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In search of the west coast islands

The western coast reveals three singular islands to be discovered absolutely. Each one of them has an identity that is peculiar to it and each will offer travellers plenty of choices. If you wish to laze around on popular beaches, or on the contrary on more intimate ones, or yet still to immerse yourself in the country's culture, head for the islands of the western coast.

Pangkor, the secret island

Little Pangkor, "Beautiful Island" in Malay, bears its name well. Discreet and secret, this island in Perak state, situated a few cables' length from the coast, Is nevertheless one of the country's most beautiful. Absent from most standard itineraries, Pankgor island has more than one string to its bow with which to delight travelers in search of tranquility and leisure. There are several beautiful beaches on the western coast, with the wildest to be found in the north of the island. Pangkor offers many possibilities for hiking through the jungle, but it is best to be accompanied by a guide. To the east of the island, you will appreciate the authentic charm of little fishing villages on stilts to visit when the fishermen return with their catch for the day.

Penang, the other pearl of the Orient

At once fascinating, captivating and full of contrast, Penang island bears its nickname of pearl of the Orient, well. Georgetown is an absolutely incredible, romantic and lively town. It's old town, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site , features amongst the places not to be missed in Southeast Asia. You will adore strolling down its colourful streets and discovering the perfectly preserved architecture typical of it. The town offers an incredible concentration of temples and other religious buildings, witness to the rich history of this cosmopolitan town. It is even said that there is no better place to eat in all of Malaysia than Penang. The island is also home to Kek Lok Si temple, a true emblem of the country. This gigantic cluster of temples, one of the largest in Asia, culminates on the heights of Georgetown.

The western coast of the island is dotted with attractive fishing villages and small beaches. In the countryside, you will discover hamlets overlooked by foreign visitors. The island also offers a lot of eco-tourist initiatives that make possible a trip to meet fishermen, farmers and local craftsmen.

In the streets of Penang

Langkawi, the island in turmoil

The biggest Malaysian island is located at the extreme north of the western coast, a few miles from the Thai border. This once paradisiacal archipelago has been taken over these last few years by luxurious hotel complexes, in order to satisfy the ever-increasing demand of mass tourism to the island. As a result, its littoral is now virtually disfigured in several places, so extensive has urbanization been these past 10 years.

The island still has some appeal, although this is more in the interior of the island. Low budget travellers will have to make do with hysterical Cenang beach on which an incredible number of hotels and restaurants are concentrated. There are still a few beautiful beaches like Pantai Kok and Tanjung Rhu where it is difficult to find cheap accommodation.

To really discover Langkawi , it is better to venture into the rural and wild interior of the island, which offers many things to do. Like the discovery of the local handicrafts, a walk in the jungle or a bath in the natural pools at the foot of impressive cascades.

Paul Engel
36 contributions
Updated 30 October 2015
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