I am an absolute sucker for Botanical Gardens. I am, myself, a truly awful gardener. I have just so much as to glance at a plant for it to wither and die. Mr EE is rather good but we have never really had the time to devote to a proper garden. Even when we were in long term accommodation a stretch of lawn and some plants in pots were as much as we can ever hope for. A far cry from my cousin’s rather lush and impressive allotment.
Nevertheless I do appreciate the beauty of gardens and while we cannot hope to enjoy our own we always try to see ones that others have worked on. When I heard about the Spice Gardens in Penang I was determined to visit.
The gardens are set in a compact yet diverse patch of land on Pulau Pinang (Penang Island) a short drive out of the capital, Georgetown. There is a beautiful beach and some food stalls just opposite the entrance. Just as we had walked into the gardens and were in the process of buying tickets the heavens opened.
Being stuck in the small kiosk could have been dull but the guides took the time to talk us through the layout of the garden and advise on the best route with the pushchair. They had a basket of common spices on the main desk which meant we could talk Master and Miss EE through the different spices they could see and ask if they could remember what dishes I used them in. They were pretty good, more so when the guides let them smell the spices than when they just looked at them. There were a few there, however, that completely evaded all of us, one being Torch Ginger which is, apparently, a key ingredient in laksa, a popular local dish.
As the rain started to settle we set off up the main road. Most visitors would walk through the paths but this was not possible with the push chair. Instead we took it in turns, one adult remaining on the path and the others taking side trips with the children. We saw spice plants, vanilla, coffee and tea plants, rubber plants and many, many more. The garden is also peppered with impressive sculpture and art installations. It also has a piece of driftwood which washed up on the beaches nearby after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, it is now covered in plants.
There are very informative boards around the site that describe the plants’ background and uses and the audio guide is genuinely useful and informative. In addition to the gardens there is a tea pavilion and a café, a gift shop and a rather innovative 3D snakes and ladders game where the children themselves are the pieces and climb up ropes and down slides. Sadly the rain had made it too dangerous to play on. The children were a little disappointed but perked up when they realised that there was a tortoise pond complete with kangkong provided to feed them. Even so we spent about 21/2 hours in the gardens and enjoyed every minute.
The gardens run cookery classes using ingredients sourced from their own plants. If we had more time I would have signed on for a course as it does look like excellent fun.
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