If you want a more rural cheap holiday with paddy fields, beautiful state parks, sugar cane plantations, traditional markets, cities with a more relaxed way of life and awesome museums, then Perlis, Malaysia is definitely for you. The Malaysians call it The Northern Gem because of its natural beauty and ancient archaeological finds. It is the country’s smallest state and has a population of only 210,000 people. It is at the absolute top of Malaysia sharing a border with Thailand. This makes it easy to see both countries in a shorter period of time.
There are many things to do in the state of Perlis, but here are some of my favorites to have an awesome holiday, cheap travel with a unique twist.
Perlis State Park – right next to the border of Thailand and Malaysia, Perlis State Park is beautiful. Here you can go caving, trekking, bird watching and hiking. There are many species of birds and animals only found in this park, as well as unique flora and fauna. There are also large cave systems to explore. Just be careful in the rainy season, as these caves can flood quite quickly.
If you want to spend a couple of days there, you can stay in small hostels in the park or you can camp. To camp though, don’t forget, you must get permission from the park management first. Both forms of accommodation though are very cheap, so the state park is a perfect place for an inexpensive getaway.
Wang Kelian Sunday Market – this neat little market straddles the border of Thailand and Malaysia, so you can actually visit both countries as they allow it without a passport provided you stay within the market area. They sell Malaysian and Thai products, so you’ll find great handicrafts, clothing, silks, wooden carvings, artwork, and much more. Don’t forget to bargain and you should get some great prices.
The Royal Museum – has an interesting exhibit of royal regalia. They have daggers that were used in royal ceremonies, swords, headgear, clothing etc. all showing the history of the Perlis Royal Family. As Malaysia has 9 different royal families, the Perlis Family, like all the others, have taken it in turns to ‘rule’ Malaysia. You have to get permission from the Arau Palace officials though to visit the museum, but any hotel you stay at can tell you where to go to do this.
Kuala Perlis – This is the main port in Perlis and where tourists catch the ferry to go to Langkawi, a famous Malaysian beach resort. Kuala Perlis is a small town, consisting mostly of fishing but it’s interesting to walk around and see the fishing culture at work as well as try some of the superb (and cheap!) seafood restaurants that are all over the place.
Kangar – Kangar is the capital city of Perlis and has many historic buildings to see. The Syed Alwi Mosque is an almost 100-year old mosque that people come from miles around to see. With the typical white walls of the Malaysian architectural style, yellow blinds and the domed roofs and spires, it really is a beautiful building.
Kangar, for being a state capital, is a relaxed laid-back place, where you can wander around and look at the old shophouses, or check out the local history. Dato Wan Ahmad’s House is also here. It’s a beautiful 70 year old kampong (village) wooden house with gorgeous woodcarvings and colorful painted panels and is an excellent example of traditional Malay architecture.
In the evening, check out one of the little markets or eat at one of the roadside restaurants that you’ll find everywhere. Or, if you’re wanting more comfort, there are many choices of air conditioned Western restaurants to choose from. Whatever you choose, the food is excellent in Perlis province and very inexpensive.
Perlis is mainly an agricultural state and is very sleepy and relaxed. Don’t let this fool you though. It has many charms, not only the clean air, the friendly people and the unspoiled beauty. It also has some of the best food in Malaysia (both Asian and Western), fabulous fishing and also great shopping. You can buy things in Perlis you won’t see anywhere else. Also check out the sugar cane plantations, and the Snake and Reptile Farm, with its snakes, crocodiles and monitor lizards.
To get there, you can take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kepala Batas, Kedah. Here you can get a taxi to Perlis. You can also take a bus from Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Terengganu, Malacca, Penang or Kedah. There are also several trains that run through Perlis as the line from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore runs right through it. You can also take the ferry from Langkawi to Kuala Perlis. With so many ways to get there, it would be a pity to miss it.