Dirty Pulao Pankor

Nov 16, 2012 by

We arrived into Pankor town by ferry (10rm/return) from the mainland port of Lamut, after a 4 hour bus journey from Butterworth (16rm pp). The buses in Malaysia seems much better than in Thailand and other places we have visited, and the prices are much more realistic than the exorbitantly inflated prices we found elsewhere.

We knew roughly where we wanted to be and asked the (miserable) taxi driver to take us to Pantai Nipah (?) – he dropped us off at a random guesthouse from the LP, collected his 15rm fee and left. We found that the guesthouse was full and expensive anyway, so we trotted along the street to enquire elsewhere. It’s a public holiday in Malaysia, and the schools are off for a couple of months, so it’s pretty busy everywhere. Many places were full, otherwise the quality was low and the price high! We got to the end of the last street before we finally found somewhere in our price range and that wasn’t terrible, nisra camping resort has a few huts and a dorm room, we got a room attached to the dorm for 50Rm and were lucky, that was the last space!

It turns out the place is nice and the staff are very chilled out, so we rested in the common area and made use of the hammocks hooked up around the place before heading out for dinner.

There isn’t a huge choice of options in this area, there are lots of dirty looking food stalls, which is normal all throughout SE Asia, but these seems to be the types we have previously avoided. Everywhere else we have had no qualms about getting street food, or eating in shabby looking places, but something here just put me off, perhaps just the lack of people frequenting them?

We realised that the nicer places to eat are the resort restaurants (everywhere seems to be a resort, but we would have called them guesthouses). We chose one on the main road that seemed reasonable on price (e.g. Fish by weight, not a randomly selected figure) and watched the moving scenery.

From the moment we arrived in this area we were disheartened by the amount of bad un-sympathetic developments on the beachfront. According to newspaper clippings displayed in our guesthouse, a couple of years ago the local government decided to spend 8million RM on a bunch of concrete block buildings on the once open beachfront. It seems many of the local business owners complained, but were ignored.

These eyesores are now inhabited by the ubiquitous dodgy clothes sellers found everywhere there are tourists in SE Asia, and add nothing to the ‘apparently’ beautiful island.

This alone is perhaps understandable as a necessary capitalisation of prime commercial space, but two other things about this island annoy me.

The first is the sheer amount of rubbish that is everywhere, on the roads, in the sea on the beaches in the jungle, everywhere there are people there is rubbish, much worse than Thailand and even Cambodia wasn’t this bad. There is a little stream at the end of the main stretch of beach, which sits next to some of the ugly concrete blocks. It is chock full of rubbish, it stinks and is surely home to who knows what else. It empties into the sea, on the otherwise beautiful white sand beach. Not nice. I might have to get a couple of snaps to show how disgusting it is.

The other thing that bugs me, and this is a bit Victor Meldrew of me, is the ‘watersports’ concessions on every beach. In themselves it’s not a problem, but the noise (grumpy old man time) is annoying, and the fact that there is no provision for swimmers and snorkellers. The jetski’s are piloted by the general public with seemingly no guidelines about safe swimming areas or at least instructions to stay well away from the shore. The operators aren’t much better, they seem to like driving their ‘tour’ boats as fast as they can, as close to the waters edge as possible, before stopping to point out the pale skinned people sitting on the beach sunbathing and having a good laugh, then speeding off to the next bay (it’s mostly Indians and Malays on holiday here at the moment,westerners are in the minority – which is a nice change!).

This happens about every 20 mins throughout the day. The boat pilots grand finale is to get a good run up to the beach, powering on hard, dodging the swimmers before beaching the small boats to the delighted screams of those aboard.

OK, rant over!

On the first morning, we rented a bike (expensive at 40rm/day) to try to dispel our disenchantment of this so called ‘beautiful island’ (Pulao Pankor literally means Beautiful Isle) by exploring it more. We found the main town to be OK dusty and dirty like everywhere else, and the rest of the island was easily navigated in about 2 hours with stops. The jungle seems nice, the little we saw from the road, and there are lots of hornbills and a few sea eagles flying about, we also saw a few monkeys darting about.

We stopped at the place known as turtle beach and were happy to find it reasonably clean and empty, so we stopped for a bit of a swim. The water was murky and there was no coral to be found, but it was nice for the peace and quiet between tour boat stops. They stopped in front of us every time, pointed and laughed before moving on. I’m not surprised that turtles are never seen here anymore, there are too many boats flying around at top speed. They have probably all been smashed by tour boats.

Apparently there are some people rescuing turtles from the perils of tourism, which is nice, but I suspect it’s a losing battle as more ‘tourism’ infrastructure is built on the beaches.

We stayed on this beach until swathes of rubbish washed in, carried by the incoming tide.

We moved onto coral beach, a little up from the main beach near us in hope of finding some nice coral to snorkel. It’s a sandy beach with the same old watersports, by it’s not as busy as other places so we got some swimming in. There’s actually no coral on this beach, but on the island opposite, but it’s nice enough for a spot of sunbathing.

Today is our last day on the island, tomorrow we move onto Kuala Lumpur (KL). Its sad that our last beach days are marred by Pankor’s shortcomings, but we are making the of the sea, beaches an sunshine before we head to the heat of the city!

On second thoughts: Ok do the last night in Pankor was quite pleasant and I realised that I might have sounded overly harsh about the place. My memories of the place will also include the hundreds of happy families all smiling because they are on holiday on a beautiful island, also the peals of laughter from the children playing in the sea and resort swimming pools. It’s not such a bad place, I think I just went a bit grumpy whilst I was writing the above!

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