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Kota Bharu

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Kota Bharu (also Kota Bahru or Kota Baru) is the state capital of Kelantan, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. Many travellers simply pass through on their way to the Perhentian Islands, but those who spend a few days in KB have the chance to go to some of the museums mentioned below, eat some delicious food, look at a unique style of traditional architecture, and get a little bit of the feel of a city that has an interesting cultural identity all its own.

Understand

Kota Bharu is a very socially conservative city in a state ruled by the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS). Be respectful of the cultural and religious sensibilities of its primarily Muslim inhabitants. There is no need for non-Muslim women to wear a tudung (scarf over the hair), but both men and women should consider wearing clothing which covers their torso completely. Also, be prepared for breaks to be taken in many places, including the Pasar Malam (Night Market) during Islamic prayer times.

Get in

By plane

Kota Bharu's small but new and efficient Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (KBR) in Pengkalan Chepa currently receives flights from Kuala Lumpur provided by Malaysia Airlines [1] and budget carrier AirAsia [2]. Advance bookings especially for AirAsia can be very cheap. Firefly [3], a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, flies 5 times a day between Kota Bharu and Kuala Lumpur Subang Airport. Flights take just under an hour and can cost from as low as RM45.95 before tax and surcharges.

Firefly has also announced an international flight to Singapore, commencing in October 2009.

Getting to/away: The airport is 15 minutes from the city centre by taxi. You can also catch a Transnasional bus from the local bus station in the city centre.

By train

The nearest railway station to Kota Bharu is at Wakaf Bharu, some 5 kilometers away from the city center. You can catch a public bus there or ask your hotel/guesthouse to arrange a taxi for you (RM15-20, @ Feb 2010). The official taxis at the station have a rate sheet.

Trains run on the Jungle Railway to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. One attraction is the Jungle Train which stops at almost every station between Tumpat and Gemas, allowing you to enjoy the jungle as the train travels through the heart of Peninsular Malaysia. Officially the Mail Train 91, it leaves at 05:21 from Wakaf Bharu station and reaches Gemas at 20:00, travelling via Jerantut (for Taman Negara National Park). Gemas is located on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore trunk line and you can catch connecting trains there.

Other trains are:

By bus

The state-run SKMK and Transnasional is the largest bus company, and runs all the city and regional buses, as well as most of the long-distance buses. It operates from the central bus station (city and regional buses) and the Langgar bus station (long-distance buses). All the other long-distance bus companies operate from Jalan Hamzah external bus station. On arrival in Kota Bharu some of the buses will drop you at the central bus station , but they don't depart from there. Transnasional is the easiest to deal with, as it has ticket offices at all the bus stations. Long-distance departures are from Langgar bus station but, just to make thing confusing, a few evening buses also go from central bus station. Ask which station your bus departs from when you buy your ticket, and book as far ahead as possible, especially for the Butterworth and Penang buses. There are several buses to Butterworth (RM30 , five or six hours), the buses to Penang (RM34.70 , six hours and 15 minutes) with one long stop (60-75 minutes) at Grik. Buses to Penang leave in the morning at 9 am and in the evening. There are also regular buses to Kuala Terengganu (RM16 , three hours) and Kuantan (RM33 , six hours). Apart from that, there are also buses to Kuala Lumpur (RM40 , nine hours), Johor Bahru (RM65 , 12 hours), Singapore (13-14 hours), Melaka (RM55 , 10-11 hours), Seremban (RM48 , 10 hours) and Ipoh (RM35 , seven hours). Other destinations are Alor Setar, Jerantut, Jitra, Gerik, Temerloh, Dungun, Kemaman, Kangar and Kerteh. The other bus companies cover many of the same routes and are worth trying.

From the Thai Border town of Sungai Kolok, there is a red city liner bus 19 for RM5.10, which runs the 36km stretch. Just wait along the Malaysian side of the border along the covered walkway and flag it.

See

Kota Bharu itself offers many museums ([4] Malay-language only) near Independence Square (Padang Merdeka). Several of the museums and the nearby Istana Balai Besar (the downtown Royal Palace) were built in a unique kind of elegant architecture that is well worth seeing. Arguably the most amazing building, however, is the central market (Pasar Besar). It is an octagonal building in the centre of town and houses a very colourful and active market every day. Nearby is a plain square which turns into the local food market in the evenings (Pasar Malam = Night Market).

Some visitors (particularly those interested in the history and cultural heritage of Kelantan) may also find the Muzium Negeri Kelantan (Kelantan State Museum) on Jalan Hospital 15000 of interest.

The following museums in Kota Bharu are all open from 8:30am-4:45pm every day except Fridays (when they are closed):

Great temples to visit in the nearby towns to Kota Bharu Town: near Tumpat there is Wat Pothivihan (huge reclining Buddha), 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.

Do

Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyl Beach?

No, PCB Beach isn't named after a nasty industrial chemical: the original name was Pantai Cinta Berahi or the "Passionate Love Beach". Alas, this was a little too daring for PAS, and now the official name is Pantai Cahaya Bulan, "Moonlight Beach".

Buy

Eat

Kota Bharu is full of delicious Kelantanese food, a unique cuisine influenced by Thai and Indian styles, among others. Lots of goodies are to be found in the pasars and in coffee shops throughout the city. Chinese food is also available at various Chinese restaurants and food courts.

Among the local specialties are :

For Chinese food, go to :

For Thai food, try restaurants in Taman Cemerlang, and in nearby Wakaf Bharu town

Drink

Go to the Chinese restaurants where beer is served to non-Muslims only.

There are a few watering holes in KB - one has a disco feel about it (called Restoran), a few have a few "Thai drinks promoters".

However, if you are into coffee - look for cafes / kopitiams. Some have wi-fi facilities. Go to the riverside (Pelangi Mall) for a refreshing river view and freshly brewed coffee.

Sleep

Budget

Hostels can be found in the area near the Central Market.

Mid-range

Splurge

Get out

Malaysia:

From the airport, train station and city you can take a taxi to Kuala Besut for ferry connections to the Perhentian Islands (45-60 min; theoretically only RM25 but good luck paying much less than RM50). If you want to stick to public transport, there is also a direct bus service to Kuala Besut.

Thailand:

Related Information




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