Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Three Nights in Terengganu. Good Food, Elephants, Batik, Tamadun Islam & Almost Squid Jigging

I was invited to join Tourism Malaysia Recreation Club members in their Maghi Menyotong programme from 27 - 30 Apr in Terengganu. TM's Recreation Club is a family club and this was their annual trip for members' families.

I flew into Kuala Terengganu from Singapore via Kuala Lumpur. The TMRC members travelled by coach from KL to Kuala Terengganu.

As I arrived ahead of the TMRC members, I took the opportunity to explore downtown Kuala Terengganu. KT is a relatively small town, so it is possible to explore most of it on foot in a day, if you enjoy walking.

First priority, look for local Terengganu food 😄

A street side kambing golek (grilled lamb) stall.

Walked through Kuala Terengganu's Chinatown, the oldest in Malaysia and a UNESCO World Monument Watch site. The road was repaved with bricks and the shopfronts were nicely refurbished. It looked brighter and more colourful compared to 15 years ago when I was last here. As it was a Friday which is a rest day in Terengganu, most of the shops were closed.

After checking out many places for food, I decided to spend my calorie budget at Roti Bakar Dapur Arang. It's a popular street side stall at Bazar Kokitab (Jalan Tok Lam).

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Roti Bakar Dapur Arang serves a beef soup eaten with toasted bread (RM10 per serving).

The beef was tender juicy and beefy. The soup was savoury and aromatic with spices. Bits of chili padi gave the soup some heat. Wonderful when the savoury broth is eaten with sweetish white toast 😋

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Seeing that many people around me ordered the pretty Roti Telur Goyang, I ordered one too (price RM4).

It's two soft boiled eggs with pepper and dark soy sauce served on a thick toast slathered with margarine and sugar. It's a blend of sweet, savoury and eggy flavours. But, it was leaning a bit on the too sweet side for my taste buds. Next time, I shall request for no sugar and margarine.

Next morning, we had breakfast at Warong Noraliza (Jalan Batu Buruk, Simpang Empat, Kuala Ibai).

Warong Noraliza is quite a large street side eatery which serves many dishes including Western food and trendy "shell out" Louisiana boil style seafood. For breakfast and lunch, the warong serves traditional Peninsula east coast rice dishes like nasi dagang, nasi lemak, nasi kerabu, nasi kunyit, nasi minyak etc.

Oh.. I love this... nasi dagang (price RM3).

It's Thai fragrant long grain rice mixed with glutinous rice cooked with a bit of coconut milk. The rice was aromatic, tenderly nutty and kept separate by a thin film of grease from the coconut milk. It had layers of mild sweetness from the two types of rice and coconut milk. I can eat the rice just by itself.

The gulai (curry) was sweet savoury with mild underlying spiciness from chili peppers. The sweetness came from palm sugar.

The piece of Ikan Tongkol (Tuna) was cooked in the curry. It was slightly stiff and fibrous, and had a subtle sweetness. The fish's stiff texture contrasted with the tender rice, making the pair complementary.

Deliciously memorable meal.

First stop after brekky was Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village (KECV).

Ang Ching Yang is the creator and founder of Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village ☎ 019 987 7171. He founded KECV in 2012.

Ang said there are less than 1000 wild elephants left in Peninsula Malaysia. The numbers are dwindling fast due to deforestation and ivory poachers. The purpose of KEVC is to provide a sanctuary for elephants that are orphaned or lost their herds. KECV covers 256 hectares and 90% are untouched forest for the elephants to roam free. KECV hopes to rehabilitate their adopted elephants and then release them into KECV's forest. Hopefully, they will breed and stem the rapid population decline.

I love it that at KECV, human traffic is confined to canopy walks - four hanging (suspension) bridges to keep visitors well separated from the elephants in their natural habitat. 

KECV has 18 adopted animals now - all indigenous Terengganu elephants.

We watched a demonstration by KEVC elephants. The elephants only demonstrate skills which are natural to the species such as picking up objects and blowing water with its trunk, laying on its side etc. Entrance fees to KEVC helps to sustain park maintenance and upkeep of these elephants.

Feeding time with the friendly giants.

Watching elephants at bath time. Visitors are able to touch the elephants at feeding time and bath time.

We started Day 3 with a visit to Noor Arfa Craft Complex in Chendering Industrial Area, Kuala Terengganu.

The craft complex is the home of Noor Arfa Batik founded in 1980 and today run by second generation owner Wan Mohd Hafiz ☎ 017 943 8700.

Noor Arfa was founded by Wan Mohd Hafiz's parents Wan Mohd Ariffin and Noor Hijerah. The husband and wife team designed and hand drew their own style of batik cloth in a small workshop in Kuala Terengganu. Today, Noor Arfa is the largest batik producer in Malaysia. The production is right here at Noor Arfa Craft Complex and the batik is sold in outlets across Malaysia and overseas.

Traditional block batik making uses steel blocks of intricate patterns to apply wax onto the natural fabric (usually cotton). The cotton cloth with wax patterns are dyed with colours to produce batik.

Another method of making batik is by hand painting which allows more colours on the cloth. Today, hand painted batik has overtaken block batik in popularity as it can produce more colourful designs.

Noor Arfa also hand makes songket, a traditional Malay fabric. Silver and gold threads are weaved into the cloth together with colourful cotton threads. The songket cloth is used to make traditional dress like Baju Kurung which are worn on special occasions.

We tried our hands at creating our own hand painted batik 😄 It was a lot of fun.

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Adorable little girl with her first batik creation 👏👏👏

Our next stop was Taman Tamadun Islam (Islamic Civilisation Park), a unique theme park showcasing 22 mosques from around the world e.g. Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Saudi Arabia), Qolsharif Mosque (Russia), Badshahi Mosque (Pakistan) etc. Each mosque is represented by a scale replica and each has a dedicated museum featuring artifacts and information about the mosque.

This is the Taj Mahal of Agra India (with the museum below) at Taman Tamadan Islam, Terengganu. Singapore's Sultan Mosque is also one of the 22 mosques featured at the park.

Homestay Telok Ketapang in Kuala Nerus hosted us to lunch. We were treated to many traditional Terengganu dishes such as lekor which originates from Terengganu. It is a deep fried snack made by blending mashed Ikan Parang fish with sago flour seasoned with salt and sugar. The tenderly chewy lekor has a savoury sweet flavour with a slight taste of fish. It is eaten neat or with a chili sauce. I like it neat.

Final stop was the highlight of this year's Tourism Malaysia Recreation Club trip - squid jigging.

Terengganu Mentri Besar Dato' Seri Hj Admad Razif with Dato Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, DG, Tourism Malaysia launched Mari Candat Sotong 2018 by catching the first "squids" 😄

Group picture with Team Tourism Malaysia before we got onto our assigned boats.

Another group before getting into our respective boats. This was boat number 7 - there were 20 boats altogether.

Team Tourism Malaysia all set and raring to go!

Terengganu Mentri Besar Dato' Seri Hj Admad Razif flagging off the first boats leaving for squid jigging.

Off we went for the great squid jigging adventure in the South China Sea. The fishing ground is about 1 hour boat ride from the jetty here at Kampung Batin.

Sadly for some of us, 3 of the boats encountered high waves and were forced to abort mission before reaching the fishing ground. I was in one of the boats 😥😥😥 We are grateful to our boat captain for giving safety the highest consideration - there will always be more Mari Candat Sotong 😄

So, sorry, no squid jigging pictures this time round 😂 Dear squids, we have a date 👌

The consolation is we didn't miss out on eating the delicious squids 😄 The tens of kilos of squids brought in by the other teams were grilled over charcoal right there at the jetty. Some were nearly two feet long!

Oh... they were ocean fresh. Tender, juicy and full of natural sweetness with a bit of briny taste of the sea. I love the heads and tentacles the most because of the flavour and texture. Yummy!

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👍 I enjoyed my first trip back to Terengganu after 15 years. I hope to be back on my own time to make more memories about the food, people and many historic sites here. I also need to redeem that rain check for squid jigging 😄

Acknowledgement: Thank you Tourism Malaysia for your hospitality.

Dates: 27 - 30 Apr 2018

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