KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : WAU BULAN, THE MOON KITES

Beyond fascination, I was effortlessly seduced by its intricate designs after I saw its beauty on photos from pages of a book while killing time in a bookstore one lazy afternoon. I surrendered to the desire that I and my family have to see it up close.

Perhaps, I felt the need for another breather from our usual mall ratting-house-bumming routine every weekend. After all, it’s a long weekend in Malaysia since May 1, 2011 fell on a Sunday, the next day was posted as a holiday.

One of my senior colleagues even commented that I might be having regression. I laughed at his candid opinion about our unusual family getaway and reviewed myself if I’m really having such! I had few times of flying boka-boka (our local paper kites) and some fancy and commercially bought plastic kites before but for the record, I never had a chance to fly nor see kite this gorgeous.

It became more interesting after I learned from online readings that the logo of the flag carrier of Malaysia and our fifty sen (cents) coin here carry its image…

I promised myself that I will bring my wife and our kid to where it’s made for us to experience appreciation first hand. The plan in mind was to go to Kota Bharu, Kelantan  during this year’s Hari Raya (or Eid, that marks the end of Ramadan) that will come by the last week of August.

And so, after little researches done on the web and picking pieces of advice from our student and colleagues who hail from the said town, the date previously preferred were found to be not the best days of travel because most people will be coming home from various places to celebrate the holidays with their family (read : traffic jam, packed town!).

Luck was on my side when Tina agreed to go with me and Gabby to Kelantan earlier than I initially thought of. I hurriedly browsed the web (the ever reliable, Tripadvisor) for hotel reviews from tourists who had visited the place and decided to reserve a room in the only 5-star-hotel in Kota Bharu (which deserves a separate post). Soon after, I found myself buying tickets for the 3 of us in Penang Sentral, the bus station in Butterworth (Adult fare RM 35 or PhP 490 = USD 12.25+; child fare RM 25 or PhP 350 = USD 8.75+)).  The excitement was heightened.

I have arranged a meet-up with one of our PreMed-scholar student, Ain who’s going home to Kelantan earlier than our trip. She volunteered to get us return bus tickets from her town which I paid just before she left. Everything was instantly organized -from our transportation, hotel accomodation, to our itineraries. A tour was born in a jiffy!

Amazingly crafted with at least 3 layers of colored paper framed on bamboo sticks; some are made to fly, others serve as decors

We left Penang Sentral at 10PM, Saturday after a day-long training at work (yes, I attended a camp-facilitators’ workshop before hopping on the bus); thank God we managed to doze off during our 6 hour trip. From Kota Bharu bus station, we hired a taxi cab that took us to our hotel (RM 20 =PhP 280 or USD 7+). The hotel staff was so nice that they had allowed us to have early check in at 5AM without extra fees (supposed to pay half-day rate because early check in is defined at 7AM while regular time for check in is at 2PM). Before getting additional hours of sleep, I asked the front desk staff to look for a cab for us with an English-speaking driver who can serve as tour guide for 2 days; the hotel shuttle and cars (which apparently are more costly) were fully booked.

Mr. Safee, 53 year old Kelantanese-Malay who has been making wau bulan masterpieces both for flying and decors for more than 30 years

In a matter of few minutes from our first two destinations (which will be posted soon on this series) as we left the hotel before lunch time, we reached Kampong Badang in Kelantan, which is a few meters away from Pantai Cahaya Bulan. We stepped foot in a nondescript, almost nipa-hut looking house that stands in sand. My heart beat faster than I could imagine.

With Tina and Gabby are Mr. Kamal, our friendly-English speaking taxi driver-tour guide on Day1 and Mr. Safee, one of the wau bulan expert makers.

To witness how one wau bulan is made was more than wonderful! It’s totally unique experience! We learned that bamboo poles are first soaked in water for a day to make them sturdier before they’re cut into sticks for the frame of the kite. The sizes of the sticks should be equal and precise particularly if it’s intended to fly. Once ready, it only takes an expert moon kite maker like, Safee to complete a masterpiece for one whole day.The designs are usually floral with burst of colors!

Obviously, thrilled :

The next day, Mr. Kamel’s car broke down but he didn’t fail us with the tour by recommending another great taxi driver-tour guide by name of Mr. Nasri. He brought us to so many tourist spots and to another wau bulan maker.

This is the gallery where we bought an authentic wau bulan for wall decor on our second day tour in Kota Bharu.
This one has similar colors to what we brought home as souvenir; on a smaller scale of approximately 2 meters, we bought our wau bulan for RM 45 (PhP 630 or USD 15.75+). We’re excited to display it on the wall of our living room as we move to a new condo-appartment on the 3rd week of July.
not your usual school boy's toy, a wau bulan is creatively made up of its parts : a head, a spine, a waist, a wing and a tail; it has pompoms/tassels too! the tail looks like a crescent moon when flown in the air, hence called moon kite

“The Malay kite takes many shapes of which the most popular is the moon kite or wau bulan. There are also bird-kites, peacock-kites, hawk kites, cat-kites, frog-kites, quail-kites, fish-kites, woman kites and fairy godmother kites” -Virtual Malaysia.

The owner of the shop generously gave Gabby a freebie!

Apparently, it’s uncommon for most families to be interested in arts, culture and tradition but I am glad and proud that my family’s happy too with our wau bulan experience.

The most beautiful wau bulan in my eyes (leafy green design) was not for sale; it's a commissioned work by the museum to safee for RM 500 (PhP 7K+). I maybe disappointed in failing to but this design but the memory of our trip was nonetheless a good substitute.

*International Wau Festival is scheduled on June 2 to 6, 2011 at Pantai Irama, Bachok, Kelantan.

The other part of this blog series :  Back from Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Suggested reading about Wau bulan -> Virtual Malaysia

Here’s a link to a youtube video of wau bulan making : wau bulan

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Special thanks to our friends whom we met on the road and made our Kelantan trip more than amazing :

Mr. Nik Mat Kamal -our taxi cab driver-tour guide on our 1st day; you may reach him at +60129909538 and +60199735439.

Mr. Mohd Nasri Mohd Nawi -our taxi cab driver-tour guide on our 2nd day; you may reach him at +60139425241.

Mr. Muhammad Dain bin Othman (Pak Dain) -the owner and expert maker of Wayang kulit (Shadow Puppet which I will blog soon); his gallery is located at Simpang 3, Morak, Palekbang 16040, Kelantan; website : WayangPakDain

to Gula Kapas who responded to my query by emailing me a google map of the location of wau bulan makers in kelantan.

and to our student, Ain and her dad for welcoming us in their hometown.

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More of Kelantan and its culture and colors soon….

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41 thoughts on “KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : WAU BULAN, THE MOON KITES

  1. ang sosyal ng kita nila, cultural ito! pano sya pag decor na? (wala lang, naalala ko lang yung lanterns ng thailand) cute din kasi..

  2. awow naman! bilib ako sa mga ganyan kasi di ko kayang gawin yan. haha

    at aba naman! saan ba yan? ang astig kasi ang “bulan” sa bisaya ay “buwan” o “moon” din ang ibig sabihin.

  3. awow naman! bilib ako sa mga ganyan kasi di ko kayang gawin yan. haha

    naks at aba naman! saan ba yan? ang astig kasi ang “bulan” sa bisaya ay “buwan” o “moon” din ang ibig sabihin.

    1. hindi lang “bulan” ang katunog at kasingkahulugan ng salita sa atin; maraming salita sa bahasa melayu ang hawig ng bigkas at kahulugan sa tagalog, bisaya, ilokano.

  4. those are nice kites. hindi ba cya mukang mabigat? ganda ng designs. i like the brown one. how sweet naman ng may-ari to give gabby a souvenier.

    1. karaniwan ng wau bulan ay hindi liliit sa 2 or 3 meters! as mentioned, they are some meant for flying; some for display only. nonetheless, both types are equally beautiful! craftmanship at its best!

  5. ang galing at ang gaganda! i love that it’s like an art in itself.

    PS: ang cute ng pabaon kay gabby…pwede pa-arbor? he he !

  6. lovely colors. very artistic naman cla gumawa ng saranggola. HIndi ko pa na try magpaliwanag ng saranggola ever, inggit tuloy ako. 😦

  7. awesome!although it my hometown,i never go there,lol
    did u buy anything else besides wau bulan sir?

  8. What a nice adventure!! And the kites are so unusual, Japan has kites too 😉 but different designs as Malaysia. I remember boka-boka, I used to make one of that hehehe and I used to play with kites sayang di pa uso nun ang facebook sana marami akong pictures with kites hehehe

    1. surprisingly, nagustuhan mo ang “trip” namin! alam ko naman eksperto ka sa lakwatsa, este sa traveling, sards *biro lang*

      i always miss tokyo when you comment in my blog, kahit dati kang taga misawa.

  9. the kites in Malaysia are truly one of a kind – it’s really not just good for flying, it’s great pang-display sa bahay. I just wonder how this will get to be shipped pag-uwi nyo sa Pilipinas?

    1. we’re moving in to a new condo on july 23rd; after that date, i’ll take picture of the wau bulan and wayang kulit (shadow puppet) that we bought from kelantan.
      display ko muna sa condo dito sa penang, saka ko na isipin paano iuuwi sa pinas 😀 thanks dennis!

  10. I’ve seen all kites since my boka-boka days in Pinas but these ones are a creative gem. Do they fly as well as my boka-boka(s)? Even if they don’t, I’d like to keep one in my den and imagine it does.

    1. although we never saw one up in the sky, they fly as high as our imagination, bert! no kidding! kelantanese people even have wau bulan festival in june. di lang tugma sa holiday kaya umuna na kami ng bisita. they’re indeed a gem! good thing that malaysians value their crafts as it should be passed on to new generations and for us foreigners to appreciate.

      stay tuned for the next posts. more colors, more interesting features about kelantan!

  11. .. also used to make and fly saranggola when i was a kid. 🙂

    .. napakadecorative pala nila gelo, maganda nga idisplay sa bahay yan.

    1. wow, i didn’t know before that you flew kites? *pun intended* LOL!

      yes, wau bulan are so decorative! never seen any kites like it. amazing!

  12. hi doc gelo
    wow, nice picture with wau bule (kelantanese pronounciation) 🙂 it is at pengkalan chepa rite?

    i just knowing that u hd visited kelantan, if i knew that, i could help u visiting my place..

  13. how to contact Mr. Safee? I am trying to buy a wau hand-made by a real artist, like he is! I need it shipped to California though. For a wedding gift…any suggestions? thanks so much! Malia in KL

    1. hi ms. malia. thank you for visiting my blog and sending me an email.
      i regret to tell you that i don’t have mr. safee’s contact details. we only hired a taxi cab driver in kota bharu who took us to the places in my itinerary list.

      however, if you are in KL, you may try going to KL central market; they may have wau bulan also there, which i assume is also authentic.

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