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Pangkor Island
 

Pangkor Island is about a fifth of the size of Penang off Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast, midway between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The word Pangkor is said to be a derivative of the Thai “pang koh”, which means beautiful island – and yes, this gives a hint of what the island is like, with sandy shores and surrounding emerald waters. Pangkor is well regarded as a family-oriented and culturally diverse destination, so guesthouses and hotels are generally family friendly rather than party oriented.

Long and thin, its main town of Pangkor is on the east coast, while beach accommodation is concentrated along the west coast beaches of Pasir Bogak, Nipah and Coral, which are a short taxi ride from Pangkor town. On ferry arrival, one may be inclined to think the entire island is industrial, as the busy eastern seaside coast is a tapestry of boat building and fishing boats, but the west coast is wide open for beach time. Exclusive, smaller Pulau Pangkor Laut lies off the southwest coast.

Pangkor was a haven for fishermen, merchants and the occasional pirate in the days of yore. But Pangkor’s primary claim to fame was being the location of the signing of the significant Treaty of 1874 between the British and the Sultan of Perak. The treaty formalised British control of Perak, for which in return the Brits offered to help settle disagreements and fighting related to Perak’s lucrative tin mines. In practice the agreement strengthened the British tin monopoly and was a stepping stone in the creation and eventual control of the Federated Malay States.

Today, despite the island being a popular tourist destination, the local economy relies heavily on the sea, with the fishing and boat building industries well established along Pangkor’s eastern coast. From northern Sungai Pinang Kecil to southern Teluk Gedung, quaint stilted wooden houses dot the waterfronts, along with a few industrial eyesores, making for quite the busy little seafront. Sandwiched between the bustling seaports and the stretches of sandy shorelines, densely forested hills overlook the Pangkor community and are a welcome sight for nature lovers.

The Forestry Department overseas three forest reserves, but being the low man on the financial totem pole has made it difficult for proper maintenance of any visitor centre or nature trails. The forests are still quite picturesque however and are known for their diverse flora and fauna, serving as a balance to the more industrial and developed parts of Pangkor. We hope the jungles will continue to be protected from developers.

The sandy shores and emerald waters alone are attractive options for beachgoers seeking a generally quieter tropical island scene. And although two of the more pristine beaches are attached to presently closed resorts, the public beaches won’t disappoint.

Pangkor offers plenty of accommodation options, from dirt-cheap basics to affordable beachfront. Rates are commonly broken down into weekday rates of Sunday through Thursday, weekend rates of Friday and Saturday, and peak prices generally includes any public holidays. It would be advisable for more selective travellers to book ahead, especially if arriving on a Friday or Saturday and definitely during public holidays. If booking any hotel or resort with a conference-type room on site, ask about planned functions – unless you enjoy karaoke music until late. (The official cut-off time for loud music is 23:00.)