I’m about to tell you a story about a small troop of coconut stealing monkeys, and why the place they call home is worth visiting.
I was on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and craving some beach time, so I consulted my trusty friend google to find that there was an island by the name of Pangkor just a 2 hour bus/ferry ride away. I did little to no research before departing on my bus from the KL Sentral Station, but figured that if there was a beach then the rest would be ok. What I failed to realize is that Malaysia was in the midst of a National Holiday. When I arrived to Pangkor, the island gave off a sleepy vibe, as the majority of the island was away celebrating. While many of the human residents were gone, the animals of the island had stayed behind to stake their claim. With no desire to pick a fight with a monkey, I averted my eyes as I walked to where I would rest my head for the next couple nights. After dropping my bag, I left the clean, simple room behind and walked along the road until my toes collided with the sand at the beach. I strolled along the beach for a long time, until it ran into a cliff with interesting figurines and statues along the top. Curiosity drew me up the cliff, until I realized the figurines were part of a restaurant that was closed for the holiday. I slowly made my way back down and headed towards some shops further back from the beach. I passed a group of monkeys lazily hanging from trees, and a couple who was attempting to take a picture with one (nah, thanks). I found a small convenience store where I picked up some pineapple cookies to munch on as the clerk told me in broken english what I should do over the next couple of days. I followed her words as she traced out what was open despite the holiday. I headed back to my hotel, and figured if anything I would be able to make a lot of progress in my kindle over the next few days. Turns out by the end of the trip I would still only be at 10% in to the book I was reading and here is why…
I woke up the next morning with the convenience store as my final destination. Mixed with my protein bars, the store ended up supplementing my breakfast every morning. I glared begrudgingly at the pancake stand that was closed for the holiday but still tempted me with pictures of fine breakfast foods I could not have. I rounded the corner to the sight of two people frantically flapping their arms as if they were wings . I saw one monkey with a coconut and another monkey staring intently at the coconut in the other girls hands. As I got closer the girl with the coconut in her hands set it down like an offering and backed away. They turned to me in their British accents and explained how yesterday they had also had their coconuts taken, but they were trying a new route today to avoid losing their precious goods. We busted up laughing at the fact these island monkeys were all ruling our lives in one capacity or another. I never found myself with a coconut during my time on Pangkor, instead deciding to indulge in items the monkeys couldn’t take away. That included taking a loaf of bread to snorkel with my new friends and a ton of tropical fish. It also included waking up the next day to kayak in the ocean by myself, feeling overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of the water I drifted through without a soul in sight. Each night I headed to one of the only establishments that was open, Daddy’s Cafe, to indulge in western style food at reasonable prices. Daddy’s was nice for three reasons, (1) It was the only real meal I indulged in each day, and the food never disappointed. I particularly loved their cocktails while watching the sunset (2) It was right on the beach. It was the type of seating that oozes romance (3) It attracted all the other foreigners each night for dinner (as it was one of a few places open that wasn’t a street stall) so it was like a watering hole for making friends. One night I played bananagrams with a French family who were also living as expats in Cambodia. The next night I met American missionaries from India who were doing a visa run. For two nights in a row I met up with them to play card games and listen to John Mayer as the sun twinkled out over the ocean. Pangkor was equally memorable for what I experienced on the island, and the people I encountered.
I think the monkeys on Pangkor have a pretty cool home, and not just because they can steal food from unsuspecting tourists. The island was sleepy when I got there, and sleepy when I left, but I felt it only added to my adventure (except still bummed about that pancake stand). It was interesting to walk around on what felt like an almost deserted island, hearing the jungle pulsate and the waves clap hands with the sandy shore. Zooming around on a moped with empty streets and the taste of salt on my lips. What I enjoyed most about Pangkor is that it felt untouched, and a different way of life that I had seen in other parts of Malaysia. If you find yourself near Lumut, I would definitely recommend taking a quick ferry ride to see the island with amazing snorkeling and beachside dining. Just remember, avoid any coconuts and look out for the monkeys.
TRANSPORTATION // Bus and Ferry
I went to KL Sentral Bus Station (Jalan Stesen Sentral 50470 Kuala Lumpur) the day before leaving to grab a ticket, just to ensure they wouldn’t be sold out. You could easily go on the day of to grab a ticket, as there are multiple companies to choose from. I recommend going to the actual counters inside and not purchasing tickets from the people that are hawking tickets outside. It was about $10 each way, and the bus ride was very comfortable. For the bus ride back I purchased my ticket right before the bus left. The ferry was cheap and nice. From the bus stop in Lumut you walk over to the ferry station (you can just follow all the people who are doing the same), and wait for the next ferry to come. They run fairly regularly throughout the day. Depending on where you are staying in Pangkor will decide if you need to rent a moto while on the island. I stayed by the beach and was able to walk to a lot, but did take a moto for a day just to whip around the island. Moto rental was around $5/day and you could also get around by taxi. I also realize the number of times I mention “monkey” makes the island sound like planet of the apes, but they really just hung out in certain areas near the beach. The monkeys wouldn’t bother you if you were just walking (coconut-less of course).