Alor Setar - Kedah Malaysia



The Kedah Royal Nobat - played at the convocation of the first King of Malaya in 1957. Courtesy of Arkib Negara Malaysia

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 and is the place to visit if you want to be 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. The town has developed along Jalan Pekan Melayu and most of the places of interest are within walking distance. The most notable is the Balai Nobat, a three-tiered octagonal tower housing the instruments of the royal orchestra.

However, the tower is closed to public.

Nearby is the original palace of the Sultan, an early 18th century building which has been converted into a museum called the Muzium Di-Raja. A variety of exhibits, including the bridal chamber and the royal thrones are displayed. Next door is the Balai Besar or great hall where the Sultan gave audience to his subjects and administered justice. This intricately carved building dates back from the 19th century and displays strong Thai architectural influences. The first building was destroyed by the Bugis of Selangor in 1770. Across the road stands an impressive domed Moorish building housing the state mosque, Masjid Zahir. Facing it is a modern concrete fountain which has become a favourite haunt of the locals. . On the outskirts of the town is the State Museum and the atap-roofed house where Malaysia's ex Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahatir Mohamed spent his growing days.


Istana Kuning (Yellow Palace)

The first Prime Minister of Malaya - Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj was born here on February 8, 1903 and was the sixth child of Sultan Abdul Hamid's 6th wife, Chek Menjalara. Chek Menjalara was the daughter of Cek Menjalara, a Siamese Shan State chieftain. The relationship between fellowmen in Kedah was tightly interwoven with the Siamese at the time for Kedah was still paying tributes to Siam when Tunku was born. It was not until 1909 did the Siamese government hand over Kedah to the British upon the signing of the Bangkok agreement.

As a young boy, even amongst , Tunku always had a little bit more attention from his father than the other siblings in the family. There were 45 children in the family! He was also adored by two of his older brothers, Tunku Mohamed Jewa and Tunku Yusof who took the task of educating the young and impressionable boy. Both Tunku Yusof and Tunku Abdul Rahman was sent off to school in Bangkok, taking up residence with their brother Tunku Mohamed Jewa who spent a great deal of time in Bangkok himself as he was also a foster son of King Chulalongkorn - The King of Siam. However, on the sudden death of Tunku Yusof in Bangkok, Tunku Abdul Rahman was sent home to Kedah and later transferred to Penang Free School before being shipped off to St. Catherine's College in Cambridge, England where he obtained his BA. He returned to Malaya after his studies but was sent back again by his brother, Tunku Mohamad Jewa to study Law.

Tunku Abdul Rahman declaring Malaya's independence in 1957

Tunku Abdul Rahman, was fondly known as Putra by his family- a name given by his father . But he was most remembered by the people of Malaysia as 'Bapa Merdeka' or even 'Bapa Malaysia' . This means 'Father of Independence' or 'Father of Malaysia' as it was he who fought for independence from the British in which a new nation called Malaysia was finally declared in 1957.

Tunku Abdul Rahman remained as Prime Minister till 1970. Although his hometown was in Alor Setar, Tunku did not quite feel at home at the Yellow Palace. The last time he stayed at the palace was his time spent just after his return from England having completed his law degree. He spent most of his golden years in Penang with his children on a property presented to him by the government for his service to the country.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, a Kedah prince and the first Prime Minister of Malaya passed away in 1991 at the age of 87. He was laid to rest alongside his beloved brothers and their father at the Langgar Royal Mausoleum

The Yellow Palace is today a Royal Museum.

Kuala Kedah

Kuala Kedah is a fishing port, situated by the estuary of a river about 12km to the west of Alor Setar. Here lies the remains of an early Malay fort guarding Kedah from early naval attacks, notably the Portuguese, the Acehnese from Sumatra and the Bugis. It was rebuilt in 1771 but later a Siamese fleet, on the pretext of a peaceful trading expedition attacked the fort. Caught off guard, the people of Kedah were quickly overpowered by the aggressors. The fort is surprisingly well preserved and along the crumbling walls facing the river mouth, the remnants of six cannons are still to be found.