A Kelantan Travelogue – The Local Lingo
Alas, I woke up early on Eid Al-Adha as soon as dawn hit the curtains, packed my things and head downstairs for the best home made macaroni soup ever. The Yahya’s hospitality has been so wonderful and I felt spoiled even to my last day day in Kota Bharu. There were even frozen kuih muih for us to bring back home in case we have sudden craving for Kelantanese food. I can now eat cek mek molek in between my blogging break.
So I thought, for this particular post, I’d share with you a summary of what I’ve experienced and observed in the short amount of time I was there. I’ve had friends ask me why I went to Kelantan as there’s nothing there to see or do compared to other states but I beg to differ. If you try to live like a local for just a day, the experience you have is as valuable because you’re stepping out from your daily routine and trying something different, even if it means learning the local lingo. For awhile there, I was a stranger in my on country trying to understand the local laws and customs in this peaceful and harmonious State.
It’s okay if we stand out from the locals.
I say this with a pinch of salt to myself as Kelantanese is an Islamic state which practices rules by the religion. For example, the women here are covered up modestly in their shawls and you rarely see any of them wearing shorts or skirts as you go about in town. I often had this assumption that they would stare at you if you’re not appropriately dressed but so far through my days here in Kota Bharu, I did not encounter any of these misconceptions. The locals were in fact quite understanding and still very friendly.
Learn a few local lingo or two.
This proved to be a challenge as most of the conversations were in the Kelantanese dialect which is very different from the Malay language that we speak. Even though I had someone local with me who spoke fluent Kelantanese, I still had to break out of my fear zone (fear of me not understanding them) when ordering food or buying things from the market. As it turns out, when they know you’re not from around there, they tone down the dialect so that the conversation becomes more friendly for both. I did learn a few words such as “Tubik” which comes from the word “Terbit” meaning “Rise or coming out” but in a sentence, it actually means “To go out or going out”.
Understanding the States’ Law and culture.
In other parts of Malaysia, the local council imposes a rule that all billboards are to be in the National language (Malay) even if it’s a headline of a title. However, in Kelantan, you’ll notice that every single road signage, building signages and billboards will have the Arabic or Jawi writing as this is a must by the state. I have to thank my late grandmother for making us read the Jawi newspaper articles to her when we were just kids. If you happen to enter the hypermarkets such as Tesco or Mydin, you’ll need to be aware of the queue signs at the cashier counter as there are designated queues for women and men separately. I was also told that at night, the women rarely go out and that most of the local kopitiam shops or restaurants would be frequented by the men. We took a drive out one night as I was curious and it proved to be true. Back in Kuala Lumpur, we could go out for supper with friends even if it’s midnight but over here you can only see the men out at night.
A language that strongly binds the locals together, keeps the local together.
Wherever you go in Kelantan, you can see a mix of races sitting together, chatting in the local dialect. It was hard for me to even differentiate between the races as everyone looks similar. The fact that language and culture binds them together as one, erases the different colour and skin tone of a person. Even the locals in the nearby Siam village could speak the dialect frequently as they grew up together with the locals.
Mingling with the locals was one things I look forward to whenever I’m on a road trip and this was one of them. If I had more days, I would definitely spend more time sneaking in and out of the shops chatting with the folks. This would be a good enough reason to come back definitely.
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.