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The Blissful Abode

Bordering Thailand, Kelantan is a state occupying the north-eastern part of Peninsular Malaysia. Kelantan is culturally-rich not only does the largely rural state retain much of traditional Malay culture that was passed through the ages, its proximity to Thailand has also created a distinct and unique culture that is different from other states in the nation.

The many ancient customs and practices of Malay origin that are still maintained here contribute to the state’s reputation as an area steeped in culture and heritage. It is here that you can find some of Malaysia’s most intriguing practices wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), dikir barat (a unique musical form), wau (a kind of kite) flying contests and many more.

History

This makes Kelantan into the place to visit for people looking to experience traditional Malay culture unlikely to be experienced elsewhere.

 

Archaeological discoveries, such as those found in Gua Musang and Gua Cha,have uncovered traces of human activities that date back till prehistoric times. Also, Chinese records from around the 5th century speak of a city in the Malay Peninsula named Ho-lo-tan, contributing evidence that Kelantan is home to one of the earliest recorded civilisations in Malaysia. Kelantan had, during certain points of history, been controlled by Srivijaya, Siam, Malacca, Johor and Terengganu. In 1909, the Anglo- Siamese Treaty resulted in the handing over of the Siamese-controlled Kelantan, along with Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis to Great Britain, becoming one of the Unfederated Malay States.

 

On February 1, 1948, Kelantan became part of the Federation of Malaya and later attained independence with the rest of the other states of the Federation on Merdeka Day, August 31, 1957.

 

Traditions

 

As a largely rural area, Kelantan is a land still steeped in traditional Malay culture and customs. Many of the most unique and distinct legacies in Malaysia have originated from the state and are still practiced in Kelantan, making it into the best place to visit to experience the best of traditional Malay culture.

 

One of the most popular cultural attractions in Kelantan is definitely the Wayang Kulit, or shadow play theatre. By casting the shadows of animated puppets on a cloth screen, a master storyteller (known as the tok dalang) tells gripping stories that are adapted from ancient epics.

Another unique Kelantan practice is the Dikir Barat, a group singing performance led by a lead singer or tukang karut which sings out the lyrics. The group members support the tukang karut with chorus and rhythmic clapping and movements, making Dikir Barat into a pleasing and engaging musical show.

 

Other activities of note include Gasing (Malay top) spinning, silat (Malay martial art), rebana ubi (giant drums), wau (giant kite) flying and many more. These activities can often be found taking place at the Gelanggang Seni or the Cultural Centre on Jalan Mahmud, Kota Bharu, but other venues also play host to these exciting events.

Kelantan also has a vibrant cottage industry which revolves around skilled craftsmen that continue on practicing their ancient art passed down the generations. Items of interest that can be found include the puppets used for Wayang Kulit, beautiful and detailed waus, silverware, woodcarvings and more. Kelantanese workshops produce batik and songket cloths that are thought as the finest in the country.

Location of Note

 

As an area with a long history, many remnants of the past still remain in Kelantan. Many museums, most of them located within walking distance of each other along Jalan Hilir Kota and Jalan Sultan, house the rich history of Kelantan. Not only are there a number of museums showcasing the arts,

traditions and relics of Kelantanese culture, there are also a few especially notable museums such as the Royal Museum (a collection of Kelantan royal family regalia) and the War Museum (a repository of World War II items).

Tumpat, housing a sizable Chinese population is home to a number of Buddhist temples or wats. Among the most famous is Wat Photivihan, where the largest reclining Buddha statue in South East Asia can be found. It measures 40 metres in length and 11 metre in height. Tumpat is also the home of the second largest sitting Buddha statue in the region, with it being 30 metre-tall and 47 metre-wide.

 

Sightseeing

 

Kelantan still retains much of its natural beauty, and as such is a good choice for any visitors looking for a location to experience nature’s wonders. Many of the state’s most notable natural attractions can be found at Gua Musang, such as the Kuala Koh National Park. The national park, which is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and one of the world’s richest ecosystems, makes it into a paradise for nature lovers.

 

Another of Kelantan’s most significant natural attractions is its caves. Not only are they fascinating places to be explored, some of them such as Gua Cha are also active archaeological sites with traces of prehistoric communities.

 

Lastly, being located along the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia blesses Kelantan with a number of beautiful beaches overlooking the South China Sea. Among the most famous are Pantai Cahaya Bulan in Kota Bharu, Pantai Tok Bali in Pasir Puteh, Pantai Malawi in Bachok and many more. Most beaches are easily accessible from Kota Bharu.