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Kuala Lumpur | Penang | Malacca | Kota Bharu | Cameron Highlands | Perhentian Islands | Survival Malay
Focus on Malaysia | Side trip to Singapore

  Visiting Kota Bharu (in Kelantan)  

Note: Click on any photo below to reproduce its original size and press the F11 button on your keyboard to fill the whole screen (press F11 again to go back to where you were). All photos were taken in July 2011.

The Medan Selera Buluh Kubu
The Medan Selera Buluh Kubu
The Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah market.
The Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah market.
Foodstall selling typical Kelantan dishes.
Foodstall selling typical Kelantan dishes.

The principal attractions in Kota Bharu (in the state of Kelantan) are undoubtedly the Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah (central market) and the Medan Selera Buluh Kubu (night food court) a bit further down. The Medan Selera Buluh Kubu (first photo) is a sort of market for fruit and veggie traders in the morning but turns into a lively food court selling typical Kelantanese fare in the early evening. Any visitor to Kota Bharu will not help noticing that, with few exceptions, it is the women here who work (just the opposite of Kabul in Afghanistan)! The ambience here has to be felt as there is such a fervour in the easy-going and nonchalant spirit of the Malay traders here - so unlike their never-let-you-go Chinese counterparts in Penang.
The Gelanggang Seni or cultural centre.
The Gelanggang Seni or cultural centre.
A pencak silat performance.
A pencak silat performance.
A woman fishmonger at work.
A woman fishmonger at work.

The number of delicacies and confectioneries you can find at the Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah is simply unbelievable. The different floors of the market allow for a more organized set-up. Thus the ground floor sells essentially fruits, vegetables, meat and fish while the first floor is dedicated to stalls selling all types of food. The third photo on this page shows one of the foodstalls with a number of dishes that are typical of Kelantan such as the nasi kerabu (blue rice) and the nasi dagang, steamed rice cooked in thick coconut milk, shallots, lemon grass and fenugreek seeds. But if you disapprove of indigenous food and are looking for Kelantanese clothing or souvenirs instead, then you have to climb one floor higher.
Incidentally if your stomach is suffering from the spicy Malay food that you find everywhere in Kota Bharu, you can go to the "Medan Selera Kebun Sultan" food court which is near the junction between Jalan Kebun Sultan and Jalan Merbau. There you are sure to find something suitable among the nearly 20 (mostly Chinese) foodstalls to choose from.
If you are keen on watching free cultural shows at the cultural centre called Gelanggang Seni try to be in Kota Bharu on a Monday, Wednesday or Saturday. It is in a little lane off Jalan Mahmood just after its junction with Jalan Bayam but the entrance is a bit hidden and the kite carrying its name (see photo) is your only indication that the arched entrance leads to the centre. If you can find your way to the Kota Bharu Stadium you will not be too far from it. The Kelantan Tourism Office at Jalan Sultan Ibrahim near the State Museum should be able to give up-to-date times of the various performances. When we were there we were able to see the wayang kulit (shadow play) and pencak silat performances though on other occasions there are demonstrations of top spinning, kite-making and giant drums. As a foreigner you might be asked to participate in some of the activities so be ready for it! The free performances are normally held from 15h30 to 17h30 and again from 21h00 to 23h00.
Well, as I said Kota Bharu has a special character of its own and your trip to Malaysia would not be quite complete without staying there, even if it is just for one or two days.

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