by Natalia Gutierrez
The agenda for the day 3 (Thursday 21.04.2016) in Kuala Terengganu included a visit to the Islamic Civilization Park and a photo stop at the Crystal Mosque as part of the highlights of the day. But at the end of the day, more landmarks were added to our agenda, and we were definitely delighted about all we had seen and learnt during the third day’s excursion in Kuala Terengganu.
It was almost 9:00 am when we started boarding the JMM bus. We thought we were heading directly to the Islamic Civilizations Park, but we made instead a detour and our first stop was: Shopping! And the question followed: Again?… Yet, this was a different type of shopping.
We headed to the old market ‘Kampong Tiong’ located within the boundaries of the Kampong Cina.
Regarded as a heritage landmark in Kuala Terengganu, Kampong Cina, as it is named by the locals, or Chinatown as it is most commonly known, has maintained its features and traits since the late 19th century. The attractiveness of the centuries-old buildings along Jalan Bandar, granted the area a place on the Watch list of the World Monument Fund. Under the name of Kampong Cina River Frontage, the World Monument Fund helped to support the conservation of Malaysia’s historic waterfront district with the aim of “revitalizing Kampong Cina and upgrading the capabilities of the traditional structures, so growth could be accomplished while a unique way of life is preserved” (Wmf.org, 2015).
The arrival of the first Chinese migrants to Kuala Terengganu and the founding of the city’s Chinatown cannot be specifically dated “but some records indicate that Chinese settlers arrived here as early as the 16th century” (Hogan Jr, 2015). As we learned from the inscription on the wall in front of the Low Tiey´s well, the migration of Chinese came from the province of Fujian and started during the late Ming dynasty and early Ching dynasty (Yaw in Chinese Assembly Hall of Terengganu, 2004). Among the wanderers, there was a particular Chinese clan, who had travelled south from China about 300 years ago and settled in the area now known as Kuala Terengganu. The clan’s name was Lim, they were farmers and to cultivate the land, they dug up a well for the supply of water for the farm and for their domestic needs. The interesting story behind this well, which makes it a cultural and historical attraction in Kampong Cina, is that in 1875 the town of Kuala Terengganu experienced drought causing most of the wells to dry up except for the well of the Lim clan. They were kind enough to share theirs well’s water with the rest of the town’s folks. Mr Lim Keng Hoon was the family’s patriarch and was holding the post of Low Tiey at that time. The term Low Tiey can be understood as Chinese community leader (Myfareast.org, 2016). The Low Tiey’s well was named after Mr Lim in recognition of his family’s generosity during that period of time. The well was divided in two sections, male and female, to ease the bathing etiquette of the conservative society of the time.
The Pasar Besar Payang was the next spot we visited. Housed in a two-storey building, the market has a wide range of products, from fishes, vegetables and fruits to regional handicrafts, such as batik and songket textiles, which were reasonably cheap and offered us early retail therapy for the day. As locals frequently do their shopping at the Pasar, this gives outsiders, the opportunity to experience local culture as well.
Right after we finished the shopping spree at the pasar, we moved forward in our tour schedule and continued our journey to the Islamic Civilizations Park. The park is promoted as an edutainment park with the mission to “provide alternative family recreational and educational activities based on the Islamic principles” (Tti.com.my, 2016). The Monument Park is a tourist attraction that showcases 22 replicas of Islamic architectural structures which are mostly places of worship for the Muslim community. The edutainment park also includes the Taman Tamandun Islam Water Wheel, which re-creates the theory of early Muslim engineering stored in the books of the Arab Muslim scholar and engineer Al-Jazari (Famous Inventors, 2016).
The Islamic buildings featured at the park are considered “glories of Islamic civilization from all over the world” (TTI.Org, 2016). The visitors to this impressive Theme Park can get a glimpse of the iconic buildings of Islamic history through the meticulous replicas of 22 remarkable mosques, tombs and citadels from around the world. A documentary screening, available at some of the attractions, can be watched before proceeding with the visit of the whole structure. The documentaries and exhibition galleries add extra knowledge on the history behind each of the Islamic architectural masterpieces.
Among the replicas, the Dome of the Rock is one of a very impressive character. The shrine is located within the Al Masjid Al Aqsa area or Noble Sanctuary of Al Aqsa in in the Old City of Jerusalem. Under its Arabic names, the building is well-known as Masjid As-Sakhrah and Qubbat As-Sakhrah (Visitmasjidalaqsa.com, 2016). It is situated in the middle of the plateau of Al Masjid Al Aqsa and was built in 692 C.E. by Al Malik ibn Marwaan. The Dome of the Rock building preserves the Sacred Rock commemorating “the Prophet’s Muhammad’s Ascension to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel” (Newworldencyclopedia.org, 2016).
Another imposing construction in the vicinity of the park is the Crystal Mosque. Its construction started in 2006 and it was inaugurated in 2008. The outside structure is made of glass and steel, which gives its crystal-like appearance and therefore its name. The architectural style is basically contemporary but traces of Moorish and Gothic architecture were incorporated as well. According to the Islamic Tourism Centre (2016) the Crystal Mosque is the country’s first ‘intelligent’ mosque with a built-in IT infrastructure and wifi connection, providing visitors with internet access.
The excursion to the Taman Tamadun Islam concluded with a quick look at the souvenir arcade. Luckily, the shop also provided us with most needed snacks and drinks. By the time we have finished the tour, we were hungry and quite overworked after touring the park at a ‘melting’ temperature of 38 degrees Celsius. We then ambled towards the photo stop at the Crystal Mosque to take de rigueur group photo before driving to the hawker center where we had our long awaited lunch.
The last place of interest in our agenda was the Bukit Puteri or Princess Hill. We took the stairs and climbed up to the top of the hill. Elevated towards the Terengganu river and the South China Sea, the Princess Hill “has been a witness of the historical development of Kuala Terengganu” (Official Portal of Malaysia National Archives, 2016). The breeze and the view of the Istana Maziah were most enjoyable. The hill was used as a fortress during times of civil wars. Historical artifacts can be found at the top of the hill, among those: the Bell, made in 1908 to replace the original bell called ‘Negara’ which was made in 1853 during the reign of Sultan Umar. The Bell was used to alert the people about danger. The Throne of Sultan Umar can also be found at the fort. Last but not least, a lighthouse, which guided the fishermen and seaman to get to the port of Kuala Terengganu in past times, is placed at the hilltop.
The day 3 of our MV trip to Kuala Terengganu ended with new experiences and brains fuller with knowledge.
Famous Inventors. (2016). Al-Jazari. [Online] Available at: http://www.famousinventors.org/al-jazari [Accessed 4 May 2016].
Myfareast.org. (n.d.). Terengganu. [Online] Available at: http://www.myfareast.org/Malaysia/terengganu.html [Accessed 4 May 2016].
Hogan Jr, D. (2015). Time-travel to Kuala Terengganu’s Chinatown. Free Malaysia Today. [Online] Available at: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/leisure/2015/10/28/time-travel-to-kuala-terengganus-chinatown/ [Accessed 4 May 2016].
Islamic Tourism Centre. (2016). Masjid Kristal (Crystal Mosque). [Online] Available at: http://www.itc.gov.my/mosque/masjid-kristal-crystal-mosque/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Newworldencyclopedia.org. (2016). Dome of the Rock. [Online] Available at: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Dome_of_the_Rock [Accessed 5 May 2016].
Official Portal of Malaysia National Archives. (2016). Bukit Puteri. [Online] Available at: http://www.arkib.gov.my/en/web/guest/bukit-puteri [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Tti.com.my. (2016). Mission & Vision | Taman Tamadun Islam. [Online] Available at: http://www.tti.com.my/about/company/missionvision [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Visitmasjidalaqsa.com. (2016). Islamic History of Al Masjid Al Aqsa. [Online] Available at: http://www.visitmasjidalaqsa.com/islamic-history-of-al-masjid-al-aqsa/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Wmf.org. (2016). Kampung Cina River Frontage. World Monuments Fund. [Online] Available at: https://www.wmf.org/project/kampung-cina-river-frontage [Accessed 4 May 2016].