Kuala Terranganu: A Hari Raya Ghost Town

A few steps from the bus terminal we reached our hotel in the central part of Kuala Terranganu- The Citi Point Hotel. The hotel reception was small but staff were friendly and it was kind of cute. This was another generic hotel with two floors of white corridors with rooms off of them. Ours was a cheaper one so it did not have a window but we had a bit of room, air-con and a nice enough private bathroom. We were right in the heart of the main town, so we went for an explore to get our bearings. We headed around the central market area which was buzzing with life people selling clothing, jewellery, pre-packaged food, fresh fruit and meats. The actual building the market was in was very colourful with artwork on the side. As we walked along the boardwalk next to the river we discovered there was street art covering this part of town covering political topics, local culture and characters. The place had a really fun, interesting vibe. After walking along the boardwalk we turned down turtle alley which displays information about the local turtles, stories about them and how to protect them as there is a turtle sanctuary not too far from here that you can visit. This alleyway connected the boardwalk and the Chinatown road. The buildings here were old Chinese boarded shophouses. Unfortunately, we had got there about 3pmish which is the weird in-between time where restaurants have closed and do not open up again until the evening. Luckily we had thought this might be the case so we had eaten at KFC before heading out to explore. However, we made the most of it being quiet as lots of alleyways or gaps between the buildings were filled with playful and interactive artwork. We found a local supermarket which was great for us to stock up on a few bits then after an incredibly brief look in the supposed “mall” we returned to the hotel to chill out for a bit until the evening.

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In the evening just outside our hotel stalls were erected for a night market. This only had a couple of snack food bits in it and was mainly clothes and cheap electronics. We wandered through it though on the way to Chinatown. At the end of it an older Australian gentleman started talking to us, mistakenly thinking we were some other people. He seemed very keen to talk to us as he was on his own so we chatted to him about his and our travels for a while. After an hour though it was approaching 9pm we made our excuses so we could get to Chinatown. When we got there we were disappointed as there was only about 3 restaurants open, the other ones we thought would open up just hadn’t. We were happy to find an old lady selling steamed pork buns from her cabinet and devoured them for 50 cents each. By this point, we weren’t that bothered about finding a restaurant. Instead we sat outside of a swanky café/ restaurant called Vinarium, watching the world go by as we had affogatos (espressos and ice cream 8.50RM) which continued the trend of having sweet things instead of meals, but totally worth it!


Malaysian families can be incredibly noisy we discovered in the early hours of the morning! There were kids screaming, shouting and running around the corridors with no attempt from parents to prevent them, they were being equally loud themselves. After sleeping in a bit to recover from being woken early and kept awake for a few hours we walked to the shop so we could get some bits for breakfast to have in the hotel room again. I had wanted to go to the tourist office to ask about which buses/ transport we could get to local attractions and to check when/if these attractions were going to be open over the upcoming holiday. Kuala Terranganu has quite a few things you can go to visit with their local tourist buses decorated to look like traditional houses and it is supposed to have a great museum. It turns out that the tourist office itself was closed the whole Hari Raya weekend so we decided it was likely nothing else would be open either! There went our plans for the next couple of days. We had also already booked a bus for the Monday morning to travel up to Kota Bharu which would not be changed so we just had to chill again for another couple of days. We did go to one of the other “main attractions” at the top of trip advisor list- Bukit Puten hill. The whole complex leading up to the hill was abandoned. The shops and ticket office were empty. The escalators were covered in dust and debre. It was surprising as well as it had had reviews from only a month or so previously from people visiting it. We still went up the old escalators though, past the empty office to the small fort on the hill and looked at an ok view of the city. We were quite happy we hadn’t paid or queued to get up there. We are still unsure if it was just shut due to the local holiday, the season or is no longer an attraction. We found a couple of restaurants open in Chinatown for lunch where we had decent sweet and sour pork and sesame chicken dishes (14RM each) which were huge portions. The rest of the afternoon we chilled out trying to catch up on blogs before heading out for dinner. This time we tried the Riverview Café in Chinatown which had more of a focus on Malay food. We had curry mee (noodles) with fish. We also had Kampung fried rice with river fried fish- it was tasty but the fish was incredibly fried and oily and it got a bit too much towards the end.

The next day was the first day of the Hari Raya celebrations. There were a few people on the streets near to our hotel. These were mainly family in matching colour traditional dress. They looked spectacular each family in different colours and patterns, lots of gorgeous silks. Men were in the traditional skirts and with headdresses. Many of them were visiting the mosque or they were in the photography shops, I imagine getting their family portraits for the year. These were the only people we really saw that day and the only shops that were open/ busy. We walked around the streets just to stretch our legs, walking the opposite way from Chinatown. The streets were deserted. There were hardly any vehicles on the road and nothing was opened. We were stopped at one point by a few guys on a scooter clearly off to some family celebrations in their traditional dress as they just wanted a brief chat and to take a picture with Dave. They were very cheerful, as you would expect and wished us a happy Raya.


We had chosen to stay in Kuala Terranganu during the Hari Raya weekend (or what we thought was just the weekend at this point) as it was a much larger town than Cherating and it had a Chinatown so we thought the food places here would be open if the Malay restaurants weren’t. We were at a loss of what to do or where to go so we walked all the way back to Chinatown to see if the Vinarium was open which was where we had coffee before. It was not. Opposite it one small Chinese street restaurant was open. We were happy to find somewhere that had food, we went to order bbq pork and rice as in one of the pictures only to be told they only had fish ball soup left. It was food though despite it taking forever for them to take our order and for it to actually come. Whilst we were waiting we got a call from the hotel asking us why we hadn’t checked out yet. There was a heated debate with the hotel where we explained we had extended (or thought we had extended) our stay yesterday with the guy on reception. This affair had left me stressed and annoyed initially as we had actively tried to avoid this situation and with it being Hari Raya all hotels were fully booked with people’s relatives. We ended up having to sort this out in person where it was resolved and we paid to extend for that night. We chilled out back at the hostel looking into where we wanted to go in Borneo and looking at things we could do there. We went out again briefly to have an ice cream and picked up snacks for breakfast as we were supposed to be getting a bus at 5.30am. We watched a movie and headed to bed early ready for our bus to Kota Bharu.


Alex

 

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