Do you have a client who is searching for a laidback holiday that is brimming with cultural experiences? Then head on to Kelantan, located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia!
Often referred to as the ‘Cradle of Malay Culture’, the state of Kelantan holds a strong commitment to preserving cultural heritage and is known for showcasing traditional music, dance, crafts and performances.
Visitors to Kelantan can expect to discover a mix of traditional Kelantanese culture with Siamese influence on arrival, from rustic fishing villages to sprawling paddy fields and stunning, palm tree-laden beaches, the beauty and charm of the region are lost on no traveller.
Around 1.5 million people call Kelantan home, with roughly 95 per cent of Malay heritage, the remaining, a mix of Chinese, Indian and Thai, which creates a melting pot of influence and adds to the vibrancy of the area.
Our must-visit place in Kelantan is Kota Bharu, the state capital. From here, foodies, photographers and market dwellers will love the many markets, such as the Siti Khadijah Market, one of the most recognised in the whole country. It’s a mix of traditional arts and crafts, fresh produce and local food, where visitors can sample Kelantanese cuisine, such as Nasi Kerabu (blue rice served with various side dishes), Nasi Dagang (rice cooked in coconut milk served with fish curry) and Ayam Percik (grilled chicken marinated in a flavourful sauce).
Or if it’s more of an outdoor experience, we urge you to take the trip to the Stong State Park where you will find Gunung Stong. This enchanting waterfall is one of, if not the biggest in Southeast Asia, and is situated in a park perfect for those who like to explore the outdoors and hike, providing plenty of opportunities for wildlife lovers to spot a range of exotic plant and animal species along the way.
Kite making: If you take a trip down the road to Pantai Cahaya Bulan you may spot giant kites flying high above you. Kelantan is the home of many skilled kite makers who create many different styles, like the Wau Bulan (moon kite), often crafted by farmers looking to pass the time between harvests. Kite-making takes an incredible amount of skill and patience and the practice is usually handed down from father to son to keep the practice alive. The practice holds such cultural heritage, that a Wau Bulan features as the logo on the national carrier, Malaysia Airlines.
Top spinning: A traditional game that has passed down through generations of Kelantan people. Also referred to as ‘gasing’, players use a whip-like motion to spin the ‘top’ and the winner is decided by who can keep it spinning the longest. Top spinning is an important aspect of cultural preservation in the region and efforts are made with traditional craftsmen to continue to create stunning ‘tops’ as well as promote the game to tourists in the region. If you want to get involved, you can buy a Top Spinning set from many tourism and souvenir ships in the area and try your luck, but be warned, we don’t think you’ll be beating any locals!
Traditional house making: Kelantan’s architecture regularly impresses visitors from around the world thanks to its links to the Siam traders who travelled to the city by the Sungai Golok River. Many of the houses in Kelantan feature a design free from Western influence, instead, they are designed to maximise natural ventilation and cool air flow as well as protect the structure from environmental conditions like flooding. The stilt houses of Kelantan not only glorify the past of the skilled Malay craftsmen, but also demonstrate the importance of aesthetic value, art and beauty. One example of traditional housing is the Rumah Tiang 12 (12 post house), a traditional housing style that features 12 main posts for the house as well as six verandah posts and six long posts which, combined with traditional flower beds and colour tones transport the guest to a time in Kelantan’s past.
Shadow Puppetry: Cast in a dark room, the manipulation of shadows is used to tell tales of time past. Recognised as wayang kulit in Malaysia, shadow puppetry is one of the most traditional forms of puppet plays that can be seen in Malaysia.
Rebana Ubi Drum:
Passed down from generation-to-generation, the vibrant musical practice of rebana drumming is a traditional drum adorned with Kelantanese decorations, that is played often during ceremonial festivities.
Many of these activities can be experienced at Gelanggang Seni, the state cultural centre of Kelantan in Kota Bharu, which focuses on upholding traditional Malay art forms for visitors to learn from, as well as to safekeep the practice.
When it comes to accommodation in Kelantan, there are plenty of options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses, you can find a wide range of accommodations in and around Kota Bharu. Many hotels and resorts offer comfortable rooms, modern amenities, and excellent hospitality. For a more authentic experience, you can also opt to stay in a traditional Malay homestay, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy home-cooked meals.
Kelantan offers an authentic perspective of Malaysia culture, and is a must visit destination on your journey through this incredible country. To learn more about Kelantan, visit the Tourism Malaysia website HERE.
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