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Kota Bharu, Malaysia

by admin on June 30th, 2010

Kota Bharu is the largest Malaysian city on the Peninsular East Coast, with a population of over 600,000. Like most of the East Coast, it is predominately Malay and highly Islamic. Less visited, KB has a more pleasant, calmer and tidier feel to it than other Malaysian cities we saw, although the same crazy development (malls, banks, roads, etc.) is just as present here as everywhere else. The “what was” and “what will be” coexist:

New large mall close to the center:

Trishaw – driver having a nap between rides:

The Central Market is the one “must-see” thing in Kota Bharu. It’s the oldest in the city, and it’s been continuously running, with almost no changes as to “how”. The interesting thing about it is that it is run almost exclusively by women. It goes up on a few floors, of which the ground floor is the most colourful, with vegetables, local fruit, spices, meet, fish and nuts:

“Kampung” (countryside) chickens; the problem with them is that they are being kept in excruciating heat for a few hours…

A LOT of dry fish, giving off a .. not so pleasant smell:

Little girl holding her dad’s hand up on the textiles floor of the market:

Istana Jahar (The Royal Customs Museum) is fascinating; different rooms reconstitute different traditional ceremonies practiced in the royal families. For example, one room shows the ceremony by which a baby is to first touch the ground. Before being 5 days old, babies are considered to be directly from Heaven and whence they are not be “dirtied” by touching the ground. The idea of babies being directly from Heaven seemed beautiful, so this ceremony stayed more vivid in my mind, but other rooms showed a lot of other interesting ones: the meeting of the groom and bride to be, their first night together, even an elaborate ceremony for haircuts and shaving.

At the entrance. Always a different price for “foreigners”:

The museum is hosted in a beautiful wood house, built in the 19th century by the local sultan:

Practical Advice:

Where to stay: If you are on a budget (and even if you aren’t) Denai Lodge is a clean, brand-new hostel. We don’t know how it will look in a few years from now but at the moment it is great. There are only a handful of rooms, so booking ahead is a must. The bathroom is on the hallway (it is clean however).

Where to eat: Well, the Night Market is the place everybody recommends. However, make sure you only eat what’s being cooked on the spot (usually only when there are a lot of people around). If hygiene is a problem, then Pizza Hut (outrageously expensive for what it is) and McDonalds :) are always around and safe (even if not too tasty).

From → South East Asia

One Comment
  1. Brett Tremblay permalink

    Wow that is an amazing food market. I loved how everything is displayed on giant plates. Very unique.

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