Discover Kota Bharu, Capital Of Kelantan & The Cradle Of Malay Culture

Kota Bharu is the capital for the state of Kelantan. The total area of Kota Bharu is 115.64 km square with a population of more than 300,000 people. Sultan Ismail Petra’s Airport is located in Pengkalan Chepa, 20 kilometres away from Kota Bharu city centre.

Beautiful staircase in Istana Jahar, home of Royal Customs Museum

Kota Bharu is the capital for the state of Kelantan. The total area of Kota Bharu is 115.64 km square with a population of more than 300,000 people. Sultan Ismail Petra’s Airport is located in Pengkalan Chepa, 20 kilometres away from Kota Bharu city centre.


Have lunch at Restoran Nasi Ulam Cikgu

Ulam or Malaysian salad at Restaurant Nasi Ulam Cikgu

Ulam or Malaysian salad at Restaurant Nasi Ulam Cikgu

Located within the grounds of the Kelantan Handicraft Museum, this popular restaurant serves Kelantanese traditional dishes. It prominently features all kinds of raw edible vegetables on its menu. Among the dishes that become the customers’ favourite are ulam (raw edible vegetables), budu (anchovy paste), sambal belacan (spicy shrimp paste) and sayur lemak campur (mixed vegetable cooked in coconut gravy).

Also read: Rediscovering Traditional Arts and Handicrafts of Kelantan

Cik Minah Songket & Batik




Named after the owner’s mother, Minah, this boutique is run by Usahawan Kraf 2002 award-winning entrepreneur. Known as Encik Kamil, his talent in maintaining the beauty of songket is undeniable. The beauty of the floral-inspired patterns amazed us all. The wonderful colour combination and quality of the material used are what Cik Minah Songket & Batik are best known for. Encik Kamil is the fourth generation to run this business. Cik Minah Songket also offers songket-weaving demonstration, specifically for tourists. It aims to attract more tourists who are interested in the making of the fabric.

KB Permai (Silversmithing)

The state of Kelantan is famous for silversmithing, which is also one of the branches of Malay craft. Armed with 11 highly skilled employees, KB Permai is a well-known reputable brand that produces silver crafts. Founded by the late Abdul Manan bin Yakub, his business is succeeded by his son and relatives. In 2008, the government of Malaysia selected KB Permai’s silver crafts to be sold in London’s famous shopping centre, Harrods. In 2005, Mr. Abdul Manan was commissioned to produce a gift made from silver to be presented to the former Secretary of United Nations, Kofi Annan. To be part of this beautiful Kelantanese heritage, visitors can take the silver art pieces home at reasonable prices.

Wau Craft

We then made way to a village called Kampung Badang, located about 6 km from the city centre, where we were taken to an old shack decorated with hundreds of beautifully handmade kites called wau. This craft business has been undertaken by Shafie bin Jusoh, who have been in the industry for 40 years. He was also conferred the title as Tokoh Kraf (Craft Personality), Adiguru Kraf (Master Craftsman) in 2006 by the government of Malaysia. Wau is known to be around since 500 years ago. Due to his expertise, Mr. Shafie was made an ambassador by Malaysia Airlines (which also opts the wau design as its logo), travelling to countries like Australia, Germany, Maldives and Japan to demonstrate the art of wau-making.

‘Wayang Kulit’ at Gelanggang Seni Cultural Centre

Gelanggang Seni Cultural Centre is located just 2 kilometres away from the city of Kota Bharu. The experience of witnessing a live shadow puppet show was exciting. Wayang Kulit or Shadow Puppetry is a form of traditional theatre that uses principles of light and shadow. The mythical characters of Wayang Kulit are performed by the dalang, which means The Puppeteer. The performance is usually accompanied by the music group that plays the gamelan (bronze percussion), serunai (flute) and also rebab (a bowed instrument played like a fiddle).

Pasar Siti Khadijah

Early in the morning, we were brought to a four-storey market known as ‘Pasar Siti Khatijah’. The combination of bright colours, scents and commotion reflect the diversity of goods traded. There were all sorts of things being sold here such as food, vegetables, poultry, spices, copper and silver wares and more. What makes it different from the rest is that the traders and dealers mainly consist of women. I did not miss the chance to shop here as the items on sale were really tempting.


Lebah Kelulut (Razib International Trade)

Kelulut is one of many species of trigona bees that does not sting and its honey is claimed to contain a lot of nutrients that could cure many diseases. We were brought to visit Kampung Petani, where we welcomed with hundreds of kelulut bees. I was then introduced to Encik Razib Ibrahim, the man behind the commercial rearing of the bees. What attracts visitors here is that they are given the opportunity to receive free traditional healing service. We were later informed that, apart from honey, two different substances that are produced by the kelulut bees are the bee bread and the fluid from the bee’s stomach, good for poor digestion and fermentation. Another element that can be harvested from the bees is propolis, a mixture of sap and specific fluid produced by bees believed to possess high medicinal value. Kidney stones as well as HIV/AIDS are among the diseases that are reportedly cured through the traditional method of using propolis.

Nordin Batik

Nordin Batik’s Boutique is the largest batik atelier in Kelantan. It offers all kinds of batik designs, paintings, blocks and attire for both men and women. Visitors to Nordin Batik also get the chance to witness the process of making batik, located in the basement of the boutique. It is indeed very difficult to produce one design. The price of each batik item depends on the material used and techniques employed.

Gaya Travel team’s recent trip to Kota Bharu was made possible by Firefly and Tourism Kelantan. This trip was organised by Firefly and in collaboration with Tourism Kelantan to give the chance for visitors to experience Kelantan’s
colourful culture. From this trip, we find that the city and its state offer amazing holiday experience.

The three days spent in Kota Bharu was remarkably educational as there is no other place elsewhere in Malaysia, except Terengganu, where Malay culture is more palpable and immersive. For a great Malay cultural experience, visitors must head to Kelantan.

Gaya Travel extends our gratitude to Firefly for taking us to Kota Bharu and gave us the opportunity to experience flying with Firefly.

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