Kelantan is at northeastern part of Malaysia bordering Thailand with checkpoint at Rantau Panjang with road access connecting to Narathiwat at Thailand, is also very near to Tak Bai Thailand, which explains why you will see many Buddhist Temple in some parts of Kelantan. Wat Photivihan which house a 40m sleeping Buddha statue, is a Thai temple in Tumpat District and is the longest reclining Buddha of its kind in Southeast Asia. Below is a short video which I took when I visited there in January this year 2022
Although Kelantan is a majority Muslim state, there are almost 25 Buddhist temples in Tumpat alone. Wat Machimmaram is another impressive temple with a giant 30m sitting Buddha statue located in the Tumpat district of Kelantan, about 20 km from Kota Bharu.
For nature lovers, the famous Princess Cave Pulai or known as Zhia Xia Dong, a limestone karst tower called Princess Hill at the village of Pulai, some 8 km from Gua Musang in Kelantan. Many international tourists come here to see the Guan Yin statue and the Chinese-style shrines and altars inside the cave but for you to reach the cave, you need to climb its 150 concrete steps. Another popular ecotourism is to go for a day trip in Taman Negara Park for a perfect experience to commune with nature and interact with the native tribe families living in the forest while doing some activities like canopy walking, jungle walking at night, rapid shooting, boat cruising, fish feeding at Kelah Sanctuary, spelunking, birdwatching, fishing, and cave exploration.
You can also visit the tallest waterfall, the seven-tiered, 305 metre-high, Jelawang Waterfall which is located at Gunung Stong State Park in South East Asia. This mass of exposed rock is so prominent that you can see it from several kilometers away, most notably during the journey from Dabong to Jelawang village. Hikers and backpackers can hike up to the top of the waterfall, stay overnight in the campsite there by the river and then rise early in order to witness the first rays of the morning sunrise from the vantage point at the edge of the waterfall.
For more nature activities head to Min House Camp which is about 6km away from Kota Bahru, a place where you can experience all outdoors from water sport activities such as fishing, kayaking, river bathing, clam digging, and even firefly watching at night. Not only is it located in lush tropical greenery, but anyone can you can also engage in many cultural activities, including handicraft-making, cooking lessons, traditional games, and watching cultural performances.
Kota Bahru, the state capital is also home to highly skilled artisans and its diverse cottage industries, so it’s best to explore and shop at the local batik factory, the kite factory, and the silver craft center or pay a visit at Handicraft Village & Craft Museum like Kampung Kraftangan “Balai Getam Guri” which display traditional and regional crafts and local crafting techniques. For photographic locations or other tourist attractions, there are Istana Jahar (Jahar Palace) which dates from 1887, Istana Batu, which dates from 1939, Muzeum Islam, a top spot if you want to learn more about the history of Islam. Bank Kerapu, built in 1912 as part of the Mercantile Bank of India is now a War Museum with colonial architecture in Kota Bharu and during the Second World War it would have been the home of the Kempai Tai who was the secret police force of the Japanese forces. You can learn all about the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of Malaysia in World War Two.
Another location you shouldn’t miss is Pulau Gajah where you get to see colorful painted fishing boat that originated from Narathiwat, Thailand some 30 years ago when the fisherman migrated from Thailand. Below is a short video
You can also experience taking train that runs the Jungle Railway, the East Coast Line from Tumpat, near the Thai border, down to Gemas in Negeri Sembilan which was built in stages between 1910 and 1930. You get to enjoy the amazing view of the jungle and the scenic nature as it traverses to Kelantan.
Terengganu have some of the most beautiful paradise island among all states in Malaysia like Perhentian, Redang and Kapas. To start with, we tour the capital city Kuala Terengganu, by walking, start with the dazzling white Abidin Mosque, original wooden mosque on this site was built by Sultan Zainal Abidin II and was completed in 1808. Since then it has been rebuilt in brick, next to it is Maziah Palace (Istana Maziah) which was built between around 1897 and 1903 as a residence and reception venue for the Terengganu royal family. Another recommended site is Princess Hill Fort (Bukit Puteri) was built in the 1830s and served as a defensive position during the civil wars between rival sultans vying for the Terengganu throne. If you looking for some local souvenirs or delicacy head to Central Market (Pasar Payang) where traditional items like batik and silk are sold as well as fruit, vegetables and local delicacy Keropok Lekor, made from fish and sago. There is also a Chinatown here where you find an old Ho Ann Kiong Temple built between years 1796-1821 by immigrants from the Hokkien Province of China.
Also don’t miss out the Terengganu State Museum (Muzium Negeri Terengganu) at Kampung Losong which is the largest museum in Malaysia with a floor area of over 75,000 square meters spread over 4 interconnected buildings consisting of 9 galleries namely, Natural History, Textile, Royal, Craft, Petroleum, Islamic, Historical, Fisheries & Marine and Seafaring & Trade Gallery. Just 1.2 km from this museum on an island is the Islamic Civilization Park (Taman Tamadun Islam) featuring miniature replicas of 22 famous monuments from the Islamic world starting from– National Mosque, Malaysia, Kudus Al Minar, Indonesia, Pattani Mosque, Thailand, – Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Brunei, Taj Mahal, India, Badshahi Mosque, Pakistan, Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Grand Mosque of Samara, Iraq, Lutfallah Mosque, Iran, Mausoleum of Abu Nasr Parsa, Afghanistan, The Sacred Mosque, Saudi Arabia, Aleppo Citadel, Syria, Mohammad Ali Mosque, Egypt, The Prophet’s Mosque, Saudi Arabia, Suleyman Mosque, Turkey, Al Hambra Citadel, Spain, Kalyan Minaret, Uzbekistan, Agadez Grand Mosque, Niger, Kul Sharif Mosque, Russia, Minaret of Xian, China, Sultan Mosque, Singapore, Great Mosque of Qairawan, Tunisia. Entrance for Adults (RM25/$6), Children age 7-12 (RM15/$3.5) and free for children age 6 and below. Closed on Tuesday and Friday prayers time. Open 10am- 6pm
Next if you like explore some of the beaches in here, there are Rantau Abang where you can wait at night for leatherback turtles to lay their eggs from May to September, but nowadays the number have been dwindle. Penarik is a lovely beach with traditional fishing boats hauled up on the beach. Merang is where you can catch a boat to Redang Island, Other beaches include Pantai Air Tawar, Teluk Bidara, Kemasik, Teluk Mak Nik and Bukit Keluang.
Islands attraction at Terengganu
For island visitors, the 3 best ones are Perhentian , Redang and Kapas. For Perhentian, there are 2 islands, namely Perhentian Besar (BIG) and Perhentian Kecil (small) that are located some 20km off shore with crystal clear water, unspoiled pristine beaches, fringed with coral and they were a popular among backpackers here especially at the Kecil (small) island while the BIG island cater more for the scuba divers. To get to these 2 island, you can hop on a ferry/speed boat from Kuala Besut on the mainland. They usually charge around RM75/$18 return which take about 40 minutes for the journey. You can experience feeding exotic tropical fish here by just holding bread from your hand, they would just munch away your bread in seconds.
Redang Island beaches are the top on the list for local as well as foreign tourist. This beautiful heart-shaped paradise island is situated about 30 km off the Terengganu coast. A popular island with snorkelers and scuba divers due to the crystal clear water with colorful fishes and beautiful coral reef. Much of the island’s coastline is rocky with jungle-clad hills dropping straight into the sea. This island is made Redang Island Marine Park, known for having a range of underwater delights which include some 500 different kinds of coral and over 3,000 species of fish. Several beautiful beaches here include Teluk Dalam Kecil, Teluk Dalam Besar, Pasir Panjang (Long Beach), and Pasir Kalong. There is also a turtles sanctuary for green turtles called Chagar Hutang and this beach doesn’t allow visitor as it’s houses the largest population of green turtle here.
Next is Pulau Kapas (Kapas island) a less visited island (compare to Redang and Perhentian) made it a tropical hideout that is just 6km from mainland. The Kapas name translate cotton because of the pure white sandy beaches here, that’s how the island gets it’s name. Although there are few beach chalets but many visitors go for a day trip for few hours. Being a small island of barely 3 km, this tiny island is a great spot for snorkeling, kayaking and relaxing by the beach.
Lake Kenyir Attractions
Lake Kenyir (Tasik Kenyir) is the largest man-made lake by damming the Kenyir River covering some 209,200 hectares. The dam produces hydro electric power beside helping to control flooding in Terengganu State. The water level fluctuate according to seasons and the best time is during March to April raining seasons. River fish has sprawled here attracting anglers flocking in to try their luck, especially when dry season around August.
Hop on a boat at Pengkalan Gawi jetty or join an organised boat tour to get around. A good way to experience is to stay on a Houseboat which provide accommodation while touring the lake. They are quite a number of Houseboat here cater for large group between 20-30 people, here is one of them that you can try. For water activities, you can try kayaking, canoeing and rafting. You can enjoy fishing and other activities like karaoke while staying on the Houseboat. The ferocious Giant Snakehead is the top predator in these waters.
Bewah Cave, is well known here, after the discovery of the oldest prehistoric skeletal remains in Malaysia (16 thousand years old, to be exact), popularly known as Bewah Man, which has now been placed in Terengganu State Museum – is believed to have belonged to a teenage girl instead. Travelers may learn about the skeleton’s history and excavation process at a mini gallery near its entrance. This is also the biggest cave in Kenyir Lake, and is known to have fascinating formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
Another main attractions in Kenyir Lake is Pokok Melunak or Melunak tree, the one in Tanjung Bewah, Kenyir Lake is said to be the biggest of its kind in Malaysia, with diameter of more than 20 adult hugs circle combined. To see this 100 meters high tree which is more than 300 years old, travelers need to trek around 30 minutes from Tanjung Bewah Jetty.
There are also some 14 waterfalls here at the lake, Lasir Waterfall, 150 m high, located about 16 km or 30 minutes boat from Pengkalan Gawi, has an impressive drop and is a popular spot for boat tours to visit. There is a suspension bridge with a good view of the falls and as an observation tower. Saok Waterfall is another attraction that you should not miss. On one part, the ground is flatter and well-shaded with trees, suitable for people to set up picnic
Kenyir Elephant Conservation is an exceptional experience for those who want to ride on elephant, take photos, feed and bathe them as this area is actually a sanctuary for 18 native elephants. They are rescued and brought here due to various reasons such as being orphaned, threatened by habitat loss and ivory poaching, lost from their herd or caught by local villagers after raiding the crops and villages.
Bird Watching is another interesting activities here as this area is home to about 350 species of birds, including 9 out of 10 of Malaysia’s hornbill species.
Taman Negara/ National Park
For nature and rainforests lovers, Taman Negara or National Park is the ideal destination for you. It covers 4343 sq. km in 3 states of Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang and is one of the oldest known primary rainforest in the world, about 130 million years old with 15,000 plant species, 675 species bird, (Rhinoceros Hornbill, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, and many other rare species), 250 freshwater fishes and many more species of insects. It is also where you get to experience the world’s longest forest canopy walkway, being 530 meters long (half kilometers) and 40 meters above the ground level. The panoramic view from the canopy is breathtaking, and it almost feels like a dream.
If you coming her, don’t expect a day trip, as there are many activities here, one of it is the to climb the Gunung Tahan if you super fit for a 53 km distance, longest of the treks in Taman Negara, from the central park headquarters in Kuala Tahan. There is a shorter 32 km route which start from Sungai Relau, but you may encounter leeches, torrential rains, monkeys, poisonous snakes, tigers and more. For a much easier hike, you can trek Bukit Teresek, hike can be achieve in just 30 to 45 minutes with the peak height at 334 meters.
Cave exploration is another extravagant natural sites not to be missed at Taman Negara, one of the most popular ones is Gua Telinga which is 3 kilometres away from Wildlife Headquarters. Other interesting caves includes Gua Kepayang Kecil and Kepayang Besar where you crawl underground tunnel which is home to various amphibians like bats, frogs and all kind of insects here.
You can also join the night walking safari around the forest, dive into the wilderness at dark while listening to various animals making their presence felt. There is guide which will take you to the hiding spots where you can spot animals like deer, wild boars, tapirs, and many more. Experience them living in the night, searching for food through their day-to-day life as close as possible.
Kelah Sanctuary, located at Lubuk Tenor on the Sungai Tahan river is homes to the kelah fish, The Red Mahseer. Just throw a handful of pellets to feed the fishes and they would swim closer to you, so you get to enjoy the thrilling view to see them grabbing food.
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