Those looking for a stunningly beautiful island in Malaysia should consider visiting Pulau Pangkor. This island is located in the state of Perak on the western side of West Malaysia and can be reached from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur within 5 hours. Unfortunately not many tourists know this island. While it is very popular among locals. Okay, the water may not be as clear blue as on other islands, but there is a relaxed atmosphere and you have beautiful beaches at your disposal. And did you know that for years the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had a fort on Pulau Pangkor? In this travel guide I explain the Dutch history and give the best tips for things to do on this island…
What would you like to know about Pulau Pangkor in Malaysia?
- A brief history of Pulau Pangkor
- Sightseeing – What to do on the island?
- Accommodation – Where to stay?
- Transport – How to get there?
A brief history of Pulau Pangkor
Very little is known about the history of Pulau Pangkor before the arrival of the Dutch. The locals called it Spirit Island because they believed the island was guarded by spirits.
When the United East India Company was founded in 1602, it led to trading expeditions to Asia. Batavia, today’s Jakarta became the main trading center of the Dutch. But they wanted more. In 1641, with the help of the Sultan of Johor (province in Malaysia), they managed to drive the Portuguese out of Southeast Asia. They took over the fort in Malacca and thus controlled the important shipping route through the Straits of Malacca.
From Malacca the Dutch traded tin with the Sultan of Perak. To protect this trade, they decided to build on Pulau Pangkor the Fort Dindingh, named after the river of the same name that flowed on the island. But they could put the monopoly position the Dutch had in mind out of their minds.
Traders from India regularly came to buy tin in Perak and the sultan was no fan of the Dutch. Together with Aceh, a powerful state on the other side, he made an alliance to get rid of the Dutch. This plan failed, but an agreement was reached with the VOC. The Dutch were given 2/3 of the tin trade and Aceh 1/3. But the local population remained angry about the Dutch influence. They regularly demolished the fort, and this led to the VOC’s departure from Pulau Pangkor in 1748.
After the departure of the VOC, the British came to Malaysia. Thus, on January 20, 1874, an agreement was made between the British and the Sultan of Perak Raja Abdullah. This agreement marked the official beginning of British influence on the politics of various Malaysian states. And still today, Malaysia is a part of the British Commonwealth.
Sightseeing – What to do on Pulau Pangkor?
Let me be clear: there is not much left to see on Pulau Pangkor of the history that has just been told here. But of course you can still do plenty of other things on this beautiful paradise.
The best way to do that is to rent a scooter. Usually this can be arranged at your accommodation and otherwise there is a rental company nearby. The island is not big. That means you can explore it all in one day. The rest of the days you can enjoy the beach and the beautiful sunset (if you are on the west side of course). Below are a few great ideas.
1. Visit a few fishing villages on the east side
Pangkor Town is the largest town on the island. It is located on the east side of the island and is where the boat docks. For a glimpse of traditional life, this is the place to be. The residents rely heavily on fishing and you can see this just by the many fishing boats in the harbor. If you are not averse to a nice fish, this is the place to be!
2. Dutch Fort
The fort Kota Belanda, as it is called by locals, is the only historical building, besides a few graves, that reminds of the Dutch influence on the island. It is located in the southeast of Pulau Pangkor and thus served to protect the tin trade. In 1973, the Malaysian government decided to restore the fort and add it to the country’s list of historical monuments. A foundation still stands and when touring the island, it is definitely worth a look.
Not far from the fort is Tiger Rock with an inscription of the VOC. The story goes that in 1743 a girl was playing here and suddenly disappeared. She was never found again and it was assumed that a tiger killed her.
3. Lin Je Kong Temple
Actually, I could have put here any temple that can be found on this island. The Lin Je Kong Temple is located on a rock just north of Coral Beach. Occasionally you will see locals come to it to pray. But when touring the island you can also take a look at the Foo Lin Kong Temple at the foot of Pangkor Hill. This is located on the east side in the village of Sungai Pinang Besar.
Finally: And don’t feel like visiting anything? Then just rest and throw those legs up! Or rent a kayak and sail from Coral Beach to the island of Pulau Giam. And diving or snorkeling is of course also possible on Pulau Pangkor.
Accommodation – Where to stay at Pulau Pangkor?
Pulau Pangkor is an island that is visited by very few foreign tourists. Especially on weekends, the place is crowded with Malaysians who want to enjoy the beach.
The best place to stay is in the northwest at Teluk Nipah. Here you have many nice and cheap accommodations and at the beach you can find great eateries. More to the north you will find Coral Beach. Daddy’s cafe is very popular with western tourists for lunch or dinner.
For parties and celebrations you should not be here. But if you like relaxed beaches with few tourists and a beautiful sunset then Pulau Pangkor is for you.
Transport – How to get to Pulau Pangkor?
To get to Pulau Pangkor you must first take a bus to the town of Lumut. From Kuala Lumpur Terminal Bersepadu Selatan buses go every half hour to this place. They take about 4 hours. From the bus station of Lumut it is about 200 meters walk to the ferry. It leaves every 45 minutes and stops twice. The first time is northeast of the island and especially useful if you want to stay in the nearby village. If your stay is on the west side you should get off at the last stop. From here a minibus leaves for every destination on the island and the prices are fixed, on a big sign above the footpath! Handy right?
And what is your opinion about Pulau Pangkor? If you have more tips and ideas, feel free to leave a message below.