To get to the natural attractions and iconic beaches of Langkawi, you may think you’ll first have to fly to Kuala Lumpur. But just across the border, Thailand’s southern city of Hat Yai offers a much quicker way to get to Malaysia’s so-called Pearl of the North.
Shorter than an hour’s drive from Hat Yai airport, the state of Perlis greets you first through the bustling Malaysian border town of Padang Besar. From there, nature beckons at Gua Kelam and at a zoo-like Snake Park, considered to be Malaysia’s finest. And finally, a short ferry ride takes you to Langkawi, an island-hopper’s laid-back paradise. Here’s a two-day itinerary to make the most of this charming land-based trip from southern Thailand.
Perlis: Nature’s Diverse Attractions on Land
Morning: Arrive at Hat Yai airport in the morning and take a one-hour taxi or minivan ride that brings you to Padang Besar, a Thai-Malaysian border town thriving on commercial activity and duty-free shopping. Once you’ve crossed into Malaysia, head towards Bazar Pedang Besar and soak in the scene as vendors switch fluently between Bahasa and Thai, shouting out prices in different languages. Don’t forget to see the fervor for Thai food as Thailand’s neighbors slurp on Thai-style noodles and wipe their sweat from the heat of Thai-style spicy salads. Word has it that Malaysians come to this border just to eat Thai food. But save your energy, as this is only a pit stop – the most exciting part of Perlis awaits.
Afternoon: A 20-minute drive west brings you to Gua Kelam (“The Dark Cave”), a limestone sanctuary, with a storied tin mining past. Here a well-paved, raised walkway takes explorers through the 370m cave’s stalactites, stalagmites and otherworldly gour pools. It’s an easy adventure for most people. If you love relaxing in clear streams that give your legs a natural massage, you’ll appreciate how the Gua Kelam walkway ends: at a wide recreational park, where water gently massages you. Children can spend hours playing, while you laze nearby in the cool shade of the large trees, marveling at the limestone cave’s grandeur from the outside. The wonders of nature continue on your way into town, at the Perlis Snake Farm. It’s the primary snake farm of Malaysia. It’s a sprawling space and houses more than snakes. An energetic ostrich, for example, roams the grounds.