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home > Malaysia > Kedah > AS and SP

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My Kedah

Alor Star / Alor Setar

myMalaysiabooks brings you Alor Star (sometimes wrongly spelt as Alor Setar) and Sungai Petani - the two largest towns in Kedah. We share with you our local knowledge of the place. 

  Alor Star the Capital

 State Museum (Masjid Negeri), Alor Setar, Kedah Malaysia

State Museum

You will find the most up-to-date local information and history of these two towns, Alor Star and Sungai Petani, only here at myMalaysiabooks.


Alor Star / Alor Setar is located in the Kota Setar District, northern Kedah and is the capital of the state. This settlement became the capital in 18th century under the reign of 19th sultan, Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Muazzam Shah .

 (note: in 2009 - the Kedah State government decided to change the name of Alor Star back to to Alor Setar! - confusion made by politicians)

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      The town was originally called Kota Setar until 1943 when it was changed to Alor Star. Alor Star is the administrative capital and seat of the state government and legislative assembly. Located here are the government departments, royal palaces, many heritage buildings, museums and cultural centres. Alor Star is the historical enclave of Kedah.  

     Alor Star is said to be derived from the words ‘alor’ which mean river channel and ‘setar’, a tree called pohon setar (Bouea macrophylla). The pohon setar grew along the river banks that flows pass the settlement of Alor Star. In the old days, visitors travelling by boat to the settlement would rest under these trees along the riverbanks. Thus the resting place became known as Alor Star. The local Chinese population refers to the town simply as ‘Ketah’ (Kedah).

     Alor Setar is located on the northern part of Kedah, about 90km from Butterworth, 60 KM from Sungai Petani and over 250km from Kuala Lumpur. A short drive from Alor Star takes you to Kuala Kedah, where you can take a boat to Langkawi island. There is a domestic airport nearby.

Scene of padi fields in Kedah

Masjid Zahir, State Museum, Alor Star, Kedah

Masjid Zahir


What to see in Alor Star

Alor Star TowerBalai Besar (Grand Audience Hall) - this stylish traditional building which served as a royal palace and venue of ceremonies of the Kedah Sultanate. Built in 1898, it embodies certain aspects of Thai architecture. This 'great hall' is used frequently for royal and state functions.

Balai Nobat (Nobat Hall) - This octagonal-shaped tower houses the nobat, the instruments of the state royal orchestra.

Balai Seni Negeri (State Art Gallery)

Dr. Mahathir’s Place of Birth - this simple wooden house was the birthplace of the former Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Dr. Mahatir Mohammad.

Masjid Zahir - One of the most beautiful mosques in the country, Masjid Zahir was officially opened in 1912.

Menara Alor Star (Alor Star Tower) - At 165.5 meters, the Alor Star Tower is the second tallest communications tower in Malaysia. There is also a restaurant above.

Muzium Di Raja (Kedah Royal Museum) - Eight Hindu Maharajas is believed to have ruled Kedah from the 4th century AD before the ninth maharaja who converted to Islam in 1136 and ruled as Sultan Muzaffar Shah. The Sultanate of Kedah is usually traced back to this first sultan and the royal line has been intact for more than eight centuries.

The Kedah Royal Museum (Muzium Di Raja) located in Alor Setar has a mixed of Thai and local architectural design. The original wooden building of the museum was a palace built during the 18th century. In 1983 the palace was converted to the Kedah Royal Museum. The museum houses many interesting collection of objects and artifacts of Kedah's royal and cultural heritage.

Muzium Negeri (State Museum) - The State Museum holds many of the state’s historical treasures some donated by the people of Kedah.

Nikradharam Buddhist Temple - located in the centre of the city is of typical Siamese architecture.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial -  Tunku Abdul Rahman was the first prime Minister of Malaysia.

Wan Mat Saman Canal - This was longest and most renowned canal built in Kedah.

Pekan Rabu Bazaar - the most renowned bazaar in the state. In the Malay language, Pekan Rabu name means ‘Wednesday Market’, but this bazaar opens throughout the week from morning till midnight. The bazaar sell clothing, Asian and local handicraft, and typically Kedah local foodstuff.

Tour of Kedah River  Kedah River cuts the city of Alor Star; a tour will take you pass kampong, and see some of the historical sights of Alor Setar. Take a river ride from the jetty near Masjid Zahir.

Other nearby places


Where to stay

Alor Star Hotels  Kedah

Nearest premier travel destination is Langkawi island

Learn how to get from Alor Star to Langkawi at our Langkawi page


Food in Kedah Malaysia

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Pekan Rabu, Alir Star, Malaysia

Food stalls at Pekan Rabu


Garment stalls at Pekan Rabu




Bujang Valley, Kedah, Malaysia

Office of Tourism Malaysia Kedah

Main Kedah Office: Kompleks Pelancongan Negeri Kedah, Seksyen 20, Jalan Raja, Alor Setar, Kedah; Tel: 04-731 2322Fax: 04-734 0322


Sungai Petani

SP clock tower, Sungai Petani, KedahSungai Petani (better known as SP) is the second largest town in Kedah. From a small urban centre in the 1970’s Sungai Petani grew rapidly in the 1980’s and 90’s from expansion of the manufacturing sector. Today Sungai Petani is the second fastest growing town in Malaysia, after Johor Bahru.

      Sungai Petani in the Malay language literally means Farmer’s River. There are several versions as to how the town got its name. The simplistic version says that the name is derived from the geographical position bounded by two parallel rivers, Sungai Petani and Sungai Pasir. The rivers are said to ‘bertanding’ (in Malay ) or to compete, thus rivers competing is said as ‘sungai bertanding’ or pronounced in local Malay as ‘sungai pataning’. Eventually it became ‘sungai patani’.

      Historians prefer the version that suggests this settlement grew along the trade route from Pattani (Kingdom of Langkasuka) in southern Thailand. The ancient trade route followed the Patani River, across the hilly region of Kedah and eventually follow Sungai Kuala Ketil towards the Merbok estuary (near Bujang Valley). It is believed that the town derives its name from the Patani traders who travelled by these rivers to the Merbok estuary. Many Patani inhabitants came down through this river and eventually settled near the estuary. Sungai Petani had been called Sungai Patani. for years before it was changed in the 1980’s when language experts insisted on the use of correct Malay spelling, perhaps changing the historical significance as well.

     In the 1920’s to the 60’s, Sungai Petani was the backdrop of the rubber industry. With the fall of rubber prices in the 1980’s, the State setup the industrial hub in Sungai Petani. Growth today is centred on the diverse industries established - from electronics to wood-base products. From a population of about 36,000 in 1970, it has grown to 250,000.

     Sungai Petani is about 30 km from Butterworth, and is about 48 minutes drive from Penang island by the toll expressway.


 What to see in SP  

Open market, Kedah Malaysia Shops at Sungai Petani, kedah Bujang Valley Kedah

The Carnivall, Water and Land Theme Park - a latest attraction of SP that opened on 29 December (Water park only) 2006. This boutique theme park is designed by Whitewater West Industries Ltd from Vancouver, Canada, and is located on the grounds of the Cinta Sayang Golf and Country Resort, Sungai Petani. The wet park has a water coaster and a 140m open waterslide. There are many attractions within, including a jungle playground, daily shows and games. Details at

Sungai Petani Clock Tower - Built in 1920, this is the most prominent landmark in Sungai Petani. The SP Clock Tower stands majestically at Jalan Ibrahim, in the town centre. It was presented by Lim Lean Teng to the people of the town to commemorate the reign of King George V (1910-1935) of England.

Taman Jubilee Perak (Silver Jubilee Park) - The park, which opened in 1983, is located just at the edge of the town centre. This is the only park in town and is immensely popular with local residents.


 Pasar Tani, Sungai Petani, Kedah


Pasar Tani (Farmer’s Market) is held every Sunday, Monday and Thursday in the centre of town. The market starts at around 7:30 am and ends by midday. Its a great place to shop for fresh fish or local products. Get cheap local tropical fruits such as rambutan, langsat, chiku and bananas at open markets here and all over Kedah.

Gunung Jerai (Kedah Peak) is near Gurun which is about 15km from Sungai Petani.

Bujang Valley site of an ancient civilization, only 20 minutes drive from SP. The best way to get there is by car or taxi. Learn more about Bujang Valley archaeological site here.

Read more about Bujang at our History of Kedah page


Chandi / candi at Bujang Valley (Lembah Bujang) Kedah, Malaysia


Where to stay IN sp

Hotels in Sungai Petani

Cinta Sayang Chalet, Taman Ria Jaya, Tel: 04-441 4666;

Duta Hotel , Jalan Petri; Tel:04-421 2040

Emerald Puteri, Taman Sejati; Tel: 04-431 5555

Hotel Seri Malaysia, Jalan Pasar; Tel: 04-423 4060;

Northern Lodge, Taman Sejati; Tel: 04-431 2323

Park Avenue Sg Petani, Taman Sejati Indah; Tel: 04-431 7777;

Sungai Petani Inn, Jalan Kolam Air; Tel: 04-421 3411

Swiss Inn, Jalan Pahlawan; Tel: 04-422 3333

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How to get to AS and SP


Merbok RiverBy air - Fly to the airport near Alor Setar or the Penang International Airport. Then travel by the North-south expressway to Sungai Petani. The Penang airport is usually the best option because it is an international airport. There are many daily flights from KL or Singapore to Penang.

By road - exit the North-south expressway at Sungai Petani, north or south exits. SP is about 40 minutes drive from Butterworth (Penang) and an hour's drive from Alor Star. This is the best exit for you to travel to the Bujang Valley.

Buses: most national coaches or express buses from major towns such as KL, Penang, Johor bahru, Ipoh, etc. stops at Sungai Petani and Alor Setar.

By rail - trains from KL or Thailand stop at Sungai Petani for passengers to disembark or board. From Kuala Lumpur, travel by the Express Langkawi. 

See details at Kedah page  and Malaysia transport page


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Map of Alor Star

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Where to Stay in Alor Star and Sungai Petani

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Hotels in Alor Star  Kedah

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Alor Star (Alor Setar) and Sungai Petani

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