If you’ve been to other historical forts in Malaysia, the Dutch fort in Pangkor will seem like a three-walled Lego construction assembled from worn bricks and holes wedged in to pass for windows.
But this once-formidable fortress was originally constructed by the Dutch to house and defend tin supples bestowed by the sultanate of Perak. It may not look it now, but this place used to fire cannons.
It takes about an hour to hike up Bukit Pangkor, but if you have time to spare and legs to kill (or is it the other way round?), the trek will be worth it. The rainforest is thick, lush, and shady, the cicada calls are calming, and friendly macaques might even grace you with their presence.
Path markers along the way make it easy to gauge your location. When you’re on your way down, you can even take the trail towards Pasir Bogak (though this might be a little strenuous for the physically challenged).
If you prefer not to be mosquito feed, bring mosquito repellent.
Hornbills are to Pangkor what pigeons are to London — they’re everywhere. And if you don’t believe us, it’s because they’re all feeding at the Sunset View Chalet.
These high-beaked, stout-legged, long-tailed friends call Pangkor their home, and they call Noordin (the owner of Sunset View) their friend. Feeding time is 6.30 p.m. every day at the chalet, and you’ll get to introduce yourself to dozens of Oriental Pied Hornbills (the larger one) and Lesser Hornbills (the smaller one). If you stay at the chalet, Noordin will even let you feed the hungry birds yourself.
If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of ferries, boats, and sampans (flat-bottomed boat) coming to shore, you’ll want to sit down and have a cuppa at the Pangkor Kopitiam.
This no-frills, coffee-shop-style eatery offers a great selection of rice and noodle dishes. Highly recommended is the Pangkor Fried Rice, a warm, flavourful serve-up of rice, egg, and fried chicken — perfect for watching the fishermen come in from their morning catch.
The best thing about doing your own rowing is that you get to access places on the island that are normally inaccessible by other means.
Kayak to the far north of the island, and you’ll arrive at a spot where the hills are steep, the beach is unspoiled, and the view of Pulau Pelandok is unencumbered by hotels and resorts. If you wish, you can even kayak around the island, and all the way to Pulau Giam, where snorkelling is most popular.
To rent your equipment, many businesses on the island offer kayaks and canoes (and the oars, too, of course).
When in Pangkor, do as the fish do — and frolic in the sea. Snorkelling equipment are available at the jetty and on the island (we recommend the latter; it’s cheaper), and you’ll get to swim among pink-green parrotfish, luminescent moon wrasses, and characterful coral reefs, including the stag horn coral, the feather stars, and the sea fans.
The ocean waves are gentle and the waters are shallow, so if you have kids, they’ll be fine.
There’s no kung fu at Foo Lin Kong, but there are plenty of Buddhas, arhats, and (bizarrely) funhouse characters to greet you as you enter the grand red-and-blue archway. Located at the end of Coral Beach, this Taoist temple boasts Chinese-style “artichoke leaf” roofs, a mini “Great Wall” in the garden, and a huge rock of Fate.
See if you can spot the 12 Chinese zodiac signs on the temple’s roof (no cheating)!
If you remember nothing else about Pangkor, remember the idyllic setting at the Fisherman’s Cove in Pangkor Laut Island (known locally as “the other island,” the smaller sister to the main Pangkor island).
The dress code is here is smart casual, so no flip-flops or dripping swimsuits, thank you very much. The Seafood Pyramid is a delectable selection of lightly grilled seafood and accompanying sauces, and if you get the chocolate brownie, dessert can be a meltingly beautiful flourless affair.
For a view of the expansive sunset-lit sea, take a seat in the wood-panelled terrace — and arrive before sunset, of course.