The tidy state capital of Kedah, Alor Star is a thoroughly Malay city, very conservative in feel for the west coast, with a prominent mosque and former sultan’s palace right in the centre. This traditionalism is doubtless partly a reaction to the proximity of the Thai border, just 45km north; the town has been through a century of Thai rule since its foundation as a royal capital in 1735. A compact place that can be easily seen in a day, Alor Star holds enough architectural and cultural interest to make a worthwhile pause on your way to or from Thailand, Ulu Muda Eco Park or the ferry to Langkawi. Be sure to dress appropriately, given its largely Muslim population.

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