Words and photos by Phuah Ken Lin
Travellers with a penchant for archaeology and ecotourism will be excited when visiting three new informative galleries at Sungai Merbok near Sungai Petani.
The new galleries completed at Jeti Semiling at the river estuary – all in one venue – is a site with a one-of-a-kind experience.
The three galleries, categorizing the oldest civilisation in the Southeast Asia region dating as far back as 2,550 years, are the brainchild of Universiti Sains Malaysia School of Archaeology director Professor Mokhtar Saidin who is spearheading the drive to turn Kuala Muda district into the hub of archaeology tourism.
In an interview, Mokhtar told where2, visitors can opt to re-live the glory days of the Kedah Tua Kingdom at several sites. They can also check out nearby mangrove swamps and surrounding biodiversity in the vicinity that serves as an extension to the famous Lembah Bujang Hindu-Buddhist archaeological site nearby.
“We are moving ahead with a 3-in-1 tour package that offers ultimate archaeo-tourism exposure at the gallery and for visitors to check out the artefacts and wild habitats such as migratory birds.
“The packages are flexible, tourists can choose one, two or even three sites depending on their interests.
“The tranquility in the estuary serves as great reprieve for visitors who yearn to unwind from the daily grind, especially the hustle and bustle in cities and towns.
“Our plan is to open the galleries to the public when we finalise tour package pricing details with the Kedah state government via the Sungai Petani Municipal Council come April,” he says when met on-site recently.
Where2 got a first bite at the cherry when Mokhtar took the writer (yours truly) to be up close on the well decorated galleries that depict the rich archaeological content on display there. Two glass-encased miniature Kedah Tua Kingdom with figurines illustrate bygone daily activities from the civilisation, among others, including artefacts which are remnants of a jetty. All these are featured in scaled-down re-constructed layout.
The surrounding at Jeti Semiling would be rebranded to accentuate its steeped historic identity to visitors. Among the new set-up is a souvenir shop for visitors to pick up a slice of the history of the archaeological site.
“The tourist information centre next to the pier will be known as Kedah-USM Kedah Tua Interpretation Centre, while the riverside restaurant will be named Warisan Kedah Tua,” he says.
Visitors will be ferried around the estuary in chartered water taxis to view the surrounding mangrove swamps.
Archaeo-tourism is the main tourism icon of Kuala Muda due to the discovery of the earliest civilization. The three sites in Kuala Muda is where you find the Sungai Batu Archaeological Complex, Pengkalan Bujang and Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum.
Sungai Batu Archeological Complex is the main site where tourists are able to see the remains of iron industry workshops dating back to 535 BC as well as the ruins from monuments since 487 BC. The complex is the foundation of the Kedah Tua Kingdom attraction.
Aside from an iron smelting workshop, the complex showcases evidence of ritual monuments, piers and its administrative structures.
The Kuala Muda district also boasts the scenic Gunung Jerai which is itself visible from Jeti Semiling, its landmass a sight to behold amidst the lush greenery from the mangrove swamp.
It is the only district in Malaysia with upcoming tourism package combining geotourism of Gunung Jerai, ecotourism of mangrove swamps and archaeo-tourism, all rolled into one.
Make your way there to take in what the Mother Mature and the rich archaeological history of the place have in store for everyone.