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—  State  —
Kelantan Darul Naim


Coat of arms
Motto: Berserah kepada Tuhan Kerajaan Kelantan
Anthem: Selamat Sultan
Location of Kelantan
Coordinates: 5°15′N 102°0′E / 5.25°N 102°E / 5.25; 102Coordinates: 5°15′N 102°0′E / 5.25°N 102°E / 5.25; 102
Capital Kota Bharu
Royal capital Kota Bharu
 - Ruling party Pakatan Rakyat
 - Sultan Tuanku Ismail Petra
 - Menteri Besar Dato' Haji Nik Aziz Nik Mat
 - Total 14,922 km2 (5,761.4 sq mi)
Population (2009 est.)
 - Total 1,635,000
 Density 109.6/km2 (283.8/sq mi)
Human Development Index
 - HDI (2003) 0.728 (medium)
Postal code 15xxx to 18xxx
Calling code 09
Vehicle registration D
Pattani and Ottoman Empire control[citation needed] 1603
Siamese control 1842
Japanese occupation 1942-1946
Accession into Federation of Malaya 1948

Kelantan is a state of Malaysia. The capital and royal seat is Kota Bharu. The Arabic honorific of the state is Darul Naim, ("The Blissful Abode").

Kelantan is positioned in the north-east of Peninsular Malaysia. It is bordered by Narathiwat Province of Thailand to the north, Terengganu to the south-east, Perak to the west, and Pahang to the south. To the north-east of Kelantan is the South China Sea.

Kelantan is located in the north-eastern corner of the peninsula, Kelantan, which is said to translate as the "Land of Lightning" (see alternate theories below), is an agrarian state with lush paddy fields, rustic fishing villages and casuarina-lined beaches. Kelantan is home to some of the most ancient archaeological discoveries in Malaysia, including several prehistoric aboriginal settlements.

With the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) in power for many years, Kelantan is Malaysia's most socially conservative and Islamic state[citation needed]. It is widely acknowledged that development and economic growth is actively suppressed in Kelantan by the (opposition) National Federal Governemnt (UMNO party)[citation needed].



The name Kelantan is said to be a corruption of gelam hutan, i.e. the Malay word for the cajuput, or swamp tea tree (Melaleuca leucadendron). Other theories claim the name comes from the Malay word kilatan, 'shiny/glittery' or kolam tanah, 'clay pool'. Kelantan was called Klantan (Thai: กลันตัน) by the Siamese when it was under their influence.

The early history of Kelantan traces distinct human settlement dating back to prehistoric times. Early Kelantan had links to the Funan Kingdom, the Khmer Empire, Srivijaya and Siam[citation needed]. Around 1411, Raja Kumar, the ruler of Kelantan, became independent of Siam, and Kelantan became an important centre of trade by the end of the 15th century.

In 1499, Kelantan became a vassal state of the Malacca Sultanate. With the fall of Malacca in 1511, Kelantan was divided up and ruled by petty chieftains, paying tribute to Patani, then the supreme Malay Kingdom of the eastern peninsula. By the early 1600s, most of these Kelantan chiefs became subject to Patani.

Around 1760, Long Yunus, an aristocratic warlord of Patani origin succeeded in unifying the territory of present-day Kelantan. Long Yunus was succeeded in 1800 by his son, Long Muhammad, who ruled as Sultan Muhammad I. The death of childless Long Muhammad triggered a civil war among claimants to the throne. His nephew and son of Long Tan (Temengggong), Long Senik Mulut Merah, triumphed over his uncles and cousins and assumed the throne in 1835 as Sultan Muhammad II.

Sultan Muhammad II leveraged on his loose alliance with Siam to form the modern Kelantan state centered in his new fort (Kota Bharu) on the eastern bank of the Kelantan river.

Under the terms of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909, the Thais relinquished its claims over Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis to Great Britain, and Kelantan thus became one of the Unfederated Malay States with a British Adviser.

Kelantan was the first place in Malaya to be occupied by the Japanese, who invaded on December 8, 1941. During the Japanese occupation, Kelantan came again under control of Siam, but after the defeat of Japan in August 1945, Kelantan reverted to British rule.

Kelantan became part of the Federation of Malaya on February 1, 1948 and together with other states attained independence on August 31, 1957. On September 16, 1963, Kelantan became one of the component states of Malaysia.[citation needed]


Rising high on the slopes of Gunung Korbu, the second highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia, the Nengiri River flows east to merge first with the Galas, and then with the Lebir — the latter born in the wilds of Taman Negara National Park — before turning decisively northwards and emptying into the shallow waters of the South China Sea. From Kuala Krai the conjoined streams become the Kelantan River, a broad, mud-coloured stream which dominates the fertile coastal plains and defines the geography of the region. The Kelantan River valley is a fertile rice-bowl, rich in hardwoods and rubber and lush with tropical fruits.

For centuries, Kelantan was all but separated from the rest of the country by the Titiwangsa Mountains, a mountain range running from north to south through the peninsula. Weeks of hard travel were required to reach Kelantan. The "easy way" to Kelantan was to sail around the peninsula, braving the sea and pirates. For this reason Kelantan's history often involves the sea, and boats. Even today, many of its people are very much tied to the sea. A discussion with many coastal residents will confirm that their ancestors, as far back as they know, were "of the sea."

In the early 1980s, trunk roads were built to link it with nearby states. Presently, one can travel by road from the capital city Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu through the mountain range within 5 hours.


Kelantan has a chiefly agrarian economy dominated by rice, rubber and tobacco. Fishing along its 96-kilometre coastline is also an important economic activity. Cottage industries which employ traditional skills in handicraft production such as batik, woodcarving and songket weaving are also evident. Logging activities are active given the vast remaining area of forest. In recent years, tourism, especially to offshore islands, has increased in importance. A few reputable hotels have been established and more modern shopping malls have been opened to cater for urban folks.

Kota Bharu, the capital, is the major urban centre, and there are also plans to open up the southern portion of the state under an ambitious multi-million-dollar development project. The main market at the city centre is a top attraction.

Kelantan has a GDP per capita in 2006 at RM7,985, which is about one-third that of other richer states like Selangor at RM100,884 and Penang at RM41,516. But, it is a well-known fact[citation needed] that many Kelantanese are involved in small and medium businesses and enjoy good income, but not reflected in the GDP calculation since in most cases the income is not reported.


Kelantan has a tropical climate, with temperatures from 21 to 32 °C and intermittent rain throughout the year. The wet season is the east-coast monsoon season from November to January.

Politics and government


The Constitution of Kelantan came into force in 1949 and is divided into two sections:

  • The first part of the laws
  • The second part of the laws enforced upon the people

Sultan of Kelantan

The Sultan of Kelantan is the Constitutional Ruler of his State. The role, duties and powers of the Sultan are as laid out in the State's constitution and other state laws. The Constitution proclaims that the executive power of the state is vested in the sultan, that he is the Head of the Religion of Islam in the state and that he is the source of all honours and dignities in the state. The current ruler of the State is Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Al-Sultan Ismail Petra bin Almarhum Al-Sultan Yahya Petra.

State Executive Council

The State Executive Council is established by the constitution. It is composed of the Menteri Besar, who is its chairman, and ten other members. The Menteri Besar and other members of the council are appointed by the Sultan of Kelantan from members of the State Assembly. The current Menteri Besar is Dato' Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (Tok Guru), a religious teacher and Mursyidul Am (spiritual leader) of PAS.

Political background

The flag consists of a white emblem on a red background. The red background signifies the loyalty of the people of Kelantan. The white emblem stands for the sanctity of the office of the Ruler.

A part of the deeply conservative Malay heartlands, Kelantan has been ruled by the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) since 1990, with re-elections in 1995, 1999 and 2004. It is currently one of four Malaysian states not ruled by the Barisan Nasional coalition after the 2008 elections.

Almost all PAS members are Malay Muslims, as are about 95% of Kelantan's population.

The state of Kelantan is almost synonymous with PAS, as Kelantan has been under PAS rule for two lengthy periods. (Neighbouring Terengganu has also been under PAS rule twice, but for short periods each time [1959–1962 and 1999–2004].) The first period of PAS rule in Kelantan began two years after independence, in 1959, and lasted 18 years (1959–1978); the current period is 18 years long and counting.

The interval between the two periods of PAS government, when the Barisan Nasional Party ruled the state, was only about 12 years (11 March 1978 to 21 October 1990). In the 1990 General Election, PAS returned with an overwhelming victory, winning all the 39 State and 13 Parliamentary seats. The victory was achieved through the PAS-led opposition coalition, called Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU). In the following General Election in 1995, PAS won again, though with a reduced majority. PAS won big in 1999, due in significant part to Malay anger over the treatment of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim by then–Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed and other officials of the national government. However, PAS very nearly lost control of Kelantan, retaining it with only a 1 seat majority, in 2004, when Barisan Nasional, under the new leadership of Abdullah Badawi following Tun Mahathir's retirement, won by a landslide nationally. However, after the Malaysian general election, 2008, PAS regained the two-third majority of seats in the state assembly.

For years, PAS has attempted to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Law on Kelantan. It has succeeded in imposing certain social strictures such as single-sex queues in supermarkets; separate public benches for men and women; and limiting entertainment centres to prohibit "salacious behaviour". Proposals to institute punishments such as amputation of limbs for thievery and execution for blasphemy (collectively known as Hudud Law), however, have been blocked by the national government on constitutional grounds.

One of the most controversial steps PAS has taken in Kelantan is to place tough restrictions or outright bans on the traditional performance of syncretic Malay theatrical forms, such as Wayang Kulit, Makyong, Dikir Barat, and Main Puteri.PAS also took action to vanish any sculpture that looked like human or animal, modified versions without the traditional references to Hindu dewadewi and traditional Malay hantu (spirits or ghosts) and otherwise in keeping with orthodox Islam are, however, tolerated in certain cases. Also restricted are public performances by women: Aside from Quran recitals, such performances are completely banned if any men are in the audience. While PAS has maintained that these steps were essential to promote Islam and put an end to immoral behaviour among the Muslim population, many consider them an act of defiance against Barisan Nasional's laws — which are more tolerant or laxer, depending on one's viewpoint — and also a major loss to Malay traditional arts.

There have been allegations that the Federal Government deliberately withholds funding for development projects in Kelantan as one way to pressure the voters of Kelantan into voting Barisan Nasional back into the State Government.

Oil Royalties

The Assignment Deed - 9 May 1975

In 1975, an agreement was signed between the Kelantan Prime Minister of the time Datuk Mohammad Nasir, and the Chairman of Petronas, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. According to the terms of the agreement, Kelantan was to receive oil royalties of 5 percent a year biannially, for any oil found in Kelantan or her coastal areas. In return, Kelantan grants Petronas to exclusive rights to "petroleum whether lying onshore or offshore of Malaysia". As to the issue arises here is whether Kelantan has the right to claim oil royalties from Federal Government as enumerated in the Assignment Deed. The question arises put so much legal complication and it is trans-border many relevant statues namely Petroleum Development Act 1974, Petroleum Mining Act 1966 and requires legal interpretation on some provisions in Federal Constitution. Being the Supreme Law of the Land, any law or any agreements enacted inconsistent with Federal Constitution shall be void. Since, Malaysia is a federation of 13 states, the division of powers between two level of governments (Central government and State government) are the most important feature in Federal Constitution. Relevant with the issue, Article 76 gives powers to two level of governments accordingly set out in Schedule Ninth. In Schedule 9, List I of the Federal Constitution, the following topics are assigned to the Federal Government:

  • Except as to State rights over permits and licences, the Federal Government has rights over development of mineral resources, mines, mining, minerals and mineral ores, oils and oilfields, petroleum products, safety in mines and oilfields
  • Gas and gasworks, production and distribution of power and energy
  • Foreign and extra-territorial jurisdiction
  • Treaties, agreements and conventions with other countries and all matters which bring the Federation into relations with any other country

As for the State Government:

  • Land: Schedule 9 List II, Para 2(a). Under the Interpretation Acts, 1948 and 1967, Section 3, land includes “the surface of the earth … all substances therein… all vegetations and other natural products… whether on or below the surface… and land covered by water”. The territorial waters of Kelantan will come within the definition of “land covered by water”. Territorial waters are defined by Section 4(2) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No 7, 1969. Subject to some exceptions, they refer to three nautical miles.
  • Revenue from lands: Schedule 10, Part III Para 2.
  • In addition to the income from land, one notes that in Article 110[3A] there is provision for discretionary payment on such terms and conditions as maybe prescribed by or under federal law of the export duty on “mineral oils” produced in the state. Petroleum comes within the meaning of “mineral oils” under Section 10 of the Petroleum Development Act.

It is clear, from the Schedule, Peninsular Malaysia states has the constitutional right to fees for permits and licences for extraction of any petroleum that is derived from their land and territorial waters. Anything beyond territorial waters, e.g. on the Continental Shelf, is entirely in federal hands. However, owing to the fact, exploration of oil and gas is approximately 150 km from Kota Bharu and beyond the territorial water of Kelantan. Relying to this, Emeritus Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi concludes Kelantan has no constitutional right to regulate it and to receive compensation for it.[1] He further argued given the Agreement Deed to support Kelantan rights over royalties will render as unconstitutional and void under the doctrine of severability (the bad parts of the law being severed leaving the good parts intact) as the Assignment by Kelantan gives to Petronas the ownership of all petroleum “whether lying onshore or offshore of Malaysia” was an overstatement and Kelantan has no rights to what lies off the shores of the whole of Malaysia. Indeed, it is the rights of Federal Government guaranteed by Federal Constitution that extra territorial operations are in their hands. States cannot transfer rights over something they do not own. In the case of Kelantan and any other Peninsular Malaysian State, the Deed should have been worded to refer only to onshore petroleum. Unfortunately for Kelantan, the matter cannot end with these two agreements. There is a supreme Constitution in Malaysia with a federal-state division of legislative and financial powers. The constitutional allocation cannot be altered except by constitutionally permitted procedures and amendments. Even mutual agreements cannot override the constitutional scheme of things because jurisdiction is a matter of law and not of consent or acquiescence.[2]

Current action
Kelantan state government is owed between RM850 million and RM1 billion from oil revenue royalties from the central government according to the Petroleum Act 1974. In 2009, the central government offered 'compensation' or Wang Ehsan, a fraction of the sum actually owed. Discrimination of Kelantan on this matter has lead the state government considering action in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Support for Kelantan and the local govenment in defiance of the central govenment includes the group Kelantan Peoples' Movement Demanding Petroleum Royalties or Gerakan Menuntut Royalti Petroleum Rakyat Kelantan (GMR).


The largely rural state preserves rich Malay traditions such as kite-flying contests, top-spinning contests, and bird singing competitions, and traditional handicrafts such as batik, songket, and silver crafts. As a border state and former vassal state of Thailand, Kelantan has absorbed influences from Thai customs and traditions that help to make the state's culture distinct from those of other states of Malaysia. The Kelantanese people, regardless of ethnic origin, are proud of their state and its unique local culture and dialect.

All the ethnicities generally live together harmoniously in Kelantan. For example, members of the Thai community received a permit to build a very large statue of the Buddha without any objection from the Malay community or the PAS government that granted the permit.


Masjid Tengku Muhammad Faiz Petra

Kelantan Malays are a different breed. Unlike other Malays, they are believed to originate from old Malay civilizations from the north, not the south. Many Kelantanese also have Thai ancestry. This is why they have always been different from other Malays in Malaysia, both culturally and physically. However, they are considered and treated as normal Malays.

Kelantanese Malay dialect is distinguished from standard Malay as well as other Malay dialects by its unique grammar, pronunciation and figures of speech.

Kelantanese Malay is the only lingua franca of the state, is used in the local mass media, and is so commonly used for daily communication that some Kelantanese cannot speak the standard form of Malay, as promoted by the Federal Government. The dialect is also prevalent beyond the state borders in southern Thailand and in Besut, the northernmost district of Terengganu. Whilst the Arab script called Jawi has less influence in the other parts of Malaysia, it is still widely used in writing and printing the Malay language in Kelantan. Signboards in Kelantan are written in both Jawi and Rumi. To a certain extent, Thai is also used.

95% of Kelantan's population are ethnic Malay, and under the Malaysian Constitution, all Malays are Muslims; therefore, Islam is the most influential religion in the state.

To most Malaysians, Kelantan is synonymous with Malay arts and crafts. Kota Bharu, as the state capital, is a popular centre for such pursuits as silat, martial arts, and kertok drumming. Here, too, more than any other place in Malaysia, the traditional pastimes of top-spinning — known as gasing — and the flying of giant, elaborately-decorated kites called wau, are still much in evidence.


Reclining Buddha in Wat Photivihan.

The ethnic Thai inhabitants of Kelantan are mostly centered in an area around the coastal town of Tumpat, site of most of the state's two hundred or so Buddhist temples, and noteworthy for its number of relatively well-off Siamese villages.

The dialect of the Thai language spoken in Kelantan is called "Tak Bai", after the southernmost coastal town Tak Bai of Narathiwat Province, just across the Golok River from Malaysia. Tak Bai dialect differs substantially from standard southern Thai and other regional Thai dialects, and it seems certain that the Kelantan Thais are the descendants of an original enclave of Narathiwat settlers established in sparsely-populated Malay territory as long as four centuries ago.

Buddhism is also visible, in that hundreds of Thai wats can be found throughout the state. The longest statue of a sleeping Buddha in Southeast Asia can be found in Wat Photivihan, in Tumpat.

The reclining Buddha at Wat Photivihan in Kelantan opened in 1980. This temple is very popular with pilgrims and devotees. The Buddha statue is believed to be about forty meters long. There are visitors who are surprised to see a temple of such size in this Muslim majority state but the reason is due to the fact that this district is filled with strong Thai influenced. The Metta Chanting is using the original language (Pali), or in Thai translation.

The Thai group will conduct the religious celebration at the Wat such as Tok'katinna, Loy Krathong, Saibat, Songkran, and so forth. One thousand visitors will attend this function.


Chinese assimilation in Kelantan is manifested as: "Malay behaviour as frontstage and Chinese behaviour as backstage". "Frontstage" or public behaviour includes speaking Kelantanese Malay even when among themselves, adopting Malay-style clothing, and observing certain Malay customs and holidays. "Backstage" or private behaviour includes maintaining certain traditional Chinese beliefs and customs confined only within the home.

In Kelantan, the Chinese see themselves as either Cina Kampung (village Chinese) or Cina Bandar (town Chinese). Famous Chinese villages in Kelantan include Kampung Tok'kong (300 year old temple), Batu Jong, Kampung Jelatok, Kampung Temangan, Kampung Mata Ayer, Kampung Tawang, Kampung Balai, etc.

In other parts of Malaysia, the Chinese see themselves as Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, identifying themselves by the Han subgroup their ancestors were part of in China. However, this is not so in Kelantan. Descendants of the earlier waves of small-scale migration are known as Orang Cina kita (our very own Chinese) and the elders are seen as Orang Kelantan betul (true Kelantanese). Speaking the Kelantanese Malay dialect with fluency unites both Cina Kampung and Cina Bandar.

The Chinese in Kelantan have native speaker competence in the Kelantanese dialect. It is impossible to tell a Malay from a Chinese by listening to his speech in the Kelantanese dialect, without looking at the person.

The accommodations of the Chinese population have made communication between Chinese and Malays in Kelantan both easy and common. As a consequence, Kelantanese and Chinese view each other as individuals, rather than simply as representatives of cultural categories. The ability of the Chinese in Kelantan to accommodate Malay culture has facilitated significant entrepreneurial activities.

Much of Chinese culture still continues until today; such as lion and dragon dancing during the CNY, temple celebration, religious celebration.

The village of Kampung Tok'kong in the Kelantan state of Malaysian is well known for a historically significant Chinese Temple known as Seng Choon Keong. the distance about 25 km from kota bharu city. Its a 1 km paddy field village, with the old folk home that transform into modern living house day by day. many youngster are migrate to town because demand for jobs and better lifestyle. they will come back gathering when cny or family gathering.

With the approximately 500 of villagers. The temple is approximately 300 years old. The temple is dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Matsu. almost every Friday and Every year on the equivalent date to the 23rd of March on the Chinese Calendar, the birthday of Mazu is commemorated about three days with the concert, lion dance, and also wayang kulit. Chinese, and Mazu followers go there to pay homage to Mazu, and to offer prayers for health and wealth, as well as for personal safety and security. Annually, the Seng Choon Keong lion dance association will tour the state during the Chinese New Year to conduct traditional cultural rituals aimed at driving away evil spirits and bad luck.

Unlike the Chinese in other parts of Malaysia, Chinese Kelantanese prefer to conduct their wedding party at home rather than at a restaurant. This reflects their mindset that their presence to celebrate the newly weds is more important than the wedding banquet. This is further proven by their generosity of the money gifts to the newly weds. The wedding ceremony begins on Thursday night and proceeds until the next morning because the weekend holiday is Friday in Kelantan. For good luck, the groom has to bring home the bride before 12 noon on the Friday.

Most Chinese villagers will bury their deceased ones at the local town cemetery. Others cremate the dead at the nearest Wat. If the deceased is old, a three day funeral ceremony and memorial is conducted, complete with chanting from the monks. But if the deceased is of the younger generation, they are either buried or cremated as soon as possible. They also offers prayers for anniversary for the death.

Orang Asli

In addition, there are Orang Asli, mostly Temiar, people who have lived in the forests of Kelantan and Perak for thousands of years. Some of the Temiar maintain traditional beliefs in their natural surroundings and other forms of animist elements, while some of them have embraced Islam, instead.


The Kelantanese cuisine, heavily influenced by Thai cuisine, is quite popular among Malaysians. In fact, many visitors come to Kelantan just to taste the special delicacies that cannot be found elsewhere. The use of sugar is a must in every Kelantanese kitchen, and thus most Kelantanese dishes are sweet.

Kelantanese food makes more use of coconut milk than anywhere else in the country. Curries are richer, creamier, and more influenced by the tastes of nearby Thailand.

Local specialties

Apart from delicacies imported from Thailand, there are delicacies which are invented by the Kelantanese themselves such as:

  • Nasi Dagang

This is a mix of white rice and brown glutinous rice (special glutinous rice) which is cooked with coconut milk (santan), blended onions and garlic and some spices (such as fenugreek) (Malay: halba). Fish or chicken curry comes as an add-on to complete the dishes together with mildly brown sugared sambal (chili paste), so it's recommended to take only a small portion as it is extremely filling. The Nasi Dagang is one of the tastiest dishes in Kelantan and goes well with fish curry, pickle, hard-boiled eggs. See here for the main article about Nasi Dagang

  • Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu literally means "rice salad". Kelantan has a variety of Nasi Kerabu. Nasi kerabu biasa (normal) or nasi kerabu putih (white) which comes with its own sambal tumis (a special coconut milk based gravy with local herbs and spices, with a hint of chillies) or Nasi kerabu Hitam (black) though the actual color is blue (after the rice is soaked and cooked with a local flower although some people use artificial equivalents) and nasi kerabu kuning (yellow) which use tumeric in the preparation of the rice. Nasi Kerabu Hitan and Kuning does not require a sambal tumis, instead, it has a watery chilly sauce which makes it slightly hotter. The “kerabu” (salad) could be any vegetables or edible leaves though the more or less standard version will have daun kesum, taugeh (bean sprout), thinly cut; long green beans, bunga kantan, cucumber (connoisseurs will insist “seeded”), and daun kadok. Apart from that it is also served with fried breaded fish, keropok keping, salted egg, "solok lada" (fish fillet and coconut-stuffed chillis), and pickled garlic (local gherkins)

  • Nasi Tumpang

Rice packed in a cone-shaped banana leaf. A pack of Nasi Tumpang consists of an omelette, meat floss, chicken and/or shrimp curry and sweet gravy. It is traditionally meant for travellers.

  • Ayam Golek / Ayam Percik

Wood-fire broiled chicken dressed with sweet coconut gravy. Ayam Golek/Ayam Percik is eaten with white rice in major family dishes and serve during a feast.

  • Nasi Berlauk

Most Kelantanese have Nasi Berlauk as their breakfast. Nasi Berlauk is rice served with fish or chicken and vegetables cooked with tumeric and galangal infused yellow gravy.

  • Nasi Ulam

Ulam is the local term for raw vegetables - the meal consists of white rice served with a variety of raw vegetables, and is considered one of the healthiest dishes found in Malay cuisine.

  • Khau-Jam

Also termed as chlorophyll rice, the Khau-Jam is a green rice cooked using up to seven types of herbs, and served with raw vegetables (such as bean sprouts, cucumber, and long beans), fish flakes and local Keropok. The meal is often accompanied by Budu and sometimes served with deep-fried fish.

  • Keropok

These are Kelantanese fish crackers. Their texture and colour are noticeably rougher and darker than the usual variety found on the West Coast of Malaysia. Like the curries, the crackers are influenced by Thai cooking and produce a sharper, saltier taste.

  • Keropok Gote

These are Kelantanese fish sausages. Made by combining fish flesh and sago, keropok gote is rolled into long firm sticks and then steamed or boiled. To enjoy it, one has to cut it into desired bite sized and deep fried. Different from Terengganu's keropok lekor, the Kelantan variety is thicker and longer in size and has to be fried to be eaten. Keropok Gote is probably the one snack which all Kelantanese children grow up with. It is a must at all school canteens.

  • Laksa Kelantan

The Laksa dish, white noodles served with gravy (curry or otherwise) and vegetables, is made differently in every state in Malaysia. The laksa Kelantan employs the creamy white gravy which is richer and has full-bodied flavour. The main ingredient is fish flesh, although connoisseurs would certainly prefer the ones made of eels. Laksam is another version with thicker noodle (similar to kuey teow). Laksa or laksam is served with ulam similar in nasi kerabu, with a pinch of salt and belachan for added taste

  • Pisang Coklat

In English, 'Chocolate Banana' which is supposedly the favourite flavour of ice cream in the Kelantan district.

  • Coconut Shake

This yummy drink usually can be found and sold at some morning markets (so called Pasar Pagi in the weekend) and night markets. It is made from young coconut juice, blend with its flesh and some ice, plus little amount of cream soda drink and milk. It will form like ice blended, and usually served with vanilla ice-cream on top of the drink. It is hard to find this drink sold outside Kelantan.

Thai-influenced dishes

Perhaps the most characteristic Kelantanese-Thai dish is 'kaeng matsaman'—a mouth-watering beef curry cooked with peanuts, potatoes and chopped red onions in a thick coconut milk sauce. Other Kelantanese-Thai specialties include: 'kaeng phanaeng kai'—savoury chicken and coconut curry. 'Kaeng som nom mai dong'—hot and sour fish ragout with pickled bamboo. 'Pla see siad haeng thawt'—deep fried semi-dried pla see fish. 'Khao yam pak tai'—an intriguing breakfast salad. The presentation is exquisite. A small pile of fragrant boiled rice, accompanied by finely chopped heaps of lemon grass, peanuts, bean sprouts, green beans, sour mango and chopped makrut or kaffir lime is served with spicy chilli pepper, fresh lime and a piquant sweet-sour sauce. It's unusual, elegant, and very typical of Kelantan. Kelantanese dishes, like central Thai, are usually accompanied by generous helpings of 'khao suay', or "beautiful rice"—the best of which, 'khao hawm Mali', or jasmine-fragrance rice, is steamed until each grain is tender but separate. When something tastes this good, the Thais utter in full emotion:-"Pisek!"

Somtam is a papaya salad with a salty, spicy, and sour taste. The main items in it are young, unripe papaya, soy sauce, groundnuts, fish sauce, lime juice, and chilies. These items are combined in a mortar, pounded with a pestle for few seconds and served. The salty and lime juicy taste is very popular. This light dish is widely available in regions with large numbers of ethnic Thais, such as Tumpat and Siamese wats.
Contrary to popular belief, Cholek is not just a dipping sauce, but can also refer to a snack eaten with the sauce. Cholek comes in various forms, including meaty cholek, cholek ayam (chicken), cholek perut (cow intestines), cholek pelepong (paru-liver), and also a variety of cholek buah (fruits)m such as cholek pauh (mango).

The sauce or "the cholek" comes in various forms. • Cholek manis (with brown sugar). • A sweet, sour and very mildly hot version. This cholek is different from other chili sauces because cholek is very thin and rather sweet. This dipping sauce is used for any kind of chicken, but also goes well with shrimp, fish cake, spring roll, sausage, etc.

Budu is a salted (fermented) anchovy sauce eaten with rice, grilled fish and vegetables/salads (ulam). A bit of lime juice, hot chilis and onions are added on for taste. Also, tempoyak (fermented durian) or fresh durian is added for good measure.

Once so combined, the purple-brownish condiment has a blend of salty and sour taste. Nowadays, other types of fish are also used to create Budu. Famous budu maker villages are Kg. Tawang, Bachok and Kg. Penambang near Kota Bharu. Similar sauces are found in the Philippines and Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia).

Tempoyak is a fermented durian dip, used with normal white rice. Most unforgettable is eating the 'tempoyak+budu+ulam'.

Those with high blood pressure should beware of the high salt content of this condiment, however.

Another famous Thai dish is 'pakpek belut'. The main ingredient of this cook is eel. Many Thai restaurants around Tumpat and Wakaf Bharu make this dish their main attraction. Some customers prefer it spicy, and some prefer it less spicy. This dish is not easy to cook; it needs some experience in handling the heat, natural ingredients, salt, and the eel itself. This dish is also influenced by Chinese cuisine, for whom there is a belief that eating this exotic food is more healthy.


Kelantan is known as the cradle of Malay culture based on the diverse cultural activities practised by Kelantanese.[3] Among the popular cultural practices are Dikir Barat, Wayang Kulit Kelantan, Wayang Kulit Melayu, Mak Yong, Menora, Main Puteri, Wau Bulan (kite-flying), Gasing (top-spinning), Silat, bird-singing competition and handicrafts.

Among the handicraft products that are songket, batik, silverware and mengkuang. The Kandis Recource Centre provides information on the Kelantanese wood carving.

Government structure of Kelantan


Districts in Kelantan are called Jajahans, though actually the direct translation of Tanah Jajahan in Malay to English is 'Occupied Territories'. Kelantan was a divided feudal state, a common situation in the Malay Peninsula, with separate petty local rulers. However, a strong one managed to rise and conquer all these small petty territories. In the end, Kelantan became united under one Sultan.

The jajahans, from left to right, are written in Rumi and Jawi:

  1. Jajahan Kota Bharu (كوتا بارو)
  2. Jajahan Pasir Mas (ڤاسير مس)
  3. Jajahan Tumpat (تومڤ)
  4. Jajahan Pasir Puteh (ڤاسير ڤوتيه)
  5. Jajahan Bachok (باچوق)
  6. Jajahan Kuala Krai (كوالا كراي)
  7. Jajahan Machang (ماچڠ)
  8. Jajahan Tanah Merah (تانه ميره)
  9. Jajahan Jeli (جيلي)
  10. Jajahan Gua Musang (ڬوا موسڠ)

Ranking Population Kelantan.

Rank Jajahan Population 2009
1 Kota Bharu 496,600
2 Pasir Mas 206,400
3 Tumpat 168,600
4 Bachok 138,200
5 Pasir Puteh 130,700
6 Tanah Merah 130,000
7 Kuala Krai 117,800
8 Gua Musang 100,400
9 Machang 98,700
10 Jeli 46,700

State anthem

The Goanese Bandmaster of the Kelantan Police Band, Haji Mohamed bin Mohamed Sa'id (1888–1939) was ordered to compose a song (only tunes) to be played to the then-Sultan of Kelantan, Ismail, on July 5, 1927. Subsequently, the words were composed by Mahmood bin Hamzah (1893–1971), who was the State secretary at that time.

Original Malay version

Lanjutkan usia Al-Sultan kami
Sultan Kelantan raja ikrami
Aman sentosa Tuhan sirami
Kekal memerintah kami

Kasih dan taat setia disembahkan
Keriangan diucapkan
Segala kebesaran Allah cucurkan
Bertambah kemuliaan

Translated English version

Prolonged be the life of our Sultan
The divine Sultan of Kelantan
In peace with God's blessing
Forever rule us

Love and loyalty we offer
A wish of happiness we utter
May Allah bless with greatness And his glory increase

Kelantan and Patani

Historically, Kelantan had a strong relationship with the Pattani Kingdom. Pattani and Kelantan are geopolitically divided but culturally united. Kelantanese and Southern Thais cross the border frequently to visit their relatives and transport goods for small business.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ [1] Malaysian Tourism official website

Further reading

  • Khadizan bin Abdullah, & Abdul Razak Yaacob. (1974). Pasir Lenggi, a Bateq Negrito resettlement area in Ulu Kelantan. Pulau Pinang: Social Anthropology Section, School of Comparative Social Sciences, Universití Sains Malaysia.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Kelantan [1] is a state in the north-east of Peninsular Malaysia.

Map of Kelantan in Malaysia
Map of Kelantan in Malaysia


Kelantan Darul Naim means "Land of Lightning". This state is managed by 10 administrative jurisdictions: Kota Bharu, Pasir Mas, Tumpat, Pasir Puteh, Bachok, Kuala Krai, Machang, Tanah Merah, Jeli, and Gua Musang.

  • Kota Bharu - the state capital, and focal point for Kelantan's administration and business activities
  • Kuala Krai
  • Gua Musang
  • Rantau Panjang - main border crossing into Thailand, also popular for shopping
  • Tanah Merah
  • Tumpat
  • Pasir Puteh - border to Terengganu. Famous for waterfalls and beach
  • Stong Hill - one of Kelantan's highland destinations; Jelawang Falls, beautiful sunrise and eco-tourism are some of the attractions here
  • Pantai Cahaya Bulan (Moonlight Beach) - one of Kelantan's popular beaches
  • Lata Rek - A famous water rapid and waterfall. ("Lata" means water rapids)
  • Central Market (Pasar Siti Khadijah)


Kelantan is the most deeply conservative of all Malay states and has with just one interruption been governed by the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (Parti Islam SeMalaysia or PAS) since 1958. The party's green flag with a white full moon flutters throughout the state. Highways seem to have more signs with quotes from the Koran than actual traffic instructions; many signs are written in Jawi, the old Arabic script for Malay; and even some Chinese women wear head scarves here.

Whilst Malays make up 95% of the population of 2.4 million and there is also the usual smattering of Chinese and Indians, Kelantan is also home to the Orang Siam, a group of 7,000-8,000 Buddhist Thais. The Thais have lived in Kelantan for centuries.

One strong point that differentiates between Kelantan and the rest of Malaysian states is the way that the Kelantanese categorize people based on their place of origin rather than the color of the skin. All Kelantanese are considered as Oghe Kito (Our People or Orang Kita in standard Malay) no matter which race or religion they belong to. This sometimes gives the wrong impression to the non-Kelantanese Malaysians, to whom the term Orang Kita usually refers to people of the same race.


The Kelantanese dialect of Malay is famously incomprehensible to outsiders, so much so that Kelantanese and non-Kelantanese alike jokingly refer to it as German (pronounced gher-man with a hard G, but yes, it means German).

The Orang Siam also speak a dialect of Thai called Tak Bai, but this is also quite different from standard Thai or even the forms generally spoken in southern Thailand.

As for second languages, some people speak English, but do not expect everyone to be able to. And while no-one will expect you to speak Bahasa Kelantan (Kelantan dialect), some knowledge of standard Malay would be very useful.

Get in

By plane

Kelantan's only airport is the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (KBR) at Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Bharu. Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia provide flights to/from Kuala Lumpur . While people from Penang can reach Kelantan by FireFly.

By road

To/from other parts of Malaysia: Kelantan can be accessed by road via the East-West Highway which links Gerik in Perak on the west coast, and Jeli in Kelantan. Federal Route 8 connects Kota Bharu with Central Pahang via Kuala Krai and Gua Musang. You can also enter Kelantan on the East Coast main road (Federal Route 3) which runs from Johor Bahru in the south to Kota Bharu via Terengganu and the eastern part of Pahang. Use this road if you are heading to the Perhentian Islands.

To/from Thailand: Road users can enter Kelantan from the southern Thai province of Narathiwat at Rantau Panjang (across the Golok River from the Thai town of Sungai Kolok), and across the Golok River on the newly completed bridge at Bukit Bunga, Jeli.

By bus

To/from other parts of Malaysia: Long distance express buses connect Kota Bharu with Penang via the East-West Highway, and the other East Coast towns of Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan. See the Kota Bharu page for details.

A local bus runs twice daily between Gua Musang in Kelantan and Kuala Lipis in Pahang where there are connections to Jerantut for Taman Negara National Park. Buses depart Gua Musang at 1030 and 1530 and from Kuala Lipis at 0800 and 1300. Local buses also run from Pasir Puteh in the eastern part of the state to Jertih and Kuala Besut (for boats to the Perhentian Islands), which lie just inside Terengganu. To Gerik in Perak, there is one trip a day via the East-West Highway, leaving Kota Baru at 0630 and Gerik at 1230.

To/from Thailand: There are no direct bus services into Thailand. Catch a local bus to Rantau Panjang, and cross the border to Sungai Kolok where there are bus connections to other destinations in Thailand. See the Kota Bharu page for details.

By train

Kelantan is linked to the rest of Peninsular Malaysia by the East Coast railway line, also known as the "Jungle Railway". The line starts from Tumpat in the north of the state and passes through Wakaf Baru (the nearest station to Kota Bharu), Kuala Krai and Gua Musang in the southern part of the state before it enters Pahang.

The main railway stations in Kelantan where express trains stop are:

  • Gua Musang: Tel: +60-9-9121226
  • Pasir Mas: Tel: +60-9-7909025
  • Tumpat: Tel: +60-9-7257232
  • Wakaf Bahru (for Kota Bharu): Tel: +60-9-7196986

To/From Kuala Lumpur: The sleeper Ekspres Wau links Tumpat with Kuala Lumpur daily, pasing through Jerantut (for Taman Negara National Park).

To/From Singapore and Johor Bahru: The sleeper Ekspres Timuran goes to/from Singapore daily, also stopping at Jerantut. There are slow local trains to Gemas, Negeri Sembilan where the train joins the main West Coast trunk line, and even to Singapore. In early 2007, a daily day train, the Lambaian Timur was introduced, allowing travellers to enjoy the jungles of Peninsular Malaysia as it travels through the stretch during daylight hours.

To/from Thailand: Although there is a railway branch line running from Pasir Mas to Rantau Panjang on the Thai border, there are no passenger train services into Thailand or even to Rantau Panjang. Catch a local bus to Rantau Panjang, cross the border to Sungai Kolok where the are trains to Hat Yai and Bangkok.

For more details, check KTMB's website.

By boat

Passenger boats and vehicular ferries run across the Golok River between Pengkalan Kubur north of Kota Bharu, and Ban Taba, near Tak Bai in Narathiwat Province in southern Thailand. See the Kota Bharu page for transportation details to Pengkalan Kubur.

Passenger boats also run between the Bukit Bunga immigration checkpoint near Jeli in the western part of the state, and Buketa in Narathiwat Province.

A bridge across the Golok River at Bukit Bunga is already completed.

Get around

By road

Good roads link the main towns of Kelantan.

By bus

Bus transport in the state is handled by Syarikat Kenderaan Melayu Kelantan (SKMK), a subsidiary of the Transnasional Group. Local buses link Kota Bharu with all main towns in Kelantan.

By train

Express trains (Ekspres Wau and Ekspres Timuran) make stops at major Kelantan stations, namely Tumpat (the terminus) Wakaf Baru (for Kota Bharu), Pasir Mas, Tanah Merah, Dabong (for Bukit Stong waterfall), Kuala Krai and Gua Musang. Local trains stop at almost every station and halt on the East Coast line and constitute a major mode of transport for locals living in the interior of the state.

Check the KTMB website for more details.


The tallest standing Buddha statue in South-East Asia (108 feet high) was opened to the public in June 2009, at Wat Phothikyan in Kampung Balai, a small village 35 minutes from Kota Bharu, Kelantan.

The temple wall is adorned with a pair of dragon carvings. As you walk in between the two dragon heads at the entrance, you are greeted by a T-Rex statue on your right. But the majestic Buddha statue in gleaming white mosaic tiles really takes your breath away.

  • Visit Pasar Buloh Kubu, the wet market where women rule.
  • Go to Pantai Cahaya Bulan and stay in the chalet there.
  • Walk around Kota Bharu and try ayam percik. You will love it.
  • Go to Tok Bali and see the fishermen with their catch, especially at midnight.


Kelantan is famous for its Malay arts and handicrafts (mainly batik). The state's most instantly recognizable symbol is the wau bulan ("moon kite"), which has been adopted by Malaysian Airlines as its logo.

List of things to buy:

  • Songket - Silk cloth woven with gold or silver threads. Songket Bazaar is located at Kampung Penambang, north of Kota Bharu.
  • Batik - Printed cloth with very colourful pattern and motifs.
  • Silver - Silverware, jewelry and brooches in the form of Wau Bulan (moon kite) or Wau Kuching (cat kite).
  • Keropok - Fish crackers are available in raw or ready to eat packaging.
  • Woodcarving - Handicrafts made from wood; eg, a pair of decorative fork and spoon.
  • Local souvenirs can be found at Bamboo Fort Bazaar in Kota Bharu.
  • Fake goods (usually made in Thailand) can be found at Rantau Panjang and Pengkalan Kubur. Set aside those fake goods, these two places are shoppers' haven since they are duty-free zones.


Kelantanese cuisine has several specialities rarely seen elsewhere in Malaysia. The dominant themes are the heavy use of kerabu, a catch-all term covering various herbs and vegetables and often served as an accompaniment to dishes, and the multiple uses found for coconut, which can be found in almost every dish. Thai food is also widely available.

  • ayam percik - grilled chicken with coconut milk sauce
  • laksam Kelantan - the local version of the ubiquitous noodle soup, here served with herbs, rolled-up flat white noodles and a rich white fish and coconut gravy
  • nasi dagang - a mix of white and brown glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk, mild-tasting in itself but served with lots of tasty curries
  • nasi kerabu - spiced yellow rice akin to the Indonesian nasi kuning, served with a vast assortment of fresh herbs and fried coconut. Note that in most of the rest of the country, nasi kerabu means rice that has been dyed a shocking shade of blue!
  • nasi tumpang - rice rolled up in a banana leaf so it resembles an ice-cream cone shape, with omelette, curry and meat floss packed inside.

Popular desserts and snacks include akok (wrinkled cake), bahulu (cakes) and keropok ikan (fish cracker).


Fresh coconut is RM3.

A fermented version of coconut milk is called "tuak", and usually sour. Dare to try.

Stay safe

Kelantan/Kota Bharu is generally safe, and people are generally friendly.


More than anywhere else in Malaysia, in Kelantan it's important to respect local mores, especially if you head out into the countryside. It is not necessary or expected for non-Muslim women to wear a headscarf (though it would certainly meet with approval), but both men and women should wear clothing that covers all or at least most of their legs (no short shorts), and women should wear blouses or dresses which cover their torso. Long sleeves are preferable for women, and outfits which show the shoulders or midriff should be avoided. The watchword is modesty. Tourists dressed in shorts and skimpy tops are really out of place in this state.

  • Rantau Panjang - border town with Thailand, shopping for Thai products
  • Pantai Cahaya Bulan
  • Pantai Bisikan Bayu
  • Pantai Irama
  • Pantai Seri Tujuh
  • Perhentian Islands (Terengganu)
  • Taman Negara (Pahang) - Malaysia National Park, world's oldest rainforest
  • Waterfalls - Jeram Linang and Jeram Pasu
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. State in western Malaysia which has Kota Bharu as its capital.

Simple English

Kelantan is a state in Malaysia that is located on the north-east part of Peninsular Malaysia. The capital city of Kelantan is Kota Bharu.[1]


Other websites

States and Federal Territories of Malaysia
States: Johor | Kedah | Kelantan | Malacca | Negeri Sembilan | Pahang | Perak | Perlis | Penang | Sabah | Sarawak | Selangor | Terengganu
Federal Territories: Kuala Lumpur | Labuan | Putrajaya

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