We chose our first island experience here in Malaysia, based not on the one that looked nicest, was cheapest or poshest or most beautiful, but quite simply on the one that looked easiest to get to by car.
We’d discovered that folk often miss the ferry to Tioman over on the east coast and though it appears from the Internet that the east coast is best, we picked Pangkor Island, a 3 hour drive north of KL. They have regular foot-passenger ferries across so you need to leave your car in the town of Lumut on the mainland.
Pulao Pangkor means ‘beautiful island’ but Touropia.com places it a measly 10th in its list of best Malaysian islands, while some websites don’t give it a mention at all! Okay, so it’s only about 8 square kilometres in size, but small is often beautiful – I mean, look at the Maldives! Tripadvisor.com ratings said only 72% of folk had approved of the hotel we had picked – Pangkor Beach Island Resort and lots of reviewers were less than impressed with the lack of upkeep on the hotel. So, my expectations, frankly, were low, but then we had only paid £80 a night inclusive of breakfast.
But who can fail to smile when the local taxis are all painted baby pink and cost next to nothing?
Who can complain when you have your own, large, private beach undisturbed by motorboats vying for business? Who can complain when the sea is balmy and the pools are a perfect temperature? When there is a swim up bar and cocktails cost just over a fiver? When you get to watch a sunset?
When there are peacocks parading the grounds and white-faced sea eagles swirling overhead? When they feed watermelon to the hornbills just before dusk and the sky and trees fill with massive great beaks that make them look so unaerodynamic we gawp in awe.
When it is completely silent? When there is a breeze and you can sit under the trees in the shade and just look and look and look at the water, the white sand and the swifts that divebomb the calm waters? When the beach is wide enough for you to take a decent walk and it’s cool enough to enjoy it without sweat and suncream dripping into your eyes?
No, the food wasn’t anything to write home about. And yes, our rooms were a bit tatty. But the a/c worked a treat and the showers worked well.
This makes me wonder whether perfection, and the idea of paradise, is personal. I mean, for me, the environment and the view are everything. I can usually cook better at home anyway.
We had taken my parents for the trip and we sat on our less than plush loungers under the acacias while our minds sank gently into the kind of peace that is hard to achieve (unless you meditate a lot!), staring at the setting sun and wondering:
“Surely this is the best beach hotel we’ve ever had?” said my father, ever the enthusiast.
“Ye-es but you can’t beat the Al Bustan in Oman,” said my mother.
“True, but the walk into the sea can hurt the soles of your feet and the hotel is so fab it’s never really quiet,” I throw into the conversation. “What about the Seychelles?” I suggest, knowing before the words left my mouth that it was a bit busier than here.
“Or Bang Tao Beach in Phuket?
And so we decided that this beach was to us anyway, paradise. And cliché or not, we loved it.