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The latest reviews. The lowest prices. The perfect place to shop for hotels.
migrants from Sumatra in the early 18th century, Kuantan is now the
thriving, and growing, capital of Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia’s largest state.
A welcoming blend of traditional and modern, and a fusion of Chinese and Malay,
Kuantan is a popular tourist destination that offers the best of Malaysia in a
climate which is most often noticeably cooler and less humid than Kuala Lumpur.
Most visitors to
Kuantan will arrive by road as Kuantan has no rail link; there are scheduled
bus services from Kuala Lumpur, other major cities in West Malaysia, and
Singapore which arrive at the new bus terminal situated on the outskirts of
Kuantan. You will need to transfer by taxi or local bus (Rapid Kuantan) to
reach the centre. By car, Kuantan is reached by the East Coast Highway (E8)
from Kuala Lumpur (Toll), or Federal Route 2 which runs alongside the highway
for much of the way. You can reach Kuantan within 3.5 hours using the highway
but the federal route is much slower although arguably more interesting.
Federal Route 3 stretches north to Kuala Terengganu and south to Mersing and
Singapore. You can also reach Kuantan by air from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and
Singapore, arriving at Sultan Ahmad Shah airport, situated 14km from the centre
of Kuantan. A taxi into the centre of Kuantan from the airport costs around
The centre of Kuantan
is well laid out and easy to navigate, both on foot and by car; the main roads
run in a north easterly direction, parallel to the riverfront with main roads
at each end to guide you back into the traffic flow if you go too far although
the changes in the one way system in 2013 has caused some confusion for
motorists and the locals are still struggling to get used to it. The blocks
between the main roads are fed by wide cross routes making it easy to avoid the
back alleys that might make one feel insecure if on foot. Taxis are readily
available on marked ranks in the centre of town or can be hailed in the street.
Outside the city
centre bus services have recently been improved with a new network of local bus
routes, taking over from a formerly unreliable and slow service. Private bus
companies still service the local routes to the north and south. Tour operators
arrange tours to places of interest in the region.
On-street parking is
regulated by ‘Pay and Display’ scratch tickets which are purchased from shops
or sales booths situated strategically. The cost is 60sen per hour and tickets
can be bought in books of ten.
The City Centre
The river runs a
few yards behind Jalan Besar as it runs from the modern bridge over the Kuantan
River (leading to Kampung Tanjong Lumpur) south west towards the Riverfront
Park. This is the oldest part of Kuantan, dating back to the mid 19th
century when the village was known as Kampung Teruntum. Looking along the
riverfront towards the South China Sea one can see the remains of jetties which
once reached out into the river illustrating Kuantan’s history as a principal
fishing port. The berths for today’s fishing fleet are situated a little
further downriver and also across the river at Kampung Tanjung Lumpur, although
beach launched fishing boats still venture out from the kampungs both to the
north and south of the city.
Between Jalan Teluk
Sisek and Jalan Mahkota, which runs parallel to it, one finds Kuantan’s oldest
buildings, with covered walkways and shuttered first floor windows, most of
which were built in the early to mid 20th century to replace wooden
buildings originally used by Chinese traders who arrived to establish Kuantan
as a township in the late 19th century around the same time that tin
mining started in nearby Gambang and Sungai Lembing. Most of these are small
shops and businesses that seem to have been in business since the buildings were
built! Hardware, carpets and dried fish are amongst the range of things that
can be bought, and the contents often seem to be on the verge of spilling out
onto the pavement.
Although the west side
of Jalan Mahkota retains some of these early buildings they give way to the
municipal park which hosts civic events and exhibitions throughout the year and
is overlooked by the white minarets and blue domes of the Sultan Ahmad Shah
State Mosque. Completed in 1993 and named after Sultan Ahmad Al’Mu’adzam Shah,
founder of Pahang’s current royal family, it is built in a modern
Ottoman-Moorish style and can hold up to 8,000 worshippers.
The State Mosque is
open to visitors before noon and mid-afternoon, except Fridays. Visitors are
requested to dress conservatively and women advised to cover their heads. The
interior is high and spacious and attractively illuminated by stained glass
The buildings between
the State Mosque and Kuantan’s main shopping area, centred around Jalan Tun
Ismail, are the nearest Kuantan gets to a business district with the
headquarters of various municipal bodies, local offices of the state utilities
and communications bodies, law courts, modest office blocks, and the larger
hotels such as Grand Continental and MS Garden. It is only a short walk from
Jalan Mahkota to Jalan Tun Ismail, (or vice versa) but many may prefer to take
a short taxi ride particularly after dark as the street lighting and pedestrian
facilities are less than ideal.
The northern end of
Jalan Tun Ismail is dominated by the Berjaya Megamall, inside which you will
find a range of retail and food outlets both local and international. Behind
the mall is a smaller mall which specializes in personal computers and IT products and across the road
situated at the side there are a number of restaurants and small shops.
Travelling south west
along Jalan Tun Ismail there are more small shops selling virtually everything
you might need, branches of all the main banks, chain stores and restaurants. A
little further, a large supermarket, ‘The Store’ faces onto Jalan Tun Ismail
behind which is Kuantan’s central wet market where meat fish and vegetables can
be bought and after 1pm on most weekdays, food stalls set up in the car park
and sell the most amazing street food.
Heading north west
from Jalan Tun Ismail, along Jalan Bukit Sekilau with the Stadium Darul Makmur
on your left, leads you after a short while to the East Coast Mall which
proudly announces itself as “The Most Happening Place in Kuantan”. This is a
more recent addition to Kuantan and is situated opposite the recently completed
Sultan Ahmad Shah Convention Centre and The Zenith Hotel. The number of vacant
shop units in the Berjaya Mall are testament to the success of the East Coast
Mall which boasts more international franchises and a thriving Carrefour
supermarket. Nearby, the themed shop lots of Malay, Chinese and Indian Town
boasts numerous restaurants and craft shops. This being Malaysia though, you
can always forego the air-conditioned delights of Starbucks, KFC, and the like
and cross the road to numerous inexpensive local food stalls and restaurants
which surround the Mall.
Kuantan is well served
by every grade of hotel and guest house from the recently completed Zenith
Hotel, the luxury Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort at Teluk Cempedak and the well
appointed Vistana Hotel through to budget and boutique hotels nearer the centre
of town. There are countless homestays available along the coast, particularly
to the north, as well as resorts which offer chalet accommodation close to the
beach. The whole area is served by local buses and taxis from the bus terminal
Where and what to
Malay, Chinese, Indian
and Western cuisine is readily available interspersed with Japanese, Thai, and
local specialities such as Ikan Bakar and stuffed crab.
Restoran Taj is a local Indian franchise with branches all
over Kuantan, (two on Jalan Tun Ismail) serving tandoori chicken with
naan alongside other
favourites such as biryani, as well as Malay food and noodles. A simple meal for two with a drink
costs under 20 ringgit.
Satay Terminal Zul on
Jalan Teluk Sisek on the way to Teluk Cempedak sells reputedly the best satay
in town. It is the on corner opposite Restoran Zam Zam, just past the Vistana
Hotel. There is ample parking nearby.
Padi Restaurant on Jalan Tengku Muhamad near to its junction
with Jalan Beserah (a taxi ride from the centre) is also popular with the
locals and serves traditional Malay food but struggles to attain the same
quality with its Western food menu.A better bet for
Western food is to go around the corner onto Jalan Beserah to the Cherating
Steak House which serves a
range of pizzas, excellent steak and European specialities such as wiener
schnitzel and rosti. It is
billed as a Swiss style restaurant so the menu reflects this to a certain
extent. Beers, wines and spirits are also available and there are separate
smoking and non-smoking sections. There is a resident guitarist/soloist at
Places of Interest
Teluk Cempedak, a short taxi ride from the centre, is popular
with locals and widely known outside Kuantan. It has a promenade overlooking
the public beach and several warungs with various opening times. None of which
yet provide a 24 hour service as does McDonalds, Burger King and KFC which overlook the promenade and car park and gives diners the novelty
of eating in their balcony restaurant overlooking the South China Sea. Both
McDonalds and their neighbour KFC provide a Drive Thru service at Teluk Cempedak. This area is under gradual development with
improvements to the tourist/souvenir market and car park accommodation ongoing.
There is a recently
improved walkway across the rocks that gives ready (and disability friendly)
access to a smaller beach less than a kilometre away. This is more sheltered
and swim-friendly than the main beach and much less populated, even at busy
times; most people are content to take the walkway and ‘take a look’ rather
than spend any amount of time at the smaller beach which is far more attractive
and fringed by the forest reserve. Here you can see monkeys and sea eagles and
the occasional large monitor lizard.
Just back from the
promenade, smaller restaurants share a block with pubs, a small hotel, spa and
souvenir shop. Amongst these are the TCH Steak House, serving Malay and Indian food, especially
made to order murtabak (when available), in a modern, spotlessly clean open fronted restaurant.
A few shops further
along walking away from the beach is Restoran Hoi Yin, widely renowned and with a limited menu
focused on noodles. Less than 5 Ringgit will get you a delicious steaming bowl
of their curry noodles. They open very early and rarely stay open longer than about 1pm. Note that the plastic chopsticks are always grouped together in colours thanks
to careful sorting by the young daughter of one of the staff!
Identified by the
array of telecommunications masts on its summit, Bukit Pelindung overlooks
Kuantan and its flanks have been declared a forest reserve. Access to the
reserve and forest trails is limited but a walking trail runs between
the access road to the summit and Teluk Cempedak which runs downhill and can be
completed in less than an hour. It is very popular with mountain bikers so it
can be busy at weekends but at quiet times one is likely to see Dusky Leaf
Monkeys, Long-tailed Macaques, a range of bird and insect life and perhaps even
large reptiles. The access road is a continuation of Jalan Pelindung 2 which is
off Jalan Tengku Muhamad. The trail starts on the right just inside the
entrance to the forest reserve. It is a steep road so you would need a taxi to
take you to the start of the trail and there is a taxi rank at Teluk Chempedak when you finish.
Chempedak and Kuantan centre you will pass the Sultan’s Kuantan Istana (Palace)
a small affair, but well guarded, especially when occupied by the Sultan of
Pahang or one of his family for short stays. It is situated opposite the Rayal
Pahang Golf Club the road to which also gives access to Kuantan’s small zoo,
very popular with families at weekends. This road also gives access to a tiny
beach which widens to the tidal reaches of the Pahang River. At low tide this
can be a very pleasant place to take a stroll but with caution, as the tide
covers the area very quickly when it flows although keeping a sharp lookout
will enable you to return to dry land in ample time. At the other end of the
golf course is Taman Gelora park, which is accessed by road by following the
boundary of the golf course from the Istana. This is a well laid out park with
jogging track, fitness trail, lake, tennis courts and open air restaurants and
a curious ‘cobbled’ path on which you are encouraged to tackle bare foot for an
interactive foot massage!
Further along, there
is a Chinese/Christian cemetery adjacent to a wooden mosque and Kampung Tanjung
Ria which is one of the oldest settlements in Kuantan with many traditional
wooden house, many of which are built on stilts to guard against river
flooding. This area is the site of a popular Pasar Malam every Sunday evening.
Threading your way through a small industrial area you will emerge back at the
outskirts of the main town.
consists of large, and growing, residential areas and industrial zones which
range from small workshops and businesses to the petrochemical facility at
Gebeng about 25km to the north near to the all weather port which can handle
containers as well as bulk cargo and is the leading maritime and logistics
centre of the east coast.
The road to the port
passes through Beserah and Balok which have several roadside restaurants squeezed
between the road and the beach. There are several seafood restaurants but many
will prefer to pass them by due to their insistence on serving shark fin soup.
stretching north from Kuantan is characterized by smooth sandy beaches fringed
by palm trees behind which, traditional kampungs straddle the old coastal trunk
road. Driving north from Kuantan the road can at times be frantically busy with
small motorbikes dodging between small lorries and family cars and at all times
you especially need to keep a watchful eye for livestock and the occasional
monitor lizard. The ever present roadside stalls and warungs mean that you need
not go far without the opportunity to sample the local keropok (dried fish
crackers), salted fish, and delicious kueh. Between Beserah and Balok fresh
fish is sold by the roadside from mid-morning onwards on most days and several
sites host Pasar Malam (night markets).
The coastline south
from Kuantan is less populated but the beaches are no less spectacular. Kampung
Tanjung Lumpur, just over the
modern bridge at the other end of Jalan Beserah is host to a range of very
popular family seafood restaurants facing the sea serving Ikan Bakar (baked fish). The quality of the food is excellent but you
may have a long wait at busy times as you select your fish from the ice chiller
and it is cooked to order.
The kampungs further
south are smaller, less frenetic affairs with many well preserved traditional
wooden houses in well tended plots. Take a left turn along the road to Pekan to
explore the coastal kampungs with little risk if getting lost. Further inland
on the main road, new housing developments just south of Kuantan and
improvements to the trunk road leading to Pekan may bring rapid change which is
less likely to affect the northern stretch of coastline which is now subject to
a shoreline management plan which controls further development.
Inland, from Kuantan
there are the inevitable Palm Oil Plantations, but these soon give way to large
swathes of rainforest stretching inland towards the old mining town of Sungai
Lembing. Taman Negara National Park lies inland beyond the range of mountains
but a short journey along the East Coast Highway towards Kuala Lumpur enables
you to leave the highway at Maran for a cross country route to the national
park. There are several picturesque waterfalls within easy driving distance of
Kuantan as well as Tasik (Lake) Chini which is about 100km away.
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