JADN home page JADN Repository home page Kuala Krai - A town that owes its origin, growth to the railway

by Shukor Rahman

Newspaper cutting about Kuala Krai
Newspaper cutting about Kuala Krai, probably dating from the early 1970s.

(Transcribed from the newspaper cutting shown on the right, which appears to date from the early 1970s. Asterisks are used in this transcription for items which are unclear from the rather poor quality image.)

The town of Kuala Krai, 44 miles to the south of Kota Baru, owes its origin and subsequent growth to the advent of the East Coast railway here in the 1920s.

There was no Kuala Krai in the 1900s and the only settlement of any significance around here then was Batu Mengkebang. Before the railway to Kuala Krai was built, the Duff Development River Steamers (under contract to the Kelantan Government) ran a weekly service from Kota Baru to Batu Mengkebang via Pasir Mas and Tanah Merah.

The opening of the line to Kuala Krai made a tremendous difference to everyone in Ulu Kelantan. River traffic downstream from Kuala Krai disappeared overnight. The railway became very popular with what was still quite a large planting fraternity in Ulu Kelantan.

The legend

What is the origin of the name "Kuala Krai" (or simply Krai to the locals)?

As the story goes, there was a river called Sungai Kereh in the area. One day, an Australian who was employed by the railway asked: "What's the name of this place?" and on being told "Kereh" he whote down "Krai" and the place has been known by that name since.

The district of Kuala Krai covers an area of *,***.* square miles and has a total population of **,000. Eighty two percent of the population is employed in the agricultural sector. Kuala Krai town is now the fourth largest in kelantan with a population of **** - behind Kota Baru (*****), Pasir Mas (**,***) and Tumpat (*****).

It has also grown in stature as a centre for the rubber produced in south Kelantan. The town is beautiful in its own way. It nestles snugly among low green hills and has broad main streets. But the approach into town is marred by an ugly timber yard and a clutter of coffee stalls.

A Government Rest House is situated on a hill just outside the town but it has only four rooms. There are about half a dozen modern class hotels in town but standars of hygiene leave much to be desired. Hotel rooms are usually fully booked whenever loggers from Gua Musang come down here to celebrate a festival. The Rest House is usually taken up by Government officers intending to visit Gua Musang the next day as they have to catch the early morning train from Kuala Krai.

Poor planning in the past has allowed rubber dealers' shops to be situated right in the town centre and in several cases right next to eating shops. The stink from the scrap rubber and sheets* (which is quite similar to that of a filthy toilet) has stifled many an appetite. The town is also badly in need of a new market. The old market is overcrowded and it is difficult for people carrying their shopping bags and baskets to squeeze their way past stallholders whose wares spill on to the passageway.

Big Floods

The best coffeeshop-cum-restaurant in town is situated across the road from the market. It is owned by a Chinese but most of the workers from the cooks to the waiters are Malays. Several framed photographs of the last big floods of 1967 hang proudly on the walls. In Kuala Krai, the 1967 floods saw water almost reaching the first floor of a two-story building.

"Life in Kuala Krai is almost dead after 6pm" said Cik M** binti Mahmud, 22, who received her education here. The only place here that remains busy after 6pm is near the railway station. Coffee stalls there stay open till quite late", she said.

"There is only one cinema here and it is very old. Sparrows fly about in the hall and we often have to put our feet up as rats are always scampering among the seats", said Cik Mo**. According to her, there were about 40* restricted residents here. Several, she said, have been employed as shop assistants.

Adzali Ali, 22, who was transferred here from KL a few months ago found Kuala Krai to be a typical small town "where everybody knows everybody." "Nothing much happens here. After work I only watch the telly. I even watch Chinese films at the cinema to pass the time", said Adzali.

A mini zoo and museum is located at one end of the town. Among the animals are a majestic looking grey-headed fishing eagle, an eccentric Adjutant stork, a python and a couple of fish owls. Behind the town hall is a Taman Gotong Royong, a recreational park donated by a Mr Kuan Kim Chew, but it is not much used by locals. Two cows were sitting at each end of the badminton court!

Bradley Steps

Kelantan's flood assessing point, the famous Bradley Steps, is situated in Kuala Krai. People my be under the impression that the Bradley Steps were built for the purpost of gauging the water level of Sungai Kelantan to warn them of imminent floods. Actually, the steps were originally guilt to provide a landing point for settlers and Government officials from the Ulu Kelantan district. The steps were named after Gerald Bradley, an energetic District Officer of Ulu Kelantan who served from 1927 - ** and who constructed the concrete steps leading down to the bank of the Sungai Kelantan.

In the early days, Ulu Kelantan was completely cut off from the other districts in Kelantan. There were no accessible roads and most of the area was covered with thick jungle. The only way for settlers to bring in produce and take back goods and for government officials to visit the district was via the Sungai Kelantan.

Motor boats bring rubber sheets and scrap rubber from the Ulu and transport required goods such as bottles of stout (a very popular commodity with loggers) on their return trip. A major problem facing Kuala Krai is the lack of infrastructure such as roads, water supply, electricity, and education and health facilities. Kelantan's development strategy under the Third Malaysia Plan will concentrate on these.

* data unclear on scanned image

| Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra, Kuala Krai | Flooding in Kuala Krai | First Malaysian Family Life Survey, 1976–1977 |

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