Pahang is the largest state on Peninsular Malaysia and home to a variety of environments from the montane forests of the Titiwangsa Range to lush rainforests, plus beaches and islands. Malaysia’s largest national park, Taman Negara is situated on the state’s northern border with Terengganu and Kelantan and the South China Sea fronts Pahang’s coastline and it’s here tourists that can experience Malaysia’s cultural heartland.
Pahang is easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur as there’s a freeway all the way to Kuantan, the state capital. Alternatively, fly to Kuantan or catch the train from Gemas to Kota Bharu as a train passes through Pahang. The state also offers exciting theme parks, remote forest trails, Tioman Island, and peaceful hill stations.
So without further ado, here is why Pahang should be in your travel list.
1. Taman Negara: A Rainforest Refuge
For many people, Malaysia conjures up images of vast expanses of tropical rainforest. While many forests offer a protected home for plants and animals, they’re also a destination for adventurous travellers to explore. There are several parks in Pahang worth visiting including Endau Rompin State Park, Kenong Rimba Park, and the largest of them all, Taman Negara (which translates simply enough to ‘National Park’).
Taman Negara is one of the world’s finest and oldest protected areas of lowland forest and while the park was established only in 1939, its forests are some 130 million years old. The park covers an area of 435,000ha, sprawling across portions of the states of Pahang, Terengganu, and Kelantan, making it Malaysia’s largest protected lowland evergreen rainforest.
Peninsular Malaysia’s highest peak, Mount Tahan at 2,187m, is located within the park and nine-day return walks to the summit and back provide plenty of backcountry adventure for experienced and self-sufficient walkers. Accessing the park’s more isolated destinations isn’t a problem as there’s a good river transport system and most trails to the main attractions are well-maintained and clearly signposted.
Taman Negara has an exciting range of activities to experience and attractions to see. The park is still home to its original inhabitants, the Orang Asli people, some of whom still lead a traditional semi-nomadic subsistence lifestyle of fishing and hunting.
Activities include caving, shooting rapids, floating down rivers on inflatable tubes, night walks, birdwatching, and guided walks. One of the essential activities is to walk on the world’s longest suspended canopy walk: a 450-m stroll that’s 40m above the forest floor. And if you’re keen to move from the land to the water, a boat journey along the tree-lined Tahan River is the most picturesque of all journeys through the park.
Kuala Tembeling, the departure point for Taman Negara, is a four hours’ drive from Kuala Lumpur. From here, the park is a two to three hours’ boat journey away depending upon the river level. There’s a range of places to stay available around the park from near-wilderness experiences to comfortable resort-styled facilities adjacent to the park headquarters.
Most visitors stay at Kuala Tahan, while others opt to stay in a nearby Malay village. The facilities at the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort perched above the junction of the Tembeling and Tahan Rivers are reasonable considering the isolated location. A trip to Taman Negara can be as relaxed or as energetic as visitors like, as different facilities cater to their varied needs.
2. Beaches and Islands of Pahang
Several long beachfronts are located along the Pahang coastline. Offshore, Tioman is the largest island in the group called Serbuat Islands to the east of Kuantan. While there are a few small-scale resorts and other laid-back places to stay, the only large property is the Berjaya Tioman Resort. Despite Tioman’s beauty and its relative proximity to both Malaysia and Singapore, the island isn’t yet in the sights of international jetsetters, and life on Tioman moves at an unhurried pace.
One of the big attractions is that there are basically no roads or vehicles on the islands and visitors have the choice of walking short distances or catching boats to those places which are a little further away. There’s a jungle trail connecting the more remote east coast to the west. Lazing on the beach, a round of golf at the Berjaya Tioman Resort, or enjoying the excellent snorkelling and diving are about as rigorous as the activities get on the island.
3. Cool Cameron Highlands
While the Cameron Highlands are a long way from the Cotswolds, there’s definitely an air of English refinement here. The highlands retain much of their colonial charm and offer an escape to a more peaceful and leisurely lifestyle. There are many good reasons to make the trip to these upland parts, but the main ones are that they’re close to Kuala Lumpur (roughly a three hours’ drive) and that the air is refreshingly cool.
In 1885, a surveyor named William Cameron reached and described the highlands that would come to bear his name as a fine plateau with gentle slopes, shut in by lofty mountains. His account was the first official record of the ascent on the mountainous range, although it was of course well-known to the Orang Asli, or indigenous peoples of the area. Difficulties in accessing the area meant that it wasn’t until 1925 that a settlement was first proposed. Despite the steep slopes, indiscriminate land clearing still occurs despite the resultant problems of landslides, river siltation, and forest destruction.
The Cameron Highlands are located on a forested plateau that’s famous for tea production and temperate flowers plus cool-climate vegetables and fruits, especially strawberries, which appear liberally on restaurant menus in the area. It’s also possible to walk in comfort along roads and fern-lined trails which, as the famous silk trader Jim Thompson discovered, aren’t that well signposted. This means lots of physical activities such as hiking, golf on the 18-hole public course, tennis, cycling, and general sightseeing are all possible but a guide is recommended for most walks.
British-born and educated J. A. Russell established Boh Tea Plantation in 1929 and the estate still remains within the family. Today, the meticulously manicured plantation looks like the patterned skin of a snake and while tea cutters once plucked the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plants by hand, some are mechanically harvested these days, though hand harvesting is still seen on the Cameron Highlands tea plantation slopes. Visitors can enjoy a cuppa in Tea’ria teahouse overlooking Sungei Palas Plantation, just out of Brinchang.
There are a few large hotels in the highlands with Strawberry Park Resort and the Copthorne Hotel being two of the largest. Several smaller properties set the trend for those seeking something more exclusive. The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands Resort, and The Smokehouse Hotel are as English as they come and more traditional Colonial fare is served.
Check out what we have for you to do in Pahang here