I was in Pekan the other weekend with my wife and two of our boys. For the uninformed, the town of Pekan is the royal town of the State of Pahang Darul Makmur (loosely translated as Pahang, the State of Prosperity).
Located where the River Pekan, a tributary of the larger Pahang River, meets the latter, it is about 50km (or circa 15 mins or so, depending on how you drive) from the state capital of Kuantan AND approximately a 4-hour drive from Johor Bahru (JB to you and me) via the coastal route of Kota Tinggi, Jemaluang, Mersing, Endau and Rompin (this depends very much on how you drive, of course and how many stopovers you make along the way).
The royal town of Pekan is said to have existed since the 17th century and is said to have been mentioned in the writings of several Arab and Chinese writers. However, no exact date as to its founding has been mentioned.
As for the name Pekan itself, it depends on which source is referred to. Some of the old folks say Pekan got its name from the Pekan flower, found in abundance growing wild by the banks of the Pahang River.
Another say it owes its name to the Pekan River whilst another say Pekan derives its name from the Sunday market ‘Pekan Sehari’ (loosely translated as Town for A Day), which I am told, still exists to this day.
The royal town of Pekan has a population of 120,000, as per 2006 census, and is residence of the royal family of the Malaysian state of Pahang Darul Makmur.
The reigning sovereign is HRH Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-‘Muadzam Shah, who ascended the throne in 1974.
Pekan is also home to two Prime Ministers of Malaysia, the first being the 2nd Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato’ Hussein with the second being the 6th and serving Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak (who also happen to be the eldest son of Tun Abdul Razak, and no, the position of Prime Minister of Malaysia is not hereditary).
It must be said that for most visitors to Pekan, Kuantan is the choice destination to put up for the night as Kuantan do not only offer more options in terms of suitable accommodation but also in terms of other recreational attractions eg shopping malls, the beach at Teluk Cempedak, fine dining etc etc etc.
But since we were going to be in Pekan strictly for family reasons, it was decided that we’d look for suitable accommodations in Pekan, if possible. Admittedly, it proved to be tough going as not many options were readily available but we finally decided to go with the Inderapura Lake Resort.
The Inderapura Lake Resort takes its name from that of old Pahang ie Inderapura.
From a simplistic point of view, the Inderapura Lake Resort is not what you would expect of a resort. It is not housed within a gated compound (as most resorts are), and it shares a connecting road with a go-cart circuit.
We were informed that the resort had just been taken over by another company, and hence, in all probability, changes will take place in the very near and foreseeable future.
The resort itself is well laid out with several buildings lining the lake and hence its description as a lake resort. Perhaps the resort is more apt to be termed as a lake-front resort instead of a lake resort.
A new spanking 5-star hotel is in the process of being built in Pekan. Facing the Pahang river, it is still work-in-progress but once work has finished, it is expected to do brisk business, I am told.
Industrial-wise, Royal Pekan is home to the manufacturing and assembly activities of the DRB-Hicom Group, a conglomerate listed on the Bursa Malaysia stock exchange. Even that internationally recognized marque, Mercedes Benz, get assembled here in Pekan. There is also a college for would-be automotive engineering personnel here in Pekan, complete with its own hostel, several stories high. In the foreseeable future, it would not be surprising to witness the defence equipment as well as the aeronautical industries actively setting up shop here.
Pekan, as a royal town, has its fair share of touristic sites. To name but a few, there is the Istana Abu Bakar (the Abu Bakar Palace), the Royal Pahang Polo Club and its playing grounds, the Abu Bakar Museum, the Sultan Ahmad Shah AlHaj Mosque, the Royal Mausoleum, Galeri Pengangkutan Air (the Water Craft Gallery) and not forgetting, the Kampung Budaya Pulau Keladi (the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village).
The Pulau Keladi Cultural Village offers a look at the house where the 2nd Prime Minister of Malaysia grew up in.
The house itself is simple in design and very functional, so much so that you cannot but be impressed with the simple surroundings that Tun Abdul Razak, a leader who is still highly regarded and respected til today, was raised in.
Next to it is a replica of a traditional Rumah Pahang (loosely translated as Pahang House).
Typical of Malay houses of old, they were built high above ground and were also simple in design. Another housed exhibits depicting the life and times of Tun Abdul Razak, a history lesson by itself.
The Pulau Keladi Cultural Village also housed the Pahang Silk Weaving Center but unfortunately, the center was closed when we were there visiting.
Personally, I have heard of Kain Songket Pahang prior to this, and the center not only produces the famous Kain Songket Pahang but also has demonstrations on how to weave one.
With the center being closed this time round, another visit to the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village is in the cards.
Not far from the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village is the Sultan Ahmad Shah Mosque.
The mosque itself was officially opened on October 22, 1976 by the reigning sovereign, HRH The Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-‘Muadzam Shah.
Influenced by Moghul architecture and strategically located, it is a landmark not easily missed in Pekan.
Central to Royal Pekan are the palace grounds. The royal palace, Istana Abu Bakar and its grounds looked impressive from the outside, and adjacent to it lies the playing grounds of the Royal Pahang Polo Club.
The Royal Pahang Polo Club was established in 1926 and from what I have heard and read about the game in Malaysia, the Royal Pahang Polo Club, besides that of the Royal Johor Polo Club, has quite an established name in the polo playing world.
I have never ever witnessed a game of polo before. From what little I have seen of it from tv and in Pretty Woman, its like playing hockey on horses. Hey, but then again, what do I know about polo.
The Muzium Sultan Abu Bakar (or The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum), is located near the banks of the River Pekan and was closed when we were in Pekan that weekend.
Apparently, the Muzium had been undergoing improvement works and was due to be re-opened during the forthcoming 82nd birthday celebrations of HRH The Sultan of Pahang.
The museum used to be the official residence of the British Resident, and was built in 1929. In 1948, the then Sultan of Pahang, HRH AlMarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar acquired it and renamed the residence, Istana Kota Beram (Kota Beram Palace). It was only in 1965 when HRH The Sultan of Pahang moved his official residence to a new palace, the present Istana Abu Bakar.
It would be interesting to go through the exhibits once the museum is re-opened to the public.
But for now, we had to make do with the exhibits readily on show on the grounds of the museum especially the exhibits of horses and cranes strategically placed on the museum’s grounds. Assembled from discarded pieces of wood, the artist showed ingenuity and creativity creating the models.
Royal Pekan may not be able to offer what the state capital, Kuantan, can offer the out-of-town visitor, but what Royal Pekan can offer is an insight and glimpses into the history of the state of Pahang Darul Makmur.
If you are a history buff like myself, then a visit to Royal Pekan would prove fruitful and educational and dare I say it, fun as well.
Date : 27 October 2012