Best of Culture: Reasons to Visit Kota Bharu in Kelantan

Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan, is located on the east bank of the Sungai Kelantan river, at the peninsula’s northeast corner. Often, many tourists entering from nearby Thailand will take a break in the city by checking into hotel in Kelantan before exploring the rest of Malaysia. Since Kota Bharu is a fascinating city rich in local culture, you shouldn’t miss a chance to experience what it has to offer.


Malay Culture
The region has long been the hub of Malay culture, nurturing art forms from all over Southeast Asia and even India. Kota Bharu is a great place to experience this heritage, including its unique traditional handicrafts of woodcarving, kite making, and batik printing. The city also offers many historic buildings, which now house mostly museums, as well as outstanding markets and a number of Buddhist temples scattered through the countryside.

Kota Bharu also boasts stunning natural landmarks, including breathtaking islands and pristine beaches, not to mention its delicious food. During your visit, you have to try Nasi Kerabu, an appetising dish that combines blue rice, herbs, and vegetables. It is best enjoyed with fish crackers (keropok), stuffed chilies (solok lada), and grilled beef.


Getting Around
The centre of the city is small and easy to navigate on foot. The landmarks such as its rocket-shaped clock tower will make it easy to keep your bearings. The clock tower is located at the intersection of the town’s three main roads, the illuminated radio mast, and the shining Pacific KG Mall. Most of the city’s markets, banks, and larger stores are within a radius of a few blocks.


Places to See in Kota Bharu
While you’re in Kota Bharu, there are a few places that you simply have to visit.


Gelanggang Seni
This centre offers the best of Kota Bahru’s culture, with performances showcasing wayang kulit (shadow puppet shows), silat (salf defense), gasing (spinning tops), wau (kites), and rebana (big drums). At the Gelanggang (arena), you’ll experience true Malay culture.


Pantai Cahaya Bulan
This beach is popular for locals for family picnics, beach activities, or soaking in the breeze while enjoying some cold coconut drinks. On the way to the beach, stop at the craft stores to buy authentic batik and songket cloths or a traditional kite.


Muzium Jahar
At this gallery, you can learn about Kelantan’s monarchy through artefacts, armour, outfits, and equipment used for royal ceremonies. Built by Sultan Muhammad II in 1855 for his grandson, this historic castle is a wonderful example of Kelantan’s craftsmanship.


Pasar Siti Khadijah
This busy market is one of Kelantan’s key attractions, with lively trading of local snacks and tropical fruits and vegetables. Most of the traders are women, and the conversations get lively with the visitors.

Whether you’re more interested in beaches, handicrafts, museums, or food, Kota Bharu is certain to please!

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