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KB Cycling Tour
In the north-eastern corner of Peninsular Malaysia lies Kelantan, an agrarian state that is claimed to house the country’s most age-old archaeological discoveries. Celebrated for its unmatched character, Kelantanese culture takes pride of its distinctive vernacular, cuisine and arts.
The state capital of Kelantan, Kota Bharu, has a population made up of mainly ethnic Malays and the well-assimilated minority of Chinese, not to mention that the community is highly-influenced by Thai culture because of its close proximity to Thailand.
The starting point for this journey was the tour agency office, HnH Tours, located at the city centre of Kota Bharu. As we entered the office, we were welcomed by the sweetness of some 1) local delicacies such as dodol, lempuk durian, lembong buaya, sema tarik, and agar-agar kering. Its original taste and colourful display only made us look forward to what was about to come next.
Almost immediately after, we found ourselves in the cultural zone of Kota Bharu. Our first stop was the 2) Observation Tower located at the river bank of Sungai Kelantan. The iconic tower stands 150 metres, offering a panoramic view of the city, including a stretch of the river. You can only imagine the glorious peace and quiet of the city from the view above.
From the Observation Tower, we cycled east to the 3) War Museum. Also known as Bank Kerapu, the War Museum exhibits relics and artifacts from the World War II. It was built in 1912 during a time when all the other buildings were wooden, making it the first concrete building and the first bank in the state, named United Merchant Bank.
During the Japanese invasion in 1941, the Japanese troops used it as their command centre. Now it is a home to photographs, articles and artifacts from the war. Walking through the museum made us feel like we were reliving the wartime. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take pictures inside. You will just have to visit it yourself to experience the eeriness of what war was like in 1940s Kelantan, thank goodness it is all history now.
We exited the War Museum and moved on to our next stop, the 4) Merdeka Square, located just across the street. The square hosts all of the state’s formal celebrations such as the annual celebration of the Sultan of Kelantan’s birthday. After which, we paid a short visit to the 5) State Mosque, known locally as Masjid Muhammadi, built in 1862 and named after Sultan Muhamad IV who, during his reign, contributed significantly to the development of the state. Much to our surprise, this mosque can actually accommodate 4,000 devotees at once. Its weight to the growth of Islam in the region has earned it the title, ‘Serambi Makkah’, which means ‘The front porch of Mecca’.
Making a detour, we went to the 6) Islamic Museum built in 1904, located next to the War Museum. It keeps all the records and artifacts of Islam in Kelantan, taking us on a tour back to generations ago with all the richness of history coming down upon us. But, it was not all, because across the street to the museum, facing the Merdeka Square is the 7) Petra Arches. This elegant structure is adorned with Islamic designs including five pillars with a configuration of the Quran, suggestive of the five pillars of Islam. By looking around, one will already know the culture of the place. It’s telling its own story.
Beyond the Petra Arches, you will find the Grand Palace, 8) Istana Jahar, which was built in 1844 by Sultan Muhammad II for his son who later succeeded him. Although it was used as the official residence of a few more Sultans after him, today, the palace is transformed into the Museum of Royal Traditions and Ceremonies. Until now, its wooden structure embellished with unique wood carvings is well-maintained to keep its brawny majestic look.
Cycling a short distance to the Royal Museum, also known as 9) Istana Batu, we were yet in another palace built in 1939 during the rule of Sultan Ismail. He designed the architecture of the palace and gave it to Sultan Yahya Petra and Raja Perempuan Zainab II as a wedding gift. In 1991, the palace was converted into a museum. Within the museum, we get to see the details of what a royal life is like, including family photographs, among other collections.
Kota Bharu Craft Village
After going around palaces, trudging along the path of the nobles, we headed to our next destination, 10) Kota Bharu Craft Village. The Kampung Kraftangan, as its name suggests, houses the finest of the Kelantanese craftsmanship and a handicraft museum. We saw how the skilled artists craft songket, batik, wood carvings and silverwork, which are available for purchase at the centre. Each was a piece of art; seeing how they create it with their own hands in front of our very own eyes is like looking at a picture worth a thousand words.
Pasar Siti Khadijah
Because appreciating such art may take us forever, we decided to snap out of it before it happens and cycled to 11) Pasar Siti Khadijah. This market was used to be named Pasar Besar Kota Bharu, but was renamed after Prophet Muhammad’s entrepreneurial wife, as about 90 percent of the stalls are run by women.
The market has something for everyone: on the ground floor, we were greeted by the sight and smell of the wet market where fish, vegetables and chicken are sold; above this floor were dry food items, while the next two floors above are for non-food goods. In the evenings, the adjacent street by the market transforms into a pasar malam, or night market, which operates from 6pm to 1am.
Bazaar Buluh Kubu
Near the market is the 12) Bazaar Buluh Kubu, our last stop for the day. The Batik Centre of Kelantan is also located within this area. Here, you can find a wide variety of clothing, fabric and even local batik.
Before we retired for the night, we had dinner at Kampung Kijang to try the famous Maggi Ketam PCB (Pantai Cahaya Bulan), which is a bowl of Maggi noodles cooked with crabs. It was such a tasty combination that satisfied our protesting stomachs.
Cycling Route - KB Cycling Tour (Day 1)
While we spent the first day at the city centre, our second day took us out of the city and into the town of Tumpat.
Wat Photivihan temple
We first headed towards the 13) Wat Photivihan temple located in a small village called Kampung Balai, Bachok, about 35 minutes from HnH Tours’s office in Kota Bharu. This temple cradles a 40-metre long statue of the Reclining Buddha, the longest of its kind in Southeast Asia. Twelve more small Buddha statues adorn the background of the main statue, representing the 12 years in the Chinese calendar.
Our next stop was at Kampung Talak. It was mainly a 2km flat road ride. Although there were no designated cycling lanes, we simply took the side of the main roads as there were not many cars on the road to worry about. Also, we passed by many fruit stalls along the way, a good stop-over for tourists.
Upon arriving at 14) Bamboo Craft, handicrafts made of bamboo were everywhere inviting us in. We noticed how bamboo is being used now to make decorative products, aside from household utensils.
Not having enough of Buddha, we travelled another 8km to drop by at another Buddhist temple, 15) Wat Machimaram, located at the Pengkalan Kubur district. It has the largest Sitting Buddha in Southeast Asia, measuring 30 metres high and 18 metres wide.
Pengkalan Kubur Duty Free Zone
From here, we continued our trip, cycling 6km to the Thai Border to visit the 16) Pengkalan Kubur Duty Free Zone. Talk about more clothes, snacks and local products! Although it is a duty free zone, buyers need to keep in mind that they can only purchase up to a certain limit without bothering with the custom duties.
Fish head cooked with coconut milk
And because our tummies were rambling again, we took a break and had lunch at Kedai Makan Kak Lah. Although it is not part of the cycling package, lunch is available at a small additional cost, which we think was all worth it because we were able to try the famous 17) Kepala Ikan (fish head) made fresh with top quality coconut milk that will make you crave for more, hours after your meal is over.
Pantai Sri Tujuh
All satisfied, we burned up another 6km on the road to 18) Pantai Sri Tujuh. This beach is frequented by the locals for a short dip or any other recreational activities. Boating is just one of the options, among other water sports. There are also chalets available for bookings for those interested to stay over.
Floating fish farms
We, however, went on with our journey to our final destination. En route, scenic views of the coastline and 19) floating fish farms manned by the local fishermen lulled our eyes. As we reached Tumpat after a 7km ride, we pulled in at the last station of trains heading eastward on the tracks of the main railway operator in the peninsula, KTM.
The trains are maintained and cleaned up here before they head once again towards the other side of the East Coast line. Visitors may find it peculiar that there’s a 20) lighthouse in the station. Built in 1936, this used to guide passing vessels along the coastline, but over time, Tumpat lost its shoreline and it all became obsolete. It’s a somber ending, but hey, the lighthouse is still standing proud with its olden story and aging beauty.
Wat Mai Suvankihiri
From trains and lighthouse, we made our way to the last leg of our tour, another temple called 21) Wat Mai Suvankihiri, also known as The Dragon Boat Temple. This is the resting site of the undecayed body of the highly revered Buddhist monk, Sami Than Di. Another main attraction is the Dragon Boat found in the temple compound.
Coming across the wax statue of Sami Than Di within the courtyard of the temple, in all its intricate details, we were almost fooled into believing that it was a real person. Its itsy-bitsy singularity was all too fascinating. What a sight!
Kampung Laut Jetty
To complete the 72.71km tour, we cycled towards the 22) Kampung Laut Jetty for a boat ride back to Kota Bharu. This is an optional part of the tour package as you may also cycle back to the city centre. But because we wanted to give our tired feet a rest, we decided to board the boat and just enjoy the happy ending.
Cycling Route - KB Cycling Tour (Day 2)
The two-day-one-night KB Cycling Tour is yet another eventful cycling tour package. It took us back to the Islamic past, introduced us to the Buddhist culture, and filled us in with the taste of its unique local cuisine – a nice blend of everything that Kelantan is famed for.
This cycling tour package is provided by: HnH Tours Sdn Bhd
No. 16, Taman Uda Murni, Jalan Pengkalan Chepa, 15400, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Tel: +609-771 5200
- Kota Bahru
- War Museum
- Merdeka Square
- State Mosque
- Islamic Museum
- Petra Arches
- Istana Jahar
- Istana Batu
- Kota Bharu Craft Village
- Pasar Siti Khadijah
- Bazaar Buluh Kubu
- Wat Photivihan
- Bamboo Craft
- Wat Machimaram
- Pengkalan Kubur Duty Free Zone
- Kepala Ikan
- floating fish farms
- Wat Mai Suvankihiri
- Kampung Laut Jetty