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|Padang Besar: The Exciting Malaysian-Thai Marketplace|
Farah 'Fairy' Mahdzan
(2-Sep-2003) | Readers Say
Perlis is the smallest and most northern state in Malaysia which makes up one of the four states that borders Southern Thailand. The people of Perlis make up about 1% of the total 22-million population of Malaysia. It takes about 6 hours to reach there if you're driving from Petaling Jaya (or Kuala Lumpur). Back in the 1980s before we had a great highway system that runs from North to South, it could take more than 8 hours to reach Perlis. Because of its isolated location in the north, the development of roads and highways in Perlis is just beginning to catch up with the rest of its more well-developed neighboring states.
Dad is from Perlis, so as a child I had my share of visits to his kampung and because of its distance from PJ, I always had friends who'd gawk at me in awe for having a kampung that was relatively far. My ability to survive long drives at such a young age must have been an indication of unprecedented mental and physical strengths. I, in turn, used to envy the kids who had nearer kampungs like in Melaka, Perak, or even Kuala Lumpur!
For the recent Merdeka celebration, I spent my 3-day weekend soaking up the sun and reacquainting myself with what Perlis has to offer and such was the case with my visit to Padang Besar.
(That is not a typo in my photo header. Padang Besaq is how the locals would call Padang Besar. The Malay spoken in northern Malaysia, such as in Penang, Kedah and Perlis, is unique in that all words ending with the letter "r" is replaced by a nasalized "q". So besar becomes besaq, air becomes aiyaq, tidur becomes tidoq, etc.)
Padang Besar (literally: Big Field) is this huge marketplace which houses all sorts of items for sale such as clothes, watches, shoes, hats, bags, food items and most excitingly (for me, at least), cheap toys! Most of the clothes carry brand names such as Levis, Body Glove, and Adidas, while the men and women's watches sport well-known names such as Gucci, Rolex and Tissot, all at unbelievable low prices! The catch? They're all bootlegs alias ciplak!
After being racun ('poisoned') by my sisters to leave our relative's wedding a little bit earlier so that we could visit Padang Besar before dusk sets in, we set out on the 30 minute drive from Arau.
The Journey to Padang Besar
Driving to Padang Besar was a mind-releasing experience as we passed by kilometers of green sugar cane and paddy fields, all yielding under the magnificent blue and unpolluted Perlis sky with huge, puffy clouds lazily floating by.
Coconut trees grow in abundance outside city limits, especially in the north and give a very kampung feeling to the surroundings. I love those clear blue skies of the desa (countryside).
In the spirit of Merdeka Day, a Perlis school had this extremely long version of the Jalur Gemilang nailed to its fence; the white and red stripes just seemed to stretch on for miles.
We knew we were approaching Padang Besar when we saw this pintu gerbang (gateway). It was weird that we should be greeted with a sign that said "Terima Kasih. Pakat Pakat Mai Lagi" which literally translates as "Thank you. Unanimously, come again."
I would think you'd reserve those kinds of goodbyes for when people were leaving the vicinity. But hey, I'm just a visitor. If they want to say "thank you" before I shop, I have absolutely no qualms with that.
The Thai PresenceAnd so we parked the car, and were lucky to get a spot since it was a public holiday and all; the place was just jam packed. Right next to our car was this truck with this license plate, which was a clear indication of how close we were to the Thai border. The law of transportation in Malaysia requires that Thai vehicles bear a 'translated' version of the original plate because, you know, we can't read the Thai letters and all. Imagine the confusion our policemen would face if they were chasing this truck down on some highway chase and couldn't convey via radio to the other officers what the license plate number read!
There were loads of Thai owned vehicles in the area as their owners come down to Padang Besar in Malaysia to conduct business.
In fact I encountered more Southern Malay Thais selling stuff than Perlis locals, who were mostly the customers. It was sort of surreal to interact with the Thai merchants because at first glance they seem like locals; they look and speak Malay and everything. But the minute they turn around to speak with a colleague or their bosses, they converse in the Thai language, which of course sounded completely foreign to me. It was intriguing nonetheless.
Myriads of SnacksYou couldn't possibly visit Padang Besar without encountering its plethoric choices of food and snacks.
This snack stall was one of the first that I saw as I made my way into the market place. All sorts of snacks, crackers, kropok and pickled fruits were being sold, some from Thailand, some from Malaysia.
Those colorful flower-like snack bits that you see in the center of the picture have to actually be fried first before you consume them. So when you do fry them they will blossom into giant kropok pieces with the colorful lining around the edges. You could probably eat them un-fried too but usually un-fried kropok is very liat (tough) and you could lose a tooth filling or two.
Sis couldn't resist picking up a few bags of caramelized banana crackers and iced gem cookies. You know those ice gem cookies don't you? They're small round biscuits with the hardened sugar topping on top.
Many kids somehow preferred to break the icing off and eat those instead, leaving a pile of uneaten biscuits. I was an abnormal child and personally liked the biscuits better or thought that they should actually be eaten with the icing.
Toys GalorePadang Besar is a photographer's heaven of a marketplace at which to shoot pictures since it's so colorful and so full of life. I wasn't too interested in looking at cheap "branded" clothes and or lady handbags like my sisters were. I however kept my eyes on the huge volume of toys that were being hung and displayed all around since I like photographing toys very much.
My sister was trying to decide whether or not to purchase this Ultraman set of pajamas for my nephew. It even had a hood of Ultraman's mask and everything. I would have died and gone to heaven had my mother bought me these 18 years ago. Yes, I like Ultraman too.
Finally Sis just decided to buy a huge fire truck for her little tyke. My niece got this huge Bubble of the Power Puff Girls. Sis got them for RM18 each. We're pitiful hagglers, so we were mighty proud with ourselves for persuading the shop owner to sell these to us for less than RM7 of the advertised price. The Thai lady was very understanding.
The dangerously cheap consumer that I am settled with this four ringgit forlorn-looking Pink Panther with suction cups on his paws made in Thailand, for my dressing mirror. When I was little I had a humongous, almost life-size Pink Panther doll and was obviously trying to relive my childhood through this smaller version.
And yes, that's probably a bootleg version of the New York Yankees logo too! I wasn't aware that the baseball team actually made waist pouches for its fans. Frankly I am very pleased with the handsome pouch; it's exactly the right size and color for me and the price was just nice at RM9. Hah, I told you Padang Besar was just a big ol' bargain bin.
Kita ni kat Malaysia ke Thailand nih??
Halloween MasksIn Padang Besar, finding anything is possible, and ghoulish Halloween rubber masks are merely the tip of the shopping iceberg.
If rubber masks of trolls, draculas and Darth Maul seem mediocre and stir not a single scary bone in you, there's always the Teletubbies line to turn to. Now, wanting to own a Teletubbies mask is very scary!
These fiendish faces were selling at RM5 a pop.
Cute Bubble Containers
These were actually the first things that I wanted to buy but I decided to shop around for them to see if I could get a deal. Almost every single stall in Padang Besar was selling these things like extremely hot commodities. I could not resist!
It was definitely the cute shapes of which the containers took that were ensuring the successful sales of these colorful bubbles liquid. There were cell phone shaped bottles, muscular superheroes, the Powerpuff Girls, ice cream cones, guitars and more.
I asked around and apparently everyone was selling them for RM2 each, RM5 if you agree to buy 3. I wanted four, one for each of my two nieces and two nephews, but the young girl who was selling me them couldn't figure out a price for four bubble bottles. Exasperated by her own inability to quickly calculate numbers, the girl just shrugged her shoulders and told me I could have 4 bubble bottles for RM5. Haggling victory was mine once again.
Aren't they just adorable?
My nieces naturally wanted the Power puff Girls ones, of course.
If you ever want to buy these neat bubble bottles, I strongly suggest you stay away from the guitar one because the volume of bubble liquid appears to be lesser than the other shapes that were available. My nephew was complaining that it was hard to reach the liquid below the guitar neck with the bubble stick that was provided. I have to admit, the guitar shape was rather awkward and I am baffled as to why I chose it over the Superman bottle.
Before one leaves Padang Besar, one is subjected to pass through police inspections. The police will usually check for rice smuggled in ridiculous amounts from Thailand by folks who are trying to sell them in Malaysia and skip on paying taxes for bringing in the goods. So if you're one of those people who engage in such smuggling activities, watch out, the police are going to so bite your sorry ass.
But if you look like harmless shoppers with nothing but bags of clothings and shoes, the police will usually leave you alone and let your car pass by without much hassle.
Speaking of Thai rice, my sisters were finding it difficult to find them on sale at Padang Besar the day we went. It's cheaper to buy Thai rice which used to be ok for personal use but not for reselling, obviously. We were then told that the Malaysian law enforcers have banned the supply of the imported rice in Padang Besar to control the prices of our local rice. Go figures.
On our way back from Padang Besar to Dad's house in Arau, we saw this beautiful rainbow overhead. It was a lovely sight.
My trip to Padang Besar this time around was one huge shopping success (minus our strikeout with the Thai rice) and an eye-opening cultural exposure. The little ones were having loads of fun with their bubbles and everyone was contented with their purchases, including yours truly. Life was just grand.
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|WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT Padang Besar: The Exciting Malaysian-Thai Marketplace:|
#35. Hi, can any English speakers tell me when the market id open?...i will be travelling down from Koh Samui in Thailand, so need to know if its open everyday or just weekend etc...also does anyone know if they sell Louis Vitton/Mullberry bags etc...Thanks
Posted by neil on 10-Aug-2011, 07:41 MYT
#34. thank you for the nice write up about padang besar, I was looking for some info about it before my visit. Better then wikipedia. Is it open 7 days a week?
#33. Hi, can you share the route that you use to drive to Padang Besar? I am coming from Penang and is more used to driving to Bukit Kayu Hitam but I would like to drive to Padang Besar for a change and see this lovely market you have described.
#32. A'kum.. Saya dah selalu pergi shopping kat Padang Besar tu. Memang best. Ta last2 ni terfikir gak nak berniaga.. Tapi mcmana nak contact pembekal2 kat situ. Contohnya nak beli jaket.. Leh tolong dapatkan tak?
#31. salam.....is there any funky stuff suppliers there?such aaa.....beads,funky cards,any funky2......gt there?help...im really die-hard -fan of it!
#30. padang besaq dah takbest dah, not like when i was kecik2 dulu..
#29. I have been 13 years in Perlis. Rasa macam tak nak balik kampong dah. Padang Besar is a nice place to relax and cheap shopping. Pulut ayam and tomyam can make you stay forever here.
#28. SHUJI: Kampung aku kat PJ beb, tapi memandangkan bapak aku orang Peghlih, mengaku jelah kampung kat sane haha.
#27. never thought that u ni kampung in perlis..boleh geng ahaks!!
#25. My niece like the powerpuff girl so much...can u help me buy then post it to me?
#24. Is it can went padang besar by train ?
#22. Helo Mba Fairy, gue orba (orang baru) disini.. "Jom" itu artinya apa sih..kok sering banget ditulis di comment.. kagak ngerti habis gue Orang Betawi gitu loh.. Ajarin bahasa Perlis kali seru ya? Apa sama dengan Bahasa Kelantan? I've got friend there tapi when he start speaking bahasa kelantan, gue gak ngerti sama sekali ...he..he...ruwet gitu. BTW.. kalo ke Jakarta lagi mampir Jalan Surabaya gih.. kaset bekas mah lebihh buanyaak..but nawar abis ya..pake sandiwara..pura2 gak perlu2 banget.. Nice lil state I guess bout Perlis
#21. we make this fun shopping package to padang besar...dis january at rm80 per trip from ipoh....email me email@example.com
#20. anen you anak ayam murderer! tapi we miss u la. yesterday ur other mum's birthday (dida la kan).
#19. Most definitely you'll need your passport! You will be crossing international borders. Even if you didn't need it and had it with you, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
#17. bigg, from KL to Perlis is about 6 hours, then in Perlis to get to Thai border, depending on where you are, is between 30 minutes to one hour je. There are loads of Taxis in Perlis that cater to people wanting to go to Haadyai. We did that once. Quite fun.
#16. how long does it take from KL to the thai border?
#15. Basrie, pistol mainan tu kena ban lama dah kat Malaysia. Even though they are not real pistols but they're still dangerous coz the plastic bullet trajectory is actually powerful enough to make your eyes blind. Replace the plastic bullet with ball bearing, anak ayam pun boleh mati.(talking through experience).
#14. Adhe, Indonesian and Malaysian pasars are not much different from each other kan. I bet the things are just about the same too.
#13. Hai Fai, since your dad is from Perlis, i presume u can speak loghat utara then???? Did your dad use international passport to go there? Coz Kedahans, Perlisians and Kelantanese only have to use bording pass (RM3 per pass and it's valid for 3 months) becoz we are considered as Orang Sempadan. Regards from Norwich.
#12. Oh, how much i miss Padang Besaq. reminising the yesteryears. I'd often followed my parents there becoz' it's so much better compared to Kedah border town Bukit Kayu Hitam. Mum, I know you cant hear me, but i miss our wonderful time together in Padang Besaq. Waaaaa....
#11. kalau aku pegi sana, biasanya singgah Wan Kelian beli pistol mainan yang macam real. Dan seludup 12kg beras siam bawak balik. Polis tahan bagi duit kopi siket. Sekarang dah susah dah.
#10. Just wondering, malaysia's laksa tu same tak dengan jakarta's laksa yer? salam tuh fai sama your niece and nephew, lucu banget
#7. oohh, best ye balik kampung, siap shopping lagi. ei, lama sunggoh chek tak pi padang besaq! jenuh nak tunggu cuti panjang lagi.
#6. what padang besar,bukit kayu hitam,rantau panjang and pengkalan kubor have something in common?toto comforter i guess!
#5. Wow! lama dah tak ke sana.. last time i went there about 3 years back kot.. but masa tu Padang Besar tak mcm tu bertingkat and in a building.. tapi macam pasar betol laa.. with lecak sana sini eheheheheh... now rasa lebih selesa to shop around kan...?
#4. wahh nice nice... barang2 cam best jek...
#3. Iza, Dad likes to say he's from Jejawi, not really orang Arau per se, but now he has a house in Arau near that Matrikulasi center, so that's where we staylah nowadays kalau balik kampung. It's not very often either that I go back to Perlis either.
#2. lawalah gambar pelangi tuh. can email me tat pic???
#1. Ooo..org Arau, my dad is from Kuala Perlis...come to think of it, it has been a long time since my last visit back to my kampung, kinda miss the "laksa" and all those seafood and "ikan bakaq"
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