Monday, 31 December 2012


Palekbang is Palek-bae in the Kelantanese accent. Palekbang is a small town huddled among expansive paddy fields which are flooded in December, the monsoon season. We visited Palekbang today in heavy downpour. It was scary!

Palekbang once had a small train stop, the most famous during its hey day. Trains stopped here to let down passengers who then took a boat service or ferry across Sg Kelantan to Kota Bharu river bank. The town that docked the boats or ferries for the river crossing service is Penambang.

Palekbang train stop has been abandoned since the more recent one was opened at Wakaf Bharu. When I came to live in Kelantan in May 1969 (after the 13 May incidences), Palekbang was often heard but I had never visited it until today, 43 years later. Palekbang train stop is in ruins today. There are a few columns left standing by the rail track. There is a shed among the jungle thickets where the signpost says 517.75. This means the Palekbang train stop is 517.75 km from where? Gemas? 

From Palekbang the train continues on to Wakaf Bharu, a modern train stop that has shifted from the old site to the more recent site, both sites lay side by side at Wakaf Bharu. Now the new station faces the old station. The new station has a ticket counter, prayer place, toilets, a restaurant and limited seats.

From Palekbang and approaching the Tumpat roundabout.
Follow the signboard to Palekbang
There is a Klinik Kesihatan signboard at the turn-in junction but I didn't see the clinic.
The road ends here in Palekbang. A small post office signpost says POS Palekbang on the left.
Approaching the road end and Palekbang signpost.
The railway track is straight ahead where the road ends.
Initial view of the railway track at Palekbang.
This is not the train stop, which is to the left (not shown in this pic).
Thailand is at left, and Tumpat is at right.
The signboard warns of danger but we took the small road to the old Palekbang train stop after discussing with the man at the Palekbang signpost. He said it was ok. It was not ok since it was raining and the flood water was rising. We went down the tiny road but had to turn back after reaching the old Palekbang train stop. It was scary because the flood water here rose very fast!! We had to reverse for 500m and then quickly make a 3-point turn and exit that tiny road.
Police station at Palekbang at the end of the road, right across from the Palekbang signpost.
Initial view of Palekbang old train stop. A few columns and a shed can be seen.
Dilapidated columns of Palekbang old train stop.
A narrow foot path leads up to the railway track and columns.
Railway shed at the 517.75 km mark.
An old railway quarters still stands in the village nearby. The area is flooded.

In my research on the early Malay doctors, Dr Ali Othman Merican (Dr AO Merican) and his family including his 2 sons, Dr Carleel Merican and Dr Ezanee Merican, had used the Palekbang train stop, continuing their journey from Penang to Thailand, and from Thailand to Palekbang, then crossing Sg Kelantan before arriving in Kota Bharu by river boat service.
Dr AO Merican migrated to Kelantan which started the Merican clan in Kelantan. In 1927, Kota Bharu was still largely underdeveloped and had only one row of brick buildings. Road transportation was inadequate as bridges were few and there were many river crossings which depended on bamboo rafts which were maneuvered by long bamboo poles and pulled by ropes using manual labour from men who stood at the river banks and on the rafts. Only the railway was adequately developed, linking Palekbang in Tumpat and Kuala Krai in Kelantan to the Federated Malay States. Annual floods occurred towards the end of the year and continued into the New Year, for a few months before they finally subsided. - From Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.
Ezanee Merican was brought to Kelantan once his mother had completed confinement when he was 40 days old. The train journey from Penang via Thailand to Palekbang in Kelantan took two days. A river boat service on Sungai Kelantan took passengers across from Palekbang to Kota Bharu. The boat service ceased when the Sultan Yahya Petra bridge was built linking Wakaf Bharu (nearby to Palekbang) to Kota Bharu. - From Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.