Day 7 of The Round Malaysia Road Trip 2020 | Travels with my wife through Asia and beyond. Join us as we explore history and culture. And after thirty years in Asia, we are now back in the UK. What next?

Travels With My Wife

Still talking after all these years!

Day 7 of The Round Malaysia Road Trip 2020

After visiting the market at Kota Bahru we head off towards Jerai Hill where Lawrence Gray has a sudden burst of nostalgia.


Ah, the joys of a road trip! As one might expect, one does spend an awful amount of time sitting in a car, rolling along a road. One would imagine that the joy thus comes from observing the landscape rolling on by, just as one's parents used to tell you when you asked if you were "there yet!" Well, I can assure all those five year olds that are reading this blog, as I am certain is the age of my readership, your parents lied to you. The rolling scenery is no joy at all. It is boring. Even more boring if the driving is conducted in the pouring rain as a lot of driving in both Malaysia and the UK is.

No, the pleasure comes in the fact that one does not have to do much other than listen to the radio. In Malaysia this is perhaps not quite as pleasurable as it is in the UK, but nowadays with the wonders of modern technology, one has the capability of channeling BBC Radio 4! Here one can listen to the shipping forecast and know whether there is a gale force nine over the Dogger Bank. And as for Cromarty and Forth, how can a day go by without learning of the storms that stir up there?

Indeed while swooshing through the endless tropical downpour over the highlands, noticing the trees turning less palm and bambooish, and the temperature dropping, one could well imagine that one was back in Blighty. Mum would be muttering about cats and dogs. Dad would be muttering about mother's inability to read a map the right way up. Both would be griping about the shocking cost of a gallon of petrol while waiting for some greasy overall with a fag hanging from his lips to crank up a rusty pump and pretend to fill the tank to the brim.

Malaysia's central spine does give off a whiff of 1960's Britain. And perhaps no place more than the resorts that lurk in the mountains. The Jerai Hill Resort, complete with women in head scarfs, just like my mother used to wear to stop the wind and wet disturbing her perm, feels less like a tropical paradise and more like a holiday camp aimed at the weekend crowd itching to give their motors a run, not to mention their suburban girl friends who were pretending to be staying over at another girl-friends place doing homework.

No doubt the Morality Police of Malaysia are keeping a careful eye on the shenanigans that may or may not be stirring up on Jerai Hill. I am certain there must be a stone slab with various commandments carved in it pronouncing the need to avoid fornication and debauchery. Though if I recall my Bible correctly, the ten commandments only warn you to keep your hands off someone else's woman, while on the plus side pretty much the first thing it does tell you to do, is to go forth and multiply.

Judging by the rather large family groups aimlessly walking around the resort in search of entertainment, there has been little to distract people from taking a trip up the hill for that pursuit. It does seem to be the only appetite being catered for, because the restaurant was not exactly cooking with gas. Indeed the lights went out for a while as lightning bounced about the skies and the kitchen staff searched for some fuse wire.

Given that today's journey was noted largely for a visit to Kota Bahru's market, which carried an immense variety of mouth enticing fruits, vegetables and butchered meats, one would have expected the food to be as good as Malaysians always say Malaysian food is. But the market is where it stayed. Perhaps if we had lingered sufficiently in Kota Bahru we would have received the benefit of such bounty, but sadly nobody could be bothered to ship anything much out to Jerai Hill. There the restaurant was as lacking in choice and capabilities as practically every hotel restaurant we have come across in Malaysia.

One would imagine that home cooking was the big thing, except for the curious lack of attention to building kitchens in homes. A gas ring and a kettle beside a sink, tucked in at the back of the building hardly constitutes facilities conducive to much in the way of cookery. Hence no doubt the paucity of skill in this matter and the prevalence of brown food fried and then left to congeal.

Luckily, as my eyes had rolled several restaurants too often on the way up the east coast, only vaguely stopping to savour the food in Penyabong's new al-fresco food court, Alor Setar emerges on the horizon. Indeed, as one looks out from Jerai Hill's Sinai, passed the great brown slab of tourist information, one can see the green pastures of the promised land. Alor Setar will emerge as foody paradise, comparatively speaking of course, complete with cocktails on the menu.

Before proceeding down the hill though, watch our video of us on the way up.

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