Late last month I finally accomplished an item on my bucket list. It was an unplanned situation, my work took me to a part of the country in which I have always wanted to visit but never found the reason why. And by visiting this state — Perlis, the smallest state in the country, I finally put a tick to having visit and stayed in every single state (all 13 of them) in my country. Yay!
I was involved in an international disaster relief exercise in the state of Perlis and took my free time to visit the state. Prior to the trip, I had to ask around for some tips and all I got were — laksa (rice noodles) and mempelam harum manis (mango). Not a lot of people visit this state as it is the northernmost state and the only reason you’re there is because you used to live there.
I was traveling with my staff, so the first place that we stopped was the mosque. This is no simple mosque though, Masjid Al Hussain is actually a ‘floating’ mosque built on top of the water level at Kuala Perlis. When the tide rises, it does look like it was built on water.
After their noon prayers, we went searching for food. And lucky for us, the famous laksa restaurant that sells this glutinous rice noodles mixed with a sour/tangy/fishy paste was located nearby. The locals suggested that we try out ‘Kak Su Laksa’ and so that was where we were headed to.
The dish is best tasted rather than seen. The rice noodles were well formed and firm, as compared to those lesser known ones, where they would scrimp on the making of the rice noodles, and you’re left with a limp, flat tasting noodle. The paste itself is fish mixed with some sour concoction. Unfortunately, you might need more than a plate to fill full.
Having had our fill, we went traipsing around the state capital of Kangar. In fact, you can reach the state borders from anywhere in the state by just driving around 45-60 minutes. That’s how small the state is. Our first stop was the Perlis Vineyard (Taman Anggur Perlis), where there was a rumour that we could pick the grapes and eat them, all for the price of admission. However, we found another reason when we arrived. It wasn’t grape-picking season yet. But, admission was free!
Well, I would have to say, after seeing the vineyards at Lavaux, Switzerland. I am ashamed to say that the Malaysian version pales in comparison. I might have to change its name, this was no vineyard, this was more like a large scale grape planting scheme. The only highlight was the roof made of grape vines.
“So much for the grapes,” I quipped.
“Let’s check out the mangoes.”
A kilometre away lies the Centre For Mango Research (Pusat Kecermelangan Mempelam Harum Manis). This particular type of mango can only be found here. Others have tried planting the seed back at their own states but have failed. Although I do suspect that this research facility might have something to do with it. They could have bio-engineered the seeds to be less plantable. Who knows?
“They look the same.”
“Look at the price.”
“RM 35 per kilo, that’s like US$10 per kg.”
That was our reaction when we saw the mangoes and the prices. It was very expensive. We took a taste of the sample that was being handed out. It was really sweet, well worth the price but even the sweetest ‘normal’ mango bought elsewhere, would taste the same. It wasn’t until I handled one of the mangoes when I realised why it was so expensive. One of these ‘beauties’ weigh around 1kg! Yes, you read that right. A kilogram for each. Usually, a kilo for the normal mangoes would allow you to bring home at least 4/5 mangoes. For these ‘special’ ones with RM100, you might just get 3 mangoes only!
All these talk of fruits made us hungry, probably secondary to the light lunch we had, so we stopped by the famous Timah Tasoh Dam for a quick eat. The dam was closed off for visitors because our disaster exercise would be taking place there, otherwise it’s usually open for joggers and campers.
We went around a couple of other smaller places but it was to check out the location for the rest of the disaster exercise. Wouldn’t want to be lost while during the exercise. Met up with the Thai contingent during one of the excursions, they were staying in tents and really portraying the ‘disaster’ scenario. We, on the other hand, were staying at the local university hostels. Talk about double standards.
All these traveling around made us hungry again and we headed back to Kuala Perlis, it seems that most of the good food are located around this area, with its jetty to the famous island, Langkawi.
We stopped by another local favourite, Mona Ikan Bakar or Mona’s Grilled Fish. Here, you take a pick of the fresh fish on display, which is then grilled on charcoal and served with their famous fish paste. You dip the grilled fish into the paste and start eating. A rather simple method but because of the secret ingredient for the fish paste, the taste would differ from one stall to another. We haven’t had time to test out the other stalls, there were like 6-7 of them all lined up next to one another but we found this particular shop brimming with customers, so we had to try it.
I am really bad with describing the flavour of the fish paste but since it’s a secret, I can’t even ask the shopowner to tell me what is inside of it. All I could make out was some chillies, maybe lime/lemon, garlic and probably some minced fish. But my staff were really enjoying it so I guess it can’t be that bad. Haha!
Since we were in Perlis already, the next logical stop would be to Langkawi Island. The island-hopping ferry from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi takes about an hour. It’s a passenger ferry, for those who seek to drive to the island, you need to go to Kuala Kedah, in Kedah instead. As with all things Malaysian, the timing of the ferries isn’t one every hour. During the non-peak hours, it could be up to 2 hours per ferry.
Tip: Kuala Perlis caters for passengers only, for those that seek to travel to Langkawi by car, you need to go to Kuala Kedah, in the state of Kedah itself.
Having arrived at Langkawi, the next step would be to get yourself a car. And if possible, you must have a GPS on your phone. You won’t get lost on an island such as Langkawi itself but you might get lost while searching for the petrol station. Luckily, we got a great deal RM50 (US$15) for a day’s rental but we need to fill the petrol ourselves. The lucky part was that we got a car that still smells newly bought.
The first thing to do, is to find a petrol station and pump it up. 3/4 full would be enough for a day of excursion around the island, no need to go overboard with a full tank, the rental service would probably be laughing by himself.
Secondly, head straight out to the furthest part of the island, which is the Cable Car ride up Mt Machincang. A simple guide: The jetty is on the east side of the island, the airport on the west side. This cable car ride? On the west.
Along the way, we stopped by a harbour to stock up on snacks. Eating is a premium when you only have a day to see everything.
You seldom get lost on Langkawi, just that you might be going in circles trying to find the places of interest. With the cable car, it’s easy. Just follow the signs with the cable car logo.
Once you arrive at the foot of the mountain, you’re greeted with a theme park of sorts, skip all the souvenir shops and head for the ticketing counter. Here you might have a headache, there are plenty of packages to choose from, for example, do you just want a return ticket for the cable car, or you intend to add in the SkyBridge Walk, or do you want a ticket for the 3D Museum, or all in? Various packages comes with various prices. We just wanted the thrill of the cable car, so we chose the cheapest package — a return ticket, RM20 (US$5) per person.
Unfortunately, our disaster exercise was activated early while we were still on the island enjoying the beach, and we had to return back to Perlis. Maybe one day I will visit this island properly.
One Day Langkawi Itinerary
- Be there early and rent a car
- Head towards Chenang Beach / Pantai Chenang
- Cable Car Ride
- Seven Wells Waterfall / Air Terjun Telaga Tujuh
- Black Sand Beach / Pantai Pasir Hitam
- Kuah for shopping and souvenirs
- Ferry home