Kedah’s capital of ALOR SETAR may not often be on the radar for holiday getaways, but you’ll be amazed at its rich history and abundance of nature activities.
Meanwhile, about a 40-minute’s drive from the city center is Mount Jerai. This natural wonder standing at 1,217 metres is now more visitor-friendly, as it’s now possible to drive up all the way to the top. Along the way are many trekking paths, picnic and camping sites, including Alur Naga Waterfall, and hundreds of flora and fauna to observe and appreciate. Make it a night there by setting up camp, or checking into the Regency Jerai Hill Resort located near the peak.
Interestingly, one of the trekking paths actually starts at another point of interest - the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum. About an hour’s drive from Alor Setar, Bujang Valley hosts the remains of temples and structures dating back from the 3rd century, some of it indicating that it could have been part of the Srivijayan kingdom until the 12th century. Meanwhile, inside the museum you’ll find on display artefacts such as bronze Buddha statuettes, stone carvings, stone boxes, and metal tools and ornaments.
About an hour’s drive from Bujang Valley, meanwhile, is the fishing village of Kota Kuala Muda. Back in 2004, it was one of the hardest hit areas in the country when the Boxing Day Tsunami struck the Indian Ocean on 26 December. A memorial, constructed from 26 fishing boats damaged by the waves, stands as a reminder of the lives lost during that fateful day, while the Tsunami Gallery nearby offers information about the tragedy and the villages affected by the event.
From Kota Kuala Muda, it’s only an hour’s drive back to Alor Setar, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can head on to the Sungai Sedim Treetop Walk. Although it’s actually located in Kulim, it’s worth the extra effort if walking the world’s longest canopy walk in one of the oldest rainforests in the world is right up your alley. Here, you can also enjoy a spot of white-water rafting, hiking, camping or a swim in one of the swimming holes. From Sungai Sedim, it takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes to drive back to Alor Setar.
There are a number of new and modern hotels that have cropped up around Alor Setar recently. These include the Grand Alora Hotel, The Jerai Hotel and the basic yet comfortable Urban Inn. Many condominium units around the city centre are also on offer for short stays should you prefer one accomodation for all in the family.
Alor Star’s famous Nasi Lemak Royal is actually more similar to Nasi Kandar (Indian Muslim mixed rice with curry) than the coconut-milk variety. Head to the original outlet located along Jalan Tunku Ibrahim, nearby Pekan Rabu, for your fix as early as possible for lunch. Another culinary highlight is Iman Kuey Teow Kerang at Taman Pandan. Topped with a sunny- side up egg, their kuey teow dish with cockles is not to be missed. Another spot worth considering — for both the food, and the Instagram prospects — would be Caffe Diem, tucked within Alor Setar’s quaint Chinatown area. While the cafe made waves for its nasi lemak-flavoured soft serve ice cream, apparently the coffee and cakes (including the seasonal Harum Manis mango cheese cake) is where they truly excel.
Located approximately 435 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur, the quickest way to get to Alor Setar is, of course, to fly from Kuala Lumpur via either the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Subang or KL International Airport (KLIA). You will reach Sultan Abdul Halim Airport, Kedah within a little over an hour. There are also direct flights from Johor Bahru in the south. Alternatively, you can opt for the high-speed electric train service (ETS) from Kuala Lumpur, which takes about 5 hours, or a 4-hour drive along the North-South Expressway from the Malaysian capital.