Kuala Terengganu was once a sleepy fishing village sitting at the mouth of the Terengganu River. Along one of the banks of the river, a thriving Chinatown developed and the atmospheric buildings along a cobble-stoned streets is not to be missed. The oldest Chinese temple in the state was built here back in the early 1800s, and is currently undergoing extensive renovations.
Oil was discovered offshore and the fishing village was dragged into the 20th century. Modern buildings abound, stunning new mosques have been built and visitors now find a bustling city with tourism a growth industry. Visitors will find the Malay people very friendly indeed, but this is still a very conservative part of the country and at times people may feel the city is too sedate for their tastes.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We arrived in Terengganu early enough in the day that we were able to find a tourism agency where we could rent a car for a week. We had decided that we wanted to be more independent with our transport and that we wanted to take a spin inland to visit the national park Taman Negara and other villages and towns along the east coast. We were surprised that the rental agency doesn’t allow drivers older than 60 years of age.
That meant that Anil could not be our driver, and since I wasn’t interested on driving on the left-hand side of the road, we nominated David as our chauffeur for the week we had the car. David has a lot of experience driving in Indonesia, so this seemed to be the most sensible bet.
After lunch, we hailed a taxi and set off to explore Terengganu’s Chinatown. We had just endured a quick afternoon shower, but the rain stopped shortly after we arrived and the air was fresh and the colours of the buildings looked even brighter when they were wet. It was late afternoon and the shops were beginning to close, but in the end, I didn’t mind at all. We weren’t really there to poke through all the Chinese foodstuffs and I was able to photograph the buildings in all their glory when the shutters were closed and most of the cars parked on the street departed.
The highlight of our visit to Chinatown came when we encountered a group of gentlemen sitting around a table chatting the afternoon away, drinking fruit juice and eating some fresh baked buns. When I asked if they would mind me taking their photograph, they replied with hearty thumbs up and big smiles. I walked away but before I had gone more than a few steps I spotted a stainless-steel cart with some fresh baked goods inside.
We were a little hungry ourselves, so I suggested we buy some fresh buns, and suddenly one of the men from the group rushed over to give us some service. It was then I realized that this was his cart, and that the buns on the table were ones he had just baked. He insisted on giving us a pan of buns, but I told him half was more than enough. He wouldn’t accept any payment, how’s that for Malaysian hospitality.