Reputed to be the cradle of Malay culture, Kelantan offers a delightful profusion of colourful traditions, charm and scenic beauty to the visitor. Located in the north-eastern corner of the Peninsula, Kelantan is an agrarian state with lush paddy fields, rustic fishing villages and casuarina-lined beaches. j With a population of around 1.5 million, Kelantan is primarily a Malay state although around 7% of the population are of Thai, Indian and Chinese ancestry.
The Kelantanese have carefully preserved their customs, traditions and craft skills over time. One might be pleasantly surprised to see adults, indulging in pastimes such as flying giant kites or spinning giant tops. Renowned for their warmth and hospitality, the Kelantanese display an old world charm that captivates visitors.
Kelantan was known from earlier times as a seat of powerful kingdoms which established trading links with the Chinese Empire. Early Chinese records indicate the existence of 4t trade links with China, which referred to Kelantan as Ho-Lo-Tan.
The state has at various times in the past been a vassal of Siam. In the 18th century, a Kelantanese Prince, Long Yunus, ascended to the throne and the present-day royal family is descended from him.
Kelantan along with the other states of the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which gained its independence on 31st August 1957.
The economy of Kelantan is based on agriculture with rice, rubber, tobacco and fruits being the main cash crops. Fishing, fish and livestock rearing are also important economic activities. Timber production provides substantial revenue to the state and gold is still mined in small quantities. A thriving cottage industry produces extremely fine batik material and paintings, exquisite gold and silverware, intricate wood carvings and beautiful 'kain songket' (cloth woven from gold and silver threads). Leather working and mat weaving from pandanus leaves are also local trades.
Tourism is growing in importance as the state has a wealth of attractions such as homestay programmes a rich heritage of culture and traditions, eco-tourism packages and fine powdery beaches.
There is an excellent network of roads linking major towns in Peninsular Malaysia to Kelantan. From Kuala Lumpur, the overland route takes one eastward along the Karak Highway to Kuantan in Pahang, a journey of about 3 hours.
The rest of the journey from Kuantan to Kota Bharu takes about 41/2 hours. The route heads northward along the coast passing through picturesque villages providing scenic vistas of the palm-fringed beaches overlooking the azure waters of the South China Sea.
The inland route to Kota Bharu turns off the Karak Highway at Bentong and proceeds northwards to Raub and then to Gua Musang, before reaching Kota Bharu. An alternative route exits the Karak Highway at Temerloh and passes through Jerantut, Benta and Gua Musang en-route to Kota Bharu.
From Penang, one has to get to Grik via Sungai Petani in Kedah and then travel along the scenic East-West Highway to Jeli in Kelantan before continuing the journey to Kota Bharu.
There are regular air-conditioned express bus services operating from Kuala Lumpur and major towns to Kota Bharu.
Train services from Kuala Lumpur to Kelantan terminate at Wakaf Bharu and Tumpat. From these two points, one can get to Kota Bharu either by taxi or bus. Stop over points en-route include Gua Musang, Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah and Pasir Mas. For further details, kindly contact: Malayan Railway (Kuala Lumpur) Tel: 032273 8000
Once you are in Kota Bharu, it is relatively easy to get to nearby districts as regular bus and taxi services are available from the main bus terminal.
For those who are interested in visiting places of interest in the interior of Kelantan, it is advisable to enquire with the Kelantan State Tourist Information Centre or any registered travel agent in Malaysia.
Malaysia Airlines operates daily flights to Kota Bharu from Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Pelangi Air also flies daily to Kota Bharu from Kuala Lumpur. For reservations, please contact:
- Malaysia Airlines (Kuala Lumpur) Tel: 03-746 3000
- Pelangi Air (Kuala Lumpur) Tel: 03-740 3405