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.
As you arrive in Kuala Perlis the bus will do a turn towards the jetty terminal before doing a U-turn back to Kangar. Here there's a small square with a couple of modern shophouses overlooking the terminal building.
T Hotel is located here, probably the best accommodation choice in town. Next door are a couple of small Malay restaurants. There's a minimarket called TYH selling basic snacks and drinks and next to it a restaurant with the same name doing nasi kandar-buffet type meals.
Taking a left outside the terminal building will take you into the small town centre. There is a taxi station opposite to the left of the terminal then a row of shophouses where the very basic AZ Motel is located.
You'll then hit a road that continues straight passing the fishing and customs pier on your left before coming to an intersection in the midst of old crumbling shophouses. A couple of metres before this crossroad is a tiny no name Thai-place that probably does the best papaya salad outside Thailand – it's just 3 ringgit a plate and is open from 05:00 to 18:00.
Right across the intersection opposite 7-eleven you'll also find a Chinese restaurant called Popular Sky, and a few steps down the main road is a Maybank, open Mon-Fri, 09:15-16:30 and Sat 09:15-12.15.
Here on Jalan Miri the local bus makes a turn to head back to Kangar. If you ask a local for when the bus leaves they will guide you to wait by the roadside next to the small hairdresser shop. There's also a small coffee shop here, where you can have an ice coffee or tea while you wait.
By Marc Modin