Chinatown Kuala Terengganu or affectionately known to the locals as Teng Lang Po or KT’S Chinatown is one of the earliest Chinese settlements in Southeast Asia. During the late 19th century, the Chinese Community started to establish the Chinatown as their base. As a result, temples, townhouses, stately ancestral homes and business establishments were built. Chinatown was also once regarded as the hub for conducting business and commercial activities that helped to drive Kuala Terengganu’s economy and shape into what the state is today. The houses are traditionally designed and built based on the Chinese community’s place of origin in China. Many of these buildings date back to the late 1800s and many of them were built using brick, plaster and timber. These buildings were then declared as a heritage site by United Nations UNESCO World Monument Watch Programme and additional grants were given annually to help in financing the preservation of these buildings. Today, there are about 270 of these pre-war buildings left standing and due to the nature and age of these buildings, renovations and refurbishments are constantly being carried out on some of them.
Attractions in Chinatown Kuala Terengganu
Being a significant area of the Chinese community, Chinatown is also the home to two historic temples: Ho Ann Kiong Temple and Tien Hou Kong Temple. Ho Ann Kiong Temple was built in 1801 and it contains a statue of Mazu, Goddess of the Sea. Unfortunately, the fire that broke out almost destroyed 60% of the temple. A restoration was subsequently carried out and the temple functions well again today. On the hand, Tien Hou Kong was built in 1896 and remains standing until today.
The next attraction is the 19th century Low Tiey water well that was erected way back in 1875 and it is believed to have been excavated and constructed by a person named Low Tiey Keng Hoon as a public service to the Chinese community. The well was built with two separate bathing chambers for both men and women with a 6-metre high wall. Over the years, it has been supplying clean water to the Chinatown residents.
Recently, a mission started by Datuk Toh Chin Yaw when he served as the Bandar state assemblyman to make the alleyways in Chinatown cleaner and more pleasant for people to walk in has turned into a project to beautify the whole Chinatown. As a result of that, seven lanes have been given a complete makeover and each of them now has their own unique theme. Many walls and alleyways have also been transformed with street art giving plenty of photo opportunities for visitors.
The most popular street is Turtle Alley managed by the local turtle conservation and features turtle-themed artwork on the walls and a life-sized replica of a leatherback turtle at its entrance. There are also other lanes like Eco Lane and Payang Memory Lane that are decorated with batik cloths and colourful umbrellas.
Another famous alleyway is known as Tauke Wee Seng Hee Cultural Lane. This alleyway is named after a wealthy Chinese Trader who previously owns a shop just next to the alleyway and this alleyway features a collection of old signs from Chinatown’s shops, beautifully painted Han Dynasty-era poems, colonial-era classic red telephone booth and a classic post box that it is being used. To make things better, the local Chinese community is very interested and keen to come up with their own ideas on how to make these alleyways more attractive and to make Chinatown livelier. There is even an alleyway called Seven Wonders Alley that pays tributes to the Seven Wonders of the World. The walls in this alley are adorned with steel plaques that illustrate each of the seven wonders. A lamp post was converted to a direction post to let you know the distance between each of the seven wonders.
While you are here in Chinatown, do not forget to indulge in the famous Bak Kut Teh dish at the popular Town City Foodcourt. Bah Kut Teh literally translates to Pork and Pork Ribs used for the dish. Food has always been one of the main attractions in Chinatown Kuala Terengganu. There are a number of local delicacies that you should try here and they are Roti Paung (a local and special Terengganu bread served with butter and kaya), Pulut Dipa, fried noodles, noodles soup, rojak, Terengganu Laksa, Terengganu Loh Mee, Bai Guo Fu Zu Yi Mi Tong Sui, durian cake and keropok lekor.
If time is not an issue to you, it is recommended for you to spend the whole afternoon at Chinatown Kuala Terengganu. You can then indulge in street food at the night market during the evening.
When to Visit?
If you plan to visit Chinatown Kuala Terengganu, the most suitable time to visit is between the months of February to October. Do not visit here from October to January because it is during the monsoon season. The state of Terengganu follows a Muslim style of workdays where their weekends fall on Friday and Saturday so most of the things are usually closed on these two days. However, you can still find fast food outlets like Mcdonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut and some of the other Chinese restaurants here during this time.
Getting to Chinatown
A drive from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia to Chinatown Kuala Terengganu will take an estimated time of 4 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours and the total distance of 475 kilometres. There is a total of 3 tolls along the way and you have to pay a total of RM30 for all of them. There are also bus companies that provide bus services to Kuala Terengganu from different cities around Malaysia.