I live in a small town called Arau, the royal capital of Perlis in the northern part of Malaysia. The town’s main significance to travellers is its railway station, which gives access to the port at Kuala Perlis, from where there are boats to Langkawi and Thailand.
Whenever I mention that I am living in Arau, the common response/ question would be, “What do you actually have over there?”
True, we might not have big and airy shopping malls like most city folks do – the only shopping mall we have is C-Mart, which might be close to a bigger version of a convenience store rather than a mall. As unassuming as C-Mart is, and although it is not as popular as Jusco or Tesco, I get my weekly supply of Subway sandwiches here as well as getting my favourite corn in a cup. The groceries are not as pricey as they are in the city. There’s also my favourite shop in front of C-Mart called “Borong Dinh” where I can get cheap household things. You can get 6 pieces cloth hangers for only MYR2 here.
Simple pleasures like these delight me. The most important thing is, the cost of living here is low hence a lot more affordable than living in the city.
There are days when I don’t feel like cooking, but it is good to know that even in Arau I would have never run out of choices to dine outside, which includes both local and fusion restaurants.
For lunch, there is a small restaurant near the Chinese school where you can get a huge variety of local dishes. My favourite dish is called crispy fried mushrooms. It’s something I would never fail to order every time I go there.
As for dinner, there is a small food court beside the Shell petrol station. There you can get “moi sup” (rice porridge with soup) and chicken chop. And whenever I feel like I want to have proper western food, I’d go to Blackwood Cafe located inside C-Mart.
According to history, while Perlis was still under Kedah colony, Arau was administered by a dignitary who was known as Dato’ Tok Arau which had a royal lineage. Therefore Arau was named after his esteemed services in building the town. There is not much sources about him online, therefore most of the stories were pretty much derived from the residents of the town as well as historians who are interested in the town.
The royal town of Arau is located 14 kilometers southeast of the official state capital of Kangar. In Malaysia, royal cities are the second most important city after the capital cities and are often referred to as the residence of the Sultan and King states in Malaysia. King of Perlis, who is Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, lives here. He was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia from 2001 to 2006. Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra was the Regent of Perlis during the five-year period when Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin was Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Arau, like the other states of Malaysia, is full of nation’s history and heritage that is always open to be explored by the younger generation. There are Royal Palace, Royal Tombs, Royal Gallery and Royal Mosque. The Royal Mosque or also known as the State Mosque can easily accommodate roughly 7,000 people in one prayer session.
Arau is also known as the education city of the northern region because of several universities here. Amongst the universities we have in Arau at the moment are Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM), Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), Kolej Komuniti Arau, Politeknik Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin and Kolej Matrikulasi Perlis.
There is also a famous morning market endearingly dubbed as “Nat Pokok Getah”. “Nat” means market for Northern people, and “pokok getah” stands for the rubber trees. The existence of this market in rubber plantation area of about two hectares in Pauh here is absolutely unique and sometimes could attract thousands of people to shop there, despite the scorching weather. The market is roofed naturally with the rubber trees, providing a natural and cosy shopping experience.
Every Friday and Sunday, the market, comfortable under the shades of rubber plantation will be filled with people shopping various kitchen essentials, clothing, food, fruits, and agriculture products. This market had been operating since 1998 between the hours of 7 am and 12 noon involving 300 dealers.
This market, definitely, is one of my favourite things here in Arau.
The glorious paddy fields
One of the nicest things here in Arau is that we often have a stretch of paddy fields, offering such a nice view and interesting rural scenery. Sometimes I would go around to explore the shortcuts through the paddy fields. It is also quite adventurous if you are driving. The roads around the paddy fields are narrow and unstable (due to its swampy nature) and sometimes would just enough to fit one car.
Paddy planting and harvesting are amongst the main sources of income for the locals here. It’s a nice view when the paddy is ripe – all yellow and bright.
The traffic here is perpetually clear. Everybody was probably Italians in their earlier life, taking delight in dolce far nientes – the pleasure of doing nothing. Everyone takes it slow and easy, not much rush. The mood is different here from the city.
There is no airport in this tiny state, so there is no direct flight here let alone Perlis. The closest airport is Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in Alor Star, Kedah. Arau is the stop point for visitors travelling by train from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. From Arau, taxis are available to Kuala Perlis, where the ferry terminal to Langkawi is located.
I love the fact that people here are really friendly and still embody the “kampung spirit” – where the community bonding is really close and everyone knows and takes care of each other. Me and my neighbours often organise a lot of gatherings and among the best things is when we do communal cooking. They might be just simple dishes, but they taste just amazing as we eat them together over kopi O (hot black coffee) and chat over things.
These are things you simply cannot experience it in the hustle bustle of the city.
Would you like to pay a visit to my town one day?