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Minah Travel takes you to Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia

Updated: Sep 24

State capital and the pride of Kedah Darul Aman (abode of peace) . Alor means a small stream and Setar is species of fruit trees that belongs in same family as mangoes. Interesting how people of the old decide on what to name a place. Though its located 400km from Kuala Lumpur, this city is not a quiet one. It is one of the important and busy cities in the northern region. Apart from the North South Highway, it is also easily accessible by plane and the new, modern and comfortable ETS high-speed rail. Once you reach there, here are MT's top picks of must visits in Alor Setar. 1. Muzium Padi (Kedah Paddy Museum) You've heard of The Super Bowl and the Rose Bowl. Enter the Rice Bowl. Not talking about the ones you eat your rice out of. But that is the nickname given to Kedah state for most of the paddy fields in Malaysia is located here. Rice is a staple in Malaysia. So much so that there are numerous traditional and modern signature dishes that is concocted around it. Nasi Lemak, Nasi Briyani and Nasi Goreng just to name a few. This museum is dedicated to everything about rice. The history of its cultivation, the processes involved and so much more. It even offer service to take you out to the paddy fields around it. As you take it all in and as the soft breeze brushes your face ever so gently, you'd realise why Kedah is nicknamed abode of peace. Another interesting display is the 360° , round mural that took 60 artists 6 months to complete. Not quite Michael Angelo's Sistine Chapel but it's won the hearts of many an art connoisseurs. Entrance fees are only RM5 per adults and RM2 per child and the experiential trip to the fields starts from RM30 per person but requires a quorum of 10 persons. This outdoor activity also requires a week's pre-booking. That's saying something, doesn't it? For more information, do contact the lovely people of Kedah Paddy Museum at: Lot 798 Jalan Gunung Keriang, Mukim Gunung Keriang, 06570 Alor Setar, Kedah Darul Aman. Tel : +604-735 1315 Operating hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily (closed Friday's from 12.30pm to 2.30pm)


2.Keriang Hill Resort Right across from the museum is the Keriang Hill and at the base is the famous Keriang Hill Resort. This resort is made famous due to it being the set of local movies and TV dramas. You have got to pre book to stay here because the waiting list is a long one. Combined there are 14 units of standard units for 2 and family units for 4. Theses traditional wooden houses were originally from somewhere else. TIt's traditional in design but fret not. A/c units and water heaters in each units makes for pleasant days and peaceful nights. While other amenities like the gym, pool and bicycles for rent (at RM5 per hour) completes the deal for a fun filled stay. While you're at the resort, you can have delectable meals at The Puteri Restaurant. Puteri means princess so you'd find here something that would tickle even Rapunzel's fancy. If nothing from the smorgasbord of offerings at the buffet tables doesn't tempt you then try something from the ala carte menu that's designed to wow. Check out their website at www.kerianghill.com/the-puteri-restaurant-keriang-hill/ for their menu and promotions. If you're into the outdoors, you can go hiking and spelunking. Not sure about spelunking? Then try potholing. If potholing doesn't sound like your thing, then at least try caving. RM 40 gets you a guide throughout plus snack to go while you're at it. For more information, do contact the good people at: Keriang Hill Resort Jalan Gunung Keriang, Mukim Gunung, 06570 Alor Setar, Kedah Tel: 604-731 5233 (Front Office), 604-730 2232 (Restaurant), www.kerianghill.com

3.Pulau Payar (Payar Island) This special island was made the first marine park in Malaysia back in 1989. In the Straits of Malacca, it is the most popular site for snorkeling. Crystal clear turquoise water swarming with a myriad of marine life species, it is a must visit when you're in the area. It's a 30 min boat ride or 1 h 30 min on a ferry from Alor Setar. You'd get plenty of invigorating air either way. Once you get there, bask in the tropical sun or take a dip in the cool water. Snorkel or scuba dive and watch the colourful fishes swim around you with curiosity. If you're not into water activities, then go trekking and hiking around the island. With so many things to do here this island has yet to dissapoint its visitors. In order to protect this gem of a sanctuary, the authorities has kept developments on this island to a bare minimum. No accommodation and no sleeping over on this island. So do take care as to not miss the ride back to the mainland. Package to the island starts from RM150 per person in minimum pack of 12. Visiting hours to the island is from 10am to 5pm. Plan your time for maximum enjoyment.

4.Masjid Zahir (Zahir Mosque) Listed as one of the most beautiful mosque in the world, it is the pride and one of the most well known landmarks in Alor Setar. As most magnificent things are known by more than 1 name, it is also known as Zahrah Mosque and as the Royal Mosque. It was built back in 1912, making it one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia. Its design is a mixture of Middle Eastern and Indian. You can see where it looks a bit like the Taj Mahal. What you'd notice immediately is that it has 6 black domes. The main one in the middle surrounded by the smaller ones. It signifies the oneness of God and the 5 pillars of Islam. Take time to perform your prayers in it or just marvel at the craftsmanship of the old. It's a national treasure and is worth the appreciation of any level. For queries, feel free to contact the good people at: Jalan Kampung Perak, Bandar Alor Setar, 05150 Alor Setar, Kedah.

5.Balai Besar (Royal Hall) Right across from the Royal Mosque is the Royal Hall. Balai Besar literally translates into big hall. Who else would have a use of a big hall if not the monarch? Built circa 1735, it is an administrative centre and a place to hold royal and official ceremonies. Right behind it is the Kota Setar Palace which is now the Kedah Royal Museum. Kedah has a rich long history that dates back way over a thousand years. The history of the Kedah sultanate alone is just shy of a thousand years. Here you can see and learn some of that history. The museum houses relics and heritage items important to royal family. There's also a replica of the 'bilik menghadap' which is a room used for when the sultan have an audience with aristocrats and commoners. Visiting hours: 9am to 5pm daily but closed from 12.30pm to 2.30pm every Friday. Entrance is free.

6.Kompleks Rumah Kelahiran Mahathir Mohamad (KRKMM) (Birthplace of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad Building Complex) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is Malaysia's 4th and ,arguably, best Prime Minister. Nicknamed Father of Malaysia's Modernisation, it was under his premiership that Malaysia underwent unprecedented development and economic growth. He put Malaysia on the world map. This building complex comprises of 4 buildings. 1. The traditional house he was born in; 2. Rumah Bumbung Lima (5 roof house); 3. Rumah Bujang (Bachelor pad); 4. Ice factory One stop and you can learn many things about the life of this world renowned revolutionary leader. From the the time he was born to his days as a doctor and his history making political career. Apart from that, this antique house turned museum, is kept the way it was then. You'd get that old Malay kampung feel throughout. This complex is also equipped with an auditorium, prayer room, toilets, gazebos and a cafeteria. What about the ice factory? Well, it's an ice factory built much later and the alley to both the complex and the factory got its name from it. Visiting hours are 10am to 5pm Thursday to Saturday. Closed Mondays and Fridays. Entrance is free.

7.Rumah Merdeka (House of Independence) What is it about Kedah and great men? Apart from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Kedah also produced Malaysia's first Prime Minister. The late Tun Abdul Rahman also known as the Father of Malaysia's Independence. Hence the name. This was his residence before he went to reside in Kuala Lumpur. He would, then, reside in this house whenever he was in Kedah. The house itself have been kept the way it was, during its glory days. You can learn a lot about the former Prime Minister from this house. You'd find here paintings, portraits and things he collected neatly displayed and cared for by the good people at the National Archive. Visiting hours are 10am to 5pm Thursday to Saturday. Entrance is free.

8.Muzium Kota Kuala Kedah (Kota Kuala Kedah Museum) This seaside town is located about 12km west of Alor Setar. It is also known as Kota Kuala Bahang. The word Bahang is used to describe radiant heat that burns such as that of the sun in the middle of the desert at midday. But it's not named that because of the heat from the sun. It got it's name from the 3 great wars that took place in defending the soil from 3 formidable forces of the past. This is the oldest fortress in the northern region, built by the Malays defending against Acheh in 1619, Bugis in 1770 and Siam in 1821. You can see for yourself historical relics of cannons, weapons and the fort that was constructed using clay, seashells and bamboo. It's a place of wonder and contemplation for historical buffs and the general public alike. Visiting hours are 9am to 6pm daily. Closed from 1230pm to 3pm every Friday. Entrance is free.

9.Pekan Rabu (Wednesday Market) The original Pekan Rabu started circa 1920 during the time the Brits occupied Malaya. It was a place where the Malays were trained in the art of business. It was in a different location. The training was held on Wednesdays and hence the name. It was moved to the current location circa 1932 In since it grew in an unorganised fashion and causing traffic problems. In 1975, a new building was erected to fit the growing number of businesses operating in the market. It was improved further in 1995 and today it houses over 300 businesses selling anything from foods and drinks to souvenir artcrafts to clothings. It's a one stop Shopping Centre for all, or almost all, your wants and needs. If you don't come here on your trip, it's your loss. It's smack in the middle of Alor Setar and no one can miss it.

10.Menara Alor Setar (Alor Setar Tower) The last item on this list is definitely not the least of it. At 165.5m tall, it is the tallest man-made structure in the northern region. So it's pretty hard to miss. From the observation deck you'll get 360° panoramic view of Alor Setar and beyond. On a good day you can see the Straits of Malacca and even Mt Jerai which is about 50km away. Like its sister, the KL tower , it also houses a revolving restaurant for a unique dining experience. It also has other restaurants and a souvenir shop. It's open from 830am to 1030pm everyday. Admission is RM6 for adults and RM3 for children. For further information, do check out their website at www.menaraalorsetar.com.my


Credit photo: Dahlan Ahmad Check out his profile for amazing photos of beautiful Malaysia!

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