Photo Diary: Cultural Kelantan 2019
Our Kelantan Cultural Tour is one that has a special place in our hearts, and not just because it’s hosted so close to home! Part of Malaysia, Kelantan borders Thailand and is known for its colourful, Malay traditional culture that still has a firm foothold in today’s modern, digital age. From arts to music, many of its resident are still trained in the traditional ways of craft, and is part of the reason why many tourists travel all the way up north to partake in rich culture.
Batik is a method (and also the name of the finished product) that was originally used in Java to produce coloured designs on textiles by dyeing, first applying wax to the parts to be left undyed. Traditionally done by hand, the finished product is a beautiful piece of fabric boasting rich colours and intricate patterns unique to this part of the world. Kelantan is known for its Malaysian batik, and many of the country’s best artists are based here.
At night, forget the bars and check out the most traditional form of entertainment available: Wayang Kulit, or shadow play. This ancient form of puppet theatre usually tells the story of Ramayana, an age-old Hindu epic that has become a treasured folk lore in Malaysia. How it works is that the shadows of intricately carved leather puppets are projected onto a screen, which hides the puppet master and the musicians from the audience. The story is told through singing and music, and is a must-see if you visit.
Did you know that these tops can spin up to hours at a time? Originally a hobby that took hold in Malay society centuries ago as a way for men to pass time after the rice harvest, ‘gasing uri’ is taken seriously today, and one must have completed at least 5 years of training before even considered ready to take part in the local contests. Each top, made of wood and tin, can weigh up to 5kg, and is launched into the air, after which a “scooper” – arguably the hardest job- must catch it on a small wooden paddle that measures mere centimetres wide.
Traditional fishing on colourful wooden boats is a practice that is still very much alive in Kelantan. The fishing villages have been on occasion, dubbed as the “soul of Malaysia’s East Coast”, and the most well-known ones are on Sabak Beach and Kuala Besar.
The fish, caught early in the morning, is brought to the locals to be sold later, usually around 2.30pm when the boats start returning to shore. The bargaining happens almost immediately as the fishermen step foot onto land – always an interesting sight! One is also usually able to spot other fish-related activities such as net-mending and fish-curing.