A Tropical Day on the Island

Today we have hired a driver to take us out past Batu Ferringhi to see a couple of sites that are less easy to get to.  Mouy introduces himself to us, saying in dutch his name means ‘beautiful’.  And he does have a beautiful personality.  At 68 years old, Mouy prefers to spend his time working for Tour & Incentive Travel company doing airport transfers and driving tourists to points of interest around the island.

The views as we drive up the coast and along past Batu Ferringhi is stunning.  Crystal turquoise waters contrast against the brilliant green tropical jungles and blue sky.  The road is long and winding and its nice that Muoy takes his time.

The road to Batu Ferringhi
The road to Batu Ferringhi

Our first stop for the day is the Tropical Fruit Farm.  Built to preserve Malaysia’s green heritage, the farm has planted all types of local fruits as well as fruits from around the world.  Its 25-acres of more than 250 types of tropical and sub-tropical fruits.  First up we are given a guided tour of the farm, learning about the different fruits grown here.  Some are intriguing and it was a surprise to see how some of them actually grew.

A sampling of different fruits for sale
A sampling of different fruits for sale
This is how Durians grow!
This is how Durians grow!

After the tour, we are shown to a buffet of fruit – all sliced and ready to go.  A nice selection of pink and white guava, starfruit, passionfruit, mango, papaya, longons, pineapple, dragonfruit and watermelon.  I’m particularly taken with the longons.  It was a great opportunity to try fruits you may have seen in the shops and thought twice about and it made a refreshing break from the heat.

My fresh fruit platter
My fresh fruit platter

Back on the road, our next stop is at the Butterfly Farm.  The Butterfly Farm was opened in 1986 March, and is presumed to be the first butterfly house in the Tropical Region.  It was set up as a ‘living museum’ to educate the public as well as a research centre to develop breeding methods.  There are over 1000 recorded butterfly species in the Malay Peninsular, among the highest of any country in the world in relation to her small land mass.

Butterflies seated on Malaysia's national flower - the red hibiscus
Butterflies seated on Malaysia’s national flower – the red hibiscus

Apart from the bevy of futtering wings, there are also koi fish, an iguana, stick insects, millipedes and centipedes.  At one point I turned around and one of the guides was holding the largest stick insect I have ever seen, just inches from my face.  “She’s very cranky!” she warns.  Right, well, best you remove her from my face then!

Muoy drops us at the Tropical Spice Garden and this is where we say our goodbyes, deciding to find our own way back to Georgetown, now that our five hours is over.  It has been a really good way to get around the island.  Muoy was very informative and helpful and it was nice and relaxing not having to worry about how to get somewhere, because the island is definitely bigger than you think it will be.  I’d definitely recommend hiring a driver for anyone wanting to visit the island.

Tropical Spice Garden is situated in what was once an abandoned, rubber plantation along Penang’s north-western shores.  Work on-site took 1½ years to complete, and involved the major challenge of harmonising over 500 species of tropical flora with the natural valley fronting the Straits of Malacca.  It was crucial to preserve as much of the original indigenous flora and fauna while maintaining the original topography of the site to give the Garden a timeless, natural feel.  Many of the existing rubber trees were left undisturbed, to give shade and shelter to visitors.

Lily pond
Lily pond

You have to hand it to the Garden.  During development, they utilized mainly natural and recycled building materials salvaged from pre-war shop houses or sourced from local antique stores.  It uses only organic fertilizer and integrated pest control methods to limit the negative impact on the cycle of life, and they recycle.  They also make it a point to deal with smaller local vendors and traders to support their businesses and share the success.  Really great to see.

After looking around and a spot of lunch at Tree Monkey, the onsite restaurant, we decide to catch the local bus back to Georgetown.  They run every 10 minutes (ahem, half hour).  Just almost out of Batu Ferringhi, the bus is over loaded with young boys, who look as they they’ve been celebrating Songkran, the Thai water festival.  We were intending to stay on in Batu Ferringhi for dinner, but I’ve started feeling under the weather.  And looking at the traffic coming up the hill, it looks as though BF is going to be busy tonight, which could mean a nightmare to get home later.  The bus seems to take forever, and doesn’t seem to start emptying out till we are back in Georgetown.

But we are finally home at the hotel and ready to pack our bags because tomorrow we are off to Langkawi bright and early.

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