Still largely undiscovered by international tourists, Kuala Terengganu, capital of the state by the same name, is experiencing rapid infrastructure development along with heavy new investment, making it a shining new jewel in Malaysia’s tourism crown.
Kuala Terengganu is a waterfront city strategically located in the estuary of the Terengganu River. In the old days, the town used to be a busy port of call for traders, missionaries, scholars and sailors from the neighbouring regions as well as from other parts of the world.
A stone’s throw away, the stunning Perhentian Islands, or Lake Kenyir – South east Asia’s largest artificial lake, just to mention a couple of the major local tourist drawcards, make Kuala Terengganu a veritable hub for regional tourism activities. The entire state of Terengganu is a living museum of ancient tropical rainforests, with exotic flora and fauna offering a snapshot of an ancient era where primeval evergreen forests were carved with waterfalls tumbling into clear pools while rugged green landscapes swept down to golden beaches and azure seas.
Indeed, Terengganu has a distinct cultural personality and is blessed with some of Malaysia’s most wondrous attractions, making it a leading local tourism destination, while many European and American visitors have yet to become aware of the wonderful tourism assets of the region. Visitors are enthralled by Terengganu’s wealth of traditional arts, culture and rich Malay heritage. It is a place where people come to experience an authentic local way of life, expressed through life in the laidback towns and fishing villages, while feasting one’s senses on artistic pursuits or traditional cultural performances which have been lovingly preserved.
Terengganu is rich with a myriad of customs and traditions, upheld through generations and visible in its way of life, its arts and handicrafts, its traditional culinary style together with heritage. Terengganu is thus in a league of its own as a vibrant tourist destination. Visitors are enthralled by dancers that evoke spirits, are entertained by traditional games bringing together fun and excitement.
Fast Growth of Local Infrastructure
Today, infrastructure is blossoming as finishing touches are being made to a bridge that will be a new link across the mouth of the Terengganu River, alongside which the top floor of a new high-rise government building will host a new restaurant – soon to be opened, and sure to be a hit with visitors, as it will have breath-taking views along the coast and over the city.
With 343 hotels and resorts in the region, accounting for over 12,000 rooms, 178 home-stays are also available.
Shutterbugs visiting Kuala Terengganu can now enjoy a river cruise along the scenic Sungai Terengganu while stopping over at the State Museum and other interesting attractions along the river during the hour-long journey that includes cruising around Pulau Duyung, visiting the scenic traditional fishing village of Seberang Takir as well as stopping by at Payang Market. The cruise starts and ends at the jetty near the iconic Crystal Mosque. There are also dining cruises where passengers can savour authentic Terengganu or western dishes while enjoying a panoramic view.
The tour includes: TTI Jetty To’ Ku Paloh – Muzium Negeri – Pulau Sekati (Sekati Island) – Bukit Datu – Kampung Seberang Tuan Chik Haji – Sultan Mahmud Bridge – Pulau Haji Siah (Haji Siah Island) – Kampung Bukit Tumbuh – Pulau Api (Api Island) – Seberang Takir – Pulau Duyung (Mermaid Island) – Bazar Warisan – Central Market (Pasar Payang) – Warisan Island – Pelabuhan Ikan – Pengkalan Keropok – Crystal Mosque – TTI Jetty To’ Ku Paloh
Traditional boat builders of Terengganu are famous for their skills that have withstood the test of time. These craftsmen do not require plans or blueprints. They build boats and yachts from knowledge passed from previous generations and produce intricate designs with great precision and detail.
With a touch of modern technology and traditional precision, the boats and yachts built here are sought after by sailors from all over the world due to their sea-worthiness. Today, they continue to be a part of Terengganu’s rich and vibrant heritage.
Taman Tamadun Islam
The Islamic Civilization Park (TTI) is one of Terengganu’s newest attractions situated on Pulau Wan Man Island in the estuary of the Terengganu River.
The park is a colourful mosaic, marked by 23 exquisite miniatures of famous mosques, monuments and a working replica of a waterwheel showcasing the grandeurs of Islamic arts and architecture. Among the facilities here are the souvenir shops, restaurant, a recreational lake, a commercial area and a convention centre. Audio Visual presentations and signage focusing on heritage and history provides interesting informative tours.
Tucked at the tip of Pulau Wan Man, as a component of the Islamic Civilization Park, is the glittering Crystal Mosque. Majestically constructed with crystal shining glass and steel overlooking the scenic Terengganu River, it is the iconic splendour and pride of Terengganu.
The breath-taking view of the Islamic Civilization Park with its colourfully lit mosques and monuments as seen from the Terengganu Bridge makes a perfect picture with panoramic background.
Seafaring traders from Southern China began to establish settlements here in the late Ming Dynasty or early 1600’s. It was once a hub for commercial activities that helped shape Kuala Terengganu into what it is today. Chinatown’s main street is flanked on both sides by colourful double story shop houses that carry a blend of culture and heritage. Two of the pre-war buildings have been recognised as heritage sites by the World Heritage Fund based in New York.
Retail outlets, tour & hotel operators, traditional Chinese medicine shops, souvenir shops, restaurants, hawker stalls, electronics and grocery shops lining the colourful street. It is also home to several grand temples or toapekongs, the Ho Ann Kiong and the Tien Hou Kong as well as the Taoist Kuan Ti Temple.
Tourists often skip through Kuala Terengganu, thinking only about the lure of beach getaways on idyllic islands, but oblivious to the fact that they may have been missing out on the masterful, nuanced cuisine of this region. Coconut milk features heavily in Terengganu’s exuberant cooking, as it is found in abundance all over the state.
With the endless variety of delicious temptations available day or night in Terengganu, one’s taste buds may need to work overtime to savour it all. The cuisine of Terengganu, is distinctively memorable for its fresh ingredients from the waters off the coast, diverse usage of spices, unique flavours and of course the coconut milk.
Generations of interactions with neighbouring regions as a preferred trading post have brought together a mixture of various cultures. This has created an array of delicacies, diversifying the taste and thus the originality.
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