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5 Fun Places in Penang for the Whole Family

In recent years, Penang has seen a huge revitalisation in tourism. Its UNESCO World Heritage status has propelled historic George Town onto the world tourism stage, but it’s just not heritage buildings and culture that make the island so appealing. Many Malaysians love travelling here to enjoy the excellent hawker food and families are attracted to the beaches and resorts along the Batu Ferringhi beachfront. Here are five lesser-known family fun activities to try next time you visit Penang.

1. Camping, Penang National Park

While Malaysia may not be the bestequipped destination in which to camp, those who are kitted up won’t be disappointed in spending a few nights within this well-kept secret located in the far northwest of the island. Penang National Park, at 1,213 hectares, is a wonderful escape for those who want to get close to nature. Camping is permitted within metres of Pantai Kerachut and Pantai Ketapang, which are two beautiful beaches rarely seen by visitors. Turtles lay their eggs in the sands here and the Department of Fisheries manages a turtle hatchery on Pantai Kerachut. There are trails, healthy stands of rainforests, and good facilities, but visitors need to be self-sufficient. Basic facilities are available and camping equipment can be hired from park rangers.Visitors can walk into the park or catch a boat to arrive on the beach. Contact: www.nre.gov.my

2. Tranquil Beach, Teluk Kumbar

Few visitors venture to the southern coastline of Penang Island, but for those who choose a round-island road journey, consider letting the kids loose on the beach at Teluk Kumbar. This tree-lined shady beach is located between Bayan Lepas (airport) and Balik Pulau (west coast). Several fishing communities are located along the coast and the fishing fleets make for colourful photographs. Batu Maung on the island’s southeastern tip is well-known with Penangites who come to dine in large beachside restaurants such as Hai Boey where the claypot fish, Nyonya prawns, and fresh crabs are all delectable dishes not to be missed. Contact: T: +60 4 649-3746

3. Tropical Spice Garden, Batu Ferringhi

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In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe’s hunger for exotic spices such as pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and mace drew attention to islands like Penang. Although not native to Penang,many of these spices initially thrived on the island.Tropical Spice Garden at Teluk Bahang (near Batu Ferringhi) is a three-hectare forested area and home to over 500 species of tropical plants.There’s a gift shop, cooking school and restaurant. Cooking classes with Asian spices are conducted in the garden which is open daily during daylight hours and visitors enjoy a complimentary guided tour of the Spice Terraces to see Asia’s most popular spices and herbs. Contact: www.tropicalspicegarden.com

4. Furnicular Railway, Penang Hill

Everyone loves trains and this unusual railway (a funicular system where two cars connected by a cable counterbalance each other on the up and down journey) to the top of Penang Hill (now called Bukit Bendera). Penang’s scenic and historic funicular railway dating back to 1923 operates fromAir Itam. Modern carriages now ferry visitors to the summit and the journey takes just 11 minutes with regular departures from 6.30am until 9pm. The blue, air-conditioned, Swiss-made coaches accommodate 100 passengers and there are views and activities in the cooler air at the summit. Contact: www.penanghill.gov.my

5. Penang Botanic Gardens

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Kids need space to burn off some energy and the spacious grounds of the Penang Botanic Gardens make the perfect venue. This is one of Asia’s largest and best known botanical gardens and there are several path paths and displays to interest even the youngest of children. Some of the more fascinating plants are the traveller’s palm and the cannonball plant with flowers as large as their name suggests. Facilities here are good with shelters, trails, signboards, and a Visitors’ Centre. For the even more energetic, there is a trail from Bukit Bendera to the park with the preferred walk being from the summit down to the park. Contact: www.botanicalgardens.penang.gov.my

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Source: Senses of Malaysia July/August 2014

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