Traditional Fishing Boat


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.”

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

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.

Perahu kolek ride along Pengkalan Datu River

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.

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