Any place you visit after the Perhentian Islands, will struggle to compare. In fact a comparison is just plain unfair. So when we got to Kuala Terengganu, midway down the east coast of Malaysia. I wasn’t expecting much.
But, I was pleasantly surprised. KT is a relatively small city, the capital of Terengganu state. This state is blessed with oil and gas resources and as a result is very clean, has great facilities and a really strong sense of KT pride.
We stayed in KTs small Chinatown. Although making up fewer than two per cent of the population in the whole of Terangganu state, the Chinese community is proud and strong. We stayed at a fantastic guesthouse, with the host Lorenz. Lorenz is everything a traveller wants in a host. Kind, friendly, passionate and keen to share his knowledge of the area.
Discovering secret laneways in Chinatown, eating from roadside stalls and cruising round town in the Bandar bus (a bus decorated to look like a traditional Malay house with garden seats inside) are all great things to do in KT.
We spent five nights in KT, but could have easily stayed five more. The KT museum is the biggest in south east Asia (this is what they claim on the ticket). It has an interesting section on the history of Malaysia and Islam, particularly in the state of Terengganu where the Islamic stone was found. But perhaps more impressive than the inside of the museum is the buildings. They are spectacular. Set in a massive park with hectares of gardens, you could easily spend a day just wandering around the grounds. NB if you do visit, bring your own food and drink. There is a small café that doesn’t seem to be open very often and not much close by.
When we arrived at the museum, dancing and games near the entrance drew the kids in. We followed and were soon approached by an American lady named Rose. She is a teacher at a school and explained the event was for teachers and children from their school. I apologized for intruding and then went to look for the kids. She stopped me. “No, no, it’s fine you’re here, I just came up to speak to you because all the kids were telling me my friends were here.” I looked at her slightly confused, she then explained that they don’t see many white people in KT and as we were white, we must’ve been her friends.
And this explained the deep interest many KT locals had in us, especially the kids. Ruby was a minor celebrity at KT walk where she posed patiently for photos. She was often difficult to spot among the many selfie sticks. The locals were delighted with her basic Malay and very impressed that she’d taken the trouble to learn some.
It was good to let the kids play in parks again. There were some great playgrounds and lots of kids to play with. One of the best is just a few minutes walk from Chinatown and has a great view of the Crystal Mosque. We also stumbled across an open (but half empty) mall near the bus station. Here in one of the empty shops they had set up a kids play area with small cars the kids could drive for the bargain price of five ringgit for 20 minutes. Fortunately for the kids, the bored shop assistant couldn’t be bothered telling them to hop off so they enjoyed tearing round the shop for more than half an hour.
So KT thanks for having us. You impressed and were a great place to recharge and restock before our next island getaway.
If you visit KT, consider staying at Lorenz’s KT Chinatown Lodge. It is impeccably clean and Lorenz is full of useful information for tourists.
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