ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Malaysia’s Terengganu: A new tourism destination in the making
Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai (18.04.2014)
In the conjunction of the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival on April 11-17, 2014 on Malaysia’s east coast, the State Government of Terengganu organized a media familiarization trip for some 200 participants from home and abroad to gather in Kuala Terengganu water front heritage city to enhance the branding of Terengganu as a leading tourism destination in the region.
According to the Chief Minister, Yab Dato’ Seri Haji Ahmad Bin Said, this year’s Terengganu Squid Jigging Festival was successfully held to introduce squid jigging - a traditional popular angling activity amongst Terengganu local fishermen during the squid season - to the world. Every year in the months between April and June, the stretch of coastal area between Besut and Kemaman is made vibrant by rows of light coming from the fishing boats that engage in squid jigging, likening it into a festival in its own right.
On April 11, some of the international media participants arrived at the Primula Beach Hotel for a six-night stay and were welcomed and briefed in the evening during a dinner at the hotel’s Gamelan Hall by Ahmad Fathil Bin Abd Ghani, Manager (Promotion) of Tourism Terengganu. Altogether, some 200 invited media participants traveled for the next five days in seven buses to learn and experience more about Terengganu’s new and exciting tourism products. As a matter of fact, the tagline “Beautiful State, Beautiful Culture” did not only promise the destination’s highlights, but also featured the local communities’ friendliness and unique style of life.
On April 12, the group departed from Kuala Terengganu north to the wide Setiu Wetland at Gong Batu to have a river cruise to explore some fish and oyster cages along the mangrove vegetation. There was the opportunity to experience a demonstration of different types of mat weaving and watch the activity of mangrove planting at Pengkalan Gelap. Lunch was served at the luxury Villa Terrapuri Heritage Village accompanied by cultural performances, while the afternoon rest was filled with activities such as flying spinning top demonstration, trawler fish net operation and releasing some baby turtles.
At 17.00 o’clock, the participants flagged off from Jeti Fikri, Setiu to Pulau Chepu Island to do the first part of the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Contest. Late at night the different trawlers returned to land and there was a big buffet dinner at Rhu 10 Beach Resort, Setiu accompanied by cultural performances and traditional music. The group returned back to Kuala Terengganu only after midnight.
April 13 was reserved for a day-long excursion to Tasik Kenyir Lake and Eco-Tourism Park. After a two-hour drive from Kuala Terengganu the group arrived at the Pengkalan Gawi Main Jetty to transfer by boats to visit the Kelah Jungle Sanctuary at the fish-rich Sungai Petang River. Located in the interior of Terengganu Tasik Kenyir is the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia.
Sharing its border with Kelantan in the west and Pahang in the south, the immense Tasik Kenyir with its 340 islands also serves as another gateway to Taman Negara National Park further south. Lunch was served at the idyllic Petang Island Resort, while the afternoon was spent walking at the island of Kenyir Tropical Park with its endemic wild orchids, fruit trees and herb plants. Before nightfall, there was a concluding visit to the huge Kenyir Elephant Village. On the return to Kuala Terengganu, dinner was served at the open-aired restaurant of the Felda Residence Hotel.
On April 14, the group departed to the impressive Islamic Civilization Park in Kuala Terengganu. First, a local river cruise brought us from the To’Ku Paloh Jetty to the Nur Zahirah Complex, where the art of “songket” weaving and “batik” making were demonstrated from heart to hand. After that we encircled Pulau Duyung Island in the Terengganu River passing the old China Town and the modern waterfront city to return back to the jetty to visit Monument Park and the landmark of the Crystal Mosque.
Second, at the Monument Park, there were built to see some 22 timeless monuments of Islam such as the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Pattani Central Mosque of Thailand, Taj Mahal of Agra in India, Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, Al-Haram Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Aleppo Citadel of Syria, Al-Hambra Citadel of Granada in Spain, and the elegant Xian Mosque in China amongst others.
Furthermore, the relatively new Crystal Mosque of Terengganu is the icon of Taman Tamadun Islam and the Kuala Terengganu Waterfront Heritage City. It is considered unique as it is the first and only mosque built from steel and glass, hence the resonating crystal-like image. An excellent seafood lunch was served at the B’beteng Restaurant nearby including a delicious local mango pudding.
After a short afternoon rest in the hotel, there was the second part of the International Squid Jigging Festival Contest. Participants flagged of from Riyaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa Jetty towards Pulau Kapas of Marang. Back late to the hotel after a dinner at Marina Garden of the Riyaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa, some of the participants complained about the strong waves on the sea and a much reduced catch of squids.
On April 15, the scheduled destination of the group was the world-famous Pulau Redang Marine Park. We departed from Syahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu early at 8.00 o’clock by ferry boat to the Pulau Redang Archipelago, which consists of nine islands 45km off the Terengganu coast. On Pulau Pinang, the group had the opportunity to visit one of Malaysia’s marine parks, which was established to protect and conserve various habitats and marine aquatic life. There was also enough time to do snorkeling and marvel at the coral and fish biodiversity around. Sea turtles also lay their eggs here at the beach.
Lunch was served at Sang Suria Restaurant of the Laguna Redang Island Resort, which is the leading place to stay on Redang Island – a landmark of sun, sea and sand as well as awakening your senses to an exciting holiday with its dive center, massage services and other excursion facilities. It is ideal for honeymooners from China and Singapore amongst other countries.
The group departed from Redang Island by express ferry boat back to Syahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu in the afternoon to be back to the hotel for a rest. At 20.00 o’clock in the evening, the group was invited to the impressive Terengganu State Museum, which was officiated by the late Sultan Mahmud AlMuktafi Billah Shah on 20 April 1996. Covering an area of 27 hectares, the complex houses the biggest museum in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. It consists of four blocks of the main building, a separate Maritime Museum, five traditional wooden houses within a wide landscaped area. In the main building, there were to inspect an Islamic Gallery, Textile Gallery, Royal Gallery, History Gallery, Craft Gallery, Petroleum Gallery, and also a Natural History Gallery. A special exhibition area in the museum featured an interesting summery of the phenomenon of time.
In an outside garden setting, a sumptuous dinner was served with traditional local specialties, such as rice noodles with a special fish sauce or beef curry in pepper sauce. There was no beer or wine served, so the participants had to be happy with water and tea.
We returned back to the hotel just before midnight.
The last day for sightseeing was on April 16 in the morning, when we had the chance for a Kuala Terengganu City Tour. The group visited first the old white-washed Masjid Terapong, which sometimes can float in the water. After that we made a stop at the Noor Arfa Craft Complex for shopping, Pasar Payang as fresh market center in the city and then walked through the colorful Kampung Cina with its souvenir shops, restaurants, electronics and groceries. An Internet Caf? was close by. Last not least, we ended up at the popular restaurant of Payang Serai, witch offered “halal” Thai-Chinese food as its best.
Back to the hotel in the early afternoon, there was an interview session with the Chief Minister of Terengganu at Kuala Kopi Lounge of the Primula Beach Hotel. The final countdown came at the closing ceremony dinner with the kind and open Chief Minister of Terengganu at the Seri Iman Residence in town. All the media participants of the event received a valuable book gift about Lake Kenyir Aqua-Eco Tourism Park. Also, the local and international winners of the Squid Jigging Contest 2014 got their earned prices and were celebrated accordingly. It was a surprise that during the farewell dinner suddenly there appeared some “Durian” sellers, who handed out freely some of the most delicious fruits of Malaysia. Cultural performances accompanied the relaxed evening until midnight.
Early in the morning I had to leave the Primula Beach Hotel after breakfast on July 17 to catch Air Asia flight from Kuala Terengganu Domestic Airport back to Kuala Lumpur and then connect in the afternoon from Kuala Lumpur back to Chiang Mai in Thailand. I said goodbye to Francis Loh Boon Hor, the excellent local tour guide from Bus No.1, and thanked him for offering this well-organized program. Also, special thanks go to the PR event executives Mr. Shamsul and Mr. Anas Abas from GayaTravel Magazine in Kuala Lumpur, who perfectly arranged the tour to come to Kuala Terengganu and invited me to this outstanding trip.
Let’s hope for the future that the State of Terengganu will be better known as a valid tourism destination to the world and one day will reach the popularity of Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. The potential is there, but in the same time there must be done more promotion regarding the priceless jewels of the Terengganu tourism sites. Finally, home stay tours and Eco-Tourism must be separately propagated to protect the State of Terengganu against mass tourism and all other social evils that accompany tourism worldwide. Let Terengganu become Malaysia’s Beautiful State, Beautiful Culture.
For further information, please go to the website www.tourism.terengganu.gov.my or contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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