Kuala Terengganu isn’t exactly among Malaysia’s tourist haunts—in fact, it’s commonly dismissed as the transit point to Redang Island. But I found that there are places to see and discover in what’s considered as one of the country’s most conservative cities. Read more…
Kuala Terengganu, the state and royal capital of Terengganu, lies about 500km northeast of Kuala Lumpur, which is about eight hours by bus or an hour’s flight. Our guide told us that, as with the entire state, Kuala Terengganu is more or less 97% Malay, with the Chinese minimally comprising 2% of the populace only.
The city is reputed as conservatively Islamic given its demographics—a clear contrast from the more liberal Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Showing little modernity throughout, it’s one of the few places in Malaysia where Arabic, the language of the Quran, is used in signs and where weekends include Friday, the day of prayer or Jumu’ah for the Muslims.
TERENGGANU STATE MUSEUM
Each of Malaysia’s state museums showcase their respective treasures, and in the case of Muzium Negeri Terengganu, the centerpiece is the Terengganu Inscription Stone (Batu Bersurat Terengganu), which is the earliest evidence of Jawi script. Inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the 700-year-old artifact details the spread of Islam in Terengganu and gives a glimpse of living under Islamic laws and culture.
Sitting on 27 hectares of land, the Terengganu State Museum in Kampung Losong is the largest museum in Southeast Asia, and it is comprised of a main museum, a maritime museum, a fisheries museum, four traditional houses, and botanic and herb gardens.
TENGKU TENGAH ZAHARAH MOSQUE
The Tengku Tengah Zahara Mosque or Masjid Terapung lies afloat near the estuary of Kuala Ibai River, which helps in forming a dramatic panorama. A sight to behold, the icon marries Moorish architecture with influences in modern design—altogether a vision of the late Sultan Mahmud of Terengganu who named the mosque after his mother.
NOOR ARFA CRAFT COMPLEX
The Noor Arfa Craft Complex (Kompleks Kraf Noor Arfa) is a sizeable showroom of batik cloth woven by the largest producer in the country. Noor Arfa was started as a small atelier by Wan Mohd Ariffin and Noor Hijerah who used to design and hand-draw their masterful creations. Grown by leaps and bounds, the company is now worth millions of dollars with more than 200 employees, therefore associating Terengganu with the art of batik.
While Kuala Terengganu’s Chinatown (Kampung Cina) looks traditional like the rest of the city, it gives an air of exuberance with its colorful shop-houses, quirky storefronts, and hanging lanterns. It’s perhaps the only place in the city where pork carcasses hang freely in butcher shops and where alcohol is permitted to be sold under special permits. Don’t forget to spot the lively street art and taste roti paun, Teregganu’s mouthwatering butter buns.
Shopaholics shouldn’t miss Payang Market (Pasar Payang), an interesting complex reminiscent of a souk that is lined with shops of batik, songket, and handicraft. On the ground floor, stalls separated by narrow alleyways sell an array of delicacies, dried items, and fresh produce stacked into piles and pyramids. Apart from cloths and souvenirs, best buys include the keropok (deep-fried crackers), serunding (meat floss), and of course, dried fish.
|Muzium Negeri Terengganu
Bukit Losong, Kuala Terengganu
Telephone: +609 632 1200
|Noor Arfa Craft Complex
Cendering Industrial Area, Kuala Terengganu
Telephone: +609 617 9700
Tourism Malaysia (Manila)
Wisma Darul Iman, Kuala Terengganu
Telephone: +609 623 1553
Some photos are courtesy of Gaya Travel Magazine and Tourism Malaysia.
This year is Visit Malaysia Year 2014 with the theme, “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia.” Visitors can expect a series of year-long special events and activities. For more updates on VMY 2014, check out tourism.gov.my and like Tara Na Sa Malaysia on Facebook.