The port town of Kuala Perlis is wedged on a strip of Andaman coast backed by mangroves and sheltered at the foothills of the Nakawan limestone range, a one-hour journey by boat from Langkawi or a 15-minute ride from Kangar.
The small port in town is mainly used for fishing and loading or unloading small-scale cargo arriving from Thailand and Indonesia. There are also customs and immigration offices here, where those going further on into Thailand via Satun province can stamp out before embarking on the 45-minute boat journey to enter Thailand at Thammalang near Satun.
Although small, a lot of activity goes on in this slightly fish-smelly port. The ferry from Langkawi sees a lot of daily passengers pass through, together with ships and fishing boats constantly docking and embarking near customs, yet there's not much public transport other than taxis and a Cityliner bus to Kangar.
In general, Perlis is mostly crime free, but in border areas -- such as here -- it's worth reminding travellers to keep an eye on their belongings and only use licensed taxis or the bus.
Even though Padang Besar border crossing is the most used and usually the easiest way into Thailand, you can opt to take a boat from Kuala Perlis to Thammalang in Satun province. There is an immigration station on the fishing pier some 200m from the intersection.
Head through a small security gate and the immigration booth where you stamp out of Malaysia is to the right. They are open 07:00-19:00 daily, but before you stamp out make sure you settle a price with the Thai boatmen that wait for passengers to Thammalang. A starting share price is usually 15 ringgit. It is not a good idea to do this crossing in stormy weather.
Text and/or map last updated on 21st August, 2009.
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You only go to Perlis to jump a Langkawi boat
Langkawi is a big island very close to the Thai border in north-west peninsula Malaysia. It is Malaysia's most popular holiday beach destination and has a natural advantage over rivals Tioman and the Perhentians in that its dry season (roughly late November into April) coincides with much of their wet season - whereas its wet season is not usually as devastatingly wet, allowing all season visits.
Like Tioman, it is a duty free island - but this industry is much better developed than Tioman's makeshift effort with some spectacular deals on many products. The landscape is not as spectacular as Tioman's but pretty attractive (lots of mountains, nice bays, offshore islands), the beaches on average are as good as both east coast rivals - with the best (Tanjung Rhu) considerably better IMHO. Snorkelling is not as good and the water is not as clear.
Langkawi has a much more accommodation, particularly in the midrange and top-end areas. It has a good but not busy road system - the others have virtually no roads - and no taxes mean that hire cars and motorcycles are amazingly cheap. Competition means shopping and restaurant prices are very good - but accommodation seems considerably dearer than say KL for the same standard, but not appreciably dearer than its east coast rivals.
The taxi system is very inexpensive and runs on set prices - your accommodation can tell you exactly how much it will cost to your destination. A 4 hour tour of the island cost us rm100 - about $us30. There is a set-price taxi counter at the airport.
Naturally there is no shortage of places selling booze, which can be a problem on the Perhentians (although it is possible to find yourself in Muslim-owned Langkawi restaurants and general stores which don't serve/sell alcohol).
Like Tioman, you can fly onto Langkawi, but in big commercial jets, not short-take-off-and-land turboprops. The ferry service is much better than both rivals.
And from Langkawi it is dead easy to island-hop across into Thailand and continue island-hopping all the way north to Phuket.
A major change from my last visit is the huge array of excursions and daytrip activities being offered - and the cable car is a bargain at around $us8 all up.
The main accommodation beach is Cenang in the island's south-west. There is a big range of accommodation of all standards here, plus many restaurants, beach bars and good shopping. Neighbouring Tengah Beach is similar but quieter.
Elsewhere mainly upscale hotels have situated on smaller but very nice beaches.
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By tezza (dabbler)
Written on 3rd January, 2010 after a visit to Kuala Perlis in December, 2009
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