Having had our shopping tour and beach day, day 4 was scheduled as a island tour day. We decided to do what I refer to as the “nature tour” first, which would take a full day. The other option was to tour mostly temples and historic sites, which we figured we could do on our own or later as a tour. The nature tour consisted of visits to a spice farm, a batik factory, a national park and a fruit farm.
First, I asked our driver, Peter, if there was somewhere I could buy a pewter shot glass to go with my small collection from Sweden and Singapore. Malaysia has lots of tin and copper, which is used for making pewter and the country is known for its pewter manufacturing. Peter took us to a pewter store but they wanted $58 for a single shot glass. They offered to show us how the pewter was made but when I tried to take pictures they said no cameras. I explained that was what I do so we left empty-handed.
The spice farm was no less a waste of time. For $10 a person, you get to walk some trails up a hill and look at plants. First, though, they give you a smelly and oily spray to ward off the mosquitoes. We walked around, built up a sweat and left.
Next was the butterfly farm ($12 each). This was very interesting and also included a number of lizards and snakes and some very large native fish, all live. This place also included a large store of native crafts and jewelry and assorted butterfly memorabilia.
Not far away was the batik factory, which turned into a shopping spree. We were shown the steps for making batik, from the handmade “stamps” they use for some of the designs to people hand-painting the cotton sheets stretched out on tables. The store had a little bit of everything, from shirts and ladies wear, to fabric, paintings, handbags and other knick-knacks. We bought a bunch of stuff.
By now, it was past lunch time and we were hungry, so Peter took us to the End of the
World restaurant. Like many of the seafood restaurants in Penang, this one had numerous fish tanks, holding live, lobster, crabs, prawn, grouper and other seafood. I misread the prices on the menu and ordered lobster, not realizing how expensive it was ($30 for a small one). A spicy seafood, tomato-based chowder also was ordered, along with a Tiger beer and juice. The lobster needed to be eaten by hand so I just abandoned the fork completely and ate it and the salad with my fingers. It all was very good but the lunch cost more than dinner the previous evening.
Next, we visited the national park, also a disappointment. This is probably a nice area if you’re into hiking or backpacking but when the trail became more like something I remember from Vietnam, we had had enough. The park also offers some other activities, such as going fishing on a boat, but they would have taken at least a couple of hours. Besides, I’ve earned that fishing tours in this part of the world involve mostly catching small fish off the bottom.
We still had time for one more activity so we were off to the fruit farm. I didn’t have high
expectations for this one but it turned out to be interesting. The farm is high up in the hills and includes a couple dozen types of fruits. The guide spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable about each fruit, especially the medicinal values of each. We learned which fruits were good for preventing or treating prostate cancer, hypertension, breast cancer, hair loss, you name it. We tasted some bitter and some sweet fruits off the plants, and sampled one fruit that made the bitter fruits taste sweet.
Our group was 12 people, with everyone but us Arab. One woman was dressed in a complete burqua. At the end of the tour, we were brought to a covered area where there was a fruit buffet for us. I sampled 12 fruits and mango juice.
Then it was back to the hotel. We decided on seafood for dinner and took a taxi to the Ferringhi area, just west of our hotel. Here, we found the Golden Thai Restaurant.
The restaurant had a large dining area, with a stage for live performances. When we
entered, there was a group of dancers performing traditional dance. We selected a table at the beach’s edge. But first, we had to order our dinner in the restaurant entrance area, where there were many tanks holding live seafood, with prices per 100 gram indicated, and a table of fresh vegetables to select from. We never saw a menu.
Our dinner consisted of grilled, split prawns, red-peppered crab, mixed vegetable medley and rice. Delicious. Total came to about $50 for the two of us, including a 24-ounce beer and juice drink. Taxi was $7 each way.