Pahang is the largest state in Peninsular Malaysia, and has vast tourism assets including a national park, the highest mountain in the peninsular (Mount Tahan), beautiful islands, hill-top resorts, and beautiful beaches.
Those familiar with Pahang, also known as the “Abode of Tranquility”, may have already visited its many popular tourist spots such as Genting Highlands, Tioman Island, and the Pahang National Park. However, there is a little known town that sits by the great Pahang River that also deserves special mention (and further explorations).
Pekan used to be the command centre and capital city of Pahang in the late 19th century. Today, it is known as a royal town and home to the Pahang Sultanate – those who visit will definitely feel its tranquil atmosphere and even get to enjoy some royal “treatments”!
Kick off a royal tour of Pekan with the following suggestions:
There’s nothing better to start your explorations of this royal town than with a royal dessert! Puding DiRaja or Royal Pudding was said to have been created and served to the Pahang royal household. So popular was this treat, that it is now available even in Kuala Lumpur and perhaps other parts of Malaysia, although, the best is still to be had here in Pekan.
So what is it exactly? It is a medley of bananas, prunes, candied cherries, cashew nuts and what’s called jala emas (fine threads of egg yolk prepared in syrup), and served with a milky custard poured all over it. It is a complete dessert that tantalizes all the senses of your tastebuds – there’s the crunch from the nuts, the sweetness from the various fruits, the slight tartness from the prunes, the light texture of the egg yolk threads, and the smooth custardy liquid that slips past your throat.
Of course, Pekan in also known for other mouth-watering delights. If you have a chance – and room left in your tummy – dig into the Murtabak Makassar, which we hear is also a hit with royalty and local politicians alike! In fact, they say you simply can’t leave Pekan without tasting the Murtabak Makassar.
Essentially, it is a type of savoury pancake made of layers of minced beef or chicken filling, unique blend of spices, pastry and eggs. Best eaten dipped in pickled onions! Sounds yummy to us!
Royal Pahang Silk Weaving Centre
If you have a thing for fabrics, then you must acquire the Pahang silk as part of your collection! It is a collector’s item and would make a wonderful heirloom piece to be passed down from one generation to another.
Pekan is home of the “kain tenun” and in fact, some of the finest woven fabrics in this region comes from this great silk weaving centre. So fine is its craftsmanship that it was once appointed the exclusive makers of the Pahang royal garments. A little bit of trivia here: Pahang silk was the fabric of choice for the King and Queen during their coronation ceremony in 2019!
Today, the centre is a great place to learn about the history of Pahang’s woven silk, see a live demonstration of silk weaving and even purchase the fabric for yourself.
Sultan Abdullah Mosque Museum
A trip to Pekan can be quite educational indeed. Just make a visit to the Sultan Abdullah Mosque Museum and you will be thoroughly enlightened!
The Sultan Abdullah Mosque was built in 1929 and was the place locals congregated for their Friday prayers. It remained the key meeting place for religious services until 1976 when a newer mosque was built to serve the community.
Thereafter, the Sultan Abdullah Mosque was abandoned for some time until recently when it underwent a massive three-year reconstruction work to become the first mosque-turned-museum in the country.
Visitors to the mosque museum will be able to learn about Islamic history and art with unique exhibits of the Islamic world, complemented by state-of-the-art touch screens and interesting narratives of the artefacts on display. The graceful arches, the majestic domes and minarets and all-white architecture make the mosque look quite stunning, almost like a mini Taj Mahal in little Pekan!
Sultan Abu Bakar Museum
If you think museums are stuffy places full of dusty exhibits, then this museum will certainly have you change your mind! With all the wonderful artefacts and the creative presentation of all the exhibits, we didn’t feel like we were in a museum at all. On the contrary, it certainly felt like we were in a well-curated art gallery with great storytelling of our history!
Pekan’s museum of note, the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum, was, in turns, a British government officer’s residence, before it became an army barrack, a palace, and finally a museum.
The museum complex houses five galleries: The Keris Gallery; History of Pahang and The Malay Sultanate Gallery; The Islamic Art Gallery; The Ceramics Gallery; and The Archaeology Gallery. Depending on your interest, you can admire weapons like the Sundang (a double edge Bugis sword) or the Sikin (keris with short blades), take a closer look at porcelains and ceramics from China and Japan, or dive into the Metal Age by browsing through tools, artefacts, and skeletal remains.
The entire museum has been curated to provide an immersive experience with a selection of unique artefacts, insightful storytelling, thoughtful layout and touch screen information boards. Even the front yard has been turned into a kind of artistic gallery with sculptures of horses, elephants and other animals on the grass.
Black Water Jewel
The mountains and jungles of Pahang are very popular tourist attractions, however, many may not know that Pahang also has beautiful and biodiverse peat swamp forests that stretch over 160,000 hectares! It is home to 53 species of mammals and more than 200 birds, including eight species of hornbills.
One of the peat swamp forests of note lies in Pekan, where the Bebar River lies. It is protected as a conservation area, but recently, has been promoted as a tourist attraction. It is called the Black Water Jewel due to the dark brown or black waters – a natural colouration which is caused by the high content of organic matter – and the fact that it is the habitat for a diverse array of animals.
Birdwatching activities and river cruising on kayaks are recommended here to explore the natural beauty, flora and fauna of the river. A three-hour cruise can be arranged from Runchang to Nenasi in Pekan. Throughout the journey, tourists have the chance to see unique animals, including the fully-protected oriental small-clawed otter and dusky leaf monkeys. A visit to the orang asli village can be arranged as well.
If you are a cat lover, you will enjoy a visit to Pulau Kucing, affectionately called Meow Island by the locals. It is a privately-run sanctuary for cats also known as the Dato’ Shamsiah Cat Shelter Park.
There are more than 60 rescued cats, some ducks, geese, goats and dogs, too, who all roam freely and lead comfortable lives, thanks to the care provided by the owners and occasional volunteers. Over the years, volunteers have built quirky and colourful cat shelters here, and helped out tending to the sick animals, feeding them as well as beautifying the landscape – all in the name of providing a safe sanctuary for these felines.
The shelter also receives the support from the Pahang Veterinary Department, who conducts monthly health checkups on the feline residents of the island.
Here, you can pet and play with the animals, or do some volunteer work such as cleaning, building and repairing the cat shelters, or contribute donations should you feel like it.