Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Wow Experience in Kelantan

“Attention to passengers of Firefly flight FY2244 to Kota Bharu. Kindly proceed to gate number 4. Thank you”. The announcement made via the PA system at Subang Skypark made me grabbed my old carry-on bag, the one I got as a free gift when I bought a set of perfume almost 10 years ago. I was on the go again, this time on the invitation of Kelantan’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture office (MOTAC Kelantan). The event was ‘Kelantan International Lighted Kite Festival 2014’, held in conjunction of the annual 32nd Kelantan International Kite Festival at Pantai Geting, Tumpat.

Kota Bharu here I come.
The Firefly’s ATR 72-500 turboprop aircraft safely landed at the Sultan Ismail Petra airport in Kota Bharu at 3.05pm, exactly as per scheduled. There were a dozen more media guys in the same flight, most of them familiar to me. We introduced ourselves to Normala, the ever-smiling MOTAC officer who was in charge of babysitting us throughout the 3 day program. We were then ushered to a waiting van which took us to the Rennaisance Hotel, the host of our two day stay in Kota Bharu. Fadzil Ibrahim, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing and Mohd Aidil Afizie, the director of Kelantan’s MOTAC were already there waiting for us at Rezzo for a short welcoming speech and a briefing of the kite event.

Renaissance Hotel - one of the two 5 Star hotels in Kota Bharu.
Our dinner for the evening was Maggi Ketam, the new fusion food of this ‘foody’ state. Indra Tom Yam was the chosen restaurant, about 20 minutes drive from our hotel. The dish was actually quite simple – a packet of Maggi noodle with fresh crabs and lobsters and some added spices, but somehow the taste was simply out of this world.

Maggi Ketam - the latest fusion food in this 'foody' state.
The next morning we were caught in a massive ‘traffic-jam’ in a coffee shop called Kopitiam Kita. It was an extended corner lot shop with waist height walls all around. There were no less than 200 customers when we reached there for our breakfast, and some were seen waiting for the rest to finish their breakfast before taking over their tables! Talk about thriving business! So what was so special about the coffee shop? Well, besides offering the widest array of local breakfast meals like nasi berlauk, nasi lemak, nasi kerabu and nasi dagang, their specialty is ‘Roti Titap’, a butter-toasted slice of bread topped with half boiled egg and kaya (sweet coconut jam). Mmmm… awesome.

Talk about thriving business!
The yummy Roti Titap.
Shortly after, we roamed the Cultural Zone in the heart of Kota Bharu for about three hours, taking pictures and buying some goodies at the Siti Khadijah Market to bring back home before we proceeded to Geting Beach in Tumpat. The journey took about 50 minutes. I could see a lot of developments along the way, changing much of the cityscape and skyline of the Islamic City. Tumpat too has undergone rapid developments, with new complexes of the federal government agencies being built in the northernmost district of the east coast.

Scores of colourful kites could already be seen from afar as we approached the Geting Beach. Our van had to be driven at a snail’s pace as there was a heavy traffic build-up some two kilometers from the venue. We finally reached the site of the event and wasted no time to take photos as the sky was very clear. Geting Beach was unlike most beaches in Malaysia. It has the widest and long stretch of white sandy beach. Perfect for activities such as kite flying. The idyllic beach was transformed into a festive atmosphere, something uncommon to the locals. They came in droves of packed cars and vans and some on motorcycles. Stalls that peddle snacks, foods and drinks were almost everywhere. They were also stalls that sell kites, clothes and toys.

The wide beaches of Geting Beach is perfect for kite flying activities,

Thousands of spectators thronged the Geting Beach to watch this annual event. 
The main event, the Kelantan International kite Festival, which took off on the 28th of May was on its third day when we were there. The event was to be concluded the following day but the highlight of the four day event was definitely this lighted kite festival, which was held as a side-event. "The Kelantan International Lighted Kite Festival which took place this evening was participated by hotel agencies, institutions of higher education, tourism agencies and local and international participants" Mohd Aidil Afizie, Director of MOTAC Kelantan told reporters at the opening of the event. “A total of 82 participants, including 15 from foreign countries, joined the competition in the various categories” he added.

A Star-shaped kite was one of the favourites.

This long-tailed kite was one of the more unique ones.

A kite with the 'Visit Malaysia Year 2014 managed to Wow the large crowd and the judges.
Held on the second year running, the success of event was clearly evident as seen from the reaction of the tens of thousands of visitors to the festival who were dazzled by the variety of luminous kites in action. As a fellow journalist puts it “Watching the kites fly in the windy night at a place like this really blows our problems away. It was such a rare and Wow experience” …..I couldn't agree with her more, and coincidentally, Wow (Wau) actually means kite in Kelantan.

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