I’ve been traveling a lot more in Asia recently and I’m loving it. There are so many undiscovered beauty in these areas which have often been overlooked. Introduced to me by Air Asia and Tourism Malaysia, I spent a couple of days in Terengganu by flying from Johor on Air Asia. Previously, all I knew about this state on the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia are the famous tropical islands of Perhentian and Redang but now I know she has so much more to offer.
Here are some Terengganu experiences outside of the extremely touristy Redang and Perhentian that I truly enjoyed and would love to share them with you so you can consider it for your next getaway.
1. TTI River Cruise
If you wanted to see most of Terengganu cityscape at a glance, the TTI River Cruise does just that in 45 mins. The waters aren’t that clean or pretty but the view of Crystal Mosque made out of steel, glass and crystal does look quite majestic sitting along the river edge.
2. Gamelan Dance and Culture
Gamelan is more known as an Indonesian type of predominantly percussive instrument orchestra and dance. This traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali made its way to the heart of the Terengganu heritage and evolved into a unique Malay Gamelan as it was a favourite of a princess who then made it popular in the courts.
3. Terengganu Chinatown
As the name suggests, this is where most of the chinese population in Terengganu congregate. Some of the buildings here have been repainted to make them more lively.
There are several murals around the various themed alleyways which make for fun photo spots.
My favourite is Turtle Alley, the narrowest back lane which has information related to various turtles and turtle-themed wall and floor mosaic.
For those lovers who likes leaving their love locks all over the world, here’s a spot in Terengganu for you!
Just refrain from being so ‘kaisu’ (fear of losing) and thinking that the bigger the lock the better.
I wished I had more time to fully explore the many food and food vendors in Chinatown. I love those with old retro vibes and friendly locals.
You can also head over to the nearby market to buy the famous Terengganu Keropok Lekor (deep fried fish crackers) or Gula Manisan.
You will also see that turtle eggs are being sold but I recommend not eating them so that we can save these endangered gentle creatures. Besides I’ve heard that these are really salty and not that tasty anyway.
4. Turtle Conservation
Speaking of turtles, being able to see and release baby turtles was one of the highlight of my trip. Terengganu “Land of Turtles” has a long shoreline that attracts turtles to come back to nest. However, the numbers of turtles worldwide has seen a steep drop and nowadays, only about 10 leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beaches of Terengganu each year. There are still quite a number of green turtles that lay their eggs and the WWF, as well as the Malaysian government are trying their best to conserve and protect the turtles.
After the turtles have laid their eggs in the cover of the night, volunteers would gather them to put them in hatcheries so that they can be protected from predators during their gestation period. Some of the locals would also gather the turtles eggs for sale at the markets. WWF tries to use their funds to buy back some of these eggs at a higher than market rate price as once the turtles are not incubated properly, within 3 hours, they will no longer hatch.
I was quite excited to hear that each turtle would lay about 50 to 100 eggs each time but soon got demoralised when they told me that only one turtle out of 1000 eggs would survive to return to hatch. Other than having their eggs being harvested for food, a lot of turtles are being lost due to polluted seas (turtles eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfishes), are caught in nets by fishermen, lose their nesting grounds to developments or are hunted for their ornamental shells. In fact, (unofficially) there is a place in Terengganu they call ‘Turtle Graveyard’ where fishermen who have turtles killed in their net would dump it in the swamps before they dock their boat to come ashore.
The 240 miles of Terengganu beaches where turtles like to land is filled with trash from around the world during certain seasons. You could see Denmark food labels or find discarded plastic food containers all the way from Mexico. The change of currents bring them to the beaches of Terengganu from everywhere. Hopefully by spreading awareness,we can all do our part where we are to stop polluting our seas.
5. Kenyir Elephant Village
If tiny turtles are not your thing, how about big intelligent and gentle elephants? They are such majestic animals but many have lost their homes due to developments on their habits (especially when highways were built around Terengganu ), or to ivory poachers. Thus, these orphaned elephants were rehoused into a 256 hector space known as Kenyir Elephant Village.
Due to the rain, I actually didn’t manage to explore much or to participate in bathing the elephants as originally intended. I did get to to spend some time feeding the baby elephants with sugar cane which they loved!
I’m always on the fence about places like this because I don’t believe that elephant should be ridden or chained or being taken as a circus act. Due to bad weather, I only reached the park just before it closed for the day so as far as I can tell while I was there, the park was very clean none of the keepers I saw that day used anything to hit the animals.
7. Summer Bay at Lang Tengah Island
The final place I can’t wait to tell you about is Lang Tengah Island which is by itself, a little paradise. Just a speed boat ride away from the mainland, this island is a natural paradise of sandy white beaches and clear blue waters.
There are quite a few spots to snorkel or dive in the area. The waters are so clear that I spotted a baby shark even from just snorkeling! If y0u have a few days planned at the resort, you can even venture out for day snorkel or dive trips to Redang and Perhantian from here.
One thing to note is to put very minimal sunscreen as sunscreen kills the corals. That one of the reasons why places with a high level of tourists in island resorts contribute to the slow death of coral and marine life. I highly advice taking oral sunblock or whitening supplements that contains crystal tomatoes instead. Since I know that my shoulders tend to burn the fastest when I get too much sun exposure, I wore a long sleeve swimsuit on top of my bikini.
Although I relied on my own camera, you can rent go pros, drones or even arrange for an underwater photo shoot with the photographers at Summer Bay resort.
Lots of little places to take photos on the sandy beaches or even in Summer Bay resort itself! We found this little hut that look perfect for filming a K-drama scene so that’s what we attempted to do. Starring Leong as my fake boyfriend for the day!
We had pool facing rooms and couldn’t resist spending time frolicking in the pool! There are unicorn floats for rental so you don’t have to bring your own floatie.
Of course, I couldn’t miss the spectacular display of the setting sun on the beach since it was literally right at my doorstep.
Literally water baby from dusk to dawn and completely loving it.
Mainland Terengganu was pretty quiet at night with only convenience stores and (strangely) book stores opened after 8pm. The local mall is pretty dead at night and instead the cinema and Bowling alley are insanely crowded.
I didn’t have much expectations of island nights but was really surprised that after our delicious BBQ dinner, Summer Bay had so much night activities for us to choose from. You can book a Karaoke room, Mahjong Table, or head to the Sunset Bar for food, drinks, music, pool and darts! We had so much fun that night!
If the weather and tides are aligned, you could even take a stroll to the other side of the island to catch a sight of the glowing sand in the complete darkness. We didn’t have a clear night on our stay and it was slightly drizzling so I couldn’t really capture the glowing ‘sand’ which is actually a type of glowing plankton.
Summer Bay was a wonderful getaway and I would definitely want to go back to explore even more of the area and the facilities.
8. Terrapuri Heritage Village
A very unique resort stay in Terranganu, this place is made out of 29 restored traditional Malay houses that are hundreds of years old! Inspired by 17th Century Terengganu Palace designs, every house in this resort is an architectural historical beauty.
There’s a beautiful pool but if you prefer the beach, it’s also right outside the resort.
Thank y0u for reading and I hope this post gives you inspiration for your next trip! Now it’s time for me to do some research into where I should go at my next destination!