Posted: 27 Jul 2011 01:55 AM PDT
Last week, our son came up with a brilliant idea.
"If we eat all our dinner, can we go to the beach afterwards for a play?"
Now we've been back in Penang for two months and I'm ashamed to admit that we've actually only gone to the beach once. Swimming pools, cinemas, painting, trampoline fun and bike rides we've done … but we keep forgetting there's a beach just down the road.
So when he came up with this plan, and we remembered there was a new beach-side bar in Batu Ferringhi, it seemed like a pretty good idea. Sandcastles for the kids, beers at sunset for us. It's a win-win.
We should put him in charge of our itinerary more often!
So where are we?
Bora Bora Bar on the beach in Batu Ferringhi, Penang.
The beachside in Batu Ferringhi is lined by hotel after hotel. There's only a couple of low key bars and restaurants. The most popular one, Sunset, burned down at the start of the year. The owners have built a new bar on the sand just near the Ship Inn, the Bora Bora Bar.
The prices are similar to what you'll pay in a hotel, but it's certainly got the best beach side casual dining atmosphere in Penang. The food … well you can find better food elsewhere. But the beers are cold and they do a great milkshake. All in all, it's not a bad place for families to relax.
So … what's our 'local' beach like?
Penang's beaches aren't exactly world renowned. 50 years ago Penang was known as the Pearl of the Orient. Azhure waters and clean sands.
Then the hotels came and the population boomed, both exhibiting less than ideal waste and sewerage practices. Things are improving … it's swimable but it will be a long time before the waters look like they once did, if ever.
Looking at Batu Ferringhi today, you wouldn't suspect that it first became known to the western world as a stopping point for Portuguese traders to replenish their water supplies from the clear streams flowing into the ocean.
When we first came here I wasn't that impressed with the water or the beach. ATVs racing up and down, horses taking people on joy rides, parasailing tourists threatening to drop out of the sky on your head as they land, jet skis and boats.
In the afternoons it was busy and crowded. In the mornings … well it was certainly tranquil and shady but it sadly smelt from the horses.
Late last year the government banned ATVs and horse riding, and limited the use of jet skis to licenses operators, after numerous tourist complaints and several children getting hurt. Of course being Malaysia, it's taken a while to come into effect and the rules have become a little fluid. The ATVs have been moved to one section of the beach and the jet skis have certainly reduced in number. The horses appear only for a few hours a day.
One has to feel a bit sorry for the locals who have suddenly had their only source of income prevented or at least limited. Don't get me wrong, the measures have made a world of improvement to the beach, but you still have to feel bad for the poor guys who now have no income.
Sorry, I digress … what's our local beach like? These days it's actually really nice.
The sand is coarse but great for building sandcastles.
There's shade until lunch, and come sunset the view is lovely. And while it's touristy, the lack of touts, deck chairs lining every inch of the sand and droves of tourist is actually a lovely contrast to many of the beaches in Asia.
For those that don't like getting sandy, there is Bora Bora where you can sit on the deck overlooking the beach. Or if you're like Colin, who can handle a little sand but would rather not to sit in it, there are the tables on the sand.
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