In the far northeast of Malaysia near the Thai border, Kota Bharu is the capital of Kelantan State – the most traditional region of the country. Visitors frequently pass through en route to the Perhentian Islands, or to pick up the Jungle Railway, but the town holds plenty of interest in its own right.
As well as several (functioning) royal palaces and a crop of ornate Buddhist wats on the outskirts, KB’s outlying districts retain a few workshops dedicated to batik making, as well as silver filigree and wood carving. Foodies can also savour the range of local produce on sale at the central market, Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah, while the famous Medan Selera night bazaar specializes in cooked Kelantanese delicacies such murtabaks (stuffed pancakes) and nasi kerabu (rice stained a vibrant blue colour by flower petals).
Another highlight here is the Gelanggang Seni Cultural Centre, where demonstrations of shadow puppetry, Silat (a uniquely Malay martial art) and traditional top spinning are staged most days.