Perlis Travels: Harum Manis – The Sweetest Mangoes Ever!? + Cheap Shopping @ Padang Besar / Rock Melon Plantation

Hey guys!

We’re in Perlis for work – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun. 😀

After filming wrapped up at the palace, we were taken on a tour of sights around the state. Aside from being one of the rice bowls of Malaysia, Perlis also boasts agricultural produce, such as the Harum Manis, a popular mango variant known for being exceptionally meaty, sweet and fragrant. Rather than calling it ‘mangga‘ (malay for mango), Perlisians call it ‘Mempelam’.

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The Pusat Kecermelangan Harum Manis is a research centre-cum-plantation where visitors can find out more about the process of planting, caring for and harvesting harum manis mangoes, as well as make purchases. It’s run by Jabatan Pertanian Perlis.

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We got there in the afternoon and there were only a few mangoes left for sale. Got a kilo (RM20), which yielded about 4 medium-sized mangoes. The staff will advise as to when they are best eaten.

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Paid a visit to the plantation.

Taste isn’t the only thing that makes the harum manis more expensive than other variants on the market. It’s the painstaking process of caring for the trees, as each fruit has to be individually wrapped (to protect it from pests) and harvested by hand. The only season that you can get them is from April to early June.

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Beautiful fruit. They don’t turn yellow (maybe a slight tinge) and remain greenish even when ripe. Some people might find it too sweet, almost sugary (fine for me though!)

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Visiting the Timah Tasoh Dam; a good place to take pictures. You can’t go down on that island thing though.

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Shoppers will like Padang Besar, a border town close to Thailand where you can find cheap, knockoff goods, from toys to jewellery, watches, shoes, hats, T-shirts and makeup. There were lipsticks and fragrances going for as low as RM5, although I wouldn’t recommend those – who knows what they’re made of lol.

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I didn’t enjoy this place much as I’m not a shopper and it was really stuffy within the complex, but I can see the appeal for some.

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Heading back via the Chuping Valley – a vast expanse of flat grasslands.

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Our last stop for the day was to a Rock Melon plantation. We were lucky as the melons were just turning ripe and we could see the huge fruit dangling from the vines.

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And that’s all for Perlis!

To see a list of Things To Do in Perlis, check out this post. 

 

Work Trip To Perlis – Interviewing the Royal Fam

Hey guys!

Sorry for the lack of updates – currently on holiday in Manila 😀

I’m taking some time off from exploring the city (it’s been raining like crazy the past few days) – so here’s my recent experience traveling to the northern Malaysian state of Perlis for work.

You can read the full story here  – but it was basically a collaboration between Malaysia Airlines and the Perlis Royal Family, to bring Perlis cuisine to passengers flying with the airline during the festive season of Eid. The Perlis royal family shared a palace favourite recipe – the Kurma Daging Perlis / Kurma Ayam Perlis – and the Malaysia Airlines kitchen would recreate it and serve it onboard selected flights for the first three days of Eid.

My job was to do a story on it for online, whilst the Malaysia Airlines video production crew I traveled with did photos/videos for social media.

The above video (which is less than a minute!) took us hours to film and get right lol. Some of the interviews (the parts with the palace chef, for example) didn’t even make it on film. And people think video production is easy work!

We arrived at Istana Arau, the official residence of the Perlis Royal Family in the evening for a site recce, but ended up doing the palace chef’s interview on the spot, which was initially scheduled for the next day.

Interviewing for video is way. more. difficult. than for print because you have to get the interviewees to say full sentences, and most people are nervous in front of a camera, so you have to repeat takes. It was a good thing we didn’t have to jump into interviewing the royal fam straight away – the palace aide had to give us barbarians a crash course on proper etiquette while meeting the Crown Prince and his consort.

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Breakfast at The Putra Regency Hotel Kangar was a simple affair – canned beans, sliced bread, fruits and sunny side up egg, served with coffee and juice.

Then it was off to the palace again for the ‘real’ work – shooting footage of the dishes that would be served onboard, and interviewing the Crown Prince.

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The exterior of the palace. The compound is not normally open to the public except on special occasions. The Istana itself dates back to the early 20th century and has beautiful architecture.

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Nicely landscaped gardens.

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Not sure if palace protocol allows me to post any photos of the palace interiors. We only visited two rooms: the dining room where we did the food shots, and the holding room where the royal family receives guests.

Helped set up the props such as dry ingredients, plates, etc.; and then the film crew started to do the shots. Because we couldn’t film in the kitchen, they flew in a ready made kurma daging dish, reheated it and used that for filming. I was nervous interviewing the royal couple because there are protocols to be followed, such as the ‘sembah’ (salutations? where you place your palms together on your forehead and ask for permission to speak) , but once the ball got rolling it was me, the interviewee and my notepad again.

The entire shoot took us close to four hours – and all for less than a minute of footage! It was an interesting experience nevertheless, and everyone was fun to work with.

….Welp, that was my little ‘diary’ entry that’s not the usual travel/food stuff.

Back to regular programming. 😀

 

Review: Blackwood Cafe & Chocolate, Kangar, Perlis

Big city girl that I am, I admit I was a bit on my high horse when I went to Perlis, expecting this boring, quaint little town where shops close at 8 and everyone goes to sleep at 10. I mean, they don’t even have a cinema ffs (Perlisians have to cross the border into another state to catch a movie, all the way in Kedah).

So when our hosts brought us to Blackwood Cafe and Chocolate in Kangar, I was floored (and a little humbled). This is the coolest, hipster-est place ever. If it was in KL there’d be scores of people try’na hog all the Instagram-worthy spots.  But because this is Perlis, the ambience was cosy and quiet – how a good cafe should be.

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Visitors are immediately greeted by a warm, colourful blend of knickknacks, from feathery dreamcatchers and mismatched couches to a giant urn/fountain and larger than life kangaroo. Walls are lined with art work and portraits of Perlis royalty, as the shop belongs to a member of the royal family. There is also a shop selling souvenirs such as polo/T-shirts, bags, hats, caps and keychains.

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The Crown Prince of Perlis is a big fan of Coca-Cola souvenirs, and you’ll find an extensive collection housed here: Limited edition cans and bottles, Coke paraphernalia, vintage posters and commemorative items, etc.

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We paid a visit to the second floor, which is an art gallery that is not yet opened to the public. There was a collection of elephant drawings which looked childish at first, until the manager told us that they were done by real elephants, using their trunks in place of hands. Let there be no doubt about the incredible intelligence and sentience of these creatures. And we call them animals.

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Great selection of cakes!

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Cutesy decorations ! One side of the wall near the counter was plastered over with Polaroid photos of staff/customers.

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Loved the lanterns and the lights juxtaposed against the dark ceiling; it was almost like dining under the stars.

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We were ushered into a separate room reserved for functions, surrounded by beautiful paintings done in different styles. There were also bright, colourful traditional wau (kites) on the ceiling.

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My Rainbow Crepe looked too pretty to be eaten!

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Eat it I did in the end. Tasty and rich, without being cloying. The layers were fluffy yet soft.

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Washed it down with a toasty mug of hot chocolate.

If you’re ever in Perlis and thinking about having a nice cuppa at night, Blackwood is a good place to go. There is also a branch in Arau, and branches in Kedah and Penang.

BLACKWOOD KANGAR 

Galeri 28, 6/8 Persiaran Jubli Emas, 01000, Kangar,Perlis

Tel: 0196307579

Business Hours: 12 pm – 11.30 pm

blackwood.my

 

Perlis Travels: Al Hussain Mosque + Hai Thien Seafood, Kuala Perlis

It ‘s easy to see why Masjid Al Hussain in Kuala Perlis is often called the most beautiful mosque in Malaysia. Like the state of Perlis itself, the mosque may be small in size but is stunning in its beauty and unique architecture.

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The mosque combines traditional Islamic design such as geometric patterns and floral motifs with modern touches. Perched on stilts looking out to sea, it is also called the ‘Floating Mosque’ because during high tide, it looks as it the building is floating on the water’s surface. Unfortunately during our visit, it was low tide – but the sight of it in the sunset was already lovely enough as it is.

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What I found special about the mosque was its colourful stained glass windows, which I’ve only seen in churches before but not a mosque. Instead of painted walls, the walls are embedded with corals, granite, marble, pebbles and quartz. The minarets are lit up at night with different colours to signal a different prayer time and can be seen from miles around.

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After donning robes, we ventured inside. There was a beautiful blue, white and gold dome surrounded by a star pattern; each corner engraved with the five precepts of Islam in different languages. The carpeted floor had a similar colour scheme of blue and gold.

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Stained glass windows with geometric patterns.

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View from the other side of the mosque.

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After our short visit, we made our way to Hai Thien Seafood just down the road. This is one of the most popular spots in Perlis to have fresh, tasty Chinese-style seafood. Since the establishment is halal, you’ll find people of all races dining here! 🙂

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Our hosts did all the ordering. My favourite was the soft shell crab – lightly battered, crispy on the outside, sweet and flavourful on the inside.

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Other dishes that we had: fried rice with chicken, steamed fish, salad shrimp and stir fried mihun (vermicilli noodle). Loved the salad shrimp which was served with fruit and a sweet creamy sauce, only qualm was that there wasn’t enough to go around.

HAI THIEN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

02000 Kuala Perlis, Perlis

The jetty at Kuala Perlis is a good place to enjoy the sunset, take in some beautiful sights and wrap the night up with a scrumptious seafood meal. Definitely a must visit if you’re in Perlis! 🙂

 

Perlis’ Hidden Gem: Jambatan Tuanku Syed Putra, Kuala Perlis

We live in a glorious age, where information is readily available through this thing called Google.

So I was stumped when I couldn’t find ANY info about this place that I went to in Kuala Perlis…apart from a few photos.

No location, no how-to-get-there, no ‘history of bridge’… nothing. That’s when I knew that it’s truly one of those spots that nobody but the locals know about. Ladies and gents: Jambatan Tuanku Syed Putra. 

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Named after the late king (father of the current Raja) the bridge can be accessed via a side road. It spans across the river mouth of Kuala Perlis, connecting one side of the bank to the other.

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First impression: This is a steep-ass bridge.

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You reach the top and there’s a platform where you can chill and take in the sights after the climb.

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Both sides of the river bank were lined with fishing boats. Most were already docked for the night. Our guide mentioned that you can see the hills of Langkawi on one side and Thailand on the other, although I got confused as to which side was which. I think this was the Langkawi side (?)

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Evening is the best time to come: lovely sunset!

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This is a hidden gem that you should try and locate, especially if you’re heading to the Masjid Al Hussain near the seaside area. As mentioned in a previous post, you can’t Google or Waze your way to the exact spot, so the best way to get there is to google Pasaraya Seri Utama Kuala Perlis and ask locals for directions.

7 Things To Do In Perlis, Malaysia’s Smallest State

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)

via MGAG 

via Wikimedia Commons

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 

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(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

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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’

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

BONUS

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 !