After a relaxing stop at Jerantut sampling the local cuisine and some R&R, heading to Kota Bharu via Wakaf Bharu in Malaysia’s north-east, then south again via the coast to sleepy Cherating.
The train journey from Jerantut to Wakaf Bharu takes around 8 hours and leaves at 14:30 hrs. Taking the train is the main reason for going to Kota Bharu. It’s great to get off the Malaysian roads for a while.
The journey travels through gorgeous lush jungle scenery, especially the closer we get to the stunning Taman Negara jungle.
Don’t bother taking an overnight train – no point as you miss the wonderful vistas.
Once in Wakaf Bharu, the taxi to Kota Bharu takes roughly around 20 minutes to the comfortable Menara One Hotel hotel.
Relatively young as only founded in the 19th century, Kota Bharu is home to a multitude of mosques, a handful of museums, and some lovely architecture.
What to see
My favourite is the Central Markets, which is an interesting place to spend time for some people-watching and taking unusual photos.
The melange of shapes and colours…
…make for some fascinating photo opportunities.
Everything is on offer…
Market sellers are patient for a sale…
…or some just get tired of waiting.
The markets are bustling with locals selling fresh produce, bartering, and just general noise…like most Asian markets.
Locals are happy to sit and chat with nothing much more to do…
…others are too busy working and trying to make a living.
Today is a quiet day, so a great time for taking candid photos…
A different view…
Where to sleep
The Menara One Hotel offers a clean budget double room, which includes Wifi and a private bathroom. The bathroom is quite small but with hot water. This accommodation does the job and it’s better than staying in hostel dorms.
What to eat
Everything in Kota Bharu shuts between 19:00-20:00 hrs for prayer time, so remember this when you are starving-hungry for an evening meal.
Assam Laksa Kopitam
Discovered the Assam Laksa Kopitam restaurant, which is one of the only restaurants open during prayer time…a rare thing. Buy freshly squeezed iced juices and tasty local dishes at this little restaurant, with friendly staff.
Not sure why or what happened, but on leaving this restaurant and walking down the road, four cats start to follow us everywhere. One cat followed us for about 500 metres, not leaving us – very bizarre behaviour, especially for a cat.
On Jala Tok Guru, this very noisy restaurant come eating house offers cheap but really good food. Try a delicious breakfast for two with two Kopi O (black coffees), three curry puffs, one Nasi Lemak, and one Roti Goreng Telur – scrumptious.
Much more is on offer and everything is inexpensive. This place is extremely busy and loud, and more like a massive noisy cafeteria.
Mobile street stalls dot Kota Bharu and are a great opportunity to rest with a refreshing iced drink to help you get through the sultry heat of the day.
Leaving Kota Bharu
Decide on Cherating as the next stop as making our way south once more, but also hear that the beaches are lovely and not too crowded in this part of Malaysia.
Getting to Cherating
Catch the Kota Bharu to Kuantan bus, on the Transnational service.
Instead of the scheduled five hours, this bus ended up taking seven hours.
Make sure you let the bus driver know to drop you off at Cherating. Otherwise, he drives straight past this tiny town as think that not many people catch a bus to Cherating.
Travelled twice with this bus company and both times the bus was late. This last time the bus was late arriving in the morning by 1.5-hours, then another 2-hours late arriving at our destination. Not that we are in a hurry, but it does become a tad annoying waiting for buses when instead, you can be experiencing other sights.
Locals and tourists mainly visit the resort town of Cherating for the wonderful clean beaches and just to relax.
Cherating is very quiet and a place to indulge in a little respite and gather your thoughts.
Unfortunately, months later I discover that there is a turtle sanctuary in Cherating. The turtles lay their eggs in July and August, which would definitely be worth seeing. Next time. It pays to research an area before you arrive!
The cultural village is where you can pick up beautiful traditional handicrafts and textiles.
Where to sleep
The Maznah Guest House (KBC 6, Kampung Cherating Budaya) is an excellent place to relax and only a 5-minute walk to the beach and restaurants.
Maznah and Faizul’s hospitality is exceptional and on arrival, cold water and home-cooked Malay pastries await – very tasty and a lovely kind gesture, especially after a long journey.
Choose to book a quaint wooden bungalow with a fan or a brick bungalow with a fan. Also, available is a brick bungalow with a private bathroom, fan, and air-conditioner. All rates include breakfast.
The communal area provides free tea and coffee throughout the day, a fridge, and a seating area with wifi.
At dusk, make sure you walk along the town’s main road to see a bunch of heightened monkeys playing all over the road. If you’re quick, you may even get a photo or just stop and have some fun watching the playful games.
Where to eat
Stroll along the waterfront and you soon bump into several local restaurants. Then, it’s just a matter of trying a couple out. Most sell seafood at reasonable prices, but on the whole, I expected the seafood to be cheaper as we’re on the coast. The Chinese restaurant at the northern end of the beach serves an extensive menu, prices are OK, food is good, and offers a panoramic sea view.
A local said to try the Intan, which is the “best seafood restaurant in Cherating”. Not sure about that, but after eating the Chilli crab, I ended up violently ill with food poisoning the whole night.
I’m a seafood lover and having caught fresh seafood including crab when I used to live on my boat, I know when seafood is fresh. Perhaps it was the handling during cooking? Who knows. Unlucky and frustrating as the meal was delicious but also the most expensive yet for a meal in Malaysia.
Leaving Cherating for Kulala Lumpur
Heading back to KL for the second time in almost two months of travelling through Malaysia.
The main reason for the return is on the first visit to KL, we donated a new camera tripod to a girl’s school and the Principal invited us back to attend a Woman’s Health Day.
Expect the bus from Cherating to KL to take around 6hrs. Yahya Travel Planner is very efficient and also speaks English – his office is on the southern side of the waterfront.
In addition to your ticket, Yahya provides a highlighted map of KL showing you where the bus drops you off and how to get to your hotel’s destination. This is always handy, especially in a huge city such as KL.