Resorts in Malaysia; Langkawi to Johor Bahru 04April



Sometimes you have to wonder what motivates developers in Malaysia.  Where else are you likely to find a 500 room development fully equipped with golf course, club-house, an olympic size swimming pool, located on an island and it’s never likely to see a set of golf clubs let alone a guest?  Welcome to Pulau Besar, lovely place just off Malacca and 100 odd miles north of the Singapore Strait. Here you can have your choice of room, some with finished bathroom and running water, sea-views abound as you would expect for an island, the swimming pool is full of water but covered over and if you bring some food you might even be able to cook it in the full (but never used) commercial kitchen at the club-house.  Seriously this place is unbelievable and quite surreal.  It seems somebody had the spectacular idea to build the mother of all golfing resorts here but according to the locals it is never going to open. We couldn’t ascertain exactly why not, but it seems the locals on the island are none to keen on it and at this point it has the distinct smell of decay.

That clubhouse!

Unbelievable really!


One has also to marvel at a golf course (really just swathes of green grass) that maintenance people are working on so as to prevent the jungle from reclaiming it. That’s correct, there are maintenance people here doing the gardens and the Gadfly crew did their best to hide from them until we had a good run around the resort; great place for a film set, right out there.

We left Langkawi on March20 this time with Jim and the lovely Jennifer from Salt Lake City, Alex from San Diego and the trusty Canadian, Gregory.  Our departure was late afternoon for an overnight run through the perils of fishing boats down to Penang.  Next morning bright and early and after avoiding that big cruise ship on the way down the channel we dropped the pick once again at our old haunt off the Chew Jetty in the Junk Anchorage. Jim and Jennifer were only with us for the trip down and grabbed a plane for other locales but not until Jim had given us all a run down on wave formation and boat wakes; interesting stuff from a man who did work on waves for NASA.  Great place Georgetown and the food was just as good as last time, the only dilemna is the lack of beers at any restaurant other than Chinese; “You want beer? You go Chinese”!

The ‘Hong Kong Bar’ in Georgetown is always worth a visit.  This is the expatriot, Australians bar of choice and it seems every Australian serviceperson who has transited or served in Malaysia has visited.  All forms of Australian military memorabilia here although half of it was destroyed in a fire ten years ago. Great place for beers but dangerous to stay out too late when its raining. But you have to love the bum-boat drivers who provide the taxi service back to the boats.  After too many beers at the HK Bar and in pouring rain we were waiting rather forlornly and hiding from the rain in the little Buddhist temple at the end of the pier when the local girls (all the clans live in houses along their jetty) rounded up somebodies grandfather, who arrived to take us out dressed only in silk pyjama shorts and with a purple, kiddies umbrella! We were here only for a couple of days and once again in company with the  Thymers we upped anchor (same current, same mud, no bra this time) and skipped around to an island just past the whopping-great, new bridge being built out to Penang from the mainland.

Next morning, well really middle of the night we sallied forth for a passage back to Pangkor and for three days, this time around the corner and behind the island to avoid all that rolling we put up with here a few months earlier.

Pangkor town.

On the beach behind Pangkor.

Our next destination was Klang and a revisit at the Marina that nobody seems to love. The monkey and two security guards are still there, still lonely and we did get to use the room at Marina Headquarters with the two massage chairs; you just have to love Malaysia!!!  There was one other boat there though! While there the Gadflys did a run into Kualalumpar to go up the Petronas towers; of course they aren’t open on a Monday are they, rhetorical question that one. We did however catch up with Maree of El -Karim fame who we last saw at Manly boat harbour way back in Queensland on our big party night.  She was there visiting with a girlfriend so a few celebratory drinks became the order of the day.


Little India, KL.


Pulau Besar beckoned with only an overnight run in the way so after allowing for the ubiquitous tides through the Malacca straits we arrived there in the late afternoon and went to anchor just off the ferry terminal.  Next day both crews nipped ashore for yet another shore run this time back in our old haunt of Malacca proper with the cheap eats and history of all things British, Dutch and Portugese.

The old church Malacca.

Beers in Malacca; Greg and Trevor.

Beach restaurant Pulau Besar.

On the beach Pulau Besar.

So after three nights checking out the quite spectacular folly of development on Pulau Besar we plotted our next move down to the Singapore and Johor Straits. This part of the Malacca Straits has to be one of the most impressive places you can visit for spotting shipping and other traffic where a lot of the boats getting about use whatever lights that grab their fancy.  Flashing red, white or blue lights, all round lights of whatever colour appeals and even better, towing vessels (tug-boats with 300 metre tows) only turning their lights on when they feel they are close enough to frighten you.  Sort of grabs your attention when you realise you about run into the tow cable of a barge that also has no lights at all.  You can however spot it in the dark, just, with binoculars and when about half a mile away. The trick here is to stay about a mile out of and inshore of the main shipping channel, as the fishermen don’t run nets here or put their fish traps about; running into one of their fish traps would be very, very exciting!

The ship park revisited.

Running along the edge of the channel does however give one a very spectacular view of a veritable freight train of shipping moving it seems nose to tail in an endless stream north up the straits.  This is reputedly the busiest shipping lane in the world and it seemed to be living up to it’s reputation. Ships of all sorts, oil rigs lit up like Christmas trees, cruise ships lit up like a nightclub; pretty impressive and at least they have lights one understands, sort of!  The only drama with being out close to the channel though is the smaller traffic that seems to operate in a random manner, does keep you focussed and awake.  Makes you wonder how many boats we just didn’t see whilst headed north months earlier, when we were belted by all those squalls and that  rain.

Danga Bay.

Next morning on April04 we slipped back through the ship park in the Singapore Strait, up the Johor Straits and back into Danga Bay.  The marina here was now completely full and it seems the Gadfly was the last boat to get in.  Well not that much of a shock really given the marinas ‘free’ status. 

Starship Singapore!

What are they thinking?

So after a trip into the bright lights of Singapore and having the two remaining Gadflys (Alex was now off for other adventures) discover that a beer costs seventeen odd dollars, Greg is off to Canada for his seasonal work putting trees in the ground and Trevor is headed for Melbourne to see family and friends for a while. But, back to that resort!

Avoiding security.

Imagine a resort with around ten apartment towers, little paved roads between them all, balconies, courtyards, stone-walls and gardens, fountains, powerhouse, rotundas and you can just start to get an appreciation of how bizarre the place is. There has to be at least 500 apartments here and you can get into most of them, you just have to hide from the (really pretty slack) security guards until you have finished checking the place out.  The entire resort is in various states of non-completion with no floor in some rooms, electrical fittings and cabling hanging off and out of walls in others and bathrooms with running water but no lights. In one of the rooms we found a cleaning and maintenance book from six years earlier noting what had been cleaned, this for an apartment with only half the flooring down! The cracks in the walls had dates explaining when they started to open up; seems to be an ongoing process.

The golf clubhouse is just weird with signs still up announcing forthcoming competition and chandeliers hanging above the massive, open dining area where the only food action ever going to happen is the coffee machine presumably salvaged from the bar or kitchen by the gardeners. In the gardens there is the ruins of some electric golf buggies and upstairs there is still a safe in what must have been the office once upon a time. The circular stairway up to the office had a serious stench of decay about it, might be the colony of bats living in the stairwell!

That coffee machine.

After we had finished checking the place out we decided to stroll out along the beach-side road past the security guys and gardeners who promptly invited us up to their lunchtime, elevated plaza where they offered us a drink; seems you don’t worry about the tourists at lunchtime.  Great comment from one of the girls having lunch, “Resort not open”! 

How on this island did they manage to do that?


3 Responses to “Resorts in Malaysia; Langkawi to Johor Bahru 04April”

  1. Llàtzer Says:

    Nice post Trevor, impressive the abandoned villas! I’m in SG right now where are you heading now? where/when can we meet?

  2. Hannah Says:

    Hey Trevor, I’ve visited this villa, so surreal! The island is supposed to house the graves of the men who brought Islam to the region, so is sacred and locals make daily pilgrimages to the tombs (there are definitely some ruined tombs as you walk around, don’t know about the truth of the legends). After visiting the spooky site I was told some stories by the guy who ran the guest house I was staying in in Malacca. Apparently because of the islands sacredness, anyone who tries to develop it commercially is cursed. The guy who built the villa went bankrupt along with the next guy who tried to get it up and running again.
    Lots of stories of ghosts and mysterious giant lizards and the well water turning to salt water when they started up renovations (probably some bad plumbing…). Can’t remember them all, but hearing them after having seen the place, on a sticky stormy night definitely gave them impact!

  3. travelling librarian Says:

    Where are you? Long time no posts – hope all is OK.

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