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The Island of Penang, Malaysia

Author: BJC
Email: BJC49@telstra.com (More Trip Reviews by BJC)
Date of Trip: March 2001

The park is well worth a look, unfortunately if you, like us, have been spoiled by having previously visited the Botanic Gardens in Singapore and especially their Orchid Garden, then you might be a little disappointed, as this garden is on a much smaller scale.

A disappointment for us was that most of the specific plant type enclosures, such as the Orchid Enclosure were closed to the public for maintenance on the day we visited, and while you can look in through the wire fence, unfortunately we couldn’t see much!

Also the main Waterfall is not open to the public, however I found the Penang Water Board web site where you can request a Permit to visit the waterfall, unfortunately I left my run too late as their response with the Permit Request Form was e-mailed to me after we had left, so if you want to visit it then I suggest you put in your request about a month in advance.

We also visited the Spice Gardens about 2 Km along from our Hotel at the end of Ferringhi beach, heading towards the Butterfly Park, we had thought of walking to it, but glad we drove there, as it is typical of the Buta Ferringhi Road, winding and with little or no room for pedestrians! The Spice Garden is a couple of years old and needs to “grow” before it will become a real attraction, as many of the examples of the different “spices” were small in number, 1 or 2 plants, and size being only 1 or 2 years old, and barely recognisable.

I am sure that it will get better as more plantings are done, I noted that many of the spice bushes had clear plastic bags of potting mix attached around a branch which had been scored so as to produce “on bush” root promotion, which, when the roots are formed, will be cut off and planted.

I can recommend that if you make a visit, go to the top of the hill where the museum, shop and tea rooms are situated overlooking the sea, and with a very good view over the little Island and back along BF Beach, there they will blend up various ice cold drinks using lots of the spices and fresh fruits, each with funny names, we had the Monkey Punch which had about 6 different spices and fruit in and tasted most refreshing!

Like Singapore, Shopping Malls are plentiful in Penang, sorry we are not a big shoppers, well not for what you tend to get in shopping malls, I go mainly for antiques, arts, craft and pottery, so they are somewhat waisted on us, however we did spend some time looking around and picked up some good bargains, mostly for the rest of the family, especially for Granddaughters, well that’s what grandparents are here for!

Gurney Plaza, a shopping complex which could have been in any city anywhere in the world, they are all much of a muchness only their size and prices of goods seem to vary.

The one thing I did note in Gurney Plaza was that like all over Penang there were “Sales” in celebration of the Chinese New Year, same as our Stocktake Sales, only the name has changed to entice the punters in, however on the top floor the discounts being offered was as high as 70% Off, on the next floor down it was 50%, then on the next 30%, until you got to the ground floor where there appeared to be no discounts given, it pays to look around first Ladies!

Prangin Mall next to Komtar was well worth a visit, seemed to be more “locals” there which is always a good sign, also there are a number of Restaurants on most floors, we ended up in a Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant on either the 3rd or 4th floor, I had the HK BBQ Duck and Noodle Claypot, which was simply delicious and very good value at just 8MR, I just love Duck but no one will share with me at home!

Komtar is sadly getting old and appears somewhat neglected, an English couple we had shared the mini shuttle bus from our hotel with, went to the observation deck and said it was pretty shabby, also the shops were not very inspiring either, nor is the food court with about 80% of the stalls closed and empty.

We also walked around George Town, where all the usual items are available, clothing, jewellery, watches, pewter, and Chinese emporiums selling all sorts of things, the Chowrasta wet markets with fish and meats, and while tempting we only went window shopping.

The Stalls on Buta Ferringhi’s main street, which are set up at about 8.30 pm each night, have a reasonable selection, and with a bit of haggling you can do a bit better than the Malls even with their % Discounts, we ended up buying a couple of Brand Name leather bags, and with a bit of assistance from me by telling the stall holder that she only wants to buy the bag not the whole Factory, we managed to get them at a very reasonable price. There are also a number of local Arts and Craft Shops, there are also a number Chinese Antique and Art Gallery on each side oft the strip, I was looking for and found some Japanese Netsuke, originally being the small hand carved ivory objects that a Samurai threaded a cord through to hang his wallet style bag off his kimono sash, but nowadays it is the term used for any small carved object.

They aren’t allowed to use ivory any more, unless it is old ivory with a certificate, so they use bone, or soapstone, anyway I managed to pick up a nice little piece for myself, if you are into Oriental Art and Crafts and Antiques this place is full of all sorts of interesting pieces, and the items down the back of these shops, are normally the real deal, however you will have to pay for what you get, but ask and you should normally receive a discount.

Transport, previously I had indicated that we had the use of a Car and Driver to do our sightseeing, there are a number of local Tour operators that can provide you with a good new clean car and an English speaking driver, at around 25MR per hour, and short of driving yourself, this is the most economical way to get around Penang.

On occasion we also used the Shuttle Bus from our hotel to George Town, and at 15MR each return, is very good value for money.

We also used the Free Shuttle Bus service in George Town doing a round trip, then getting off at Fort Cornwallis and having a look around it, before wandering back along the Heritage Walk route number 2 until we got back to Komtar.

If you are going to do the Heritage Walks, there are two and you can get information from the Penang Heritage Trust, I recommend you start early in the day, it’s very hot in George Town by lunchtime, and ladies you might like to get yourself a sun umbrella.

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