Thursday, October 22, 2015

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA


The drizzle turned into a heavy downpour while I and my travel buddies were at my favorite beach in Boracay Island, Puka Beach - swimming and having our drinking spree.  We took shelter on one of the rock formations as I checked my mobile phone.  There was an invitation to visit Malaysia two days after.  After minutes of contemplating, I said YES. Who am I to resist such an honor to be invited?

But where in Malaysia?  In a state named Kuala Terengganu. I honestly haven’t heard of Kuala Terengganu.  Have you?


On the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur being the reference lies Kuala Terengganu.  The state is facing the South China Sea and situated at the estuary of the Terengganu River.  It is predominantly a Muslim state.  With such demographics and topography, it surely became one of my most memorable trips to date for this year and a new discovery of Malaysia.

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
THE HAZE AT KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The clarity of the sky has been obscured as soon as we landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Manila.  In what I thought was a smog, my travel buddy Edgar said it’s the haze caused by the wild forest fires in Indonesia.  That is how ignorant I am of current events.

As expected, the thick haze reached Kuala Terengganu.  But the said condition will never be a hindrance for discovery though panoramic view is partially altered.

Kampung Cina (Chinatown)

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
WELCOME TO THE CHINATOWN OF TERENGGANU
Merchandise of all sorts are expected to be peddled in a Chinatown.  But as we stroll along the paved and bricked roads of Kampung Cina, what was retained to my senses was the colorful shop houses of covered walkway, interesting installations and street arts all worth the stop for photography.

Each alley seems to convey a particular message in the form of graffiti, scribbled artistically and prominently on the narrow alley ways.  We entered the Chinatown through the Turtle Alley or Lorong Penyu, imparting the message to passers-by of marine turtle conservation.  Colorful mosaics were a treat to the senses and definitely a good photo opportunity.

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
THE COMMANDMENTS FOR MARINE TURTLE CONSERVATION
AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
THE ENTRANCE
One of the most photographed and known alley is the “Payang” Memory Lane covered by hanging colorful umbrellas. 


AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIAAN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
COLORFUL MURALS 
AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIAAN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
CHILL IN ONE CORNER
AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIAAN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
A POPULAR GRAFFITI IN CHINATOWN
Discovering the town on foot is rewarding since every detail and façade is equally interesting.  The Chinese accents of temples and arches are a mainstay though with a touch of Malaysian arts. 

Kopitiams (literally means coffee shops), cafes and restaurants serving mostly Chinese local delicacies dot the streets of Kampung Cina. 

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
AN OPEN SPACE AT KAMPUNG CINA
Pasar Payang (Central Market)


AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
VENDORS AT THE CENTRAL MARKET
We spent one morning strolling around the central market to look for souvenirs and other interesting traditional finds.  Fresh farm and sea produce occupied the ground floor of the market place housed in a modern building.  The second floor offers a variety of traditional handicrafts such as batik, silk, songket, brocade and brassware – all of elaborate and intricate designs.  As expected, I never bought one as I opted for my ref magnet collection.


AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

If you are looking for shopping malls in Terengganu, you’ll be disappointed as there’s none.  But equally interesting than shopping malls sans air-conditioning and modern interiors is to witness the local culture at the Central Market, making the market an inevitable tourist attraction as well.

Lake Kenyir

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
AT ONE OF THE MANY ECO-TOURISM SITES THAT SURROUND KENYIR LAKE
There is nothing much to do in the city center itself for days.  Interesting locations are on the outskirts and the rivers that surround.  Majority of my stay in Terengganu was at Lake Kenyir, the biggest man-made lake in Southeast Asia, which of course deserves a separate post.

Lake Kenyir is a popular eco-tourism destination that may more or less encapsulate my entire stay in Kuala Terengganu.

Crystal Mosque or Masjid Kristal

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

Located at the Islamic Heritage Park on the island of Wan Man, a grand structure made of steel, glass and crystal was our destination one night before dinner.  We were at one of Terengganu’s famous landmarks – the Crystal Mosque.

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA

Though I envision the mosque to be more picturesque on day time, some say it’s even grander looking at night with all the changing colors of its façade complemented by the stillness of the waters that surround.

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIAAN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
 
AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
THE CRYSTAL MOSQUE
What to Eat?

Chinese-Malay cuisine is a given in Terengganu.  But there is one local delicacy that originated in the State of Terengganu, Malaysia.  It is Lekor or Keropok Lekor, a traditional Malay fish cracker snack also known for many names such as fish sausage, fish stick or fish fritters.

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
KEROPOK STUFFED WITH CHEESE
We were given the privilege to try one that is stuffed with cheese.  It tastes really good.  After the snacks, we made on ocular of the establishment that serves keropok, particularly observing how the same is produced.  Keropok is usually made by grinding fish or vegetable into paste, mixing it with sago and deep-frying it.  The dipping sauces is an added factor as well to the whole keropok experience.

AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
THE MAKING OF KEROPOK
AN INTRODUCTION TO KUALA TERENGGANU, MALAYSIA
KEROPOK UP CLOSE

Terengganu, Malaysia is truly a revelation on my part.  To the Philippine market and perhaps other nationalities, it may not be known and famous as Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu, but it has a distinctive character that sets it apart from the iconic nations of Malaysia.

Apt for its slogan - a Beautiful State and a Beautiful Culture.



Special thanks to Tourism Terengganu and media coordinator, Gaya Travel Magazine Malaysia for making this trip possible.  Trip is conjunction with the 10th Anniversary celebration of Sultan Mizan Royal Foundation.

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