A weekend in Kota Baru: 5 must-see places in Kelantan's capital

The Siti Khadijah Market is one of Kelantan’s top tourist attractions. — Siti Khadijah Market Islamic Tourism Centre of Malaysia

If you haven’t been to Kelantan, perhaps it is time to plan for a trip there, in conjunction with Visit Kelantan Year 2024. Various programmes and events will be held throughout this year to lure more tourists; the state government is targeting over two million arrivals during this period, too.

Dabong Railway, sometimes also known as the “Jungle Railway”, may spring to mind when talking about Kelantan. Though it is an exciting way to explore parts of the state, there is definitely more to Kelantan than just this particular scenic train journey.

Check out some of the activities in the state capital Kota Baru that you can add to your holiday itinerary here.

Siti Khadijah Market

When visiting one of Kelantan’s busiest markets, Pasar Siti Khadijah, one may notice that most of the vendors here are women. It was this interesting feature that prompted the renaming of the place, from Pasar Besar Buluh Kubu to its current name, by the state’s former chief minister in 1997.

The name change was also inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadija Khuwaylid, who was said to be a successful merchant.

Built in 1995, the market is located in Kota Baru. It occupies a four-storey building and welcomes visitors with its vibrantly-coloured walls.

Here, both wet and dry produce are in abundance, making it a convenient place for locals to do their groceries. This is also a great place to have local fare for breakfast or lunch, as there are many options sold here, from rice dishes like nasi dagang, nasi tumpang and nasi kerabu, to sweet treats like kuih katun, akok, lidah buaya, kuih lopes, tahi itik and more.

Pantai Suri Floating Market is open on Saturdays. — Tourism KelantanPantai Suri Floating Market is open on Saturdays. — Tourism Kelantan

Pasar Pengkalan Datu

Pasar Pengkalan Datu is a fairly new floating market as it only started welcoming visitors in 2017. The market is only open on Saturdays, from 8am to 1pm.

There are lots of fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits and seafood sold here, as well as simple ready-to-eat meals like nasi tumpang, and snacks.

If you are in Tumpat (a 30-minute drive from Kota Baru), you can check out the Pulau Suri Floating Market – also known as Pantai Suri Floating Market – which is said to be Malaysia’s first floating market. It is only open on Saturdays.

Istana Balai Besar served as a royal residence for over 80 years. — MUHAMAD FADHLI AHMAD/WIkimedia CommonsIstana Balai Besar served as a royal residence for over 80 years. — MUHAMAD FADHLI AHMAD/WIkimedia Commons

Istana Balai Besar

Although the historical Istana Balai Besar is not open to visitors, it remains a popular tourist attraction as it presents a tapestry of traditional Malay architectural designs.

For more than 80 years, the palace was used as a royal residence for the state rulers. It was built in the 19th century by some of Malaya’s finest craftsmen back then, and spearheaded by a skilled carpenter from Terengganu named Muhammad Salleh.

Although it is no longer occupied today, the palace still serves as a venue for some royal ceremonies.

Formerly a Kota Baru Municipal Council, this building was turned into Kelantan State Museum in 1990. — CK TAN/Wikimedia CommonsFormerly a Kota Baru Municipal Council, this building was turned into Kelantan State Museum in 1990. — CK TAN/Wikimedia Commons

Kelantan State Museum

There is no better place to learn about the state’s history than the Kelantan State Museum. A large area of the museum is dedicated to the Japanese occupation period, as Kota Baru was the first place in Malaya to be invaded by the Japanese.

Opened in 1990, the museum, which sits along Jalan Hospital, was formerly a Kota Baru Municipal Council building. Comprising two floors, it currently houses artefacts including traditional musical instruments, wayang kulit and wau.

Pantai Senok

Located about 17km from the town is the famed Pantai Senok, a beach that most locals go to which had recently enjoyed “viral” popularity thanks to the pine trees that line the place. Pantai Senok is sometimes also known as Kelantan’s “Nami island”, an island in South Korea with similar surroundings.

Apart from the towering pine trees, the lighthouse on the beach is also a good spot to take photographs.

Another nearby beach is Pantai Cahaya Bulan, which is popular among locals.

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