Located at the mouth of a river, and developed upon a vast expanse of swampland, Perai is a now industrial town that has arisen from natural roots. It lies in the centre of its district, in the area of Penang, situated on the west coast and in the north of the country, and is the largest industrial area in the northern peninsula of Malaysia. Not far from the border into Thailand, it is part of the greater Central Seberang Perai District and has a major bridge linking the town to nearby Penang Island.
One of the main attractions of Perai is Penang Bird Park, a small sanctuary in the mainland town covered with beautiful trees, ponds, and nature, and home to a range of birds, such as ostriches, eagles, flamingos and grey parrots. The town is also home to the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, Penang Bridge, which connects the mainland with Penang Island, spanning the Perai River in an iconic fashion, defined by high suspension towers and illuminated at night. Visitors can experience authentic Malaysian cuisine in Perai, particularly at specialised restaurants in stir fried delicacies such as Char Koay Teow. Pulau Aman, a small island accessible by local boat ride, is nearby to the town, which offers spectacular hiking scenery and space for peaceful fishing trips, for those wishing to get deeper into nature, in addition to a collection of cheap mantis prawns.
Visitors can connect to Perai via Butterworth train station and bus station, both of which offer long distance journeys throughout the rest of Malaysia, as well as the nearest airport, which has links throughout Southeast Asia. For drivers, the main roads orientate around Butterworth Outer Ring Road, which connects the old part of town with newer developments across the river, accessible via the Perai Bridge landmark.
In the 18th Century, the development of Perai began, transforming from a mangrove swamp into a major industrial centre of the country, containing some of the most significant national companies who originally set up factories in the town. Residential neighbourhoods grew out from around the centre to provide employee housing and the centre expanded into what is now Seberang Perai, an entire influential area on the west coast. The town existed during the British Colonial era, at that time known as “Prye”.