Perhaps not as commercialized or as hyped up as the other frequently visited states in Malaysia, Terengganu is home to unique fish delicacies, endangered turtles as well as the concept of the simple, tranquil kampong (village) way of life.
Also known as the “Abode of Faith” due to the strong Islamic influence on the state, it is common to see the local women dressed modestly, the sight of beautiful mosques as well as the monotony of the day-to-day lifestyle among the fishing villages.
It is a rare sight to spot tourists in Terengganu, however the local government has taken great efforts to promote Terengganu as the next landmark of Malaysia, after launching the “Visit Terengganu 2013” campaign early this year.
Located in the east coast, six hours north-east from Kuala Lumpur, Terengganu is also famous for her neighboring islands, Redang Island and Perhentian Island to name a few, that are especially famous tourists spots because of its white, sandy beaches and beautiful blue-green sea.
Life in Terengganu is determined by the wind pattern, also known as the “Monsoon” season. Tourists are discouraged to visit from October until January due to the flow of the wind that brings about strong tides and greater current at sea. It is during this time that many fishermen do not go out to sea due to safety reasons. I have personally experienced the strong waves and winds that literally whistle and beat against the windows of the apartment I stayed in.
One of the highlights of touring Terengganu would be the abundance of sea shells in Cendering Beach, 6km south from the city. Rather than walking on the usual wet sand, walking on sea shells made the experience a lot more exhilarating as most of the sea shells had its own unique design and shape.
It is a common sight to collect sea shells and for some with an eye for detail, one might be lucky enough to find exotic shells housing a live crab. The rocks and trees that surround the beach are beautiful, almost as if beckoning one to relax and watch the waves hit against the shore, slowly and then all at once.
Another highlight that marks Terengganu as a unique landmark would be the “Tengku Tengah Zaharah” Mosque, commonly known as the first Floating Mosque in Malaysia. Located 4km from the city, the mosque covers a wide structure of 5 acres with the ability to accommodate 2,000 attendees at a time. The mosque combines modern and Moorish architecture that showcases the beauty of Islam, especially when captured amidst the sunset.
With great location also comes great food. Due to the abundance of fishing villages, fish is the local delicacy, however, creatively assembled with other ingredients. Common tea-time delicacies would be keropok lekor and keropok keping (fried fish in batter; picture your average pack of potato chips, except a lot fishy).
Another common breakfast delicacy is Nasi Dagang (literal translation would be “Trading Rice”). The dish is a steaming mixture of regular and glutinous rice in coconut cream, served with tuna curry, pickled cucumber and carrots. It is common to see hawker stalls or warung (small food joints) by the side of the road selling these delicacies as well as other local Malaysian food.
Perhaps one of the most special aspects of Terengganu would be its unsung beauty. While many tourists flock to other states in Malaysia due to commercialism and simply for the fact that the other states promise the pattern of the “happening and hip,” Terengganu remains one of the states that quietly takes pride in its Islamic heritage, rich history and the concept of the simple life.
If you’re in for a reflective, simple getaway, Terengganu is definitely a good spot to get your feet melted in the sand and deepen your knowledge on Islamic culture and life from a whole different perspective.
Carissa Morais is a final year student from Southern New Hampshire University. Currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, she aspires to be an art therapist dedicating her life into bridging the beauty of art into the science of human behavior and using art as a medium of the therapeutic process. Her interests include art, music, traveling, literature, social psychology, culinary arts and research studies on creativity and cognition.