Kuantan, the largest city on the peninsula’s east coast, is one of my favourite places in Malaysia. This seaside town emanates vibes that are neither too idyllic nor too indulgent – it has a little bit of everything for everyone. Here are my top things to do, see and eat in Kuantan:
Everyone’s favorite hangout beach with a hidden secret
Teluk Chempedak is Kuantan’s most iconic beach just 5 km away from the city center. This fine strip of sand is always bustling with locals enjoying the breeze of over sundaes and frappuccinos while night markets and street performances add to the festival-like atmosphere.
If Teluk Chempedak gets too crowded, I would always head to Teluk Tongkang, a smaller and more secluded bay accessible by a boardwalk that offers stunning views of the stretch. If you’re the adventurous type, there’s a jungle pathway at the end of the bay that will lead you to a hidden beach, virtually deserted and twice as long as Teluk Chempedak!
Explore the many ways of eating “Ikan Patin,” a prized local delicacy
Although Kuantan is located by the sea, one of its prized delicacies is a freshwater fish. “Ikan Patin,” or silver catfish, is indigenous to the state of Pahang. In traditional Malay cooking, it is typically paired with “tempoyak,” or fermented durian paste, to bring out the best of the fish’s tender and fatty flesh.
The most common “Ikan Patin” dish is “Gulai Tempoyak” where the fish is simmered in a “tempoyak” stew mixed with chili, tamarind and other spices. I tend to gravitate towards the other method which is “Ikan Patin Paih.” This involves the fish being slathered in “tempoyak” then wrapped in banana leaf before being grilled to smoky perfection.
If you’re up to the task, then eateries like Akob Patin House, Jaman Tory and MABIQ Restaurant are the go-to places for your “patin” fix.
Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah
Majestic state mosque that comes to life during Ramadan
Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah is a major landmark placed right in the middle of Kuantan’s old town. It is one of the newest state mosques in the country and I really admire its Ottoman-inspired design of the main dome surrounded by four identical smaller domes and minarets and fronted with an equally impressive archway.
The best time to experience the beauty of this mosque in its full splendor is during the fasting month of Ramadan. The huge field in front of the mosque is turned into a picnic ground where locals would buy food from the nearby bazaar and break their fast once the call to prayers is made.
It is amazing to see this event unravel as dusk slowly gives way to the night and it much more beautiful to witness this from above. Shahzan Inn, situated right beside the field gives an unfettered view of the mosque, the Kuantan River and beyond.
Indulge on locally-crafted desserts from mango cheesecake to cendol waffles
Kuantan’s up-and-coming café scene has surprisingly been churning out a variety of tantalizing desserts.
I would highly recommend starting with Kula Cakes’s signature mango cheesecake, where the mango-infused cheesecake is generously topped with mango slices and mango sauce. Kula Cakes’ spin-off, Krim serves home-made ice-cream covering all kinds of flavor from the typical cookies and cream to the traditional “kuih bakar,” a sweet Malay snack.
It’s all about waffles at 90 Degrees, a café-cum-art gallery in an unassuming wooden shophouse. There are plenty of waffles to choose from but you must try the Cendol Waffle. It’s grass jelly, cendol, corn and red beans scattered on a waffle and topped with condensed milk, gula Melaka syrup and coconut ice-cream – a dessert that has the best of both worlds.
Ride the waves at this laidback village known for surfing
Cherating is a seaside village about an hour north of Kuantan that exudes an easygoing backpacker vibe, complete with A-frame huts and reggae bars. I always travel up to Cherating on weekends seeking to unwind by lazing around the beach all day long followed by comforting my tummy on fresh seafood.
Photo credit: @ombokcherating
The year-end monsoon season brings high waves to the lagoon-like beach. While many tourists shun the beaches during the “off-season,” surfers have made Cherating their home. There’s an international surfing competition going on every December and if you’re interested in learning surfing, the folks at Ombok Cherating and Cheratingpoint Surf School are ready to board you up!
Travel back in time to the El Dorado of the East
About an hour northwest of Kuantan in the opposite direction is Sungai Lembing, a former tin-mining town that used to operate the largest and deepest pit mining shaft in the world. Today, the rustic town center consists of two rows of shop houses beside the mighty Lembing River while villages across the river are accessible by wooden hanging bridges.
This charming town also appeals to explorers like me.
Bukit Panorama is a hill that only takes 45 minutes to scale and offers a panoramic view of the town below and the surrounding mountain range. If you’re not claustrophobic, then take a dive down Sungai Lembing Tin Mines and navigate your way through underground tunnels towards the infamous Million Dollar Chamber.
Gambang Water Park
Splash and roar your way through the east coast’s largest theme park
Bukit Gambang Resort City is a massive integrated theme park that consists of Water Park, Safari Park and Active Academy. The Water Park is exhilarating for thrill seekers like me on the longest 6 Lane Racer and Family Raft Ride in Malaysia. Once I’m done testing my mettle, I would head over to Coco Beach Wave Pool and Lagoon to wade and relax.
Photo credit: @edinroslan
Gambang Water Park is never short of accommodation as the park offers two types of stay – Arabian Bay Resort and Caribbean Bay Resort. Both resorts have more than 700 spacious suites available catering to groups of friends or families and every unit is furnished with timber-strip flooring and wooden furniture for the utmost comfort of their guests.
To me, Kuantan is always the to-go place for a short getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Whether you are alone, with friends, family or loved ones, I’m sure Kuantan will have something to offer for your trip.