Uncovering Malaysia's Secret Destinations in Kedah and Perlis

Uncovering Malaysia’s Secret Destinations in Kedah and Perlis

There’s much more to northwestern Malaysia than the famous Langkawi island. Take a trip to Kedah and Perlis to explore the less-travelled parts of Malaysia.

Langkawi might be the region’s leading destination, but there’s much more to northwestern Malaysia than the famous island. Mainland Kedah and the neighbouring state of Perlis have fascinating histories, stunning natural attractions and lots of good food for those who journey on roads less travelled. Here’s what to do during your visit.

Also read: Which Parts of Malaysia You Won’t Regret Visiting

Explore Alor Setar


Masjid Zahir

Alor Setar has an illustrious past and a bright future, providing visitors with the best of both worlds. As you arrive in the Kedah capital on Lebuhraya Darul Aman, you’ll be greeted by a cluster of landmarks including one of Malaysia’s most beautiful mosques. Completed in 1915, Masjid Zahir was built in the Moorish style, standing out with its five black domes. In the vicinity of the mosque are the Sultan Abdul Halim Gallery, which displays items from the reigning Sultan’s personal collection, Balai Besar, the great hall for royal ceremonies, Balai Nobat, a five-storey tower that houses musical instruments, and Balai Seni Negeri, the Kedah state art gallery.

Also read: Putra Mosque: a Rose-Coloured Dome Full of Beauty

Balai Nobat and Menara Alor Setar

Menara Alor Setar is a more recent addition to the area, dominating the skyline of the city. The telecommunications tower, which reaches a height of 165.5m, has an observation deck and a revolving restaurant.

Mahathir Mohamad’s birthplace

Two Prime Ministers of Malaysia have called Alor Setar home, and their former residences are open to visitors. The life of the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, is celebrated at Rumah Merdeka while longest-serving Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s birthplace recalls his humble beginnings.

Also read: 7 Must-See Attractions in Perak, Malaysia

Pekan Rabu

Even though it now opens every day of the week, Pekan Rabu – or “Wednesday Market” – has kept its name to remember its traditional roots. Alor Setar’s Wednesday market dates back to the 1920s, once counting Dr Mahathir among its traders. At Pekan Rabu’s 347 stalls, you can buy local snacks, handicrafts and souvenirs.

Pekan Rabu shops

Unearth forgotten stories at the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum

Ancient artefacts, Bujang Valley

Those with a keen interest in history will know that the Malayan Peninsula once belonged to a series of Buddhist and Hindu empires. In Kedah, Malaysia’s oldest state, this distant past truly comes alive with the tales told at the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum. Here, you’ll see artefacts from the 3rd to the 14th centuries AD that show the valley’s importance among Arab, Chinese, Malay and Indian merchants. It also grants a remarkable glimpse at day to day life in the era, with its collection of ceramics, and a stone tablet commissioned by a 5th century sailor to give thanks for a safe voyage. Outside, you can explore a complex of candis, ancient temples that bear some similarities to Indonesia’s Borobudur and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Also read: Angkor Wat – The Most Ancient Seven Wonders of The World

Candi, Bujang Valley

Retreat to Gunung Jerai

Gunung Jerai

Rising 1,217m above sea level, Gunung Jerai is Kedah’s tallest mountain and has served as a navigational aid to seafarers for 1,500 years. Ascending to the summit is a popular pursuit for cyclists, and with 8,560 hectares of land around the peak gazetted as a forest reserve, there are many unspoiled trails to traverse. Near the top of the mountain, you’ll find The Regency Jerai Hill Resort, a luxurious hideaway that offers panoramic views of the coastline, Pulau Bunting and Langkawi in the distance.

Also read: 8 Obscure Islands in Malaysia for an Exotic Beach Vacation

Pick your own fruits at Bukit Bintang Agriculture Centre

Vineyard, Perlis

Plantations are a common sight in Malaysia, but Perlis specialises in something quite unusual for this part of the world – grapes. You don’t have to go to Australia or France to see sprawling vineyards, grape varieties like Black Opal, Black Queen, Loose Perlette and New White Malaga are grown at Bukit Bintang. The best time to visit is from April to June, during the harvest season for Perlis’ legendary harumanis mangos. Close to the agriculture centre, Anjung Keli restaurant is a reliable place to try specialty dishes including grilled catfish and laksa Perlis. Thanks to the influence of Thailand, the state’s cuisine has both spicy and sour qualities, not to mention strong herbal flavours not found as prominently in the food of the south.

Also read: FOOD WAR! Singapore vs Malaysia – Who’s Better?

Grilled catfish

Get a taste for caving at Gua Kelam Recreational Park

Gua Kelam, or the Cave of Darkness, is one the unique features of the spectacular range of limestone hills that runs through Perlis. A hanging bridge takes you through the 370m hollow, passing flowstones, limestone straws, gour pools and colonies of resident bats. The remnants of an old tin mining operation can be seen at the entrance.

Also read: Explore the Mighty Jungles of Sabah, Malaysia

Shop at Padang Besar and Wang Kelian

At the crossroads of two countries and two cultures, commerce flourishes in the towns of Padang Besar and Wang Kelian. Padang Besar is the busier of the two and is known for the ZON Emas Kerajang Duty Free Complex. Situated between the Thai and Malaysian checkpoints, you can stock up on alcohol, perfumes, cosmetics, luxury goods and chocolates whichever way you’re heading. The scene is a lot more rustic at Wang Kelian as the town brims with activity during its Sunday market. The market is spread over both sides of the border, but a special agreement allows visitors to shop freely without the need for passports.

Also read: Kuala Lumpur Shopping Guide to 1Malaysia Year End Sale


Paddy fields outside Alor Setar

During our visit we stayed at TH Hotel & Convention Centre Alor Setar where rooms are available for about $70 a night. Located along tranquil paddy fields 10km outside of town, the hotel overlooks the Sultan Abdul Halim Airport.

Also read: 8-Days Quick Guide to the Best of Malaysia

This trip was made possible by Tourism Malaysia and Tigerair.

About Author

Kurt Ganapathy

Book your flights first and worry about everything else later - that's Kurt's travel philosophy. An advocate of the scenic route, he believes that the best way to see a country is by road or rail, whether it's taking a bus around Fiji or climbing into the mountains of Northern Vietnam. If you ever need to find him on his adventures, just head to wherever the bars are.


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