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Kota Baharu Travel Guide: 83 reviews and 151 photos

Kota Baharu (or Kota Bharu or Kota Baru) is the name of a district where the state capital of Kelantan - Kota Baharu town - is located. The town of Kota Bharu is situated near the mouth of the Kelantan River close to the Thai border. Fondly refered to as "KB" by the locals, Kota Baharu literally means "new fort " or "new town" in Malay.

KB has long been regarded as a conservative muslim city since the late 1980s when the state of Kelantan falls under the ruling of PAS - an Islamic political party. However, the town is not much different from any other towns in Malaysia today eventhough it has been officially declared as an Islamic City by the state government in 2005.

Although the state government claimed that the city is governed by a strict Islamic law, life in the city is no different compared to other parts of Malaysia. However, one may noticed that selling of liquor and lottery are strictly prohibited here as well as the gender segregation in public places. Its weekend falls on Fridays and Saturdays when the Government offices and many stores are closed for business. Apart from that, other social activities that do not contradict with the Islamic norm are very much allowed here.

As a predominantly Malay-Muslim town, KB is said to be the Malay heartland. It is a good place to sample traditional Malay culture. Apart from mosques scattered all over the town, Thai-style Buddhist temples can also be found here due to its close proximity with the Thai border. There are also Thai comunities living in various places around here. In fact, the royal family of Kelantan has a close link with the Thais - the Crown Princess of Kelantan for instance hails from an aristocrat family in Southern Thailand. As the Royal Town of Kelantan, there are also few royal palaces in KB.

It is ironic that KB - which means "new fort" - was used as the landing point of the Japanese invasion forces during WW2 in December 1941. The town was easily captured by the Japanese army in their Malayan campaign when they successfully engaged the off guard British in jungle warfare. From KB, the Japanese troop moved towards the south until Singapore was finaly invanded in early 1942.

  • Last visit to Kota Baharu: Feb 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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