Mention Pahang and one immediately pictures lush forests, beautiful beaches and highlands.
Pahang is the largest state in Peninsular Malaysia and Kuantan is its capital city. Covering an area of 35,000sq km, almost two-thirds of the state is covered in dense tropical rainforest, making it a natural haven for Malaysia’s rich flora and fauna.
On the origins of the name Pahang, several versions were sourced. According to an old Malay story, a large “mahang” tree on the opposite side of Kampung Kemahang fell across Sungai Pahang, the longest river on the peninsula. Hence, the name Pahang.
The name was also said to have been derived from traders from China who called the state Pang-Hang and it eventually became Pahang.
There is a Siamese twist to it as well. The name was said to have originated from the language of a Siamese aboriginal tribe that meant ‘ore’. The aborigines used to live in the state and opened up several mining areas, especially in Sungai Lembing.
Pahang is bordered on the north by the states of Kelantan and Terengganu, on the east by the South China Sea, on the south by Negeri Sembilan and Johor, and in the west by Perak and Selangor.
The Titiwangsa mountain range that forms a natural divider between the Peninsula’s east and west coasts is spread along the north and south of the state, peaking at Tahan Mountain, which is 2,187m high.
Pahang’s royal town is called Pekan, which translates literally into town.
The state consists of 11 districts – Pekan, Rompin, Maran, Temerloh, Jerantut, Bentong, Raub, Lipis, Cameron Highlands and Bera.
The state that is blessed with natural wonders, Pahang has it all: the highland retreats, beautiful islands and beaches as well as national and state parks. Most of these natural wonders are still in their very pristine state.
One of the top attractions is Taman Negara or the National Park in Jerantut. There are lodgings and resorts that fit one’s pocket and a stay in the rainforest will be an experience much appreciated especially by city dwellers.
Visitors can immerse themselves and bask in the lush tropical greenery of one of the world’s oldest rainforest that is hundreds of million years old.
Among the activities visitors can take part in are jungle trekking, a canopy walk that is suspended 40m above the ground that guarantees a bird’s eye view of sheer lushness, fresh water fishing, bird watching, rapid shooting, cave exploring or one can even discover the vast species of flora and fauna.
Apart from Taman Negara, Pahang has another tropical rainforest located south of the state and north-east of Johor: Endau-Rompin national park. It is also one of the oldest tropical rainforest complexes in the world and features rock formations some 248 million years old.
The park takes it name from the Endau and Rompin rivers that flow through the park. During the monsoon season that is from November until March, the park is closed to the public. Fishing is also banned from September until October as it is the mating season.
Another equally interesting nature park is the Kenong Rimba Park, located in Kenong Valley in Kuala Lipis. It is a scenic valley that passes through mountains and it is home to the orang asli.
Within the park, one will be able to witness beautiful limestone caves as well as the Kenong River. It has an abundance of lowland forests and riverside vegetation and one can view the varieties of ferns and wild orchids. The “pokok tualang” and “pokok ara” can also be seen. Another delightful attraction is the pink and white water lilies which can be found floating.
Islands and beaches
From the dense tropical jungle setting, visitors can relish the sun and sea at Pulau Tioman, reputedly to be among the 10 best islands in the world.
It lies some 36 nautical miles off the east coast and boasts of stretches of white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, charming villages and friendly people. The water is crystal clear, teeming with fantastic marine life and colourful coral gardens. The twin peaks of Gunung Nenek Semukut provide a prominent landmark to this island.
Another thing that makes Pulau Tioman intriguing is the popular folklore it is said that the island is a resting place of a beautiful dragon princess. While flying from China to visit her prince in Singapore, this beautiful maiden stopped to seek solace in the waters of the South China Sea. Enraptured by the charms of the place, she decided to discontinue her journey. By taking the form of an island, she pledged to offer shelter and comfort to passing travellers.
The island is an excellent spot for fun-filled water sports activities such as scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, boating, water skiing and windsurfing. You can enjoy sailing around the island in a glass-bottomed boat.
One can enjoy the sandy beaches of Cherating, a famous beach town that has one of the best lagoons in the area with calm waters making you want to take a dip in the sea or just simply laze under the sun. Cherating also houses a cultural village and a turtle sanctuary. At the turtle sanctuary, one can learn about the lifecycle of turtles. The turtles also lay their eggs between July and August.
Another popular beach that is close to Kuantan is Teluk Chempedak. The beach has beautiful casuarinas and pine trees line the coast, with some rocky promontories facing the rolling waves of the South China Sea. All these combine to make the beach serene and delightful. You can see the boats of the fishermen at sea during the day, and the twinkling lights of their boats at night. The fishing village of Tanjung Api and Beserah are only about 5km away on either side of Teluk Chempedak.
One can escape the hot and humid weather at the beach and go to the highlands for a cool retreat and relaxing holiday amid nature and fresh air. Pahang has four popular hill resorts: Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Bukit Fraser and Bukit Tinggi.
Cameron Highlands is the smallest district but it is one of the most prominent attractions in Malaysia, being the largest and most famous hill resort in the country. This highland paradise still retains much of the charm of an English village. Being a primarily agricultural domain, one can find an abundance of vegetables and fruits farms here. Cameron Highlands is also the leading producer of flowers and tea in Malaysia. Located on the Titiwangsa Range, at about 1,500m above sea level, the temperature can drop to 16˚C or lower at certain times.
As for Genting Highlands, it is not only a cool retreat but also a gaming haven and a theme park. It plays host to many international entertainment shows. Its concept is different from other hill resorts and offers an exciting range of activities. It is also known as the ‘City of Entertainment’.
Enjoy the cable car ride right up to the summit. The lower station is situated near the Awana Golf and Country Resort. The 20-minute ride ascends from 914m to 1,768m. Genting Highlands is located in Bentong and it is about 2,000m above sea level.
Another highland resort in Bentong, Bukit Tinggi is famous for its Colmar Tropicale attraction. It is a replica of a collection of buildings from a village in the north-east of France, dating back to the 16th Century. It looks just like a picture postcard. The hill resort is some 762m above sea level.
Central to the village is Colmar Square where the aroma of the blooms can tease your senses. There are fountains and park benches in the square for relaxation after a hard day’s work browsing in the 17 theme shops.
A drawbridge reminiscent of ancient castles, clock tower with an original cuckoo bird clock, and the viewing tower complement the ambience.
French food is served from the sidewalk cafes and restaurants. The tables are placed strategically around the square so you can enjoy a meal or glass of wine whilst taking in the ambience.
From the highlands, one can also explore the lakes of Pahang, namely Lake Chini and Lake Bera.
Lake Chini is located in Pekan and its lakeshores are inhabited by the Jakun orang asli.
It covers 5,026ha and it is the second largest fresh water lake in Malaysia.
The lake is made up of 12 water bodies and is a rich bio-diversified lush tropical wilderness that is home to 138 species of flora, 300 species of non-aquatic life and 144 species of fresh water fish.
Between August and September the lake is transformed into a floating garden with thousands of white and pink lotus flowers covering the surface.
The lake has its own myth as well. A local legend has it that it is home to a dragon called Naga Seri Gumum (sometimes referred to as “Malaysia’s Loch Ness Monster”). It is also believed that an ancient Khmer city had sunk to at the bottom of the lake. Its less mysterious sister lake, Lake Bera, is the largest natural freshwater swamp lake system in Peninsula Malaysia. Located in the southwest of Pahang, it remains both a unique and remote wetland wilderness.
Extending 35km long and 20km wide, the lake is surrounded by a patchwork of dry lowland forests. It is characterised by a watery landscape dominated by large grass-like blades of pandan leaves that line the narrow channels. A variety of ferns and orchids can be seen attached to tree trunks while thorny rattan weaves through the undergrowth. Among the fields of metre high reeds and rows of dense foliage found in the open water hang dozens of pitcher plants in shades of green and red.
In the drier areas, lowland rainforest trees and palms add to the diversity of the wetland reserve. Lake Bera is an eco-system that supports not only a diversity of animal and plant life but sustains the livelihood of the Semelai people. It is a sanctuary for more than 200 bird species, 50 mammals and 94 fish species. It is also a habitat providing food and shelter for bird life, including kingfishes, hawks, herons, but overall, water birds are strangely scarce.
Though very difficult to see in the wild, the extended wetland area and its surrounding forests still support tigers, tapirs and elephants.
It is also home to endangered reptilian species such as the Malayan False Gharial (a freshwater, fish-eating crocodile), the totally protected Striped Giant Soft-Shelled Turtle, the much sought after Malayan Giant Turtle, reticulated pythons that can grow to a length of 18 feet, prehistoric looking monitor lizards and lots of frog species.
Other places of interest in Pahang are the museums with the main one located in Pekan. The latest addition is in Sungai Lembing, Kuantan as it has a fascinating collection of relics from the tin mining days. In its heyday, the place had the largest, longest and deepest subterranean mine in the world.
About 15 minutes away from Pekan is the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village. It is the birthplace of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister and father of current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. At the Pahang Silk Weaving Centre nearby, visitors can watch the intricate art of silk weaving. – By ROSLINA MOHAMAD
To learn more about Pahang, visit the official State Tourism Ministry website.