Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kuala Terengganu Tales v.04 – The Baywalk and Other Sights

It had been a wet visit from the start, the moment my plane touched down at the Sultan Mahmud Airport. Rain drops would fall intermittently leaving me without much time to gallivant and enjoy the east coast. Despite my decision to leave KT on the same day I arrived, there were several items on my checklist to fulfill. I knew I was bull headed, but I was also aware I couldn’t leave completely “empty handed” so to speak.

My paid Air Asia return flight to KL was of no consequence really. I just didn’t like the feeling of being trapped or stuck in a place I wasn’t too pleased with. Life is too short to wallow in matters you have a control of. I didn’t mind taking the bus back to KL. I wanted the experience anyway. Besides, my Air Asia departure of 4PM (the next day) had been moved to a much later 10PM. What if they move it again? I had an early flight back to Manila the succeeding day. I wanted to be on the road – that was “surer” to me, regardless of the duration of the bus ride!

South China Sea

After buying my bus ticket at the bus terminal, I decided to go back to KT Traveller’s Inn. I really didn’t have to: I have paid 100 ringgit already, plus I have everything I own with me – my backpack! However, I didn’t want them waiting after 3PM (the check-in time), then blacklist me for not coming back; or not informing them. I wanted things clear!
After formally “checking out”, I once again waited by the roadside. Drizzle was making tapping sounds at my backpack. I didn’t mind the rain really. 20 minutes into my wait, I finally gave up! Terengganu is hardly navigable. No taxis, no trishaws, no buses! And I am at the heart of town! Paano na lang sa liblib?

So – I walked!

I headed northwest – a leisurely walk along the almost deserted Sultan Sulaiman Street. I would stop at some restaurants along the road and ask for “Nasi Lagang” – other guides refer to it as “Nasi Dagang”. This is Terengganu’s identifiable specialty. Nasi Lagang, also known as “trader’s rice”, is a choice meal for locals. It is supposed to be ubiquitous – and found everywhere in Terengganu. It is a mixture of normal and glutinous rice, eaten with a variety of aromatic curries and dishes. The most popular pair is that with spicy tuna fish curry and piquant vegetable pickles. I figured I might as well try it.

Earlier at the terminal, I scoured at half a dozen restaurants – from market stalls to spiffy restaurants – but Nasi Lagang was nowhere available! This wet walk along Jalan Sultan Sulaiman was no different! The impossibly popular Nasi Lagang is hiding from me! Haha! After 20 minutes of walking, I saw the Baywalk! Nearby was a small park where blooms of red and gold adorn the downcast surroundings. Waiting sheds stood by their lonesome. I saw someone sleeping at one of the sheds. I better not disturb him, I thought! Further along was a row of steel poles studded with numerous Malaysian flags! All this flourishes – but where are the people (estimated to be about 1 million) ? There’s hardly anyone around!
To those who have more than enough time to venture into this transport-challenged town, there are several other sights to visit. At another time, I would probably enjoy Terengganu's 244 kilometer coastline. For completion, we are posting 3 of them below.

Park sheds.

Some other sights to visit in Terengganu:

Crystal Mosque. The Crystal Mosque or Masjid Kristal is a mosque in Kuala Terengganu. The mosque is located at Islamic Heritage Park on the island of Wan Man. The mosque was constructed between 2006 and 2008. It was officially opened on 8 February 2008 by 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu. The mosque endured initial criticism for having had some chinese influences in its architectural designs. It has a capacity of 700.

Floating Mosque - This mosque (Masjid Terapung) is located about 4.5km away from the city - south of Batu Buruk Beach. This unique mosque is surrounded by water and is seen as floating on water hence also known as "Floating Mosque". Built from an idea birthed by the late Sultan of Terengganu, Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah ibni al-Marhum Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, this mosque was named after his mother, Tuanku Intan Zaharah binti Almarhum Tengku Seri Setia Raja.

The ideal time to visit this mosque is in the evening, when the evening sun shines on the mosque, turning the building into golden colour while the cooling breeze blow from the South China sea. The mosque is located in
Teluk Ibai, quite close to the beautiful beach of Terengganu's coast. The white structure of the mosque grounds covers an area of roughly 5 acres and serves a number of villages nearby. These photos only courtesy of seahorse_rider (above) and isham-miyake (below).

Istana Maziah or Sultan's Palace. This postcard only originally posted by jfriend.

Looking back, I loved the spirit of adventure that took me to Terengganu. It wasn’t the most satisfying visit for several reasons:

1. 1. It rained all day. When my bus left the terminal at 1PM, the downpour turned nasty. It wasn’t the cute pitter-patter sounds against the ceiling, but a drum roll! Never visit Terengganu during the monsoon season unless you love walking in the rain!

2. 2. An adorable encounter with the amorous people of KT Traveller’s Inn. They sure made me wanna leave town ASAP.

3. 3. Scanty transport facility. I had a 15-minute wait for a taxi from my hotel. I had a 20-minute wait of another taxi at the very central Bus Terminal. There are no trishaws and no buses either. I was asking my friend Irene if they had a transportation holiday of sorts that I wasn’t aware of. Negative. Silly question. 

4. 4. No Nasi Lagang is found anywhere! And it’s supposed to be very popular!

5. 5. An Air Asia return flight to KL that’s moved from 4PM to 10PM!

6. 6. A bus ride that stretched from the expected 7 hours – to a backbreaking 9 ½ hours to KL!

7. 7. Almost deserted streets in the center of town.

Well, I came, I saw… and left! There was hardly anything to conquer, but impatience!

Update: My friend Irene, who's Malaysian (but has since migrated to London), recently visited her hometown Terengganu and she sent me photos of KT's new Tourist Vehicles - they're beautiful, hop-on,hop-off style, and look like those old trams back in the days. They have allegedly started operations already, and they're supposed to take you around to all of KT's tourist attractions. Hmmm. Then there's one reason for me to go back to Terennganu, isn't there? One of these days, I shall rediscover KT! (Note dated April 2010)


Trotter said...

Hi Eye! Come on, rain doesn't help, but it can't be that bad... ;) The colour of the sea is gorgeous!!

Blogtrotter 2 is cruising with the Liberty of the Seas. Hope you enjoy it and have a great weekend!!

eye in the sky said...

That's true. Maybe I overreacted and was just feeling the 1 month of travel before this side trip to Terengganu. I was tired and haven't had much sleep. But it's something to consider when planning for travel - the season! It was really raining the whole day!

I wanted to climb Princess Hill but it seemed ridiculous; might get slippery and muddy too.