Road Trip Guide to Pahang, Malaysia (Bonus Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan)

Pahang is a great choice for a road trip. It is pretty much smack in the middle of Peninsular Malaysia (a.k.a West Malaysia, a.k.a Semenanjung Malaysia). Neighboring states (besides Perak) include Kelantan, Terengganu, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Johor. Count them, that’s a total of 6 neighbors!

Some popular places to visit in Pahang are:

Popular Attractions in Pahang

  1. Lake Chini
  2. Cameron Highlands
  3. Taman Negara
  4. Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary
  5. Genting Highlands
  6. Tioman
  7. Cherating
  8. Fraser’s Hill
  9. Sungai Lembing
  10. Chamang waterfall
  11. Bukit Tinggi

and many more which is another reason why Pahang is a great road trip destination.

 

In our Pahang road trip, we covered Sungai Lembing, Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary and Acacia Retreat. We did decide to stay one night in Port Dickson too before going back. 

Let’s begin 6-hour (~450km) road trip: 

Ipoh ⇒ Kuala Lumpur ⇒ Sungai Lembing ⇒ Bentong ⇒ Port Dickson

 

Pahang Road trip day 1 – Ipoh to Sungai Lembing 

We started from our hometown, Ipoh (Perak) and this was the route we took. The famous Batu Caves in Selangor was our first destination but that did not go to plan due to heavy rain. We stopped in Kuala Lumpur to meet some friends for lunch before continuing on to Sungai Lembing.

Our route from Ipoh to Sungai Lembing
Our route from Ipoh to Sungai Lembing.

The sky was getting dark by the time we were near our destination. Unfortunately, our GPS sort of died on us and we missed the turning at the highway, crossing over to Terengganu. Finally, we reached the town of Sungai Lembing with 30 minutes more than what we expected. 

 

On the highway to Sungai Lembing late in the evening
On the highway to Sungai Lembing late in the evening.

 

It’s no wonder that other people write about Sungai Lembing as a great place for star-gazing. This is because some of the roads in the town are very poorly lit. The town is small but there were still quite a lot of people hanging about the one restaurant that was still open at about 10pm. We also spotted a karaoke place, probably the only one there.

Had something to eat before we went to seek out the Time Capsule Retreat. The place is on top of a hill – If you wonder off a bit, you can see a lot of stars (provided it’s not too cloudy). I swear we’re not trolling you with a picture of a black square.

 

Stars at Sungai Lembing
Stars at Sungai Lembing.

 

At the retreat, they have a shared dining space and and kitchen where guests can cook light meals.

Time Capsule Retreat, Sungai Lembing at night
Time Capsule Retreat, Sungai Lembing at night.

The hosts also arrange tours to the Rainbow Waterfall so ask them if you are interested. Both husband and wife are very approachable. Do contact them on Whatsapp to make your bookings (our payment didn’t get through on their website) and let them know your estimated time of arrival.

TIP: If you are planning to stay at one of the capsules – just bring your necessities and leave the rest in the car. Don’t worry about your stuff getting stolen. The property is gated and the owners will direct you to park inside the compound. As for the capsule, there really isn’t a lot of space inside. There is just enough space to fit an air-con and a double bed.

Bathrooms are in a separate outhouse, complete with modern showers and toilets.

Outhouse (bathrooms) for the Time Capsule Retreat, Sungai Lembing
Outhouse (bathrooms) for the Time Capsule Retreat, Sungai Lembing.

I honestly worried about the possibility of lots of mosquitoes here since the retreat is located in a semi-jungle area. However, the hosts take care of this by lighting incense during the early morning and evening. Hence, only spotted one or two.

 

Pahang Road trip Day 2 – Panorama Hill, Sungai Lembing 

The next day, we left the retreat at 6am to climb up the Panorama Hill. This hill is famous for the sea of clouds that you can view from the top. It is not necessary to have a guide. Just follow the road downhill until you see a school (SMK Sungai Lembing), then turn right. There is a sign and there should be other people going this way too, especially if it’s a public holiday.

The walking trail to Panorama Hill in Sungai Lembing

Route to Bukit Panorama from Time Capsule Retreat
Route to Bukit Panorama from Time Capsule Retreat.

It’s stairs all the way for 30 minutes, depending on your fitness level (of course). There are railings to hold on too and you can always step off the track if you need a quick break. There is one rest stop halfway up, and another at the top. Mind you, it’s just some benches and a roof – no toilets and certainly no, refreshments.

Bukit Panorama or Panorama Hill is a must see in Sungai Lembing of Pahang - the neighboring state of Ipoh - See the full list of Ipoh road trips on www.travelswithsun.com
Bukit Panorama or Panorama Hill in the early morning in Sungai Lembing of Pahang – the neighboring state of Ipoh

Daylight creeping in as we headed back down.

Panorama Hill in the morning, Sungai Lembing
Panorama Hill in the morning, Sungai Lembing.

And this photo was taken halfway down – I think it was 7+am by the time we got down.

Panorama Hill, Sungai Lembing
Panorama Hill, Sungai Lembing.

Once we made it back down using the same stairs, we just headed straight in the direction for the town to look for some breakfast – someone’s excited.

What to eat in Sungai Lembing

Heading to town after hiking in Panorama Hill, Sungai Lembing
Heading to town after hiking in Panorama Hill, Sungai Lembing.

 

The morning market has quite a large variety of food to choose from. In the end, we chose some noodles with “Yong Tau Fu” and fresh soybean milk and strolled around town for a bit.

Note: Yong Tau Fu is an assortment of deep-fried and steamed meat (fish or pork) that may be wrapped in different vegetables and forms of tofu or nothing at all. You can eat them dry or soaked in soup. Dip them in soy sauce or chili.

 

Foggy morning, Sungai Lembing town
Foggy morning, Sungai Lembing town.

They have these large trees that act as the divider for the one road that goes through the town.

One of the big trees in Sungai Lembing town
One of the big trees in Sungai Lembing town.

As we still had plenty of time before checkout, we went back for a shower and a quick snooze.

Types of accommodation at the Time Capsule Retreat in Sungai Lembing

Outside the White Cottage at the Time Capsule Retreat. There is nice space for a barbeque or hangout
Outside the White Cottage at the Time Capsule Retreat. There is nice space for a barbeque or hangout.
The capsules at Time Capsule Retreat - these are concrete cylinder pipes converted into mini bedrooms - each have a double bed in
The capsules at Time Capsule Retreat – these are concrete cylinder pipes converted into mini bedrooms – each have a double bed in.

There were previously two types of capsules you could get- with or without glass doors but the hosts have recently installed glass doors for all containers.

Note that some of the containers don’t have windows at the back. Ours did, as you can see in the picture below. There is a small window at the top but it’s too dirty to be able to see much out of it. The other option has a plain, white brick wall that is great for Instagram selfies!

The interior of our capsule at the Time Capsule Retreat, Sungai Lembing
The interior of our capsule at the Time Capsule Retreat, Sungai Lembing.

Feeling refreshed, we packed our bags and said goodbye to our hosts. Note: You might feel claustrophobic in one of these capsules if you happen to be taller than 6ft.

You may be wondering if it is worth driving all the way to Sungai Lembing?

True, there isn’t much to do in this little town. That said, it’s a good idea to bring your family, friends or your partner here. Spend a little time outdoors with the people you care about and enjoy the simplicity of it.

The hosts keep a little goat at their place
The hosts keep a little goat at their place.

Suggested Pahang road trip options from Sungai Lembing

So where else can you go from Sungai Lembing to extend your road trip? We break it down for you here.

Note that all driving hours are relative to Sungai Lembing and sourced from Google Maps.

Northeast

  • Cherating (1hr)

South

  • Lake Chini (1hr, 35min)

North (head west to Chenor, then drive up north all the way)

  • Taman Negara (3hrs,7min)

or

North (head west until Bentong, then drive up to Cameron Highlands)

  • Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary (2hrs)
  • Bentong (2hr,18min)
  • Between Bentong and Cameron Highlands, you can choose to detour to either of these.
    • North: Fraser’s Hill (3hr,42min)
    • South: Chamang waterfall (2hr,35min)
  • Cameron Highlands (5hrs)

West

  • Bukit Tinggi (2hr,33min)
  • Genting Highlands (3hrs)

South-east, hugging the coastline

  • Tioman (Drive to Mersing, Johor first – 2hr,47min followed by a 1.5-2hr ferry journey)

Our route

  • Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary (2hrs)
  • Chamang waterfall (2hr,35min) – we ended up skipping this
  • Petaling Jaya, Selangor (3hr, 9min)
  • Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan (4hr,8min)
Our route from Sungai Lembing to Port Dickson, passing through Kuala Gandah
Our route from Sungai Lembing to Port Dickson, passing through Kuala Gandah.

Pahang Road trip Day 2 – Acacia Retreat

Before we headed off to our next destination, we had lunch (pan mee) in town and left Sungai Lembing.

At The Acacia Retreat in Bentong, we had a little trouble during check-in. They had reserved a different room from the one we had originally booked. Not to blame them entirely, we did have a previous booking that we cancelled to make a new one. Maybe this contributed to the mess. @[email protected]

We were originally going to stay in one of the rooms in this building.

The Simpleton building at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong
The Simpleton building at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong.

But got this one instead which they said was an upgrade – yes it was a huge room entirely decked in wood from ceiling floor but we still preferred the modern aesthetics of the rooms in the Simpleton building.

The Wood Shelter at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong
The Wood Shelter at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong.

They in fact, have many different types of accommodation. Here is another one, the Red Brickade. There’s only four rooms (meant for couples) of this type and they all overlook the small lake.

The Red Brickade at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong
The Red Brickade at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong.

These are the walkways around the Red Bricade. This photo was taken from the balcony of the Simpleton building. Not sure what these buildings are called. Could be the Mansion.

The walkways at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong
The walkways at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong.

Things to do at The Acacia Retreat in Bentong, Pahang

You can rent bicycles, go fishing (we saw a couple of people doing this) or ATV around their grounds. They have a pool and a substantial area for a barbeque too.

The restaurant at the lobby leads out to the pool area (photos). There are more activities listed on their page, as well as some other unique accommodation types – a sort of hobbit house and buses-turned-into-rooms. The latter was still under construction when we were there.

The pool at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong, Pahang
The pool at The Acacia Retreat, Bentong, Pahang.

Or you can walk over to this other resort, Acacia Water Villa.

We had our dinner at the restaurant here that overlooks these buildings but we do not recommend eating here unless you go out early (before 6pm and that is a warning because we went there at around 7-7.30pm and our food took more than an hour to come).

The food is pretty good but they are clearly understaffed in the kitchen to handle the public holiday crowds. Their specialty is steamed fish – saw a lot of people ordering and this was probably holding up the queue too. They had these weird drinks I want to mention – coffee with Bentong ginger (Bentong is famous for their ginger) or soya bean milk flavored with durian.

Acacia Water Villa
Acacia Water Villa, Bentong.

Overall, this just wasn’t our day #whenplansdontworkout.

But we tried to make the most of it and just relaxed instead. The original plan was to drive to Chamang waterfalls during the afternoon, followed by the elephant sanctuary nearby. We made a decision to just do the elephant sanctuary. We did drive all the way into the sanctuary only to be told by the guard that they were closed for the Hari Raya holidays even though the site says open all days. Take a note, guys.

 

Pahang Road trip Day 3 – Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

The next day, we had breakfast in the room (we had bought some bread and coffee from KL the other day), checked out and made our way (again) to the elephant sanctuary. The grounds were huge and there is no entrance fee though you are welcome to leave a donation of any amount. They have several trophies and awards for their past achievements displayed in the lobby. Saw many tourists of local and foreign origin there.

The full name of the center is “National Elephant Conservation Centre, Kuala Gandah, Pahang” for your information.

There was a gallery after the lobby where they had posters in Malay and English to share some general facts on elephants. They have a few new buildings scattered around (looks like they’re expanding?) and some small gardens.

As for the elephants, they didn’t have that many (something like 4 adults and 2 calves). It was midday when we got there so they were stabled at a big sheltered enclosure where tourists could feed them peanuts or bamboo shoots. Highlight of my day, for sure.

If you hang around until 2.15pm, you can catch the elephants being led out to the river for their daily bath. They do have a little cafe where you can pass your time while having some refreshments.

Feeding elephants peanuts at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary
Feeding elephants peanuts at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary.

We left the elephants and continued our road trip onwards to Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan.

 

Pahang Road trip Day 3 – Port Dickson

Finally, after another 2 hours and a half on the road (and about 30 songs later), we found ourselves in Negeri Sembilan. We went to AEON (not very creative, I know) to get some lunch and buy something for dinner (Subway sandwiches) and tomorrow’s breakfast (Baker’s Cottage egg tarts!!!).

Lexis Port Dickson is still 30 minutes drive from Negeri Sembilan so check in was later in the afternoon. Here’s where our lucked changed. They upgraded us to a bigger chalet.

They really spoil their guests here. There’s a golf cart to take guests straight to the door of their chalet. We noticed a lot of mainland Chinese tourists around.

The unique feature of the water chalets is this glass panel on the floor in between the bed and the TV. You can see the sea water churning beneath your feet – how cool! But don’t expect to see any fish. This is Port Dickson after all and there is no crystal clear water.

Glass panel on the floor of the chalet which lets you see the ocean below
Glass panel on the floor of the chalet which lets you see the ocean below.

Another thing that we were stoked about was this skylight feature in the shower room.

Skylight in the shower room of the chalet in Port Dickson
Skylight in the shower room of the chalet in Port Dickson.

By the way, the moment you walk into the chalet, you are looking at a spacious bathroom laid with terracotta tiles. Jacuzzi, shower, toilet and sink all included. Oh, there’s another glass panel on the floor that is over the sea water here too. <3

Note: There is another bigger chalet still, with your own private indoor pool!

Each of the chalets have a little balcony with deck chairs. When I say our luck turned around, I mean we even got a chalet that faced out to the ocean and not a neighbor.

Evening came around and we went down to the beach nearby. It’s really just a kilometer away by walking. Probably even less. There were a lot of people at the beach – the beach is shared by the residents of the hotel and the apartments in front of the beach. You can rent an apartment here (saw some on Airbnb) if you want to keep your budget low. Good for groups too. Saw a lot of airplanes passing overhead. People like to fly kites out here too.

We swam a little and enjoyed the sunset with the rest of the crowd before heading back to our lovely chalet.

Dinner was out on the balcony – it was cool and windy due to an approaching storm. And might I add, the skylight makes showering so fun – you can see airplanes and a couple of stars! Don’t worry, there is a rope in the bedroom that lets you adjust the skylight opening – you can close it fully if you love your privacy but I don’t think that’s an issue.  😉

 

Pahang Road trip Day 4 – Port Dickson – Ipoh

The morning after, we found a little note under the door that said we could stay until 12pm instead of checking out a 11am. The note also stated that staying after 12pm would incur an hourly charge until the evening (I think) where they will charge you another full day’s stay.

12pm was fine with us. We had our egg tarts and went out to explore the rest of the resort. They have many types of chalets. Maybe we’re biased but we liked ours the best. Wouldn’t say no to a private INDOOR pool though. 😉

They do have two communal pools around the resort though. Overflowing with kids when we were there.

Chalets stretching out to sea in Lexis Port Dickson
Chalets stretching out to sea in Lexis Port Dickson.
View of the Grand Lexis building from the water chalets in Port Dickson
View of the Grand Lexis building from the water chalets in Port Dickson.
Water chalets at Lexis Port Dickson
Water chalets at Lexis Port Dickson.

We packed our bags and checked out at 12pm. After that, we drove to Petaling Jaya (1 hour) for lunch. Nothing special to mention here and it took us another 3 hours before we made it back to Ipoh, in time for the traffic jam @[email protected]

Conclusion

Pahang is pretty massive (relative to other Malaysian states) and the west side has a mountain range (Titiwangsa) running through it. On the east side, there is the coastline. Thus, there’s plenty to explore in this region of Malaysia. The best way is by a road trip! You can start from Kuala Lumpur and even Ipoh if you have the time. There are all sorts of accommodations now too- take your pick from boutique to farmstays. Don’t forget to visit the elephant sanctuary in Kuala Gandah while you are in Pahang!

This is the end of the post, thanks so much for being a trooper and reading it all the way up to this point. =)

Do you think you will be visiting Pahang anytime soon? Leave a comment below.

 

Extend your trip to the neighboring state, Perak:

Hidden gems in Ipoh – Kinta Nature Park

Pulau Sembilan – where you can see blue tears in Malaysia

Taiping’s Bukit Larut – why it’s a perfect alternative to Cameron Highlands

Road trips you can do from Ipoh

The charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang

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