TO those of us lucky enough to have holidayed in Terengganu, “paradise on earth” would not be too strong a description. Miles of beautiful, unspoilt beaches, quaint fishing villages, island resorts, the majestic Tasik Kenyir, bustling Kuala Terengganu – this East Coast state has it all.
Terengganu has retained much of its identity and its relaxed, unhurried lifestyle offers visitors an experience unlike any other. The state government is on a drive to promote its brand of “Islamic tourism”, encompassing eco-tourism, agro-tourism and culture-tourism.
Besut, a picturesque fishing village is the gateway to the beautiful Perhentian Islands. A 90-minute drive from Kuala Terengganu, it is also home to the seven waterfalls of Lata Tembakah at the foot of Gunung Tebu (3401m), the bubbling La Hot Springs and Lata Belatan.
Terengganu abounds with traditional customs, practices and handicraft – such songket, mengkuang and rattan weaving, batik printing and brassware. These can be found at Pusat Bandar Kraf in Chendering, a handicraft village 7km from Kuala Terengganu.
Exploring the capital city is a good way to start your expedition. Interesting and historical sights dot the town which has a “city’’ beach, Pantai Batu Buruk, that comes alive every Friday night.
Istana Maziah, at the foot of Bukit Puteri, was built in 1897 by 20 craftsmen using limestone mixed with clay, coarse salt, egg yolk and honey. Completed in 1903, the palace now serves as a venue for royal functions. The imposing Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque or Masjid Terapung (floating mosque) is a famous landmark in the state capital.
Also worth a visit is the Terengganu state museum – the largest in South-East Asia – which houses the original Batu Bersurat (14th century Islamic stone inscriptions). Cuti-Cuti Malaysia is offering a 3D/2N Batu Bersurat Trail including a visit to the museum and memorial. Call 09-624 9273 or fax 09-624 9273.
A new attraction in the state capital is Taman Tebingan Sungai Terengganu, a recreation area facing the river. It is situated on a 1.7ha piece of land complete with food stalls, public toilets, floating jetty, royal stage, parking area, children’s playground and planetarium.
A stroll through Chinatown (or Jalan Bandar) is a must. Shophouses were built in Southern Chinese style with carved roofs and decorative tiles. Further down is the Central Market or Pasar Besar Kedai Payang where fruits, vegetables, textiles, household goods and sundry items are sold.
Islands in the sun
With a coastline stretching some 255km, Terengganu has among some of the best beaches and islands in Malaysia. They include Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Kapas and Pulau Gemia, or Gem Island.
Pulau Redang, a marine paradise, is the largest island and is popular with divers and tourists alike. It is accessible from Merang. The coral reefs around the islands are great for snorkelling, while a variety of dive sites offer a challenge to scuba divers.
Pulau Perhentian comprises Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil. Pasir Panjang is the longest and most beautiful stretch of beach on the island.
Pulau Kapas, situated about 6km off the coast of Marang, was thus named by the locals because of its white beaches. The much larger Pulau Kapas is akin to a big brother looking after tiny Pulau Gemia.
Tasik Kenyir in Ulu Terengganu is the largest man-made lake in South-East Asia. When the area was flooded to construct a hydroelectric dam, most of the hilltops and highlands remained above water level creating 300 man-made islands. Kenyir is almost the size of Singapore and there are more than 14 waterfalls, numerous rapids and rivers. There are also two caves – Gua Bewah and Gua Taat. A note of caution, however – the entire Kenyir network has yet to be fully surveyed. So, go with an experienced guide.
Surrounded by a lush tropical jungle, Tasik Kenyir is popular with anglers. Other activities include swimming, canoeing, boating, jet-skiing and jungle trekking. A unique way to enjoy the lake is by staying in a houseboat.
Arts and crafts
To see craftsmen making traditional fishing boats, head to Pulau Duyung, at the mouth of Sungai Terengganu. It is accessible by road or ferry from Pantai Batu Buruk.
Cuti-Cuti Malaysia is offering a Tereng- ganu Heritage and River Safari package which includes a trip to Pulau Duyung and a Sungai Jeram river cruise. Call 09-626 2020 or fax 09-626 2022.
For history buffs, a stop at Pulau Bidong is a must. Although the former refugee camp for the Vietnamese boat people is in disrepair, four of the most important relics on Bidong are still intact – a Buddhist temple, a church, two memorials and two cemeteries.
The Peladang Setiu Agrotourism and Resort combines agrotourism with ecotourism. About 80km from Kuala Terengganu, the resort has crystal clear streams and a campsite. It is close to the 400ha Gunung Tebu reserve; a climb to the summit is a must-do and can take up to two days.
For 4WD adventurers, a drive through the jungles of Hulu Terengganu or on the logging tracks of Hulu Dungun is popular. You can also take to the waterways of Terengganu in a canoe or raft. Pasir Raja, Sungai Dungun and Sungai Besut are the best places.
Did you find this article insightful?