In the far northeastern corner of Peninsula Malaysia, Kota Bharu is the capital of Kelantan state and a gateway to the idyllic Perhentian Islands, Redang and the other beaches of the east coast. It is also one of the cultural hotspots of the Peninsula, with a large Muslim population. Its vibrant and well attended central market houses traders selling fresh produce, spices, basketware and the Bazaar Buluh Kubu next door is a great place to pick up some handicrafts. A day or two spent exploring Kota Bharu provides you with the opportunity to see some traditional Malay activities such as top spinning, traditional dance and Wayang Kulit, a form of shadow puppetry, which before the advent of TV was the most popular form of entertainment in Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. The architecture in Kota Bharu and the surrounding towns and villages of Kelantan and the neighbouring state of Terengganu is different to that of the West Coast. The typical east coast house has a tiled roof and shows a considerable Thai or Cambodian influence. Indeed, this is hardly surprising as the Thai border at Rantau Panjang is less than an hour's drive away.
Another place of interest in Kota Bharu is the World War II Memorial Museum. Housed in what was the Japanese army headquarters during the war, it holds many interesting artefacts and documents detailing the history of the Japanese occupation of Malaysia from 1941-45. The invasion of Kota Bharu actually preceded that of Pearl Harbour by 70 minutes and is considered by many to have been the start of the war in the east.