Tropical Spice Garden: A Hidden Penang Delight

It has certainly been a while between posting hasn’t it? Last week I was exceptionally busy with work projects and editing photos with my brand new trial of Photoshop Elements. Ever since my computer crapped out, I have been slowly re-downloading programs and Photoshop definitely made the cut. I am no where near editing all my recent trip photos but I did go back and resize all the photos in my last several posts. Gosh it is time-consuming.

I also managed to edit some photos from Carina’s time in Penang before we departed for Cambodia. By far our best day was spent at the Tropical Spice Garden over by Batu Ferringhi. I had heard of the Spice Garden before but had no idea what it actually was. Well, I am so glad we decided to check it out because it is an AMAZING place.

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As soon as we walked through the entrance, we found ourselves in a lush tropical environment that quieted under the heavy humid air. We paid to join a guided-tour and were given a bottle of cintronella oil to spread over our arms and legs as a natural bug repellant.

Our guide led us up a winding stone path where we joined an American couple for a tour of the gardens. As we walked along the gravel paths, he pointed out various plants including tropical herbs and spices, flowers, and trees. We were given many herbs and spices to sample directly from the plant, including one of the hottest chili peppers I have ever tasted. Thankfully our guide found me some stevia leaves to counteract the intense spiciness with some natural sweetness (not that it helped much).

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The Spice Garden consists of 3 main trails including the Spice Trail, Ornamental Trail, and Jungle Trail. We were shown a variety of orchids, ginger flowers, rubber trees, and ferns, just to name a few. There was so much to see and learn that I barely remember anything from the 45 minute tour. I do remember stopping at the refreshment hut which serves a different type of tea everyday for visitors. We sipped on cups of that day’s special, lemongrass tea sweetened with stevia, while listening to a gurgling brook cascading down the hillside.  After our tour, which included being pushed on an enormous wooden tree swing by our guide, we circled back into the gardens to take more pictures (and pose like tourists).

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We found our way back to the refreshment hut to drink several more cups of lemongrass tea. It was just so delicious! Our guide informed us earlier about the spice shop at the top of hill and I decided that I absolutely needed to buy some stevia leaves. An opportunity to have an all-natural and completely un-processed sweetener? Count me in! I am always looking for ways to stabilize my blood sugar while keeping life sweet :-).

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While wandering, we spotted a tree frog, turtles, monkeys, beautiful dangling orchids, and enormous rubber trees.  You can get lost for hours exploring the Garden and we certainly took our time to walk around. Although I often loathe the Penang weather, it was wonderful to experience the natural tropical environment and plant-life that must have been around before the island was developed. The only problem? Mosquitoes! They are vicious! If you visit the Spice Garden, you probably want to spray yourself with some hardcore DEET repellant. Cirtonella oil was a nice (smelling) touch but it was in no way enough to prevent the carnage on my poor flesh.

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By late afternoon we had finally worked up an appetite and stopped to eat at the Tree Monkey Restaurant, located next to the spice shop inside the Tropical Spice Garden complex. With a spectacular ocean view, we enjoyed smoothies, a spicy mango salad, and an appetizer sampler platter with various Thai and Indian nibbles. Everything was delicious and satisfying! We then bought some spices and gifts at the adorable gift shop. I snagged some stevia leaves, cat’s whisker tea leaves, curry spice, and coconut shampoo. I was stoked!

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After almost 5 hours at the Tropical Spice Garden, we literally had nothing else to see or do. So we finished off our day trip to Batu Ferrighi at the beach across from the Spice Garden. Carina finally experienced the pebbly sand that is so different from the sand on Florida beaches. The beaches in Penang are much smaller and rougher and are full of big boulders just begging to be climbed. I have never swam in the ocean around Penang and honestly have no desire to go in those murky waters. The ocean here is meant to be admired from afar.

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The Tropical Spice Garden was an unexpected but amazing find and I am so happy that we took a chance on this unknown place. I had one of my best days ever in Penang and enjoyed every second of our garden tour, spice sampling, and Thai meal. We were able to learn a little more about the natural tropical environment of Malaysia and the herbs and spices that make Malaysian and Thai cuisine so delicious.

If you are visiting Penang, the Tropical Spice Garden is a must-see. Make a day out of it like us and head out to Batu Ferringhi. You will not be disappointed. 

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