Alor Setar, formerly known as Alor Star, is the state capital of Kedah and situated on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This second largest city in Kedah—after Sungai Petani—is also declared as the richest for its Malay culture and influence to daily life. Paddy fields stretch along the outskirt of the city, which also crowns Alor Setar with its reputation as ‘the rice bowl of Malaysia’.
Alor Setar is well connected by easy roads, domestic flights, and ferries.
Alor Setar is accessible by driving via the North-South Expressway, stretching from Bukit Kayu Hitam (Malaysian border town to Thailand) to Singapore. From Kuala Lumpur, it takes six to seven hours to reach Alor Setar, while it only takes 1,5 hours from Penang.
Alor Setar’s Shahab Perdana Terminal is the arrival point of local and regional buses. It is also the main terminal to go to any other towns in Kedah and Thailand as well.
Buses to Alor Setar from major cities
Kereta api Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) Langkawi Express departs from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai in Thailand and stops at Alor Setar railway station en route. The station is located at Jalan Stesen, accessible via Jalan Selamat.
From KL Sentral Kuala Lumpur: overnight train No. 20, Langkawi Express (also known as Senandung Langkawi), departs at 10:00 PM and arrives at Alor Setar at 07:54 AM on the next day. Fare starts from 22.00 MYR for second class seat, 39.00 MYR for first class seat, 45.00/51.00 MYR for second class sleeper beds, and 92.00/101.00 MYR for first class sleeper beds. To go to Kuala Lumpur, catch the same train service with No. 21, leaving at 7:55 PM.
Another choice is to depart from Butterworth station, Penang, by Ekspres Antarbangsa train No. 36 to Bangkok. Train departs at 2 PM and arrives at Alor Setar at 3:53 PM. From Bangkok, Thailand, you can catch the same train No. 35, departing at 2:45 PM (local time) and arriving at Alor Setar at 11:09 AM on the next day.
Alor Setar’s new and modern airport Sultan Abdul Halir Airport (or Alor Setar Airport, AOR) serves daily flights from Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air, AisAsia, and Firefly air carriers. The Malaysian Airline System also connects the city with direct flight to hajj flight destination Madinah and Jeddah.
The airport is located approximately 15 kilometres to the north of the city, at Kepala Batas.
Despite its name, Pekan Rabu (Wednesday Market) is a market that operates all week from morning to evening. The stalls at the market, which is situated at Jalan Tunku Ibrahim, sell various things from food to handicrafts. It is also a haven for Malay street foods with cheap price, such as batang buruk (Kedah’s traditional cake), sagun (cake made of sago flour), and pekasam (preserved fishes ikan sepat, ikan puyuh, ikan lampani). This popular tourist spot can be easily found in front of the market’s main bus stop.
Alor Setar Tower, a 165,5 meters high tower overlooking the city, is the landmark of Alor Setar. Though its main function is as telecommunication tower, visitors can enter the tower to enjoy the panoramic view of the whole city and its surroundings. Moreover, there is a 360o Revolving Restaurant at the tower, also meeting room that functions as art and cultural activities centre.
As a state mosque of Kedah, the Zahir Mosque possesses an everlasting and detailed beauty of its Victorian style within this white mosque building. It is built in a huge area of 124,412 square feet. The mosque, which is also voted as one of the top 10 most beautiful mosques in the world, measures 62x62 square feet with five large domes symbolizing Five Pillars of Islam. The mosque’s construction dates back to 1912, and was officially opened on 15 October 1915. Zahir State Mosque is located at Jalan Sultan Muhaman Jiwa.
Alor Setar’s Buddhist Shrine, Wat Nikrodharam, is also one of the most impressive religious sites in Malaysia. Deeply influenced by Thai elements and accentuated with Chinese ornaments, the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist temple is also decorated with colorful mosaics. The shrine is located at Jalan Teluk Wan Jah and can be easily spotted next to Alor Setar’s main roundabout.
Muzium Diraja, also called Royal Kedah Museum, is formerly a royal palace built in 1936. The architecture is infused with Thai style, housing a repertoire of Kedah’s royal families’ photographs. Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tuanku Abdul Rahman’s memorabilias are also displayed here. Outside the building, a number of ancient cannons display and beautiful garden bring the old colonial-styled palace. Please note that you are not allowed to wear your shoes and taking photos inside is also prohibited.
Muzium Diraja is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. It is closed on Friday, from 12-3 PM during Friday Prayers. There is no admission fee to enter the museum.