Batu Ferringhi, the so-called resort beach of Penang Island is a narrow beach with few if any redeeming features. It has greyish sand and muddy zero visibility waters that one suspects is only partly mud. The waters are infested with jetskis and speedboats towing parasailers and those floaty sausage things. If the water was inviting it would be worse but as it is, the sound and smell of those evil machines makes any relaxing on the sand difficult. Of course the beach itself has motorbikes and horse rides to add to the challenge.
We’re staying on the eastern end of the beach within a charming village of old two storey houses clustered around narrow windy streets. Somehow it’s escaped the huge resort hotel development that has plagued the rest of Batu Ferringhi although why anyone would bother paying hundreds of ringgit a night to stay at the beach is beyond me. From the empty chairs on the beachside bars and restaurants as well as the myriad numbers of closed shops, it seems that someone somewhere is deservedly losing a whole lot of money.
Not everything is bad though – the guesthouses are good value for money, friendly and atmospheric, the food at the beach cafes catering to the locals is great and having a drink at the beach bar as the sun goes down somewhere behind the hills is lovely (mainly because the jetskiers have gone).
There’s also the Penang National Park further down the road and this is a substantial highlight. The rainforest treks through the park are fun and short and not without the occasional bit of challenge. The one I chose had great variation in terrain and vegetation through the hills down into the marsh lands and then into a minimallly developed beach (Pantai Kerachut).
I’m not sure that that would make it a good reason to visit Penang, but if stuck there, it certainly makes it a more pleasant stay.