It might seem strange that one of my favourite areas of Kuala Terengganu was in fact something not very local at all but instead China Town. I still find it incredible that a civilization has managed to take over a small part of almost every major city and make it very much their own. It would be lovely in some ways to travel the world and always know that you weren’t far from like minded people, spreading your heritage and culture. I dare say that if us British tried that we would not receive quite the same welcome, and in fact most would just think we were invading….again.
We were brought to China Town for the local Peranakan Festival opening evening and the town was alive and wild with people wanting to have a good time. However, I would say that there was no alcohol involved. Having a strong Muslim culture I Terengganu meant that I hadn’t seen or touched alcohol on my whole trip, yet China Town is probably the one place were you can buy a beer – it’s just that no one seemed that bothered. The atmosphere was electric, we stumbled onto the street to face a huge Chinese dragon play fighting with another smaller dragon, each dragon being held together by about four people. We moved along to find lots of beautiful women that we discovered were the pageant girls all wanting to be ‘Miss Kebaya’, the costume is a mix of Chinese and Malay culture. From then on there was street dancing, singing performances and endless stalls with street food.
It was incredible hot, and even though the sun had long gone the sheer amount of people and hot food everywhere just added to the already humid climate. We wondered through the streets and took pictures of different Chinese and local Malaysian food, we tried the lovely ‘Baba Ice Cream’ – a pot of sticky rice, delicious coconut ice cream, peanuts, bits of jelly and sweet bread crumbs. It was amazing to see so many people and also families with children as young as one or two up and running around the streets, all of which felt so safe. As a young woman I could see myself travelling alone here in future and at no point felt any danger.
We carried on further into the town and started to notice a little street art here and there – before we knew it there were alley ways off to each side of the main strip, and all of them had a totally unique design with different art. It really brought the whole place together and made it so bright and colourful. It had a ‘turtle alley’, ‘umbrella alley’ and a ‘love lock alley’ to name a few – something I have seen popping up all over the world are the love locks. Buy a lock and key, write or engrave your initials along with your loved one and the date, lock it on and throw away the key. Supposedly a sign and ritual that will make your love last forever – and we all know that the Chinese love a good superstition!
This is ‘in my opinion’ the best China Town I have ever visited. I have always enjoyed China Town all over the world and especially in my home capital – London. I think that here it just felt so much more like a community and the people were by far the friendliest I have experienced, wanting us to try and taste things, explaining to us the history of the town or of what they did for a living. It was a brilliant experience and anyone that is travelling to north Malaysia should, without a doubt, stop here for either an evening or half a day and see it for yourself.