Terengganu Chinatown

Terengganu Chinatown Photos

While Terengganu, a state in east coast Malaysia is the gateway to the main islands, not many people visit the city proper and among one of the missed locations is Terengganu Chinatown. The location of this historical place is along Jalan Kampung Cina or Jalan Bandar in the Kampung Tiong area and is highly recommended for any tourist or traveler.  

For anyone visiting the Perhentian Islands or Redang Island, Kuala Terengganu can be one of your stops, if you choose so and exploring the city here would most likely take you back 20 years in time as things have been on a slower development here compared to Kuala Lumpur. The best place to explore on foot is also Chinatown Terengganu where it is mainly one long street and very alive with activity in the mornings while the old pre-war architecture is a must for historical building enthusiast. 

Chinatown Terengganu
Terengganu Chinatown
Arch at Chinatown Terengganu
Chinatown Terengganu Arch 
Terengganu Chinatown History

According to research and Wikipedia, there is no exact date for the founding of Kampung Cina Terengganu (Chinese Village) here but records show that Chinese settlers came here as early as the 16th century and have been here ever since. The main Chinatown was established only in the late 19th century where Chinese settlers built this place according to their traditional place of origin in China. 

Historical records show that foreigners Alexander Hamilton and Captain Joseph Jackson visited Kuala Terengganu in 1719-1720 and again in 1764, the presence of Chinese settlers was noted down in their records.

Alexander wrote this in his journal; 
"Trangano ........ about one thousand houses in it, not built in regular streets, ....... The Town is above half-peopled with Chinese, who have a good trade for three to four Jonks yearly, ....... The product of the country are Pepper and Gold, which are mostly exported by the Chinese. About 300 tons are the common Export of Pepper, ........"
utilitarian building Terengganu
A utilitarian building seen in Chinatown Terengganu
Terengganu Old Building Architecture

When you walk around this part of town, you will surely notice the well cared for pre-war buildings where a number of them date back over a hundred years old from the Utilitarian era right till the Art Deco era. The city council has also done up the entire area making this place very suitable for tourism and a special fund was also allocated for the preservation of the heritage buildings here. 

The pre-war buildings in Chinatown Terengganu have also been declared a heritage site by the United Nations UNESCO World Monument Watch Programme and grants are being given annually to finance preservation of this pre-colonial heritage significant. 

Wooden Shop House in Terengganu
An old wooden shop house by the river
The best way to see these beautiful buildings which range from wooden to brick and mortar is by coming here at about 8am till 3pm as it is the busiest time for the local traders while the sky is usually clear. 

What I did was I parked my car somewhere nearby and took a slow walk around Chinatown. It would take you about 1-2 hours to fully see this place on foot too.  

Turtle Alley in Chinatown, Terengganu
Turtle Alley in Chinatown, Terengganu
Attractions in Terengganu Chinatown

As you would already know, most of the attractions here would be Chinese related and in 2004, The Terengganu Government declared that Kampung China was to be gazetted as a heritage site of Terengganu based on the fact that many historical structures and monuments are still well maintained here. 

There are two main Chinese temples here which are Ho Ann Kiong (built 1801) and Tien Hou Kong (built 1896) and both of them have been well preserved serving the locals and also Chinese travelers who come here. A visit to any of them will show you the traditional Chinese temple life. 

Ho Ann Kiong Temple in Terengganu
Deities inside the Ho Ann Kiong Temple in Terengganu
Terengganu Payang Memory Lane
Payang Memory Lane
A unique signboard showing the distances to other world attractions
Red Telephone Booth Terengganu Malaysia
Classic Red Telephone Booth

Architecture lovers will find that many of the buildings here looking in great condition as they have undergone restoration or beautification programmes to make them more appealing over the years. One eye-catching thing would be the bright colors on some of the old shophouses here. 

For art lovers, there have been recent attractions in Kampung China Terengganu which are located at the side and back alleys, many of which are transformed into thematic lanes. One of them is Turtle Alley which provides information related to various turtles and turtle-themed wall and floor mosaics. 

Another lane is Tauke Wee Seng Hee Cultural Lane which showcases an old, colonial-era red telephone booth and a classic cast iron post box which is still in use. The building walls also displays a collection of old signs from shops in Chinatown and several Han Dynasty-era poems. 

These lanes provide an excellent Instagram or Facebook moment for the social media lovers while on weekends, it can get a little over crowded due to the narrow lanes here. Again, best visited in the mornings to avoid the touristy crowds. 

Hell Bank Notes Louis Vuitton LV
A jewelry set with some serious branding as offerings to be burnt
Walking along the main road here will show you the very local businesses that are still ongoing till this very day. One of the unique businesses here in Chinatown would be the Chinese Hell Bank Note Maker or the shop that sells Chinese Ritual Items. I just had to stop and have a look at what people are offering these days and I was pretty much surprised. 

Malaysia Chinese Hell Bank Notes
A Shell Petrol Station and an Louis Vuitton Handbag as offerings
This is a very old tradition of burning hell bank notes for the deceased and nowadays, apart from the common hell bank notes, more material items are made for the deceased which include luxurious items like LV bags, Rolex Watches, Mercedes Cars, Bungalows and even a Petrol Station - all made from paper as ritual offering to the deceased. Talk about status and modernization, just take a look at the photo above. I was totally in awe when I saw this. 

Good Food at Chinatown Terengganu 

Food has always been one of the main essentials in every traveler and here at Kampung China, there are a number of notable local delicacies which include the Roti Paong (a special local Terengganu bread), Pulut Dipa and the awesome durian cake. One speciality is the white keropok lekor, which is made out of Wolf Herring or ikan parang.

Fried Mee Hoon Malaysia
Most special fried mee hoon in Malaysia
As for me, I simply walked in to a number of local coffee shops here where you can find a variety of east coast styled noodles and rice. There are also small food courts or food centres which have a variety of hawkers all combined into one giving you the luxury of choosing your local dish. There was one, a local Chinese man selling 'The Most Special Fried Mee Hoon in Malaysia' and he swore by it convincing me to place my order and I did. Verdict - It was awesome! I kid you not.

I personally recommend trying the noodles at any of the local hawkers here. Bak Kut Teh (Pork bone and meat dish) was quite a popular fare here when I visited Chinatown. 

Coffee lovers may not be pleased as I am one and found it not up to my standards. This statement is based on the actual local coffee shops and not your regular Starbucks or modern cafe. I like a good cup of local coffee in a traditional coffee shop so I did my rounds only to be disappointed. However, the local Terengganu hawker food made up for it. 

Photos of Chinatown Terengganu

Below are random photos taken of Chinatown Terengganu during my visits here in 2014. You can click on them to view them in full size and also 'Pin' them on Pinterest if you like them. 

Malaysia Art Deco styled building
A beautiful Art Deco styled building seen here
Chinatown Terengganu Pictures
One of the local homes along Chinatown

 5-foot walkways in Malaysia
The 5-foot walkways in Chinatown
Terengganu Chinatown Tembles
Roof of one of the temples in Terengganu Chinatown
Pipe Dealer in Terengganu Malaysia
An old sign for a pipe dealer 
Old heritage buildings Terengganu
Facades of the old buildings nicely painted
Photos of Chinatown Terengganu
Walking along the Five Foot Way of the Shophouses
Shops at Chinatown Terengganu
Old buildings maintained as businesses in Chinatown Terengganu
Malaysia old shophouses
Inside one of the old shophouses. Wooden cabinets still used
Terengganu Pre-war buildings
Well maintained pre-war buildings
Souvenir Shop in Terengganu
A classic souvenir shop along Jalan Kampung Cina
Terengganu Chinatown Shophouses
Picture Perfect! 
Payang Memory Lane Terengganu
Payang Memory Lane featuring prominent people of Terengganu
Terengganu China town
Red lanterns used for decorating Chinatown here
Spring Roll Skins manufacturer Malaysia
Spring Roll Skins manufacturer in Terengganu Chinatown
Terengganu Buildings
Sides of buildings well maintained here 
Old Wooden Buildings in Terengganu
Old wooden buildings are still seen here
world Heritage Lane in Chinatown Terengganu
World Heritage Lane in Chinatown Terengganu
There you have it, a run through of this interesting place in Terengganu. If you plan to visit here, the best times are from February till October as this is not the monsoon season. During the monsoon season in Terengganu, it can be rainy and spoil your visit here. Moreover, you are not advised to visit the islands during the monsoon period.

Terengganu follows the Muslim style working days where their weekend is a Friday and Saturday, therefore everything is usually closed, especially government and private sectors. Sunday is the 1st working days of the week here, just as in Kelantan. So, please take note of this unique timing and rest assured, you can find McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and many other Chinese restaurants here. 

Driving from KL to Terengganu

For those driving here, the new Eastcoast Highway (ECE or H8) has now opened all the way to Kuala Terengganu passing Karak, Kuantan and Jabor. It is also estimated that driving from KL to Terengganu takes about 4.5 to 5 hours and a total distance of 457 kilometres. You will pass popular towns and cities like Lanchang, Temerloh, Kuantan, Cherating and Dungun before reaching Kuala Terengganu. There are three tolls along the way where in total, you have to pay around RM30 one way from KL to Terengganu in toll charges.

For those taking express buses, there are many companies offering bus services from KL to Terengganu and also from other cities around Malaysia. 

Driving Map to Terengganu


Overall, I highly recommending a visit to Chinatown in Kuala Terengganu as it is one of the lesser visited tourist attractions here. While most people just pass town to get to the Kuala Besut and Marang Jetty, this place holds some amazing history, culture and heritage for the Chinese and local people here. This year is also Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 and Terengganu is one of the states with some unique festivals and events.

To get here, everyone knows where it is and all taxis also know the place. There is great food, photography and a lot to learn as I did. If I never explored this place, I wouldn't be recommending this to you. I hope that one day, you the reader will have the opportunity to visit the Terengganu Chinatown. 

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