The state of Kedah spans approximately 9, 425 sq. km in the northern part of the Peninsular and together with Perlis, Perak and Kelantan, shares a common border with neighbouring Thailand. It is a fairly small state. Its population is about one million primarily Malay, though significant Chinese and Indian minorities can be seen. It is known as the “Rice Bowl of Malaysia” where its rice plains together with Perlis produce more than half of the country’s home grown rice supply. Its state capital is Alor Setar.
Kedah’s early history can be traced from the prehistoric period to the archeological site of Bujang Valley, the early Maritime trade of India, Persia, Arabs to the written works of the early Chinese pilgrims and early Chinese records, the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa or known as the Kedah Annals to the Al-Tarikh Salasilah Negeri Kedah. Kedah was also known as Kedaram, Kidaram, Kalagam and Kataha by the Tamils. It was known as Kalah or Kalaha by the Persians. Kedah possess numerous islands, legends, historical relics, hill stations and scenic waterfalls. The legendary and famous island Langkawi is just off Kedah’s western shore. It has Bujang Valley, where evidence of the existence of an early civilisation dating back to the 6th century was found with other archeological discoveries. Not to mention its vast paddy fields spans across the backdrop of rolling hills which provides serenity and breathtaking views. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the region was dominated by Sri Vijaya. It followed by the Siamese until the 15th century, when the Malay sultanate of Melaka came to power. During this period, the Melakan influences were introduced while the dominant aspects of Kedah’s ancient civilisation began to wane.In the 17th century, Kedah was attacked by the Portuguese when it conquered various parts of Malaysia. In 1821, Kedah fell into the hands of the Siamese and remained under their control until British took over when the Anglo-Siamese Treaty was signed in 1909. Kedah established independence along with the rest of Malaysia in 1957. As Kedah is quite close to Thailand, some of its cultural traditions, songs and dances have Thai influences in them. Apart from that, even Kedah’s people often bear signs of Thai or Archinese ancestry looks.
WHERE TO GO ?
Off the coast of Kedah is a cluster of 99 islands offering the best of many worlds: beautiful beaches, world- class infrastructure, mangroves rich in flora and fauna, ultra- cheap duty-free shopping and fascinating legends. Langkawi has a lingering legend woven into its history. Ask anyone on the island about the tragic story of a beautiful young lady named Mahsuri, and you’ll hear a tale of love, jealousy and a curse that was placed upon the island by her for seven generations. Today, the seventh generation of Langkawi’s inhabitants has long come and gone, but people here still believe that the prosperity and blessings the islands enjoy today and the passing of the curse is no mere coincidence. The mysticism of this legend can be felt in many parts of this island, especially at Makam Mahsuri (Mahsuri’s Mausoleum), where Mahsuri is said to be buried. Despite what looks like a slant towards tourism, many of the islanders are actually farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs. Experience the beautiful countryside and peaceful landscape of paddy fields by renting a car and taking a leisurely drive around the island. Some of Langkawi’s most rustic and memorable views are along the road that circles the island.
Langkawi Cable Car
At 709 metres above sea level, the cable car ride up to Langkawi’s second highest peak is truly an experience not to be missed. Throughout the 20-minute ride, you will pass over jungle waterfalls and a thick carpet of virgin rainforest. On a clear day, you can see parts of Thailand towards the north and Indonesia towards the south-west. Travelling at a steep incline of 42 degrees, over a distance of 2.2 kilometres from the base station to the two mountain-top stations, even the gentlest breeze is enough to send one’s stomach churning. But once you get used to the sensation of being airborne, the ride quickly turns into an amazing, exhilarating experience. At the top, a sky bridge offers a breathtaking view of Langkawi. Remember to wear comfortable shoes as it is quite a walk up to the hanging bridge. The cable car operates from 10am to 7pm, subject to weather conditions. The service may be halted during strong winds
Pulau Payar Marine Park, Langkawi
The sprinkling of jade green islands that make up Pulau Payar lie just 30km south- east of Langkawi. From here, it is a 1-hour boat ride out to the best marine park on Malaysia’s West Coast, making it an ideal choice for a day outing. This well-preserved, uninhabited marine park extends over a number of islands, with Pulau Payar being the largest. Your base out here is the floating platform moored off Pulau Payar. But the real attraction of this platform lies below sea level. Step into the underwater observation chamber to view the marine life surrounding a reef. Want to get even closer to the swirl of fishes that make these corals their home? Grab a mask, a snorkel and fins and join the spectacle! If you’re into scuba diving, the best diving is along the reef system that skirts the south, east and west of Pulau Payar. Please check with your dive operator what the visibility is while you’re there, as conditions vary.
Dayang Bunting Lake or
‘Tasik Dayang Bunting’, Langkawi
The island, which is about 20 kilometres from Kuah town, is modestly populated on one side and virtually uninhabited on the other where the lake is situated. The legend of Tasik Dayang Bunting goes like this: The favourite bathing pool of a celestial princess named Mambang Sari was said to be Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden). A prince, Mat Teja, fell madly in love with her and tricked her into marrying him. Sadly, their child died from a mysterious illness at the age of seven days. Distraught, the grieving Mambang Sari left the child’s body in the lake and returned to her heavenly abode. Today, some believe that barren women who bathe in this lake will be endowed with a child.
Alor Setar Tower
Located in the heart of Alor Setar, this 165.5-metre tower is one of the tallest telecommunications tower in the world. It is a prominent and modern landmark that signifies the rapid development in the state of Kedah. At its tip is the Seri Angkasa Revolving Restaurant which specialises in a variety of sumptious local as well as international cuisine. From here, one can enjoy a spectacular view of Alor Setar and nearby Butterworth. On clear days, you can even try to spot the neighbouring country of Thailand! Besides landmark-spotting, the tower also serves as an observatory tower from which to look for the crescent moon to mark the beginning of Muslim months. The observation deck stands at a height of 88 metres from the base of the structure.
Kilim River Cruise, Langkawi
Spread over an area of 100sq. km, Kilim Nature Park features a beautiful mix of well protected green mangrove forests, isolated white beaches and blue lagoons. Along the trail, passing through calm winding rivers, you will be exposed to the wonders of the park’s marine ecosystem, flora and fauna and its natural habitats. Some tour operators will stop at a special spot along the river where they feed the eagles, found in great numbers here. These include the white- bellied fish eagle, brahminy kite and gigantic sea eagles. Kilim River is also a great place for some birdwatching during the migratory seasons in September and March. After feeding the eagles, the boats will move downstream and soon, the Andaman Sea, located in the northern coast, comes into view as they exit the Kilim River through The Hole in the Wall. This is a famous passage so named after a narrow opening between formidable walls of limestone cliffs that connect the river to the open sea.
This narrow gap provides a sheltered area for a thriving fish farm and mooring for yachts. The farm adopts a very hands-on approach, encouraging visitors to hand-feed the multitude of marine life such as groupers, bat fish, blue spotted stingrays, lobsters, mantis prawns and snappers.
Datai Bay, Langkawi
Datai Bay is situated at the north-west corner of Langkawi island and has boasting rights to the most exclusive golf resort on the island – the Datai Bay Golf Resort. Another exclusive establishment here is the Datai Langkawi Resort: luxurious, elite and indulgent. There are several jungle trails that take you down to the peaceful Datai Bay beach. There is also a crocodile farm on the way to Datai Bay where you can watch the crocodiles as part of entertaining shows in the morning and afternoon.
Pekan Rabu, literally translated “Wednesday Market”, is a well-known attraction among both the locals and tourists from outside Kedah. From its humble beginnings as a weekly market operating from an attap-roofed shack, it has since expanded into a multi- storey arcade selling a wide range of traditional delicacies, handicraft products and apparel. It is one of the best places to get traditional Malay foods such as serunding, dodol durian, kuah rojak and garam belacan. For its success, the business complex has become a source of pride among the Malay community in Kedah for helping encourage Malays to take an active role in commerce.
Tree Top Walk Sungai Sedim
The 950m-long Tree Top Walk in the Sedim River Recreation Park is the longest canopy walk in the world. The Tree Top Walk Sedim River was built within the low land of dipterocarp compartment 15 of Gunung Inas Forest Reserve. The spectacular view you get when you stroll through the jungle canopy is the main draw for visitors from far and wide to this quiet, all-natural corner of Kedah. Strolling high above the ground of this primeval rainforest affords visitors an unexpected and exciting perspective.
One of Kedah’s most distinctive architectural landmarks, Masjid Zahir or Zahir Mosque stands as an elegant example of Malay- Islamic architecture. Built in 1912, it is one of the oldest mosques in the country. The design was inspired by the vision of the late Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Abidin II. Its five large, black domes symbolise the Five Pillars of Islam. Located in central Alor Setar, it is the official mosque for the state as well as the main mosque for local Muslims and the venue for the annual Koran reading competition.
Ulu Legong Hot Spring
The Ulu Legong Hot Spring Recreational Centre, located 22km from Baling, is a popular spot for those wanting to enjoy a therapeutic soak in its hot mineral waters. As the only hot spring in operation 24 hours, a hot dip is particularly gratifying when the temperature decreases at night. Apart from those seeking relaxation, people with ailments and skin problems go there to seek therapeutic treatment by immersing themselves in the five hot spring pools which contain high sulphuric content and water temperatures between 30ºC and 60ºC.
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum,
Bukit Batu Pahat
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum is the only museum in Malaysia to display archeological artifacts proving the existence of international trade and development of the Hindu Buddha religion in South-East Asia in the 3rd – 12th century. This museum is located at the top of Bukit Batu Pahat, Merbok, Kedah about 23 km from Sungai Petani. It was built to facilitate in research and archaeological excavation works as well as a display centre for proto- historical artifacts before the coming of Islam at Bujang Valley. The museum was opened on 23 January, 1980 by Al-Sultan Almu’tasimu Muhibbuddin Tuanku Alhaj Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Badlishah, Sultan Kedah Darul Aman (The sultan is currently the 13th Agung of Malaysia). Archaeological artifacts displayed at the museum were obtained from excavations at sites around 400 km2 at Bujang Valley. These artifacts are proof that the area was a trading hub for travellers from the East and West, especially Chinese, Indian and traders from the Malay Archipelago that traded in spices and exotic resources from the rainforests for markets in the Far East since the 5th Century.
Candi Bendang Dalam (Site 50), Bukit Batu Pahat
Discovered at Kampung Bendang Dalam Merbok in the 1960s, this temple structure is situated to the west of Sungai Bujang. Research and excavation works were later carried out in 1974, 1976 and 1981 by the Department of Museum and Antiquities. With Hindu influences prevalent throughout the temple, its structure such as the Vimana (6.75 meters x 6.25 meters) and the Mandapa (6.75 meters x 6.20 meters) were built using laterite, devoid of foundation. The structure is estimated to have been built during the 12th to 13th century.
Gok/Bau, Jeniang, Kampung Gading
Research carried out at Sungai Batu uncovered a complete kiln, left with the base. The kiln that was discovered with its ‘tuyere’ at Kampung Gading, Jeniang, also provides a rough pictorial image of kilns used at Sungai Batu. Sediments and traces of coal discovered in the kiln dates from the 4th Century (1600 years ago) to the 12th Century (800 years ago). Although the distance between Sungai Batu and Jeniang were 40 km apart, the iron/ore smelting industry occurred around the same time. This distance indicated that the dynasty involved in the iron industry was more than 1000 sq feet.
Candi Pengkalan Bujang (Site 19, 22 dan 23),
Candi Pengkalan Bujang is believed to have built in the 10th to 14th century, and is identified as an entrepot. The site was identified by Dr. Quaritch Wales during his scouting trips carried out from 1936 – 1937. Excavation works started in 1974 and were carried out by the Department of Museum and Antiquities. From 1986 to 1991, the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum in collaboration with professors and students from the History Faculty, Universiti Kebangsaan malaysia carried out and excavation project at the complex in Mukim Bujang, especially at Site 23.This lead to the discovery of six stupas in an area of 3.5 hectares. This excavation was carried out to obtain data on the variety of artifacts and compared it to the site at Sungai Mas. The architecture of the stupa had influences of Hinduisme – Buddhisme
Kota Kuala Muda, Muara Sungai Muda
This city is situated at the mouth of Sungai Muda, in the south of Kedah. It is estimated to have been built in the 18th Century. In its heyday, the city was an important trading post in Asia. Goods traded here included silver and spices that attracted traders from China, India, Portugal, Netherlands and England. The lack of land transportation contributed to the it’s prosperity. The city progressed rapidly in 1786 with the opening of Penang as a trading hub. Trading goods such as silver were brought in from Kedah, Perak had to pass Kuala Kedah first. Tax was also levied on ships plying its waters, and Kuala Muda became a prosperous and busy trade city. In 1804, the development of trade in the city attracted the attention of Kedah’s Sultan, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah in Alor Setar. He later moved to Kuala Muda, and a castle was built at nearby Pulau Tiga. His presence in Kuala Muda help the city to flourish. In 1875, the city made history when Raja Ismail of Perak used it as a hideout to run away from the English after killing J.W.W Birch. He remained hidden for six months before eventually surrendering to the English.
Tapak warisan Sungai Batu
Research and excavation at the archaeological site in Sungai Batu, Bujang Valley started in February 2009. This site has been identified as the civilisation complex at Bujang Valley with an area more than 3km2, with 90 small hills. Its locations by the riverflow of Sungai Batu and its tributaries, made it unique in that each separate tributary formed its own island. Hence, the location of Sungai Batu was important due to its strategic location for trading and defence activities. This site is less than 10 km from Sungai Petani, and 80 km from Alor Setar. It is located in an oil palm estate, near the Merbok-Semeling road.
Set in a craggy, almost magical setting of limestone outcroppings rising sharply out of the calm Andaman Sea, the mangrove forest in Langkawi is really an intricate network of streams and hidden coves that are home to hundreds of endemic jungle species of wildlife. Among the most exciting of these are the brahminy kites and huge sea eagles that nest in the crags overhead. One of the best ways to discover this usually inaccessible mangrove world is to join the regular small boat tours available. The highlight of any tour to the mangroves is the feeding of the eagles. Your boatman will throw food into the water near your boat and wait for these huge birds to circle overhead and swoop in for their ‘lunch’.
Mangrove tours can include jungle trekking, cave exploration, village visits, high tide swims and guided explorations of mangrove flora and fauna.
The Bujang Valley or Lembah Bujang is a sprawling historical complex situated near Merbok, Kedah. Once the site of the Srivijaya Empire, an ancient Malay kingdom dating back from the first few centuries to the 12th century, it is the richest archaeological area in Malaysia. Over the years, numerous artefacts have been uncovered in the Bujang Valley – celadon, porcelain, stoneware, clay, pottery, fragments of glass, beads and Persian ceramics – evidences that Bujang Valley was once a centre of international and entrepot trade in the region. More than 50 ancient Hindu or Buddhist temples, called candi, have also been unearthed, adding to the spirituality of the place. The most well-preserved of these is located in Pengkalan Bayang Merbok, which is also where the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum is located. This museum is the first archaeology museum built in Malaysia, under the Museum and Antiquity Department.
Mahathir’s Birthplace or ‘Rumah Kelahiran Mahathir’
Mahathir’s Birthplace, or “Rumah Kelahiran Mahathir”, provides an insight into the younger days of the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, from his school days to his success as a doctor. Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad was born in Alor Setar on Dec 20, 1925 at No. 18 Lorong Kilang Ais, off Jalan Pegawai. A humble wooden home with the roof made of nipah palm, the single room house was designated a historical building and restored by the National Archives in 1992.
Pulau Beras Basah, Langkawi
Located at the western tip of Langkawi, Pulau Beras Basah offers a relaxing getaway with its pristine beaches and lush green forest. Visitors to this island usually come as part of a 4- hour island hopping tour, which includes Pulau Singa Besar and Pulau Dayang Bunting. Almost every travel agency in Langkawi would be able to assist you in arranging the island hopping tour. As the island isn’t very commercialised, don’t expect the place to be abuzz with activity. Rather, take some time out for yourself and relax with a book, sunbathe, or go for a refreshing swim in the clear blue waters.
The Paddy Museum
The Paddy Museum is the first of its kind in Malaysia, and the fourth to be opened in the world after Japan, Germany and the Philippines. 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 artwork of 60 artists from North Korea, the history of paddy cultivation in Malaysia is revealed. Honouring the history, culture and significance of paddy farming in Kedah, the museum 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.