The tiny town of Sungai Petani stretches along the railway tracks coming up from Butterworth and heading to Thailand. Save one attraction this is a town that features very rarely on a traveller's itinerary.
In the colonial days the town was mainly a centre for rice cultivation and rubber production. Not many buildings remain from those days but on Jalan Bank where the old bank building still stands, you can get a sense of how life might have been back then, when rich plantation owners made their weekly deposits here as street vendors, cobblers and merchants advertised their wares in the streets surrounding the clock tower.
Things to do in Sungai Petani are about as low key as it gets: visit the sleepy and worn railway station and spot the town's clock tower -- a testimony to a time when not everybody had a wrist watch (or mobile phone) -- browse the morning market on Jalan Besar and have a cup of tea in a wild west-looking Chinese area around Jalan Pengalan.
Some travellers do actually come here for a reason -- to make a trip to the fascinating Lembah Bujang Archaeology Museum set on the jungle-clad slopes of Gunung Jerai, where the site of an ancient Hindu civilisation has been unearthed.
The easiest way to get your bearings in Sungai Petani is to look out for the clock tower that stands right in the centre on Jalan Ibrahim, the main road, opposite HSBC Bank.
By Marc Modin.