Are you planning a trip to the east coast of Malaysia? If so, you might be heading to the beautiful Redang or Perhentian islands. However, many people tend to overlook the cities along the way. One of these cities is Kuala Terengganu, which is surprisingly pleasant. Although it may not be as big as Kuala Lumpur or Georgetown, it has an authentic vibe and many interesting things to do. In this blog post, I will be sharing five reasons why Kuala Terengganu is worth visiting.

1. It has a charming historic center: Kampung China

The east coast of Malaysia is home to a predominant Malay population, with fewer Chinese and Indian ethnic groups. However, it is interesting to note that the center of Kuala Terengganu, in particular, has Chinese roots. The heart of the city, Kampung China, was built by the Peranakan Chinese, a group that originated from South China but has adopted many Malaysian customs over the centuries. The Peranakans were also present in Malacca and Penang, leading to the main street in Kuala Terengganu, Jalan Bandar, having a bit of a similar appearance to Jonker Street in Malacca.

2. There is street art!

Kampung China is not just about the charming shophouses, it also has some great street art. Most of it is small in scale and can be found in alleys called lorongs. These creative alleys include World Heritage Lane, Payang Memory Lane, and Turtle Alley. The latter serves as a sad reminder of the declining population of leatherback turtles around Terengganu, primarily due to fishing and the sale of turtle eggs for consumption. However, the good news is that since June 2022, the sale of turtle eggs has been banned.

For more street art in Kuala Terengganu check out the cartoonish murals at the Bunga Square parking lot.

3. The city has its own version of London’s Tower Bridge

Kuala Terengganu’s Drawbridge (Jambatan Angkat) is an iconic structure inspired by London’s Tower Bridge. As a Dutch person, I have seen bridges of all shapes and sizes, but in Southeast Asia, this is one of the few bridges that can open up to let bigger ships pass. To fully appreciate the bridge’s beauty, visit in the evening. Take a stroll along the Pesisir Payang boulevard, enjoy the stunning lighting of the bridge, and savor the delicious food at the evening market. I have also read that one of the towers has a viewing platform.

4. check off world-famous mosques in a single afternoon

Kuala Terengganu boasts of an impressive mosque called the Crystal Mosque (Masjid Kristal). The best way to reach it is by taxi, which takes around 20 minutes. Masjid Kristal is situated on Wan Man Island, where you can also find the Islamic Heritage Park. The entrance fee for the park is 25 RM. Here, you can see over 20 replicas of Islamic architectural landmarks from all around the world, such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Mosque in Xi’an, China and the Qolsharif Mosque in Kazan, Russia. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to visit the Heritage Park. Next time!

In Kuala Terengganu, you can also visit another remarkable mosque, the Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque, also known as the Floating Mosque. While this is not the only floating mosque in Malaysia, others include the Putrajaya Mosque and the Malacca Straits Mosque.

5. Combine the city with a quick island getaway

You can easily extend your Kuala Terengganu trip with a quick visit to Pulau Kapas. The island got its name from the Malay word “Kapas”, meaning cotton, which refers to the soft white sand on the island. To get there, you can take bus T102 which runs once per hour, or a taxi to Marang Jetty which costs around 40-60 RM. From there, you can take a boat to Pulau Kapas, which costs around 40 RM for a return trip. Make sure to check the boat schedule, as the boat only runs four times a day. The last boat back to Jetty Marang departs at 5:00 p.m. Lastly, if you want to avoid crowds, it’s best not to go on weekends. We made this mistake and although you can’t tell from our photos, it was quite crowded on the main beach.

Restaurants in Kuala Terengganu

I must be truthful about this: for vegetarians and vegans, there aren’t many restaurant options available in Kuala Terengganu. As mentioned earlier, the East Coast is mainly populated by Malays, and Malaysian dishes usually contain chicken, beef, or mutton. Although you may find some other restaurants in Kampung China, fish is often the main ingredient there. In the city center, Restoran Plan A is a good option, offering around 5 vegetarian dishes. Other alternatives include Chuk Lim (Chinese cuisine, with no ambiance but decent food), Uncle Chan (an Indian street food stall that opens in the evening), and Jasmine 786 (an Indian restaurant). For a cup of coffee, I recommend Hidden Cafe.

Where to stay in Kuala Terengganu

Next to Plan A, you can find the Arena Boutique Hotel which has a good rating of 8.7 on Booking.com. Another nice option is Suite 18, which is located right above Hidden Cafe, perfect for your morning coffee fix. If you want to see an overview of hotels in Kuala Terengganu, click here.

Visit Kuala Terengganu, yes or no? What do you think? Please keep in mind that I visited Kuala Terengganu in 2020 and my recommendations are based on my experience during that time. Some of the places mentioned may have closed since then.

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"Don't let your dreams be dreams. Go live your dreams. Go travel".

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