Pantai Penarik is a secluded slice of paradise in Setiu. — Pictures
by Vivian Chong
KUALA TERENGGANU, Aug 16 — The islands in Terengganu are undoubtedly
the East Coast state’s biggest tourist draw, but its mainland is not
lacking in attractions either. Here are 10 essential experiences
worth staying an extra day or two for in Kuala Terengganu after your
Relive, and live amidst history at
One of 20 restored centennial Malay houses that make up Terrapuri
Heritage Village (left). Modern comforts turn classic Malay houses
into luxury living at Terrapuri (right).
Combining luxury living with cultural conservation, Terrapuri
Heritage Village is a unique resort of 29 centennial Malay stilt
houses that were sourced from all over Terengganu over two decades.
Of those, 20 were refurbished with modern comforts for accommodation
while others make up the Sesayap Courtyard (comprising a library,
dining pavilion, lobby and meeting rooms) and a spa offering
traditional Malay urut
In maintaining their respective history, the 20 villas are named
after their places of origin and the spaces below the houses serve
as galleries displaying a variety of antiquated tools such as stone
mills, grinders and even old fishing boats. Owner Alex Lee and his
team even went as far as to note down the blessing rituals that the
original occupants had carried out when the structures were first
built, and re-enacted them when the houses were transported here.
Relax by the pool at Terrapuri, a resort and heritage village
steeped in Terengganu history.
Terrapuri is thus steeped in history, and there is a regal link to
its own story: Its moniker means “The Land of Palaces” and
correspondingly, the resort’s layout is modelled after a
17th-century istana (palace).
Terrapuri, Kampung Mangkuk, Setiu
Tel +609 624 5020 www.terrapuri.com
Have a beach to yourself
Right in front of Terrapuri is Pantai Penarik, a crescent-shaped
beach hugged by coconut trees as far as the eyes can see. Strong
waves and high tides mean that swimming in the waters is out of the
question, which is why you won’t find sun worshippers here. Nor are
there street vendors of any kind as there is simply no crowd — which
makes it perfect for whiling away time doing next to nothing.
Coconut trees hug the crescent-shaped Pantai Penarik.
Quiet and idyllic, it’s a slice of paradise that invites you to lay
back and sink your toes into the soft sand while the waves lull you
Take a celup
tepung afternoon tea
‘Celup tepung’ refers to a variety of seafood that’s coated in flour
and then deep fried.
wouldn’t think you could ever tear yourself away from Pantai Penarik
but at some point, your rumbling tummy would say otherwise. The
must-try food in Kampung Mangkuk is what locals call celup
that’s exactly what it is in Malay: Dipped in flour. Specifically, a
variety of seafood that’s battered and deep fried, eaten from lunch
all the way to dinner.
Look out for this sign for one of Kampung Mangkuk's most popular 'celup
Along the main road that leads to Terrapuri are several celup
usually occupying wooden village houses. Try the one right across
from the Caltex petrol station. It’s unnamed but hard to miss as its
facade is painted a vibrant pink and its signage is flanked by a
giant prawn and a giant squid. Their celup
tepung offerings are
placed in large trays under colourful plastic cloches, and you can
also order stir-fried noodles to complement the fritters. Order a
fresh young coconut or creamy coconut milkshake to go with them, and
dine al-fresco under the shade of coconut trees.
Watch kites soar
Kites of all forms decorate the skies at Pantai Batu Buruk.
winds, blue skies, powdery beach — Pantai Batu Buruk has all the
makings of the perfect kite-flying spot, and it is. Kite sellers
brighten up the pristine sand with their goods, strung across simple
wooden frames tacked to the sand. They come in a myriad vibrant
designs, from the basic diamond frames to more elaborate animal
shapes with long tails and every trendy cartoon character.
ungent and stringy, grilled squid is a popular snack at Pantai Batu
Buruk.On weekends, a festive mood prevails in the late
afternoons as the colourful panels speckle the skies while
volleyball and football matches play to cheering supporters on the
beach. Hunt down food trucks in the vicinity to try snacks like
chewy disc-shaped fish satay, and stringy squid that’s flattened
through a handheld roller before grilling.
Shop at Pasar Payang
Shelves packed to the rafters with folded batik in every colour,
bags and baskets brimming with dried seafood, trays of sweet and
savoury cakes... browse and shop a smorgasbord of Terengganu
products at Pasar Besar Kedai Payang, a two-storey complex that
houses a wet market downstairs and a bazaar of small shops upstairs.
This is also a good place to get familiar with the fresh produce
that feature in the local cuisine. When you’re done with your
shopping, hop on board one of the many colourful trishaws that await
by the main entrance and go for a sightseeing ride around town.
Learn about the Terengganu
A short walk from Pasar Payang will place you in Pekan Cina, Kuala
Terengganu’s Chinatown that was the site where the earliest Chinese
settlers first built their homes. Like their fellow settlers in
Malacca and Penang back in the day, they adapted and fused Chinese
traditions with local Malay customs, forming a subculture that
became known as Peranakan. While their numbers are far lower than
the population in the Straits states, Terengganu’s Peranakan
community is keeping their unique identity very much alive.
An elderly Mek in front of her ancestral home in Kampung Tiruk, one
of Terengganu’s last remaining Peranakan villages.
Sample their authentic cuisine at Madam Bee’s Kitchen, then step
next door to visit the Terengganu Peranakan Gallery. A small archive
of black and white photographs documents the Pekan Cina of yore
while the premise itself, a two-storey centennial shophouse, gives a
glimpse into their traditional lifestyles.
Visit a Peranakan village
At a glance, Kampung Tiruk looks no different from many other
bucolic enclaves found on the outskirts of Kuala Terengganu, its
wooden houses similar to those of the Malay villages. What sets it
apart can often be seen on the front door of these traditional
homes: Bright red paper scrolls inscribed with Chinese characters,
known as tui
Inside a Peranakan house at Kampung Tiruk (left). About 50 Peranakan
families live in Kampung Tiruk today (right).
These are the homes of Terengganu Peranakans, generations of Mek and
Awang — the affectionate terms that refer to the ladies and men,
respectively — from about 50 families. Their language is that unique
mixture of Hokkien and Malay; their food a flavourful blend of both
cultures, and leans heavily on spices and fish. Some of the elderly
Mek are still most comfortable in their baju
pendek and sarong
ensemble, and there’s a senior Awang who is fluent in Arabic.
You can visit one of the homes in this village, where the host will
not only let you wander through their ancestral house but also
prepare a feast of authentic Terengganu Peranakan dishes for lunch.
Pay respects to Admiral Cheng Ho
Admiral Cheng Ho’s voyage to Malacca is well documented, with many
history books detailing his journey and subsequent adventures.
Before he and his fleet of more than 160 vessels arrived at the
historical state, however, records show that they made a stop in
Terengganu to refuel. The year was 1414, and the Admiral was said to
have landed in Kampung Jeram, where some of his ships got stranded
at the rocky coast.
The Sampohkong Keramat Cheng Ho was built in tribute to the
legendary Admiral (left). Fortune papers at Sampohkong Keramat Cheng
big tree that stood at that spot became a sacred emblem to the local
Chinese, who would journey there by boat to pay homage to the
Admiral who had helped improve their lives in many ways, including
introducing agricultural techniques that produced better yield. In
1942, a temple was built near that site and named after him. Today,
the Sampohkong Keramat Cheng Ho is still an important landmark and
pilgrim point, which stands out as a Chinese temple in the heart of
a Malay village.
Anglers hiding in the shade by the mangroves along Sungai Jeram.
Spot wildlife on a river cruise
Retrace the steps of the devotees by taking a boat cruise along
Sungai Jeram, the same waterway they travelled on to get to Kampung
Jeram. It used to be an all-day journey to get there and back,
taking four hours each way. On board, the passengers would play card
games to pass the time and parents who brought their babies would
let them rest in swings fashioned out of sarongs.
Whimsically decorated penambang boats ferry passengers on cruises
along Sungai Jeram.These days, motorised penambang boats
cut the travel time to one hour, affording various photo
opportunities along the way as they cruise past mangrove swamps,
rustic riverside scenes and several landmark mosques. It’s as common
to see local children playing by the river and anglers on moored
sampans as it is to spot wildlife such as otters, eagles and monitor
The cruise leaves from Shahbandar Jetty, Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin
(a short walk from Pekan Cina)
The river cruise plus visits to
Sam Poh Kong Temple and Kampung Tiruk can be arranged through Ping
Anchorage Travel & Tours, under their Terengganu Peranakan Heritage
Trail package and are also offered as bespoke tours. www.pinganchorage.com.my
Buy freshly made keropok
Terengganu’s best known snack is the keropok
lekor, widely sold at roadside stalls where fish paste —
usually a mixture of ikan
parang, selayang or kembong,
and sago flour — is rolled into long cylinders and boiled. The rolls
are then sliced diagonally, deep fried, and eaten dipped in chilli
Keropok lekor is usually made from a mixture of ikan parang,
selayang and kembong.
You can also buy the boiled rolls and fry them at home. Locals
recommend Keropok Lekor Bayu, located along the main road leading to
Merang Jetty, which is run by several cheerful Malay ladies who make
light work of this savoury specialty.
Standing around a square vat filled with boiling water, they scoop
fresh fish paste onto a flour-dusted wooden board and shape them by
hand into small logs. The rolls are then thrown into the water and
fished out several minutes later. Customers usually haul them home
by the bagfuls, and you can also buy freshly fried ones here. Take a
bite and immediately you’ll know why Bayu is so popular: The keropok tastes
of pure fish, with a delightfully crumbly texture.
Lot 318, Kampung Baru Merang,
Setiu (across from the entrance to Aryani Resort and next to
Vivian Chong believes that many
great travel adventures begin right in our own backyards. Read more
of her ‘cuti-cuti Malaysia’ at her travel and lifestyle website http://thisbunnyhops.com