Pulau Pangkor - Perak, Malaysia
Malay fishing villages on the way to the Dutch Fort
Pangkor in the old days was known as Dinding, which means 'screen' or 'partition'. This was in reference to the position of the island as it protects the mainland's estuary.
In the 60's and 70's , the name 'Pangkor' was synonymous with salted fish, ikan bilis produce, dried shrimps, shrimp paste etc. Kids grew up on 'Satay Fish' , a stinky but delicious snack made of barbequed and caramalised fish wafers. Those were the days when the packaging was secondary to the content and hygiene was not of utmost priority.
Today, walking around Pangkor Island's main village and and you will find shop after shop stuffed with all sorts of produce from the sea, supplied mostly by local cottage industries in the area. In vacuum sealed bags, sanitised bottles, garrish packaging - but once open , the aroma brings back memories of kids running around with their stash of junk food. The packaging has changed somewhat but the Satay Fish is just as delicious ...and as stinky as I remember!
Today, Pangkor Island is a popular island destination for local and Singapore holiday makers. It gets extremely busy during school and public holidays. One operator on the island reported that approximately 2000 holidaymakers were left without a place to stay on the island during the Chinese New Year holiday period.. Of course, many people assume that there's plenty of available rooms on the island and that reservations weren't necessary.
Having said so, there are indeed quite a number of resorts, motels and inns on Teluk Nipah and Pasir Bogak. In particular, Teluk Nipah. One end of the beach is chock-full with chalets, A-huts, small resorts and and restaurants. The accommodation here is quite affordable for budget travellers although not quite as cheap as what can be found on Tioman.
For the more upmarket traveller, there are a number of resorts and hotels scattered around in quieter ends of the island with private beaches for guests to explore and relax without the hassle of touts roaming about selling boat rides etc. Then, of course, if your ideal holiday is to hide yourself away from the crowd, have your own space and just be... then Tiger Rock is a great place to unwind.
Ferries from Lumut arrive at the Pangkor Village Jetty and from here, if you haven't made prior arrangements with the resort etc, there are taxis ever eager to take passengers across the island to Teluk Nipah or Pasir Bogak costing somewhere between RM15 to RM45. Taxis are not cheap on the island and taxidrivers here are not in the habit of instilling metered rides. It's a bit of a pain as you may have to negotiate with the taxidrivers everytime you hail one. But if you're game for a bit of adventure, hire a motorbike or a bicycle. That'll just about allow you to cover the island in a day. Word of caution though for those not really of 'Tour de Langkawi' material: the island roads are pretty steep in certain areas so make sure you're fit enough to conquer the heat and the slopes. Also, watch out for packs of feral dogs running around on the island - it's a bit of a problem especially around Pangkor Village.
Pangkor Village is a busy little place with lots happening, particularly in the early hours of the morning when fresh produce from fishermen and from mainland are brought in for the local community's daily needs. Toward the end of the village, on the left from the jetty, a few 'kedai kopi' (coffee shops) cater to the local malay folk who frequent the place for their breakfast and a little bit of the local gossip. The 'Kuih Badak' is a nice snack to go with a cup of steaming local kopi (coffee).
Kuih Badak is made primarily from sweet potato and flour kneaded,then shaped into a hollow ball and filled with spiced grated coconut fried with a bit of shrimp to give it that special 'zing'.
The Dutch Fort
At the end of Pangkor Village, there's a road that leads towards the Dutch Fort - walking distance, some 3kms or so. If you're unsure, just ask the locals for directions. The Dutch Fort was built in 1670 as a strong point and a tin store.
This excerpt is taken from 'Islands of Malaysia' by Mike Gibby and is taken from an account dated 1689, "The fort is built 4-square, ... The walls are of a good height, of about thirty feet, and covered overhead like a dwelling house ... There may be about twelve or fourteen guns in it ... mounted on a strong platform. Here is a Governor and about twenty or thirty soldiers, who all lodge in the fort. About a hundred yards from the Fort on the bay by the sea there is a low timbered house, where the Governor abides all the daytime"
The Dutch attempted to monopolise the lucrative tin trade but despite the presence of the fort, smuggling of tin continued. Disgruntled local leaders frequently attacked the fort which eventually led the Dutch to abandon the area in 1690. Today, the Museum Department has reconstructed the Fort and it stands in its original foundations. On the right of the fort there is a little path leading into, what seems like a dead end. This is the entrance into a secluded bit of haven called Tiger Rock. Tiger Rock is so named for not far from the Fort lies a large boulder with a carving dating back to the Dutch era. This was carved in memory of a small boy who was taken away by tiger. To the locals, the rock is known as Batu Bersurat.
Here's an excerpt of an article written by a friend who visited Tiger Rock sometime back and had an unforgettable time during her stay.....
I am in need to recover.recover from an extremely indulgent weekend - being pampered from every waking hour and now, the weekend after, having to adjust back to urban life altogether.Hmmm.what a blissfully blissful weekend I've had.
On Pangkor Island, in a piece of 12.5 acre virgin forest is hidden one of the best kept secrets of the island - Tiger Rock Resort. Since 1998, tourist (mainly from overseas) have been privileged to experience the allure of Tiger Rock. The inspiration of David and Rebecca Owen Wilkinson, Tiger Rock provides a haven for all those craving a back to nature holiday with luxury. Tiger Rock is the place for those who enjoy the finer things in life - Nature, good food, warm hospitality and understated charm.
Greeted with a sprinkling rose water and presented with pretty pink bougainvillea lea upon arrival - we found ourselves thinking "Hmmm.this is like being in Fantasy Island.." Dr. Cynthia Lim, Melbourne.' For more, click here
Towards the north of 'Batu Bersurat' lies Teluk Sekadah. A secluded little stretch of beach, this place is perfect for time alone or a little beach picnic. However, plans are underway and an ambitious project stretching over a number of years will convert this tranquil beach into a holiday resort. The resort will extend round the cliffs towards Pasir Bogak. Let's hope that development will be insync with the environment.....
This was the first beach to be developed for holiday makers on Pangkor Island with only a few basic campsites and motels. Today, Pasir Bogak has mushroomed into a resort beach with varied accommodation ranging from campsites to Hotels.Pasir Bogak can get very crowded during public holidays and should best be avoided if possible. There are a number of seafood restaurants though that cater to holidaymakers eager for fresh seafood.
Further down the road, is the increasingly popular Teluk Nipah. Accommodation here caters much to the middle to lower-ranged budgets and can be a little dissapointing to those who have something of a romantic notion of island getaway in mind. Chalets, restaurants and motels line the streets and even the small alleyways and during the peak seasons, it's jam-packed with tourists. The main road lies between the beach and the motels and chalets so don't expect to get any rooms on the beach itself.
Just off the main street, towards the end of alleyways sits the borderline of the forest reserve. In the evenings, if you're lucky, you can witness a flock of hornbills flying in for handouts left out by local operators.
Pulau Giam in the background
Always shy but these hornbills seem to think that there may be some truth in safety in numbers.
From the beach, you can also take a short boat ride to the nearby islands of Pulau Giam and Pulau Mentaggor and if you're really for some exercise, you can rent kayaks for a paddle out to these islands.
The thing is, you don't really have to crowd it out with the rest. If some sort of crowd control is what you look for then there are a couple of resorts that offers a lot more privacy and almost all the creature comforts to sooth the burrowed frowns.