Tourism Malaysia

The Road to Old Terengganu

The Road to Old Terengganu

Anis Ramli takes a road-trip on one of the earliest-built highways in Malaysia to discover the old-world charm of Terengganu…

The deep seas off Terengganu may be rich in oil and gas reserves, making the east coast state among the region’s leaders in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry, but some argue that its real treasures are all found on the mainland.

With a documented history reaching as far back as the 2nd century, Terengganu certainly has accumulated a wealth of heritage influenced by the Langkasuka and Srivijaya kingdoms it was part of, and the Majapahit, Khmer and Chinese empires it traded with. Despite modern developments, the old Terengganu still remains – and the best way to explore it? Via Federal Route 3 – approaching a hundred years old, but still one of Malaysia’s most scenic highways.

At 739km long, Route 3 runs alongside the coast of four Malaysian states from Johor Bahru, Johor, in the south of the peninsula, through Pahang and Terengganu before ending in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan. From here, it goes on as part of the Asian Highway Network that connects Asia to the upper reaches of Europe.

It’s ironic that 20 years after it was built by the British for economic reasons, Route 3 would bring the ultimate fall of the Allied Forces when, in 1941, Japanese troops used it to swiftly advance south on bicycles during the Battle of Malaya.

Having served for economic and political purposes in the past, it must be said that Route 3 today is best suited for more leisurely pursuits. The relatively flat and straight two-lane single carriageway road provides an easy, scenic drive.

Traveling northwards, the South China Sea with its glittering blue waves in the midday sun would be your constant companion – and distraction – on the east. Some sections of the highway run alongside lush pockets of mangrove forests along the coastal estuaries.

There’s no escaping the countryside charm of Terengganu, even as the bigger towns try to shed its pastoral image with concrete buildings and foreign franchise retailers. Fishing villages just on the outskirts of towns speak of the population’s time-honoured source of income; fishermen bring their boats ashore on public beaches; chickens and cows roam about freely along main thoroughfares; while many of the wooden homes here are still built on stilts in a compound of coconut trees.

Even the stretch of road from Kerteh to Paka – where Malaysia’s oil and gas refinery activities are based – makes for excellent night driving. As the sun sets, the huge complex of pipes, steel tanks, smoke stacks and gas flutes lights up spectacularly like a space station about to launch a rocket ship.

A great way to get to know Terengganu is through its food and what better place to start than in Chukai (in the district of Kemaman), among the first towns you encounter along the Terengganu section of Route 3 northwards. Kim Wah (also known as Kin To Wah) Restaurant is a spartan corner establishment on Jalan Masjid with an even simpler menu, selling nothing else but chicken rice. It opens daily from 11 am to 2:30 pm, but its plates of roast chicken over rice with a side of soy sauce and chili dip often run out by 1pm.

One of the enduring legacies of the Chinese community in Malaysia is the kopitiam. Usually established in smaller towns, but increasingly franchised in urban centres, these old-style cafés are famous for their Asian coffee (usually thicker and more bitter than its European version) and charcoal-toasted bread generously slathered with butter and kaya, a coconut cream-based jam. Kemaman’s very own – Hai Peng Kopitiam on Jalan Sulaimani – has been enjoying a good reputation since the 1930s. Besides the toast, their other specialty is the typical Terengganu dish nasi dagang – beautifully steamed rice with a serving of rich tuna curry wrapped in banana leaf parcels.

In the evenings, join the locals at Pantai Geliga beach for traditional east coast tea-time treats of satar (fish cakes wrapped in banana leaves, skewered in threes, and grilled over red-hot charcoal), keropok lekor (fish crackers) and sotong celup tepung (deep fried squid). Down it all with fresh coconut juice, served straight from the husk!

Kuala Dungun
About an hour’s drive north of Chukai is Kuala Dungun, a town that once enjoyed the wealth of its iron ore mining activities. Nothing much of its glorious past remains except for the nondescript concrete pillar in the sea that some say was part of the railway line that transported iron from Bukit Besi to Kuala Dungun. About 30 km inland, in Bukit Besi, are a few more of these legacies – the stockpile buildings, tunnels and chimneys used during the tin-mining days – left by the Japanese who first discovered the riches within the area.

Seemingly bereft of any tourist attractions, Kuala Dungun is an unlikely stop for those passing through Terengganu if not for Tanjong Jara Resort. Despite its modest kampung location, the resort, part of the luxury YTL property chain, has gained a worldwide reputation for its unique architecture and welcome. Taking a cue from its east coast residents, Tanjong Jara Resort has adopted the spirit of gentle and humble Malay service and hospitality. Its “Unmistakably Malay” tagline is reflected throughout the resort – the Malay palace-like architecture, the local menu which features the region’s unique cuisine, and the age-old Malay treatments at its award-winning spa.

The district of Dungun, especially the beaches at Rantau Abang, used to be the calling place of giant leatherback turtles who return yearly to the beaches here to lay their eggs. In the 1970s, as many as 1,000 leatherback landings were reported but these nesting giants are a rare sight these days due to modern developments and human interference; however it is still possible to view green turtle landings in other parts of Dungun. Tanjong Jara Resort has a turtle watching programme exclusively for guests at Kerteh. The oil-refinery town of Terengganu may be an unlikely port of call for these nesting turtles, but the midnight trips arranged with the local fisheries department are highly recommended. Complement the experience beforehand with a trip to the Turtle Information Centre in Rantau Abang just 15 km north of Tanjong Jara Resort to learn about the miraculous journey made by these gentle marine creatures to nest and the subsequent fight for survival by their young hatchlings.

Kuala Terengganu
After the tranquil panoramas of Kemaman, Dungun and Marang, the bustle of capital city Kuala Terengganu takes a while to get used to. Pasar Payang is the central market where all manner of trade is conducted. It’s the place to get your fish and chicken, fruits and veggies, dried fish crackers, some fashionable wear, souvenirs, even your gold jewellery. It would almost be a sin to leave town without at least purchasing the signature east coast fabric, the batik, here. Or indulge in the Terengganu brocade – a textile of royal origins made using fine gold and silk threads.

Spend a quick afternoon on the Terengganu River Cruise, from the Islamic Civilisation Park jetty, to learn about the history and development of the area. Then, hop over to Pulau Duyong to walk within the walls of an old fortress. Built in the 1920s, Kota Lama Duyong is a traditional Terengganu house with Greek Corinthian elements in its columns and Islamic influences in the decorative woodcarvings.

Continue northwards from Kuala Terengganu and you will soon reach Penarik in the district of Setiu. This serene fishing village has a unique geographical landscape – a narrow isthmus of casuarinas and coconut groves flanked by the Setiu River on the west and the South China Sea on the east. It is the setting of Terrapuri Heritage Village, part conservation project, part boutique guest house, and on-going 20-year labour of love by local entrepreneur, Alex Lee, to preserve the authentic traditions of the Malay Terengganu house.

Here, guests are accommodated in hundred-year old dwellings, each one personally sourced by Lee from various parts of Terengganu, dismantled, carefully restored and assembled again on this piece of beach-front land in Kampung Mangkuk. Rich in history and displaying the refined carpentry and design skills of highly-respected master craftsmen, each of these 29 houses may be the last legacies of a fast-diminishing Terengganu culture and heritage. The hospitality by locals employed from nearby villages is genuine and unpretentious – at the end of your stay, you’ll be bidding goodbye to friends and family instead of service staff.

With a coastline that runs for 244 km, Terengganu’s beaches are some of the best and prove to be a great distraction to those driving along Route 3. There’s no point resisting its allure; turn off from the main road anywhere and cherish the serendipitous discoveries not marked in any tourist map.

Teluk Bidara in Dungun is a bay near Tanjong Jara Resort where one can explore the cave and lighthouse on Tanjung Api Hill at low tide. Kuala Abang and Kemasik beaches have some interesting sea-side rock formations on which to perch and enjoy the miles of blue, while Penarik tears you in two with the river wetlands on one side and gorgeous beach on the other, and the shade of casuarinas and coconut palms in between the two.

The long Terengganu coastline may be inviting but beware of the strong under-currents in certain places. Instead, pull a chair beach-side and munch on keropok lekor as you take in the views of the nearby islands, listen to the waves breaking on the shore and fantasise of owning a beach-front property here.

When to go:
The state of Terengganu observes Sunday to Thursday as working days while Friday and Saturday are public holidays. Banks, government offices and most businesses in Terengganu operate from Sunday to Thursday.

Also, it’s worth checking out the weather before going. Terengganu experiences heavier rainfall and flooding in certain areas during the monsoon season when the north-east winds blow between November and January. Although the perception is that it rains every day during this period, there are perfectly sunny days, too, in between wet spells. Still, trips to the islands are not advised during this period due to uncertain sea conditions. On the bright side, the monsoon season is considered low season, and travellers get better deals on hotels.

Driving tips:
Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu (approx. 455 km): Take the Karak Highway, then the East Coast Expressway, and exit at Jabor toll. Continue towards Kuala Terengganu on Federal Route 3 via Chukai town in Kemaman.

Singapore/Johor Bahru to Kuala Terengganu (approx. 562 km): Take Federal Route 3 to Kota Tinggi, Mersing, Kuala Rompin, Pekan, Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu.

Penang to Kuala Terengganu (approx. 460 km): Take Federal Route 4 via Grik to Jertih, then turn into Federal Route 3 to Kuala Terengganu.

Fly to Kuala Terengganu Airport from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) via Malaysia Airlines or AirAsia; or from Subang Airport (Kuala Lumpur) via Firefly.

More info:
Check out an online brochure on Terengganu (and the east coast region) here:


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Tourism Malaysia

Spending A Day at MASiF 2011

September 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

The Music, Art, Style International Festival (MASiF) 2011 is an event that celebrates the three different categories of art – fine art, fashion and music. One of the activities organised as an effort to cultivate a better understanding of Fine Art was the Public Programmes held at Galeri Petronas. The three programmes that was held on the 16th and 17th September were ‘An Evening with Amri Ginang‘, where participants were given an opportunity to be up close and personal with one of Malaysia’s pioneer photographers, Amri Ginang and ‘Fusion of Passion : Walk With The Artist‘, where some of Malaysia’s best painters, photographers, sculptors and illustrators talk about their latest works that are currently on display at Galeri Petronas. The last programme which was held on 17th September at 2.00 pm, was ‘Close and Personal : Soraya Ariff Awaluddin‘. Funny how this was the only talk that caught my eye. Maybe it was because of her credentials that made me curious, or it could have been the fact that she exudes a warm and friendly aura that made me wanted to listen to her story.

Close and Personal - Soraya and Ariff Awaluddin

Ariff and Soraya

Close and Personal - Soraya and Ariff Awaluddin

Soraya with Arif, the art coordinator of MASiF 2011 and Ir. Adam Salim having a short chat after the talk

As there was only a few of us at the start of the talk, Ariff suggested that we all drew our seats closer to the speaker’s table for a more intimate affair. The talk went on for about three hours, with both Ariff and Soraya sharing their thoughts and opinions about everything, from photography to issues that most photographers face in Malaysia. And boy, were those thoughts and opinions of theirs very interesting! It was a little bit dampening to hear how many of our local senior photographers are not very well-known compared to some of our senior artists. They also spoke on how changing times have made it easier for most to own a digital camera. For them, it is not the issue of how hi-tech one’s camera can be but more of the person’s understanding of the equipment’s functions and limitations. It was indeed an eye-opening talk for someone like me, who wants to make photography a serious hobby in the near future.

Close and Personal - Soraya and Ariff Awaluddin

Hanis, one of the participants of the talk speaking to Ariff after the session.

Close and Personal - Soraya and Ariff Awaluddin

Soraya Talismail and Ariff Awaluddin posing with a portrait taken by Soraya of Ungku Abdul Aziz

After the end of the talk, I decided to explore MASiF’s outdoor activities for a change. As it is all about celebration with everyone, some of the activities are held outdoors so that everyone can be a part of the festival. Though the skies threatened to soak everyone right to the bone that evening, it did not prove to be a dampener on their spirits as most of them went right ahead with their agenda. With the music from Friday King Road, an independent band that was performing at the background filling up the whole area, the environment of the evening is best described using photographs.

MASiF 2011 Day Three

Graceful dancers performing on stage at the Suria KLCC Concourse Area

MASiF 2011 Day Three

Though the skies looked like it was about to pour, it did not deter the crowds from hanging around and having fun at the Esplanade area

MASiF 2011 Day Three

Whether you are there to check out your favourite indie band or just to spend time with your family, there’s no doubt that everyone enjoyed themselves immensely

MASiF 2011 Day Three

The lead singer of an indie group called Friday King Road belting one out of their hit songs

MASiF 2011 Day Three

The band, Friday King Road

MASiF 2011 Day Three

A group of performers striking up a fun pose for their fans

MASiF 2011 Day Three

For some reason, everyone seems to be attracted to this golden human statue that was there during the MASiF event

MASiF 2011 Day Three

Anyone want to try their hands at staying still for as long as you can while standing?

As you can see, MASiF is the sort of festival that is best experienced first-hand, because the best parts of it must be seen, heard and experienced by ourselves in order to fully appreciate it.

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Tourism Malaysia

Royal Malaysian Police Open Day 2011

September 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

The month of October will begin with a bang as the men in blue of Malaysia invites the public to attend its Police Open Day 2011 at Dataran Merdeka this Saturday, 1st October 2011. the event is one of several events held throughout the year to build closer ties with the general public and is also part the police’s celebration for Hari Raya.

The event will begin at 8 am and end at 6 pm. Among the activities planned for the day are street soccer matches, shooting simulations, cultural performances by ASWARA and of course, a lucky draw! As with other open house events, food will be served throughout 11am till 3 pm for those who attend and the day will end with a special performance by the Royal Malaysian Police Band.

Royal Malaysian Police

The Royal Malaysian Police Force will be organising an Open Day on 1st October 2011

While this event is focused on local Malaysians, visitors from any country are welcome to attend and experience this simple community affair.

As the event will be held at Dataran Merdeka, several roads in the city will be closed to motorists on Saturday, beginning at 12 am till 12 pm. The roads affected are Jalan Kinabalu/Bukit Aman exit, Jalan Kinabalu/Hishamuddin Roundabout, Jalan Raja/Jalan Hishamuddin, and Jalan Leboh Pasar Besar/Jalan Hishamuddin.

Other roads inaccessible to motorists will be Jalan Leboh Ampang/Jalan Tun Razak, Dato Onn Roundabout/Jalan Parlimen, Jalan Parlimen/Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Leboh Pasar Besar/Jalan Mahkamah Persekutuan and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman/Jalan Raja.

Photo (c) MyLifeStory

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Tourism Malaysia

Fusion of Passion

September 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This year’s Malaysia Day was celebrated on a grand scale, unlike the years before. Various activities were held by many organisations, including state and the federal governments, as well as other entities, all united in the celebration of the country that we live in. Chief among the celebrations was MASiF 2011 – the Music, Arts, Style, International Festival – at Suria KLCC. Among the highlights of the festival was an art exhibition at Galeri Petronas which has recently come to a close entitled Fusion of Passion.

Fusion of Passion

Chin Wan Kee – Beyond Mind and Words Series No 29

Fusion of Passion

Tew Nai Tong – Happy Life

Fusion of Passion

Clement Ooi Kit Meng – Together

So for those of you who were not in Kuala Lumpur during this year’s Malaysia Day and missed out on the exhibition, here is what Fusion of Passion was all about. The exhibition is a tribute to the diversity of the country and to show how differences can be celebrated and not feared. The exhibition strove to gather a number of artists and artwork assembled within one gallery to symbolise the fusion of various passions, and the diversity of artistic passion was shown in the depth of the works of fine art, sculpture, photography and illustration. Both established masters and emerging artists were given equal opportunity to showcase their work, so that the audience would better appreciate the true worth of the country.

Fusion of Passion

Izzati Shahrin – Dua Tiga Kucing Berlari, Mana Nak Sama Tikus Seorang

Fusion of Passion

Amiruddin Ariffin – Cosmic Symphony Series III

Fusion of Passion

Carlyn Chua Yuin Lim – Deafening Lights

The diversity of art in the exhibition acted as a reflection of what it means to be Malaysian, the respect and pride, and our own interpretation of what makes us Malaysians. Each work of art in the exhibition is an expression of the artist’s feelings and views towards Malaysia. This is interesting as it mirrors our perception about fellow Malaysians, as there will be times when we disagree with the artist’s vision, but there will definitely be times when we share and emphatise with what we see. The exhibition strives to use art to bring an understanding in ourselves about the society we live in, and the people we share this country with.

Fusion of Passion

Cindy Koh – Symbiosis III

Fusion of Passion

Jasmine Kok – Silver Bloom

Fusion of Passion

Rasid Yusof – Malaysian Interior 2

And although there is a deeper meaning in this exhibition, the many different pieces that make up this collection come together to create a harmonious and pleasant experience even for those of us who feel we do not understand art.

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Tourism Malaysia

FUSED at The Actors Studio

September 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

The Actors’ Studio ends the month of September with FUSED, an experimental performing arts series. FUSED will run from 29th September till 2nd October, and each night will offer something different in terms of artists, ideas and performances.

Here is what’s lined up for this edition of FUSED:

29 September – BACA: Rehearsed Reading
Is reading just reading? You’ll discover there’s more to the spoken word at this little experiment. A rehearsed reading series focused on local plays that have yet been staged, baca serves as a platform for playwrights to showcase their scripts, as well as a sneak peek to theatre for the public. baca, ‘where we make scripts come alive’, is one of the projects helmed by The Actors Studio’s Actor in-Residence, Inessa Irdayanty.

Baca: 2 by 3
1. Apple Mint Jelly on Burnt Toast by Adeline Ong
2. Pabila Bulan Mengambang by Adeline Ong
3. Either/Or by Joshua Chong
4. Pastikan Lorong Anda by Joshua Chong
5. One for the Road by Nandang Abdul Rahman
6. Sudah Makan? by Nandang Abdul Rahman

FUSED at The Actors Studio

BACA – Rehearsed Readings at The Actors Studio

30 September – Strumming to a different beat: The Electronic Issue

Electric is in, at least on 30th September when guitarists all swap their acoustic guitars for electric. Be ready for some interesting sounds as the riffs of electric guitars merge with more familiar sounds of the keyboard, trumpet and saxophone.

Kuning Sudar (Tears for Alaska), Phang, Tan Hwang (Citizens of Ice Cream), Brendan Angelo (Tic), Fadil (The Great Metropolitan Expressway) Fairus (Blur) on visuals

1 October – MyDance Alliance presents Dancebox

Dancebox offers a combined package of experimental dance to the audience at The Actors’ Studio this October. This time around, the box is set to offer something more informal yet entertaining, while retaining its own unique identity from previous offerings of bellydancing, ballet, Latin and butoh. Let’s open this box and find out what’s in store this October!

2 October – We Are Malaysian Made Movies

It’s movie time with a slight twist this 2nd October with WAMM screenings. Known for screening stuff that never ends up on local TV or the cinema, and with a penchant of getting news about things that slip through local publications, WAMM will screen two short films this time around.

“Love and Luksaah” by Mei (A Malaysian in New Zealand)
A finalist for Best Short Film in the Asian 1st Films Festival 2009 in Singapore, this is a tale about two men, a girl, and laksa, lots of it.

“Damaged Kung Fu” by Juliane Block (A German who makes films in Malaysia) *Debut Screening
The film will debut at the Actors’ Studio and offer the audience an action comedy parody tribute to days of Bruce Lee.

Oh yes, that’s not all for the night, as WAMM will also feature a local band with a very interesting name, Once Upon A Time There Was A Sausage Named Bob. Formed on 25th November 2009, the band’s line up includes female vocalist Esty Richards, Jared Lee and his brother Lee Wei Chen on guitar and bass respectively, followed by Anthony Lee on lead guitar and JC Lam on drums.

All performances begin at 8:30 pm and takes place at The Actors’ Studio @ Lot10. Entry is by donation of a minimum of RM10.

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