With regal palaces, historical sites and architectural spendour, it is no wonder Kuala Kangsar is crowned the royal town of Perak. It is home to generations of traditional artisans, from keris craftsmen and embroiderers who serve royalty, to labu sayong makers who craft for common folk.
Located 30km north of Ipoh, visitors to this town of legends and legacies will find plenty worth exploring. Here’s our list of 12 things to do the next time you head to Kuala Kangsar!
1. Visit the incredible Ubudiah Mosque
Boasting gold and Italian marble domes, the Ubudiah Mosque casts a dramatic backdrop against the landscape of Kuala Kangsar. This majestic building is one of Malaysia’s most beautiful mosques. It was built at the command of Sultan Idris Murshidal Azam Shah following his recovery from an illness in 1913, but the sultan sadly never lived to see it completed. Be sure to dress appropriately if you would want to enter the mosque!
2. Admire the historical Victoria Bridge
Victoria Bridge is one of the oldest railway bridges in Malaysia, which cuts across the Perak River at Karai. Built in 1897, it was named after Queen Victoria, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee Year. Connecting the western Malay states to Penang, Victoria Bridge was once used for the transportation of tin ore until it closed in 2002.
The bridge is popular among avid photographers thanks to its nostalgic and old world vibes. Those familiar with the Malaysian film industry might even recognise it as the film location of 2014’s The Journey (一路有你).
The café next to Victoria Bridge sells freshly made pastries and Milo Kepal, a sweet iced dessert made using Milo, where you can have a break while admiring the bridge.
3. Visit the Istana Kenangan
Once the residence of the Perak royal family, the well-preserved palace served as a venue for royal ceremonies. Also used for funeral preparations, it was known as Istana Mayat (Palace of the Deceased). It was later renamed Istana Kenangan (Palace of Memories) by First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, and has been housing the Perak Royal Museum since 1986.
The architecture of Istana Kenangan is an epitome of traditional Malay craftsmanship. The wooden building was built with any iron nails, while the walls are woven with wickerwood and embellished with immaculate carvings. The palace has a unique shape which resembles a sword in its sheath.
4. Mould a traditional Labu Sayong
Nothing says Kuala Kangsar more than the humble Labu Sayong, a traditional water pitcher shaped like a gourd. While some believe that the water it contains has healing properties, most townsfolk use it to keep liquids cool.
One of the interesting things that you can experience in Kuala Kangsar is the art of making Labu Sayong using a wheel throwing machine. In some workshops, you can watch how it is made traditionally, or you can get your hands dirty by making your own.
5. Meet the Keris Craftsman of Perak
Keris making is an ancient tradition in Kuala Kangsar. The weapon is said to bear sacred powers, and is often made as an heirloom, a status symbol or an accessory during official ceremonies.
The most well-known blacksmith in town is Pak Mazin, the fourth generation in his family to continue this trade at Bukit Chandan. He welcomes guests to his workshop to learn about keris making, and see how the keris is forged.
6. Meet a local Iron Artist
Another notable blacksmith in town is Raja Shahriman Raja Aziddin. Inspired by traditional keris forging methods, he turns iron pieces into artistic metal sculptures that typically mimic the human form. He occasionally allows visitors to his workshop at Bukit Chandan to see him in action as he creates his next masterpiece.
7. Learn Tekat Emas Weaving
Tekat Emas, or Gold Thread Embroidery, is an intricate craft whereby gold threads are woven into floral motifs on velvet pieces, traditionally done by hand.
At Kuala Kangsar, not only do you get to see an artist at work, you can also experience tekat emas weaving with the guidance of Puan Mardziah, a well-known traditional embroiderer whose work is displayed in palaces and museums. Her workshop is located in Padang Changkat.
8. See how a Traditional Headdress is folded
Tengkolok is a Malay headdress worn by men during important ceremonies and weddings. With so many different style variations (10 in Perak alone!), it takes a skilled tengkolok craftsman like Raja Ahmad Akasihah to fold and stitch the fabric together. You can find him at handicraft bazaar, where he shows guests how to style and wear the tengkolok.
9. Bring home a locally made keychain
If you’re looking for small gifts to bring home, why not go for keychains bearing their names? There is a humble handicraft stall in Padang Changkat where you can buy colourful, customised keychains, each painstakingly made by hand.
10. Eat your way through Kuala Kangsar
The food in Kuala Kangsar is all about authentic kampung delicacies. Among them is Laksa Sarang Burung, a spicy noodles dish topped with a flaky, nest-like egg.
For something more commonplace, there is Nasi Lemuni (herbal rice which originated in Kuala Kangsar) Ikan Patin Gulai Tempoyok (fish in fermented durian sauce), Ulam (Malay salad with an assortment of local herbs and sauces), and a local pastry called Kundas.
11. Experience the Kampung Life at Labu Kubong Homestay
With a few days to spare, stay a night or two at Labu Kubong Homestay. Surrounded by idyllic scenery, this local homestay gives you the “Kampung Boy Lat” feels.
Everything is village-inspired: you can wander around the orchard, splash into eco-adventures like kayaking or bird watching, learn about cottage industries, try rubber tapping, and enjoy cultural performance.
12. Join the Perak River Safari
Kuala Kangsar has her share of nature too, particularly along the Perak River. Once used to transport ore in the 19th century, the second longest river in Malaysia now houses hydro power dams.
Cruising down the river gives you a glimpse of the rustic side of Perak. Imagine the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze, buffaloes by the stream, monkeys swaying in the trees, and fishermen casting their nets. Of course, there are plenty of river adventure activities you can take a splash in such as camping, forest trekking and kayaking.