Motormouth’s Travel Ideas – Of Eating Bees & Watching Sunset @ Kota Bharu, KelantanNovember 29, 2012 | 8,558 views
Remember this post? When I embarked on a partial food tour (I was working, remember?) to Kota Bharu, Kelantan back in March this year. Fast forward 8 months later, and the state has become even more famous than before! Though for all the absurd reasons played out due to raging political wars between opposing factions.
Let’s leave the circus to the clowns.
Ayam percik, nasi dagang, solok lada, White House kopitiam, Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah, Wakaf Bharu, Satay Malaysia and Siamese temples? Checked. So what else have I missed? PLENTY.
Grand River View Hotel @ Kota Bharu may not be positioned in the most strategic location yet within walking distance to some tourist spots like Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah and the many attractions around this part of town.
More importantly, the hotel offers the pleasure of a sunset view shimmering beyond the river of Kelantan; every evening at around 6.30pm from the comfort of the lounge, or you can walk along the paved banks of the river.
We spent the night in Grand River View (GRV) Hotel (about RM200+ per room, corporate rate). No complaints, though I have not stayed in Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel before, and seemingly that’s the gold standard in town. The other hotel I have experienced staying in was New Pacific Hotel (www) which I personally felt was a far cry from the rest; in a negative way though.
The unobstructed view across the Kelantan river and accessibility to several places of interest within the vicinity rendered the hotel choice relevant, especially if you’re not keen on driving out to far-fetched places.
Still, it’s best to plan for your own transportation when in Kota Bharu; either rent-a-car at the airport (in the realms of RM80 for smaller cars to RM150 for sedans per day), or hire a cab (daily rates apply; depending on the hours and places you intend to fit into your itinerary). Public modes of transportation include town buses and cabs, however are not as convenient as you think as the number of cabs plying the roads is minimal as opposed to the larger towns in Peninsular Malaysia.
Retaining the old school charm of colour-frosted glass windows with steel panes; this building is situated adjacent to the hotel; named Lee Rubber Building.
The junction of Jalan Post Office Lama and Jalan Tengku Besar can be a terribly busy one to cross during peak times. Remember Capital Nasi Dagang? That insanely popular breakfast joint is located to the left of this picture. Within 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel.
Ridel Hotel is a more economical option with riverfront cafes running parallel on ground level. At this block named Pelangi Mall next to the newly-built Menara Tinjau (Observatory Tower) Tambatan Di Raja (picture below)
Menara Tinjau Tamtaban Di Raja (Observatory Tower) along the banks of Sungai Kelantan, and the pier for ferries to Kampung Laut.
Bank Kerapu aka Memorial Perang (World War II Memorial) (you can read the detailed bits on Virtual Malaysia) on Jalan Sultan
Side view of Bank Kerapu; from Jalan Post Office Lama. This road leads towards Pantai Cahaya Bulan (used to be named Pantai Cinta Berahi but of course …. if a lady cutting a guy’s hair is prohibited, a beach named Passionate Love has to be a red light district, no?)
Padang Merdeka (Independence Field) sits between Jalan Tengku Besar and Jalan Sultan; halfway between Grand River View and Bank Kerapu (War Memorial). This was the infamous place where the British exhibited the body of a brave Kelantanese warrior; Tok Janggut (read about his story HERE in Malay)
The impressive Malay-inspired architectures of the landmarks in town deserve a walkabout even in the most unpleasant of weathers. Okay … try late afternoon before the sun sets and you shall be rewarded with sun-kissed shots like above. (side profile of Muhammadi Mosque)
Masjid Muhammadi (Muhammadi Mosque) is a large state mosque at the junction of Jalan Sultan and Jalan Sultanah Zainab; was built in 1867 and spans more than 10,000 sq ft!
Gerbang Kota Sultan Ismail Petra (Sultan Ismail Petra Arch) along Jalan Sultanah Zainab is the most recognizable landmark that represents Kota Bharu, Kelantan aside from Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah.
Istana Jahar within the perimeter of the ground beyond the Sultan Ismail Petra Arch was buit in the 19th century by the ruler named Sultan Muhammad II for his grandson; Long Kundur Bendahara.
Istana Balai Besar (Palace of Great Hall) was built in 1840 as the main palace of Sultan Muhammad II to replace the older palace named Istana Kota Lama along Kelantan River
Walking around town in Kota Bharu is generally safe during daytime, but caution should be in place when you are alone in the darker hours as the vicinity can be rather desolated. Go in a group or take a cab instead.
Pre-war shophouses still retaining the quaint charm albeit dilapidated along Jalan Post Office Lama, northbound towards Pantai Cahaya Bulan
Dinner at Chengmai Thai Food Restaurant at Kampung Kulim, Wakaf Baru; beside the railway tracks about half an hour’s away from town. The traffic was horrendous thus the journey took slightly longer than usual.
Don’t puke, but this was a plate of surprisingly palatable (okay, to me at least) plate of Fried hornets (tebuan in Malay) and larvae with red chillies, garlic and spring onion. (RM15/USD5)
And a damn spicy piece of steamed fish (Pla Khengsom) in a fiery, orange-hued broth with water convolvulus and what seemed to be slices of bamboo shoots. (RM24/USD8)
Clockwise from top left : Pandan Chicken (RM2/USD0.70 each), Tom Yum Seafood (RM15/USD5), Deep Fried Kangkung (Water Convolvulus) (RM5/USD1.70) and Steamed Squid in Spicy Lemon Broth (RM8/USD3)
Dousing the heat with fresh coconut water and boiled longan drinks @ Chengmai Thai Food Restaurant
Nestled deep within the residential area of Kampung Kulim in Wakaf Baru, Tumpat; you will stumble upon several Thai restaurant with interesting (yet unimaginative) names.
Chengmai, Bang Kok, Phuket, etc. Not along the same row, as the alleys spiral beyond recognition plus the restaurants are located intermittently between houses and what-could-be farms.
This was my second visit to Chengmai Thai Food Restaurant, a pork-free establishment serving pretty authentic Thai fares. Kelantan shares the border with Golok town in southern Thailand, much like how Pengkalan Hulu in Perak shares with Betong. The Thai influences are very apparent in Kelantan especially eateries around this area of Tumpat.
The three of us walloped 6 dishes; with beads of sweat on forehead and fanning the tongues and all. Spicy? Yes. Some dishes can be unbearably-burning hot if you’re not used to spicy food. The Fried hornets (a type of wasp/bees) appeared to be very appalling; imagine spoonfuls of crispy critters – wings, feet and all balanced by creamy bites of larvae, yet if you close your eyes … the experience was almost like eating crunchy anchovies stir-fried with lots of chillies and garlic.
Still beating the Starbucks, Coffee Bean’s and Old Town’s, Kedai Kopi White House deserves more than a pat on the back for the adamant stand on keeping things simple and traditional. Though this time around, the Chinese boss irked us a little by subtly shooing us from our seats to give way to other customers even BEFORE I finished my coffee!
And we come to the SUNSET part of the story. A cloudy evening marred the experience, yet nothing beats watching a sun sets; clear or otherwise.
Let me share stories about one of the largest reclining Buddha in Asia built in Kelantan of all places, Nasi Kukus (famous steamed rice), Nasi Ulam, Nasi Air and Cholek (fritter snacks) by Pantai Cahaya Bulan when I have the time.
Right now? Go discover Malaysia. Don’t let heritage dies because the other countries are doing it better in reaching out to travellers.
GRAND RIVER VIEW HOTEL (www)
GPS Coordinates : 6.129279,102.234145
KELANTAN TOURISM INFORMATION CENTRE (www – for more information and town maps)
Jalan Sultan Ibrahim, 15050 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Tel No : +609-748 5534/748 3543
CHENGMAI THAI RESTAURANT
No. 107, Kampung Kulim,
Wakaf Baru, Tumpat, Kelantan
GPS Coordinates : 6.121577,102.202912
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