Just like a couple of states in Malaysia such as Perlis and Kedah, the locals in Kota Bharu have their very own dialects, making it rather challenging to converse with the locals. However, that should not be a reason not to visit Kota Bharu. Kota Bharu houses many great attractions for a quick vacation. The quaint city only takes two days to cover, making it a suitable weekend getaway.
1. Istana Jahar
If you want to know more about the history of Kota Bharu, head for Jahar Place or Istana Jahar, an old palace located right in the heart of the town. The palace is within walking distance from hotels and other tourist attractions. Built in 1887, Istana Jahar was first served as a palace for the royalties of Kelantan. It was later turned into a museum in 1992, known as Kelantan Traditional Royal Ceremonies Museum. The luxurious and unique woodcarvings are still preserved until now, adding a touch of elegance to the palace.
2. Bank Kerapu Memorial Museum
CC BY-SA 4.0/Muhamad Fadhli Ahmad
A three-minute walk away from Istana Jahar, the Bank Kerapu Memorial Museum is well-kept and preserved by the local authorities. The museum is better known as the War Museum among the locals and was built by the Mercantile Bank in 1912. However, upon the invasion of the Japanese army during the World War II in 1941, the building was used as the headquarter of the Japanese military police or secret police. As the British returned in 1945 and took over the state, the building was then reconverted into a bank before being converted into Bank Kerapu Memorial Museum. The museum speaks about the rich history of Kota Bharu through its extensive collections of more than 1,000 exhibits collected during the Japanese occupation.
3. Handicraft Village and Craft Museum
Photo credit: xcgen
Besides the rich history, Kota Bharu is also a city full of arts and cultures. You should explore the Handicraft Village and Craft Museum, also known as “Balai Getam Guri” to explore the Kelantanese craftsmanship. If you are looking for a hands-on experience, you can take part in the short workshops conducted by the skilled local artisans. Most workshops encourage you to get your hands dirty and paint the Batik yourself. You can bring home your DIY artwork at a nominal fee. The Handicraft Village is also a great place to shop for souvenirs, thanks to its wide selection and reasonable price.
4. Siti Khadijah Central Market
Photo credit: nattyymy
Another exciting local experience of Kota Bharu is the shopping session at Siti Khadijah Central Market, locally known as Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah. The huge compound sells anything you can imagine of, from local foods and groceries to clothes and accessories. Get ready to spend hours exploring every corner of the market. One useful tip for you: plan your visit to Siti Khadijah Central Market after the Eid Festivals for a steeply discounted price.
5. Pantai Cahaya Bulan
Many locals and tourists love to visit Pantai Cahaya Bulan in the evening to catch the sunset. You can also ride horses along the shoreline or fly some traditional kites, known as Wau Bulan, sold by the vendors nearby.
6. Seafood Restaurants along Pantai Cahaya Bulan
If you are too hungry to wait for the sun to set, grab some snacks from the numerous restaurants and stalls lined up along the beach. Being a coastal town, Kota Bharu has a wide selection of seafood dishes. If you prefer having something more filling, you can also find a few stalls selling Mee Ketam or Mee Udang, topped with a generous amount of crabs and prawns. Don’t forget to gulp some coconut shakes to quench your thirst!
7. Have a breakfast at the famous Kopitiam Kita
A real foodie won’t leave Kota Bharu without having a hearty breakfast at Kopitiam Kita. The restaurant is often full during peak hours, so try to have early or late lunch/dinner there! The must-order dish here is Roti Titab, a toast served with half boiled egg and ‘kaya’ on top of the bread. It was an original creation by the restaurant owner, who then secured a patent for the dish. But that’s not all! Kopitiam Kita also offered other types of local breakfast dishes such as Nasi Lemak, Nasi Dingin, and Nasi Tumpang.
In a nutshell, Kota Bharu in Kelantan is a wonderful destination for a quick getaway. With so many things to explore and try, you can immerse in the local culture and ambience without breaking the bank.
Best places to stay: Grand Riverview Hotel is one of the top hotels in Kota Bharu for its strategic location and top-notch service. Hotel Perdana is a good option as well, a short distance away to many interesting destinations.