Kelantan is a rural state in the northeast of Peninsular Malaysia. Kota Bharu, the riverside capital, is home to royal palaces like the wooden Istana Jahar. Sultan Ismail Petra Arch is an ornate timber structure with Islamic inscriptions. The central market, Pasar Siti Khadijah, is crowned by a glass dome. Balai Getam Guri village is known for its handicrafts, including silverware, batik and embroidery.
Some say that the word Kelantan comes from a modified version of the word gelam hutan, which is a swamp tea tree, also known as cajuput. The Siamese gave this area the name Klantan during the times when they were controlling it. Some people believe that the word Kelantan comes from the Kolaam Thana name which is Indian in origins, meaning Land of Kolaam. In time, this name became Kelantan, which fit much better with the language spoken by people from the area. Kelantan’s history goes back in time quite a bit, with settlements found here which date to the prehistoric times. The early history of Kelantan has links with the Khmer Empire, Funan Kingdom, Sri Vijaya, Siam and Majapahit. During the 15th century, Kelantan’s ruler, Raja Kumar, got his independence from Siam and this area was quite an important trade centre at the time. The state of Kelantan became a vassal to Malacca Sultanate in 1499. When Malacca fell, in 1511, the area known as Kelantan became divided and the small lords which owned it paid tribute to the Patani, a Kingdom from the Malay peninsula.
In the second part of the 18th century, a Patani warlord called Long Yunus managed to unify the Kelantan area. In 1800, his son succeeded him and his name was Long Muhammad, but ruled under the name Sultan Muhammad I. When this ruler died without having any kids, a civil war broke out, for control over the throne. The winner was a nephew of his, which managed to win in 1835, when he became Sultan Muhammad II. He had an alliance made with Siam, which allowed him to create a Kelantan state which had a basis in Kota Bharu. In 1909, a treat between the Siamese and the English was signed and the Thais gave up any claims they had over a number of territories, including Perlis, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan. In the end Kelantan became one of the states of Malay and it had a British Adviser. The Japanese invaded this province first when they came to Malaya, in 1941, on December 8. Kelantan was ruled by Siam once again while it was occupied by the Japanese but it was taken back by the British when Japan was defeated.
In 1948, on February 1st, Kelantan entered the Malaya Federation. In 1957, on August 31, these states got their independence. In 1963 Kelantan became a Malaysian state.
WHERE TO GO ?
Siti Khadijah Market
A good way to get to know a Malaysian town is to visit its markets, the economic centre of the community. The Siti Khadijah Market is named after Prophet Muhammad’s entrepreneurial wife – a fitting name for a market mostly run by women. This market has something for everyone, from fresh produce to traditional crafts and cakes. It is also a slice of life in Kelantan, abuzz with colour, scents and sounds of the local community.
Pantai Bisikan Bayu (Beach of Whispering Breeze)
Pantai Bisikan Bayu, also known as Pantai Dalam Rhu, is just a scenic 50km drive south of Kota Bharu, Kelantan’s capital. Around the village of Semerak, gentle breezes rustle the casuarina trees lining the beach producing a hushed sound that, locals say, sounds like a soothing whisper. Surfing is good at certain times of the year, and wind surfers will find great conditions here during the North-East Monsoon from November to April. Yet nothing beats resting in the shade of the tall casuarina trees, staring out to sea, listening to the whispering wind and sipping on a cool coconut.
Gunung Stong State Park
Gunung Stong State Park (GSSP) is a forested area, totaling 21,950ha with several prominent mountain peaks. The area is of outstanding beauty and is home to one of the highest waterfalls in Malaysia, the seven-tiered Jelawang Waterfall.
The rugged landscape of GSSP offers many exciting adventures for anyone who loves nature and the great outdoors. GSSP not only has important eco-tourism values but also serves as a significant conservation area with rich flora and fauna diversity.
Animals such as the Asian elephant, seladang, great argus pheasant, Malayan tiger, serow and tapir are known to roam the forest in Stong. With the assistance of a qualified and knowledgeable trekking guide, your exploration of GSSP will be made more meaningful as interesting aspects about the biodiversity of the area are pointed out. The Bogo Rock Shelter, a cave- like formation, is a suitable resting point on the way to the summit of Gunung Stong, which can be reached within four hours of trekking. Meanwhile, Gunung Ayam, the highest peak in the area at 1,504m, is an ideal spot to catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets. A campsite is available for overnight stays. Visit the breathtaking 225 million-year- old limestone caves at Dabong that house several bat species and rare flora, including an endemic balsam.
Handicraft Village and Craft Museum
Also known as “Balai Getam Guri”, the Handicraft Village and Craft Museum is located in the heart of Kota Bharu’s cultural zone, within walking distance from the Istana Balai Besar and Buluh Kubu Bazaar. The Craft Museum houses many fine examples of Kelantanese craftsmanship. A restaurant called “Balai Sulur Gadung” is located on the ground floor of the building, where visitors can savour some of Kelantan’s famous dishes. The adjacent Handicraft Village provides visitors the chance to see just how these crafts are made. Demonstrations of traditional embroidery, songket weaving, batik printing, silver work and wood carving are carried out by skilled artisans. Their products are also on sale at the centre.