|After a few hours of searching for a place to stay (we arrived during a federal holiday), we made Zeck's Guesthouse our home for the night. Marianne, Zeck's wife was very friendly and outgoing, and made us feel quite at home. The very next morning Myles stumbled upon a bird singing competition already in progress, where he met its founder, mr. Khor. Mr. khor invited both of us for breakfast, which quickly turned into a whole day affair. After an extensive eplanation of the judging scheme (showmanship, repertoire, melody and resonance)we left in his van to check out some sights in Kota Bharu. The bird, a red-whiskered bul bul, is endangered in the area, and you must have a licence to own one. You are allowed 10 birds per household, so Mr. Khor has two houses. He has participated in many competions since 1964, check out his reject trophies - there is plenty more displayed inside his house.
Afterwards we went to check out some "birdhouses" in town. As it turns out, following some massive forest clearing for pasture in Indonesia, birds called swiftlets found themselves a home in Kota Bharu. They are known for making their nests entirely out of their own spit - a sought after aphrodisiac, and a commercially desirable product. To maximize profits, some 200 birdhouses (entire buildings of 2, 3 or more stories, protected with barbed-wire, and sealed except for ventillator holes) were set aside to harvest these magic nests. A bird's paradise, except their first nest is snatched before their very eyes for sale to the highest bidder.
Mr. Khor and his wife, both retired teachers, love a chance to show people around. They took us out for lunch (paid for by Mr. Khor's competition winnings) of typical Kalantanmeal, which consisted of special coconut rice (Nasi Dagang), and specially BBQed chicken (Ayam Percik). It was very tasty. Later we went to the Sleeping Buddha, and walked around the grounds as Mr. Khor explained the Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism connection in this part of Malaysia. It is amazing what we would have missed if left to our own devices. On the surface Kota Bharu is just a town you pass through on your way to another place - but, it has many secrets.