The state capital of east coastal Malaysian state Kelantan is Kota Bharu. It is the main transportation and administrative city here. Kota Bharu plays an important role for Kelantan which is known for its socially conservative community and religious people. However, it is one of the very popular tourist destinations along the eastern part of Peninsular Malaysia as well.
Facts about Kota Bharu
- Currency: MYR (Malaysian Ringgit)
- Dialling code: The fixed lines here are connected via their prefix of +609.
- Airport: flying into Kota Bharu is possible via Sultain Ismail Petra Airport located in Pengkalan Chepa
- Airport Tax: applies for all domestic flights
- Distance from airport to city centre: The airport is about 15kms away from the main centre of Kota Bharu
- Temperature: the city gets mostly hot weather here that ranges between 24 and 35 degrees Celsius
- Climate and Weather: Tropical with high humidity
- Common languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English Language, Chinese and Tamil
From the main airport, you can easily reach the city centre within half an hour. Taxi services are available from RM50 per ride. Bus services are from RM1.80 through the CityLiner services. Besides that, you can use ride sharing services. Within the city centre, you can easily get around using a taxi which can be flagged down on most main roads and landmarks. Buses are available but you will need to know the local practices to get around.
Highlights around Kota Bharu
One of the main things you will see around Kota Bharu is its museums. There are at least 5 of such places you can visit to learn more about the history, culture and background of Kota Bharu. Among them includes:
- Kelantan State Museum – the main collection of artefacts by the state government
- Handicrafts Museum – Great place to buy local arts and crafts
- World War II Memorial
- Muzium D’Raja
- Muzium Islam
- Muzium Adat Istiadat DiRaja Kelantan – Place to appreciate the royal customs and protocols of Kelantan
- Wat Pothivihan – Visit the reclining Buddha statue here
- temples like Wat Mai Suwan Khiri, Wat Machimarran Varran and Wat Serova.
- Take the river cruise which will take about 2 hours from Sungai Galas to Dabong
- Visit the Strong Waterfall which at 990 meters, is the highest in Southeast Asia
- Mount Stong State Park
Foods around Kota Bharu
The most exciting dishes here would be Kelantanese food. You should check out the likes of:
- Ayam Percik – Their original roasted chicken served with coconut or peanut sauce
- Nasi Ulam – Sometimes called Nasi Kerabu
- Nasi Dagang – Among the signature dishes here.
- Keropok Lekor Losong
Entertainment in Kota Bharu
To enjoy the night life, you need to look for pubs and cafes. There are a few around the city centre but you can head out to places like the following:
- Jalan Damai Perdana
Gateway to culture and traditions
This state capital of Kelantan is under the ruling of Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), the malay opposition party in Malaysia. Therefore, visitors and tourists are reminded to wear clothes that cover your arms, legs and torso all the time. Other than respecting their religious sensitivities, Kota Bharu is in fact an ideal destination for you to explore and find out more about their cultural and civic landmarks. Warm and friendly locals would always be there to assist and help you to get around town.
History of Kota Bahru
Back in mid 1800s, the state was a thriving business, finance, culture and administration centre. Today, the capital continues to prosper with an estimated population of over 600,000. Statistics revealed that Kota Bharu is the country’s 10th largest city. Kota Bharu was declared an Islamic City in October 2005. Thus, you may notice the signboards; restaurants and streets carry Jawi/Arabic script. Even though the government is under PAS administration, the state allows social activities so long as it does not contradict with Islamic principles. Stores and shops are opened except on Fridays and Saturdays while all activities would stop to give way to prayers call on any given day.
Attractions & Sightseeing in Kota Bharu
Visitors can travel on foot around town to see for yourself the various century old royal palace and museums. The Independence Square and Royal Palace have inherited a rich and diverse cultural heritage. And somewhere nearby Istana Balai Besar, you will see abundant of historical sites and museums. Before you embark your journey to other landmarks, do check out the impressive Istana Balai Besar. Other than museums and mosques, visitors and tourists should also check out the huge reclining Buddha in
- Wat Pothivihan temple
- dragon Boat & standing Buddha
- Wat Machimarran Varran Temple
- and Wat Serova Buddhist Temple (Goddess of Mercy).
Homestays around Kota Bharu
In fact, the best way to understand culture of Malaysia is to participate in homestay programme. Visitors would spend a couple of days in selected villages such as Kampung Kijang, Kampung Mek Mas and Kampung Banggol and perform locals’ daily routines such as designing batik, planting vegetables and making fish crisps. On top of that, visitors may request for traditional village massage treatments to ease muscle pains.
Kota Bharu Shopping
Of course, your trip to Kota Bharu is not complete without shopping for some local quirky and unique handicrafts. Here are some of the must visit shopping destinations in Kota Bharu – Gok Kapor Market, Wakaf Che Yeh, Bazar Buluh Kubu, Siti Khadijah Grand Market and Corn Stall. Bazar Buluh Kubu is the place where you can get some rare handicrafts such as traditional musical instruments and colourful kites.
Standard of living
The standard of living in Kota Bharu ranges from the middle levels while towards the outskirts and villages, it is lower. The town center of Kota Bharu is where cost of living is on the higher side where property is more expensive in terms of rental. There are several hotels here with apartments and houses for rent for short to long term.
Commercial and education centers
In terms of education, Kota Bharu is currently in development with many private institutions looking to set up their branches here. TheLimkokwing Academy of Creativity & Innovation is located around Kompleks Yakin along Jalan Gajah Mati. There are many properties, rooms and apartments for rent around the area surrounding Bazaar Tuan Padang. Apart from that, there is Unitar International University, Kota Bharu campus and a teacher’s training college here as well.
Commercial centers are found in several locations around Kota Bharu town center. This includes Jalan Padang Garong, which offers shop-lots for rent that starts around RM1,500 per month.
Accommodation around Kota Bharu
Along Jalan Pintu Geng are several homestay options and places which offer short to middle term rentals which include the Wan Homestay Kelantan and Kayumas Homestay while located not far from here is the Dynasty Inn just off the Jalan Kuala Krai main road. Apart from that, other places with apartments for rent include the upscale C Chantique Villa Hotel Apartments, the Kota Sri Mutiara Apartments and many others surrounding the city center.
Transportation and getting around
It is fairly easy to get around Kota Bharu where there are bus stops located along most of the major roads. Kota Bharu’s public buses are operated by the state-owned SKMK which provide transportation within the town and towards other states as well. From here, one can get around the town center as well as to other states like Terengganu, Perak and Kedah as well as toward the south to Selangor and Johor. Taxi services are easily available at most shopping centers, commercial blocks and hotels.
As Kota Bharu is the administrative center of Kelantan, the main offices for the state government are located around the town center. Wisma Persekutuan is located along Jalan Bayam, the main connecting road here which is alongside the Kelantan Police Headquarters. Located not far from here is the Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital served by the Jabatan Psikiatri dan Kesihatan Mental. Meanwhile, located not far from the stadium is the Kelantan Health Department while the Badan Pencegah Rasuah and the Registration Department as located further along Jalan Bayam as well.
Entertainment around the city
The most common form of entertainment in Kota Bharu would be shopping with a lot of traditional items and imitation goods coming in from Thailand. There are night and morning markets located around the state each day. Apart from that, there is a ‘lepak’ culture among the youth here as well as Mat Rempits (illegal street motorcycle racing) which comes around at night, most prominently during Thursdays and Fridays.
Kota Bharu town gets a bit quiet during the night except for the engine revs of the Mat Rempits. The main roads of Jalan Kebun Sultan and Jalan Pengkalan Chepa would be popular hangouts although some would head towards the smaller roads like Jalan Sri Cemerlang and Jalan Kebun Raja.