For those who have ‘been to Bali”, done Fiji or tried Phuket, Penang is an interesting alternative. This is an island connected by a long bridge to mainland Malaysia. To travel to Penang, take a flight to the now famous Kuala Lumpur, with a short flight to Penang or, fly to Singapore and change aircraft for the one-hour flight to Penang International Airport.
My transfer met me at the airport and made sure I was comfortable for the one-hour drive, the length of the island, to my hotel in the northern district of Batu Feringgi. One investment the Malaysian Government may like to take up, is a freeway from the airport to the holiday resorts in the north – it would be a great asset to have, especially for the fly-in tourists.
The traffic is busy but I am told that during the week, traffic is less chaotic than on weekends. Arriving anywhere during school holidays always means that many locals are on the road too.
I stayed at the Parkroyal Penang Resort situated on the edge of the bay. There are a number of other resorts close by, but the established surrounds of Parkroyal are more inviting. Palms offer plenty of shade beside the pools and the grounds are well kept. You can enjoy the tropical breezes near the shore while watching the water activities from your basket cacoon or lay back lounge.
The hotel was built in the early nineties with a furnishings upgrade in 2002. Hallway carpet was replaced in 2013. The rooms, although ample in size, need an upgrade of sorts, really. The bed is huge. It’s interesting to still see designated smoking areas around the hotel, but I am sure that will change. Breakfast is in the very busy Tamarind Brasserie (a notice at the exit from the lifts tell you how busy breakfast is – much like city link in Melbourne – and daytime snacks can be purchased from the Cool Bananas Cafe.
There is a bar between the adult pool and the beach and all the staff are friendly, efficient and helpful. The dedicated children’s pool, has a couple of water slides to keep the active ones away from the adult pool. The children’s day care, the koko-nut klub, is attended by carers with many activities available for the toddler age group.
Water activities are busy during the day especially the para-sailing option. You can water ski, or ride the biscuit behind a speed boat, or zoom away on the jet skis. I spent most of my day, just lazing on a deck chair soaking up the sun and watching the parasailers take off and return on an eventful, and often high, ‘look around the bay’ venture. There are “interruptions” to the day when the muslim temple broadcasts the regular prayers on the ‘efficient’ loud speaker system. The locals seem to not take any notice of them.
For evening meals the Dinner by the Beach is a popular Barbecue. However, I found that the food was a bit down on quality. Very close to the hotel is a couple of good restaurants which visitors quickly get to know about; the Ferrenghi Garden, which has won The Cleanest and Most Pleasant Restaurant Award; and The Happy Place. Both of these eating places have very good and less expensive meals.
There are many day tours which can be taken from the hotel; Round Island Discovery, George Town City Explorer, Hill and Temple Sightseeing, Botanic Gardens and Butterfly Farm and Orang Utan and Mangrove Forest. Some of these are full day tours and include lunch along the way. I took an hour or so at the Butterfly Farm and was impressed with the amount of colourful species they have there.
Penang? I would return just to enjoy the foot massages on the beach or at the massage places. Yes, the food is enjoyable and there are some very quaint things to see.