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Aman Central in Alor Star will make your jaw drop.

A Normally 15-minute journey from home to church took me 40 minutes recently, leaving me speechless and a little traumatised.

  This was during the Hari Raya Aidiladha weekend in Alor Star last month.

  A friend said, “So, you got a taste of city life”, when I mentioned my predicament to him. And there is truth to it.

  If anything, it should not have been surprising. After all, I come from an island state where roads are congested on normal days, and gets worse during long weekends, and public and school holidays.

  Perhaps it was a misguided notion I had of Alor Star, a relatively smaller city and more laid-back compared with Penang, that caught me unprepared for what happened that day.

  Alor Star, which covers 666km2 had, on Dec 21, 2003, officially become the ninth city in the country, and is the second largest city in Kedah after Sungai Petani.

  Take a drive along the wide, and often long stretches of straight roads in the city and it would not be too much to say how easy it is to be fooled into thinking this place is not a city.

  But recent experiences are giving me a different impression, one being the aforementioned scenario.

  Make no mistake. Alor Star is booming. The increasing number of cafes is one example, and more recently, the opening of the long-awaited Aman Central in the busy Lebuhraya Darulaman.

  It may have just been five days since its opening, but the mall is having an impact on its surrounding areas and beyond, with folk streaming in. On the outside, the mall is impressive.

The structure bears an overwhelming presence to the many smaller buildings around it. The biggest in Kedah, as well as Perlis, as the mall owner would attest.

  Go inside, and your jaw may just drop. The size of the mall is comparable to some of the malls in Penang, and the tenants are no small fry either.

  Shopping malls are hardly the benchmark on whether a state’s, or more specifically, a city’s economy, is growing, but, it can set the ball rolling in terms of attracting tourists from outside to come.

  This bodes well for Kedah's tourism, too, what with Discover Kedah 2016 just around the corner.

  I’m not a Kedahan, but there is pride bursting from within, that the state I live in now boasts an immense structure.

  It would also not be too much to say that the citizens of Kedah are swelling with pride with this new additio.

  But, Kedah is more than just Aman Central, more than Alor Star, and even more than Langkawi, which holds its own as a major tourist attraction.

  The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) consent to make Langkawi a geopark reference centre for Southeast Asia, after the island managed to retain its status as a Unesco Global Geopark, is most welcome.

  But don’t stop there. The state government must make a concerted effort to draw more tourists to the state, and this means it has to ensure tourism products are in good shape and maintained.

  What would be good, too, is that all quarters do their part in ensuring public facilities, including roads, are in good condition.

  There are many roads that have been damaged, whether by the elements or heavy vehicles, and these should be taken care of immediately, to ensure Kedah’s image is not tarnished.

  Similarly, checks in several tourist spots have found the places to be dull, despite it being full of promise, such as the Gunung Keriang Recreational Park, the Kedah state museum, and the Alor Star Tower.

  These are but a few, but with three months to go before 2016 dawns on us, there is time to spruce up these tourist attractions.

  Visiting one or two places would defeat the purpose of Discover Kedah, and it would be a pity if it does not live up to its name and breathe more life into Kedah.

  These tourist attractions are the pride of Kedah folk, and hence, it is only right that they are kept in tip- top shape, not just for now, not just for tourists to feast their eyes on, but for the future generations to see and appreciate.

 

The writer is NST’s Kedah bureau chief

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