Published: June 12th 2010May 10th 2010
Lily pond at the Tropical Spice Garden
Probably the only half-decent photo we have taken in our three years travel.
First of all, sorry for showing our geeky sci-finess by doing a Star Trek title for the blog, we just couldn’t resist it!
It was only a short (air conned!) bus ride to Batu Ferringhi, a beach resort town on the north coast of Penang. Because of the heat Neil had insisted
that his Cadbury’s chocolate be packed very carefully into our backpacks, to provide the most protection from melting in the heat!
We managed to find the right place to get off the bus and walked away from the big resort hotels down a side street which lead to the beach and the budget accommodation; although the word ‘budget’ to describe the rooms is definitely not the one we would use! Cue a hot and sweaty hour or so walking around the few guesthouses asking about rooms…seriously what is wrong with guesthouse owners with their greediness? Ali’s Guesthouse being the worst, in our opinion - the guy there wanted RM100 (£21) for a crappy room when we asked if they would do a discount he said no, when we asked if they were really busy and that is why he was charging so much he said no, they
are empty. Business sense gone completely bonkers! Another crazy place was Boomerang, here there was a pokey little damp room at the back of a building next to a really skanky shared bathroom and they wanted RM80 (£17) for it (it had bunk beds too!).
So we settled for Baba’s Guesthouse, which was quite a strange set up in that it was the family’s home and you had to go through their kitchen to get to the rooms upstairs! We went for an air con room with a clean bathroom but cold shower, it also had that dodgy wood panelling on the walls which Malay guesthouses like so much (not sure why white paint isn’t an option?!) and the obligatory florescent strip light. The lady running the place took a real liking to Neil and gave us the room for RM70 (£14) with strict instructions we were not to tell anyone else (even her husband!). So we checked in and carefully unpacked the chocolate…no luck as it had melted - it’s no wonder really it was so bloody hot!
We got changed and quickly headed down to the beach looking forward to a nice cooling dip in the
sea, well we got a dip in the sea but it wasn’t cooling in the slightest…it was like a bath! We have only been to a couple of places with such warm sea water so it messes with your head when it's that warm. We had a nice afternoon anyway splashing around and it’s at this point we really noticed the difference between the beaches on the west and east coasts of Malaysia. The beaches on the east coast tend to have very white sand and turquoise clear blue water, those on the west coast tend to have more yellow sand and greenish not so clear water. This freaked us out a little bit - not because we are beach snobs but because we suddenly got a bit squeamish about jellyfish and we couldn't see anything under the surface of the water. We decided to call it a day and lie on the beach!
As a testament to the heat…we enjoyed the cold shower when we got back (Stacey - Donna didn’t even mind washing her hair in the cold water!) and we also scoffed some of the melted chocolate, which still tasted the same if a little squishy.
Pond at Tropical Spice Garden
we got the photo's very wrong on this trip as we messed up the exposure settings on the Nikon. Oops
We headed out to the local food court (Long beach hawker centre) as we had heard really good things about the food there. We found Batu Ferringhi a really strange place, there were huge high rise posh hotels with both package and independent tourists staying there and all along the main road (ie a very busy road!) the pavement on one side got taken over every night by a night market selling the usual tourist tat (bags, watches, shoes). We normally like shopping but to be honest walking through the night market was a little unbearable, so we took our chances and played chicken walking on the road dodging buses and cars it added a bit of excitement to the walk (only joking mums!). The reason for the night market being unbearable was partly due to the heat and partly due to the idiot shoppers with no spacial awareness who kept stopping dead in front of us so many times even Neil had the urge to punch them in the back of the head (normally it’s Donna who is this impatient, ha she’s a bad influence!). We do have to admit that even though it was only a 10 minute
Batu Ferringghi at sunset
Due to the aspect of the beach you got some excellent sunsets almost every night.
walk, if we saw a Rapid Penang bus passing by we would just use our Tourist Passes and hop on for a ride as it was just too hot to be worth the trouble to walk.
We found the food centre but weren’t that impressed with the food…it was okay
but seemed like it had been really toned down for tourist’s pallets and the portion size wasn’t huge either. The best thing about the night was the banana pancake we got, it was like a rice flour pancake (similar to a masala dosa pancake) with loads of banana cooked inside - it was so good we went back for seconds but the nice man had run out :( so we vowed to go back the next night and order double!
The next day we found a good place for breakfast (The Boatmen) which did beans on toast (YAY!) and a huge iced coffee for a cheap price so we were very happy there and we had another fun day on the beach, wallowing in the water and people watching. For some reason Batu Ferringhi seems to attract a lot of tourists who had origins from the Middle East
- the women were dressed in head to foot black with only their eyes showing and the men were walking around all breezy and cool with their moobs (man boobs for the uninitiated) and bellies on full display! It seems very unfair that the women have to cover up in this way and in that sort of heat too yet the men could wear (or not wear as the case was) whatever they wanted. We never understand this double standard, but we suppose they are just following their religious beliefs (?) and each to their own.
That afternoon in the water Donna managed to get stung by a jellyfish…of all the sea the jellyfish had to be in it had to be next to Donna! We aren’t joking here, but the sting was so bad Neil offered to wee on her and the pain was so bad Donna even considered letting him do it! Yes, too much information but the sting on her leg and little finger and hand was so bad that her skin went all knobbly and blistered…it was a good job we got away from the jellyfish in case it stung any more.
back to the Long Beach hawker centre for tea having decided to try the Indian tonight…what a mistake that was. The biggest pile of slop and tasteless too, Donna’s mixed veg jalfrezi was neither jalfrezi tasting or had veg in it unless you count the tiny pieces of cubed veg and two frozen peas. We consoled ourselves with 3 banana pancakes which cheered us up a bit. We were so puzzled though as everyone’s blog we had read and reports on t’interweb had said this place was brilliant for food. Not so in our experience! A further consolation on the way back to the room, after being scared several times by the ninja-like ladies jumping out at us on the chicken-playing walk back, was the orange flavour ice lollies we discovered. Yummy, they reminded us of our childhood and were only 17p each, so after a couple of those even Donna was forgetting the trauma of the jellyfish and the non-food food we had just had!
The next day was more of the same but a little different with beans on toast for breakfast and then we headed off to the Tropical Spice Farm. We got discounted entrance with
our bus pass and had a pleasant few hours wandering around learning about spices and plants. It was well worth the visit but as you can see from the pictures it was hot, hot, hot - the smell there was amazing, it's a shame the pictures aren't scratch and sniff! The rest of the day was spent sunbathing and swimming minus the jellyfish although we were both extremely wary of the water! That night we gave the hawker centre our last shot (well we were leaving the next day anyway!) and ended up just telling the Chinese place what we wanted - ie no meat and lots of mixed veg for Donna and lots of meat for Neil! The meal ended up ok, not great but at least it was edible and filled us!
Reading back on this blog it seems like we didn’t have a good time in Batu Ferringhi, but strangely for all the mishaps we had, the false starts with the food and the beach not being as pristine as, say, the Perhentians on the east coast, we still had a really good time. We have come to realise that when you arrive at a place
Another big plant!
no idea of the name of the plant but it's endangered and it's leaves were used for roofing....in the days of yore and yesteryear we guess?
and the accommodation is expensive it skews your perception of that place. When the accommodation is cheap it really makes a place seem better than what it is and/or makes you find less faults and enjoy a place more! That initial perception of value (as determined by accommodation costs) is really important to us and often influences our enjoyment of a place. Call us stupid but that's the way we often see it.
Our few days at the beach soon came to an end and we headed back to Georgetown for a night before our minibus journey from hell to the Cameron Highlands.
There are more photos below