Malaysia: Alor Setar in a day

By Cubie - March 15, 2019

Old meets new meets newer
It has been awhile since I make a trip back to Alor Setar but there's no place like home. I am currently residing at another country now but Alor Setar is always home.

A walk in the city

Alor Setar isn't big. One of my English teacher in secondary school once referred Alor Setar as a 10 minute town (see - to us, it is always a town) because one can get to anywhere in Alor Setar in 10 minutes.

I started my walk from around City Plaza, it is one of the older shopping complex. The "newest" kid in town is Aman Central (at the top of the map).

I made a detour to see a school with a big patch of field just because.. but it is not exactly an attraction. Anyway, from here you can walk to the square which houses a big fountain and some historical buildings. Along the way, you'll pass by many shophouses, some older than others.

If you are walking along Jalan Langgar and reaches the crossroad with Jalan Raja, you'll see an old post office building.

Turn right into Jalan Raja, i.e the post office will be on your left after turning and you will see more shophouses on your right. After a row of about 6 shophouses, you'll see a small laneway named Lorong Thean Kee. These are residential area, right smack in the city.

If you didn't turn in to have a look and continued on Jalan Raja, you will reached this structure to commemorate Alor Setar's 250th year.

See the tower at the background of the photo? Walk towards the direction of the tower. The building with yellow banners is Kedah State Art Gallery (Balai Seni Negeri Kedah). The building was built in 1912 for a courthouse and is one of the earliest modern building built in Alor Setar. According to the website, entrance is free and open daily from 9:00am to 5:00 pm with a short break on Fridays from 12:30pm to 2:30pm. This is likely for the Friday prayers. Weekends in Alor Setar is Friday and Saturday. Also close on Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha days.

Facing this art gallery stands a big fountain. I was there during daytime so I am not sure if they still light up at night. In the past, there were lights at the bottom of the pool and different colour lights lit up when water shot up, the crown at the top would rotate concurrently.

Spot the yellow dome! That's the stately clock tower
On the left back stood Zahir Mosque (Masjid Zahir). I am bias but this is one of the most beautiful mosque. Zahir Mosque was built in 1912 with design inspired by Azizi Mosque from Sumatera. The grounds where this mosque stood was a graveyard for passing soldiers who protected Kedah from Siamese attack a 100 years prior in 1812.

On the right back of the fountain you can see a tower, that's the Alor Setar Tower. It is actually a telecommunication tower and officially opened on 14th August 1997. I've been to the outdoor observation deck that is at 88 metres high but not the 360° revolving restaurants. Non mykad (Malaysian identity card) holder adult pays RM18.

Opposite from Zahir Mosque, i.e. back to the square where the fountain is located, you'll also find Kedah Royal Museum (Muzium Diraja).

This is the archway to get into the museum. This is not the state museum but one that exhibits collections from the Kedah royal families. The building was completed in 1735 and was formerly a palace. A few of the Kedah's Sultans previously resided here. Subsequently it was taken over by the Japanese soldiers during the World War 2. In 1983 it went through restoration and officiated as a museum in 1983.

Adjacent to this is Balai Besar or possibly can be translated as Great Hall. It was built in 1735 to handle royal official functions including wedding ceremonies and installation of a new sultan.

A little to the right of this building (your left if you are facing Balai Besar) is Balai Nobat or Hall of Drums. Nobat refers to royal orchestra. The initial building was opened in 1735 but this one here was rebuilt in 1906. It is octagonal in shape and used to store musical instruments of the royal orchestra. It is not opened for public.

Paddy Museum (Muzium Padi)
Kedah is Malaysia's rice bowl so naturally this is also where you can find a museum on paddy. This is a located in Gunung Keriang, 8km from the city centre. It was opened on 12th October 2004 by Kedah Sultan. There are 3 floors exhibiting things related to paddy. There is a rotating platform on level 3 showcasing a panoramic model of traditional village with paddy fields. Adult entrance fee RM5. It was raining so we didn't cross over to Gunung Keriang.

Wat Nikrodharam
This Siamese Buddhist temple complex is pretty much referred to as Siam Wat in Alor Setar. I'm not even sure if any one I know is aware of this name of the wat. It is a Buddhist temple but the structure has strong Siamese influence. There are 2 long low tables in one of the buildings where students can use to study.

Caffe Diem
One of those newer hipster cafe in Alor Setar. Definitely only in recent years. My friend recommends this cafe for cakes. I didn't take a photo of the cake but here are a couple on the interior. It is located in Pekan Cina (Chinatown). It is literally Chinatown when translated to English but nobody calls it Chinatown in Alor Setar. We went at night after dinner but on the way there I saw this Lau Tak Kee chinese restaurant where my father used to buy hainanese chicken or char siew rice when I was a kid. It was yummm... It was been many years and if they are still in business, they must be good!

This is how you can spend a day in Alor Setar and you will still have time to shop in Aman Central and run errands haha.

Side note: Do you know that on average Europeans use 6kg of rice a year while Asians use 50kg a day?

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