Alor Setar provides easy access to the Thai border and the rest of Kedah. Like all towns in Kedah, Alor Setar still retains its old world charms and is the place to visit if you want to be 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. The town has developed along Jalan Pekan Melayu and most of the places of interest are within walking distance. The most notable is the Balai Nobat, a three-tiered octagonal tower housing the instruments of the royal orchestra. Although closed to the public, visitors can admire the unique architecture from outside.
On the outskirts of the town is the State Museum and the atap-roofed house where Malaysia's current Prime Minister, Datuk Dr. Mahathir Mohamed spent his growing days.
"Pekan Rabu" which literally means Wednesday Town is well known among the local population and tourists from outside Kedah. The business complex is not only the pride of Malay entrepreneurs in Kedah but also the pride of all Malay's in Kedah. Moreover the fourth Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir, once was a trader in Pekan Rabu. Most tourists visiting Alor Setar make it a point to shop around at the Pekan Rabu Complex.
Pekan Rabu complex has 347 stalls with a variety of business and it has become one of the important landmarks of Alor Setar.
This shopping Complex which is situated on Jalan Tunku Ibrahim was officially opened on 25th February 1978. The operating hours are from morning till night, and you can find many stalls here selling a variety of items from delicious tidbits to beautiful handicraft.
Kedah State Museum
As a state museum, it houses a large collection of Kedah's historical, culture, and royal heritages. The collection includes early Chinese porcelain, artifacts from the archaeological excavations in Lembah Bujang (Bujang Valley) and a fabulous pokok bunga emas or 'gold tree' produced as a tribute to the Thais.
The museum is also a research centre on Kedah's civilization. Before the present premise was built in 1936, the museum - officially opened by the then Kedah Mentri Besar Tan Sri Tunku Ismail Tunku Yahya (Tunku Indera Setia), on February 3, 1957 - was located in the Balai Besar (Grand Hall).
Like the Balai Besar, the present state museum building radiates a stylish integration of local and Thai architectural aspects.
Directions: Located near the Darulaman stadium and can reach by bus or taxi just 2km from city centre
Located towards the back of the Kota Setar Palace complex is the Balai Besar. Its initial purpose was as a Balai Rong Seri or Balai Penghadapan (audience hall). Built in 1735 by the 19th Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Muazzam Shah, this was a lovely building with wood pillars, roofs and flooring. Unfortunately, the building was badly damaged in 1770 when the Bugis armada attacked the place, and ruined even further by the Siamese in 1821.
It was, however, refurbished in 1896 to prepare for the weddings of the reigning Sultan’s children. Besides weddings, the Balai Besar was also used for official ceremonies and other royal events.
Directions: Within the city and can reach by walking
The Paddy Museum
The unique architecture of the Paddy Museum represents bushels of harvested rice stalks. Rice motifs are repeated throughout the building, on staircase banisters, the museum gates and the fence surrounding it.
The museum showcases the paddy cultivation process in Malaysia and displays all kinds of tools and equipment which have been used in the trade over the years. Through beautiful murals, the art work of 60 artists from North Korea, the history of paddy cultivation in Malaysia is revealed.
It honors the history, culture and significance of paddy farming in Kedah and is dedicated to the hardworking and simple paddy farmers, whose blood, sweat and toil have contributed to the objective of achieving self sufficiency in the rice industry.
Directions: From the North South Expressway, take the Alor Star Utara Interchange and follow the signboard heading to Paddy Museum
Alor Setar Tower (Menara Alor Setar)
Located in the heart of Alor Setar, this tower, standing at 165.5 meters tall is a prominent and modern landmark that signifies the rapid development in the state of Kedah. It functions as both a telecommunications tower and a tourist attraction. The Tower's platform allows visitors to enjoy a breathtaking view that stretches from Gunung Jerai (formerly known as Kedah Peak) to the Straits of Malacca. From the tower, you will see vast expanses of paddy fields which lie outside of Alor Setar - an amazing view especially during harvest time. It's the second tallest tower in Malaysia and ranked 19th in world.
The Balai Nobat, houses the sacred instruments of the Royal Orchestra, played only during royal ceremonies of inaugurations, weddings, and funerals.
Although this 18 metre-tall and 5 metre-wide building is closed to the public, its interesting to know that its sole purpose is to house the royal musical instrument set known as the Nobat. The Nobat is played only by the Royal Orchestra during royal ceremonies including inaugurations, royal births, weddings, and funerals. It is believed that the Nobat originated from the Hindustani culture centuries ago when one of the brothers of the then ruling Sultan made a visit there.
This nine-piece musical set is comprised of three drums, a gong, two flutes, two instruments called the cheng-cheng, and a trumpet-like instrument called the Nafiri, which produces the haunting strains of Nobat music.
Batu Hampar Waterfall
There are several places around Mount. Jerai with the name Batu Hampar. This Recreation Park can be reached easily from Yan. Just outside Yan there is a junction where you take right to Batu Hampar. The falls are not spectacular but the stream is nice and quiet.
A trail leads to a few small, but pleasant waterfalls that swells during the rainy season.
Directions: Located about 30km from Alor Setar.
While you can shop at the many small stalls all around Alor Setar including the night market at Jalan Stadium, it is probably convenient to drop by Star Parade Shopping Mall.
A duty-free complex and an international standard golf course can be found in Bukit Kayu Hitam, a border town which is popular among shopping enthusiasts.
Rice is the staple food of Kedah-ians. Traditional local dishes which are also favorites among visitors are "Gulai Nangka" ( jack fruit curry), "Sayur Keladi" and "Pekasam". "Nasi ulam" is another local food which is equally tantalizing. This authentic dish is prepared by blending rice with varied fresh vegetables and spices. Among the locals, nasi ulam is a must on the menu particularly during the fasting month of Ramadhan.
Pulut or glutinous rice is an all time favorite of the northerners. It is taken with fruits such as mango, durian and even banana. They also make fine desert after hefty dinner or lunch. Other pulut delicacies are "pulut sambal", "pulut inti" and "tapai pulut". However, it is not complete if visitors fail to try the famous "Laksa" - rice noodles taken with a preparation of thick fish gravy and cucumber, onion and shoots.
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