Perlis – Hai Thien Seafood, Gua Kelam, and Shopping @ Padang BesarMay 7, 2009 | 8,360 views
My first visit to Perlis, the northern-most state in peninsular Malaysia, happened late last year. Click HERE for my post on Kuala Perlis Medan Ikan Bakar. Yeah, living in Malaysia for a good many years and yet to visit Perlis until last year. Shameful? Not quite. Here’s another one : I have yet to step on the soils of the East Coast as well.
If only Ipoh’s airport is put to good use. If only we can choose to fly everywhere, to all the states in Malaysia, at least. Rather than having to endure a taxing 5 hours’ ride (longer than usual, as the vehicle needs periodic rest, else you’ll be seeing flames!) from Ipoh to Perlis.
See the positive side of things ; Least the scenery of the rural areas made up for the lethargy courtesy of the long ride
How ironic. First we put up at Kondo Istana in Langkawi, and now we’re staying in Putra Palace in Perlis. Talk about royalty calls. Putra Palace Hotel has to be Perlis’ finest, as on the 2nd night, even the King arrived for a function. Complete with red carpets and all, we felt ….. privileged. Somewhat. Though no comments on the less-than-satisfactory bathroom.
The previous dining experience at Medan Ikan Bakar was forgettable, except for the pouring rain. Literally pouring, as the zinc roof leaked and many patrons had to endure overflowing tom yam. LOL. Plus the prices ain’t cheap either.
Thanks to our counterparts from Kedah, we were ferried to Kuala Perlis for dinner once again. But this time, we had our cravings for seafood appeased at Hai Thien Seafood Restaurant. This pork-free Chinese restaurant serves cheap and delicious seafood, and caters to patrons from all ages, and all races. Yup, the 1Malaysia concept works best from the fundamental level, owing to the ONE united love for FOOD (oh glorious food).
Although Kuala Perlis is about 30 minutes away from Kangar town, there are locals who are more than willing to drive all the way there for dinner. But of course, most of the patrons are tourists, especially those stopping over for a bite on the way to or from Langkawi. Ferries to Langkawi depart from Kuala Perlis jetty as well, in addition to the ones in Penang and Kuala Kedah.
Let’s get on to the FOOD, shall we? One glance around the al fresco seating area, on wooden platform overlooking the waters, and you’ll notice most (if not all) people go for the steamed fish, crabs, and various other fresh seafood.
One starter they recommended was the Yau Char Kwai (fried breadstick/Chinese crullers/Chakoay or whatever you call them) stuffed with fish paste, then drizzled generously with sweet mayo sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Very addictive stuff, expected to go well with beer as well! Though we had the very sweet and refreshing watermelon juice.
The star of the evening had to be the steamed fish, arriving piping hot, still continuously heated with the charcoal-fuelled flame, and an extra bowl of soup to replenish the evaporated gravy. The fish was very fresh, without any slight hint of fishiness nor unpleasant muddy taste, and the slightly spicy & sour soup complemented the fish very well. Just remember to periodically ‘bathe’ the fish with the extra soup, as the heat dries out the soup rather rapidly.
The “Nai Yau Har” or Butter Milk Prawns came in a moderate portion for four, deepfried until crispy, and topped with generous shavings of fragrant egg strands. Fried squids rarely go wrong, to be dipped into the accompanying chilli sauce, ensuring a great snack to go with the meal.
Even the Kangkung with Sambal Belacan was stir-fried to perfection, with enough ‘wok hei’ (breath of the wok aka the slightly smoky/burnt aroma imparted from skilful frying)
Pardon the poor picture quality, as the place was very dark, with only spotlights lighting the dining area. Of course, you can choose to be seated indoors with lights and fans, but the exterior ambience nails the complete seafood experience, does it not?
The meal costed about RM60 for the 4 of us. Yup, heard that right! With rice, drinks and all. Wow, to imagine inflation has yet to reach this simple town. We were immensely satisfied that we did the next most logical thing ….
We returned the very next night, for dinner.
This time around, there were only 3 of us, but nothing’s gonna stop the gluttons !!! Especially after a hard day’s work! For your information, we DID work while we were there. On a weekend no less.
We started with some satay (grilled skewered meat on sticks, served with peanut sauce), and though they were pleasant enough (compared to my last tragic visit to Haji Samuri, this was beyond delicious), nothing could detract our attention from chomping/bingeing/devouring/demolishing the oh-glorified …. SEAFOOD!
Thousand apologies for the even worse picture quality, as I did not bother to bring my camera along. Yeah, back to my old reliable Nokia 5610, with harsh flash. But I couldn’t care less.
We ordered a plate of compulsory greens (we wouldn’t wanna be downing laxatives the very next morning!), the same Yau Char Kwai we ordered the night before, the mantis prawns, oyster omelette and CRABS!
5 dishes for 3 pax. That sounds so wrong …. or maybe not.
The crabs were cooked in an incomprehensible gravy; An amalgam of flavours arising – Sweet, Sour, Spicy and Salty. “Kwai Mei” or Strange Taste is the way of cooking, but I prefer my crabs cooked with chillies, or plain steamed (if FRESH). The crabs were far from XL, or L size for that matter. But the meal did not cost an arm and a leg. Not even a few fingers, so to speak.
The second meal costed RM50 only. And we were stuffed to the brim. BURP !!!!!!
On the last day, we went sight-seeing and shopping in Perlis. Yup, though Perlis may be more or less a dead town, but still holds a few attractions of her own. Gua Kelam is a famous tourist spot, near to Kaki Bukit of Perlis. The 370 metres long cave houses a wooden bridge, held in place with metal planks and sidebars, hence no worries on slipping and falling into oblivion.
Very, very dark … be grateful for the light sources. Else risk getting your hair entangled with bats and other creatures of the night ….
Entrance fee at RM1 for adults, RM0.50 for children above 7 years of age. Parking fee at RM1 per entry. Opening hours : Weekdays from 8am -5pm. Weekends/public holidays from 8am – 6pm.
Gua Kelam’s history runs deep, since the 19th century. Previously a mining area, Gua Kelam has since been developed into a recreational park, and one of Perlis’ main tourist spot.
Padang Besar at the northern end of Perlis is a shopping paradise. At least to some. If you’re an avid jersey collector, (and do not mind the authenticity of them), or you’re looking for bags, women accessories/clothings, or even snacks from our neighbouring country, then this should prove worthy of a visit.
For me? Nah ….. previous visit to Padang Besar was far from fruitful. The snacks (nuts, crisps, preserved fruits) were disappointing, except Thailand’s Koh-kae Nuts, and nothing tickled my fancy.
Back then, the Pulut Ayam, or glutinous rice served with fried chicken was a winner. Padang Besar has quite a number of stalls selling various Malay food, with heavy Thai influence. For instance, the incorporation of glutinous rice in cooking, and they even serve Mangoes/Durian with Glutinous Rice and Coconut Milk; One of my favourite dessert ever.
But the one we had at one of the stall was forgettable. Bangkok’s version is still the champ here.
The endless fields of greens ….. Sugar Cane Plantation @ Chuping