Discover Kelantan on Traditional Fishing Boat Tour


I couldn’t agree more with this inspiring travel quote – to speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. By truly immersing in the local culture, it brings a whole new perspective and great authentic experience while appreciating tradition descending through generations.

The traditional fishing boat or aptly known as perahu kolek is a synonymous culture in the East Coast region of Malaysia. But there is a clear distinction between perahu kolek originated from the state of Terengganu and Kelantan.

A large white bird resembles a miniature of a stork is more prominent in perahu kolek Terengganu with an abstract motif of local carving. However, the Kelantanese version of perahu kolek is created and brought specially from Pattani province in southern Thailand. The stork on this boat usually takes in the form of a dragon, disguised as a leaf or plant pattern.

"...Kelantanese version of perahu kolek is created and brought specially from Pattani province in southern Thailand."

In Kelantan, perahu kolek is still used by fishermen at Pantai Sabak in Pengkalan Chepa. However, this colourful, traditional fishing boat has become the latest tourist attraction, ferrying visitors to cruise down Pengkalan Datu River Basin.

The name of Pengkalan Datu is said to be derived from the title of Pattani Governor called Datu. Around 1502, the Kelantan’s Sultan at that time surrendered and incorporated Kelantan into Pattani government due to Pattani assistance in rebellion against the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

In 1521, Pattani’s ruler sent its Datu to rule the state of Kelantan with the Kelantan’s Sultan based in Kota Pengkalan Datu. Therefore, the redevelopment of Kota Pengkalan Datu nowadays as a historical, agro as well as nature-related tourism hub is to revive its glory days.

My visit to Kelantan recently enabled me to have a closer look and experience the boat. The perahu kolek which can accommodate up to 25 passengers, costs about RM10 per person (minimum five people) and is available every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The dragon and plant motif on Kelantanese perahu kolek. (Source: Instagram @mawardiyunus)


With Sabak Beach on the left and Senok Beach on the right, Pulau Gajah (Gajah Island) sits at the centre of the estuary near the South China Sea. The journey started at Pengkalan Datu Jetty, which houses a floating market named Pasar Tani Pelancongan (Tourism Farmers’ Market).

Officially opened in September 2017, this new floating market which operates from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. is located nearer to Kota Bharu (10 kilometres away) in Sering, Pengkalan Chepa – to be exact. Most visitors come here to enjoy local foods as well as seeking fresh seafood direct from the local fishermen. If you plan to stay for a night, Cerana Villa Resort is just nearby and now rebranded as Kota Pengkalan Datu Resort with a floating restaurant just next to the river.

Perahu kolek ride along Pengkalan Datu River

Cerana Villa Floating Restaurant at Kota Pengkalan Datu Resort. (Source: Cerana Villa Resort & Medan Ikan Bakar)

A must-try colek leghrak with ‘shell out’ experience at Cerana Villa Floating Restaurant. (Source: Facebook Cerana Villa Resort & Medan Ikan Bakar)

Pulut ikan kering. (Source: Facebook Cerana Villa Resort & Medan Ikan Bakar)

Colek leghrak with ‘shell out’ experience is a must-try whilst you are in Cerana Villa Floating Restaurant. It is a combination of mixed fruits with deep-fried seafood and mushroom in a crispy batter, cooked in your favourite sauce and spread on the table to be enjoyed bare-handed with family and friends. 

Besides, get a real taste of kampung menu by trying to eat pulut ikan kering. It consists of glutinous rice with freshly grated coconut and dried fish.



Kota Pengkalan Datu Resort (formerly known as Cerana Villa Resort), Lot 261, Jalan Raja Sakti, Kampung Pengkalan Datu, Sering, 16150 Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia.



Cerana Villa Cvr /Cerana Villa Resort & Medan Ikan Bakar



+609-7646677 / +6019-2695744

I was informed that Kota Pengkalan Datu has a history of becoming a capital city of Kelantan for some time until 1698. It also became the important port around 1605 in the reign of a legendary queen, Cik Siti Wan Kembang in Bukit Marak.

The beautiful scenery of Chinese settlement on the riverbank

An aerial view of Ar-Rahman Mosque at Pulau Gajah, Pengkalan Chepa. (Source:


Besides, it is interesting to learn how local people harvesting palm sap (nira nipah) as well as foraging freshwater mussels (lokan). And for the first time in my life, I experienced eating palm fruit which I could say it is a small fleshy pulp and rather tasteless.

The locals even sell the palm vinegar, after processing the harvested palm sap through fermentation for several days, which it is believed to have remedy effects for several illnesses.

Left: Local people showing freshwater mussels (lokan). Right: Palm fruit

The lowest lighthouse in Southeast Asia at Senok Beach, Bachok. (Source:


The Chinese settlement in Kampung China has a long history dating back to 18th century when immigrants from Kwantung, China, settled down in the area during Ming Dynasty, forming the Peranakan Chinese or the Baba Nyonya community in Kelantan.

At Kampung Sering, visitors may also discover 200-year-old traditional Chinese house which remains intact and now being passed down to the fourth generation.

200-year-old traditional Chinese house in Kampung Sering

Meanwhile, Ar-Rahman Mosque boasts beautiful wooden architecture as the mosque looks like sitting on the small island with a combination of traditional Malay carving with Islamic influence from Indonesia, Morocco, Yemen and Turkey. The individual donor has endowed the mosque to the Kelantan Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIK) for the benefits of the local people.

The five wooden pillars at the centre of the prayer areas symbolise the Five Pillars of Islam and each sculpture also has its implicit meaning. The same goes to the stone carving with holy verses of the Quran displayed outside the mosque as if it looks like an Inscribed Stone of Terengganu.

Not only the mosque provides senior-citizen friendly facilities, but it also has wheelchair access for the disabled. Visitors may also witness the presence of the mosque’s beduk (barrel drum used to call to prayer) even though it is no longer in use.

The construction of the Ar-Rahman Mosque is also largely inspired by the oldest mosque in Malaysia - Masjid Kampung Laut in Tumpat, which was entirely built without a single nail. However, the mosque has been relocated to Nilam Puri in Kota Bharu due to massive 1966 flood in Kelantan.

Interior view of Ar-Rahman Mosque in Gajah Island

Another interesting fact to note about Kampung Laut is about its cottage industry. Did you know in Kampung Laut, more than 25 local entrepreneurs are focusing on the production of serunding (spicy chicken, beef or fish floss)? 

We went to the Hajjah Ramlah Serunding, the famous supplier with 36 years of family business experiences. According to its owner, they will prepare more than three tones of serunding per month with up to 120 kilogramme for beef processing due to the high demand. Interestingly, the traditional production process is more preferred among the customers for local beef as the taste of serunding is much better compared to the imported ones.



Hajjah Ramlah Salleh Serunding, Taman Warisan Jaya, Kampung Laut, 16040, Tumpat, Kelantan, Malaysia.



+6019-9567172 / +6013-4720102


Local & imported beef serunding by Hajjah Ramlah Salleh


Senok Beach in Bachok, on the other hand, will not disappoint Instagrammers as a splendid array of Australian pine trees on the beach offers such a panoramic view that will make you feel as if you are at Nami Island in Korea!

The coastline rehabilitation programme of Senok Beach which started in 2009, begun with the plantation of this Casuarina equisetifiloa saplings at approximately three hectares of land. Last year, the state government added another 400 saplings, bringing the total of more than 4,300 trees has been planted on Senok Beach so far.

Senok Beach, famously known as Malaysia’s Nami Island

Besides river cruise, there are many packages offered by Kota Pengkalan Datu Resort, including kampung tour. Visitors can immerse with local culture by watching the kite making, top spinning or simply visiting Min House Camp, an ecotourism site near Kubang Kerian perfect for a family vacation.


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