Coast­ing the is­lands

Time Out Malaysia gives you the low-down on the best is­lands on ei­ther side of Penin­su­lar Malaysia. Each isle of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from crys­tal clear wa­ters and beach bars to Unesco sites and a re­lax­ing time

Time Out Malaysia Visitors Guide - - NEWS -

Most coun­tries are di­vided by phys­i­cal bound­aries – state lines, weather pat­terns, deserts or bod­ies of wa­ter. But di­vides go far deeper than that, where it con­cerns cul­ture, his­tory, reli­gion and pat­terns of im­mi­gra­tion. In the United States, for in­stance, the west coast has a dif­fer­ent life­style from the east coast due to later im­mi­gra­tion and warmer weather. The same can be said for many Euro­pean and Asian coun­tries where peo­ple from the north and south have dif­fer­ent ac­cents and lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion, some­times even look­ing dif­fer­ent.

Like­wise, in Penin­su­lar Malaysia, there’s a marked dif­fer­ence be­tween the east and west coast, and this is ob­vi­ous in how the is­lands have de­vel­oped and what they of­fer trav­ellers.

Langkawi Come here for Su­perb re­sorts, Unesco Geopark, duty-free booze

Lo­cated in the north­ern state of Kedah, Langkawi is part of an archipelago of 99 is­lands and still has the am­bi­ence of a sleepy Malay vil­lage. The sea isn’t crys­tal clear and it can get crowded, but it has its own charm and the beaches are lovely, dot­ted with bars and cafés of­fer­ing the cheap­est al­co­hol in the coun­try, which is very at­trac­tive to a large per­cent­age of visi­tors.

Another big at­trac­tion is its sta­tus as a Unesco Geopark en­com­pass­ing vir­gin rain­for­est and man­groves teem­ing with wildlife, as well as an­cient rock for­ma­tions, the old­est of which rose from the sea 500 mil­lion years ago. It’s no won­der that ho­tels like The St. Regis, Four Sea­sons and The Westin have set up shop here. And if a lux­ury re­sort isn’t your thing, there are quaint huts on the beach and bou­tique es­tab­lish­ments to suit ev­ery level of com­fort.

Pe­nang Come here for Won­der­ful food, Unesco World Her­itage Site, durian

If you’re look­ing for the idyl­lic trop­i­cal hol­i­day, Pe­nang is not it. Sadly, the sea leaves a lot to be de­sired and if you stay at a beach re­sort, the pool is your best bet for wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties.

But visi­tors don’t come here for a typ­i­cal trop­i­cal get­away; they come to im­merse them­selves in the vi­brant heart of George Town – its fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, from the early 17th cen­tury traders to be­ing the first Bri­tish colony in South­east Asia, has cre­ated a des­ti­na­tion that ap­peals to all the senses.

Stay in a quirky her­itage ho­tel, go on a durian plan­ta­tion tour, cy­cle around George Town for a closer look at the funky street art and beau­ti­ful old build­ings. Later, hit ev­ery hawker stall to taste cen­turies of nu­tri­tional amal­ga­ma­tion.

Pu­lau Pangkor Laut Come here for Tran­quil­lity, fam­ily time, spa treat­ments

Within easy driv­ing dis­tance from Kuala Lumpur are two is­lands – Pu­lau Pangkor and Pu­lau Pangkor Laut. The larger of the two, Pangkor is a liv­ing is­land with fish­ing vil­lages and a size­able pop­u­la­tion. Pangkor Laut, on the other hand, is pri­vately owned and only has one ho­tel on it, the Pangkor Is­land Re­sort with its lush chalets built over the wa­ter and pri­vate beach.

There’s noth­ing much to do here which is ex­actly why peo­ple come. And while it’s vis­ually ar­rest­ing, it lacks the is­land soul peo­ple want when on hol­i­day.

Per­hen­tian Is­lands Come here for Div­ing, is­land life, chill­ing out

There are two of them here – Be­sar (big) and Ke­cil (small) – and they’re on ev­ery trav­eller’s list of must-visit is­lands. These are the stars of the ba­nana pan­cake trail with their huts, beau­ti­ful views, beach bars and dive shops.

There’s no cul­ture, his­tory or town to visit. The lo­cals are there for the sole rea­son of per­pet­u­at­ing the busi­ness of tourism. Per­hen­tian Be­sar is qui­eter and at­tracts a ma­ture crowd and fam­i­lies, while Ke­cil is back­packer cen­tral.

Pu­lau Teng­gol Come here for Div­ing, get­ting away from it all

Teng­gol isn’t on the mass travel radar yet as it’s a small, un­der­de­vel­oped is­land lo­cated at the far end of Tereng­ganu Ma­rine Park. This is the per­fect ex­am­ple of an East Coast is­land – unas­sum­ing and stun­ning.

Div­ing is the big­gest ac­tiv­ity and the ma­rine life here is phe­nom­e­nal – whale sharks pass by in March, April, Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber as part of their mi­gra­tory routes. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is limited and very ba­sic; nightlife non-ex­is­tent.

Pu­lau Rawa Come here for Seclu­sion, ro­mance, pri­vate beach par­ties

This tiny is­land is an anom­aly and lo­cated on the east coast of the state of Jo­hor, which isn’t ac­tu­ally an East Coast state. Pri­vately owned by the Jo­hor sul­tanate, there are only two re­sorts there mean­ing only a limited num­ber of peo­ple can visit at a time.

There is lit­er­ally noth­ing here – no shops, bars, restaurants, dive schools. All you can do here is swim, snorkel, tan, take short walks, read a book and nap. The wa­ter is su­per clear, the sand ridicu­lously white, and if there was an is­land that made the east ver­sus west coast di­vide seem so wide, this would be it.

Langkawi

Pe­nang

You can see whale sharks swim­ming by on their mi­gra­tory routes along Pu­lau Teng­gol

Per­hen­tian Is­lands

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