ISLANDS OFF THE

MALAYSIAN PENINSULA

Top spot in the SEA region for diving, eating well 

and beach parties, but also a bit commercial

2 months hopping across the Perhentians, Pulau Lang Tengah, 
Pulau Redang, Pulau Pinang, and Pulau Langkawi in Malaysia 

Here’s a little piece of history for island-nerds and history buffs interested in early voyages of Asia-Pacific exploration: From 1847-1862, ‘the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia’ was published, containing first-hand accounts on research and exploration of the geographical area of East Asia and Oceania. In this journal, English ethnologist George Earl proposed two names for the islands of South East Asia: Melayunesia or Indunesia. ‘Malayu' derives from Sanskrit and Tamil words which can be translated as ‘land of mountains’. ‘Nesia’ is Greek for islands. The world’s largest archipelago just south of Malaysia ended up using the name Indonesia as country name. However when Malaysia got independence it wasn’t the name referring to its islands that was used, instead a name referring to the unification of three (‘si’) states, the Malaysian Peninsula and the two regions in Borneo, was invented. Okay, no more history from now on…

During our travels, the Malaysian Peninsula has somehow always been a transit or a short stopover. Once on a travel from Bali to Bangkok. Another time during a circling around the South Chinese Sea. A third time, en-route from Indonesia to the Philippines. And then again, on a fourth trip where we flew in with the Andaman Sea as our primary target. Nonetheless, the different islands that are spread along the Malaysian peninsula have been good halts on our journeys and worth the time. We’ve circumnavigated mountainous Langkawi Island in a rental car, trekked around the tropical Perhentian Islands, and snorkeled along the beautiful coasts of Pulau Lang Tengah and Pulau Redang. In general, Malaysia’s beaches are supreme and the landscapes are beautiful. We must however admit that Malaysia never really got under our skin; we’ve thought about why and maybe it’s due to some lack of culture, or maybe it could be the too-much-planned and too artificially arranged holiday setups that one finds along coast lines, cities, airports, wherever one goes. Or we may just have spent too little time here? We wouldn’t have missed any of our Malaysia island experiences though, and we think the whole Malay archipelago deserves more time.

If you are also keen on island hopping in the SEA region see also our island pages on the islands of VietnamThailand, Palawan, Visayas, Mindanao, Sulawesi, and Bali & Lombok.

 

Selected pics:

Main areas of island exploration
Main areas of island exploration

Langkawi Isl. off the western seaboard, and the Perhentains, Lang Tengah, and Redang Isl.off the eastern seabord

Tuna Bay beach, Perhentian
Tuna Bay beach, Perhentian

The beautiful (pulau) perhentian islands comprises two main islands separated by a narrow channel: Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil. We stayed in a beach-side bungalow just at this beach. Not bad!

Fishing boat at Perhentian
Fishing boat at Perhentian

Bringing in fresh catch for the dinner: Tuna, jack, snapper, etc for the hot grill

Frog legs for lunch
Frog legs for lunch
Empty Perhentian beach
Empty Perhentian beach

Teluk Dalam (Flora Bay) at Perhentian Besar Island. We came in with a speedboat after 24 hours of traveling from Cambodia to stay a couple of weeks on the islands off the Terengganu coast in northern Malaysia

Fisherman at Perhentian
Fisherman at Perhentian

Took one for angling trips around the Perhential Islands

Snorkeling with baby cat sharks
Snorkeling with baby cat sharks
Kayaking aroud Perhentian Isl.
Kayaking aroud Perhentian Isl.

It takes 4-6 houts to kayak around Perhentian Besar

Monsoon showers
Monsoon showers

At Tuna Beach and looking toward Perhentiak Kecil Isl. We went there during the beautiful rainy season, which creates the special lights when rain comes in every afternoon. Pure tranquility to lie with a book in the hammock, under a thatch roof, and see/feel/smell/hear the rain come and go

Pulau Lang Tengah
Pulau Lang Tengah

Pasir Ayer beach: One of the best, if not the best, beaches in Malaysia, offering tranquil ambience and at the same time delivers a unique destination for marine life and nature lovers.

Walking around Lang Tengah Isl.
Walking around Lang Tengah Isl.
Preparing red snapper
Preparing red snapper

Perhential Kecil island

There's nothing like a bungalow
There's nothing like a bungalow

One of the places we stayed at, Teluk Pauh, Perhentian Besar Isl. The Perhentians are a great place bungalow-style accomodation. Such sort of accomodation is really lacking on some of the other Malaysian islands such as Langkawi and Rendang Isl.

Sleepy atmosphere...
Sleepy atmosphere...

...at Perhentian village, the only small settlement on the islands

Pulau Pingang (Island).
Pulau Pingang (Island).

... Closer to Rendang Island. and a great island hop from Perhentian or Rendang island. We spend a half day to snorkel around its 3-4 beaches

Crab at Redang Island
Crab at Redang Island
Swanky Redang Island
Swanky Redang Island

Many beaches around Malaysia simply has the name "Pasir Panjang", which means Long Beach. This picture is from Pasir Panjang on Redang Island. The large island is more up-market than the smaller Perhentians: The cost is more crowded beaches but the benefits are better foods and more comfort if R&R and body massages is the main holiday target

Market in Kota Bahru
Market in Kota Bahru

We travel through Kota Bahru some time to/from the islands on the eastcoast of the Malaysian Peninsula. Bustling market

Sunset girls
Sunset girls

We had just arrived at Lankawi and went to the beach for a sunset stroll. Locals were posing for pictures with each other, so we sneaked in to become part of that play

Secluded Datai Bay, Langkawi
Secluded Datai Bay, Langkawi

This gorgeous beach is hard to get to and very remotely positioned between tall mountains. It was empty and sourrounded by wild jungle, with monkeys calling from the tree tops. Very Indiana-Jones like. The place has great views to Thailand's Koh Turatao just north of Langkawi. Datai is for sure the best beach on Langkawi but it's private. To enjoy it one has to stay in one of the two most prestigious hotels in Langkawi, the Datai and the Andaman.

Skull beach, Langkawi
Skull beach, Langkawi

Painting at the beach named Pantai Tengkorak which means Sandy Skulls Beach. The local legend says that there was a massive hailstorm that overturned and wrecked ships that passed the Malacca Strait. The skulls of the dead were washed up into the shore here and hence such dreadful name of the beach

Beach picnic, Langkawi
Beach picnic, Langkawi

The Pantai Tengkorak is a locals favorite. This is one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in Langkawi located at the northern coastline in Datai area.

Mountainous Langkawi Island
Mountainous Langkawi Island

We came to Langkawi after a longer trip starting in the Thailand archipelago north of Malaysia, and island-hopping all the way down to Langkawi. And this island was indeed something different. The topography was wilder. From top of the Gunung Raya mountains there's spectacular views of the island

Pantai Tengah, Langkawi
Pantai Tengah, Langkawi

Great beach at the southern part, and a good place to arrange island hopping to the many isles off Langkawi

Parasailing, Pantai Tengah
Parasailing, Pantai Tengah
Sunset parasailing - try it!
Sunset parasailing - try it!
Pantai Kok, Langkawi
Pantai Kok, Langkawi

We started out early in the morninh to circumnavigate Langkawi. In the western part Pantai Kok is not to miss. A great strech with good snorkeling off the beach

Langkawi monkey-business
Langkawi monkey-business

The island is really like an open national park. There's many different monkeys, incl. the Dusky Leaf Monkey, and they control many of the roads. Great fun when doing roadside stops