I couldn’t remember the last time I went to Kelantan, but my mother assured me that I had been there when I was a child. The memory was so blurry that it kept me inquisitive every time people mention Kelantan, the land of Che Siti Wan Kembang.
So when I received the invitation by Tourism Malaysia to join a fam trip entitled ‘Ekspresi Media Kelantan 2020’, I was super excited and said to myself: ‘THIS IS ANSWER!’.
With domestic tourism currently being revived after being halted by the Movement Control Order imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 within Malaysia, Kelantan remains optimistic about its Visit Kelantan 2020 campaign.
The state, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is in full gear to welcome local travellers.
After experiencing Kelantan for five days and four nights, specifically Kuala Krai, Tumpat and Kota Bharu, I must admit that despite its low-key outlook, Kelantan actually is an exciting destination for curious travellers like me.
I surely look forward to uncovering more of its gems soon!
What to experience in Kelantan:
1. Jelawang Pipe Resort and Extreme Park
Owned by Wan Zonnum Al Masri, 24, who has a deep passion for extreme games, this resort offers accommodations and activities. The two types of accommodations available are tube stay, and A-frame stay.
Among the activities, travellers should experience include hiking, abseiling, rock-climbing and zip-lining. Such activities offer the stunning view of Gunung Che Tahir and Air Terjun Sungai Batu at once!
The resort also caters to activities outside of the resort area with dedicated and certified guides; such as caving at Gua Ikan Complex and water-tubing at Sungai Kenerong.
Contact: +6 014 832 4363
GPS: 5.370142, 101.968670
2. Gua Ikan Complex
Gua Ikan (Fish Cave) Complex in Dabong consists of a series of limestone caves; however, only four are open to the public: Gua Ikan, Gua Pagar, Gua Gelap and Gua Keris.
The caving experience here allows travellers to enjoy the amazing limestone caves that are 150 million years old while learning about the caves’ ecosystem and natural wonders through a guided tour.
Travellers may also learn the formation of stalagmites and stalactites to some of its intriguing residents like trapdoor spiders and Vaughan’s balsam species.
But the most anticipated wonder must be the God’s Light phenomenon at Gua Keris, where the ray of sun pierces through the cave’s roof to its floor, turning the atmosphere magical.
However, travellers should understand that this phenomenon is conditional upon the timing and the weather, including luck!
GPS: 5.353531, 102.027364
3. Water-Tubing at Kenerong River
For a more relaxing experience, tubing along the Kenerong River is highly recommended.
It is best done in groups as the experience brings travellers to float along the river while enjoying nature for an hour and a half.
4. Warung Pak Mat Pulau Pisang
This warung is almost, if not always, full on weekends with locals who wish to have breakfast or lunch. The riverside restaurant offers various food and beverages, but there is one signature drink, in particular, that keeps the people coming: teh beng madu (honey ‘pulled’ tea).
Owned by Nik Mohd Nik Mohd Nor, the drink is concocted from the combination of madu tualang (giant honey bee), and madu kelulut (stingless bee) since each type of honey carries different health benefits.
Seven types of local teas are also used to make the drink besides fresh milk to produce such a satisfying glass of teh beng madu.
GPS: 6.182247, 102.246538
5. Pantai Suri Floating Market
This is Malaysia’s first floating market opened in 2016, where travellers can find a one-of-a-kind experience: buying comestibles from small boats and consuming them on the island.
Around 20 boats are selling various kinds of foods and drinks, including lokan bakar, sotong sumbat, kerabu nipah and etok-etok salai, which all come recommended. They also have several stalls on the island offering more food options. Travellers can look forward to watching activities like wild rooster crowing competition and enjoy performances like dikir barat.
To get to this island, travellers should head to Medan Ikan Bakar Jetty near Warung Pak Mat Pulau Pisang and hire a boat at the cost of MYR15 for a return journey.
Another alternative is via Kuala Besar Jetty at the cost of MYR2 one way.
Entrance fee: MYR1 for adults / Free for kids below 12 years old
Operation hours: 8.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. (Saturday only)
GPS: 6.182247, 102.246538
6. Ayu Fashion Batik Workshop
Located in Kampung Talak, this workshop is a producer of batik Kelantan using the traditional block-print technique. Interestingly, five thousand block-prints are being showcased here. Travellers can witness how batik fabrics are produced made and even take part in batik-colouring and batik-stamping. Many choices of beautiful batik apparel are also on sale at this workshop’s gallery.
Contact: +6 09 719 6178
GPS: 6.149036, 102.153991
7. Sabye Sabye Wakaf Bharu
This restaurant offers Malay, Western, Thai and Korean menus, offering diners generous options to be put on their plates! It also has ample beautiful space for travellers to enjoy their meals comfortably. Among the menus recommended are seafood tomyam, steamed sea bass with lime, and Korean chicken with cheese.
Contact: +6 014 908 9006
GPS: 6.135609, 102.216508
8. Galeri Wayang Kulit Tradisional Kelantan
Wayang Kulit Tradisional Kelantan is a traditional puppet-shadow play synonymous with Kelantan.
Visitors who want to watch this play can head to the gallery erected by Muhammad Dain Othman, fondly called Tok Dalang Pak Dain (Uncle Dain the Storyteller). Interestingly, he is recognised as this art form’s only accredited storyteller in the country!
More than just watching the puppet-shadow play, travellers can also learn about its history and legacy in Malaysia.
Note: Travellers who wish to watch and learn about the performance need to make earlier reservations.
Contact: +6 016 215 9422 (Pak Dain)
GPS: 6.136018, 102.217181
9. Perahu Kolek Experience at Pengkalan Datu
Perahu kolek is a type of traditional Malay Kelantanese boat historically used for fishing. Some believe it originated from Pattani, Thailand.
The boat is recognisable through its intricate, multicoloured design on its body that is made from cengal, a sturdy and highly-durable wood.
Travellers who wish to experience this boat can head to Cerana Villa Resort and Floating Restaurant on Saturday. The cruise experience, which costs only MYR5 per person, brings travellers to witness daily life and activities along the river, such as catching lokan (a type of freshwater clam), extracting nira nipah (palm nectar) and more. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
Contact: +6 019 269 5744 (Mohd Asri Husin)
10. Rumah Cina Kampung Kelantan
After 200 years and six generations, this house in Kota Bharu remains strong and an embodiment of traditional Kelantan Chinese architecture. The house is owned by Koet Siew Liang and her husband, Chan Awang. Parts of the house were originally built from bamboo but now replaced with wood for safety reasons. Some features within the house can hardly be found in modern houses.
Since it is still used as a private residence by the owners, travellers must always be respectful when checking out the house.
11. Masjid Ar-Rahman, Pulau Gajah
Built in 2016, this exceptionally unique mosque – with its mixed design influences from Indonesia, Morocco, Yemen, and Turkey – can accommodate one thousand worshippers at any one time.
The pillars at its two main entrances were sourced from Yemen, while the antique door at the imam’s (person who leads the congregation in prayer) chamber, said to be hundreds of years old, was brought from Morocco. From above, the mosque appears as if it sits on an island since it is surrounded by a swamp.
GPS: 6.159549, 102.332783
12. Pantai Senok
Often dubbed as the ‘Nami Island of Kelantan’ due to its rows of towering trees resembling the eponymous island in South Korea, the beach is a favourite picnic spot, especially among locals to spend their weekends.
Since several local stalls selling food and drinks are available, travellers can easily relax and take photographs with their loved ones when they are here.
GPS: 6.164052, 102.347211
13. Collectibles Museum
With approximately 40,000 items, this museum has been opened to the public since 2018. Owned by the Tengku Puan Laksamana Kelantan Yang Amat Mulia (YAM) Tengku Sharifah Azwan Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, this museum exhibits various kinds of collectables, ranging from Hot Wheels miniatures to more personal and exclusive collections.
The original replica of the UFO spaceship used in the Senario XX (2002) movie, contributed by the movie’s director Aziz M. Osman is also here. A few interactive games are installed around the building, too, for travellers to play.
Entrance fee: MYR10 per pax
Operation hours: 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (everyday except Friday)
GPS: 6.134332, 102.251505
14. Ayang Cafe
If there is one place where travellers can taste a majority Kelantanese specialities like nasi kapit, nasi tumpang, nasi dagang and nasi lemak, this striking pink restaurant could be it.
But the one best-selling signature that makes Ayang Café popular is its comforting Roti Ayang, a toast with kaya (coconut jam) and half-boiled egg on top, often referred to as ‘telur goyang’ (quivering egg).
This restaurant is best for breakfast.
Operation hours: 6.30 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. (Everyday)
GPS: 6.115845, 102.248787
15. Pasar Siti Khadijah
Originally named Buluh Kubu Market and opened in 1985, the market’s present name is attributed to the wife of Prophet Muhammad, Siti Khadijah, who was a well-known businesswoman. The name is also apt because the majority of the vendors in this three-storey market are women.
Travellers can find various good and wares, including food, souvenirs, kitchen utensils, fabrics and more, making it one of the most iconic attractions in Kota Bharu.
GPS: 6.130076, 102.239168
Good to know: While you are in Kota Bharu, why not hop on one of the trishaws? The rates differ depending on distance and destination. Still, the journey is indeed memorable because you can have a warm conversation with the friendly driver (usually local middle-aged males) along the way.
16. Kota Bharu Street Art
The colourful murals found near Jalan Dato Pati, behind the rows of shophouses, adds vibrancy to Kota Bharu. One of the streets called Palestine Street Art is painted with murals to depict the Palestinians’ struggles as a symbol of solidarity.
Other murals that travellers can find around the area represent Kelantan’s treasured icons like food, art forms, public figures, landmarks and more. Be attentive, though, because the murals are not only painted on the walls but right beneath your feet!
Gaya Travel Magazine team members extend our heartfelt gratitude to Tourism Malaysia Kelantan Office for making the writer’s trip to Kelantan possible.
This article will be included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 15.2 with the title ‘Getting All Charged Up by Kelantan’ soon. Read all our published magazines online HERE.