Penang is synonymous with good food and heritage, but that is not all the island is about. With new attractions popping up and older ones being upgraded from time to time, there’s always something exciting to check out during each visit to the island.
For my umpteenth visit to Penang, I decided to skip Georgetown and go to ‘the other side’ of the island to explore ESCAPE theme park and Tropical Spice Garden. Turns out, I was missing quite a lot in my previous trips!
ESCAPE Theme Park
Just a few weeks ago, a colleague asked if I’d go to theme parks alone and my answer was a resounding ‘of course’. I guess the universe heard and decided to test me because I ended up going to ESCAPE, Penang alone and I enjoyed every minute of it!
You’ll be surprised to know that all activities can be done solo, except for the Kite Flyer. Though if you’re the friendly sort who can talk to strangers, you could convince them to go on the ride with you.
Here’s a list of activities that you’d not want to miss!
This is the most popular activity at the park, though those with a fear of heights may question your sanity for even wanting to try it out. You’ll basically be trying to get through obstacles above ground. How high from the ground? Depends on the level you choose.
The first level is relatively tame, even children above the height of 120 centimetres are allowed to try it with adult supervision. It gets progressively harder and nerve-wracking so even if you think you’re a hardcore outdoor person, start from level two to get used to the obstacles. I made the mistake of going straight to level three and regretted it. So folks, please learn from my folly instead of facing regrets. You’re welcome.
I’m not sure who Atan is, but he must be one brave man or boy. The activity involves climbing a tower (about 25 meters high) and jumping off it (with safety equipment on, of course).
There’s no going back once you start climbing the tower, so be very sure before you take the leap of faith. There’s an instructor at the top of the tower who ensures you’re safely harnessed in and who’ll push you off the ledge if you ask, if that helps with cold feet. The descent is relatively slow after the initial leap, so you can be sure of a smooth landing.
If you’re looking to do the ‘Flying lemur’ – one of the longest and highest flying fox in the country – I’d suggest trying Atan’s leap first as it prepares you to face the height later on.
If you’re spending a whole day here, you should have the time to try out all the obstacles. Though if you must choose only a few, the Gecko Tower is a must for rock climbers, Go Ape is a thrilling climb up a coconut tree without a ladder (if you’re into that) and the Tubby Racer is a fast and furious slide down the hill inside a tub!
The water park is quite big and has a lot of attractions too. Grab a mat and race your friends to the finish line at the Speed Racer, show off your diving skills at Atan’s Jump and try out a less extreme version of Wipe Out at the AK Academy!
Some of the activities require you to be a strong swimmer such as the Atan’s Jump and Banana Flip. Do heed the recommendation so as not to endanger your life. There’s a lifeguard at every pool site but let’s not test their Baywatch skills, shall we?
The management is also very strict about swimming attire to ensure hygiene and water quality, so be sure to suit up appropriately. If you don’t have any swimwear, don’t worry because the park has a store where you can purchase or rent one. They even have burkinis for women and long-sleeved swimwear for men, as the management understand concerns of some when it comes to modesty.
Book your tickets here!
Tropical Spice Garden
To be honest, the thought of going to Tropical Spice Garden didn’t excite me much before but coming here really sparked an interest in me for botany.
I signed up for a guided tour, where I got an hour-long tour of the garden. The guide gave an overview of the garden and storied me on the more interesting plants and trees. It was a knowledge-packed hour and I got to walk around after the tour to enjoy the parts that we sped through.
Did you know that the palm tree the island is named after – Pinang or Betel Tree – has many medicinal properties? It can help with stomach ailments for humans and animals alike! The guide shared her knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants, their origins and even folklores surrounding the plants and trees at the garden.
During the tour, the guide also explained about the current spice trade in Malaysia and the history behind it.
For those who want to know even more about spices used locally, especially for cooking, you can sign up for a cooking class. The class includes a visit to the spice garden, where the chef will first explain the uses and properties of local spices before teaching participants some local recipes. Different recipes are taught during each available sessions, so do check the garden’s website before choosing your dates.
You can’t leave the place without taking an Instagram-worthy picture! Besides the beautiful flora and fauna, the garden has a giant swing that overlooks its lush panorama. Make sure your travel partner or a friendly stranger is there to take a picture for you.
Book here for an experience you won’t forget.
Another attraction that a nature-loving person would appreciate is the Entopia – home to over 200 species of butterflies and insects. Feel the thrill of having a butterfly land on you when you’re walking around the area and learn more about the insect. Get your tickets here!
Avatar Secret Garden
Besides the two attractions visited, there are several other places worth visiting while you’re there. One of it is the Avatar, a park inspired by the movie of the same name. Head over to the beach-side attraction about an hour before sunset to catch the gorgeous hues of the setting sun, then enjoy the lighted trees and installations.
Ready to start your adventure? Book tickets to Activities and Attractions on Traveloka here!