Friday, January 29, 2010

Kuala Terengganu Tales v.03 - Masjid Abidin and the Bus Journey to KL

Mosques in Terengganu have nicknames. Masjid Terapung is the Floating Mosque, while the Crystal Mosque is, well... Masjid Krystal. At the heart of town, there is Masjid Abidin, otherwise known as the White Mosque - aka the Big Mosque.

The mosque was built by Sultan Zainal Abidin II between 1793 and 1808. As its inscription reveals, the mosque was originally built of timber. During the reign of Sultan Umar around the year 1852, a new one made of stone - of bricks! - replaced the old. Renovation included an addition of 3 round pillars and 3 minarets by Tengku Panglima Besar (Tengku Muda Kemaman).

Calligraphic carvings from verses of the Holy Quran (Koran) along with prayers and arabesques were carved on the entrance and grills of the entrance.

In 1972, renovation was ordered during the reign of Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah extending the area to ambitiously accommodate 2,500 people in a single prayer session (compare this with the 700 capacity of Crystal Mosque and the staggering 24,000 capacity of Shah Alam's Blue Mosque). Further minor renovations were done in 2006.

It is hard to ignore this mosque. If you head to the market or the bus terminal, the rising white minarets of Masjid Abidin easily catches your fancy. It is known to be camera-friendly too.

Masjid Abidin

Abidin Mosque's main prayer hall (above) and the chandelier from the dome (2nd photo). Both photos only courtesy of Flickr's UmmAbdrahmaan.


As we narrated from a previous post, a plane ride from KL to Terengganu will take 50 minutes. A bus journey, on the other hand, will cover 455 kilometers. Lonely Planet says that this will take 7 hours, but my experience turned out differently.
My bus left at exactly 1PM – so I expected to arrive at 8PM and I still had time to catch a late night movie at Berjaya Times Square. Even with 1 hour delay, I still have enough time since last full shows start at 11PM. To my utter disappointment, my bus ride stretched on for hours - 9 hours and 30 minutes to be exact! What contributed to this was Terengganu's bridge crossing, which took 1 1/2 hours of wait before we had our turn to ply the relatively short distance (probably 100-200 m) to cross the bridge that took us to the main land. Moreover, there were several stops too – 3 toilet stops, 3 stopovers to pickup passengers and another 20-minute meal!


We reached Kuala Lumpur’s dark, deserted and creepy Plaza Rakyat station. That was 9 ½ hours of my life. I wasn't familiar with the place. I only heard about it while I inquired about return bus tickets at the Puduraya Bus Terminal in KL. Everyone was telling me I had to go to Plaza Rakyat for the “return ticket”. One way ticket to KT can be bought at the travel shops in Puduraya, but not for the return. “Do you know how to get there?” the information lady at Puduraya even asked me, then offered, "It is very far!". So, reaching Rakyat at 10:30 PM wasn't fun!


I hailed the only taxi I saw and tried to negotiate for a fixed fare but he wanted the meter to run – but red lights flashed in my head! Ano ako, tanga? (Am I stupid?) This was one of the extremely rare times that a KL taxi driver was offering to use his taxi meter! I knew there was going to be an inordinate catch and I was too tired for that risk! I was thinking, there must be a train station nearby. I saw a dark winding street that curved somewhere and – voila! – I found a train station!


There was a problem. It was almost 11PM and the last train will soon depart the station. The manned ticket booth was closed, so I had to secure my ticket from the ticket machine. Oh gawd! How do I do that?

Except for a Malay girl who was experimenting with the ticket machine herself, the station was deserted! I asked if she could help, but she shook her head and mumbled something in Bahasa. She looked annoyed! Ok, ok, I get it! We were both clueless.

After a few experimentations, I pushed some buttons and inserted a mint-condition paper money. I heard the machine ring. then out popped my train ticket to KL Sentral! Triumphant, I snatched my ticket from the tray then went inside the station for my platform! With chin held high, I left the Malaysian girl wide-eyed with drool dripping down her silk garment! Sometimes, all it takes is common sense and a little luck!

I left Plaza Rakyat's last train at 11:30PM.


Three stops later, I alighted at KL Sentral, then looked for a taxi outside. “How much for Jalan Pudu – Puduraya Terminal?” I asked the young driver. To my surprise, he said “10 ringgit!” Taxis always ask for a fixed rate of 15 ringgit for travels from Puduraya to KL Sentral, and vice versa. I was grinning from ear to ear.

I felt lucky, smart, and smug!

My Transnasional double decker bus boasts of freezing AC, overhead lights, very comfortable seats - with seating assignments (so you can't just sit anywhere unless they're unoccupied). My seat was at the upper deck right upfront. I had the sprawling driver's view. A bus conductor religiously does his head count every time there's a stopover (loo, meal, picking up passengers at stations along the way).

Bus Terminal. Check your ticket for your bus' platform number. That's where you find your bus.

I am a little lost. Is this the famed Sultan Mahmud Bridge? This was a tight 2-way lane that took me (and my bus) from the town center to the main land. Passage through this bridge was an abominable 1 1/2 hours! Check the photos below for the seemingly wider, multi-laned Sultan Mahmud Bridge taken by other cam buffs!

Fishing kampongs (villages) were seen as we passed through the bridge. Poor photo quality - this was taken inside my moving bus, through wet glass windows. There was downpour outside.

Sultan Mahmud Bridge. These photos only courtesy of Flickr's [sang] and raaisma, respectively.

The main town is located at the promontory. This map only courtesy of

Up next: The Bayside of Terengganu and more.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

1 comment:

Trotter said...

Hi Eye! Sorry for the absence, but this starting of the year has been even crazier than usual!

Lovely shots! The first set is amazingly clear!! Loved the ticket story; poor girl... ;) And the excellent bridge... you missed... ;))

Blogtrotter 2 is departing Miami by sea. Hope you like it and have a great week!!