The port city of Kota Bharu or “new castle” in Malay is the largest city and capital of the state of Kelantan. Among all cities in Malaysia, Kota Bharu stands out for its magnificent beaches and unique handicrafts created only by local craftsmen. Due to its proximity to Thailand (20 km), this lively city has very original customs and traditions, as well as a unique charm and color, which are reflected in its attractions, markets and architecture. Tourists here will find interesting walks and a lot of unusual spectacles, as well as sunny beaches and excursions to nearby villages.
|Population||577 301 people (2009)|
|Square||394 km 2|
|Population density||1465 people / km 2|
|Currency||Malaysian ringgit (MYR)|
|Timezone||UTS + 8|
|International dialing code||+60 –9|
Climate and weather
Kota Bharu is located in an equatorial tropical climate zone, so the weather is warm and humid here all year round. Substantial fluctuations in temperature in this region is not observed, as well, the average air always warmed up to +26 ° C . There is no dry season here, and the wettest and relatively cool time is from October to December. Although, it should be said that the rains here are always warm and short-lived. The most favorable months for a holiday in Kota Bharu are June, July, August and February .
Kota Bharu is located in the northeastern part of the Malacca Peninsula , very close to the border with Thailand. The city lies on the coast of the Kelantan River , or rather, near the place where it flows into the warm South China Sea . There are several good beaches nearby with clear waters, lined with dense vegetation, mainly mangroves, palms, pandanus and bamboo.
The main attractions of Kota Bharu are concentrated on Jalan Hilir Kota and Jalan Sultan streets , which are called the Cultural Zone here . They are located in the area of the main city square, Padang Merdeka (Independence Square), which has become a popular meeting and strolling place. Basically, all the interesting historical buildings of the city function as museums. For example, the Royal Palace Museum was previously used for royal and wedding ceremonies. And today it contains a collection of religious items that belonged to the sultans of this state. Istana Johor Wooden PalaceIt is also a museum, the exposition of which tells about the details of court life. The brick building of the Museum of the History of War was originally a city bank, and now it contains unique items and documents from the Second World War and the period of the Japanese occupation. The collection of the Islamic Museum tells about the history of the Islamic religion and consists of samples of Muslim art and old photographs. The Central State Museum is also interesting , which is a beautiful building in the colonial style. Also, guests of the city are advised to visit the Crafts Museum., which is a small village where you can watch local craftsmen make silver products, carved wooden souvenirs and songket fabrics, as well as paint batik.
There are also some very interesting places in the vicinity of Kota Boru, for example, forest reserves with lush greenery and picturesque waterfalls.
Kota Bharu is a bustling and lively city that has recently become very popular with foreign tourists. So it comes as no surprise that the city’s streets, hotels and beaches are teeming with restaurants, cafes and eateries that offer delicious local cuisine. First of all, seafood lovers will like it here, as local chefs prepare a variety of dishes from them: Ikan bilis anchovies , shark fin soup, nasi kandar fish curry , fried scallops, cuttlefish salad, etc. However, the main basis of the national menu is rice (“ nasi“), Which is most often prepared unleavened and served as a side dish. It is also used to make flour for noodles or baked goods, chips and desserts. The most popular rice dishes include roti chanay pancakes , nasi goreng fried rice , and cha quai tyu noodles (with shrimp, shellfish, chili paste and herbs).
Meat is used quite rarely, most often on a solemn occasion. However, in restaurants you can taste such dishes as curry laksa noodles with chicken and curry sauce, chicken sati ayam kebabs with sweet and sour sauce, rendang stewed in coconut milk and pancakes with murtabak meat . Most Malay dishes also include vegetables, soy, bamboo shoots, coconut milk and exotic fruits. For example, you can always try pickled vegetables ” akar “, a spicy vegetable salad ” gado gado ” with coconut milk and peanut sauce, and ” rojak ” salad , which includes pineapples, cucumbers and shrimp pancakes.
Alcoholic drinks are not welcome in the country and are sold only in hotels and restaurants. And among the soft drinks, fruit juices and coconut milk are most often offered. Also, coffee, tea and chocolate drink ” cute ” are widespread here .
In Kota Bharu, there are hotels of various levels and price categories, so almost any traveler can find accommodation here. Moreover, literally all establishments can boast of fairly democratic prices, for example, the cost of living in the five-star Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel starts at $ 92. There is also a decent selection of comfortable three-star hotels, for example, the Crown Garden Hotel (from $ 48) or the Royal Guest House (from $ 44). Well, the most economical travelers will find even more affordable prices at the Ridel Hotel, BBP Hotel and some other establishments.
Entertainment and recreation
The main place for leisure in Kota Bharu is the cultural center ” Gelangang Seni “, where tops competitions, folk dances and performances of the amazing shadow theater ” Wayang Kulit ” are often held, in which shadows and sounds are skillfully combined. Here you can also watch the traditional art of self-defense ” silat ” or listen to the Kelantan drums ” rebana ubi ” and traditional Malay music.
Another great place to relax is the beaches, which are located very close to the city. For example, Pantai Chahaya Bulan beach , which is located 10 km from Kota Bharu, is famous for its shiny sand, which is framed by tall coconut trees, and good hotels with restaurants, swimming pools and golf courses. Another popular beach is Pantai Seri Tujukh , where international and local Kite Festivals are often held . For picnics and family vacations, the picturesque Pantai Irama beach (25 km from the city) is best suited . Well, fans of diving, scuba diving and fishing will love the Pantai Bisikan Boyu beach in the village of Dalam Ru (58 km from the city).
Also among tourists, walks along the Kelantan River are very popular , on the banks of which there are many small picturesque villages. Among them, it is worth highlighting the village of Kuala Besar , where you can buy freshly caught fish and seafood every day. There are several camping sites and diving equipment rentals on the local beach near the village.
One of the most popular and lively places in Kota Bharu is the huge Central Market , which has even become one of the city’s attractions. Its sellers mainly sell seafood, spices, fresh vegetables, dried seafood, pickled snacks, and candied fruits. Nearby is the large KBTC shopping center, where you can buy almost everything: from fashionable clothes to modern gadgets. Other popular shopping spots are The Store, Kota Seri Mutiara, Pelangi Mall, Pantai Timur and Tesco hypermarket . The range of goods in these places is simply colossal, and their cost is noticeably lower than in the capital.
However, for souvenirs and colorful things, you should not go to shopping centers, but to a three-story market complex called Bazaar Bulukh Kubu , which specializes in handicrafts and all kinds of trinkets made by local craftsmen. Here, first of all, it is recommended to pay attention to the painted Kelantan batik, which is famous for its design and quality. An equally successful purchase will be the songket brocade fabric”, Thickly woven with silver or gold thread. Here you can also buy interesting wooden souvenirs with skillful carvings and patterns, which are made by artisans of this state. Well, more expensive purchases include refined silver items that are created by local jewelers. These are mainly fruit vases, tea sets, rings, earrings, bracelets and brooches.
In Kota Bharu, there is a small airport Sultan Ismail Petra Airport , which receives flights from Kuala Lumpur and other airports in the country. There is also a bus station and a railway station, so you can get here not only by air, but also by bus or train.
The internal transport functions of Kota Bharu are performed by buses. The cost of travel within the city and in the suburbs is quite low. Taxis, which can be easily “caught” on the street, are also relatively inexpensive. When boarding, it is recommended to check whether the meter is on, as drivers often “accidentally” forget to turn it on.
If you have an international driving license, you can rent a car. In this case, the driver’s age must be between 23 and 60 years old.
There will be no problems with communication in Kota Bharu, because pay phones are located everywhere here: at bus stops, near government offices, shopping centers, shops, etc. They are easy to use as each booth has instructions. There are telephone card machines that can be bought at any kiosk or large store. In some places you can still come across old “coin” machines, but you cannot call abroad from them. Also, any call can be made from most hotels, however, this is not very profitable.
Cellular communication operates in the GSM standard, the coverage area includes the entire territory of Malaysia, as well as Singapore.
Internet access is provided in most hotels and internet cafes.
Kota Bharu is a cheerful but quite calm city with a low crime rate. Of course, tourists here sometimes encounter pickpockets who operate in markets and other popular places. However, if you follow the generally accepted precautionary rules, you can not be afraid of them.
Vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, polio and typhoid are recommended before the trip. If you are planning a visit to the countryside or the jungle, prevention of Japanese encephalitis, meningitis and malaria will not be superfluous. It is also advised to bring the minimum set of essential medicines with you. Drinking tap water is not advisable; boiled or bottled water should be preferred.
Women are encouraged to wear modest clothing that covers the shoulders, knees and wrists. Nudism is not officially banned, but it can cause a very negative reaction. According to religious traditions, the use of pork and alcohol is prohibited here, with the exception of hotels and some restaurants.
The tax system in Malaysia is simple, for example, there is no VAT and many other types of taxes that are widely used in other countries. The main tax that all enterprises in the country must pay is income (or corporate) tax, which is 25%. Moreover, there is a fairly large number of promising benefits on it. For example, all businesses that specialize in information technology or education can be exempted from this tax for 5 years. In addition to the main tax, all enterprises in the country pay tax on the sale of domestic and imported goods. The general tax rate is 10% on sales, 25% on cigarettes and 20% on alcoholic products.
Now the Malaysian government is actively encouraging foreign citizens to purchase real estate in all regions of the country, and in this regard, Kota Bharu is no exception. Local real estate is attractive not only for its proximity to excellent beaches and developed urban infrastructure, but also for very low prices. Moreover, at present, the main limits on the acquisition of residential property by foreigners are practically absent, although several categories are, nevertheless, excluded from the sale. When buying a local property, you will first need permission from the Kelantan state authorities, which can take up to six months.
Local residents are quite tolerant and politically correct, but they should not be provoked. This applies not only to the generally accepted customs that all tourists must observe, but also to some topics of conversation. First of all, one should not indulge in debates on religious topics and problems of the relationship between ethnic groups. Also, the Malays will not tolerate any disrespectful comment on the prime minister or king of the country.