I spend a year waiting for our main family holiday (with my partner Steve and our 6-year-old son Lewis).
Oh, the planning I put in with Lewis now adding his preferences for the accommodation and things to do. Purchasing the little extras you need when you travel with kids. Then the final countdown during those last weeks.
Finally, the day is here.
We are travelling to Penang with our child. Will this be our best family holiday yet?
Poor Lewis he really has a rough time of it on-board the flights. He suffers from air sickness. This time we try some ginger motion sick tablets – they come up in the first 2 minutes of the flight, also he has pressure bands on – which annoy him. At Changi Airport, he gets some respite during our transit, then we board our second flight – he is not looking forward to it. But I entertain him with reading books and playing Juice Cube on the E-tablet – distraction appears to be working.
He sighs with relief as we land. We quickly pass through customs, collect our luggage and discover the Hard Rock concierge waiting for us as we walk out into the tropical heat.
As the concierge closes the car door for the hour drive she farewells us with, “have a rockin’ stay.”
We have previously been on a family holiday to Penang when Lewis was a toddler, however, we arrived and departed in the dark, so this time it was great to get a good look around on the drive out to the northern stretch of the island.
Towards the end of our journey into the tourist resort beach of Batu Ferringhi, we wind along the cliff top roads overlooking crystal clear turquoise water and white sandy beaches.
Soon after pulling into the Hard Rock Hotel Penang we are checked in and enter our Lil Rock Suite which will be our home for the next 14 nights.
Lewis loves his separate area with his own flat screen TV and Playstation, but before I have barely unpacked the bags he is begging to go to the pool.
It is raining lightly as it is October the wettest month of the year, however, this does not stop us swimming as it is still warm about 30°C.
We head straight for the water slides, trying each one out and then explore the small water park. I know straight away that I have made the right accommodation choice for our Penang family holiday as the pool area is where we will spend the bulk of our time.
Tonight we are tired from our travels and decide to eat in-house at the Hard Rock Cafe`. We eat the most delicious juicy hamburgers and chase them down with a couple of happy hour wines (Lewis has a lemonade).
The next day our pattern for the bulk of our stay is created.
- Breakfast at the buffet, Lewis finishes before we barely begin. I have learnt to take some maths and spelling workbooks to fill the time whilst we eat at a more leisurely place – or as best you can with a child.
- Next we walk along the beach front. We watch the other tourists trying their hand at horse riding, paragliding, jet skiing, or a banana boat ride.
- Back at the hotel and it’s into the pool for hours of enjoyment splashing about.
- Some afternoons Lewis joins in the pool side activities
- marble races
- car races
- foam party
- scooter diving
- sumo wrestling
- Others we head up to the Kings Club for afternoon tea.
- Or sometimes we are all so exhausted from this holiday stuff we rest and watch a movie.
- And in the evenings we take the free shuttle into the centre of Batu Ferringhi to try some local cuisine.
(You can read my full review of the Hard Rock Hotel HERE and all the excellent things we did whilst staying there.)
The great thing about the restaurants in Batu Ferringhi is that they all cater to children with fish and chips, pizza, or bolognese (depending on the venue). Or if you want them to try the local cuisine you can ask for dishes without chilli, because you don’t want to miss the Penang food.
Penang is known for its food and there is little wonder why. With a fusion of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Lebanese, and even Italian – it is why it states in the
Lonely Planet guide Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang 2011,
“people come to Penang just to eat.”
It doesn’t matter if we eat at a nice outdoor restaurant with tropical plants providing an inviting ambience, at laminate tables in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the food court, or in a shopping centre eating at a Malay franchise restaurant – the food is always delicious!
At the shopping centres there aren’t so much as food courts but one whole level of the mall devoted to small restaurants and cafes.
We save shopping for an extremely wet stormy day. Knowing we are visiting Penang in the wettest month of the year we are certain a day like this will turn up.
And sure enough, when the heavens open up, the roads turn into rivers and people flock to the shops.
We choose to explore the Gurney Plaza and the new Gurney Paragon Mall that are located about 40 minutes local Penang Rapid Bus ride away, just outside the capital of Georgetown. We pick up a couple of items of clothing for Lewis from an outlet store, but most of the shops are upmarket having similar prices to home.
If you want to pick up some bargains (clothing, bags, belts, DVD’s and tourist souvenirs) try the Komtar and Prangin shopping malls in Georgetown or the night markets along the main road of Batu Ferringhi which are open from 7pm every night (unless it’s pouring).
What surprised me though, was that for the wettest month it really didn’t rain very much, usually just a sprinkle here and there.
So we get the chance to visit some fun tourist attractions.
On this holiday in our planning, Lewis and I had chosen a couple of attractions that were located quite near the Batu Ferringhi tourist area.
Tropical Spice Garden
We catch a local bus for a quick 5-minute ride costing a mere RM2.80 (for all of us) to the Tropical Spice Garden. Lewis really enjoys discovering how spices and herbs actually are grown before they become pulverised and sold in the supermarket.
You can read all about the day HERE.
The Butterfly Farm
The only hiccup with catching the local bus is sometimes a few buses will come in quick succession and sometimes you wait half an hour. So a couple of days later as we head off for the Penang Butterfly Farm we opt for a taxi for only RM10. The Butterfly Farm is Steve’s favourite day trip. But we all enjoy stepping in this tropical eden, having a multitude of coloured butterflies fluttering around us and even landing on us.
As we exit our taxi driver is waiting for us and on the way back he suggests we stop at the D’Heritage a coffee and chocolate store. We get to taste some lovely sweet or flavoured coffees and a few chocolates. Yum.
Though not all the attractions are located nearby and on a rare day that starts off sunny we head off for the 2½ hour bus trip to Penang Hill that only cost RM9.40 (for all of us). We have been to Penang Hill before, which is just as well because, as we reach the bottom of the hill the clouds start rolling in. But you cannot deny a child a ride on a funicular train. It is the highlight of the journey.
Reaching the top of the hill we notice many improvements that have been made over the past few years including a new food court with a beautiful vista, a museum and audio monitors. Sadly all of these are at additional costs, on top of the RM65 (family of 3) ride to the summit 833m high.
However, we spend a pleasant hour meandering about the hill-top, reading the faded signs that explain the history of Penang’s multiculturalism and how the colonials would visit Penang Hill for day trips to escape the heat.
You can read more about what we discovered on Penang Hill HERE.
In between visits to tourist attractions and in our final days we just relax around the hotel.
Back at the Hotel
If we don’t want to we really don’t have to go far to get anything.
Across the road, there is a mini mart, laundrette, massage parlour and a very competitive exchange booth.
But it is the pool that is the draw card for our stay.
All the kids are using the water park, playing diving games, riding on inflatable tubes – it’s all good fun. And on our last full day, we use our complimentary cabana hire (feet a bit flashy).
The following morning as we eat breakfast in the buffet for the last time, Lewis is literally crying. He does not want to leave.
I guess that might be a sign of a great family holiday.
If you would like to read more stories and see more photos go to Penang 2014 – All the Travel Stories.
Does Penang look like a good family holiday for you?