Hotels in Kota Bharu, Malaysia
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Kota Bharu, Malaysia’s New City
Tucked into the north-eastern corner of the Malaysian peninsula close to the Thai border, the city of Kota Bharu is the provincial capital of the country’s Kelantan state. Normally used as a gateway to the postcard-perfect beaches of the Perhentian Islands, Kota Bharu nevertheless intrigues with its unique history and attractions. While the city is known for its markets and museums, it also boasts a couple of top-notch beaches and a truly unique local cuisine. The place to explore traditional Malaysian culture and crafts, Kota Bharu’s charms are just too good to miss.
From Sultans to Siam
Khota Bharu was established as the capital of the province in the 19th Century by Sultan Muhammad II of Kelantan, the head of the local Pattani dynasty. While it may be a relative fledgling in terms of its age, the area's conservative Islamic culture runs deep. Indeed, the vast majority of the city's population are practising Muslims and because of this, visitors are advised to dress and behave with modesty. Those out and about in town during the day will also find that prayer times are widely observed. But despite adherence to Islamic customs and traditions, foreign influences abound in the city and throughout this part of Malaysia. In fact, the Sultans of Kelantan, who still act as the constitutional heads of this state, have always been connected by commerce with India, China and Thailand. Today, visitors will note that there are considerable Chinese and Thai communities here, most of whom are practising Buddhists.
Sightseeing in Central Kota Bharu
The bulk of Kota Bharu’s sites are clustered between two main thoroughfares, the Jalan Sultanah Zainab and the Jalan Kebun Sultan , both of which run parallel to the Kelantan River. In terms of attractions, central Kota Bharu is awash with traditional craft markets. Whether you’re into batik , keris or silks, the Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah is the place to shop. Perhaps Kota Bharu’s most well-known attraction, this market is run almost exclusively by female traders who proffer some of the region’s most traditional wares. Those who suddenly find themselves hooked on handicrafts can also head to the city’s Handicraft Village and Craft Museum for more browsing and shopping. Just down the road is the Istana Jahar , a former sultan’s palace that has now been converted into a museum showcasing the life and customs of the region’s royal family. For something different, history buffs can explore the area’s religious culture at the Kelantan Islamic Museum.
Taste Local Flavours
When it comes to cuisine, the flavours of Kota Bharu are worth exploring. Just like the area itself, the local goodies display a dazzling array of influences and you’ll notice that your plate will be heavy on Thai, Indian and Chinese accents. As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is a staple here and whether it’s stir-fried, served with curries, fermented or pressed into brightly coloured kuih or cakes, you can enjoy this standby in any variety of forms. For snacks and lighter bites, it’s worth keeping an eye out for durian and curry puffs as well as for the Malaysian-style crepes or pancakes known as murtabak . Those keen to try local eats should make a beeline for the Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah , where they’ll find an array of food stalls and vendors. There are also multiple Malaysian, Chinese and halal eateries – as well as numerous western restaurants – dotted throughout the compact central core of Kota Bharu.
Exploring the City's Outskirts
Those eager to explore the outskirts of Kelantan's royal capital will find that there's plenty to do outside of central Kota Bharu. If you're keen to keep shopping and eating, the Pasar Borong Wakaf Che Yeh is a bustling night market offering an array of goods and cuisines. Located due south of the city, the journey to this market affords travellers the opportunity to admire the fertile Kelantan River Valley, an area lush with hardwood, rubber and fruit trees. For a slightly different take on nature, head over to Min Fireflies Garden and Min Stingless Bee Farm and Gallery. While guests can take part in an array of different cultural activities here, the nightly firefly watching excursions are perhaps this venue's most spectacular draw. But if your holiday just isn't complete without a visit to the beach, the area has those too; Pantai Cahaya Bulan features long stretches of golden sand while shaded Pantai Senok is popular with picnickers.
Accommodation and Hotels in Kota Bharu
Kelantan’s capital offers overnighting guests a fair range of sleeping options. As with the vast majority of Kota Bharu’s sites and attractions, most of the hotel and accommodation venues here are located in the city’s compact central core. If you’re looking for a bed, there are multiple properties clustered around the area between the Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah and the Istana Jahar , some of which even offer views of the Kelantan River. For those looking for an alternative to hotel-style digs, this part of Kota Bharu offers an array of guest houses, bed and breakfasts, pensions and even hostels. If you’re keen to splash out, the area also has a couple of higher-end options, some of which have pools and parking. As an alternative to the hotels in central Kota Bharu, visitors will find beach resort accommodation on the coast to the north east of the city.