Perlis may be the smallest state in Malaysia, but it boasts a wealth of natural, cultural and historical splendours that rival the bigger states. You may be mesmerised by the many quaint villages, picturesque scenery and centuries-old traditions wherever you go. In short, Perlis is the perfect destination to head for if you prefer old world charm instead of the hustle and bustle of the city, where life is unhurried and the environment naturally fresh and crisp.
Perlis lies at the northwestern tip of the Malay Peninsula; bounded by Thailand in the north, and by Kedah to the east and south. Its western coastline borders the Straits of Melaka. It measures approximately 810 sq km and has a population of 217,480. The state capital is Kangar while Arau, 10km away, is the Royal town.
Although small in size, Perlis is not without its attractions, foremost among which is its serene beauty. Perlis, too, abounds with rustic rural scenes and rolling green fields of padi.
January to April the weather is generally warm and dry. Days are hot and windy but nights can become cold towards dawn. September to December is wet. The average annual rainfall is between 2,000 ml and 2,500 ml (80″ to 100″) and humidity is high throughout the year. Temperature varies little the year round, ranging from 21° C to 32° C.
Perlis was originally part of the older kingdom of Kedah, which was conquered by Thailand in 1821. After the restoration of the Sultan of Kedah to his throne in 1842, the Thais kept Perlis as a vassal state.
In 1905, Perlis obtained, from Thailand, the services of an European advisor to help in the administrative and financial affairs of the state.
The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred control of Perlis from Thailand to Britain, and a British advisor was appointed to administer the state. A formal treaty between Britain and Perlis was only signed in 1930.
In World War II, the Japanese occupation forces handed Perlis back to Thailand. After the war, Perlis again came under British protection until Perlis gained independence from Britain with the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1957.
More recently, archeological evidence of ancient man has been found in Perlis.
The economic activity of Perlis is predominantly agricultural, which takes up 63% of the total land use, while forestry and fishing are the other important activities.
Rice, rubber and sugar cane are extensively cultivated while fruit production, especially mango and watermelon, is also significant.
The manufacturing and mining sector, although accounting for only 0.1% of land-use, is a major contributor to the state’s coffers, yielding around 25% of GDP.
The state is also venturing into high-tech industries with the new Sungai Chuchoh Industrial Park being specially designed for such activities.
Located near the peaceful town of Kaki Bukit, the Kelam Cave is a 370 meter-long cave that is well-lit and easily accessible. The cave was believed to have formed from the erosion of an underground stream. Visitors can admire the unique rock formations or marvel at the fascinating life forms in the cave.
The Bukit Air Recreational Park is located near the Perlis snake farm. Visitors can experience the sights and sounds of a tropical rainforest or bathe in cool streams that meander through the forest.
This museum is located between Kuala Perlis and Kangar. The museum traces the history of Kedah’s Sultanate, which had close links to the formation of Perlis. Some of the things you can find here include money, artifacts, weapons and ornaments from the old Malay era.
The quaint little town of Kuala Perlis is one of the entrance points to Langkawi Island. Watch the life that goes on in the fishing communities or try the amazing seafood.
Padang Besar is a bustling town filled with bargains galore for shoppers. There are many duty-free shops and a large range of produce, souvenirs and artifacts on sale here.
The Perlis State Park is located along the Thai-Malaysian border. It encompasses the Mata Ayer and Wang Mu forest reserves. The park is rich in vegetation, trees, extensive caves and jungle streams. This is also the only place in Malaysia where the stump-tailed macaque is found.
One of only two snake sanctuaries in Malaysia (the other in Langkawi), the Perlis snake farm houses an amazing array of snakes and other reptiles. There are enclosed exhibits and garden enclosures.
Visitors can catch the amazing King Cobra resting in their cages or take photographs with tame snakes. The farm is located 10 km north of Kangar and is near the town of Arau.
The Herb Gardens is located close to the Bukit Air Recreational Park. A large variety of herbs, spices and traditional plants, numbering over a 1000 species, are grown here. Visitors can see them, learn about their medical application and watch how they are cultivated in this park.
Just 8 km north of Kangar lies this tranquil lake. People often come here to picnic, boat or stroll around the lake. There are more than 150 unique sand bar islands on the lake, which can be accessed by boats.
For leisure, the people of Perlis enjoy a variety of activities ranging from traditional dances to traditional games and pastimes handed down through generations. and are examples of dances and equally irresistible feet stomping may still be seen today.
Tarian Canggung, a traditional dance, was brought from early historical times, and performed by the people as a form of celebration after harvest time. In fact, it is the people’s dance where singing and exchanges of words in stanzas (called ‘berbalas pantun’) are freely and jestingly called for to the accompaniment of music.
Tarian Terinai, is yet another dance and musical presentation, performed specifically during a royal ceremony. The musical accompaniment is usually provided by the beating of Gendang Terinai (drums), normally performed by five musicians.
Awang Batil is akin to a ‘story-teller’ who tells of the glory and richness of life of the people of olden times. In a sense, Awang Batil is not much different from the minstrels of old England. Awang Batil is an expert with words, albeit colloquial, and as he proceeds with his story he beats a small drum and plays a tune on his flute as and when the story line demands. Such a presentation was normal during a big feast and during one form of festivity or another in times gone by.
Seni Silat is the traditional Malay art of self-defence. It has become an integral part of an official function as it is also performed by individuals, singly or as a team, as part of the festivities associated with the function. Silat takes on various forms, depending on the origin, body thrusts and artistic representations.