Alor Setar – A city that’s often overlooked
Written by: Yukii – Alor Setarian
What comes to mind when you heard about “Alor Setar”? I guess the most constant answer will be “oh a lot of paddy fields”, “Langkawi”, “food heaven”, “small and rural city”, “Alor Setar Tower” or many more. I would not deny that this is wrong as it is the truth. But, Alor Setar is not just about this and there are a lot more you could know. Let’s explore this wonderful city like an Alor Setarian 😎!
Alor Setar is the capital of Kedah instead of Sungai Petani or Langkawi. Majority population is made up of Kedahan Malay then followed by Chinese, Indian and Thai. This city is known for its impressive architectures, abundant culture and heritage, as well as gastronomy. Alor Setarians are friendly and harmonious and you are able to get along well. When it comes to communication, the common language to communicate is Malay then followed by each ethnic’s native dialects. Majority of the Chinese population here speak Hokkien or Cantonese.
Furthermore, Alor Setar has convenient access to Penang, Langkawi and even Thailand. As Alor Setarians, this is one of the points that we are proud of! However, it also made Alor Setar to be only seen as a passing point to go to Penang or Langkawi, hence oftentimes being overlooked by Malaysian and tourists. Throughout recent years, Alor Setar is gradually developing its city while retaining its originality, and is striving to become a tourism site that is friendly for travelers.
How to reach Alor Setar?
(Fastest & Easiest)
- 🛫 By flight, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes journey from Kuala Lumpur.
(Other transportation options)
- 🚆 By ETS, approximately a 5 hours and 20 minutes journey from Kuala Lumpur.
- 🚌 By bus, approximately a 6 to 7 hours journey from Kuala Lumpur.
- 🚗 By car, approximately a 5 to 6 hours journey from Kuala Lumpur.
How to travel around Alor Setar?
The best way to travel around Alor Setar is definitely by car because it is easiest as compared to the public transports such as city bus or taxi. Traffic condition in Alor Setar is slow-paced and is not heavily congested except road-blocking, peak hours in city centre area or festivals. Therefore, not to worry, just be prepared, patience, turn on the GPS, adapt to it and enjoy driving 🚗!
Must-see attractions & unlock it like Alor Setarian
1. Alor Setar Main Street
Alor Setar main street is always busy throughout the entire day! I would say often it has many cars as it is one of the access points that Alor Setarians will pass by to get to their destination. Here, you can visit some of the must-see attractions easily and at the same time enjoy the gastronomy 😍.
📍 🌇 Chinatown / Pekan Cina & Pekan Melayu – Here, you can find well-preserved heritage shop houses. You can also find the outstanding mural arts when you explore this area. You may enjoy coffee at Caffe Diem, an all-time favourite cafe by Alor Setarians that is built on a 120-year-old derelict building infused with old-world charm, local culture, arts and rich history. At night, you can also just drop-by here to hunt for your dinner or late night supper!
📍 🕌 Zahir Mosque – One of the most distinctive architectural landmarks in Alor Setar, and even ranked number 1 as the most beautiful mosque in Malaysia! This mosque is stunning and elegant, and is favoured by Alor Setarian. This mosque gives different sights during daytime or nighttime. Everyone who drives-by the main street, definitely will get attracted and glance at this mosque. I bet you will also feel the same too!
📍 🌇 Kedah State Art Gallery – An art gallery that was built with the name as one of the first modern government buildings that was constructed in Alor Setar. Pure white in design but yet attractive. This art gallery exhibits artworks created by local Kedah artists who are internationally recognized. Other than arts, you may also find exhibitions for Islamic calligraphy as well as wood carving.
📍 🏫 Big Clock Tower, Alor Setar – This clock tower has more than 100 years of history. It is designed with the element of Islam and Hindu. The clock tower will chime at certain hours such as prayers time for muslims.
📍 🏯 Kedah Royal Museum – In the past, this museum was the former palace for the royal family of Kedah. At here, you can find exhibitions that are related to the royal family and their history.
📍 🏯 Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Sham Gallery – A place for you to discover and learn about the lifestyle of Sultan of Kedah. You can find various collections, equipment, official documents, tools, watches and even luxury cars belonged to Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Sham here!
📍 🏫 Nobat Tower – Don’t get it wrong, this tower does not function as a clock tower. It is a ceremonial tower which holds a nobler purpose that used to house the royal instruments of nobat.
2. Alor Setar Tower
The second point that Alor Setarian is proud of! The second tallest telecommunication tower in Malaysia and the 22nd in the world with the height of 165.5 meters above sea level. Alor Setarians love this tower very much and always can’t help glancing at it and snap a picture. Here, you can enjoy the panoramic view of Kedah and you could also have a lovely dinner with the view at Starsky Restaurant & Lounge. I bet you if you visit this tower, you will not regret it.
3. Escape to two significant mountain in Alor Setar & Yan
At Alor Setar, there are two significant mountains that are very attractive and unique, definitely the must-explores here!
📍 ⛰ Mount Keriang & Recreational Park – A 250 million year old, elephant-shaped mountain with an impressive 218m of height consists of mainly limestone, located on the flat paddy fields of the state of Kedah. Here, you can find interesting rocks and attractive calcite crystals. This mountain has hundreds of trees, birds and plant species. I would definitely recommend you to hike until the top to enjoy the vast paddy view and take impressive photos. Beside this, you can enjoy your leisure time at recreational park and enjoy outdoor activities such as cave exploration, rock climbing, trekking activity and also camping. Paddy museum is close to this mountain, a museum that is dedicated to rice plants, a good place for you to learn about the important crops in the world. If you would like to spend more time here, you can definitely consider staying overnight at Keriang Hill Resort.
📍 ⛰ Mount Jerai – The highest mountain in Kedah, also the pride of Kedah. This mountain is 1,217 meters high above the sea level and is totally different compared to mount Keriang. This mountain is located at Yan, 1 hour journey from Alor Setar hence I recommend you to not visit both mountains in one day to avoid hastiness. Here, because of the height of the mountain, you can relax and enjoy the cool refreshing mountain air as temperatures often fall between 19 and 24 degrees Celsius. The paddy fields view that you can catch is superb and much wider than mount Keriang, and if you’re lucky, you can have great views over the Straits of Malacca too. You can also find a small lane of hydrangeas. There are also a lot of attractions that you can visit from here such as waterfalls, forest eco park, recreational park, glass bottle temple (Wat Charok Padang) and many more. This mountain is well-developed as it is one of the tourism sites. You can choose to drive up to the mountain or hike from the pathways to reach the hilltop. Not to worry if you are reluctant to leave, you can consider staying a night at Jerai Hill Resort, enjoy sunset and sunrise as well as the activities.
4. Enjoy Photography Madness
📍 🐝 Ladang Madu Kelulut Ori – An instagrammable place with all sorts of cute statues, objects or goats for you to take any kind of glamorous photos madly. This is only at Alor Setar! Literally, this place is also known as a bee farm and you can purchase products such as honey, goat milk soap and many more. It is free to visit this attraction and you can take photos freely. There are paddy fields behind this attraction which you can get closer to the fields, and depending on the season you can catch the green view when the paddy fields are under cultivation or the golden view when it is harvesting season. Trust me, you’ll definitely have a good time here! So get ready with your smartphones or cameras and snap 📷!
5. Back to History
📍 Kuala Kedah Fort – A place for you to experience Kedah’s turbulent history. Here, you can find different kinds of battle traces of Kedah being occupied by Portuguese, Acehnese, Bugis and how Kedah developed this fort to win the battle. This place is about 10km from the city centre of Alor Setar. You can enjoy taking good photos with the historical architecture, activities such as horse riding and others. Besides experiencing the history, this place is located at Kuala Kedah, a fishing port that is located at the mouth of the Kedah River, and serves as a terminus for ferries to the tourist island of Langkawi. Hence, it is famous for its seafood and Alor Setarian often come to Kuala Kedah to purchase fresh seafoods or dine-in at seafood restaurants. In the evening, this place is also often crowded by Alor Setarian to enjoy family time and sunset with the cool sea breeze at Kuala Kedah coasts. I also recommend you try out Laksa Teluk Kechai at Zakaria Laksa Teluk Kechai or seafood at Restoran Ikan Bakar Anjung Kuala, Kuala Kedah.
6. Hunt for Traditional Malay Foods & Souvenirs
📍 Wednesday Market (Pekan Rabu) – A renowned bustling marketplace that is favoured by locals and tourists. Here is the place for you to hunt for traditional delicacies or Malay foods such as serunding, dodol durian, kuah rojak and garam belacan, or handicraft products and apparels for souvenirs. It is open 8am to 9pm daily and open even on public holidays and festivals.
Thanks for reading this article! I bet this article did enhance your view about Alor Setar and arouse your interest to visit this wonderful city! Stay tuned for more 😊 subscribe us to get the latest tips! Check out HIS Travel Malaysia for domestic packages!