Pulau Pangkor: A Quick Getaway!

by Audrey Lim, Oct 11, 2001 | Destinations: Malaysia / Pangkor Island

Pulau Pangkor (Pangkor Island) is a favorite amongst visitors and Malaysians alike. Of all the islands found on the west coast, Pulau Pangkor is one of the most appealing and well sought after holiday spot. It has got some of the best beaches found on this side of the country. Probably, the close proximity of the island to the bigger cities makes it a hotspot and a quick getaway for most people!

The island is accessible by a 30-minute ferry ride from the port of Lumut - that's about 85 km southwest of Ipoh. No doubt, thanks to its proximity, the island has developed well over the years. Right now, there is even an airport on the island and several other international-standard hotels! Well-renowned island, Pangkor Laut, is located just off the southwest coast of Pulau Pangkor as well. The privately owned Pangkor Laut is voted the second best island destination in the world by Conde Nast Traveller (October 1999 issue) and is home to one of Malaysia's most exclusive resorts!

Despite providing visitors with "creature comfort" facilities, Pulau Pangkor is still relatively small in size and comes with an aura of quietness and peace. Most of the locals are fishermen and are more interested in fishing and boat building than in tourism! Majority of the action takes place along the east coast, where you will find a bunch of local villages hard at work around these areas. The tourist hangouts and accommodations are located towards the west of the island. Here is also where you will find the best beaches in Pulau Pangkor. Towards the interior part of the island are thick jungles and a rougher and mountainous landscape. It is not easy penetrating this part of the island, as there are only a few tiny trails and one main road that connect the two coasts. However, if you are not exactly super adventurous, you may be happy just touring around the outer perimeter of the island as there are plenty to keep you entertained such as lovely sandy beaches, historical sites and some temples.

Although the island is small, yet Pulau Pangkor has done a reasonably big part in the development and growth of the country. It was the witness to the signing of the significant Pangkor Treaty that took place on the 20th of January 1874. This little history marks the official involvement British has in Malay affairs. It was in 1873 that the ruler of Perak, Raja Abdullah, invited the new Governor of the Straits Settlement, Andrew Clarke, to appoint a Resident for the state of Perak. Pangkor was under the jurisdiction of the state of Perak then and still is to date. In exchange for British intervention in the state, Raja Abdullah was to be appointed the Sultan of Perak instead of his rival, Sultan Ismail. Of course, this proposition attracted the British and so, the Pangkor Treaty was signed between Clarke and Raja Abdullah, thus giving the Resident (colonial officer) the rights to advice the Sultan on the running of the state. Unfortunately, at that moment, the Malays did not delve deeper into the consequences of such a tie and have therefore, provided the British an opportunity to step in and intervene politically in the Peninsula.

History aside, the island itself is generally interesting, although the beaches are not 100% pure and clean. Tourists to the island have left their "marks" behind; pollution and other developments have also marred its beauty somehow. However, for a quick getaway, the island is still a decent and wonderful place to visit!

In fact, Pulau Pangkor makes me laugh! Well, not in a negative way though. My last visit to the island took place when I was 19 years old. Together with a bunch of college mates and two lecturers as chaperon, we headed off for the best 5-days of our lives! The way to check out all the great spots around the island is by hiring motorbikes! They are a cheap mode of transportation; allowing you to enjoy the fresh air from the sea and has this great ability to maneuver around the tiny trails and roads. While on your tiny scooter, you can also stop by at the fishing villages and watch how the villagers go around their day, cleaning nets, building boats, and selling the catch of the day! A word of warning though! You need to have a bike license to ride in Pulau Pangkor. Also, it IS necessary to wear a helmet even though you are on vacation! The last time I was there, a friend was slapped a big fat fine for riding around without a helmet and another had one for riding without a license. The rest of us just zoom off on our bikes, hoping the police wouldn't give chase! Mischievous though the actions may be, it was all done in a fun manner and well, what wouldn't I give to go through that again. I mean it is not every day that you get to run away from the police for doing something "fairly" illegal.

Accommodation at Pulau Pangkor is fairly reasonable, if you don't choose one of those 5-stars hotels. Even the motels available are clean and decent. There is one lovely seafood restaurant downtown that serves a scrumptious meal at decent prices. We had our meals there every single evening! I hope the place is still around though.

At any rate, I would advice that you just go on to Pulau Pangkor and have fun. Let's say, even if the water is totally dirty and stinky and you can't stick your feet in without getting stunk by a jellyfish, well, rest assured that you would still have some great fun. Now go and try it out!