Alor Star (Malay: Alor Setar) is the state capital of Kedah, on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is arguably the state capital on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia that is richest in Malay culture.
Despite the development and being the state capital, tourists are able to enjoy the scenic view of paddy plantations around the outskirts of the city.
Alor Star is easily (and most practically) accessible using the North-South Expressway. A bus trip from Kuala Lumpur should cost you around RM40 and will take about 6-7 hours of travelling time. Bus services from Bukit Kayu Hitam are also available for visitors from Thailand.
There is an inter-city train station located in the city that serves trains to all major stations.
Being the capital state of Kedah, travel via air to Alor Star is as practical as via land. Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia serve daily flights from Kuala Lumpur, lasting 55 minutes; while Firefly offers daily flights from Kuala Lumpur via the city airport of Skypark Terminal in Subang. From the airport, travellers can take a taxi to Alor Star city centre, which is 13km away.
- Wat Nikrodharam - The capital's biggest, most prominent, and most architecturally impressive Buddhist temple complex strategically located in downtown Alor Setar. Built in Thai temple architecture with gilded roofs and colourful mosaic walls, it is a peaceful oasis for the city dwellers and caters to the mainly Chinese and Thai Buddhist populations.
- Balai Seni Negeri (State Art Gallery) - The Kedah State Art Gallery was set up with the objective of fostering interest in and an appreciation of art in the state. Its collection includes paintings, photographs, musical instruments and handicrafts. Temporary exhibitions are held at regular intervals.
- Balai Nobat (Nobat Gallery) - This building houses the sacred instruments of the Royal orchestra, played only during royal ceremonies such as inaugurations, weddings and funerals. The instruments consist of three drums, a gong and a flute, peculiar to the haunting strains of "nobat" music.
- Balai Besar (Royal Hall) - 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.
- Mahathir Birthplace - The fourth Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, was born on 10 July, 1925 at the house near the ice factory at Kampung Seberang Perak.
- Masjid Zahir (Zahir State Mosque) - The Zahir Mosque occupies a site of approximately 124,412 square feet. Its center hall (Prayer Hall) measures 62 x 62 square feet and is surrounded by verandahs of 8 feet wide with 4 mezzanine areas, each of which has a dome. The main dome is located at the north-east of the mosque building. It is one of the grandest and oldest mosques in Malaysia.
- Menara Alor Star (Alor Star Tower) - Located in the heart of Alor Setar, this tower, standing at 165.5 metres 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. In the tower is a rotating restaurant named Restoran Sri Angkasa.
- Kota Kuala Kedah (Kuala Kedah Fort) - Kota Kuala Kedah at the mouth of the Kedah River is also known as Kota Kuala Bahang. Kota means fort and this was actually a fort that was built to ward off Kedah's enemies who came from the sea. It is said to have been built by stone masons especially brought in from India. Today, it is a fishing village, known for the variety of seafood that is served by the numerous restaurants that have since carved their business at the old historic site.
- Muzium Padi - This is a museum that teaches all you need to know about paddy and rice; from the process of planting and harvesting, and all the way to the benefits and the many grades of rice. Entrance fee is applicable. The main attraction within the museum is the rotating deck, showcasing a large 360-degree mural depicting the four phases from planting to harvesting. On weekends, you may also experience riding the Malaysia traditional mode of transportation, the cow-caravan or kereta lembu.
- Royal House At Lorong Shariff (Palace Beside Kedai Runcit)- 2km from city, displays the most magnificent contemporary Malaysian housing architecture of the 1980's.
- Car tour of Yan - only if you arrive by car from south, exit North-South Expressway at Sungai Petani (30 km to south), drive to Merbok to see archealogy museum, then to Tanjong Dawai fishing village, buy belacan (shrimp paste used for cooking), then to Yan town, proceed to Kuala Kedah fort then have dinner at Perindu, a seafood place. Then to downtown hotel. This tour takes leisurely 6 hours.
General shopping can be made around the city. Alor Star offers a wide variety of goods, whether they are local or imported. Souvenirs can be purchase at Alor Star's main tourist destination.
Main shopping spots are:
- Pekan Rabu - Located in front of Pekan Rabu's main bus stop. It offers local goods such including traditional food and crafts.
- City Plaza - The major shopping complex in Alor Star. Sitting together with Holiday Villa Hotel, the complex offers entertainment, shopping and food. It has restaurants, bowling alleys, arcade center, cineplexes and shops that sell cloths, shoes, mobile phones and souvenirs.
- Star Parade - Another major shopping spot in Alor Star. It has Malaysia's very own Pacific Departmental Store. The mall offers a wide variety of shops.
- Alor Star Mall - The mall is located near the North-South Expressway EXIT Alor Star Selatan/South. It is one of the newest malls in Alor Star which has another Pacific Store. Alor Star Mall's Pacific Store offers a wide range of clothing for men, women and children. The brands include Levi's, Adidas and Diesel.
- Souq Al-Bukhary - The newest mall and bazaar in Alor Star, in which Giant hypermarket, a local hypermarket establishment, is the anchor tenant. It is considered as the modern version of Pekan Rabu.
- Persiaran Sultan Abdul Hamid (Sultan Abdul Hamid Drive) - Located in Jalan Pegawai, it is the best drive in Alor Star. The drive has spas, boutiques, restaurants, antique shop etc. Anything you can imagine.
- Plaza Putra, Jalan Putra (Opposite Rex Cinema Jalan Putra). 11 PM. The only technology mall that offers the best variety of electronic products in the best price. It was called the "Low Yat" of Alor Star.
- Fishermen's Ikan Kembong, famous warong (roadside eatery) on road to Kuala Kedah, at junction of road to Yan. Place open only from 11AM to 1PM. Real fishermen's cuisine liked by the townfolks.
- Laksa Telok Kechai, midway on the Alor Star - Kuala Kedah road. Famous local rice noodle in fish gravy. Inconspicuous shop, ask locals. Open from 7PM until midnight.
- Haddyai Seafoods, Jalan Stadium - Thai & Chinese Style foods.
- Non Muslim
- Jalan Putra
- Kuit Tiao Teng (2nd Road)
- Karipok (2nd Road)
- Sentosa Restaurant, 250, Jalan Putra, 05100, Alor Setar (Inside Sentosa Regency Hotel), ☎ 604-7303999, . 11AM-11PM. Sentosa Restaurant is the top fining dining restaurant in Alor Setar. It offers variety of international and local cuisine. RM 7 onwards for a Main Course.
Choices of hotels in Alor Star is very small but you still can get some pleasant sleep in these modern hotels:
- Sentosa Regency Hotel, 250, Jalan Putra, 05100, Alor Setar, Kedah (Opposite Shell Petrol Station in Jalan Putra), ☎ 04-7303999, . checkin: 2 PM; checkout: 12 PM. Easily accessible. Free WIFI throughout the hotel, spacious pillerless ballroom and function rooms. One of the famous hawker food streets is within walking distance. RM 118 nett.
- Grand Continental Hotel, in the middle of the city, beside Kedah Supermarket and near Pekan Rabu. The hotel is well-known for its food, especially during Ramadan (fasting) month.
- Holiday Villa - in the middle of the city, adjacent to City Plaza shopping center. 4-star rating.
- Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar, Jalan Stadium, Alor Setar City Center (12 km away from the Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in Kepala Batas), ☎ +604 730 8737, . All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, television, refrigerator and shower. Some of its facilities and services are Cafe Seri Sayang, convenience store, garden terrace, meeting facilities, 24-hr security, 24-hr reception, massage services, 24-hr room service, Wi-Fi in public areas. Rates start at MYR140.00.
- StarCity Hotel, 604-7355 888 is easily accessible and is near the Jalan Putra commercial area. The hotel has complete ported and wireless connectivity throughout its guest rooms, spacious coffee house, ballrooms and function rooms.
- Bee Garden Motel, Tel:604 733 5355 or H/P:6013 488 7799. Easily accessible. The motel is strategically located (1 min from StarCity Hotel).
There are other alternatives to hotel: home stay houses, located at major residential areas (taman in Malay) such as Taman Uda.