Travel

Pangkor's Hidden Gems

This post was written by Manveen Maan

LONG FAVOURED BY LOCALS, THIS SMALL ISLAND OFF THE WEST COAST OF PENINSULAR MALAYSIA HOLDS A TREASURE TROVE OF SURPRISES AND DELIGHTS. MANVEEN MAAN TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PLEASURES OF PANGKOR.

There seems to be no shortage of tropical islands with blue waters and golden sands in this part of the world. Off the coast of Perak lie such islands, unquestionably possessing some of the best beaches in the region. Among them are the popular islands of Pangkor and the smaller, privately owned Pangkor Laut that is home to one very exclusive resort.

In stark contrast to the fast pace of big city life, Pangkor remains a haven for those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle. Located about 90km southwest of lpoh and easily accessible by ferry from Lumut, Pangkor Island is only 8 sq km and inhabited by about 25,000 people, most of whom are mainly fishermen. The island is a popular tourist destination especially with locals due to its relative proximity to the mainland and reasonable accommodation prices.

Popular beaches include Nipah Beach and Coral Beach, both situated on Nipah Bay on the northwestern coast, while the nearby islands of Giam and Mentagor are famed snorkeling spots surrounded by corals, tropical fishes, and sea cucumbers. Watersports are a popular choice with various areas around the island proving to be sought-after spots for jetskiing, kayaking, canoeing, and kite surfing. Pangkor also caters to the adventurous: an uphill four-hour jungle trek across the island provides the perfect challenge for those who wish to explore nature at its finest.

PRISTINE BEACHES

Several beaches are in the running for most popular seaside resort but Pasir Bogak wins this competition quite easily. Boasting crystal-clear waters, it offers hours of sun-kissed fun along a vast coral reef. Easily accessible by road from Pangkor town itself, this 2-km crescent-shaped beach offers a host of facilities such as sailing, fishing, snorkeling, and windsurfing, cementing its place as one of the most popular recreation spots with locals.

Open-air stalls line the beach front, offering local delicacies such as barbecued squid, satay, and fish crisps. Accommodation is easily available as well, ranging from luxury hotels and chalets to the more spartan comforts of attap huts and camping sites.

Hot on Pasir Bogak’s heels is the increasingly popular Teluk Nipah area. Accommodation here caters more to the middle- to lower-ranged budgets, and the area tends to be livelier than other parts of the island. Restaurants and motels line both the streets and alleyways and are usually filled with tourists, especially during peak season. The main road lies between the beach and the motels and chalets so it is best not to expect any rooms on the beach itself.

Just off the main street lies the borderline of the forest reserve. At sundown, those lucky enough can catch a glimpse of hornbills flying in for handouts left out by local operators. The nearby islands of Pulau Giam and Pulau Mentaggor are only a short boat ride away from the beach; if a workout is what you’re after, try renting kayaks for a paddle out to these islands.

Located on the northwest section of the island, Golden Sands (or Pantai Puteri Dewi) beach is a rather exclusive one; under the ownership of an international chain of hotels, this private beach offers no land access to anyone but their guests. A legendary lovelorn princess is said to have drowned at this beach, which has since been named in her memory. In spite of this slightly morbid connection, the beach remains a popular choice amongst locals and tourists alike. Evening sunsets are particularly scenic when the last rays of the sun turn the sand and sea into fiery, liquid gold.

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FROM SEASIDE TO MOUNTAINS

If relaxing by the ocean for days on end does not tickle your fancy, head for a hike in the Rainforest Reserves of Pangkor. Choose between the Central Rainforest Reserve (the Pangkor Hill and Tortoise Hill areas), Southern Rainforest Reserve (the Teluk Segadas Hill area) and the Northern Rainforest Reserve (around the Pangkor Island Beach Resort area) for a walk on the wild side. Enjoy the panoramic views of the ocean, waterfalls and pools while revelling in the beauty of the wildlife. Don’t forget to wear appropriate footwear! It is also best to cover as much of your body as possible in order to avoid falling prey to leeches and other insects that inhabit the relatively intense jungle.

HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

The Dutch fort (otherwise known as Kota Belanda) is worth a trip if you tire of the sun and sea. The centuries-old stone foundation was built during the Dutch occupation in 1670, initially for the storage and protection of tin supplies from the sultanate of Perak and later, to fight off enemies, mainly pirates in those days. Located at Teluk Gedung, on the southwest part of the island, the fort was abandoned after being attacked by a local warrior and his followers. Muzium Negara undertook its reconstruction in 1973, and today only the stone foundations and carvings on a large rock remain.

SPIRITUAL SOLITUDE

Take time out to soak up the peace and tranquility of the various places of worship on the island. The Fu Lin Kong Chinese Temple, located in the village of Sungai Pinang Besar should be on your list of places to visit. An ancient architectural structure built on the foot of Pangkor Hill, it is home to numerous rock paintings and features a miniature replica of The Great Wall of China.

The Lin Je Kong Temple is definitely different from its counterparts. Besides statues of legendary heroes from ancient Chinese folklore, it is decorated with various cartoon and comic characters, and also features a dragon-themed furnace!

The Kali Amman temple is the only Hindu temple on the island and is also one of only two Hindu temples in Malaysia to have a shrine entrance that faces the sea. Located just north of Sungai Pinang Kecil, it has a short staircase that descends to the sea where worshippers are required to cleanse themselves before entering the hall.

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To learn more about Pangkor Island, please visit the tourism website portal at www.pangkor.island.my.

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Source: The Expat January 2013

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