Kota Bharu (also written as Kota Bahru and Kota Baru) is the capital city of Kelantan state, situated in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. Often called as KB, the city is especially known as a stopover or passing point before crossing to Thailand via the southern border or popular tropical getaway Perhentian Islands.
Sultan Muhammad built the Islamic-nuanced city in 1844. It is still known as the Cultural City, as the city is considered Malay traditional culture centre. The city was even awarded by The National Land Agency of Japan as one of the best eight cities in the world in 1993 for its unique culture and best tourist destination. Though KB—as well as other Kelantan towns—deeply embraces the Muslim culture, there are Buddhist temples nearby the city.
Kota Bharu’s new airport Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (KBR) serves local flights to and from Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia currently fly from Kuala Lumpur only, while Firefly serves daily flight to and from Penang and KL (via Subang Airport).
Wakaf Bharu is the closest railway station to Kota Bharu, around 6,5 kilometers from the city centre. It serves a number of day trains (three shuttle and one express trains) and overnight trains (two express trains). Wakaf Bharu is located on the East Coast line, which is popularly known as “Jungle Railways”, stretching from Tumpat (one station from Kota Bahru) to Gemas. It offers sights of greeneries, mostly oil palm trees, crowding to the sides of the running trains along the journey.
You can go to Wakaf Bharu Station by taking bus No. 27, running from 7 AM to 8 PM daily or get in taxi.
There are two main bus stations serving local, regional, and long distance bus. Central bus station, also called Jalan Hamzah Bus Terminal mostly covers city and regional bus, while SKMK Langgar Bus Station covers long-distance bus. Most buses arriving at Kota Bharu drop passengers at the central bus station. Central Bus Station is located at Jalan Padang Garong next to KB Mall, and Langgar Bus Station is located at Jalan Bulatan Yahya Petra, behind Tesco.
Kota Bharu is famous for its local delicacies and the showcases of Malayan culture in its beautiful museums, such as Istana Jahar, and wayang puppet show. Not to miss as well are the traditional markets, offering well-made handicrafts and food, making them great cultural sightseeing spots.
Istana Jahar is most arguably as the best museum amongst many other museums in Kota Bharu, reflecting the grandiose traditional yet one-of-a-kind wooden palace. It showcases Kelantanese important rituals, such as circumcision, wedding nights, and funerals, as well as handicrafts and silverwares. The luxurious wood-carved palace that was built in 1887 also houses traditional weapons such as keris at Malay Weapon Gallery.
Istana Jahar opens daily, except Friday, from 08:30 AM to 04:45 PM. Admission fee for adult is 3.00 MYR and 1.50 MYR for children.
Muzium Kraftangan, popularly known as Balai Getam Guri in local language, is a fine craft museum from the traditional embroideries, silverwares, to batik. What specifically makes the museum unique is the craft demonstration, by which you may view artists weaving songket or drawing batik.
Besides viewing the delicate handicrafts, you can also purchase souvenirs at the gift shop and taste the local cuisines at the restaurant in the ground floor of the museum, called “Balai Sulur Gadung”.
The museum is located at Jalan Sultan Kota Bharu Kelantan, and opens daily, except Friday, from 08:30 AM to 04:45 PM.
Named after Islamic’s prominent prophet Nabi Muhammad’s wife, Siti Khadijah Market is a local wet market, offering daily necessities, such as cooking ingredients to ready-to-eat food, notably nasi ulam and ayam percik, famous Kelantan delicacies. The market is held every day in a green octagonal building with surprisingly well-arranged and clean stalls. Siti Khadijah Market is located at Jalan Hulu, and operates daily from 8 AM to 6 PM.
Cultural Centre reflects its name in the many traditional activities, ranging from simple games to martial arts shows, namely gasing (spinning tops), rebana ubi (giant drums), kertok (smaller coconut-made drums), pencak silat (martial arts), and wayang kulit (shadow puppetry). The centre holds cultural show three times a week:
On the northern part of Kota Bharu, a bit outside the town, lie several Buddhist temples which are especially very crowded during Vesak festival.
Wanderers looking for local delicacies may look for yellow arch “Medan Selera MPKB”, the night food market just off Jalan Pintu Pong. Must-try food includes nasi kerabu (blue-tinted rice coloured using flower petals with fish curry) and murtabak (pan-fried flat bread stuffed with everything, from minced meat to fruits-bananas). Ask to cook it spicy, as the vendors tend to reduce the spiciness for foreigners. The night market opens daily from 6 PM to midnight.