• History • People & Culture • Economy • Alor Setar •
• Shop & Dine • Getting There • Travel Tips • Weather •
Kedah has a long history; the Bujang Valley has remains of a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom that dates back to the 4th century AD, making it the oldest civilization of Peninsular Malaysia. Before the sea route around the peninsula was firmly established, trade between India and China was conducted across the peninsular isthmus. The current royal family can trace its line directly back to this time.
The region came under the influence of the Sumatran kingdom of Sri Vijaya in the 7th and 8th century, followed by a period during which Kedah was dominated by
the Thai states to the north. Kedah's ancient civilization waned in importance by
the 15th century, when Malacca assumed a more dominant role.
The establishment of Islam in Kedah is due to Malacca's influence. When Malacca fell to the Portuguese, the influence of its Sultanate over Kedah weakened.
However, other powers soon asserted themselves in Kedah, including both the Portuguese and the rising Achenese, and by the end of the 18th century the Thai threat arose once more. Fearing renewed domination by its northern neighbours, Kedah appealed to the British for assistance. As inducements to a commitment, Kedah ceded first Penang (1796) and then the adjoining strip of coastal land (1800) to the British.
Nonetheless, Kedah fell to the Thais in 1821. Thailand transferred their sovereignty to the British in 1909. With the exception of the period of occupation by the Japanese during World War II, Kedah remained under British influence until independence.
The Kedah Sultanate began when the 9th Kedah Maharaja Derbar Raja
(1136-1179 AD) converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah. Since then there have been 27 Sultans who ruled Kedah
People & Culture
Like Malaysia's other states, Kedah has its share of rich cultural traditions,
songs and dances. Due to its close proximity to Thailand, some of these
traditions are Thai in influence and origin, and faces of Kehah's people often bear signs of Thai or Achinese ancestry. The people of Kedah are generally padi
planters with most living in kampungs next to their fields.
Kedah's population of about one million is primarily Malay, though there are significant Chinese and Indian minorities.
The state's ethnic composition in 1995 was estimated as: 72% Malay,
19% Chinese, 8% Indian and 1% Others.
Together with Perlis, Perak, and Kelantan, this northwest state shares a common border with Thailand in the north. Known as the "Rice Bowl of Malaysia", the
Kedah-Perlis rice plains produce more than half of the country's home grown rice supply. Other agricultural products, including rubber, oil palm and tobacco are
also important. Although predominantly an agriculture-based State, the State is, shifting its economic thrust from agriculture to industry. Industrial estates have sprung up in Alor Setar, Kuala Kedah, and Sungai Petani while the government
has started developing and promoting tourist facilities.
Tourism, particularly on the island of Langkawi is of growing importance.
Alor Setar is the capital of Kedah and provides easy access to the Thai border
and the rest of Kedah. Like all towns in Kedah, Alor Setar still retains its old
world charms. Most of the places of interest are within walking distance.
Alor Setar has a population of 220.000 people. The city is a major center for trade
in rice and rubber. It's also the residence
of the Sultan of Kedah..
Shop & Dine
Like Malaysia's other states, there are shops and modern malls in most major towns, as also are the presence of western fast food outlets such as
Mc Donald's and KFC.
The state offers mouth-watering recipes of Kedah cuisine, which is not only unique but also prepared fast enough to whet the appetite of everybody. It has a wide variety of Thai, Chinese, Malay, and Indian food to choose from. Traditional local dishes, which are favorites, are ‘gulai nangka’, ‘sayur keladi’, and ‘pekasam’. ‘Nasi ulam’ is another local food which is prepared by blending rice with varied fresh vege's and spices. ‘Pulut’, or glutinous rice is an old-time favorite of the
northerners and is taken with fruit such as mango, durian and even banana.
Other pulut delicacies are ‘pulut sambal’, ‘pulut inti’, and ‘tapai pulut’. ‘Laksa’ is rice noodles taken with a preparation of thick fish gravy and cucumber, onion and shoots. Popular sweet cakes are ‘baulu’ and the ‘dodol’ – a preparation of
coconut, sugar, and flour.
Kuala Kedah, a busy fishing town and a jumping off point to Langkawi Island, is famous for its ‘Laksa Kuala Kedah’, a local delicacy of thick rice vermicelli and spicy fish gravy. Two floating seafood restaurants converted from fishing vessels
add to the town’s attraction.
The food stalls at Pantai Murni Esplanade is a great place to relish the wide-range of local foods. Take your pick from an array of spicy Malaysian and Kedah favorites. Your best choice would be the varied preparations of fresh seafoods such as chilli crabs, grilled squids, fish or prawns. The breezy esplanade draws the crowd to its excellent panorama of beautiful sunset amidst the speckle of islands beyond
If you love sea products, you may go to Tanjung Dawai, it's a fishing village.
You can find salted fish, fish crackers, salted sea food etc. sold in the Bazaar.
The Bazaar is very small. From Tanjung Dawai you can see Pantai Merdeka.
HANDICRAFTS & SHOPPING
The famous ‘Pekan Rabu’ (Wednesday Market), consisting of many small stalls offers a variety of products, ranging from farm produce to handicrafts. Local delicacies and Kedah food is also available here.
Opens from morning to midnight.
Consider picking up something from Langkawi Crystal. Gorgeous crystal pieces, both decorative and functional, skillfully crafted and blown. Also look out for the famous Langkawi Marble, with marble from the legendary Pulau Dayang Bunting.
Being a border state with Thailand, Kedah has a border entry point at Bukit Kayu Hitam.
Malaysia Airlines flies daily into Alor Setar and rail services link Alor Setar with various big and small towns along the North South track across the peninsula.
The north-south expressway has made it easy for any traveler to drive
up to Kedah. Roads are accessible from major towns and cities in the Peninsula.
It is a 7-8 hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.
From major towns, such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang, air-conditioned express buses are also available. They service almost all towns in Kedah.
From Alor Setar, the capital city of Kedah, one can even take the bus up to the border of Thailand.
The Malaysian railway (KTM) services major towns in Kedah.
The airport is located approximately 11km north of Alor Setar.
Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia flies daily to and from Alor Setar from
Kuala Lumpur via either Penang or Kota Bharu.
Weekends & Holidays
It has different business hours than most of the other states. Banks and
government offices are closed on Friday. Saturday is a half-day and Sunday
is a working day.
During public holidays, school holidays and the long weekends,
are peak seasons and resort bookings such as in Langkawi may not be
available, unless it is made early.
Cash & Credit Cards
Credit cards are generally accepted, except at certain small towns
and establishments. Similarly, ATM machines are also widely available
especially at the bigger towns. Cash would always be the better option.
Money changers are easily available at the popular resort island of Langkawi and generally so at most major towns in the state.
Into & Background
Sights & Visits