which gives a park-like effect to all the routes.

From Raub, the road straightens out somewhat for a 38 mile stretch to Kuala Lipis, which I reached about 2 PM amidst light rain. As I’d expected, this town is a division point on the railway, so I spent some time there in the evening. There is a train departing for Kota Bharu at 7:00 AM tomorrow, which gets there (presumably) about 4:30 PM—I’ll stay over & return next day. Picked up a cheap flight-bag to carry essentials in, but will leave the moto & luggage in care of the “Hotel Paris” where I’m staying—it seemed the best of the 4 hotels in town, but is pretty primitive—but of course, cheap, too! Hope to get a steam engine, but am not so sure.

Somewhere on Malaysian West Coast

A beach on the Malaysian Coast

Malaysian West Coast

Islands off the West coast of Malaysia

Road through Fraser Hills 1

Plenty of curves on the way to Raub

Road through Fraser Hills 2

Spectacular limestone crags on the way to Raub

Valley with Raub in distance

Raub lies in the valley below the Fraser Hills

My next post describes my ride  to Kota Bharu behind steam all the way!

Written by Editor

January 31st, 2010 at 4:16 pm

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