By Kirsten Raccuia
Drive north along the coast of Penang Island, approximately one hour from the Penang International Airport, and you’ll arrive in the beach resort of Batu Ferringhi. Its popularity with tourists means a high concentration of bars and restaurants. It’s also where you can ride a horse along the beach, go parasailing at sunset or sit back with a bucket of beers, and watch the world go by.
Other than George Town (9 miles away), this is the most popular place for holiday-makers to stay and some of the major hotel chains have ritzy properties lining the beach.
Although Penang is an island with many beautiful beaches, Batu Ferringhi is the only beach that is really active. The rest are lovely secluded beaches where you may run into a few fishermen or a few swimmers, but for the most part, Penang’s beaches are empty. However, if you want to live by a busy beach, then the Batu Ferringhi neighborhood is the best choice.
There is a thriving expat community mixed in with the locals and tourists. You’ll find them all at the colorful night market right on the main street, parallel to the beach. It’s the perfect place to buy a souvenir of a local painting and tuck into some of Penang’s famous street food.
Renting in Batu Ferringhi
There are so many choices for rentals in Batu Ferringhi. A fully furnished 990-square-feet, two-bedroom condo in the Seaview Garden Condo complex starts at $228 per month. That includes amenities like car parking, a pool, a gym, and a squash court.
Alternatively, what about a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 1,291-square-feet duplex in Mar Vista. It has a large balcony facing the sea, the perfect place to relax with your morning coffee. The complex has tennis and squash courts, a gym, and a pool with a sauna and jacuzzi. A fully furnished unit rents for only $384.
If you want more space, how about a house with a yard? Ferringhi Villas has large homes with gardens for rent starting at $915 a month. Here you could settle into a four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,498-square-feet, three-and-a-half-story home, featuring terraces and balconies on every level, and a garden. All the houses in Ferringhi Villas share a large pool and a gym.
The Best Restaurants in Batu Ferringhi
Down a little hidden alleyway between the Lone Pine Hotel and Golden Sands Resort is Tan Sam Guan Seafood, the best lunch spot in Batu Ferringhi. The owners Liang and Loon are so hospitable it feels like you’re eating in their backyard. The sizzling prawns set atop a mound of bean sprouts to soak up the sauce and the morning glory are personal favorites, and they will only set you back $5.50.
For a fun night out go to the Living Room for dinner and drinks and stay for the open mic jam session. Amy and Ben, the owners, are a lovely welcoming couple that have quite the following, making it a busy place, especially on the weekends. Order the beef rendang, which is unbelievably flavorful and made from a family recipe.
One of the most beautiful restaurants on the entire island is Ferringhi Garden. If you sit outside, you’ll be encompassed by lush tropical plants, orchids, and dim lighting. Inside has dark woods, clean lines, and fresh flowers on each table. The menu has a broad range of Western and Asian delights to choose from as well as an ample wine list.
The Best Bars in Batu Ferringhi
One of the best places on the island to watch the sunset is Batu Ferringhi beach. All of the beach bars are centered around here and each one has its unique appeal.
Bora Bora is the most casual place to hang out for sundowners. There are a bunch of plastic tables in the sand, no fuss or fanfare; it’s all about the view. Here you can watch the sunset alter the sky to a brilliant shade of coral while people explore the beach on horseback, kids romp in the sea, and who knows, a snake charmer might even pop by for a show.
Frandy Beach Bar is the latest addition to the scene. It’s at the end of Batu Ferringhi which means it’s a little further out of the tourist zones and therefore quieter. Tiki torches set the mood while an acoustic band plays in the background. Take off your shoes, grab a cocktail, and settle in for a chilled-out evening.
Sigi’s Bar and Grill is at the Golden Sands Resort and looks like a beach shack, but since it’s at a resort, it’s a bit swish. It is a little more expensive than Bora Bora and Frandy’s, but they always have a happy hour around 7 p.m…it really is only one hour so don’t be late… however, it’s just in time for sunset.
Things To Do In and Around Batu Ferringhi
One of the benefits of living in Batu Ferringhi is its proximity to some of the islands major attractions and things to do.
Head west from Batu Ferringhi on the only coastal road, and you’ll see the Tropical Spice Garden, a gorgeous garden sanctuary filled with tropical plants and all the spices that put Penang on the Spice Route. There is a lovely Thai restaurant there surrounded by trees—aptly named Monkey Tree Restaurant. If you’re lucky, a troupe of sweet monkeys will come by for a visit, if they don’t the view more than makes up for it.
One mile further, on that same road, is Craft Batik, a shop where you can buy gorgeous batik paintings, dresses, scarves, and tablecloths and also take a class to make your own.
Drive for another thousand yards and you’ll reach Entopia—Malaysia’s largest butterfly farm—and Escape, a vast theme park consisting of a water park and rides meant to bring you back to your childhood when you played outside in nature. There are no roller coasters but instead activities like a zip line, a rock-climbing wall, a dunk tank, a tree climb, and downhill tubing.