Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Driving the East-West Highway (Malaysia)

The East-West Highway, running along Malaysia's northern border, is quite an amazing piece of road. It makes its way winding here and there through the jungle, taking the traveler from Kota Bahru straight across to Penang. There are few stops along the way, and those are mostly at small eateries and a few petrol stations. But it is a wonderful way to spend a day of travel. The scenery along the road is amazing. And really, when you stop to think about the work that must have gone into building that highway, it pretty much blows the mind.

Along the side of the road, as you drive, you will see signs warning that elephants and tigers will often make their way to the highway, and should (of course) be avoided if seen. I have never been lucky enough to see such exotic creatures while traveling the highway, but many stories of their sightings abound. In fact, it is not advisable to travel the highway at night because it is said that elephants often make their way to the black topped surface to enjoy the warmth as they sleep at night. One can only imagine the horror of a car accident involving a sleeping pachyderm.

That is, of course, not the only danger to night travelers. Bandits and hi-jackers are known to frequent the area, and so travel on the East-West Highway is best undertaken during the daylight hours. In addition, the road is narrow in spots, and quite a winding path as it makes its way over the hills in the region. Night travel can be both tedious and dangerous on the East-West Highway, and it is best to avoid traveling this stretch of road at night, if at all possible. Besides, the scenery there is so beautiful that it would be a bit of a waste to travel at a time when it could not be seen.

Some photos I found here and there give an idea of the sort of beauty you see along the side of the road during a journey traversing the East-West Highway in Malaysia. It is magnificent. If you can find an excuse to make the drive yourself, make sure and avail yourself of the opportunity. It is great fun.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog - I dont think this highway is well known to many locals here. I would like very much to travel on this road for a family holday. Would you know how long ther journey takes and any spots where we can rest and stay over night? The nature looks awesome!

hifidel said...

Hi Cheok Law,

The journey from one end to the others is, at most, 5-6 hours. (That's all the way from the east coast to Penang, but it's less if you are stopping before Penang. The highway actually ends at Jeli.) There was one good spot to stop (Grik, or Gerik, I think) about an hour plus into the journey, if you begin from the East. I have heard that another resort (something like a golf resort) has opened up since I was last there, but I am not quite sure where that would be.

Watch signs for Gerik and Bading. The dam there is nice, with places to stay.

Overall, the east-west highway makes for a very fun trip—