When you think of tourist spots in Malaysia, most people would think of places like Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, but never Perlis. Which is a pity, as Malaysia’s smallest state is big on things to explore. As Malaysia’s tiniest state, it often gets the butt end of jokes about how Perlis is so small, (insert joke about small things)
Located on the far northern reaches of Peninsular Malaysia bordering Thailand, Perlis covers 810 square kilometres and has a population of about 190,000 people aka lesser than the population of my city, which is 51.71 kmsq – 400,000 people. But that also means they have a lot more space.
Once under the kingdom of Siam (you can still see a lot of Thai influences in everything, like food, language, etc.), they were ceded to Kedah in the mid-19th century, but have a ruler of their own, known as the House of Jamalullail. The special thing about Perlis is that while other states have a Sultan, Perlis is the only one that calls its ruler Raja (king).
Now, if it hadn’t been for a work trip, I think I wouldn’t have gone to Perlis anytime soon. I went with the impression that Perlis was going to be this boring little place with nothing but paddy fields…but guess what? I thoroughly enjoyed it there. It was a good escape from the city, and I can see coming back here just to chill and enjoy the sights.
Here’s what you can do:
1 ) Visit the Galeri Diraja @ Arau
(Above) Istana Arau
15 minutes away from Kangar is the royal city of Perlis, Arau – home to Istana Arau. The palace dates back over 100 years and is a beautiful showcase of the region’s Malay architecture. The building is off limits, but visitors can stop by at the adjacent Galeri Diraja, a museum which houses precious collections belonging to the Perlis royal family.
On special occasions, such as Hari Raya or 2017’s Malam Kilauan Cahaya (Light Illumination Night), the palace grounds are opened to the public.
2) Admire the view from Tuanku Syed Putra Bridge
Located at the mouth of the Kuala Perlis river, evening is the best time to come, as you’ll be able to see stunning views of the sunset, fishing boats returning for the night, and the distant shapes of Langkawi and Thailand looming against a pink/blue tapestry.
Best way to get here is to Google this location: Pasaraya Seri Utama Kuala Perlis , then ask the locals.
3) Take a stroll by the beach / snap pictures of the ‘most beautiful mosque in Malaysia’
Take a stroll and enjoy the sea breeze along Kuala Perlis Jetty, which has a nice paved boulevard. You will also find what many people dub the ‘most beautiful mosque in Malaysia’ – Masjid Al-Hussain. It’s not very large, but the design is definitely unique, as it features stained glass windows like those you find in churches. The mosque looks like it’s ‘floating’ on water during high tide, but even during low tide, it is a lovely sight.
4) Tuck into scrumptious seafood
Not too far from the mosque are numerous seafood restaurants, located within a large foodcourt. Vendors put out displays of fresh fish and seafood to entice customers, and you can have it in different styles – tepung goreng, steamed, assam pedas – you name it, they have it! A very famous place here is Hai Thien, a Chinese-style restaurant that is so popular even the royals come here to dine! The spot is halal, so you will see people of all races dining together.
5) Hangout at a chic cafe-cum-art gallery
Part cafe, part cosy mishmash of knickknacks and art gallery, Blackwood Coffee and Chocolate Kangar is owned by the Perlis royal family and has several outlets in Perlis, Kedah and one in Penang. The Kangar branch is an Instagrammers dream, with loads of paraphernalia from around the world the likes of dreamcatchers and a giant kangaroo doll. There is a small shop selling souvenirs and T-Shirts, and a large collection of Coca-Cola items (the Crown Prince is apparently a big fan of Coke souvenirs).
6) Shop like crazy at Padang Besar
Padang Besar is a border town that is very close to Thailand. There’s a running joke about how they had to name it Padang Besar (large field) because Perlis is so small lol. This is a shopping haven for cheap items. There’s a large complex with many vendors selling makeup, beauty products, clothing, toys, cookware, bags, shoes, fake jewellery, and more.
7) Buy produce
Because of the relatively smaller population, Perlis has plenty of land for agriculture. Like Kedah, it is a rice producer, and it’s common to see vast swathes of paddy fields. Other popular produce include the mempelam harum manis and rock melon. Pay a visit to the farms to buy them fresh. The harum manis is really, really sweet and fragrant, I kid you not. Better than the Philippine mango. My Filipino boyfriend will kill me for saying this.
There are actually other things you can do in Perlis; but these were just the ones I went to because we were only there for 2D1N (and most of it was spent working).
- Bukit Keteri – limestone hills with lots of crags and nooks for rock climbing. Only for the adventurous!
- Gua Kelam – literally ‘dark cave’, once home to stone age men, according to archaeological finds.
- Muzium Kota Kayang – museum with interesting exhibits of the state’s history
- Snake and Reptile Farm – One of only a handful of snake farms in Malaysia, home to some 200 snakes from 30+ species.
- Wang Kelian Market – A border town with weekend market selling cheap goods. On Sundays, the border guards open the Thai side so you can go over to buy stuff without having to present your passport.
- Tasik Melati Recreational Park – Park with a small but beautiful lake.
Detailed posts of places visited coming soon!
***Eris Achievement Unlocked – 12/13 states in Malaysia visited !