From a swaying hammock on Coral Beach, Pulau Pangkor’s turbulent past feels a world away. ‘Beautiful Island’ is a former pirate hideout and bit player in the battle to control the Selat Melaka (Strait of Melaka). In the 17th century the Dutch built a fort here in their bid to monopolise the Perak tin trade, and were swiftly driven out. In 1874 a contender for the Perak throne sought British backing and the Pangkor Treaty was signed, ushering in the colonial period.
These days the only ruckus is from monkeys, hornbills – big-beaked birds that are abundant on Pangkor – and Malaysian weekend warriors. Few foreign visitors wash ashore, probably because the beaches aren’t Malaysia’s best.
Beyond resort centres such as Teluk Nipah and Pasir Bogar, there's a subdued, villagey feel. Stroll Sungai Pinang Kecil (SPK) or colourful Teluk Gedong to experience a slower pace…if you can bear to leave that hammock.