Malaysia: Alternative Places To Visit in Kelantan.
Road tripping to Kelantan, Malaysia
A visit to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia will bring you to a laidback town of Kota Bharu in the state of Kelantan. This Islamic state has often been overlooked as as tourist attraction, compared to its’ neighboring state Terengganu, famous for the blue beaches and islands.
Although this may be true, I find the state to have a lot of traditional charm and unity in the local community who speak the same dialect (Kelantanese), practicing the same culture. In my previous post on Kelantan, I wrote about the delicious local foods which can be found in the city. With help from Bart who has spent most of his childhood in this state, I was able to see a different side of Kota Bharu and the places surrounding it.
1. Kampung Laut Mosque.
This unique mosque was built without a single nail. Each wood were treated as a peg, inserted smoothly together to form the mosque. It was then carried from Kampung Laut (in Tumpat) to the current location in Kota Bharu, the capital city of Kelantan. The Kampung Laut mosque has similar features with the mosque found in Java (Demak Mosque) and Champa (Kono Mosque). The unique Islamic design especially it’s unique roofing structure is a source of pride to the people in Kelantan.
Address: Jalan Kuara Krai, Nilam Puri, Kota Bharu, Kelantan | Phone: +6 09 741 2400
2. Shopping at Rantau Panjang Border.
An hours drive away is the Rantau Panjang duty free zone area with stalls selling all sorts of items such as cloths, comforters, local snacks, t-shirts, electronic goods and souvenirs. This town, located at the border of Thailand and Malaysian in the north, allows you to see a glimpse of both worlds. Motorcycles with Thai plate numbers and Malaysians chatting away in both languages, is a normal everyday scene here in Rantau Panjang. The prices here are definitely cheap and if you want to bring something home, this would be a good place to start.
Address: Jalan Rantau Panjang, Rantau Panjang, Kelantan | Opening Hours: 9am-6pm
3. Biggest Buddha Statues in South East Asia.
Even though Kelantan is an Islamic state, the openness towards other religion portrays is an example of how Malaysians live harmoniously in a multi-cultural and multi-religious setting. You really wouldn’t expect to see the largest standing Buddha, sitting Buddha or sleeping Buddha in this east coast town. However since Tumpat is close to the border of Thailand, there are a good number of people of Siam who chose to stay in Kelantan, making it their home for generations.
Here are the three famous Buddha sites which you can visit in Kelantan. There are a total of 20 Siam Wat (temple) if you have more time to explore in this state.
- Wat Phothivihan (Kampung Jambu, Tumpat) is the second largest sleeping Buddha in the entire South East Asia region. The statue measures at 40.9m (width) x 10.6m (height) and took 6 years to build.
- Wat Machimmaram (Kampung Bunohan, Tumpat) is the largest sitting Buddha in the region with a height of 30m and 40m width. It was built by the Thai Kelantanese community with a mix of the local Chinese culture in the design.
- Wat Phikultong (Kampung Terbok, Tumpat) has been around for 200 years and it is known to be one of the largest standing Buddha in this state.
4. Picnic vibes at Pantai Seri Tujoh.
This beach which has 7 bay areas is located in Tumpat, a town that’s an hour away from Kelantan’s capital city. I was surprised to see such a beautiful setting in this location with a lake that’s so clear, you could see the fishes swimming about. People were seen riding on the small boat which that they could cycle on their own around the lake. Behind this lake were stalls selling lok cing, different types of fish balls, prawn balls on sticks. We bought a few and walked on, our slippers sinking into the sand as the view of the sea appeared in front of us. People were swimming in the water, children were flying their kites and families were having picnic under the shade of trees. Such a lovely place to spend the evening with loved ones.
Address: Jalan Pantai Tujuh, Tumpat, Kelantan
5. Watching the airplanes at the airport runway.
The last time I went plane spotting was during my college days in Nilai where we would take the train out to the airport, sit on the grass with our snacks and enjoy the view of the mechanical birds lift off and land. This same past time can be seen in Kota Bharu where locals park their cars by the road side, buying assortments of nuts or lokching (fishball sticks), watching the airplanes fly in and out. At first I wondered why this was enjoyable to them, until I realized that we had been sitting there for almost two hours, chatting, eating, and counting the airplanes.
Address: Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan
6. Visit ‘Bunohan’ which inspired the Malaysian drama movie thriller.
For those who have watched this movie by Dain Iskandar Said, the title name ‘Bunohan:Return to Murder’ was inspired by a small rural town in Kelantan. Ever since the movie was aired, people have taken road trips to this town just to see whether it really existed. Many, including myself were curious about how the name of this location came about. According to locals, there are three possible versions to this. The first one is that it was named after a tragedy involving a murder of the chief village. The second version was that it was named after the fish trap that was used during the British occupation days. The last version which they said is most probably the truth behind the name, was that that the village used to be a place of mass murder during the Japanese occupation.
Address: Kampung Bunohan, Tumpat, Kelantan
7. Eat local kuih muih at Pasar Gok Kapor.
This market is located 2km away from Kota Bharu town and has a lot of traditional delicacies such as the golden jala mas made from a ducks egg, the round shaped akok, pulut bakar, and the green onde onde which are all made at the stalls here. I love watching the women make these delicacies and don’t mind waiting for them to cook and serve it hot. The market also sells other local dishes such as nasi kerabu, laksam for dinner at home.
Address: Jalan Gok Kapor, Kota Bharu, Kelantan | Opening hours: Tea time
8. Masjid Beijing, Rantau Panjang.
This particular mosque is unique in its’ design giving it many names such as the Chinese Mosque, Beijing Mosque and Rantau Panjang Mosque. It’s official name however, is Sultan Ismail Petra Silver Jubilee Mosque, which you won’t be able to miss if you’re driving out to Rantau Panjang area. The design of the mosque combines both Chinese and Islamic elements which are similar to the thousand years old Niujie Mosque in Beijing, China.
Address: Jalan Kampung Rantau Panjang, Rantau Panjang, Kelantan
9. Craft a Wayang Kulit puppet with Pak Dain.
Pak Dain is a shadow play master, who started this gallery in 2008 after working for awhile in the Government sector, all the while learning and researching deeper into the traditional shadow play. From our conversation it was clear how passionate he was from the stories he told. When I asked him why he had set up such a gallery in Morak, he said that a cultural inheritance such as the wayang kulit should be preserved for generations to come as there are not that many original players in the country. There’s a gallery with display of all the shadow puppets that were hand-made, a workshop where visitors can learn the craft, and a theatre for evening shadow puppet performance.
Address: Galeri Wayang Kulit Melayu Tradisional Kelantan, Simpang 3 Morak, Kampung Paloh, Wakaf Bharu, Tumpat, Kelantan | Phone: +60 17 977 8929 | Gallery Opening hours: 9am – 5:30pm (except Friday) | Website : Wayang Pak Dain
10. Visit Bank Kerapu or War Museum.
The War museum used to be a bank (Mercantile bank) that was built in 1912 on a land that belonged to one of the local chiefs in Kot Bharu. During the Japanese occupation it was used a secret location for war coordination. After that it was turned into a museum housing many war exhibits, including tools, weapons, offices and equipments used during the time.
Address: Perbadanan Muzium Negeri Kelantan, Jalan Hospital, Kota Bharu, Kelantan | Phone: +60 9 7482 266| Opening hours: 8:30am – 4:45pm (except Friday)
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.