Need to catch up on earlier entries? Read our reflection on our time at the beach in Cherating, or perhaps you missed the whole bit with us in Melaka? If you’re new, you might as well go right back to the start and find out a bit more about us.
KUALA TERENGGANU WITH KIDS
A relatively short (two hour) bus journey further north of Cherating brings us to Kuala Terengganu (KT), the administrative and royal capital of the state of Terengganu, the main economic hub of the area, and our home for the next 4 days as we explore Kuala Terengganu with kids. It sits on the estuary of the Terengganu river and faces the South China sea. KT has a long history as an important port and mixes it’s Malay heritage with modernity and influences from other cultures.
Our hotel, compared to the basic nature of our abode in Cherating, is positively luxurious.
The room is large, there are hot and cold filtered water dispensers on each floor, and the building is modern and in great condition, being only two years old. We have a balcony, and the option of using the rain- or regular shower. Considering the shower in our previous accommodation had water pressure barely powerful enough to knock a kernel of sweetcorn from atop the head of a fieldmouse, this is a major improvement.
This is a small city (around 400,000 inhabitants) and feels compact. The pavements are good and we’re able to get from one side of town to the other relatively easily. Chinatown is a big hit, with lanterns hung overhead, busy shopfronts of all colours, and the smell of delicious food wafting through the air.
On our first day we settle into a fairly rustic food court and have some impressive food and a coconut with a straw in it to drink. Something has been lost in translation with the coconut because that’s not what I asked for, but no matter.
We wander along the riverside, and find first class espresso at The Vinum Xchange. We traverse Turtle Alley, where we learn about the local turtle population and the steps being taken to preserve their numbers. We actually spent a good 20 minutes in this alley; there are mosaics on the ground and walls, pictures, informative displays, and a big turtle at the end. The kids, in particular, had a great time.
KT has loads of these characterful little alleys with street art, murals and suchlike and are great fun to explore.
KT is the first place we begin to be approached by locals asking for selfies with us. In the first couple of days, we are approached a handful of times for pictures; of the kids, with Heidi, with me, with all of us. The children (one with brown, curly hair, the other with blonde hair) are attracting a lot of attention, and people stop in the street to say hello, cars pull up next to us and wind down the windows to have a look and say hello, and that says nothing of the smiling, pointing passengers in cars. None of it is in any way threatening. People seem taken by the novelty of us and are genuinely curious. It’s all good natured and is reflective of the extremely friendliness we’ve encountered from Malaysians.
After a visit to the market on one of the days, we ascend Princess Hill, an old fort which looks over the city, and which offers a fantastic vista.
We expect a major attraction with decent facilities around the many steps to the top, but we encounter something very different.
The entrance is part of a large building, seemingly built for the purpose of ushering people up the hill. There are two escalators to get you up the first bit, before you get to a few dozen steps to tackle with a bit of legwork. The strange thing is that everything is deserted. It looks like nobody has been here for years, and that the escalators haven’t been switched on in a long time (they’re full of leaves and some litter). Initially confused, we realise there’s no barrier stopping us going up so we walk up the switched-off escalators and end up at the top. There’s a passive security guard who waves us up and a few other families, but it’s a surreal experience. No charge today, it appears.
We enjoy the view and have a sit down and a cool off. The ground at the top of the fort are fun to explore and fairly well kept. Well worth a visit.
On our way back down we spot a huge water feature built into the side of the hill, which hasn’t seen water in years by the looks of things. The feature is made up of hundreds of huge, fake rocks. Some of them have holes in them. Fake rocks. Hmmm.
On our final full day, we get the ‘heritage bus’ (a quirky bus with wooden seats and roof, (cost = 1RM per person each way) and go visit the museum, 20 minutes or so out of town.
The museum is extremely impressive as a building, and the grounds immediately surrounding it are fairly well-kept and contains a large pond filled with fish and terrapins. There is also an extensive area containing full-size replicas of traditional Malay houses, and two huge, actual boats which can be climbed on. There’s plenty of outdoor items to see and this outdoor area is well worth the admission fee.
Inside, it’s a nice set up, but a fairly traditional museum (no touch screens in sight); lots of plaques and bits of fabric in cases. Incidentally, you pay to go inside, so if you wanted to, you could easily spend a half day in the grounds without even venturing inside. I’d advise going in though, if only to see the terrific taxidermy in the basement.
It’s marvellously awful. Many of the birds are hanging upside down on their perch, the monkeys look like creatures from The Twilight Zone, and there’s a wonderfully dopey looking animal that I BELIEVE is a bear. Do yourself a favour and go have a look. In the rest of the museum, there are exhibitions on the spread of Islam in the area and local handcrafting techniques, but we had to zip round with our rabble.
On our final night, we treat ourselves to a night at the cinema (36RM for all of us) in the centre of town and it’s two hours well-spent. We see The Incredibles 2, we all enjoy it, and it’s been a nice, cool evening. We get back to the hotel, pack, and the next day rise and get the bus to Kuala Besut, from where we get the bus to the paradise islands of the Perhentians.