This travel article is brought to you by AnCasa Royale Pekan.
Not far south from the east coast’s largest city, Kuantan, lies the royal town of Pekan. It is the birthplace of Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, as well as the home of the state’s royal family and current King of Malaysia. Perhaps more known for its automotive manufacturing plants, it actually boasts many cultural attractions; more so compared to its royal town cousins like Kuala Kangsar and Seri Menanti. Pekan has a rich history thanks to its central location in the Peninsula and the existence of the Pahang River, which allowed seafarers to land in Malaysia. As a result, Pahang has had its fair share of immigrants from Indonesia, especially Sulawesi, centuries ago – hence the existing of Kampung Mengkasar, where descendants from Makassar settled. The name Pekan seems to have different origins, but according to folklore, Pekan flowers growing on the banks of the Pahang River gave name to the royal town it is today.
We drove east to discover for ourselves what this town has to offer, and we were not disappointed.
The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum
In the old part of town sits the beautiful Sultan Abu Bakar Museum. Named after the grandfather of the current Agong, the complex used to be the residence of the late Sultan before he moved to the eponymously named palace a short distance away. This museum is part of the Muzium Pahang group that has multiple museums in Pekan and Pahang (not all have opened yet). Looking at the crowds that throng this museum on the weekends, if only to take a photo of the colonial facade, this is Pekan’s biggest attraction and hosts exhibits on royalty, relics, rakyat and religion. You can find interesting stories on ancient weapons and tools, food and fashion, royalty and rakyat, history and heritage, all carefully curated and presented across various buildings and rooms. Spend a day here and you should be an expert on the culture of Pahang before the sun sets.
Pulau Keladi Culture Village
Home of Pahang Tenun, a weaving tradition passed down through generations, this ancient craft was given a new life after the start of the new millennium. An effort championed by the Pahang Museum and the current Tuanku Permaisuri. It is believed that settlers from Makassar brought their weaving skills to Pekan and taught the locals their version of the art. Today you can see tenun production in action at Pulau Keladi which houses not just a weaving village but also an institution where you can learn the art of tenun weaving. While over there be sure to also check out the late Tun Razak’s birth home which was relocated to the Pulau Keladi weaving village.
The South China Sea
Take a 20 minute drive to the instagramable Pantai Sepat with its tree-lined shore. The sun in the morning can be extremely harsh after 9am, but in the evening you can enjoy horse rides or rent an ATV on this wide expanse of coastline while you watch the sun set behind you.
Another beach to check out is Pantai Lagenda, which is close to Pekan town but yet feels like a world away with its shaded spots to pitch your picnic mat. Enjoy the calming sounds of the waves and the refreshing sea breeze.
Royal Food in Pekan
Next to the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum sits Cafe Belibis, a café disguised as a train and train station. This is a must-visit must-try cafe/restaurant due to its original setting, thoughtful interior and wonderful food, designed and prepared by a former royal Chef.
Who would have a thought a concoction once reserved and created just for the royals would become a staple for the people of Pekan. Yours truly would attest to the fact that the two places we had ‘Puding Raja’, were among the best desserts ever had. Once at the above mentioned cafe Belibis and at the Saffron Brasserie in the AnCasa Royale Pekan. The combination of smoked bananas, dates and duck egg vermicelli, smothered in a creamy sauce, makes it into a unique offering.
Another gem only found in Pekan is a floating restaurant serving Indonesian food, called Sumpit-Sumpit. Everything on the menu tasted great, but if I must choose then must-tries are the Dancing Fish and Salted Egg Prawns.
Kampung Mengkassar, walking distance from the Museum, is home to the famous Murtabak Mengkassar, also known as Murtabak Royal. This seemingly simple pancake of meat and egg is given a boost with rich cheese that just stretches for miles like a cheesy piece of pizza. Locals however swear by Murtabak Deris, which sticks to a more traditional recipe sans fromage. The food stall is located right in the centre of Pekan’s old town area.
When you are in Pantai Sepat after all that sun baking do look out for the countless restaurants just across the road from the public washrooms. A must order is the Squid Egg in instant noodles (Maggi Telur Sotong). An often wasted part of the calamari, its eggs are either breaded and deep fried or boiled before being served on a bed of instant noodles (usually Maggi).
A Royal Stay
To rest your weary heads after all that travelling, no place in Pekan comes close to the Ancasa Royale hotel, which is situated on the banks of the Pahang River. As you enter the hotel today, flourishing beds of Pekan flowers greet visitors and guests alike to remind you that you are in Pekan.
This 133-room hotel is conveniently situated next to the bridge between the old Pekan town and the main artery heading back to the highway and Kuantan, and is minutes away from all the attractions in Pekan, if you’re here for pleasure. If you are here for business, less than a kilometre away are the main manufacturing hubs of Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and DRB-Hicom.
The hotel’s pool and large garden are beautifully located next to the river. It has a gym, spa and business centre. The rooms at AnCasa Royale Pekan start at 45 square metres and come with a separate bath. The suites are definitely worth the money with their minimal size of 69 square metres and separate living room.
For more information on AnCase Royale Pekan visit their website here.