Northern delights


Local flavour: Pekan Rabu in Alor Setar, Kedah, offers all sorts of traditional delicacies, among other things.

Norma Khalid is determined to earn enough as a trader selling titbits and traditional food at Pekan Rabu in Alor Setar, Kedah to raise her grandchildren.

Thankfully, things have been looking up as visitors have been coming to the market from other parts of the country since the ban on interstate travel was lifted beginning Oct 11 for individuals fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The resumption of interstate travel has been a boost for business, although it has yet to go back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Norma, who has been operating there for three decades.

It has not been easy for the 59-year-old, who recounted how she lost her daughter during the pandemic.

For Norma, Sept 8 was a black day as it was when her 38-year-old daughter succumbed to Covid-19 at Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah in Alor Setar.

Teary-eyed, she recalled that her daughter had wanted to become a reporter after completing her degree in mass communication.

“But I did not let her pursue that path as I thought the challenging nature of the job was unsuitable for women,” she said.

Her daughter, who was a single mother, left behind a girl and a boy aged 15 and six, respectively.

Spacious and clean new arcade

A visit by StarMetro to the four-storey complex on a weekday found a sizeable crowd comprising locals and visitors from other states.

Clothing trader Rohana Mohamad, 44, said she had received many shoppers from the Klang Valley and Penang, especially over weekends.

The mother of two from Kuala Kedah had closed her shop during the interstate travel ban because of a lack of customers.

“I made some sales online but the profits were much lower compared to when I was operating physically at the shop.

“I reopened in late September as I had anticipated more shoppers coming by in the weeks ahead,” she said.

Mother-of-three Aminah Sahoh, 40, who sells traditional delicacies in Pekan Rabu, recently resumed her normal operating hours from 9am to 7.30pm daily.

“During the interstate travel ban, many of the shops here closed earlier, around 6pm daily. “Nowadays, we get many shoppers, especially from the southern states,” said Aminah, who has been trading there for the past decade.

Another trader Nor Zaimah Md Shah, 43, who inherited the clothing business from her father three years ago, said she had increased her stock to meet the current higher demand.

“This complex relies on tourists from outside of Kedah.

“Many are coming here again to shop, especially during the holiday season,” she said.

Located on Jalan Tunku Ibrahim, Alor Setar, the Pekan Rabu shopping arcade houses small Bumiputra traders selling traditional wear, local crafts and dry foods.

It spans 0.5ha, comprising some 350 shops and a food court, and has 200 parking bays for cars and 120 for motorcycles.

In 2014, these traders temporarily relocated to the Ukir Mall, sited 2km away, to make way for a RM55.5mil renovation that was completed in early 2018.

Retiree Norshah Kasim, 63, who was visiting from Gombak, Selangor with her son, said the new complex looked clean and comfortable.

“I went to the temporary site in Ukir Mall a few years ago.

“It felt cramped whereas this original building is quite spacious.

“The traders are also friendly,” she added.

However, StarMetro also found that there were shuttered shops, mainly on the upper levels, at the refurbished complex.

A trader, who declined to be named, said this was because some traders owned multiple shops.

“These traders are operating on the lower level, but they store their items on the upper level,” he said.

Border town recovers steadilyMeanwhile, some 80km away in Padang Besar, Perlis, a light drizzle on a weekday did not stop the steady influx of shoppers from making their way to Arked Niaga.

Father-of-five Khosein Ahmad, 55, who sells bedding items at an adjacent site, said many businesses were yet to begin operating at full capacity.

“Some shops buy their supplies from Thailand.

“The border closure meant that we were unable to get some supplies,” he said.

Like the traders in Pekan Rabu, Khosein too felt the resumption of interstate travel had injected hope that businesses here would recover as they relied mostly on visitors from other states.

Padang Besar, situated near the Malaysia-Thailand border, is a popular spot for bargain hunters looking for clothing, mattresses and other household items at affordable prices.

On May 19, Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man told Bernama that a new complex called Padang Besar Pavilion would be built next to Arked Niaga.

The RM30mil project by a private developer, which encompasses 3.64ha on state government-owned land, is expected to be completed early next year.

It will involve 11 blocks, consisting of 96 shoplots, nine food courts and 105 parking bays.

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