A serene Royal Town well worth preserving for its history and for tourism
Pahang’s Royal Town of Pekan is located near the mouth of the Pahang River, about 50km south of the state capital Kuantan. It is an attractive place of valuable and interesting heritage such as picturesque Malay villages, pretty mosques and of course the old and new royal palaces as well as an excellent state museum. Interesting activities abound including the traditional ‘tenun Pahang’ hand-woven cloths as well as local lifestyle homestays, fishing and taking nature or heritage trails.
The town is believed to have existed at least since the 17th century if not earlier. According to local Malay folklore Pekan got its name from a flower, usually white in color and looks a bit like the more common ‘Melor’ flower and called ‘Bunga Pekan’, which grew wild along the banks of the Pahang River. However it is said that this flower has mystically disappeared and may only reappear in large numbers ‘di akhir zaman’ or at the end of time. There is also a river called Sungai Pekan near the village called Kampung Mengkasar about 2km from the old town, although it is not thought that the town got its name from this river but the other way round.
Pekan is also the name of the town’s district and the home abode of Pahang’s royal family headed by DYMM Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mu’adzam Shah. Its other historic claim to fame is as the hometown of Malaysia’s celebrated second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Bin Hussein, under whom Malaysia progressed rapidly and the colonial era poverty was greatly reduced through bold development initiatives. In April 2009 his son, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, who is also Pekan’s elected Member of Parliament, took over the helm as Prime Minister of Malaysia in a peaceful and smooth transition that is rare among Southeast Asian democracies.
The historic town centre radiates from the riverside old Masjid Sultan Abdullah area, near the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum with its Watercraft Gallery on the river. The local heritage encompasses old Malay villages as well as many lesser-known buildings dating from the British colonial era. A set of visit itineraries including heritage walking trails can be formulated for visitors.
A little note on the food around Pekan / Pahang
As the team was there to study the town’s heritage and especially the old architecture, we didn’t specifically look for local food specialties. In the old days there were hardly any eateries around town, but many restaurants have sprouted in recent times. A nice dinner was had at Restoran Rasa Mesra along the main road into the old town where the mixed veggie dish was arranged in the shape of a fish! We did find the famous Pahang-style ‘lauk ikan tempoyak’ but it was on the way back near Kuantan. Nothing particularly wrong with the tempoyak I had but I think it was too spicy-hot for me, as my palate had a spicy tinge for a week after that!!