Characterized by a strong Malay culture, laid-back lifestyle, tranquil and picturesque coastal towns and rustic villages, Kuala Terengganu is the capital city of Terengganu state in Malaysia. This majestic city stands on the bank of the Terengganu River, with exquisite culture and pristine beaches one should not missed. With rich tradition going back many generations, Terengganu bears the reputation as an important area of Malay settlement. The Terengganu Sultanate originated almost 300 years ago when Tun Zainal Abidin became the first Sultan (Sultan Zainal Abidin I) in 1708. Situated on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Terengganu covers a land area of 12,995 square kilometres. The state boasts the longest coastline in the country with 225 kilometres of golden sandy beaches. The state has a population of about one million, 90% of whom are Malays and the rest, Chinese and Indians. Despite the recent fast development of Kuala Terengganu as one of the most important city in east coast of Malaysia, the city is still maintaining its very relax and laid-back lifestyle, unaffected by urban pressure of hustle and bustle city life.
The story about the name ‘Terengganu’
A few stories have been told about the origin of the name 'Terengganu'. One story attributes the name's origin to terang ganu, a Malaysian language word for 'bright rainbow'. Another story was said to be originally narrated by the ninth Sultan of Terengganu, Baginda Omar. The story is about a party of hunters from the neighbouring state Pahang who were hunting in the southern Terengganu. While hunting, one of the hunters encountered a big animal fang lying on the ground. A fellow party member asked to which animal the fang belonged. The hunter, not knowing which animal, simply answered taring anu (Malay: 'fang of something'). The hunters later returned to Pahang with abundance of fur and sandalwood, and that impressed their neighbours. They asked the hunters where they sourced their riches, to which they replied, from the land of taring anu. The name taring anu later evolved into Terengganu. Siamese (today: Thai people) called Terengganu Trangkanu (Thai: ตรังกานู) when it was under their influence.
The word ‘Kuala’ originated from a Malaysian language word, meaning either confluence of two rivers or the mouth of a river. Kuala Terengganu stands on the mouth of the Terengganu River, hence the origin of the name.
Places of interest
Islamic Civilization Park
Islamic Civilization Park is an interactive journey of Islamic monuments from all over the world. Located on Pulau Wan Man, it is a great entertainment and educational destination for people of all ages. One of the main and unique attractions is the Crystal Mosque – icon for the Islamic Civilisation Park and an extra-ordinary landmark for Kuala Terengganu. Read more here:
Pasar Payang (Central Market)
Located by the Terengganu River, the Central Market or Pasar Payang is favourite destination for souvenirs collector. A shoppers’ bargain paradise, it comes with an interesting sight to view. It displays wet market and shopping arcade selling interesting local handicrafts like batik, brassware, brocade and songket, alongside fresh local product like fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as local delicacies such as the Keropok Lekor (crackers made from a mixture of fish and sago).
The Terengganu State Museum
The Terengganu State Museum Complex is the biggest museum in Malaysia comprising three main buildings namely, the Main Museum, a Maritime Museum, a Fisheries Museum. It also showcases four traditional houses, botanic and herbs gardens. Built on 16 stilts, the Main Museum was designed according to the traditional architecture of Terengganu. The four traditional houses are adjoined, showing a typical big family accommodation. There are 10 galleries showcasing textiles, crafts, historical, royal, nature, art, petroleum, Islamic, new generation and contemporary arts.
The Floating Mosque (Masjid Tengku Tengah Zaharah)
The Floating Mosque, Masjid Tengku Tengah Zaharah is one of its kinds in Malaysia. Built on a floating platform, the mosque creates an illusion of floating on water, looking enchantingly inspirational much like a place in the tale of 1,001 Arabian Nights. The glistening white mosque combines modern and Moorish architecture, reflecting subtle Islamic influence with local features; incorporating the use of marble, ceramics, mosaic works and bomanite paving, making it an Islamic icon in the country. The tranquillity of the mosque has made it an alluring beauty and unique tourist attraction in Terengganu.
Islands Divers’ paradise
The city is the main gateway to the state's important tourist destinations - beautiful pristine islands along its coast, including Redang Island (Pulau Redang), Perhentian Islands (Pulau Perhentians), Kapas Island (Pulau Kapas) and the Lang Tengah Island (Pulau Lang Tengah). Majority of these islands have been gazetted as Marine Parks. The crystal clear waters and teeming marine life of these islands have made it an increasingly popular destination for snorkelers and divers. Read more on Perhentian Island here:
Wau (Kite in Malaysian language) is a uniquely designed Malaysian kite that is often played in traditionally rich states of Terengganu and Kelantan. Some believe the name 'Wau' originated from the shape of its wing which looked similar to an Arabic letter (pronounced "wow"). Today, this precious traditionally inherited kite, Wau, is still widely played especially during harvest time.
The ulek mayang is another much treasured Malaysia’s cultural heritage uphold in Terengganu. It is a centuries-old pre-Islamic religious trance dance accompanied by song and music. Malay orchestra called Gamelan, comprising drums, gong, violin and accordion is played to accompany the dance. Sometimes the rebab and seruling are also used to accompany the song which is sung in the form of rhymes and poems. Ulek Mayang was originally used in healing ceremonies, but now it is commonly performed for fun or official ceremonies. Dancers move in a circle, waving leaves known as mayang pinang, until they faint in a trance.
Silk or Batik Sarong
Silk or Batik Sarong is a unique, beautiful and elegance hand drawn fabric. Not only it can be used as a sarong, it can even be used to design fashionable handbags, crafts and even shoes. It is the best souvenir you can get from Kuala Terengganu.
Traditional boat building
Kuala Terengganu is also well-known for its traditional boat building activities. At Pulau Duyong in the city centre, local craftsmen handcraft the beautiful boat from memory without any blueprint.
Beaches and Lake
Away from the pristine beaches and islands, the inland of the state features picturesque Kenyir Lake, the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia. Other interesting places in Terengganu include Rantau Abang Beach where turtle can be observed frequenting the seashore to lay eggs.
Kampung Cina (Chinatown)
Dominated by Malay ethnic, the Chinatown in the midst of the Kuala Terengganu city has become a major attraction, particularly famous for its good food. The one-street Chinatown, Jalan Kg. Cina displays of hundred-year old Chinese shops and beautiful red lantern. The houses with colourful long roof are an excellent spot for unique and beautiful photographing especially in evening before the sun set. Read more here :
Kuala Terengganu is also the home of the annually held prestigious International Monsoon Cup yatch competition. If you are a competitive yatch racer, Terengganu must be on your list of places go for sailing event.
Keropok lekor Losong, a kind of fish sausage served with chili sauce, is a must-try if you visit Kuala Terengganu. Other excellent traditionally Malay recipe includes Laksa Terengganu, Nasi Dagang and Pulut Lepa.
In Kuala Terengganu, you will find all types of hotels from 5 star rating resorts to none-rated basic motel.
Felda Residence Kuala Terengganu offers guest a luxurious accommodation with beautiful resort ambience. 101 rooms are furnished with cable television and WiFi access. Guest can get pampered with a personal butler or limousine service.
In Pulau Duyung, a quiet place with friendly owner called Awi Yellow House (or "Rumah kuning") is a good place to stay. It is a marvellous place with wooden stilt house build above the river. Shared kitchen is available. Night market runs near the bridge every Friday.
Ri-Yaz Heritage Resort & Spa, Pulau Duyung, is another beautiful luxurious resorts built beside the marina with 5 star rated stay and services.
Making the Wau (Big Kite)
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are owned by Ingenira who hereby asserts her copyright on the material. Permission must be granted by the author in writing prior to copy or republish this article in print or online. However, please feel free to copy the first paragraph with a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Ingenira 2011
Share this page - did you know you can share this page by clicking on the "Share it" button below? This will enable you to -
Email it to friends, Link to this page, Tweet this, Blog this or, send this to your Facebook, Myspace, Digg, StumbleUpon or Reddit!
If you like what you have read, please "Vote up" by clicking the green button below. Thank you.
Ingenira (author) on August 11, 2010:
thanks again, Nell. :)
Nell Rose from England on August 11, 2010:
Hi, came back to say, I also rated it useful as it was so lovely! lol cheers nell
Ingenira (author) on August 11, 2010:
thanks, Nell. Malaysia is a beautiful and unique country, you should fly down for a visit one day. I think you will like it.
Nell Rose from England on August 11, 2010:
Hi, Wow what a great detailed hub, I love it, I would love to come visit, and the floating Mosque was incredible, thanks for this rated up, cheers nell