Spacious and cosy room of Ancasa Royale Pekan.
The inviting pool sits right at the bank of Sungai Pahang.
Go on the river cruise and see Pekan from a different point of view.

A stay at the Ancasa Royale Pekan and a visit to the royal town’s attractions leave a lasting impression on Zalina Mohd Som

THE last I stayed a night in Pekan was 14 years ago. I can’t remember much about that stay at the town’s Rest House for it was simple and basic lodging.

But I do remember the two stone merlions that stood guarding Istana Leban Tunggal, the town’s oldest surviving palace. Their fierce expressions left a lasting impression on me, even today, I can still clearly picture them.

Three years ago, I drove past this quiet town heading south to Johor with my friends as we were making our “round-peninsular” road trip. The beautiful white buildings of Sultan Abu Bakar Museum and its neighbour, Masjid Sultan Abdullah, looked more stunning than I could remember.

And now, I have the chance to go back to the royal town of Pahang and stay for two nights at its one and only four-star resort only means a well-deserved retreat. What I have in my mind are the beautiful white buildings and the river cruise, a by-product of the opening of the Ancasa Royale Pekan Hotel two years ago. And, of course, to experience the hotel itself.


THE JOURNEY

I can’t remember Jalan Kuantan-Pekan being this long and uneventful. It seems like a never-ending straight road from the moment we turn into it from Jalan Gambang-Kuantan.

Perhaps it’s because it’s already late at night and it’s been a long drive from Kuala Lumpur. Also maybe, because it’s dark and there’s nothing much flanking it.

My sister insists that we switch on the Waze app but I assure her that we will not miss it as “Pekan is not that big and the hotel is the only big hotel in town.” Not knowing exactly where to head makes it an even longer drive.

But once the quiet and dark stretch of the road is over, we drive pass the busy and congested area that is lined with pockets of commercial areas, industrial zone - most are automotive-based factories, and kampung and housing areas.

I know we have yet to enter the town area because we haven’t seen the river yet. I remember The Pekan, with the two beautiful white buildings, sitting on the bank of Sungai Pahang. So, I know that we have not missed the hotel.

Then, just when we are getting worried, we see the word “Ancasa” shining brightly against the dark sky, as if floating in the air.


THE STAY

Unlike any other four-star hotel I’ve been to, the Ancasa Royale Pekan welcomes us with a quiet, slightly dimmed lobby. There’s not much happening at the spacious lobby except for a couple of guests sitting at the waiting area and an employee at the simple reception.

Done with the checking-in, we’re ushered into the Saffron Restaurant for dinner. And there’s where the life is. Diners fill up almost half of the restaurant, enjoying the buffet.

Even though we’re actually quite stuffed after the must-have nasi lemak (plus a big bowl of ikan patin tempoyak) at the Temerloh R&R area, we can’t say no to the sumptuous spread.

After a quick meal, we call it a night and head to our room. Our deluxe premier room is spacious, modern and well-equipped, as expected from a four-star hotel.

But what pleases me most is the all-glass wall that reveals a view of Sungai Pahang, and the beautifully lit Abu Bakar Bridge that runs across it. I could just sit here for hours.

When dawn breaks, the river comes alive. Birds and anglers are out to make the first catch, while the bridge turns busy with the morning rush.

Waking up in a hotel means only one thing for me - the breakfast buffet! I just love hotel breakfast buffets. Not only for their volume and variety but also for the local specialities the hotels present. And Saffron Restaurant doesn’t disappoint. Even though I’ve seen far more lavish spreads than this, the food is superb.

On the first day, the star of the buffet is nasi lemak with chicken rendang. I must say, both the rendang and sambal are as good as the ones I cook at home. Trust me!

This makes me look forward to the following day’s breakfast. And again, Saffron delivers. This time it’s nasi dagang and it’s as good as those served at popular stalls in Terengganu. I like this hotel very much already.


THE TOWN

Having tried the more popular Sungai Pahang cruise in Kuantan, I am intrigued to try the cruise of the same river in Pekan. It’s actually the hotel’s own baby, developed for its guests. While it’s not as exciting or extensive as the Kuantan cruise, this cruise has its own charms to fascinate us throughout the hour-long duration.

There are small fish farms with hire-to-stay floating houses which according to the skipper are a hit among urban anglers from Kuantan, Kuala Lumpur and even Singapore.

“But the Singaporeans usually like to go to the open seas under the hotel’s three-day fishing package,” he adds.

Upstream, the river has nothing much happening except for small boats and the fish farms. The cruise then heads downstream to the town.

The river gets wider downstream but instead of heading to the rivermouth, our skipper steers the boat into a smaller waterway that goes into the town before heading back to the hotel’s jetty.

To see the buildings of Sultan Abu Bakar Museum and Masjid Sultan Abdullah from the water level is quite awe-inspiring. They look even grander from here. This makes me even more excited to visit them.

We don’t waste much time hitting the road after we get back to the hotel. The first in our list is the town’s weekend market — not to do our weekly marketing but to find unique local food and kampung produce.

From the market, we drive around town before randomly turning into a nearby village. Our relaxing drive finally ends in a parking space in front of the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum.

We have no intention to enter the museum, we just want to take some photos but the majestic building and the landscape lawn draw us in.

We end up spending a good two hours in the museum before walking to its equally beautiful neighbour, Masjid Sultan Abdullah, and spending another 40 minutes there.

Am I happy? Yes, of course! czar-lina@nst.com.my


FAST FACTS

Ancasa Royale Pekan

No 2670, Jalan Pekan - Kuantan Pekan, 26600 Pahang Tel 09-424 6600/03-2026 6060 ext 7206 (KL Sales Off) Fax 09-424 6700

Email ar.reservation@ ancasahotels.com

Website www.ancasahotels.com

STAY

133 rooms in five categories: deluxe premier, family suite, junior suite, executive suite and premier suite. Rooms are spacious and well-equipped with basic facilities. Each room comes with either the river view or the kampung view.

EAT

Four outlets: Saffron Restaurant, Asian Fusion, Lobby Lounge and S2dio Sports Cafe

DO

When the tide is low and the weather is good, go on a cruise of Sungai Pahang. Otherwise, just laze around the swimming pool, take a stroll along the river or hit the spa.

GO

The town is less than a 10-minute drive from the resort.

HIGHS

The town’s only four-star hotel enjoys the best location, sitting on the bank of Sungai Pahang - not too far from the town and the busy industrial zone. Worth mentioning are good service from attentive staff and food that tastes as good as home-cooked meals.

LOWS

There’s nothing much within walking distance. Only a neighbourhood stall and sundry shop, about a 10-minute walk from the hotel.

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