“So much more than diving” – Travel Daily talks to Terengganu Tourism

Although the Malaysian state of Terengganu contains Rendang and Perhentian Islands, which are considered among some of the best diving locations in the world, and the 13th best beach in the world according to CNN, much of the state is still unknown. Travel Daily caught up with delegates from Terengganu Tourism to learn more:

What are your most important cultural tourism destinations?

The Terengganu State Museum is the largest in Southeast Asia; it has seven galleries and is built from traditional architecture from the region. It has large textile collection and a very interesting maritime gallery and a gallery of natural history. It shows that there’s more to Terangganu than diving and there’s more than most people you know.

When people think of Malaysia, Terengganu is different, it’s a place where you go and enjoy the natural beauty. If you are in to eco-tourism, real conservation and sustainable and responsible tourism then Terengganu is the place. We can offer seven birding parks – the most in Malaysia – including the first project of its kind in Malaysia.

Recently we have see that the leatherback turtles are coming back to our shores. It takes leatherback turtles about 25 years to mature – we had actually thought that they would not come back – but earlier this year we spotted them. They come and lay eggs on Malaysian beaches but once they have hatched, they return to international waters, back to their feeding grounds.

What happened to them in these years? We were hoping all this time that they would come back; we hatched all the eggs and released the turtles to the sea. We have been keeping our fingers crossed for 25 and now we are seeing the results.

What about your regional industries and heritage?

We are very proud to say we are Malaysia’s largest producer of batik printing (literally “drawing out with wax”) and we produce one of the most colourful forms of both batik and songket – attire made of silk or cotton interwoven with either silver or golden threads popular for ceremonies.

The most expensive outfits in Malaysia often come from Terengganu and they are very famous – you can see them in exhibits in the Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur.

All these handicrafts are things we want to share. The brass industry, which has been around for over 300 years, is a dying industry and that is why we want to share it with the world. We have a number of training initiatives to engage and educate young people in this industry and we are subsidising these strategies to protect these industries for the future.

Kuala Terrenagnu, the state capital, is a waterfront heritage city and has some of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the country, particularly in Chinatown. It was a significant trading point in the early days of the Silk Road. We are not just selling the idea that tourists should come to our beaches but that visitors can see how people who have been living there in this way for centuries.

We believe that we are not just selling the destination but the culture of the people. Visitors can find out for themselves what is our thinking. 40 years ago, there used to be 35 traditional boat makers in the state, who construct the boats with no nails or blueprints. Now there are only two left.

These boats – we simply call them ‘Perahu Besar’ or ‘Big Boats’ – are oceanfaring and have sailed to China, to Thailand and Vietnam. It’s the last frontier where you would find traditional boat makers in the area and where you can watch them play their trade.

What upcoming attractions do you have planned?

Lake Kenyir is ideal for anglers, birders and stargazers, rich in history with recent finds of fossilised remains of dinosaurs, dating back some 250 million years. Setiu Wetlands is a State Park project aimed to preserve its nine ecosystems and three river basins with a 14km lagoon.

We are very proud of our these upcoming projects as they are testimony to our commitment to sustainable tourism. A lot of people have proposed to come and develop the area but we have kept the development to a minimum.

These wetlands are the only place in Malaysia that comprises nine different ecosystems in one location, including mangrove, swamp and lagoon. It is very important for us to preserve this area – not just for the locals and not just for the visitors, but also for future generations.

Here, not just the landscape of the area but the lifestyle of the people, symbolises a lifestyle of Terengganu people from many, many years ago. It’s not it’s a perfect holiday destination – it’s an authentic experience of Malaysia.

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