History of Southeast Asia
This Temple is Older Than Angkor Wat!

Southeast Asia’s oldest ancient civilizations were made up of Buddhists and Hindus, and Sungai Batu is here to prove it.

Sungai Batu is an archaeological site in northern Malaysia, and it holds the ruins of several Hindu-Buddhist temples dating back to the 8th and 11th century. The site, which is located in Merbok of the Kedah state, is believed to have existed since 535 BC. It was a former thriving international entrepot, an iron smelting hub, as well as a religious center.

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Entrance to the Sungai Batu Archaeological Site.
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One of the many smelting centers found at the Sungai Batu Archaeological Site.
 tapak Arkeologi Sungai Batu di Lembah Bujang
A glimpse of the Sungai Batu Archaeological Site.

Due to Sungai Batu’s involvement in the global exports of iron, archaeologists have unearthed merchant ships believed to have been buried for approximately 4000 years. In total, the site holds 17 smelting plants, 13 administrative centers, numerous ritual sites, and 10 jetties. During a mapping carried out in 2007, 17 candi were found intact while 33 candi that were previously recorded by early British explorers have unfortunately vanished due to natural reasons.

Candi is a term describing ancient temples and ritual sites which have evolved into being today's historical monuments.

An ancient temple found at Sungai Batu.
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Smelting plants found at Sungai Batu in Kedah.
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Ruins and bricks.
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Ancient monuments made of bricks found at Lembah Bujang.

The ancient Kedah Tua Civilization went by many names in the past: Queda, Kalah Bar, Kalaha, Cheh-Cha, Ka-Cha and Qalha.

Local archaeologists claimed that the Kedah Tua Civilization was one of the world’s oldest civilizations, surpassing the ancient Rome and Greece civilizations. In 2016, world-renowned archaeologists confirmed that the sites found in Lembah Bujang were over 2,000 years old - putting them way ahead of Cambodia's Angkor Wat and Indonesia's Borobudur in the history timeline.

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Excavation work being carried out at the Sungai Batu Archaeological Complex in Merbok.
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Thousands of iron ores are still being unearthed at Sungai Batu each day.

Activities at Sungai Batu Archaeological Site

It is recommended to spend half a day at the historic archaeological site at Sungai Batu in Merbok. There are several activities and educational attractions tailored specifically for those with an interest in archaeology and anthropology, such as the following:

Go on a Candi tour

Lembah Bujang or the Bujang Valley is a sprawling historical complex covering over 224 suare feet. Being the richest archaeological site in Malaysia, this site also houses the oldest manmade structure recorded in the whole of Southeast Asia, which is made out of clay bricks known as Candi 11. You can visit all 17 registered candi here.

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Candi Bukit Batu Pahat was erected in the 6th century A.D., and has become the most popular ancient Hindu temple in Lembah Bujang.

See ancient artifacts at the Lembah Bujang Archaeological Museum

Ancient relics are on display at this dedicated museum, including inscribed stone caskets and tablets, metal tools, ceramics, beads that were once traded, and other Hindu ornaments.

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An ancient statue of Lord Ganesha are among the items on display at the Lembah Bujang Archaeological Museum.

Observe the ongoing excavation or join as a volunteer!

Excavation work is still being carried out at Sungai Dua, and you can be a part of this significant event by participating as a volunteer!

Tapak Arkeologi Sungai Batu, Lembah Bujang
Excavation work at the Sungai Dua Archaeological Site.

Hands-on ancient brick making and iron smelting experience

Curious to learn about the methods used by the region's oldest civilization in the making of bricks and melting ores? Find out how here!

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Tapak Arkeologi Sungai Batu, Lembah Bujang
Archaeologists demonstrating and explaining ancient methods of making bricks and iron in Sungai Batu.

Despite all the excavation efforts, scientific evidences and its potential to become the next international heritage tourism attraction, Sungai Batu is still not recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site. As the Sungai Batu archaeological site has not been properly developed into a tourist attraction, here are a few things to look out for:

  1. Lack of information. While walking paths are available, signage is not being put up.
  2. No guide. However, on certain days, visitors might be able to find volunteers or students for a guided tour around the site. Otherwise, one will have to rely on Google for information.
  3. Disintegrated ruins. While there are candi still intact, most of the major discoveries are left with scattered ruins that will not impress a visitor who does not have prior knowledge of the place.

Sungai Batu Archaeological Site

Tapak Arkeologi Sungai Batu, Lembah Bujang
Address: Kampung Permatang Samak, Bedong 08100, Malaysia
Entrance Fee: Free
Recommended visit duration: Half-day
Getting there: Take the Sungai Petani shuttle bus to Merbok from the Sungai Petani bus terminal.

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