OK fine, I guess I must be having regression, haha! After satisfying my craving to see authentic Kelantanese WAU BULAN or MOON KITES, our second day in Kota Bharu was highlighted by our trip to the Kelantan Malay Traditional Shadow Play Gallery.

The signage at the facade of Kelantan Malay Traditional Shadow Play Gallery

The friendly Malay taxi cab driver, Mr. Kamel who toured us for 4 hours in Kota Bharu on our first day (01 May 2011, Sunday afternoon) endorsed us to his fellow, Mr. Nasri the next day because his car broke down. The equally tourist-friendly, Mr. Nasri brought us to interesting places within and outside his simple town (that deserve separate posts) and one of them is the gallery that makes authentic shadow puppets for actual plays and decor purposes.

The experience was another one for the books!

Traditional Shadow Puppets in actual play-size made from COW HIDE; charaters are lifted from the epic-love story of RAMA and SITA

Guests and tourists can immerse themselves in the actual activities with the puppet makers/craftsmen (without any entrance fee at the time of our visit).

I'm glad Gabby (and Tina) enjoyed trying to make wayang kulit puppets. The experience never happens on a daily basis!

Regret : Because I am in awe capturing the moment in photos, I forgot to try it myself. Nonetheless, my family was happy with the exposure.

According to the expert in shadow puppet making and the owner of the gallery himself, Mr. Muhammad Dain B. Othman, it takes one to four days to  complete a puppet made from either cow or goat hides (cow hide puppets are obviously more expensive than those made from goat hides).

He told us that he’s scheduled to be in Kuala Lumpur the following day so we felt so fortunate to meet him because he personally explained the process of wayang kulit making, its instruments and actual play performance, and almost everything about it.

I noticed Pak Dain (or Mr. Othman) was taking pictures of his visitors, and true enough, he showed an album filled with photos of foreigners who were fascinated with his craft and toured his place. And so I took the chance of having my family photo-op with the man himself…

( from left to right) Tina, Gabby, our friendly taxi cab driver-tourist guide, Mr. Nasri and Mr. Pak Dain (Mr. Othman wearing plaid button down shirt).

The masterpieces in actual performance size made from cow hide and artline colored inks then varnished.

Looks like the antagonists of Ramayana...

I consider myself lucky because I had a chance to watch the original Filipino musical play, RAMA at SITA in UP Theater years ago FOR FREE! My mom then was associated with some companies related to the music-movie industries hence we got free tickets to concerts, shows and whatnot during those years. That was the time my interest in Ramayana sprung. Imagine how I was silently jumping for bliss when I saw these puppets inspired by that epic. It was AWESOME!

Medium-sized Wayang Kulit puppets made from GOAT HIDES. On the upper right are Rama puppets and on the upper and lower left sides are Sita puppets.

After our brief hands-on exposure to wayang kulit making, we were led to a room where we saw framed puppets for sale and the actual instruments use in shows.

Traditional drums used in Wayang Kulit performances

The adjacent room is where musicians and puppeteers play during the 2-hour show. Ten people are involved to make a shadow puppet play work.

gong, gong, gong, gong, gong!

Mr. Pak Dain asked his staff to show us how the show is done. Banana trunks are used to hold puppets that are not needed in a scene. A small wooden box serves as the frame for the light to cast colored shadows on the white cloth. Live music is played with these gorgeous traditional instruments.

And because we’re overwhelmed with the experience, we bought puppets as souvenirs. We brought home medium-sized ones and what characters of Ramayana would be more fitting to have but the leads of course. We’ll have it framed once we get a chance…

Tina's hands holding Sita, Gabby's holding Rama...

Two days after we came home from Kelantan, Gabby asked about Rama and Sita; luck was again on my side because I didn’t exert much efforts in explaining to him their epic-love story for I immediately found uploaded videos of Rama at Sita musical on youtube that starred local Filipino singers, Ariel Rivera and Chiqui Pineda and a whole lot of great talents! Imagine a 6 year old boy asking about Ramayana. You can blame his father for that. hehehe!


The other part of this blog series :




Special thanks to our friends whom we met on the roads & 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.


More of Kelantan and its culture and colors soon….



  1. ang ganda grabe esp the details. is that for sale? the puppet seems to be familiar parang ganyan din ba yung itsura ng sa atin? what i like sa ibang countries they really maintain yung traditions. dito parang wala na ata kang makikitang mga ganito. sa libro na lang kaya hindi na maappreciate ng mga bata.

    1. the last photo shows the medium-sized puppets of Rama and Sita that we bought for a good price a pair after i haggled with mr. othman. we’re both asians so he gave me a good price. oops!

  2. immersing in local culture is so enriching. i am happy that you had this experience with tina and gabby.

    those are truly works of arts. and how can you not buy a puppet for souvenir after the tour?

  3. Doc, this is amazing! I always want to try things like this but never got the chance too. when I was in Indonesia I learned there’s a tour pala for batik making where tourists get to learn how to create one, tapos eto I;m reading your post naman about puppet making. when i was a kid myself, i used to watch Princess Sarah and there’s some parts na pinapakita yung story abt Ramayana, I was curious but no one could explain it to me (d pa uso pc at Googgle at Youtube sa probinsya noon kase), until I grew up and had to search it myself. GaBby is lucky you’re there to show him and guide him and learn this at an early age. 🙂 sigh, how i wish you posted this earlier when I was still in Malaysia. hehe thanks for sharing Doc! 🙂

  4. inggit ako docgelo at you have the change to learn so much about another’s culture and arts. i’m not so much into arts myself but i love to see how thing go about…like how those kites and puppets are made.

    those puppets are something else. ang gaganda…and like the kites, they are an art themselves.

    1. happy to know that you like these things too.
      some people would prefer to spend the weekend in malls, or wherever but sometimes, it’s rewarding to give in to something uncommonly pleasant.


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