The sedate island of Pulau Pangkor lies midway on Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast only four hours coach trip from Kuala Lumpur and could not be more different from the bustling Malaysian capital. Spending time snorkelling in the emerald green water and popping back to the shore for a rest and satay skewer is the modus operandi here. Fishing is still the major industry for local people and so tourists are spared the jostling from touts of larger destinations, and can sit back and observe traditional life without any hassle.
Pangkor is an oval-shaped island with fishing villages and Pangkor Town on the east coast, and the beaches and tourist accommodation occupying the west. There is a single road linking the two sides between Pangor Town and the beach area of Pasir Bogak, as well as a loop travelling right around the edge of the island. Pasir Bogak has a few accommodation options and a modest stretch of sand, although it is much preferable to travel a few kilometres north to Teluk Nipah where there is a pair of palm-fringed bays with soft white sand and abundant marine life.
What to see and do on Pulau Pangkor
Coral beach is the most famous of the two and has plenty of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants plus the most picturesque setting on the island. Other than lounging on serene beaches there are some interest sights worth visiting such as a 17th century Dutch colonial fort, a unique etching of a tiger from around the same period, a mini Great Wall of China and a variety of Taoist and Hindu temples.
There are opportunities for all manner of sports and activities in Pulau Pangkor such as snorkelling, sailing, fishing and watersports such as jet skiing. Boat trips to deserted beaches are easy to arrange and will not break the bank. Nature lovers can also find a wealth of fauna in the dense inland jungle including remarkably tame hornbills and a variety of monkey species. The island has a three hole golf course of sorts inside one of the large resorts but there are a couple of championship-standard offerings on the mainland.
Hospitality on Pulau Pangkor
Seafood features heavily on most menus in Pulau Pangkor restaurants and this is naturally the staple diet of the fisherman community here. Expect exceptional freshness and a range of spicy Malay sauces with your fish, squid, crab or lobster, and most meals will not set you back more than a few dollars.
There is no real nightlife scene on the island other than a few late night drinks in backpacker hostels or the lounge bars of the larger hotels. But that never has been what draws people to Pulau Pangkor.
There is a growing range of accommodation options in Pulau Pangkor with a range of luxury resort-hotels occupying their own private beaches and even entire islands. But there are also some great budget option with rooms in character-filled guesthouses overlooking gardens teeming with flowers and bedecked with hammocks and comfortable spots to relax.
For shoestring backpackers there are bargain A-frame huts and camping spots available for a handful of ringgits.
Getting to Pulau Pangkor
Pangkor is only a 40-minute ferry trip from the mainland port of Lumut, which itself is served by regular buses from all major transport hubs. The jetty is just a touch north of the bus terminal, and ferries run from early morning until late evening. Around the island the best way of getting about is to rent a bike or motorcycle. These are readily available and only cost around RM15 for the peddle variety or RM35 for the motorised version. There are also pink minibus taxis that take visitors all around the island from RM5 for the shortest journeys.