Pulau Pangkor is not known for it’s wealth of fascinating attractions, but there’s more than enough of interest if you’ve caught too much sun and want to do something cultural.
Of course, the beaches here are obviously the biggest draw, but this sleepy island also has a few temples of note plus some historic ruins that echo back to less peaceful times.
Foo Lin Kong Temple
This attractive Taoist temple on Pulau Pankor differs from most in the region as its altars are constructed in a natural style to resemble stones and rocks so it seems built by nature.
Surrounded by ornamental gardens and fish pounds, it has been build at the base of Pangkor Hill with the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac on the roof. There are plenty of different fish and turtles in the ponds around the temple and a miniature Great Wall of China built on a slope behind the complex.
It can get quite tiring having to run around the wall but it’s great fun for the kids. Beware, the temple owner keeps a few monkeys in some dirty, tiny cages. The animals look in poor health and extremely unhappy. (Sungai Pinang Besar, go right from the jetty to the village and ask locals for directions)
Dutch Fort (Kota Belanda)
A testament to long-standing colonial interest in Malaysia from the Netherlands, this small fort at Teluk Gudang was built in 1670. It suffered repeated attacks by local warrior chiefs which eventually forced the Europeans to abandon their stronghold.
Today only three original walls are left and the place bears more resemblance to a warehouse than a military fortification. A reconstruction project by The National Museum has begun on the fort to preserve what remains. There is also a souvenir shop selling t-shirts and key rings. (The fort is about three kilometres south of Pangkor Town at Teluk Gedong, free)
Tiger Rock (Batu Bersurat)
This huge granite boulder, measuring around five by 10 metres, features an etching of a tiger which is thought to have killed the child of a Dutch naval officer. There are also carved two round leaves and the inscription ‘If Carlo 1743′ and ‘VOC’, the latter referring to the Dutch East India Company.
One sinister version of events says the Malays and Bugis kidnapped and killed a Dutch dignitary’s child in 1743, in revenge for ill treatment of locals by the colonisers. The locals then invented a story that a tiger snatched the boy which prompted the memorial inscription. (Take coastal road from Pangkor Town for around 15 mins. Tiger Rock is situated close to the Dutch Fort)
Kali Amman Temple
This Hindu temples in Sungai Pinang Kecil is the only Indian place of worship on the island and the centre of the local community’s annual Thaipusam celebration. The temple is important as one of only two in Malaysia with a shrine of the goddess Kali facing the sea. There are steps down to the water where devotees can perform cleansing ‘pujas’ before entering the hall for worship.
Generally Pangkor’s beaches and tourist accommodation are on the west of the island with the villages found on the right. The water here is generally very clean although there can be problems with litter being washed up. Remember to take all rubbish away with you and not to leave belongings unattended while swimming.
Teluk Nipah and Coral Beach
Teluk Nipah, a little north of Pantai Pasir Bogak, is the most beautiful stretch of coastline on Pangkor and home to picturesque Coral Beach. A great spot for snorkelling, the crystal clear waters here are teeming with marine life.
There are also hornbills nesting in the forest a little back from the shore. It is possible to swim out to Coral Island in ten minutes or alternatively rent a kayak and paddle there. Every February jellyfish descend on this part of the island although they are rarely dangerous.
Pantai Pasir Bogak
Situated only a few kilometres from Pangkor Town on the west of the island, this is arguably the most popular of Pulau Pangkor beaches. Watersports including jet-skiing, snorkelling or sea kayaking can be easily arranged from vendors, and food-stalls serve up local specialities including noodle dishes and grilled satays and seafood. Luxury hotels, chalets, bungalow and camping sites line the beach.
Underrated Teluk Ketapang is situated between more popular Teluk Nipah and Pasir Bogak, and an attractive place to visit where locals or tourists rarely tread. Although there is no accommodation located here, it’s easy to find across the green field from the main road. Fishing or snorkelling trips can be arranged with boatmen who hang around at the small pier.
Pantai Puteri Dewi
Near Pangkor’s small airport, this beach is just a touch further north of Teluk Nipah and literally translates as ‘beach of the lovely princess’. The sand here is brilliant white and there is plenty of coral for snorkelling, although access is restricted to those staying at the Pangkor Island Beach Resort where you can rent equipment.
This hidden gem is one of the least-visited beaches on Pulau Pangkor, but a real find for those who crave a little seclusion on their holiday. From Teluk Gedong take the path over the hills from the board marked ‘Teluk Gedung’. This 15-minute jungle trek involves a little scrambling but is not terribly strenuous. Once you arrive you’ll be greeted with a lovely stretch of sand and calm emerald-green clear water. Remember to bring enough water and supplies as there are no vendors or shops nearby.