Looking for an unhurried pace and avoid the busy city life? It’s time for you to plan your trip to peninsula’s east coast in Terengganu, a place beckon with more rural landscape and an old-world charm, apart from its panoramic beaches.
In conjunction with the “Ekspresi Media-Kenyir (EM-K) 2019” organised by Tourism Malaysia in collaboration with Central Terengganu Development Authority (KETENGAH), writer Hendy Tan from Tourism Malaysia got the chance to have an in-depth tour to this amazing city. He accompanied 23 media representatives as well as travel bloggers to update you on all the latest tourism products available in the charming capital, Kuala Terengganu as well as Lake Kenyir, a must visit destination in the state.
To sum up his visit, he described, “Terengganu is a melting pot of old and new, it has many heritage buildings of all races and some people nowadays are still practising the old way of life inheritance from their ancestors, which is especially reflected in their dialects and culinary styles.”
Walkthrough the city
The capital of the state, Kuala Terengganu, has several interesting spots that are situated near to one another. To make your trip more memorable, you should use trishaw (a mode of transportation which is widely known as beca in other states) or taxi to visit to several heritage sites, namely China Town, Zainal Abidin Mosque and Central Market.
At China Town, you will be surprised to see several special laneways have been transformed into art spaces with specific theme. There is a narrow lane dedicated to Terengganu’s beloved mascot, turtle. This turtle alley is a reminder about the importance to protect these sensitive creatures. Visitors can take the opportunity to pick up some highly affordable souvenirs at Pasar Payang or Central Market, which is just right next to China Town. You should not miss out to check out the Zainal Abidin Mosque, an easily recongnised building in the street.
Explore Islamic Civilisation Park
Have you imagined before that you can have the opportunity to see almost all Muslim buildings around the world? Well, at Islamic Civilisation Park or Taman Tamadun Islam, it is the place that has miniature models of 22 famous Muslim buildings from around the world which will be fascinating for anyone interested in Islamic architecture and history. Opened in 2008, it is one of the must visit attractions in Kuala Terengganu, which is located close to the Terengganu state museum in town. Bike and buggy are available to facilitate your visit here.
More interestingly, visitors can experience the river cruise services available here that serves buffet-style meals, whereby you can witness the real life of the local folks while enjoying their food. Yes, it is a cool experience especially at evening time, our media group is so lucky as they can try it out!
Discover Masjid Terapung
Masjid Terapung means ‘Floating Mosque’ in Malay and it is located around 10 kilometres away from the centre of Kuala Terengganu. I can say it is a must visit destination for your trip to Terengganu. It stands above a magnificent manmade lake and it looks so beautiful during sunrise and sunset. The media group is amazed by its scenic view at dawn as they arrived there at the right time. Most of the media expressed their happiness as they captured a nice photo of their first visit. For non-Muslims, you still can jog or walk at the nearby area of this mosque as proper walkways are there for visitors to spend their time freely.
Participate at nature-based activities at Lake Kenyir, Terengganu
Terengganu has always been famed for its white sandy beaches, a haven for those seeking a good time in the sun, sand and sea. However, the state has a lot more to offer for nature lovers and adventure seekers, especially visitors who like jungle trekking, wildlife observation, fishing, birdwatching and etc. Lake Kenyir, for example, is home to bountiful treasures of nature, a large variety of flora and fauna, many species of freshwater fish and an exotic wildlife. The following are the list of activities for visitors.
– Have fun with the King of River Fish
Located in Sungai Petang, Kelah Sanctuary is where visitors can play together with a fish species called “Kelah”. It takes approximately 45 minutes boat ride from Pengkalan Gawi. Visitors will definitely be amazed by the amount of fish in the site, where schools of fish can just swim between your legs in the crystal-clear waters and not shy away from humans. Visitors can play with them in close distance, catch them by hand, feed them with pellets, as well swim together with them. However, please ensure you have a fit body to go through several “obstacles” on your journey here as you need to hike through the jungle for 1.7km before arriving at the sanctuary.
– Bathe the Elephants
Have you bathed elephants before? Well, you won’t know until you try it at Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village.
Located at the Sungai Telemong area, this 256-hectare elephant camp is the foremost authority on elephant translocation to ensure a healthy elephant population and reduce human-elephant conflict.
A canopy walk has been built for visitors to get a different viewing angle for the habitat of elephant and discover the scenic view of the natural forest.
Lovers of wildlife can have the opportunity to ride, play and feed the rainforest’s largest and magnificent creature. There is also a show happening on site twice a day, they carry logs, climb over obstacles and acting.
– Explore the Geological Wonders
One of the other attractions of Lake Kenyir which is explored by the EM-K 2019 participants is the Bewah Cave. Bewah Cave is located about 60 kilometers from Pengkalan Gawi, where the bones of an ancient young human known as Bewah Man was found. Neolithic-age items such as axes, tools and utensils have been discovered here as well. Stairs lead to the entrance some 40m above the level of the lake.
Gua Bewah is developed with wooden stairs and elevated trails. The trails make the exploration so much easy.There is even some light, which is solar powered.
“This cave keeps a mystery that has not been fully explored. It also has stalactites and stalagmites for hundred years that produce a very stunning pattern on cave walls,” our guide Mohd. Khairul explained.
The cave is really notable for its rich and diverse cave life, where you can find crabs, spiders, insects and of course bats inside.
– Take a Splash in the Waterfalls
There are also waterfalls and streams in the jungle. It is always up to you to decide whether to have a few days trekking and camping or just to have a picnic besides the waterfall.
There are 14 waterfalls within the Lake Kenyir, with the most popular ones being Lasir, Tembat and Saok. Participants for this media challenge trip got the opportunity to visit two of them, which is Lasir and Saok.
Located 16 km from Pengkalan Gawi, or via a 30-minute boat ride from Pengkalan Gawi, Lasir waterfall is one of the most popular picnic spots in Tasik Kenyir. Visitors are welcomed by the majestic 500-foot waterfall and it is well shaded by the leafy green canopy of the surrounding tropical rainforest. Tracks and walkways have been built and climbing up to the top offers spectacular breathtaking views.
In Saok Waterfall, participants get the opportunity to try water abseiling as well as fly drop abseiling.
– Trekking to find giant Melunak tree
Jungle trekking is not simply walking in the jungle, but more important, you can breathe in the fresh air as well as learning the variety of flora and fauna species. But, what so special in Kenyir?
If the world’s largest flower Rafflesia hidden in the Sarawak jungle has become a popular attraction for international tourists, perhaps in the future,
tourists might flock into Lake Kenyir to see the giant Melunak tree.
The 340-year-old tree has a height of more than 100 meters. It requires 22 adults holding each other’s hands to encircle the perimeter of the tree!
It takes about 45 minutes journey to reach the actual site of this giant Melunak tree. The trail is not as challenging as what you may think and it is suitable for all age groups.
The gigantic Melunak tree in Terengganu National Park was discovered by senior nature guide Mohd Khairul and his team from the Terengganu Nature Guide Association in 2013. It is believed to be the biggest of that species in Peninsula Malaysia.
Paragliding at Bukit Maras Recretional Park, Kuala Nerus
One of the interesting places that caught the attention of all participants during this trip is Bukit Maras, the tallest peak in Terengganu, which is 1,100 ft (about 333m) above sea level. It takes about 30 minutes’ drive or a distance of about 20 kilometers from Kuala Terengganu to reach this mountain located at Kuala Nerus district.
This mountain is popular for its durian and petai previously and it has slowly transformed into a destination for hiking and camping. And now, it is even more exciting with the paragliding activity. To reach the top of the hill, visitors can choose to hike on a challenging trail for 1.6km, of which it takes about 30 minutes to one hour with the consideration of the stamina level of each individual. We are lucky enough as four-wheel drive vehicles were available to take us to the top of the mountain. Visitors can also take the opportunity to trek into Batu Biruk jungle to see some unique flora.
For those who arrive at the top of the mountain during the early morning or late afternoon can get the chance to take a breathtaking glimpse of the sunset and sunrise over the South China Sea.
Warung Norazila/Nasi Dagang Atas Tol, Kuala Ibai
The restaurant is located by the roadside, which is less than 10-minutes’ drive from Masjid Terapung. It opens as early as 7am in the morning. We have tried the Nasi Dagang after morning prayers. The rice is fragrant and the tuna fish curry, a little on the sweet side, that goes with the Nasi Dagang is pretty good. Apart from Nasi Dagang, you can also try other available food such as Nasi Lemak. It is one of the best Nasi Dagang stalls in Terengganu.
Address: 20, Jalan Batu Buruk, Taman Midah, 20400 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu.
Restoran Singgang Budu, Jalan Air Jernih, Kuala Terengganu
One of the must try restaurants in Terengganu is “Restaurant Singgang Budu”. This restaurant is famous for its “Ikan Singgang”, which is fish cooked in a light broth with local herbs.
with the fish is in yellow watery soup. You should eat this dish with “Budu”, which is Chili, a perfect combination to satisfy your taste buds. Anyway, this restaurant serves many other delicious types of Malay traditional food, such as grilled cuttlefish and served with ulam – a traditional salad of raw vegetables.
Address: Jalan Engku Sar, 20300 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu.
Keropok Lekor Gaung
Our road trip to the state of Terengganu would not be complete without a pit stop at the kedai keropok lekor as this popular traditional snack is always said to be a specialty here, which is always famous for its crunchy and fishy taste.
Our guide with vast experience brought us to a shop called Keropok Lekor Gaung before leaving Terengganu. Gaung is the name of a Malay village located in Kuala Berang. Upon arriving, we can see the shops are crowded with customers, different kinds of keropok lekor are available for locals or tourists to choose from and there are several friendly staff readily available to serve the customers.
You can eat them freshly fried from the wok with some special chilli sauce dipping or take home those packed in air-tight containers that can last for few weeks if stored in a freezer.
Address: Kampung Telaga, 21700 Kuala Berang, Terengganu.
Paya Bunga Hotel
Situated on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Paya Bunga Hotel Terengganu is located in the heart of Kuala Terengganu. Positioning itself as a 3-star city hotel, Paya Bunga Hotel Terengganu houses 208 well-appointed rooms and suites.
The hotel’s central location within the Central Business District of Kuala Terengganu provides guests easy access to the surrounding attractions such as Paya Bunga Square, Paya Bunga Sentral and Paya Bunga Plaza.
The stylish business hotel is part of an integrated building with Paya Bunga Square and conveniently connected via a fully air-conditioned link bridge to Paya Bunga Plaza and Paya Bunga Sentral.
There are a number of houseboats which provide sleep-on-board accommodation while touring Lake Kenyir. Staying on a houseboat allows you to be close to nature. If you plan for a group tour, houseboats can be your perfect accommodation but if you are only a couple or small family you would have to pay a lot to book the whole houseboat.
The two-tiered houseboats are normally equipped with several rooms on the upper level, with spacious boardwalk and a verandah above the ship’s bow. It offers comfortable beds, delicious meals and plenty of activities to keep you entertained, including banana boat rides, fishing and swimming in the warm waters. The nights are peaceful here; if you’re here during clear weather, you may also witness the beautiful starry sky at night.
Having your breakfast on a large but slow moving houseboats while enjoying the scenic view surrounding the lake is the most precious moment if you are with your loved one. The feel is more akin to a floating longhouse rather than a watercraft.
Petang Island Resort
Petang Island Resort is about 25 minutes away from Gawi Jetty and is your ideal choice when staying at Lake Kenyir. It has more than 30 homely chalets and one dorm. The resort is set amidst lush greenery and the peace and quiet envelops it. A perfect getaway for any occasion. Several holiday packages are available for you to choose so that you can get your accommodation with other tour packages.