Entering the gardens, the sun was obscured by a huge canopy. The lush gardens made it challenging to take in just how large the grounds were. Trees and plants monopolized every surface so that sections of trails were obscured from view. My eyes would find trails higher and higher on the hill. It was exciting to see!
A local friend said she loved spending time at the Tropical Spice Garden so I was looking forward to visiting but the vastness of the gardens outdid any of my expectations. The garden sprawled across 8 eight acres, with different themed trails from spice, ornamental, and jungle. Our visit was quiet with only a few other visitors so it felt like we were in a vast private garden. We ambled quietly down rows finding dead-ends that were still worth the effort as beauty was everywhere.
The plants were an array of greens, reds, and yellows and colorful dragonflies danced on their leaves. The garden was also dotted with pieces of art, an interesting collection of repurposed materials, glass, and metal. It was fun to turn a corner and find a piece of art hanging in our path.
As we walked, we’d stop and listen to the new audio tour and learned about the history of these plants. The tour is provided in 7 different languages and offer a nice mix of plant history, their properties, and an anecdote about them. For instance, the betel nut tree is called Pinang and gave the island its name. It was used medicinally to treat tapeworm, dysentery, and fever but was also chewed to suppress hunger and protect the teeth (although it will stain them red). It has been a traditional gift for bachelors to give to their future in-laws.
I enjoyed hearing about how the plants were used and the influences they had in modern society, like Johannesteijsmannia. These huge palms with rippled leaves were once used for roofing and their leaves inspired the corrugated roofs still used today.
The tour had an express option with 8 stops, taking about 45 minutes, but we choose to meander down the trails. We wandered without direction and only made it to 19 of the 69 points before we put higher priority on the restaurant.
We did find the Giant Swing though, which had no audio stop, but was definitely worth pausing at. It is a large bench suspended by ropes that swung out into the garden. A net that extended from the deck gave a limited sense of safety, especially when your partner wants to see how high it can go. It was a fun distraction from all the learning we were did.
As we walked to the restaurant, we also passed a reflexology path of stones, providing a slightly painful massage for your feet. And more importantly, to James, the slides and ladders course, consisting of at least six slides and one large one that corkscrewed to the bottom. Definitely worth a stop for any children or kids at heart.
To get to the restaurant, we exited through the gift shop (no surprise), filled with various spices and literature. The audio tour had to be turned in (as this is the main exit). Passing their cooking school, we arrived at their restaurant seated high in the gardens. It offered a wonderful view of the Straits of Malacca and Teluk Bahang. It was a gorgeous place to rest and they offered a full menu including Thai-inspired dishes and many different drinks. The Massaman curry was incredible and the menu was interesting to read for they highlighted properties of different spices. We have not found a nicer view for a meal here in Penang.
As we were running out of time, we headed back into the garden, this time with no audio (it is collected at 5:30). This final leg seemed to highlight everything we didn’t get to and all the paths we’d missed. That the mosquitos were at us again encouraged our departure though.
I see us returning again before we leave Penang, with properly protection from the mosquitos, to once again take in the beautiful overcast gardens.
Additional images from our day:
Visiting tips –
The 101 bus will stop in front of the Tropical Gardens (tell the driver your destination).
The gardens have a large canopy but are still quite warm, bring water!
Bring bug spray!!!!!!!
Across the street is a small pretty beach. Dip your feet in the water before heading back!
The bus stop back towards the jetty is under the huge tree.
Do you have a favorite beautiful view?