Malaysia’s Route 66


When we hear the words ‘Route 66’ we naturally think of the famous highway in USA, the one where you ‘get your kicks’ according to the 1946 song. That road originally ran for 2500 miles heading west from Chicago through the heart of America all the way to Santa Monica, California.

It is less well known that Malaysia has its own Route 66, in Kelantan, a much more modest affair only 96 km long, running from Jeli to Dabong and on to Kampung Bukit Tebok where it merges with the Central Spine Road.

Malaysia’s Route 66 might be less famous that its American namesake but it does boast some fine scenery and a couple of natural attractions along the way.

Here is the map (click top right corner to enlarge):

Jeli to Dabong is 51km. Route 66 continues for a further 45km after Dabong before joining up with the Central Spine Road.

The route begins at the small town of Jeli, not far from the Thai border.


Heading south you soon approach the mountainous landscape of Gunung Stong State Park. I think these are the twin peaks of Gunung Stong (1433m) and Gunung Ayam (1504m).


The State Park comprises 21,950 hectares of virgin jungle reserve and is intended to serve as a conservation area for rare creatures such as wild elephant, tiger, hornbills, serow and tapir.


Despite the State Park’s protected status, I noticed some logging activity going on in various places.


This is the Sungai Balah, a tributary of the Sungai Galas and Kelantan River which eventually flows into the sea near Kota Bharu.

The Jelawang Waterfall (or Stong Waterfall) is estimated to be 300 m high, one of Malaysia’s tallest, and easily visible from the main road at Dabong.

It is a short drive to the Gunung Stong State Park HQ where there is a ticket office, guides for hire, a cafeteria, toilets and accommodation. The resort, known as Stong Hill Resort, has seen better days but appears to offer basic accommodation for adventurous types.


Termites seem to have eaten this chalet and all that remains are the concrete stilts and a toilet.

I paid RM 2 to enter the park as far as the waterfall. If you want to climb Gunung Stong you need to pay more and hire a guide.


The waterfall is certainly spectacular although difficult to photograph in its entirety from this vantage point.

A party of local school boys had fun making the rickety suspension bridge wobble while I was walking across it.


Next I stopped briefly in the quiet town of Dabong. Looking back from Dabong you can see the waterfall with Gunung Stong above.

There is a railway station (Jungle Railway) at Dabong and most tourists wishing to visit Stong arrive by train.


A short distance outside Dabong is the Gua Ikan Recreational Park. This 150 million year old cave complex includes three caves, Gua Keris, Gua Batu Susun and Gua Pagar.


I couldn’t find a way into the caves which did not involve getting very wet. The recreational park itself was badly overgrown. If I ever go back to this area I would hire a guide to take me up Gunung Stong and show me around the caves.

Malaysia’s Route 66 is a scenic drive. Let’s hope the logging companies do not spoil the scenery. It seems the forests are losing their battle with loggers but sometimes the trees find a way of striking back!


Jeli Eels

I was driving in Kelantan recently on the way to a north Malaysian town called Jeli when I noticed some unusual items being sold at the roadside.


On closer inspection they turned out to be eels, still alive and writhing around in plastic bags. I believe Ikan Keli translates as catfish but they looked like eels to me. Maybe the blue plastic container at the foot of the photo is for catfish.


The vendor told me that he caught the eels in the lake next to the road.


He should consider opening a Japanese grilled eel restaurant here to improve his profit margins.

Later the same day I spotted another slithery thing draped over a milestone.


Presumably this unfortunate snake (python perhaps?) had been run over while trying to cross the road.


Not something you see every day, even in Malaysia!

Dasar Sabak Beach–Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Dasar Sabak Beach near Kota Bharu is one of the first spots where the Japanese Army landed its invasion force on 8th December 1941. It is said that fighting here commenced an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbour began due to an error by the Japanese in calculating a time difference. This beach therefore could claim to be the scene of the spark that ignited the Pacific War.

There is little here today to mark the events as coastal erosion has changed the beach’s appearance beyond recognition.

I have a guidebook which was written only written a few years ago and in it Sabak is described as ‘the soul of Malaysia’s east coast’ and ‘a rustic fishing village where fleets of perahu (local fishing boats) can be seen beached on the beach after the day’s catch has been landed’.

It used to look something like this (which is actually a different beach several miles away)and there were old WWII pillboxes on the beach.

Not Sabak Beach

Over the past 10 years or so, 200 meters of beach has been lost to erosion taking pillboxes with it.

This is how Sabak beach looks today:

Dasar Sabak Beach, March 2012

Some 70% of the Kelantan coastline is said to be affected by coastal erosion.

There are still a few nice beaches left and I have written about three of them on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Better visit them soon before they all disappear!

Kelantan’s Thai Temples


Wat Khosakaram

Kelantan may have a reputation as the most Islamic of Malaysia’s states but that does not mean that other religions are not accepted.

There are a surprising number of Thai temples in the state, especially in the Tumpat and Pasir Mas districts. Or maybe not surprising given the district’s proximity to Thailand and the state’s long association and historic links with its northern neighbour.

There are a significant number of Malaysians of Thai descent in this area and at there are at least 20 Thai temples here.

I visited a few recently on my travels.

Wat Khosakaram

I came across Wat Khosakaram (at Kampung Lubok Batil) by accident when I was looking for the much more famous Wat Uttamaran. I followed the sign post which directed me down narrow pot-holed lanes lined with rice fields and palm trees before eventually arriving at this isolated and peaceful spot. The date on the gate says 1996 but presumably this must be when it was renovated because I read that this temple is over 100 years old.

Wat Khosakaram

I then went to Wat Phothivihan, Kelantan’s most famous Thai temple with a 40 meter reclining Buddha statue, often mistakenly described as the biggest in South East Asia, though it is Malaysia’s largest.

Wat Phothivihan

You can read more about this temple on my Malaysia-Traveller website.

The third temple I visited was Wat Pracacinaram at Kampung Kulim.

Wat Pracacinaram

They have a sauna here where you can enjoy herbal steam baths infused with ginger, onion and other essences. Just add soy sauce and you will know how a steamed fish feels. I did not give it a try as I was sweating enough already. Revenue must be good as they are building a substantial extension.

Kelantan’s Thai temples are something different and reminded me that it is time to do some more travelling outside of Malaysia.

Wat Pracacinaram

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