Kota Bharu, where there's nothing to do at all

Trip Start Mar 10, 2007
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Trip End Jan 01, 2007


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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Sunday, September 9, 2007

I've been on some bad bus rides, but the drive from Tanah Rata to Ipoh was truly harrowing; due to the monsoon rains you could only see about five metres in front of the coach through the drivers window, it was pitch black, raining, we were driving on tiny winding roads barely big enough for one coach, in the mountains, and the drivers still careering around the bends and blind corners at 60mph, overtaking anyone he can see. Was truly glad to be off that bus.
           Next bus was much better, except that the driver wouldn't turn ff the air con, so i was like a human ice lolly in the back, making it rather hard to sleep.
          Wingeing aside, i arrived in Kota Bharu safe and sound, caught up on the sleep I'd missed, then checked out the markets here. The towns only supposed attraction (other than a few uninteresting museums) is its central market, which is actually one of the largest markets I've seen in south east Asia so far. Several stories high and a couple of buildings long, it comprises fruit, veg, meat and fish (all the usual stuff) clothes and more cakes than I've ever seen in my life. Makes a nice distraction for an hour or so, but you can't really fill two days of your time here, which i need to do.
         Luckily they have a cultural centre here which has been putting on free performances here for about 6 months, and there happened to be one on today. So i went along and watched a performance of silat, a traditional martial art of self defence without weapons, which is traditionally practiced whilst drums and wind instruments are played in the background. They also had performers showing how they make kites and these rather interesting spinning tops, or gasing uri. These weigh about 5kg and the longest record for one spinning is 1hr 45 mins. pretty impressive. They first do this thing called Gasing Pangkah or striking top where they coil a rope around the top and tie one end of it to their arm, then they fling the top towards this small green, onto which it then lands and spins. Another guy then  scoops it up, still spinning, with this little wooden mallet (cokok) before transferring it onto this large pin like object (lopak), held by a third man, on which it is left to spin. It was more impressive than it sounds, an d I'll have videos up for you to see it soon enough. They also had a cultural dance performance in the evening, but i checked out the night food market, where i ate two meals (Nasi Kerabung and laksa lemak) despite not being hungry (Nasi Kerabung is blue rice, i had to try it!). Consequently, i went back to the guest house after all this to recharge before the dancing, and fell asleep instead. What a sellout i am.
          So that was one day wasted, the next day was a lot harder to 'waste' and i spent it pretty much just wandering around outside all the museums and cultural exhibits, which to be honest didn't look as if they could hold my attention for more than 5 minutes each, hence why i didn't bother going in them. I was supposed to be having a healthy day today and only eating fruit, as i had been eating crap all week. But it seems god had other ideas in store for me, for i turned the corner by the bus station to find a huge marquee set up in the street, where they were serving the people of Kota Bharu free laksa. This was something the government was doing for the people in conjunction with making a new law or something, i was told. 'well I'm not one of the citizens of this town, so its not for me' i rationally told myself, however when i was practically forced over there by some Malay guys i succumbed (as i always do) to the lure of free food and drink (a drink called rose syrup, basically luminous red very tasty very sugary juice).  
       After overeating and drinking far too much rose syrup i pretty much lazed around till it was time to go to the airport. I couldn't even read my book as i stupidly left it on the last bus i was on.
      Got to the airport, met Cod and Matt, and then our journey began. Walked them around the central market (or what was left of it as it was closing ) made them both try some jack fruit, which sadly was a bad one so they weren't impressed, and comically made them try durian, which corrin promptly spat straight out into the bin. Fair play to Matt, he actually swallowed some of the devil fruit. Then we walked around the night market before sleeping. Next morning we got our taxi and boat to the Perhentian islands, where we agreed upon staying on Pulau Besar (big island)
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