Just before sunrise, Malaysia’s predawn sky is painted in dreamy hues of purple and pink. A train chugs southwards across paddy fields from Kota Bahru to Gua Musang — stopping at some stations that are no more than a wooden shack and a derelict signboard, occasionally picking up traders with bags of local food and vegetables from the jungle. A 70-year-old woman with a head of curly, shiny white hair in a shirt and batik sarong hauls five bags of homemade tapioca chips onto the train for sale at Kuala Krai, two hours away. At other stations, elderly women in headscarves and robes travel alone, selling their wares. Schoolchildren hop on and off. Young guys in jeans loiter around, flirting with young women in headscarves, quite unperturbed by the threat of khalwat, the Islamic prohibition against close proximity between unmarried persons of the opposite sex.