One night, two days in Kota Bahru.
Kota Bahru is a fairly quiet Islamic city in northern Eastern Peninsular Malaysia. It is the capital and royal seat of the Kelantan State. Each Malaysian State has a Sultan or King at the head of state, although many of the positions are simply honerary. The city streets are clean, colourful and hot!
On March 24th, I took the local bus from Kuala Besut through the countryside to the city centre. The bus ride was enjoyable and exactly what I had imagined it to be. The seats a little worn out, the frame a little rickety and the few stops were at the restaurants and other roadside businesses along the way. Welcome to the life of local Malaysians!
Siti Khadijah (Wet) Market
One of the more famous attractions of Kota Bahru is the wet market. The market is famous for its colourful painted walls and canopies but earned it’s nickname for the fishy wet slop that fills the market gutters. Kota Bahru is along the river but only a short drive from the sea where fisherman bring in catch year round, naturally the fish was fresh!
The first floor sells fish, chicken, and vegetables in the centre while the outer ring is home to the fruit, vegetables and baked goods stalls! The mini cupcakes and donuts are delicious! The second floor sells spices, pasta and other dry goods. Finally, textiles, accesories and bags can be found on the third floor. My priority was the second floor of the outer ring, the food court and potential location of the elusive Nasi Lemak! With little help from locals, I found one of two remaining Nasi Lemak (Rice with Anchovies in Tomoto sauce) wrapped in a banana leaf!
Dataran Ilma Night Market
Whether you are running around all day visiting museums or just passing through for the night, the locals have an evening food market to satisfy the late night hunger. The stalls serve a variety of rice dishes, grilled meats, smoothies, curry puffs and my favourite: Murtabak, a spiced beef roti turnover! Although, I totally cheated and got the banana stuffed Murtabak which is closer to a banana pancake than the authentic recipe.
Kota Bahru Museums
Kota Bahru is home to many small museums, unfortunately most of them were closed (3:30pm closed) for prayers when I arrived. For the Royal Museum, Islamic Museum, War Museum, Bank Museum and Palace, check out these blogs for more details.
Kelantan State Museum
I visited the Kelantan State museum which showcased art from a local artist and some of the region’s cultural arts & games. The museum was quite small and a little underwhelming but offered some interesting insight into traditional Malaysian passtimes. Listed below.
Kertok: An old xylophone instrument played in a traditional Malaysian style.
Gasing – Top Spinning: Is a traditional game popular in Kelantan. Adults and children spin tops as a game and test of skill, traditionally the native Malay villagers believed the spinning tops would help bring a good harvest.
Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets): Is the Malaysian shadow play art. The shadow plays usually involve some mythical or moral theme and serve as an important educational tool. The puppets are traditionally made with leather and buffalo horn while the cotton screen was illuminated by oil lamps.
Menora Dancing: A traditional dance popular in northern peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand. The dance has a main character and tells a story of the legends of Manohara, tales of Buddhist origins.
Wau Bulan: Traditional intricately designed moon-shaped kite that is one of Malaysia’s national symbols and normally flown by men in the state of Kelantan.
Beach, BBQ and Beers
Mat, the owner of Timur Guesthouse totally made my stay in Kota Bahru an awesome experience! His Hostel is super chill with a great fun lounge to watch movies, play cards (spades & big 2) and get out of the tropical heat.
On my last day in Kota Bahru, Mat invited myself and other guests to join him and his local friends at the beach for a BBQ and a few drinks. Late in the afternoon we hopped in their car and headed to the beach, it was really dirty which was depressing and truly such a shame because it was beautiful otherwise.
As the sun set and the bonfire came ablaze, casting shadows across the sand, we dined on homemade pasta, grilled hotdogs and washed it down with Singha beer!
Thanks Mat for making my time in Kota Bahru really great! And thanks to Danielle and Grant for teaching me how to play spades and for the fun times at the markets! I hope you enjoyed your workaway in the Perhentian Islands!