Monday, July 28, 2008

Geography

Rising high on the slopes of Gunung Korbu, the second highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia, the Nengiri River flows east to merge first with the Galas, and then with the Lebir — the latter born in the wilds of Taman Negara National Park — before turning decisively northwards and emptying into the shallow waters of the South China Sea. From Kuala Krai the conjoined streams become the Kelantan River, a broad, mud-coloured stream which dominates the fertile coastal plains and defines the geography of the region. The Kelantan River valley is a fertile rice-bowl, rich in hardwoods and rubber and lush with tropical fruits.

For centuries, Kelantan was all but separated from the rest of the country by the Titiwangsa Mountains, a mountain range running from north to south through the peninsula. Weeks of hard travel were required to reach Kelantan. The "easy way" to Kelantan was to sail around the peninsula, braving the sea and pirates. For this reason Kelantan's history often involves the sea, and boats. Even today, many of its people are very much tied to the sea. A discussion with many coastal residents will confirm that their ancestors, as far back as they know, were "of the sea."

In the early 1980s, trunk roads were built to link it with nearby states. Presently, one can travel by road from the capital city Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu through the mountain range within 5 hours.

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