Johor

The state offers exciting water sports and recreational facilities, pristine islands and beaches, a variety of mouth-watering local seafood, exotic fruits, colourful festivals, traditional practices and world-class golf resorts.

GETTING THERE

By Road and Rail : Johor Bahru is accessible via the North-South Expressway from the north passing through major towns including Kuala Lumpur. It takes about three-and-a-half to four hours to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru. You can also reach Johor Bahru by express bus. The service offers comfortable rides at reasonable prices from all major cities and towns in Peninsular Malaysia.

By Air

Malaysia Airlines ( MAS) operates flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to Sultan Ismail Airport in Senai, 34km from Johor Bahru. Airport limousine services will take you to various places at fares controlled by the government. There are also scheduled airport coach services to Johor Bahru and Singapore.

By Sea

Ferry services are available from Changi Point in Singapore to Tanjung Belungkor near Desaru, the Stulang Duty Free Trade Zone Ferry Terminal near Johor Bahru or the Kukup Ferry Terminal.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Johor Bahru

The district of Johor Bahru, formerly known as Tanjung Puteri, is the administrative centre of the state government and the hub of business, transportation and entertainment. Major logistic centres such as the Sultan Ismail Airport, the Johor Causeway, the Second Link, the Johor Bahru International Ferry Terminal (JBIFT), the Pasir Gudang Ferry Terminal, the main bus and taxi terminal, and the ports of Tanjung Pelepas and Pasir Gudang are located in this district. Johor Bahru also hosts several international events and is the home of numerous golf courses, some of fine international standards.

BEACHES AND ISLANDS

Mainland Beaches

Johor boasts of beautiful beaches, thanks in part to the fact that it is surrounded by water on three sides. The mainland beaches are accessible via modern roads either by bus or taxi. Most of these beaches are well-equipped with facilities such as car parks, restaurants, rest shades, benches, restrooms and accommodation. Equipment for boating, kayaking, jet skiing and wind surfing are also available for rent at selected beaches. In the east coast of the Kota Tinggi district lies one of the most famous beaches in Johor, Desaru Beach. Dubbed as the ‘Last Unspoiled Corner of Southeast Asia’, you can find international class accommodation, facilities, activities and services here. Desaru offers a 26km stretch of pristine sandy beaches fringed with Casuarinas. Other attractions such as historical relics, a fishermen’s museum, a firefly colony and fresh seafood are within a short drive from Desaru. Other beautiful beaches in Kota Tinggi and their distance from Kota Tinggi town are as follows: Teluk Mahkota Beach (Jason Bay, about 38km); Teluk Endau Beach (about 49km); Tanjung Balay Beach (about 62km); Batu Layar Beach (about 71km), and Teluk Ramunia beach (about 76km). Apart from Kota Tinggi, Mersing also boasts some of the finest beaches. Among them are Penyabong Beach, Air Papan Beach, Teluk Buih Beach, Tenglu Beach and Tanjung Leman Beach. Other beaches in Johor are Stulang Laut Beach and Lido Beach (Johor Bahru), Rambah Beach (Pontian), Punggor and Minyak Beku Beaches (Batu Pahat). Lido Beach is a city beach for city dwellers to spend their evenings. Both the Punggor and Minyak Beku beaches are not suitable for swimming but ideal for enjoying the sea breeze.

ISLANDS

In addition to the mainland beaches, numerous enchanting islands off the coast of Johor also have their own golden beaches. With more than 50 islands in its waters, many of them are located in the north eastern district of Mersing. These beautiful islands feature crystal clear waters and a diversity of marine life and magnificent coral reefs. They have been gazetted as marine parks and are perfect for diving, snorkelling and swimming. Visitors can also indulge in jungle trekking, island hopping or watching leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach. The most developed of the group, Pulau Sibu, is famous for its clean white beaches, clear blue waters and beautiful coral reefs. Other islands here are Pulau Besar, Pulau Tinggi, Pulau Pemaggil, Pulau Aur and Pulau Tengah. Another tropical paradise is Pulau Rawa. Situated in the east of Johor in South China Sea, it is a remote, white sandy beach with crystal clear waters and a rich marine life. This island is ‘untouched’ and therefore possesses unspoiled charm and tranquillity. Some of the most sought after water sports activities here include snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and canoeing. Located off Mersing, it is approximately three hours by road from Singapore, which explains why it is so popular among Singaporeans. More other popular islands are Pulau Sibu Tengah, which is part of the Sibu group of islands that make up the southern cluster, and Pulau Besar, which is a hit with tourists for its long stretch of golden coastline.

Tanjung Balau Fishing Village

This east coast village near Desaru, about 98km from Johor Bahru, awaits visitors with its tranquillity amid natural splendour. The shores of the village were once upon a time lined with a type of hardwood tree called Aglaia Ordoratissma, which is locally known as Balau. Fishermen inhabited Tanjung Balau as early as the 18th century.

RETAINING JOHOR’S CULTURAL IDENTITY

Since its inception about 15 years ago, the Johor Heritage Foundation has been given the responsibility to preserve and ensure the perpetuity of the society’s cultural heritage. Its formation arose from the pledge that Johor’s historical, arts and cultural heritage would neither be dismissed nor be dissolved completely with the country’s dynamic and rapid development. The Johor Heritage Foundation is authorised to execute research, investigation and study resources on the state’s historical relics, including its natural environment. The foundation has been delegated the task of accumulating, researching and preserving resources relevant to history and art. Efforts to preserve the Johor Malay culture, arts and history are actively executed by the foundation. To ensure that the task and responsibilities are carried out effectively, four divisions have been established: the Museum Division, the Development of Arts and Culture Division, the Literary and Historical Division and the Administrative Division.

Zapin

The Zapin dance is one of the most popular, vibrant and distinctive dances in the history of Johor, the Malay Archipelago, the Malacca Sultanate and the Johor Rhio-Linggi Malay government. The art form is currently undergoing extensive research and progressive development, conducted by experts and capable choreographers from the foundation.

Ghazal

Ghazal is a musical genre that hailed from the Middle East and was adapted to suit the local culture. Like Zapin, the Ghazal Johor is shedding its anonymous past and is a vital aspect of the state’s heritage.

Keroncong

The Sultan of Johor is said to be the state’s biggest Keroncong fan. There are no less that 15 active Keroncong musical groups throughout Johor performing and participating in various state functions and activities – ensuring that the art stays alive.

Johor Art

Housed under the Johor Art Gallery at JKR 144, Jalan Petrie in Johor Bahru are large collections of art by well-known Johorean artists. Paintings by Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal, Siti Zaiton Ismail, Ponirin Amin, Sanip Lasman, Lee Liong Jo, Ismail Attan and other aspiring Johor artists are on display for viewing daily from 8.00am to 4.00pm (except Fridays).

History of Johor Capitals

Located in the historical town of Kota Tinggi is the Kota Tinggi Museum. Managed by the Johor Heritage Foundation, the museum is home to artefacts, relics, historical facts and anecdotes on past Johor sultanates, capitals and early encounters with the Portuguese, Dutch, Achehnese and other regional powers from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDINDS

Ongoing excavations, conservation and other archaeological research works are being executed along the banks of Sungai Johor. For 185 years (1533-1718), the river and its banks were predominantly strategic for capitals and government of the Johor Sultanate. Historical remains of this once glorious kingdom – forts and defensive walls, palace ground sites and tombs of sultans and dignitaries – are some of the attractions here.

DOCUMENTATION

The Johor Heritage Foundation Documentation Centre has in its collection numerous documents, materials, publications (books, bulletins and journals), videos, CDs, VCDs, manuscripts and photographs on Johor’s culture, arts, history, literature and others. The centre is open daily on working days from 8.30am to 4.00pm.

PUBLICATIONS

Through its research and publication unit, the Johor Heritage Foundation publishes books, journals and bulletins. Numerous topics on Johor (in Malay) ranging from archaeological findings to history, literature, culture, arts and education are available at the foundation.

NATURE AND PARKS

Johor is a state rich in its natural heritage. Its diverse flora and fauna include forests, waterfalls, hot springs and firefly havens. The state has several sites that have been declared national parks. These include the lowland forest of Endau Rompin National Park (Mersing district), the legendary Gunung Ledang (Muar) and the swampy wetland sanctuary of Pulau Kukup (Pontian).

Endau-Rompin National Park

The national park spans across the borders of two states – Johor and Pahang, with a combined area of 92,000 ha. It is one of the oldest rainforests in the world with rock formations dating back more than 248 million years. Among the many attractions here are endemic plants, more than 50 different types of animals, over 230 species of birds and 40 species of fishes. Enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of the 120-metre high Buaya Sangkut waterfall, and be guided through the lush park by Orang Asli.

Gunung Ledang

Known as Mount Ophir to the British, Gunung Ledang is the highest mountain in Johor. According to folklore, it was the home of Puteri Gunung Ledang, a princess who once captivated the heart of the Sultan of Malacca during the 15th century but turned down his proposal for marriage by setting impossible demands. She demanded a golden bridge linking the Sultan’s palace in Malacca to the mountain, jars of women’s tears, seven trays of mosquitoes’ hearts and seven bowls of blood from the Sultan’s prince. There are trails that lead to the summit of this mountain and at its base is the Sagil Waterfall, a popular spot for picnickers. Gunung Ledang is the perfect place for nature lovers, bird watchers, jungle trekkers and picnickers. Activities here are nature-based, thus suitable for the adventurous. There are a few options to choose from depending on one’s level of fitness. Other activities are night trekking, archery and mountain biking. Camping is also very popular here. Campsites are available along the trail uphill to Gunung Ledang. Visitors can also visit the Gunung Ledang Recreation Forest, an eight-hectare forest reserved as a sanctuary and a water-catchment area with four waterfalls. A popular spot for picnics, this park is also a favourite venue for seminars and work camps. The adventurous can trek up to Gunung Pulai, which is about 700 metres above sea level. Other recreational forests in Johor are Soga Perdana (Batu Pahat), about 131km from Johor Bahru and five kilometres from Batu Pahat town; Sungai Bantang (Segamat), 80km from Segamat town; Gunung Arong (Mersing), about 17km from Mersing and 22km from Endau along the Mersing-Endau road; Gunung Lambak (Kluang), about five kilometres from Kluang and 115 km from Johor Bahru; Gunung Belumut (Kluang) about 32km from Kluang and 139km from Johor Bahru, to name a few.

AGRO-TOURISM

Agro-tourism in Johor showcases the state’s agricultural wonders, including the world’s largest Arowana aquaculture farm, the second biggest orchid farm, a unique hybrid of pineapples and a rare species of the mixed breed wild ox and domestic cow called Selembu. Other agro-tourism attractions here are herb and spice farms, lowland tea plantations, ostrich farms and numerous fruit orchards. There are several agro-tourism spots in Johor. At the foot of Gunung Pulai is the Seri Gunung Pulai Agro-tourism Village. Besides swimming, visitors can also savour the delicious local fruits here. You will also get the chance to tap rubber trees, pluck mushrooms and cast fishing net into the pond. In Batu Pahat, there are two agro-tourism villages. They are the Kangkar Merlimau Agro-tourism and Parit Kuari Agro-tourism Villages. The former has many durian trees and also other fruits. Orchid farming is also a popular activity here. As for Parit Kuari Agro-tourism Village, it is famous for its snacks. You can find a variety of chips, crackers and traditional cakes produced from agricultural products.

HOME STAY PROGRAMMES

Experience village living through a home stay programme, where you will stay with a village family in a designated kampung. Participants are treated as guests of the family and are encouraged to take part in village events.

CULTURES AND FESTIVALS

Cultures

Visitors are often fascinated by the cultural diversity of Johor. The richness of its culture can be seen in the traditional dresses, customs, beliefs, festivals, dances and pastimes. Aside from the traditional Malay dances like Zapin, the Chinese often indulge in dragon and lion dances where deafening drumbeats are used to drive away evil and to foster good fortune.

FOOD AND FRUITS

The ethnic diversity of Johor has produced a wonderfully appetising blend of culinary delights. You can head towards specialty restaurants or luxury hotels for fine dining, or make you way to the nearest food stall to sample delightful local fare. Johor is dotted with hawker venues throughout the state. These give you the thrill of sampling fabulous cuisines from Indian to Chinese and from Malay to western food. Vegetarian food is also easily available in major towns. Tropical fruits like watermelon, rambutan, papaya, banana, star fruit, mangoes, mangosteen and guava are found in abundance in Johor. The durian, dubbed ‘The King of Fruits’, and Josapine, a unique hybrid of pineapple, are not to be missed.

SPORTS & RECREATION

There are a variety of sports that are played in Johor. As the state is surrounded by water on three sides, water sports are particularly popular. Activities like diving, wind surfing, boating, canoeing, snorkelling and fishing often attract locals and overseas tourists as well as athletes. Scuba diving enthusiasts should head for the marine park designated islands like Pulau Rawa, Pulau Besar, Pulau Hujung, Pulau Sibu Tengah, Pulau Pemaggil, Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang. These sites have many species of corals to be admired. The Johor Racing Circuit is a world-class venue for international racing events. It has hosted the World Super bike Series and various local races. Other sporting events include bird watching, horse rising, jungle trekking, golfing, mountain climbing, kite flying and off-road driving.

SIGHTSEEING AND ENTERTAINMENT

Sightseeing in Johor can mean gallivanting in the exciting metropolitan or sauntering in the serene forests. Interesting sights in the city include the Sultan Ibrahim Building, Istana Besar, the Royal Abu Bakar Museum and the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque. Constructed in the 1940s, the Sultan Ibrahim Building is located on Bukit Timbalan. The Japanese army used it during World War II in their final assault on Singapore. Today, the building serves as the main office building of the state and houses the state secretariat. On the nature side, travellers usually love to visit the Endau-Rompin National Park, Gunung Ledang and Tanjung Piai (famous for its mangrove swamplands).

SHOPPING

Johor Bahru is a shopping haven for travellers, especially those from Singapore. Shopping in Johor allows you to feast your eyes on famous local and international designer merchandise, souvenirs and antiques. Visitors usually throng hypermarkets, shopping malls and supermarkets but you would not want to miss the grand bargains at open-air bazaars and the night and farmer markets. Looking to take a piece of Johor home? The state is renowned for its batik, songket, local paintings, pewter, ceramic and copper wares, traditional herbal products and traditional Malay musical instruments.

Ipoh

The name Ipoh originated from a local tree, pohon epu or now more commonly known as pokok ipoh. This particular plant is known for its tree sap which is poisonous and used by the orang asli in their blowdarts. In the Cantonese dialect, Ipoh is known as san seng which means "city surrounded by mountains." Ipoh is also known among Chinese Malaysians as 'Pa-loh'. The old nickname for Ipoh is 'City of Millionaires', referring to the vast fortunes made during the tin and rubber days. Located in the rich tin-bearing valley of the Kinta river, Ipoh grew up as a mining town and is one of Malaysia's largest cities, with a population of 637,200 (2004) and urban area population of 798,800 (2004). Ipoh is famous for its cuisine. Natives claim that Ipoh's water, relatively high in alkali content owing to Ipoh's location on top of a large karstic formation, makes the food especially tasty. Many people, some even from Singapore and other nearby countries, travel to this city just to taste its especially excellent local cuisine. Also worth a visit are the limestone cave temples on its outskirts.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Perak Tong

Near Gunung Tasek, 6 km north of Ipoh on the main trunk road, there are some huge limestone caves which were places of meditation for Buddhist monks two centuries ago. The Perak Tong Temple within one of the caves leads to caverns and grottoes with statues and paintings of the Buddha set in nooks. The main attraction is a 12.8m-high sitting Buddha which is the tallest and largest of its kind in Malaysia . A passage leads into the cave's interior, and after a steep climb of 385 steps, it opens onto a ledge, which gives a fantastic view of the countryside. Also here is a café that serves excellent vegetarian food.

Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple

Another famous cave-temple is the Sam Poh Tong Temple (Cavern of Three Precious) in Gunung Rapat, 5 km south of Ipoh. The temple is an impressive work of art with various statues of Buddha set among the natural stalactites and stalagmites. A Chinese symbol of longevity, tortoises are in kept in a pond in the inner courtyard. Devotees release tortoises into the pond wishing for luck and longevity, and the pond is invariably crowded. The tortoises can be fed with stalks of vegetables. There is also a wishing well for those seeking better fortunes. An ornamental garden in front of the temple is a a great place for taking photos. There is a vegetarian restaurant within the temple grounds.

Mekprasit Temple

The Mekprasit Temple is a Thai Buddhist temple located about 3km north of Ipoh along Jalan Kuala Kangsar on the main trunk road to Taiping. The highlight of the temple is a 24m-long reclining Buddha, which is one of the largest in Malaysia.

Ipoh Railway Station and City Hall

Constructed between 1914 and 1917, the station is affectionately known as the Taj Mahal of Ipoh to the locals. Situated near Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab it bears a resemblance to its Kuala Lumpur counterpart, and combines Moorish and Victorian architecture. Its charm and design recently earned it to be one of the locations for the filming of the Hollywood remake of Anna and the King staring Jodie Foster. Also here is one of the best station hotels in the country known as the Majestic Hotel. Just across from the railway station is the Dewan Bandaraya (City Hall), a huge, white, neo-classical building. Both of these buildings bear testimony to Ipoh 's great wealth, originally from tin mining.

State Mosque

Opposite the Railway Station is the State Mosque. An architectural masterpiece, the State Mosque has a 38m high minaret. Thousands of mosaic tiles adorn the domes.

Darul Ridzuan Museum

Built more than 100 years ago, the Darul Ridzuan Museum was previously the official residence for Malay dignitaries in the Kinta District. The collections here include those that chronicled the development of Ipoh, the mining industry and forestry.The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm except on Thursday when it is open till 12noon and is closed on Sundays. Admission is free.

Geological Museum

Established in 1957, the Geological Museum has an impressive collection of minerals, fossils, precious stones and rock specimens. There are 600 samples of minerals, classified according to chemical content and structure. The museum is also noted for its exhibition of tin ore, including the best existing specimen of cassiterite. Visiting hours are from 8.00 am to 4.15 pm (Monday-Friday) and 8.00am to 12.45pm (Saturday). Admission is free but visitors must obtain entry permission from the information counter.

Dewan Bandaraya Ipoh Sports Complex

The Dewan Bandaraya Ipoh Sports Complex is the largest of its kind in South-east Asia. It has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a beginner's pool, a children's pool, a wave pool, a rugby pitch, a velodrome, an astro-turf hockey field, and indoor squash and badminton courts.

Kellie's Castle

Forty kilometers south of Ipoh, on the road leading to Batu Gajah, looms Kellie's Castle, an unfinished mansion commissioned in 1915 by William Kellie Smith. In the middle of its construction, Smith left for England where he died, and the castle was never completed. Shrouded in mystery, it is believed that Kellie's Castle has hidden rooms and a secret tunnel. The road which leads to the Castle follows the contours of the land in a dizzying, maze-like fashion, adding to the mystery and romance of the place.

St. Michael's Institution

Ipoh has provided the country with a good share of scholars and international achievers. One of the most imposing is St. Michael's Institution, a solid three-storey building with long hallways and arched verandas.

Pasir Salak Historical Complex

Situated 70 km from Ipoh , Pasir Salak is of special importance in the historical development of Malaysia as an independent nation. It was here that the original flames of Malay nationalism were sparked. The assassination of the then British Resident of Perak, J.W.W. Birch, ignited a war between the British colonial administration and the Malays. The Historical Complex pays tribute to warriors such as Dato' Maharaja Lela, Dato' Sagor and Si Puntum by erecting special memorials in their honour. Other interesting sights include Mr. Birch's memorial monument, the burial site of Si Puntum, Dato' Maharaja Lela's fortress, the Lela Tentaka cannons used against the British army, a souvenir shop, as well as an information centre.

The Perak Museum

Located along Jalan Museum, the Perak Museum was built in 1883. The country's oldest museum has displays on zoology, pre-history, economy and ethnology. It contains an impressive collection of archeological treasures like ancient weapons, aboriginal implements and ornaments which reflect Perak's rich historical heritage. The Museum visiting hours are from 9.30am to 5.00pm daily. Admission is free.
Kedah

Kedah

The Funan Kingdom of Vietnam, the Sumatran Kingdom of Sri Vijaya, the Thais, the Portuguese, the Achenese and the British also occupied Kedah. The oldest civilization in Peninsular Malaysia is the land of padi fields, Kedah. One of the most appealing northern states, Kedah mirrors the quintessential Malay persona and offers visitors a glimpse into interesting people and mind-boggling attractions. Lembah Bujang in the state of Kedah contains the remains of the Langkasuka Kingdom believed to date back to the fifth century. The Funan Kingdom of Vietnam, the Sumatran Kingdom of Sri Vijaya, the Thais, the Portuguese, the Achenese and the British also occupied Kedah. Kedah is the most interesting states you will visit. It covers an area of 9,425 sq km and has an interesting landscape as it has miles upon miles of lush green padi fields, which are only occasionally interrupted by huge limestone outcrops. The state also has its share of rich cultural traditions, songs and dances. Its capital, Alor Setar is a treasure filled with historical royal buildings of impressive architecture that date as far back as 200 years.

GETTING THERE

Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia offer daily return flights between Alor Setar and Kuala Lumpur via Penang or Kota Bahru. Trains from various towns to Alor Setar are also available along the north-south track. Likewise, you can hop into a bus or taxi to Alor Setar from most parts of the country. If you wish to drive, the North-South Expressway (NSE) is a safe and convenient route to take. You can break at rest stops along the way to use the restrooms or prayer rooms. A number of food stalls also serve food and drinks. The highway links Kuala Lumpur to Bukit Kayu Hitam-Hutan Kampung toll plaza over a distance of 490.4km and 458.2km to Alor Setar, which translates to about five hours’ drive.

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS - NATURE’S PARADISE

Pantai Merdeka

Pantai Merdeka (Merdeka Beach) is located in Kuala Muda, 30km from Sungai Petani and 40km from Butterworth. It is a beautiful white sandy beach with tall palm trees and spots for picnics and relaxation. Water skiing and sailing are popular sports here. You can also visit nearby islands like Pulau Bidan, Pulau Telur and Pulau Song by boat. A cave with historical artefacts lies near the beach.

Waterfalls

Kedah’s waterfalls make lovely picnic spots amidst greenery and clear, crisp mountain air. Among the well known waterfalls are Batu Hampar in Yan (32km south of Alor Setar), Puncak Janing (25km northeast of Alor Setar in the Padang Terap district), the Junjung Waterfalls in Kulim and Lata Mengkuang (Menkuang Rapids) in Sik, about 72km north of Alor Setar.

Pedu Lake

Pedu Lake is an eco-tourist destination located 80km from Alor Setar. There are comfortable village-style accommodations of good standard here with skiing, canoeing and wind surfing among the most popular activities you can take up. Bird watching and fishing are also popular, as is spotting bears, elephants, deer and wild boar. Golfers will love it here too, as there is an 18-hole course.

Gunung Jerai

Rising 1,200 metres above sea level, Gunung Jerai is a huge limestone outcrop and Kedah’s highest peak. It features calm surroundings and a magnificent view of Kedah from its peak on clear days.

Taman Rekreasi Gunung Keriang

The Gunung Keriang Recreational Park is a natural habitat for hundreds of tree and plants species. It offers a wonderful panoramic view and adventure activities like jungle trekking, camping, jungle jogs and caving.

Bukit Hijau Recreational Forest

Located in Baling, 120km southeast of Alor Setar, this park offers a wide variety of flora and fauna. Elephants, tigers, tapirs, barking dears, grey long-tailed monkeys, squirrels, birds and wild fowls are among its residents. It is also famous for its seven-tier crystal waterfall. The forest won an award in a landscaping competition under the category of agriculture and forestry in 1997. It is classified as an Educational and Research Forest and there is also a Virgin Jungle Reserve nearby.

Alor Setar

A town that is rich in interesting histories and culture. It is also a place to see the marvels of local and regional architecture, as there are many magnificent old buildings here.

Balai Nobat

This octagonal building houses the sacred instruments of the Royal Orchestra, which are played only during royal ceremonies. Though it is closed to the public, you can take pictures of the building from the outside.

Balai Besar

This is one of the oldest palaces in Malaysia. It is a wooden edifice embodying Thai architecture. It houses the royal throne of the Kedah Sultanate. These days, this great hall is frequently used for royal and state ceremonies.

Muzium Diraja

Muzium Diraja or the Royal Museum is located right opposite Balai Besar. It was used for royal wedding ceremonies and to house royal guests at one time but is today a museum of royal regalia and cultural heritage.

Masjid Zahir

This mosque was officially opened in 1912 and like many places of worship of the time, was inspired by Moorish architecture. A Quran-reading competition is held here annually.

Balai Seni Negeri

Located close to Masjid Zahir, Balai Seni Negeri or the State Art Gallery houses paintings, antiques and relics.

Royal Boat House

Situated near the banks of Sungai Anak Bukit, the Royal Boat House contains several boats used by the former rulers of Kedah. The boats are still in very good condition. Descriptions of their origins and usage are well placed here.

Pekan Rabu

Pekan Rabu (which literally means Wednesday Market) originally got its name because it used to be held only on Wednesdays. These days, it is open everyday from morning to midnight. The stalls offer lots of variety from farm fresh products to local handicrafts. You can also sample local delicacies like dodol durian, a sweet delicacy made from the durian fruit, and other Malay titbits.

Menara Alor Star

The 19th tallest telecommunications tower in the world and also the 2 nd tallest in Malaysia stands proudly at 165.5 metres. This towering landmark is also major tourist attraction and a recreational centre for arts and cultural activities. It has a revolving restaurant, an amphitheatre, a conference room, a viewing gallery and a cafeteria (on the ground floor). Binoculars are available at the viewing gallery (observation area) located on the 88-metre level, where visitors can enjoy a panoramic bird’s eye view of the beautiful Kedah countryside scenery. Dining at the tower’s revolving restaurant is a pleasant experience and you can also pay your phone bills at the Kedai Telekom there.

Nikradharam Buddhist Temple

This temple was inspired by Siamese architecture. It is decorated with statues, painting and colourful mosaics. A golden Garuda is suspended over the main entrance while the outer walls contain inscriptions of Buddha’s teachings in three languages.

Muzium Negeri

The State Museum is situated at Lebuhraya Darulaman. The museum has three floors filled with antique weapons, jewellery, costumes and furniture.

Birth House of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysia ’s former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was born in this house at 18 Lorong Kilang Ais, off Jalan Pegawai. The National Archives restored and gazetted the house as a historical building in 1992. Photographs, furniture, household items and even his favourite bicycle are displayed here.

Kuala Kedah

Kuala Kedah is located at the mouth of the Kedah River. Kota Kuala Kedah is a fort on the outskirts of the town, which was built to ward off Kedah’s enemies from then Siam. When you are here, you must try the famous local favourite, laksa. It is a dish of rice vermicelli, fresh cucumbers and onions served in spicy fish gravy. Another attraction here is the two floating seafood restaurants that were once fishing vessels.

Bukit Kayu Hitam

The main tourist attraction here is the duty-free shopping complex. It is housed in a modern three-storey building with over 5,000 sq meters of retail space and ample car parks, near a stall. Visitors can also dine at the fine restaurants or try their hand at golfing at the Black Forest Duty Free Resort here.

Lembah Bujang Archaeological Site

Lembah Bujang is considered Malaysia’s richest archaeological site. It stretches between Gunung Jerai in the north and Sungai Muda in the south. More than 50 Hindu and Buddhist temples were discovered along the Bujang River and to date, eight have been restored to their original structure using original materials. The Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum in Pengkalan Bujang, Merbok displays numerous artefacts, stone caskets, gemstones, beads and photographs. This site is not to be missed by visitors who are fans of history and archaeology.

Perak

Perak means silver in Malay, and its name was derived from the silvery tin ore that was found aplenty around the state during the turn of the last century. Its capital is Ipoh and its major towns are Taiping, Teluk Intan and Lumut, while Kuala Kangsar is the royal town. Perak is a state that has everything. It has clean and pristine beaches, unspoiled and secluded islands, tranquil lakes, virgin rainforests, relaxing hill-resorts and charming towns. More than anything else, Perak’s beautiful and undulating landscape will mesmerise any visitor, and its lush jungles and rugged limestone hills will capture your imagination. Perak means silver in Malay, and its name was derived from the silvery tin ore that was found aplenty around the state during the turn of the last century. Its capital is Ipoh and its major towns are Taiping, Teluk Intan and Lumut, while Kuala Kangsar is the royal town.

EATING OUT

Perak offers a variety of delicious food, especially in Ipoh. This city is known for its mouth-watering local dishes. Malay and Indian Muslim food, which are very appetising, can be found at Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Medan Perhentian, Jalan Hospital, Greentown, Jalan Dato’ Sagor and Jalan Dato’ Tahwil Azhar. Elsewhere Ipoh Hor Fun and Beans Sprouts Chicken always hog the limelight when it comes to Chinese food here.

GETTING THERE

Ipoh,the capital of Perak state is only about 200km from Kuala Lumpur and 165km from Penang via the North-South Expressway (NSE).

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS - BEACHES AND ISLANDS

Lumut

Lumut is situated about 84km south of Ipoh and is a haven of beautiful shell and coral handicrafts. A fishing village serves as the departure point from the mainland for those wanting to visit Pulau Pangkor. Other natural gems of Lumut are the wonderful sandy beaches of Teluk Batik and Teluk Rubiah. Teluk Batik is the venue of the annual Pesta Laut or Sea Festival. Some of the interesting features of the fair include sea-sporting competitions, cultural shows and funfairs. Meanwhile, golfers will love the Royal Teluk Rubiah Country Club as its golf courses have an idyllic view of the beach and surrounding hills.

Pulau Pangkor

Forty minutes by ferry from Lumut is the famous Pulau Pangkor. Its golden beaches, clear blue waters and refreshing lifestyle make it a paradise for beach lovers. Favourite beach activities here include scuba diving, wind surfing, fishing and snorkelling. The real attractions, however, are the lovely beaches on the western coastline, which are unspoiled and quiet. You can often have the beach all to yourself.

Pangkor Laut

This privately-owned island is located three miles off the Malaysian west coast in the Straits of Malacca. The island is one of the country’s most natural and unspoiled treasures. Nested amidst this exotic gem is the luxurious Pangkor Laut Resort. The island has been nicknamed Fantasy Island as the resort is truly set in a dream world. The resort is situated along three bays – Royal Bay, Emerald Bay and Spa Village – and each with its own unique character. The resort boasts 126 Malaysian-style luxury villas tastefully designed and carefully furnished with elegance yet blends in with the lush natural surroundings of the tropical rainforest. It also serves fine cuisine, facilities of international standards and service that is warm and gracious. Jungle trekking is available to nature lovers who would like to experience the island’s fascinating flora and fauna. Indeed, the island is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, as it is exclusive to resort guests. It has also been voted the second best island destination in the world by Conde Nast Traveler.

LAKES

Temenggor Lake

Located about 35km from Gerik, it is perfect getaway for fishing enthusiasts. The lake is home to a variety of freshwater fish like baung, tenggalan and kelah. Orang Asli or aboriginal people still live in the jungles around the lake. Pulau Dendana, a small island in the lake is the nature camp of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

FOREST RESERVE

Belum Forest Reserve

At about 120 million years old, the Belum Forest is one of the oldest rainforest in the world. Bristling with flora and fauna this reserve is of great interest to ecologists, conservationists and nature enthusiasts. A permit is required if you would like to explore the reserve.

Ipoh Railway Station

Ipoh is the capital of Perak and it reflects the overall progress of the state. It is the focal point of most industries, businesses, investments, education and social activities. This impressive landmark of Moorish and Gothic architecture has a prestigious nickname — the Taj Mahal of Malaysia. It resembles its old counterpart in Kuala Lumpur and is surrounded by a pretty garden that immediately warms the heart.

Birch Memorial Clock Tower

The clock tower was built as a memorial to the late J.W.W. Birch, the first British Resident of Perak. It is located at Post Office Road/Jalan Dewan. You can see the evolution of life in the state on the small panels of the square tower.

Darul Ridzuan Museum

This museum is more than 100 years old. Exhibits include a collection of history and the phases of progress that Ipoh experienced. There are also artefacts from the state’s mining and forestry industries.

Dr Seenivasagam Park

The park offers a variety of flora and is ideal for picnics and relaxation. You can also enjoy the park’s numerous recreational and amusement facilities such as a roller-skating rink, a playground, a mini train course and water rides.

Gua Tempurung

This geological wonder is made up of five natural domes. Each dome is unique with its own spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.

Geological Museum

This museum is truly the place to be if you are an archaeological buff. Be fascinated by the impressive display of more than 600 samples of minerals, fossils, precious stones and rock specimens. The museum is also well known for its exhibition of tin ore, including the best specimens of cassiterite in the world. It is located at Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah and admission is free.

Japanese Garden

A Japanese house, a goldfish pond and a wooden bridge across a small stream conjure a serene atmosphere at the Japanese Garden. Lush green grounds and colourful blooms add to the splendour of this garden.

Perak Tong

Experience an amazing treasure within the limestone cave temple, which is located six kilometres north of Ipoh. It is a shrine of 40 Buddha statues and includes a towering 12.8-metre Sitting Buddha. Beyond the main altar there is a passageway into the cave interior and eventually, after 385 steps the cave offers a breathtaking view of the countryside.

Sam Poh Tong

Nestled about five kilometres south of Ipoh in Gunung Rapat is another treasure, the Sam Poh Tong. This cave temple showcases works of art and faith with numerous Buddha statues among the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. There is also a tortoise pond, which symbolises longevity as well as a wishing well. Visitors can also sample some fine Chinese vegetarian food at a restaurant outside the cave.

River Terrapin Breeding Project

This breeding farm is located at Bota Kanan, 40km south of Ipoh. The farm was opened in 1967 and its primary objective is to conserve the River Terrapin. Between November and March, visitors can witness river terrapins laying eggs along stretches of the riverbank.

State Mosque

The mosque is a prominent symbol of the state’s Islamic background and a major landmark in Ipoh. A unique feature of its architecture is a 125-metre minaret, which can be seen rising above its mosaic domes from most parts of the city.

Tambun Hot Springs

This is a natural spa at the bottom of a limestone hill. It is a 15-minute drive from Ipoh city. Take a dip in the hot water that is rich in minerals and sulphur to de-stress and feel invigorated.

BATU GAJAH

Kellie’s Castle

Kellie’s Castle is about 30 minutes from Ipoh. English rubber tycoon William Kellie Smith built it sometime in the early 20th century. Construction began in 1915 but it was never completed. Like many castles around the world, it is believed that this one too has hidden rooms, dungeons and secret underground tunnels. Whether they exist or not has not stopped visitors from coming by the droves to find out for themselves.

KUALA KANGSAR

Royal Museum

The Perak Royal Museum has a unique traditional design in which the entire structure was built without a single nail. On display are the photographs of the Perak Royal Family, royal regalia, illustrations and artefacts belonging to the past and present monarchs of the state.

Ubudiah Mosque

This mosque is one of the most impressive in Malaysia. It is a fine example of beautiful Islamic architecture. It was built during the rule of Sultan Idris Murshidul Adzam Shah I, the 28th Sultan of Perak, and it was officially opened in 1917. It is located at Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar.

Iskandariah Palace

The Iskandariah Palace is located on the top of a small hill called Bukit Chandan. The palace is the official residence of the Sultan of Perak. The Saracenic or Moorish architecture elements make the palace a spellbinding sight.

The First Rubber Tree

The first rubber tree was planted in 1877 near the Kuala Kangsar District Office. There were nine trees planted and this was the only one that survived. H.N. Ridley brought the rubber seeds from Kew Garden in London and was the man responsible for turning Kuala Kangsar into the first rubber industry district in the country.

TAIPING

Taiping means eternal peace in Chinese. The British Government transformed Taiping from a slow-paced town into a developed one of that era. Its progress created a string of historical firsts that made it one of the oldest towns in Malaysia. It is the first town to have a Malay school (1942), a hospital (1880), a courthouse (1876), a swimming pool (1870), a museum (1883), a prison (1885) and a government office (1879).

Perak Museum

Built in 1883, it is oldest museum in the country. It houses an impressive collection of ancient weapons, aboriginal implements, ornaments and archaeological treasures. Other exhibits include artefacts from Perak’s rich historical cultural heritage.

Taiping Lake Gardens

This beautiful 62 ha garden offers lush greenery, a beautiful lake abound with freshwater fish, a gazebo and many species of colourful blooms. Visitors can go aboard boats, try out aqua bikes or relax at a rest house. The country’s oldest zoo, the Taiping Zoo, is also within the gardens.

Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill)

This hill is located about nine kilometres from Taiping. The oldest and smallest hill resort stands at 1,035 metres above sea level and is accessible only by powerful four-wheel-drive vehicles. The road up twists and turns through a tropical virgin jungle.

TELUK INTAN

Teluk Intan Leaning Tower

This pride and joy of Teluk Intan is also known as Malaysia’s Tower of Pisa. This pagoda inspired tower is 84km from Ipoh city and stands at 25.5 metres high. It was built in 1885 by Chinese contractor Leong Choon Choong and was once used to store water.

TAPAH

Lata Kijang This waterfall that cascades down a 100-metre drop before reaching a deep pool is a sight to behold and offers swimmers an invigorating experience. Enjoy a rejuvenating dip and laze on the big boulders by the natural pool. Visitors may also visit an orchid garden and a bamboo park here.

SUNGKAI

Sungkai Deer Farm

Situated in Manderang, about 82km from Ipoh, this farm is the only one of its kind in the country. Established in 1978, its primary objective is to breed and conserve this wild animal. About 100 deer roam on the 100 ha farm. There is also an exotic bird sanctuary nearby.

AGROTOURISM

Bersia Grazing Reserve

Managed by local farmers and located about 15km from Gerik, this is the place to experience cattle feeding in lush greenery, night fishing and a visit to Orang Asli settlements. A virgin tropical forest, flora and fauna and a blue lake lend a serene aura to this farm. Four quaint little huts built from timber and bamboo translates as lodging for tourists.

Herbal Farm

More than 60 species of traditional herbs are grown for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits here. Visitors can also visit the Orang Asli village or take a dip in the hot springs and waterfalls here. The farm is only accessible by four-wheel drive and is situated 12km from Pekan Sungkai.

Ipoh Tambun Lime Plantation

This is the biggest lime plantation in the country and it spreads over 0.81 ha. Take this great opportunity to learn about the methods used for producing high quality limes. The plantation is only two kilometres from Tambun.

SHOPPING MALLS

Perak offers modern shopping malls primarily in Ipoh and other major towns.

Ipoh Parade

Ipoh Parade is located at Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil and is one of the favourites among shoppers. It comprises five floors that retail fashion apparel, accessories, home furnishing items and other merchandise. It also houses cinemas and entertainment outlets.

Kinta City

Kinta City is a hotspot for shopping. It is located at Jalan Tasek, also in Ipoh. It houses over 100 retail outlets, which offer local and international brands of fashion, trendy cafés and popular fast food names.

LOCAL HANDICRAFTS

Perak is a place for avid craft collectors, especially the Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar. Its fine traditional crafts include labu sayung, bamboo carvings, seashell designs and gold embroidery. Labu Sayung is a collection of exquisite blackened clay ware and it serves as a water pitcher. Among the popular spots to shop for local handicrafts are at Kampung Padang Changkat, Kampung Berala, Kampung Kepala Bendang and Enggor. Handicraft stores can also be found along the Ipoh-Kuala Kangsar trunk road. The state is also well known for its citrus delights such as seedless guavas and pomelos. These juicy fruits make ideal gifts for your friends and family. Pomelos are about the size of a soccer ball, fresh green in colour on the outside and have pinkish succulent pulps on the inside.

Perlis

Perlis is unlike any state in Malaysia,  it offers a wonderfully picturesque landscape of miles and miles of padi fields interrupted only by weird but wonderful limestone outcrops and beautifully tendered rustic wooden houses. Perlis is not only Malaysia’s smallest state in terms of size but also unique in its own way. This is one of the best places to experience Malaysia’s rustic charms, padi fields as far as the eye can see and ancient limestone outcrops. Although it is the smallest state in Malaysia, Perlis has a lot to offer in terms of unique landscapes and the quaint village lifestyle. You can truly unwind here by taking in the fresh air and appreciating the green-blue wonder of the land and sky. As the state is situated near Thailand, it had in the past adopted some Thai influences, which can be seen in traditional music and dance performances like Tarian Canggung and Tarian Terinai.

GETTING THERE

The road system within Perlis is excellent and you can take the North-South Expressway (NSE) all the way from the south to Bukit Kayu Hitam. The railway track joins the Thai tracks at Padang Besar and links to Bangkok. You can also choose to take an air-conditioned bus between Kuala Lumpur and Kangar. Should you decide to take a flight you would have to fly to and from Alor Setar in Kedah in a 45-minute drive. The gateway towns to Thailand are Padang Besar and Bukit Kayu Hitam, where customs, immigration and health official procedures are carried out.

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS

Kangar

Kangar is the capital of Perlis. It is a charming small town where everything is within walking distance. You can find verdant green fields and golden yellow padi plantations surrounding it.

Tasik Melati

Tasik Melati is set upon boggy lowlands about eight kilometres north of Kangar and has about 150 sandbar islands filled with fish. With elevated walkways over the water, you can take a relaxing stroll or boat ride to these islands.

Arau

This majestic town is situated 10km from Kangar. Here, you will find the beautiful Istana Arau ( Royal Palace) and the Royal Mosque. The place is also the disembarkation point for visitors to and from Langkawi.

Muzium Kota Kayang

Located next to the burial ground of two 16th century Kedah Sultans, when excavation works for the new museum were being carried out artefacts from the Neolithic period were discovered. Indian-related artefacts were also unearthed at the same site.

Taman Herba (Herbal Gardens)

This place showcases more than 6,000 species of herbs, spices and traditional medicinal plants. It covers an area about 12 ha. Besides local species there are also exotic ones from other countries here. The garden is located near the Bukit Air Recreational Park.

Kuala Perlis

Kuala Perlis is a coastal town with ferry services to and Langkawi. It is also famous for its seafood restaurants and fishing excursions.

Padang Besar

Padang Besar is a bustling town situated at the Malaysia-Thailand border. It has a market that bustles with the sights and sounds of locals and tourists haggling over the many goods sold here. You can find items like clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs, shoes, bags and antiques here.

Chuping

Chuping got its name from a limestone hill called Bukit Chuping. Surrounding this town are sugar cane plantations – you can see them everywhere! Naturally, the town has a sugar factory to process all that sugarcane.

RECREATIONAL PARKS

Bukit Air Recreational Park

Just a few kilometres from the Snake and Reptile Farm, this is the ideal place for picnics. If you would like to camp out, there is a wonderful campsite here equipped with basic amenities.

Gua Kelam Recreational Park (Dark Caves)

The main attractions here are the sculptures and underground streams. Located in the village of Kaki Bukit, you will have to cross a suspension bridge to reach the 370-metre long limestone cave to view the magnificent stalactites and stalagmites.

Perlis State Park

The Perlis State Park is an area spanning 5,000 ha and comprises two forest reserves called the Mata Ayer and Wang Mu Forest Reserves. Ecologists have special scientific interest in the park because its unique geology encompasses Setul limestone structures, which give rise to a rare biodiversity. The park straddles the Nakawan Range, which is the longest continuous range of limestone hills in Malaysia, and is located along the north western part of the border. It is also the only place in Malaysia that is home to the Stumped-tail Macaque. Visitors are required to register at the Park Visitors Centre before exploring the reserve. If you want to visit the Wang Burma Cave and Gunung Perlis ( Mount Perlis) you can also hire guides from the centre. Adventure seekers can trek on the various trails here, such as the R-15 to Wang Kelian. It offers a fabulous view of the surrounding countryside including Timah Tasoh Lake and Bukit Chabang. A popular Sunday Market is another main feature at Wang Kelian.

SHOPPING

Perlis offers many shopping pleasures like Wang Kelian. It attracts many visitors to its Sunday market where one can buy fragrant Thai rice, furniture, cheap farm produce, clothes as well as household goods. About 20km away, Padang Besar is another famous shopping destination and offers duty-free shopping. Farmer markets are also a regular feature here. They offer fresh produce like vegetables, fish fruits as well as non-agricultural goods.