Trip Start Aug 19, 2006
11Trip End Sep 01, 2007
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The nearest beaches to KL are at Port Dickson ('PD' for locals) but these suffer from dirty water - shipping and industry nearby mean the water and sand are yucky brown. As the locals don't use the water much at beaches they don't always care too much about that.
The nearest island to KL is Pulau Pangkor and we like it so much that we've been twice for beach escape weekends. We get there by bus - on Friday at 15:00 we hop on a VIP Luxury bus, costs 19 ringgit for the trip [€1=RM 4,7], with three seats across instead of four, and four hours later we're in the harbour and town Lumut, where we hop on the ferry for the 30 minute sail (RM5) across to Pankor past Malaysia's main navy base with some impressive warships floaring around the bay. Then a RM10 pink taxi ride to Nipah Bay on the other side the island - all taxis here are pink minibuses and are unionised with standard rates for destinations.
The island is small, perhaps 10x3km only, with most inhabitants on the east coast facing the mainland. Most of them are in fishing; dried fish is the island's speciality. The single round going round the island is narrow and goes up and down steep hills to reach the other side, where there are a few beaches, some villages and restorts and the airport strip. Nipah Bay is a beautiful beach fringed with trees and backed by a tourist village with cheap chalets and hotels. The village has two streets with perhaps 30 chalet complexes and hotels, a few food stalls and water sports rental stands, and that's it. No bars, discos or restaurants (other than thos eattached to accommodation that is). In the evening it's blissfully quiet.
Behind the village is dense jungle, and the most spectacular and also noisiest inhabitants are the hornbills - large birds with huge colourful beaks that flap around from tree to tree in pairs, squawking all the time. There's a lot of them and every day it's common to hear and see them messing around in treetops.
Our first trip to Pangkor was on a weekend during Ramadan (Muslim fasting month) in October, and the place was positively deserted. We counted perhaps 15 foreigners in Nipah Bay, plus a handful of locals. We practically had the whole beach to ourselves. We stayed at a nice chalet at the Nipah Bay Villa complex (RM60 for a 2-person chalet with a/c). The best restaurant in town in TJ's, a shack serving local and western food. Very good and cheap, but man it takes long to get the food. After writing down your order it may take up to an hour to get it - even if it's a sandwich. Still, worth it, especially for dinner when you can point at a fresh fish to be grilled.
The water is nice and warm, though if you swim out a bit you get stung by something invisible, perhaps jellyfish tentacles, which is annoying but not more than that. It's clear enough for snorkelling though I didn't try. They say the coral here is not as good as the east coast islands so why bother when you're flopped on your towel. Tour boats go out to the small island in the bay where we see tourists splashing around - must be some coral there. White coral does wash up on the beach, together with all sorts of shells - Marta found some really cool spikey ones.
On our second trip, in November, it was a different story, as it was quite busy and the chalets we stayed before were booked full so we had to settle for another complex which wasn't as good by far. The beach was busy with Malaysian groups, but walk a bit to the left or right and it's peaceful.
More photos at the top of the page. We'll be back.
Where I stayed