The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

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Malaysia K. Lipis

Arrow points to Kuala Lipis

Malaysia K. Bharu

Arrow points to Kota Bharu

Friday 1st November 1968

Yes, happily it was steam all the way—the same engine up and back, a British (natch) 3-cylinder rotary-valve affair built in 1935. They burn an extremely poor grade of “Bunker C” here, with a very high sulfur content, so the exhaust is very acrid & dirty; in the tunnels it gets positively suffocating! But I did hit good weather, and some lovely views, and of course 180 miles or so of jungle scenery, all very pretty, with many flowers, orchids and so forth and some pretty birds. Kota Bharu had a slightly different flavor but not so much as I’d expected, and it is by no means the cleanest city I’ve seen in Malaysia. The local refuse system seems heavily augmented by many goats that roam the town!

Train to K. Bharu

The train I rode to K. Bharu

Steaming through the jungle

Steaming through the steamy jungle

Approaching tunnel

There were many tunnels

The "down" train

Passing the "down" train

I had a slight mishap while looking around the town: I mis-stepped crossing a deep gutter & in the ensuing scramble for balance the left side of my head came into smart contact with a sign. No damage to speak of to head or sign, but evidently I sprained my left thumb slightly and a few muscles in my back, which resulted in a poor night’s sleep later on. The railway ride back today pretty well loosened up both again, though: the Malays run their trains much faster than the Thais, over road-beds that are nowhere in as good condition as those in Thailand. Hence it is pretty rough riding! And the car I rode in was built in 1913 for the (then) Federated Malay States Railway, so the springing was not so good either. We passed near K. Bharu the site of a de-railment, where 4 freight cars are still being righted from beside the temporary new track. All in all, though, it was a worthwhile trip.


I loved the flame trees...

… but the photo was likely taken (from the train) to catch the handsome guys, lower left.

Lovely view from train

Another lovely view from the train

Forgot to mention that for what little good it will do, I voted in K. Lumpur. Humph had better pull a “Harry Truman 1952” act,  or he’ll never make it. News tonight of the possible bombing-halt in VN—encouraging, perhaps, but only time will tell if it is the right thing to do. News here is heavily overshadowed by the Sabah “confrontation”. I’ve been asked many times here—and am at loss to answer—why we, with our considerable influence in the Philippines, have not done more to get Marcos to lay off. The P. I. “claim” on Sabah is about as pertinent today as a Khmer “claim” on West malaysia would be—both have the same sort of background and in light of subsequent history both are absurd. Tension between Indonesia & Singapore also has been headlined here, but that seems to be easing somewhat.

Malaysia makes a big thing of the fact it is multiracial (is certainly is!) and has no racial tension; I’ve also been put on the spot by several Malaysians wanting to know about the “race problem” in the states. Of course, they can’t understand it, and I can’t excuse it. At least two people I’ve met have cancelled plans to visit USA because of the situation there—they are afraid of running into a riot or something. Unfortunately, unlikely though it may be, I can’t assure them they won’t run into something. [Likewise], I can’t assure them the situation is likely to improve much in the next few years, regardless of the election outcome.

There is an article in tonight’s Straits Times about the approx 2000 babies born of Thai girls and american GI “husbands” which are coming in for some attention from the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. The Thais are rather unhappy about the problem; I was pleased to observe that this article (in a Malaysian paper, of course) closed by pointing out that the Thai Queen’s-Cobra Regiment, recently returned from VN, left behind several hundred Thai-Vietnamese babies to be cared for. The disparity between the american ideals we talk about and the “ideals” we actually export is phenomenal. Many people are disgusted by both—including me. Our emphasis on technology the past hundred or more years has interfered with our development of humanity; because we really know so little about ourselves (and have such absurd delusions of grandeur), no wonder we can’t understand (or even make the attempt most of the time) other people with different cultural backgrounds. I am less convinced than ever that industrialization of Asia alá Japan is the best course for the future. Particularly in Thailand, I found many people apologizing to me because they are poor. This shows success for the first phases of “developing” a nation, for once people become dis-satisfied with what has satisfied them for centuries, you have created a market for modern produce. The next step should be to show and help the people learn how to produce locally what they want; but the next step all too often is simply to flood the country with imports; Thailand is only now waking up to the facts and trying desperately to stop the flow of money out of the country, but it’s a difficult thing to do after so much damage has been done.

Enuf of this for now—I’ve got to go to bed for an early start tomorrow. Will go to Temerloh & from there, I’m not sure at this moment—weather will decide, probably between Kuantan & K.L

Sunday 3 November 1968

I can’t seem to get used to the idea it is November already! Two more days and I shall have been “on the road” two months—and you all should be voting for the “candidates of your choice”—ha! Anyhow—I got my usual early start from Kuala Lipis, except that for the first time in weeks, I ran into morning rain! It was light, and by the time I’d retraced my tracks to Benta, it had degenerated into a light mist, not at all bothersome. At Benta I turned more or less southward towards Jeruntan; the road was fairly good, & the only obstacles to care-free driving were numerous ox-droppings in the roadway. Obviously (this not being one of the main hiways) oxen & water-Bs utilize the road more than vehicles do. So I spent an hour or so dodging “pies” successfully; but there is enough manure spread around by larger vehicles (who worry less about hitting it) that by the time I reached Jeruntan the Honda was rather well “covered all over with ‘sweet violets'”. Nature came to my rescue, though, with light rain between Jeruntan and Temerloh, so by the time I got there most of the bike (& me) was clean again. The road from Jeruntan to T’loh must have been built by a subsidiary of Standard Materials—the macadam is not more than half an inch thick (where it remains at all) and despite extensive patching & re-patching the roadway is pretty bad in spots. Nonetheless I reached Temerloh slightly past noon & stopped at the Gov’t Rest House for lunch—and subsequently over night, as the rain did not stop until just after I booked the room. Temerloh is a very pretty town, very small, but with a huge new National Mosque situated on the banks of the Pahang River. Over this there is a nice large concrete bridge, about 1/3 of which is missing since last year’s monsoon floods—there is  temporary steel-work over the gap!

Nat Mosque 3

This may be the Mosque near Temerloh. . .

. . .then again, it may not. Perhaps someone reading this blog can enlighten me!

Temporary Bridge over Perak River

A bus crosses the temporary bridge carefully

In that direction (east) lay Kuantan and much more rain! I turned around and headed back to the coast.

Though it was Saturday night, the town was extremely quiet, and the rest house seemed quieter. So I had a very restful sleep & arose early again this morning. Fog, but no rain, though obviously in the direction (east) of Kuantan it was stormy. So I decided to pass up Kuantan this trip & come on west again to K. L. The roads are better and the pass from Bentong over the mountains is only 2066 feet, so I arrived before noon. When the fog lifted it was mostly clear & pleasantly warm; my poor nose (which has peeled twice since I last mentioned it) apparently burned again,  judging from the feel of it now.

Looks like a church

A Governor's Mansion or a church—I forget which

I drove around K. L. for about an hour & a half, located a cheap hotel (Tivoli!), had lunch, tuned and washed the Honda, walked about a bit (everything closed, as it is Sunday). K. L. is much more interesting architecturally than Bangkok; the modern buildings being designed by local architects blend much better with the old , and the old parliament, railway and other government buildings downtown are very interesting. There is a national “Muzium” to spend some time in, & lots of shops to browse, but I suspect 3 or 4 days will suffice here. Thence to Seremban (where I will try to contact Lt. Col. W. K. Bramson, the only Bramson in the W. Malaysian phone book—to see if by any chance he’s a relative) and on to Port Dickson and Melacca. From there I may cross the country once more to Mersing, then proceed to Johore (Ye Gods!—from my old stamp collecting days I always though Johore was in India!!) and Singapore.

Tivoli Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Receipt from the tivoli Hotel

This phase of my current hajj is, obviously, drawing to a close. The mileage will wind up around 5500 miles. What next awaits stock-taking & investigating in Singapore—I have several ideas, the practicality of any of which is yet to be determined. I’ve spent a little more money in Malaysia than elsewhere because I began picking up a few souvenirs; still, the trip all-told has so far cost less than $1200.

Time to close up this installment and get it on its way tomorrow. Hope it finds you all well, as usual.

Love to everybody~

In my next post, I describe a few days in Kuala Lumpur: stay tuned!

Written by Editor

February 2nd, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Malaysia,Trains