Our hunt for batik started with a cursory visit to Buluh Kubu Bazaar that unbeknownst to us was actually Kota Bharu’s batik market central. Therefore we only passed through a row of shops owned by a single proprietor that Iskandar said offered the best batik there, and we had to agree that the designs there was beautiful but the pricing was a bit stiff, so we decided not to buy yet as we wanted to check out other places first. This is because we had all the intention in the world to return there the next day, but circumstances dictated otherwise. Well we will do so in our next trip then. Nonetheless we managed to buy the desired batiks elsewhere, and we must say that even though at a glance Kelantanese Batik does not seem able to compare with Terengganu’s Pasar Payang design, there are places that feature beautiful designs on exquisite fabric that actually beat Terengganu’s designs. The next place we visited was Cik Minah Songket where my wife was not enamoured with their batik designs but their men’s batik shirts was quite nice, but to my regret these did not come in my sizes but I finally found a beautiful one at Nordin Batik that I bought that fitted me comfortably. Nonetheless Nordin do not seem to have a trove of batik for the ladies with only a limited selection and this disappointed the wife. Yes the uncut ladies batiks are the ones stocked in those clothing cabinets in the photo on the right, and they only had four of these in the whole complex. This does not seem surprising as this shop caters more for the tourist crowd and possibly most are from the government staff tours, and this is why the Batik Shirt section is well stocked for the Government Batik day use. The designs are also much nicer than the ones available back home at a much higher price. Nonetheless on the last day we checked out the batik store beside the hotel called Hazel Silk House and the wife was enamoured with their designs and bought her fair share. The best thing was this shop has a branch at Buluh Kubu Bazaar so our disappointment of not being able to shop there was actually assuaged. Is it not ironic that the last place we shop at due to its close proximity actually was the one that satisfied us the most?
Referring back to Cik Minah Songket even though my wife was not attracted to their batik designs, she was attracted to the Siamese style silk fabric that the shop had on offer, made of a different type of silk material and lighter and more suitable for the local weather. In addition the reason Iskandar brought us to this place was that it was the only songket store along the so called songket street that had a songket making demonstration that also allowed visitors to try their hand at the loom, even for children. My wife took up the offer but the kids were too shy to try, and my wife can now at least boast that she has tried making songket. I must comment on the artist who was very eager to show her art, and was very encouraging to the wife after she found out that the wife was an aficionado of the art of cross-stitching that shares similar techniques, so they started to get technical amongst themselves. Thus even though we did not buy batik or the more expensive songket there, we did go away with some fabric making memories courtesy of the shop. It was too bad that we were too short of time to try batik making at Nordin Batik that has a similar demonstration program, so this will also be an activity for our next visit there.
As for the tudung, we went to Wakaf Che Yeh night market to buy some cheap versions while the more expensive ones were bought at Rantau Panjang and at Hazel itself. After checking out the prices for similar tudungs in Kuala Lumpur, my wife found that the prices in KB averaged half the price in KL. Some of the sequin patterns in KB have also not arrived in KL yet, thus at a cheaper price the tudungs bought can give off the air of exclusivity when worn here. On the shopping rounds we were also taken to a silversmith shop called KB Permai where we saw a simple demonstration of silver smithing as that day was a day more for polishing the silverware rather than making new stuff up. Yet the ladies of the family took the chance to splurge on silver chains as they were much cheaper than in Kl and with more intricate designs. Nonetheless although I was impressed with a framed silver model of a Malay Junk, that is something that to me that is to be admired than bought because it cost a few thousand ringgits though cheaper items like kris and such can be had. This basically wrapped up our quest for non-edible stuff.
As for the food trail, like I mentioned before we had a short visit to the famous Siti Khadijah Central Market and at the local delicacies section I had bought some local sweet meats. I also managed to buy some of the rubber leaves wrapped tapai that I had blogged about before, in a small quantity supposedly to sample but since we never made it back there again during the visit, it had to suffice this time. Nonetheless we felt the tapai in Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan tasted better than the ones in this market, and unless someone can tell me where else in KB I can get better ones we will satisfy ourselves with those from the nearer locations to KL. The same cannot be said about the spicy beef floss or sambal daging as it is called locally or serunding elsewhere. We were taken by Iskandar to THE PLACE in Kelantan for the serunding, and I must say that it is definitely amongst the most delicious commercially available (my sisters’ in-laws have access to homemade versionslah). We were taken to Hajah Ramlah Salleh’s serunding workshop a bit further up the ferry jetty and were shown a demo of how the serunding was made. Then we were invited to sample the different types of serunding made here, beef from local cows and imported buffalo beef, and also chicken floss. Here we could taste the difference between local beef serunding and the imported beef serunding, as the local beef was sweeter and finer than the buffalo beef. This justifies the higher price for the local beef serunding as it was like comparing lamb and mutton. We were again unfortunate that the local beef was still being prepared (by pounding) to be made into serunding, and it would take another five hours before it is ready. Thus we had to console ourselves with some balance stock from the day before that weight less than a kilo for our own consumption, and we bought an additional two kilos of the buffalo beef for souvenirs. And that’s a wrap for our shopping spree finally but before I forget I must mention about the paus or steam dumplings we had at Wakaf Che Yeh, this betters even the Tanjung Malim Yik Mun paus currently and quite reminiscent of their taste twenty years ago. Too bad these are not available frozen like Yik Mun’s or these would be hand-carried back to Kl already.
The only other activity that we undertook was a visit to the War Museum, but this was quite a short trip as the exhibits were mainly posters rather than actual artefacts and it was quite a breeze to move through it, while we were locked out from the outdoor exhibits as the grounds were starting to flood. Nonetheless looking through the fence there was nothing that would have excited us as other than the replica of the pillbox, the rest of the items are quite commonplace in the local museums as the museum also archives the history of Kota Bharu since their war exhibits is in short supply. However I must comment that I find it strange that there was no mention about the fact that our own Royal Malay Regiment first went into action in Kota Bharu itself and this should have deserved its own section, but instead it looked like the war in Malaya was only fought by the British Army only against the Japanese. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Are we still over-glorifying the Mat Sallehs even in our own museum? Let’s hope this shortfall would be rectified soon as I am not sure if there are veterans still around to tell their story. Anyway I hope that you have gained something from reading these chronicles, and enjoyed yourselves to boot!