Kuantan is a mid-sized city on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and the capital of Pahang, the largest state on the peninsula. While many treat it primarily as a transit point, there is enough to maintain interest for a night or two, with a good hostel, pleasant riverside scenery and a pretty beach just a short bus ride away.
While Kuantan’s history dates back to the 11th century when it was a fishing village, it wasn’t till the growth of nearby tin mines in the late 1800s (which attracted Chinese labourers) that the town developed into what you largely see today. The riverfront area best demonstrates this influence with traditional trading houses and a Chinese presence — the further back you go from the river, the less this is evident and the more typically “Malaysian” the city becomes.
Most of the traveller-orientated accommodation is near or on the river as are some of the best eateries and the (only) bars. You can do a boat trip along the river, with both daytime and evening options available, with the latter specifically for viewing fireflies.
The central mosque, Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah, is a massive blue and white affair that looks over the padang. Everything radiates out from here, with the main bus station, Terminal Sentral Kuantan, to the northwest and the river to the southeast. The central areas surrounding Jalan Besar and Jalan Mahkota is the most convenient base camp should you decide to stick around in Kuantan for a couple of days. Here you’ll find a selection of affordable hotels, plenty of places to eat and the river within easy walking distance.
On the river, sandwiched between the towering Mega View Hotel to the north and the tangerine coloured Jeti Shahbandar to the south, the river walk itself is pleasant for pedestrians. Sadly however, much of the basic charm of Kuantan’s waterfront is being squandered through a variety of area upgrades, including a massive waterfront construction site and a large abstract sculpture, across from the large Kuantan river sign.
Aside from the mosque and the mangrove-lined river, the main attraction here is the nearby Teluk Chempedek, a double bay with a really quite pretty beach. The bay has a couple of accommodation options and plenty of places to eat. When conditions are right, apparently windsurfing and kiteboarding is popular here.
While Kuantan is compact, a street map of Kuantan will come in handy, especially with the ongoing riverfront revamping chaos and the non-pedestrian friendly traffic speeds. Tourism Malaysia Pahang offers plenty of free maps and sightseeing brochures for travel in Kuantan and beyond from their office by the waterfront.
Although we didn’t see any police presence on the streets, there is a large police station on Jalan Mahkota as well as a Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan on Jalan Tanah Putih.
ATMs are plentiful in Kuantan at the many local banks, shopping centres, 7-elevens and Petronis gas stations.
WiFi is available at most hotels, but the service can be patchy during heavy rains.
Arrivals to Kuantan will be via bus or plane. Long distance bus and mini van arrivals will find themselves delivered well on the outskirts of town at the very chaotic and newish Terminal Sentral Kuantan. Located 15 kilometres from the central Kuantan waterfront, one look at Terminal Sentral’s dismal surrounding area may have you scurrying to hitch a ride to the next town — we recommend Cherating — but for those who decide to stay, the #100 bus for a couple of ringgit or a taxi for 20-26 ringgit will get you to the Hentian Bandar local terminal, closer to the Kuantan River waterfront.
Onward minivans and buses stop at Terminal Sentral Kuantan before heading to predetermined onward destinations, so, if you are booked for Kuantan and suddenly have a change of heart you will have to pay extra to your driver or purchase a new ticket.
Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan Jalan Tanah Putih T: (09) 513 3333;(09) 557 2222
Ibu Pejabat Polis Jalan Mahkota T: (09) 565 2222
Pahang Tourism Information Centre: Jalan Masjid (across from Mahkota Square) T: (09) 517 1624 Mon-Fri 08:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00
Tourism Malaysia Pahang: Kuantan Waterfront Jalan Besar T: (09) 517 7111 Sun-Thu 08:00-13:30 & 14:00-17:00 Fri 08:00-12:00 & 14:45-17:00.
By Vanessa Workman. Last updated on 15th October, 2016.