The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia is covered by rubber and palm plantations, with a few pockets of rain forest and jungle, and has some nice beaches, towns and kampongs (traditional Malay "water villages"). The east side of peninsular Malaysia is much more Malay and Islamic in character than the west side. Mosques far outnumber Chinese temples, crackling muezzins call the faithful to prayer and most women wear ankle-length caftans that cover their arms and tudungs (pharaoh-like head scarves that are fastened below the chins with pin). Fishing communities, night markets and Muslim customs are the norm.

On the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia the rainy monsoon season is from October to February and dry hot season is from March to September. During monsoon season, this coastline experiences heavy rain and rolling seas, and many resorts close from November to February. The state of Terengganu is a center of the oil and gas industry. It and Kelantan are regarded as the most Islamic and conservative states in Malaysia. They have religious police and a number laws that seem strange to Westerners such requiring women to use separate checkout lines in supermarkets and requiring movie theaters to keep their lights on so couples don’t smooch.

In many places there are no bars or nightclubs. Only Chinese-owned shops are allowed to sell alcohol. Some hotels have had to drain their swimming pools because the requirement that they have separate pools for men and women. Women entertainers are barred from performing. For the most part the rules only apply to Muslims.

The drive from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to the nearest East Coast city, Kuantan, takes about three or four hours. Kuala Trengganu and Kota Baru and are an additional several hours north along the coast. Roads are fairly good. The pace of life is considerably more relaxed than in Kuala Lumpur. Several resorts, including a Club Med, have opened along the coast in recent years. A number of small, secluded islands have hotel accommodations. Many offer scuba diving and snorkeling. Tioman Island, one hour from Kuala Lumpur by air, which is lovely, but nicest during the March to September dry season. [Source: Cities of the World, Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a October 1994 U.S. State Department report]

Johor State

Johor, also spelled Johore, is Malaysia’s southernmost state of Peninsular (West) Malaysia. Situated just north of Singapore, it has coastlines along both east and west sides of Malaysia, running for 400 kilometers (250 miles) along the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea and is dotted with small islands. Johor is generally flat and covered by rubber and palm oil plantations and jungle, with large swamps, but rises in the east-central region to peaks of over 3,000 feet (900 meters). It has some nice beaches and waterfall swimming holes but relies mainly of Singapore spillover to boost the economy.

Home to 3,233,434 people, Johor covers an area of 19,210 square kilometers and has a population density of 168 people per square kilometer.It capital and largest city is Johor Bahru, which is connected to Singapore by a causeway. Because of Johor’s shallow harbours, its trade depends on Singapore’s port facilities. Commodity movements are mainly by roads, all converging on Johor Bahru,. Singapore in turn depends on Johor’s Teberau River for its water supply. Johor has become essentially a part of Singapore’s hinterland; its economic relations with the Pahang region to the north are negligible. Aside from Johor Bahru, other important towns are Muar, Mersing, Segamat, and Batu Pahat.

Johor was founded by Mahmud Shah, the fugitive sultan of Malacca (now spelled Melaka), and his son Alauddin after the Malaccan kingdom fell to the Portuguese (1511). The area declined in the 18th century when the seat of power shifted to the Riau (Riouw) islands (now part of Indonesia), south of Singapore. The governors of the Johor sultanate were recognized as independent by the British in the cession of Singapore (1819). After 1830, Chinese pepper and gambier (catechu) planters settled in the plains, and a few small trading centres were established along the rivers.

The region’s economy developed after 1919, when the railway was extended southward from the tin and rubber belt of the Malay Peninsula to Singapore, bringing to an end Johor’s historical isolation (by swamps) from the rest of the peninsula. Following World War I, large-scale rubber planting was introduced, and tin and iron deposits were discovered. Bauxite is worked at Teluk Ramunia and Sungai Rengit. Johor is a major producer of oil palms, and coconut (copra) and pineapple estates flourish in the swampy plains, particularly in the peat areas to the west. Canning factories adjoin the estates. Johor Tenggara (Southeast Johor) is the site of a large agricultural and resettlement project, which was inaugurated as part of a long-term development plan in the late 20th century.

Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru (connected to Singapore by a causeway) is capital and largest city is Johor state but is closely linked economically to Singapore. Also spelled Johore Bharu and Johore Baharu, it located in the southern Malay Peninsula, about 175 miles southeast of Kuala Lumpur. The city has some skyscrapers and is home to more than a half million people, most of whom are Chinese.

Johor Bahru is the seat of the sultan of Johor, and his residence, Bakit Serene, houses priceless art treasures. The city is accessible by a fine network of road, rail, and air services. The airport at Senai connects it to all major Malaysian cities. Everyday thousands of Malaysians trek across a causeway to work in Singapore, where foreign workers make up 27 percent of the workforce. Malaysia hopes generate more of a two-way flow of workers. But many Singapore have reservations about their Malaysian neighbor. Many Singaporeans fault Johor Bahru for it reputation for corrupt police and violent crime and complain about the poor infrastructure there.

The Johor-Singapore Causeway is 1,056 meters (3,465 ft) in length and crosses the narrow Johor Strait. Linking Johor Bahru in Malaysia to the Woodlands in Singapore, it supports a road, a railway and a pedestrian walkway and has several huge pipes next to it that bring in Singapore water supply from Malaysia According to ASIRT: “Traffic is often congested, especially on the evening before public holidays. Lanes heading into Singapore have 2 lanes for cars and motorcycles, one lane for buses and one lane for trucks. Photography and videotaping from the bridge are illegal. Bridge intersects with Skudai Highway (Federal Route 1) in Malaysia and with Bukit Timah Expressway in Singapore.” [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2007]

Tourism Offices: 1) L3-26 Aras 3, Bangunan JOTIC, 2 Jalan Ayer Molek, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-222 3590/ 3591, Fax: 607-223 5502; 2) Johor Tourist Information Centre Pusat Penerangan Pelancongan Tg. Pengelih, Jeti Penumpang dan Kompleks Marina Awam, Tg. Pengelih, 81620 Pengerang, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-825-1250/1249/1248, Fax: 607-825-1249 ; 3) Johor Tourist Information Centre Pusat Penerangan Pelancongan JB Sentral, Aras 3, Bangunan JB Sentral, Jalan Jim Quee, 80300 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-218-8070; 4) Johor Bahru Pusat Penerangan Pelancongan, Tourist Information Centre Bangunan Sultan Iskandar, Tingkat 2, Balai Ketibaan, Bangunan Sultan Iskandar, Jalan Lingkaran Dalam, 80300 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-2270-822/2271-822, Fax: 607-227-3822.

Sights in Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru is the seat of the sultan of Johor, and his residence, Bakit Serene, houses priceless art treasures. Royal Abu Bakar Museum is also known as the Grand Palace (Istana Besar Johor). Completed in 1866, it was commissioned by the late Sultan Abu Bakar to serve as his palace. Mimicking a Renaissance style, the building was constructed by local artisans under the supervision of an European architect. The original furniture of the palace was made in England and ordered by the late Sultan Abu Bakar in 1866. The palace was renovated to become a museum in 1982 and was officially opened in 1990. Catch a glimpse of the grand lifestyle of the royal family through the silverware, ornaments as well as souvenirs by dignitaries that are on display at the museum. There are also pictures of the royal family from the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar. The museum is open Saturday through Thursday, 9:00am– 5:00pm. Getting There: By Car or Walk: Located within the palace grounds, the Royal Abu Bakar Museum is easily accessible from Jalan Air Molek and Jalan Ibrahim. Contact: Royal Abu Bakar Museum: Address: Grand Palace, 80500 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-223 0555/0222, Fax: 607-224 8476

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque sits on top of a hill in downtown Johor Bahru, overlooking the Straits of Johor and Singapore. Regarded as one of the most beautiful old mosques in Malaysia, it can accommodate 2,000 worshippers at one time and a mishmash of architectural styles, but principally Victorian. It is said that the minarets look like British watch towers. The construction of the mosque marked the start of Johor's modernisation process in 1892, and was commissioned by the "Father of Modern Johor", the late Sultan Abu Bakar. It took eight years to build and was completed in 1900. Getting There: By Foot or Taxi: The Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque lies in the centre of Johor Bahru, on Jalan Sri Blukar (off Jalan Ibrahim).

Zoo Johor is one of the oldest zoos in Asia. Established in 1928 by the Johor King, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, this medium-sized zoo was originally called an “animal garden” and was handed over to the state government to manage in the 1960s. Among the animals there are lions, elephants and crocodiles. There is lake with aquatic birds. Zoo Johor is open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Getting There: By Car: Located along Jalan Gertak Merah, Zoo Johor is a short drive from the Johor Bahru Custom & Immigration Quarantine Complex (CIQ). Walking: Zoo Johor is a short distance from the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque. You can walk there in less than 10 minutes. Contact: Zoo Johor: Address: Jalan Gertak Merah, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-223 0404

Near Johor Bahru

Johor Lama is 28 kilometers from Johor Bahru. Of historic interest, it is the site of a restored fort originally built in 1587. To the west is the town of Pontian and a famous fishing village with homes on stilts near the water's edge. It is known for its seafood restaurants. Northwest of Johor Bahru is Ayer Hitam, known for the ceramics produced at the Aw pottery works. The quiet town of Kota Tinggi, 56 kilometers miles north, is known for its waterfalls. The beach resort of Desaru is just east of Johor Bahru on the South China Sea. There are luxury-class hotels here, an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, and plans for further expansion.

Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm is run by Mr Ng, Malaysia's own Crocodile Hunter and a third- generation crocodile farmer. There are more than 1,000 crocodiles at the this farm, including one toothless reptile said to be over 130 years old. The largest crocs here are saltwater crocodile species (Crocodylus Porosus). Mr. Ng sometimes stirs up some “excitement” with the reptiles at the water’s edge. The farm is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm. Getting There: he Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm is a one-hour drive from Johor Bahru and 20 minutes from Kota Tinggi Town. Contact: For more information: Address: Lots 1289 & 1290, Jalan Sembilan, Kampung Belading, Teluk Sengat, 81940 Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-895 5220, Fax: 607-895 5137

The Old Johor Fort or Kota Johor Lama was the site of fierce wars in which local Malays fought off invading forces. Built in 1540 during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II (1528-1564), the fort was built in important defensive position along the Johor River. After the fall of the Malay Sultanate of Malacca in 1511, Johor River became the administrative centre and defense fort for Malay counterattacks against Portuguese positions in Malacca. The location of the fort was good for observing the movement of enemy ships, especially Acehnese and Portuguese ones. In 1587, the fort fell to the Portuguese. The whole fort was burnt down and all assets including weapons were taken. Getting There: By Car: Kota Johor Lama is approximately 27 kilometers from Kota Tinggi town, in Teluk Sengat. Johor Lama is accessible from the North-South Expressway (NSE) via the Kulai exit (Interchage 252), onto the Johor Bahru-Kota Tinggi trunk road (Highway 94 and 3) and onwards towards Desaru (Highway 92). This route is about 77 kilometers from the NSE. Contact: Tourism Malaysia Johor, L3-26 Aras 3, Bangunan JOTIC, 2 Jalan Ayer Molek, Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Tel: 607-222 3590/3591, Fax: 607-223 5502


Legoland Malaysia is the first Legolan theme park, the first in Asia, is situated in Nusajaya, Johor on 76 acres of land. The park is the sixth such park to open in the world. Previous parks are located in Billund, Denmark (1968), Windsor, England (1996), California, USA (1999), Germany (2002), Florida, USA (2005). Legoland is built with over 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions.

One of the main attractions is here the Miniland. More than 30 million lego bricks are used in the building of these monuments including the Petronas Twin Towers, The Merlion Statue, Taj Mahal and others. These well-known buildings are built using lego bricks, an interactive world on a scale of 1:20 where people, trains and aeroplanes come to life at the touch of a button. Other attractions at the park include Lego City, Land of Adventure, Imagination, Lego Kingdom and Lego Technic.

In the theme park, there is also an Observation tower which is the highest tower in Legoland Malaysia, some 60 meters from the ground. This is also the third Legoland observation tower in the world after Denmark and Germany. Legoland: Address: 7 Jalan LEGOLAND Bandar Medini, Iskandar Malaysia 79250 Nusajaya, Johor., Tel: 607-597-8888 (Monday through Sunday, 8.30am-5.30pm), Fax: 607-597 8804, Email: info@LEGOLAND.my

Getting There: By Car: From the north via the Kuala Lumpur/Tuas link. From the North-South Highway, take the direction exit 253 to Tuas/Nusajaya/Pontian/Tanjung Pelepas(this exit follows after the Kulaijaya/Kota Tinggi exit). Proceeding further, you will enter the Lima Kedai Toll (you must pay using electronic card) and proceed until you meet the Pulai Interchange. Proceed straight until you see the exit (312) to Gelang Patah and take the exit showing the way to Kota Iskandar. You should see the signboard to Johor Legoland before reaching Kota Iskandar.

Alternatively, from Johor Bahru via the Coastal Highway. If you start from Johor Bahru town, take the new Coastal Highway to Nusajaya/Kota Iskandar from Taman Perling side. Proceed straight after the Toll House and take the exit showing Kota Iskandar. You will reach Johor Legoland before reaching Kota Iskandar. You can also get to Legoland from Singapore via the Tuas second link. Proceed until you see the Gelang Patah interchange and take exit 213 which will lead you to Legoland and Kota Iskandar.

Mangrove National Parks Near Johor Bahru

Tanjong Piai National Park (75 kilometers from Johor Bahru) is located on the southernmost tip of Malaysia embraces beautiful mangroves. Among the animals seen here are wide-eyed mudskippers, macaques, wild birds and other wildlife. Platforms built throughout the park allow visitors to observe the different habitats supported by the mangroves. Just bring a pair of good walking shoes to enjoy the mangroves in comfort.

Getting There: By Bus or Taxi: Tanjung Piai is located about 75 kilometers from Johor Bahru. Currently there is no direct bus service to the Tanjung Piai Johor National Park. Taxi service is available from the Pontian bus station in the town centre to Tanjung Piai's entry point in Sungai Belukang. Be sure to book your return passage back to town in advance with your cab driver. By Car: From Kuala Lumpur, take the North-South Expressway (NSE) south past Machap, then take the Simpang Rengam exit (Interchange 247) onto the highway headed for Tanjung Piai, via the Benut–Pontian– Kukup highways (Highway 96, Highway 5 and Highway 95). Once near Kukup, follow the signboards leading to Tanjung Piai. Contact: Tourism Malaysia Johor: Address: L3-26 Aras 3, Bangunan JOTIC, 2 Jalan Ayer Molek, Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-222 3590/3591, Fax: 607-223 5502, Email: mtpbjhb@tourism.gov.my

Pulau Kukup Johor National Park embraces one of the largest uninhabited mangroves in the world. It is largely untouched and is home to monkeys, mudskippers and wild boars. Getting There: By Taxi: Regular taxi service is available between the Pontian bus station, in the town centre, to Kukup. By Car (from the South): From Johor Bahru, take the Jalan Skudai Highway and head for Pontian/Pontian Kechil. Follow the signage to Kukup. By Car (from the North)From Kuala Lumpur/the north, take the North-South Expressway and exit at the Simpang Renggam toll (after Machap). Take the left turn and head for Pontian/Benut. Thereafter, follow the signboards to Kukup. Contact: Pulau Kukup Johor National Park: Address: Lot 139, Mukim, Air Masin, 82300 Kukup, Pontian, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-696 9355, Fax: 607-696 9366

Kota Tinggi and Kota Tinggi Waterfall

Kota Tinggi (80 kilometers from Johor Bahru) is small town known for its waterfalls and history and is the home of the Kota Tinggi Museum. Built in 1997 and opened to the public in 2002, the museum traces the glory days of the Johor Sultanate, which started soon after the Malaccan empire fell to the Portuguese in 1511. Kota Tinggi was chosen for a museum because it was the seat of the old Johor Sultanate. The stuff in the two-storey museum dates from the 19th century to the present, and including porcelain, huge canvas paintings, ancient musical instruments and weapons. The museum is open Saturday through Thursday from 9:00am-4:00pm and is closed on Fridays. Admission is free. Contact: Kota Tinggi Museum: Address: JKR 1858 (P), Jalan Laksamana, 81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia Tel: 607-883 5749/1498, Fax: 607-883 5542

About 16 kilometers from Kota Tinggi is a popular waterfall and swimming hole that has accommodation within sight of the waterfall and mists that attract scores of butterflies. The waterfalls are located at the foot of Gunung (Mountain) Muntahak. It cascades down some 34 meters from the mountain. The waterfall is a popular escape for busy urbanites and ideal place for swimming and for picnics. Kota Tinggi Waterfalls is located 15 kilometers north of Kota Tinggi town. From Kota Tinggi town, get onto Jalan Lombong and look out for sign boards indicating the way to the waterfall.

Getting There: By Bus: Buses leave frequently from Johor Bahru's Larkin Bus Terminal (on Jalan Garuda) to Kota Tinggi's bus terminal on Jalan Niaga Utama. Contact GP Express at +607-224 8662. By Car: From the North-South Expressway (NSE), take the Kulai exit (Interchange 252) onto the trunk road heading towards Kota Tinggi (Highway 94 and 3). Tourist Information Centre: Pusat Penerangan, Pelancongan Tanjung Belungkor, Terminal Feri Tanjung Belungkor, Bandar Penawar, 81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-827-6500, Fax: 607-827-6361

Synchronized Fireflies at Sungai Lebam Wetlands

Sungai Lebam Wetland Preservation area (91 kilometers from Johor Bahru) is known for fireflies who gather in large numbers and synchronize their blinking lights. Fireflies emit light at their lower abdomen to attract mates and also scare away predators.There are fewer fireflies around on rainy nights and when the moon is full. The best time to watch fireflies is one to four hours after sunset. To get the most out of your trip, do plan your journey in advance.

The firefly is a type of insect from the beetle family. At night, these tiny insects congregate on berembang trees (Sonneratia caseolaris), a type of mangrove tree that grows naturally in brackish waters. They usually become active at dusk (unless it rains) and while congregating, each firefly displays flashes emitted from its abdomen. The males’ flashes are brighter so as to attract the females, and in the case of the Pteroptyx tener, their flashing is synchronized, which is rare in other firefly species. They are only seen at night around 'Berembang' trees. They do appear near palm trees or any other kinds of trees. When becomes sychronised, the overall effect is just like the sky and the area around you twinkling like a Christmas tree.

The best way to enjoy this spectacle of nature is by traveling along the river in a traditional sampan or an electrically powered fiberglass boat. The best time is slightly after 8:00 pm on a clear, moonless night. Any later than that, and the fireflies may have found a mate, causing them to stop flashing. What to bring — Sport shoes or shoes with rubber soles are recommended when visiting. Also remember to pack plenty of mosquito repellent.

In order not to disturb the fireflies you are not allowed to take any pictures. At first, there are not many fireflies, but as you travel down the river they appear in great numbers around almost every berembang tree. Getting There: By Car or Taxi: This wetland area is approximately 91 kilometers from Johor Bahru.Contact: Tourism Malaysia Johor: Address: L3-26 Aras 3, Bangunan JOTIC, 2 Jalan Ayer Molek, Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-222 3590/3591, Fax: 607-223 5502, Email: mtpbjhb@tourism.gov.my

Desaru and Its Beaches and Fruit Farm

Desaru (100 kilometers from Johor Bahru and 57 kilometers from Kota Tinggi) is a very popular destination for its clean beaches, excellent golf courses and unique attractions. It has been called the 'Land of Casuarinas', as one can see casuarina trees along the beaches. Among the attractions in the Desaru are Desaru Beach, Fishing Village Museum at Tanjung Balau, Desaru Fruit Farm and the opportunity to see fireflies at Lebam River.

The beaches at Desaru Beach are clean, lined with casuarina trees and white sand and stretch 25 kilometers. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and other outdoor activities. Numerous hotels, resorts and chalets located in the area, making accommodation simple and convenient.

Tanjung Balau Fishermen Museum (north of Desaru) was developed by the South Johor Development Authority (KEJORA) as part of a development project to help the fishermen's village of Tanjung Balau. Fishermen living in the east coast used several ancient techniques to catch fish. Some incorporate the moon, while others scan the skyline for weather changes. Many artefacts are on exhibit, including fishing nets and tackles, with authentic replicas of the tools used. There are also gaily decorated traditional boats, rafts and vessels used by local fishermen.

Desaru Fruit Farm (39 kilometers away from Kota Tinggi Town) is situated on 100 acres of land over 100 varieties of tropical fruits, 10 species of plants, a petting zoo, koi fish pond and exhibits of how fruit is grown.Learn how to select good fruits, and try out local fruits such as the jackfruit, honey orange, water guava, soursop, and yes, the king of fruits — the durian. The farm offers a half-day tours, has accommodation and is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm. daily. Contact: Desaru Fruit Farm: Address: No. 1, Sungai Cemaran, Desaru, 81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-822 3886/2886, Fax: 607-822 4886, Email: sales@desaruff.com

Getting There: By Car: From Johor Bahru, use the Johor Bharu–Kota Tinggi trunk road (45km). From Mersing town, use the Mersing–Kota Tinggi trunk road. From the North-South Expressway, exit at Pasir Gudang interchange (Exit 256). From Kota Tinggi, it is another 57 kilometers to Desaru. By Bus: Buses leave frequently from Johor Bahru's Larkin Bus Terminal (on Jalan Garuda) to Kota Tinggi's bus terminal on Jalan Niaga Utama. Contact: Tourism Malaysia Johor: Address: L3-26 Aras 3, Bangunan JOTIC, 2 Jalan Ayer Molek, Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 607-222 3590/ 3591, Fax: 607-223 5502, Email: mtpbjhb@tourism.gov.my


Mersing (160 kilometers north of Singapore and Johor Bahru) is a small coastal town known primarily as a jumping off point for islands off the east coast of Malaysia. It is one of only two major towns situated in the eastern half of Johor state (the other being Kota Tinggi) and lies on the main trunk road that connects Singapore with Thailand and it is the main departure point for ferries to the nearby offshore islands such as Tioman Island. It has accommodation and restaurants.

From Mersing, tourists can visit many reasonably nice nearby beaches. Other interesting places to visit near to Mersing town are Endau town, a major off-shore fishing port in Johor (about 33 kilometers from Mersing) and Penyabong, a quiet fishing village located in a beautiful cove by the sea (about 20 kilometers from Mersing). Another attraction is the Endau Rompin National Park in the north.

Getting There: By Car: From Johor Bahru city centre, take the Johor Bahru–Kota Tinggi trunk road and on through the Kota Tinggi– Mersing trunk road (Highway 3). From the North-South Expressway, take the Ayer Hitam exit (Interchange 244) and drive towards Kluang and onwards using the Kluang– Jemaluang trunk road (Highway 50). After Jemaluang town, get onto the Kota Tinggi–Mersing trunk road, heading towards Mersing.


Kuantan (200 kilometers northeast of Kuala Lumpur) is the capital of Pahang State. It is rapidly developing as an important port and seaside resort. Situated on the east coast of the central Malay Peninsula on the South China Sea, Kuantan is just north of the mouth of the Pahang River. The area was a strategic point in the Japanese invasion of the peninsula, and was seized during December 1941 and January 1942. Today, the is home to about 300,000 people., offers miles of beautiful, clean, sandy beaches, ideal for fishing, swimming, and boating. Kuantan is noted for its authentic craftsmanship in woodcarving, batik printing, brocade, and pandan leaf weaving.

There are numerous villages near Kuantan known for their rich cultural traditions. Beserah, 10 kilometers north of Kuantan, is a serene fishing village. Cherating, 47 kilometers north, is the site of Asia's first Club Med, but is also known for its native charms. At Pekan, 40 kilometers miles south, the Royal Palace, Istana Abu Bakar, stands out as a modern architectural design in this charming town of small, old-fashioned shops. It is also the site of a four-day cultural and sporting festival celebrating the sultan's birthday.

Getting There: Kuantan is the largest city on Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast. Kuantan is accessible by air and road from Kuala Lumpur It is linked to Kuala Lumpur by Karak Highway and East Coast Expressway. Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Airport, 12 kilometers south of the city. Flooding is common in monsoon season from September to January. There is regular bus service as well as outstation taxis. A well developed public transport system is provided by buses, trains and taxis. Inter-city buses are available to main destinations. Condition of buses varies. Self-drive and chauffer-driven rental cars are available.

According to ASIRT: “ Traffic is often congested. One way streets may confuse travelers. Multi-lane highways may narrow to two lanes in city center. Roads are fairly well maintained. Taxis provide transport to the city. Taxis are metered; surcharge may apply when traffic is congested or during rains. Agree on fare prior to boarding. Rental cars are readily available. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2007]

Cherating and Its Turtle Sanctuary

Cherating (30 kilometers north of Kuantan) is a small village on the coast with some nice beaches, cheap bungalows as well as boats rides through the marshes filled with five-foot-long monitor lizards and other wild life. Bungalows at Cherating that cost only a few dollars a night and only a few hundred meters away from a Club Med resort with rooms that go for as much as US$300 a night.

The main attraction here is of course the wide sandy beach. Water activities including yachting, surfing, swimming, etc are available from guesthouses.Visit the nearby turtle sanctuary. Register with your guesthouse or tour agent on the main road and they will inform you when there is a turtle landing. The turtle sanctuary is situated north of the village and can be reached by foot (30 min walk). Entry is free, however donations are welcome. Located besides Club Med Resort, Cherating Turtle Sanctuary is a haven for endangered Leatherback turtle’s nurturing and breeding off the shore, when their survival rates are lower. It also houses exhibition room on turtles’ information. The turtles are nurtured until they are three years old, and the sanctuary begins releasing baby turtles to the sea at night-time from June to September. At other months, you can touch the hatchlings at the sanctuary. The sanctuary is open from Tuesday to Sunday at 09:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:30, and open on Friday at 09:00-12:00 and 15:00-17:30 without admission fee charged. Especially when you are interested in following the turtle releasing activity, you can come at night from Mondays to Sundays : 19:30-7:30.

Cherating is located off the main East Coast trunk road (Federal Route 5) about 30 kilometers north of Kuantan. From Kuantan town, follow signboards to Kemaman which will bring you past Beserah and Balok. If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur on the East Coast Expressway (Route E8), you can completely bypass Kuantan and head straight to Cherating. Stick to the expressway until the final exit (Jabor exit). After paying toll, follow signboards to Kemaman, along the new highway. At Sg Ular you will join the main East Coast trunk road. Cherating is another 15 km from there. Coming from Kuala Terengganu, just proceed south along the East Coast trunk road. The Cherating turn off (left turn from this direction) is about 25 km south of Kemaman.

Terengganu State

Terengganu State is Malaysia's largest crude oil producer, with state energy firm Petronas and Exxon Mobil being the biggest operators in the state. It is also one of the poorest. Home to 1,015,776 people it covers an area of 13,035 square kilometers and has a population density of 78 people per square kilometer. The capital is Kuala Terengganu.

Terengganu is known for being one of Malaysia’s most Islamically conservative states. In 1999 the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS)—an Islamic political party— came to power in Terengganu and imposed sharia (Islamic law), complete with stonings and amputations and set up gender segregated lines in supermarkets and tried to implement a number of measure that primarily affected the Chinese community such as banning alcohol and pig farming. Interest was banned on state-granted housing and car loans to civil servants and “un-Islamic” taxes and tolls were rescinded. An Islamic-orientated curriculum was introduced in the schools. The sale of alcohol and gambling were restricted.

There was an effort to apply the rules to all ethnic and religious groups not just Malay Muslims. Police raided Chinese-owned nightclubs. These moves were unpopular and caused a drop in tourism. In March 2002, bikinis were banned in Terengganu and Kelantan, which have a number of beach resorts that are popular with European vacationers. Malaysian tourism officials complained the ban produced a noticeable drop off in the number of foreign visitors to Malaysia. PAS was thrown out of power in 2004 and eased up on some of their more extreme positions.

Overlooking the South China Sea on the east side of Malaysia, Terengganu has a stretch of beautiful beaches and even more spectacular islands. It is popularly known as the ‘Land of Turtles’ because many turtle species such as Olive Ridleys and Leatherbacks come to nest on its beaches each year. Like Kelantan, Terengganu has a strong Malay tradition. Its people have traditionally lived in coastal towns and fishing villages. [Source: Malaysia Hotels]

In ancient times, Terengganu traded extensively with the Majapahit Empire, the Khmer and the Chinese, before becoming a vassal state of Malacca. Terengganu is also believed to be the first state to receive Islam. The present royal family of Terengganu was founded when Mansur Shah became Sultan in the late 1700s. In 1909 that the British took control of the state, effectively ending the reign of Sultans.

Kuala Terengganu

Kuala Terengganu (440 kilometers northeast of Kuala Lumpur) is the capital and largest city in the state of Terengganu and is home to about 240,000 people. Situated on the Terengganu River, the city where the sultan of Teregganu lives. It is the only royal capital among the nine royal states of the country and is both a port and the site of an important weaving industry..

Attractions in and around the city include Kampung Cina, Pasar Besar Kedai Payang, Terengganu State Museum, and Batu Buruk Beach. Even though the city is not spared from modernity and development, Kuala Terengganu still retains strong Malay influences that are intermixed with other cultures from its long history as a por South of the city are numerous fishing villages — Kemaman, Kemasik, and Kuala Dungan. Rantau Abang is where the famous giant leathery turtles are found. They return to this area to lay their eggs and can be seen from May to September, with the peak months being July and August. [Source: Cities of the World, Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a October 1994 U.S. State Department report]

The Central Market, locally known as Pasar Payang, is located by the Terengganu River and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Kuala Terengganu. Housed in a modern building, it offers visitors a variety of traditional handicrafts such as batik, silk, songket, brocade and brassware, as well as fresh produce.

The Terengganu State Museum has been labeled the largest museum in Southeast AsiaSouth East Asia. Located on 27 hectares of land in Bukit Losong, Kuala Terengganu and housed in a building whose architecture is based on the designs of Terengganu's old palace, it is comprised of a Main Museum, a Maritime Museum, a Fisheries Museum, four traditional houses and botanic and herb gardens. The Main Museum is built on 16 concrete stilts with galleries showcasing textiles and weaving techniques, traditional weapons, crafts, historical, royal regalias, nature, petroleum development, Islamic arts, new generation and contemporary arts. The other four blocks are adjoined, to represent a large family. At the main entrance of the main complex, lays the famous original Batu Bersurat of Terengganu. Getting There: By Bus: Its only a 15 minutes journey from the Bus Museum or Losong to MPKT Bus Station. By Taxi: From Kuala Terengganu Taxi Station it merely takes 10 minutes to get there.

Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque (Masjid Terapung) is built on a floating platformon the estuary of Terengganu River. The modern architectural design was inspired by an idea from the late Sultan of Terengganu, Al- Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al- Muktafi Billah Shah ibni al- Marhum Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, and is named after his mother, Tuanku Intan Zaharah binti Almarhum Tengku Seri Setia Raja. The glistening white mosque combines modern and Moorish architecture, symbolizing a new modernisation in the state, making it an Islamic icon in the country. The design of the mosque reflects a subtle Islamic influence combined with local features, incorporating the use of marble, ceramics, mosaic works and bomanite paving. Getting There: By Bus or Car This mosque is located along Jalan Sultan Mahmud, roughly 4 kilometers away from Kuala Terengganu town centre. From the town of Terengganu, head towards South to Marang or Kuantan by local bus or driving. After about 6-8 kilometers from the town center, you can see the Mosque just beside the road at the left.

Getting There: By Car: There are several alternative routes. If you travel by car from Kuala Lumpur, head to Ajil through Karak Highway to Jerengau-Jabor Highway then onwards to Kenyir. Another alternative route is to take the coastal road through Kemaman and Dungun to Kuala Terengganu. By Air: Fly with either Malaysian Airlines or Air Asia. They operate regular flights to the Sultan Mahmud Airport in Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Local Tourism Office: Pejabat Tourism Malaysia Terengganu, 11 Tingkat Bawah & Satu, Pusat Niaga Paya Keladi, Jalan Kampung Daik, 20000 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia, Tel: 609-630 9433/ 9093, Fax: 609-630 9091

Kenyir Lake

Tasik Kenyir (80 kilometers inland from Kuala Terengganu) is the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia, spanning 260,000 hectares. It was created by Malaysia's largest rock filled hydroelectric dam. When the area was flooded, most of the hills were above the water level, thus creating about 340 man-made islands. Surounded by a vast tropical jungle, the lake area is a popular spot for angling, boating, canoeing, jungle- trekking, 4WD driving and golfing.Accommodation varies from a 3 star resort, chalets on the islands, floating resort or houseboats where rooms and meals are provided. The houseboat travels to waterfalls and fishing sites. Tasik Kenyir is also a gateway to Taman Negara through Tanjung Mentong.

The lake is a popular retreat for nature lovers as it is surrounded by lush tropical rainforest. These include rare ferns, exotic orchids, hornbills, elephants, and panthers. It is also home to more than 8,000 species of flowers, 2,500 species of plants and trees, 800 species of orchids, and 300 species of fungus. Fishermen try to catch freshwater fish such as Baung, Toman, Kelisa, Lampam and Kelah.

Getting There: By Car: There are several alternative routes to go to Kenyir Lake. If you travel by car from Kuala Lumpur, head to Ajil through Karak Highway to Jerengau-Jabor Highway then onwards to Kenyir. Another alternative route is to take the coastal road through Kemaman, Dungun, Kuala Terengganu and then on to Kenyir Lake. By Air: Fly with either Malaysian Airlines or Air Asia. They operate regular flights to the Sultan Mahmud Airport in Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). From the Sultan Mahmud Airport, you could take a taxi straight to Tasik Kenyir. The fare is about RM 60.00, or if you are heading to Kuala Berang the fare is about RM30.00. By Boat There are a number of boat operators at the Gawi Jetty, who can take you using their fibre glass or double decked houseboats, across Tasik Kenyir. It is advisable to make prior bookings. Some travel agencies offer tour packages. Contact: Tourist Information Centre, Pengkalan Gawi, Tel: 609-626 7788/ 666 8498, Ketengah, Tel: 609-822 3100 ext 103

Marang: Islands, River Safaris and Squid Jigging

Marang (15 kilometers south of Kuala Terengganu) is a jumping off point for boat trips to several nearby limestone islands. The snorkeling is pretty good. People often catch glimpse of sea turtles (not leatherbacks) and colorful fish and a strange looking jellyfish but the water clarity is not great. There are of local markets and batik factories. There is one pleasant resort that features rooms in stilt house above a mangrove preserve.

Marang was once a tiny fishing village with only two rows of wooden houses in the town center and a shallow river separating them. Now it is a mid-size town with a few restaurants and places to stay. Some old village houses remain and many villagers maintain their traditional fishing lifestyle. There is a string of budget hotels is located along the banks of the river and near the estuary offering " the most glorious sunrise views". Marang Beach is unique in that its broad golden sands form a stretch of sand dunes. Shops line the roads from Marang to K. Terengganu, selling lots of local produce and fruit and seafood such cuttlefish, shrimps and fish prepared in a variety ways.

Marang River Safari refer to a boat cruise along the Marang river through mangrove forests. You can see animals that live along the river such birds, monitor lizards, monkeys and crabs. The boat trip stop at Jenang traditional village, where you can witness the villagers making coconuts sugar, weaving for attap roof and monkey plucking coconuts. April to June is for squid jigging (Candat Sotong) season. If you are in Marang at that time and are not prone to seasickness give it a try. The candat sotong boat departs around 7.00pm and reach the jigging point near Kapas Island in 45-60 minutes. The squid are attracted to lights to clustered around the boats. A jig is a weighted lure with nine hooks arranged in a circular pattern at one end. The other end is secured to a fishing line. Normally the fisherman can land 30kg to 40kg squid a night, if the boat anchored at the right squid shelter or lubuk, it can easily land up to 100 kilograms during a night of jigging.

Rantau Abang: Former Leatherback Turtle Watching Place

Rantau Abang (80 kilometers south of Kuala Terengganu) used to be the place to come at night to watch leatherback turtles lay their eggs. The beach was considered ideal for egg laying because it sloped steeply meaning the female turtles do not have to waste too much energy to reach a suitable spot near the vegetation line to begin laying their eggs. Also the size of the sand granules on this beach was considered ideal for digging and providing a good temperature for incubating the eggs. These were among the reason Rantai Abang was one of only six major nesting sites for leatherback turtles in whole in the world for these gentle giant creatures which can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to a ton. [Source: malaysia-traveller.com]

In the 1950s, 10,000 nestings were reported along this beach. By 2003 that number was only two It has now been several years without any sightings and the leatherback is now regarded as extinct in this area. I witnessed the leatherbacks coming ashore in 1988. Back then turtle watching at Rantau Abang took place between May and September, when female leatherback turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs. The leatherbacks are awesome animals. They are world's largest reptiles, reaching weights of over 1000 pounds, and watching the females lay their eggs was a truly extraordinary sight.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace, however, didn't like the practice. They asserted that turtle watching harassed the poor creatures at a crucial moment in their lives. In the past crowds, sometimes with hundreds of people, gathered around the turtles, poking them, laughing and taking photographs, while the turtles laid their eggs. When I was there authorities went to great lengths to keep the turtle watchers at a safe distance from turtles and make sure no picture taking was done until after the turtles had laid their eggs and were heading back into the ocean.

The turtles usually arrived after midnight. When they appearred guest house employees shouted and knock on the doors to wake up their guests and let them know the turtles had arrived. Sometimes several turtles show up, sometimes none, but usually at least one made an appearance each night during the nesting season. On the beach it didn't take long to find them: just look for the group of people assembled around them.

The turtles were huge, about the size of small couches, and their black leathery shells looked as if they were made out of the same material as their flippers. On land the poor turtles were totally out of their element: their eyes glazed over with mucus, gasping for air as they lumbered with great effort to the place where they laid their eggs.

Once the females had found a good spot, maybe 30 meters from the water, they scooped out a shallow nest with their flippers. The eggs came out along with a slimy mess and were quickly scooped up by turtle caretakers and put in a safe place so they didn't get crushed. The mother turtles then slowly turned around and began heading back to the ocean. They barely dug their flippers into the sand as they moved forward, leaving a drainage-ditch size track in their wake. When the turtles hit the water, flashbulbs started exploding and it was hard to resist touching the animals just to see what they felt like. The night I was at Rantau Abang in July three turtles showed up at different times and in different places.

What has caused this catastrophic implosion to the species? According to Malaysia Traveller: “ Partly it was the poor treatment these shy and sensitive turtles received on land from uncaring visitors and egg poachers. Other factors were probably sea pollution and fishing practices. Even well intentioned hatchery programmes may have contributed to the problem by producing only female turtle eggs which go unfertilized. Whatever the reason, the only turtles that tourists are likely to see at Rantau Abang these days are the stuffed exhibits at the Turtle Information Centre on the main road here. The Turtle Information Centre is worth a quick look as it provides useful information but in a way it is a sad reminder of what has been lost.

The beach here is beautiful with clean orange sand and clear water. The steep slope probably continues under the water which might explain the red flags flying on the beach. There is some basic accommodation here. It is still possible to see turtles in Terengganu. Go to Redang Island. I have also seen newly hatched ones on the Perhentian Islands.


Kelantan is a state in northeast portion of peninsular Malaysia. Home to 1,459,994 people it covers an area of 15,099 square kilometers and has a population density of 97 people per square kilometer. Its capital and largest city is Kota Bharu, which is situated on the South China Sea and is not far from the Thailand- Malaysia border. Malays make up 95 percent of the population of Kelantan There are also Chinese and Indians and some Orang Siam, a group of 7,000-8,000 Buddhist Thais.

Kelantan is considered to be the most Islamic and conservative of all Malaysia states and is the only state in Malaysia still under the control of the Pan Malaysia Islamic Party (Malay:Parti Islam SeMalaysia, or PAS), an Islamic political party In Kelantan, there are laws banning alcohol sales, gambling and unisex hair salons. Men and women are required to use separate supermarket lines and the state’s popular shadow puppet plays can only be staged for tourists because they have Hindu influences. Religious officials are posted at Moonlight Beach (formally known as the Beach of Passionate Love) to make sure couples don't touch.

Singing and dancing in schools is discouraged (they can't be banned because they are administered by the national government). In some schools in Kelantan, student spend 60 percent of their time studying Islamic material. Kelantan follow the Muslim week. Schools, government offices and business are closed on Friday, the Muslim sabbath. The Kelantan Islamic government has also passed a law banning excessive lipstick as an "early step towards fighting illicit sex." Lights are kept on during films in movie theaters to make sure no hanky panky goes on. Hotels have to build separate swimming pools for men and women.

Local assemblies have supported instituting hudut (Muslim law)—in which thieves have their hand amputated and adulterers are stoned to death—but were unable to implement the law because of opposition from the federal government. In March 2002, bikinis were banned in Terengganu and Kelantan, which have a number of beach resorts that are popular with European vacationers. Malaysian tourism officials complained the ban produced a noticeable drop off in the number of foreign visitors to Malaysia. Kelantan is the poorest state in Malaysia but it takes pride in the fact that it is also the least corrupt.

One strong point that differentiates between Kelantan and the rest of Malaysian states is the way that the Kelantanese categorize people based on their place of origin rather than the color of the skin. All Kelantanese are considered as Oghe Kito (Our People or Orang Kita in standard Malay) no matter which race or religion they belong to, while non-Kelantanese are referred to as oghe luar (literally meaning outsiders). This sometimes gives the wrong impression to the non-Kelantanese Malaysians, to whom the term Orang Kita usually refers to people of the same race.

Kota Bharu

Kota Bharu (near the Thai border, 610 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur) is the capital and largest city of Kelantan State. Regarded as a center of traditional Malay culture, it is a modern city, with an important power station, and a population of over 333,000. Also spelled Kota Baharu, it lies on the South China Sea and was seized by Japan on December 10, 1941, as part of the offensive against Singapore during World War II.

Landmarks in Kota Bharu include the State Mosque, completed in 1926; Merdeka Square, which honors Malay warriors who died during World War II; and the Istana Jahar, or State Museum, built during the reign of Sultan Muhamad IV and completed in 1899. The city has many hotels and beach resorts in the area. The city's cultural center, Gelanggang Seni, offers performances of gasing (top-spinning), kite-flying, wayang kulit (shadow puppet theater), and silat (Malaysian art of self-defense).

Because the people of Kota Bharu live by Islamic laws, there is little nightlife. During Ramadan restaurant are usually closed during the day, food is sold in public only in the early morning and after sundown. Alcohol is not sold in public in Kota Bharu (and in the whole state of Kelantan for that matter), but there are some exceptions like the international renowned hotels (like the luxurious Renaissance Hotel) and some Chinese restaurants where beer is served to non-Muslims. Alcohol is sold on islands like Perhentian and Redang at Kota Bharu's coast.

Getting There: Kota Bharu is connected to almost all major cities in Malaysia and Singapore by roads, rail, and air; Kuala Lumpur is a 45-minute flight away. By Air: There are numerous daily flights from Kuala Lumpur. Three airlines operate on this route; Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Firefly. Malaysia Airlines departs from KLIA (domestic), AirAsia departs from LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) and Firefly departs from Subang Airport. Some of the airlines also fly from other cities within Malaysia to Kota Bharu, check out their websites to find out from what cities they operate besides Kuala Lumpur. Kota Bharu Airport (or Sultan Ismail Petra Airport) is a decent but small airport.

By Rental Car: Numerous car rental companies have special pick up locations throughout the country. Hawk Malaysia for example has a drop off point at Kota Bharu airport, so you can easily pick up the car at an Hawk office in Kuala Lumpur (KLIA or city center) and drive with it to Kota Bharu. From Kuala Lumpur it is a 8,5 hour drive to Kota Bharu, so you might want to consider a short stopover at another destination on the way to Kota Bharu. Many tourists combine their trip to Kota Bharu with either a visit to Cameron Highlands or a trip to Taman Negara.

By Bus: The cheapest way to reach Kota Bharu is by coach. There are quite some bus operators that have daily busses driving between Kota Bharu and many other locations within Peninsular Malaysia. From the main bus terminal Puduraya in Kuala Lumpur a couple of busses a day leave towards Kota Bharu. The trip from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu by bus will take around 9 hours. As there are two bus stations in Kota Bharu, Central Bus Station and Langgar Bus Station, make sure you find out up front from which station your bus is departing (or arriving). Tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu only cost around RM40 (one way).

Jungle train to Kota Bharu You can travel by train between Johor Bahru in the south of Peninsular Malaysia and Kota Bharu in the north. There is a daily train that travels straight through the jungles in the center of Peninsular Malaysia. This train is also called the 'jungle' train, though only a small part of the total route actually crosses the jungle. Nonetheless; taking this train is a very adventurous way to travel to Kota Bharu. If you want to take the train from Kota Bharu; you need to embark at Wakaf Bharu station (at kilometers distance of Kota Bharu city). The final stop of the jungle train will be at Gemas station; where you can either get a taxi to take you to KL (or perhaps Malacca); or you can wait for the next train to either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

Sights and Activities in Kota Bharu

Kota Bharu is arguably the best place in Malaysia to experience Malay culture. Two or three times a week the local cultural center, Gelanggang Seni, there puts on displays of the local Malay sports and activities such as competitive top spinning, kite fighting, sepak takraw (a sport similar to volleyball but played only with the head and feet with a rattan ball), silat (a dance-martial-art performed to music) and shadow puppet plays.

The Central Market is a colorful market housed in octagonal-shaped, three-story building with a mosque-like dome, glass ceiling and arched entrances. Commerce inside the 1.6 hectare building is dominated by 2,000 Muslim women merchants in traditional clothes, who sell a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including durians and mangosteens, on the first floor; miscellaneous goods on the second floor; prayer mats, clothes and batik-print cloth on the third floor; and meat and fish on the outer rime. The official name of the market is Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah (Big Bazaar of Siti Khadijah). Siti Khadijah was one of the Prophet Mohammed’s wives.

Handicraft Village and Craft Museum is worth a visit. Also known as "Balai Getam Guri", it is located in the heart of Kota Bharu's cultural zone, within walking distance from the Istana Balai Besar and Buluh Kubu Bazaar. The Craft Museum houses many fine examples of Kelantanese craftsmanship. A restaurant called "Balai Sulur Gadung" is located on the ground floor of the building, where visitors can savour some of Kelantan's famous dishes. The adjacent Handicraft Village provides visitors the chance to see just how these crafts are made. Demonstrations of traditional embroidery, songket weaving, batik printing, silver work and wood carving are carried out by skilled artisans. Their products are also on sale at the centre. The museum is open from 8.30am–4:00pm daily (except Fridays). Getting There: Walk: Located in the heart of Kota Bharu's cultural zone, the Handicraft Village is a walking distance from the Istana Balai Besar and the Buluh Kubu Bazaar. It is easily accessible from Jalan Sultan and Jalan Hilir Kota.

Kota Bharu: Local Tourism Office:
Pejabat Tourism Malaysia Kelantan,
Tingkat Bawah Kampung Kraftangan,
Jalan Hilir Balai,
15300 Kota Bharu,
Kelantan, Malaysia, Tel: 609-747 7554, Fax: 609-747 8010

Nearby Kota Bharu: Moonlight Beach and Beach of Whispering Breeze

Nearby Kota Bharu there are some jungle walks to salt licks where wild life can be viewed. Also nearby is Moonlight Beach, which used to be called the Beach of Passionate Love until Islamic politicians insisted that the name be changed.

Among the temples and Buddhist monuments in towns near to Kota Bharu are: Wat Pothivihan (huge reclining Buddha) in Tumpat; Wat Mai Suwan Khiri (dragon Boat & standing Buddha); Wat Chonprachumthat at Kg. Dalam; Wat Machimarran Varran (sitting Buddha), and Wat Serova Buddhist Temples (Goddess of Mercy - Kuan Yin). At Bachok, there is a 100 foot high standing Buddha at Wat Phothikyan (just opened to public in June 2009) and a Kuan Yin temple facing the South China Sea nearby.

Pantai Bisikan Bayu (Beach of Whispering Breeze), also known as Pantai Dalam Rhu, is a 50 kilometers drive south of Kota Bharu. Around the village of Semerak, gentle breezes rustle the casuarina trees lining the beach producing a hushed sound that, locals say, sounds like a soothing whisper. Surfing is good at certain times of the year, and wind surfers will find great conditions here during the North-East Monsoon from November to April. Getting There: By Car: Follow the interstate highway south of Kota Bharu for 50 kilometers until you reach the charming town of Pasir Putih. The beach lies just past this town.

Gunung Stong State Park

Gunung Stong State Park(near Dabong, 165 kilometers from Kota Bharu or 70 kilometers from Gua Musang) is a forested area, totaling 21,950 hectares with several prominent mountain peaks. The area is home to one of the highest waterfalls in Malaysia, the seven-tiered Jelawang Waterfall and is known for its exceptional beauty, The rugged landscape of Gunung Stong State Park (GSSP) offers many exciting adventures for anyone who loves nature and the great outdoors. GSSP not only has important eco-tourism values but also serves as a significant conservation area with rich flora and fauna diversity.

Animals such as the Asian elephant, seladang, great argus pheasant, Malayan tiger, serow and tapir are known to roam the forest in Gunung Stong. When exploring the park it is best to go with a guide that can be arranged at the park entrance. Most of the treks are to the top of the park’s mountains. The Bogo Rock Shelter, a cave- like formation, is a suitable resting point on the way to the summit of 1422-meter-high Gunung Stong, which can be reached within four hours of trekking. Gunung Ayam, the highest peak in the area at 1,504 meters, is an ideal spot to catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets. A campsite is available for overnight stays. Visit the breathtaking limestone caves, said to be 225 million years old, at Dabong that house several bat species and rare flora, including an endemic balsam.

Getting There: By Road: Head for Dabong on Highway 66. Dabong is 165 kilometers from Kota Bharu or 70 kilometers from Gua Musang. From Dabong it is about five kilometers to the turn off towards Gunung Stong State Park on highway D29. It is well signposted and easy to find. By Car: From Kuala Lumpur, take the North-South Expressway heading north and exit at Kuala Kangsar.From the exit, head towards Gerik and then proceed along the East-West highway towards Jeli. At Jeli town, follow Route 66 leading to Dabong. Alternately, take the East Coast Expressway from KL towards Bentong. From there, follow Route 8 to Gua Musang, and then get on Route D29 to Dabong. By Train: From the KL Sentral Station, the northbound express train to Kota Bharu will take you through several small settlements including Dabong. From there, youll need to cross Sungei Galas and head to Jelawang which is only 3 kilometers away. By Boat Take a boat at Kuala Krai to Dabong/Jelawang. The boat ride takes about an hour. Contact: Kelantan State Forestry Department, Tel: 609-748 2140

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons,

Text Sources: Malaysia Tourism websites, Malaysia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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