Alor Setar is the capital of the state of Kedah. It is a transit point for trips to Thailand and to Pulau Langkawi. The ferry to Langkawi departs from Kuala Kedah, just few minutes outside of Alor Setar. The city is a center of Malay culture and is surrounded by paddie fields .
Cherating is the only real backpacker hub at the east coast of the peninsula on the mainland. Offering plenty of affordable chalets and a relaxed atmosphere, it is good place to stop for a night or two on the way up or down the east coast. The beach itself is not that spectacular and misses the palm directly at the beach. But it has a good vibe and few things you can do like taking a tour or renting a kayak up the river into the mangroves. There is also an active surfer scene when the waves are right. Cherating is located about 30km or 1h by local bus north of Kuantan.