Sunday, January 07, 2007

Banding Island

I doubt many Singaporeans have heard of this place called Banding Island in Malaysia. Also known as Pulau Banding, it is actually an inland island located right in the heart of Peninsular Malaysia, in Tasik (lake) Temenggor in the state of Perak, and sits squarely on the highway that joins Kota Bahru and Kuala Trengganu in the east, and Gerik and Kuala Kangsar in the west.

I first visited this scenic island in 1997, when I decided to take the long way to get to Ipoh; i.e. via the east coast and stopping in towns like Kuantan and Kuala Trengganu. We stayed overnight at the Banding Island Resort, the only hotel on this tiny island. It was raining much of the time and so we did not get to see much of the attractions. Since, my kids were too young to have any recollections of this place, we decided to visit it again during our recent annual pilgrimage to Ipoh last month and spent Christmas Day on the island.

Compared to 1997, when the highway were not fully completed and much construction was ongoing, the drive this time was much better. I particularly liked the 100 plus km stretch between the North-South Highway exit and the small town of Gerik. The road was new and traffic was light. Even though the speed limit was only about 80 or 90 kph, I must confess that at some stretches, I could not resist going up to 110 even. From Gerik, it’s another 40 km or so eastward to Banding Island. Here the terrain is hilly and the road winding, so of course one has to drive much slower. In total, the distance from Ipoh to Banding Island was slightly less than 200 km.

If you are looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road, I would recommend a short holiday in Banding Island. The road signs are excellent, and if you drive, it should not be a problem getting there. However, be forewarned that there isn’t much to do there except nature walks and fishing. The hotel organizes some excursions for fishing (mostly tomans) and visit to Orang Asli Village and jungle trekking to see the Rafflesia flower. Besides the Banding Island Resort, which charges RM140 per night, there are no other decent accommodation. There are some ‘floating chalets’ but the condition is very run down and I don’t think Singaporeans can take it.

Below are some photos that I took during our trip.

Banding (44)
A section of the North-South Highway just north of Ipoh approaching the tunnel.

Banding (59)
A view of the lake from our hotel room. The bridge joins the western end of the island to the mainland.

Banding (56)
Another view of Tasik Temenggor from our hotel room.

Banding (9)
This is another bridge which joins the eastern end of the island to the mainland.

Banding (15)
The ‘floating chalets’ I mentioned can be seen at the top of this photo.

“When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.”
(Carl Boberg, 1886)

Link: Banding Island Resort


Victor said...

Would you believe that two male colleagues and I drove via the same route by the Temenggor Lake more than 20 years ago? We took the East-West Highway and went to Grik, Kroh and then all the way to Penang and Haadyai by road.

I bet you didn't know that this lake was man-made - by creating a dam across a river. I say so because when we passed by at that time, we saw a lot of dead trees sticking out of the lake - a very eerie sight.

That trip was a very eventful and interesting one for us. We were very hot-blooded then and nearly ended up in their jail for possession of a weapon. We also drove recklessly and nearly didn't come back alive.

Maybe I will blog about it one day. But the trouble is that all my photos are somewhere in my brother's flat and I am too lazy to look for them.

Anonymous said...

There is a Taiwanese travelling TV serial (Ta San Tung) showing interesting places which also features East coast states of Malaysia. These rustic places remind us of Singapore in the early sixties - simple folks, easy life-style, kampongs, small towns, delicious foods (the open air types need strong stomachs), and the prices dirt cheap. It would be an eye-opener for we city folks, including the kids. I am still encouraging my sister Pat and her husband to organise a trip to the East Coast. But one thing to watch out - not to go during election time (politicians creating havoc), and adverse weather condition like flooding.

Lam Chun See said...

It's hard to tell by looking that Tasik Temenggor is a man-made lake. But I read it in one of the websites.

Chris Sim said...

Looks really scenic. Any ideal place for retirees, perhaps? LOL.

Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking Malaysia is an ideal place for retiring. Our CPF and savings can go a long way in our neighbouring country, but before we plunge in, beware of certain factors namely: racial politics, educational facilities, public security, health institutions, govt policies and a host of others, whether they are up to our expectation. It is these detering factors that led so many of my cousins migrating to Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, UK, US, Switzerland and ironically Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mr Lam.
I did the same route as you did in 2001 with an eastern coastal drive from Mersing to Kota Baru with my first car, a 1-litre Suzuki Swift. It was a memorable trip for my wife with three little kids and myself. We made stops in Kuala Trengganu and Kota Baru, before braving a cross-Tahan Range route, to stumble upon this Tasik Temenggur. It was surreal for us to see this in our neighbouring country. I have driven in other nations in my travels with my family but to see this right 'next door' was awesome. I am thinking of making a self-drive trip to this lake and perhaps some caving in the Perak region this May. Any advice?
I am with you about the sanctity of keeping our environment and sharing our past with the generations to come. I always believe that travelling makes you a well-rounded person.
Regards, A. Rashid (1965, Jurong West)

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for dropping by Rashid. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) not many Sporeans know how fun, and convenient, it can be to explore Msia on wheels.

I know of 3 limestone caves near Ipoh. The most famous one is San Poh Tong/Caves (Cave is 'Tong' in Cantonese). You see it on the way from Simpang Pulai to Ipoh. A lot of pomelo stalls at the roadside. I don't like this one. Too commercialized and a lot of Chinese religious shrines. The 2nd one is Perak Caves - i think to the north of Ipoh. Haven't been there for years. The one I recommend is called Kek Lok Tong. After you enter the main cave entrance, there is a sort of valley behind it, quite surprising and pleasant sight. It is not far from San Poh Tong.I uploaded 2 photos here.

As for the lakes, on the way from Kuala Kangsar to Gerik, just outside KS, there is a new lake resort. You have to cross over a beautiful bridge with golden lamp posts. Unfortunately I cannot recall the name; Tasik -something. I took some brochures but cannot find them - sorry. It was still very new when we stop by last Dec. I think not officially open yet. I also uploaded a few shorts to Flickr here. More accessible than Banding but weather not so cool.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Lam,
I actually get to know there is another new holiday resort inside tasik temenggor.
here's the contact no of the marketing director, joshua 0164140612.u can ask him tones of questions of the place. he is a very friendly person.

Anonymous said...

I cycle throught the east-west highway from Jeli to Penang. I stayed two nights at the Banding resort. i really enjoy the ride and i will be doing it again next year. How was the rd condition now?