Tropical Spice Garden
Tropical Spice Garden is an eco-sanctuary that spans across 8 acres of secondary jungle in Teluk Bahang, Penang. With a wide array of living specimens of flora and fauna, this garden provides an exceptional experience to the visitors who wish to explore more about tropical plants, photography, filming, and all sort of outdoor activities.
As a unique eco-sanctuary facing the Strait of Malacca, Tropical Spice Garden has made its mark in various aspects. For nature lovers, it is a haven of peace away from the hustle and bustle of the Georgetown city area. The whole area is implemented environmentally-conscious modes of building, using mainly recycled materials found around the community. At Tropical Spice Garden, only organic fertilizer is used and local businesses are supported wherever possible. They have even created a series of canals that re-route the water from a nearby waterfall to the vibrant land. These are just a few of the reasons TSG has been lauded with prestigious eco-tourism awards.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the garden’s refreshing and pleasant scent of tropical herbs. Dubbed as the hidden Eden of Southeast Asia, Tropical Spice Garden has more than 500 types of flora, namely the indigenous spices from Malaysia, Heliconias from Ecuador, and the exotic fern from Tropical America.
The garden has beautifully landscaped pathways that allow you to follow the track marked with colored arrow. The soothing waterfall sound coupled with the aroma of spices gives you the tranquility that makes you want to stick to the place for longer time. We recommend you to have a guided tour so you wouldn’t just immerse yourself in the relaxing atmosphere, but learn about each spice plant from a very knowledgeable guide using your four senses (see, touch, smell and taste). You are no longer the visitor. You become an integral part of the garden!
The guided tour was very fun as our tour guide, Mr. Choo has a very good sense of humor. Along the way, he introduced us some of the background, facts and information about the spices and herbs found within the garden.
The garden itself is covered with lots of unique spices and plants. In order to allow visitors to better comprehend and familiarize with the plants, small notes can be found right beside the plant. The tour was very informative as we were well explained by Mr. Choo coupled with the helpful notes.
There is also a special tea kiosk, which allows tourists to enjoy the freshly brewed herbal tea after the long walk. Mr. Choo told us that the water came from the natural spring water, which was channeled directly from the glass fountain. Well, that explains the refreshing feel!
Our tour lasted for about 45 minutes. We then had the chance to patronize the gift shop before proceed to the cooking class.
The shop offers various nicely-packed spices that you can purchase and bring back to your own country. At the shops, you can also get locally sourced souvenirs, fragrances, designer T-shirt and home spa products.
To attend the class, you have to take the garden tour where you learn the basic knowledge of each spice. With that in mind, you will be able to understand how the final taste come about with the use of individual ingredients.
We were invited to the cooking class to observe how the class is usually conducted. We were very fortunate to have met Madam Pearly as she showcased her skills to her students in a very professional way. I would personally admit that the cooking class was conducted in a very relaxing yet professional way.
No taste is better than one that is cooked with passion and love. At Tropical Spice Garden cooking class, you get the sense of achievement when you wouldn’t have expected you can cook this well, with the help of a renowned chef. There are quite a number of cooking classes in Penang but the kind of personal attention (maximum 10 students per class session) and excellent facilities you get in TSG is unheard of.
Finally, our tour has come to an end. Overall, we were very excited with the whole tour. It was such as shame that we did not have the chance to visit other activities and facilities due to time constraint. I was learned that the garden also hosts some other exciting activities like the nature education, night walks, and audio tour just to name a few. Interested individuals or organizations may also hold events, team building activities, camping, and wedding ceremony at Tropical Spice Garden.
Tropical Spice Garden as featured on Amazing Race USA!
TV Feature of TSG Cooking Class (Malay)
TSG Cooking School on Documentary
MD: Education is an on-going, learning experience. We equip our guides with as much as we can from our own research which we use to develop signs and audio tours and we give the guides access to our little library. As often as possible, we organise talks and workshops from specialists who can further enhance their knowledge and provide refresher and also keep the learning fresh. Recently with our recent introduction of Night Walks, this required intensive training of a whole new area for the garden guides – to be able to spot, identify and talk about the entymology, reptiles and amphibians, birds and mammals found in the garden – this proved to be a valuable exercise because it means it equips our guides with a whole new area of knowledge which only serves to enhance their garden tours.
Of course, we always try to hire people in the first place who have a propensity for learning and a passion for nature, plants, history, culture – this is an important starting premise. With this we also know that the right guides will always be interested in self learning and will do the necessary reading at home too – we have found that the case in most of our guides and nature ed staff. I am blessed to have a good team!
MD: The gardens has often been described as a sanctuary and a ‘little pocket of paradise’. I think this is so true and until today the gardens is so beautiful to behold. With the alarming rate of development happening on the island even on so called protected hill lands, more and more do we realise what a need and responsibility we have to conserve and share our natural resources with visitors. We welcome visitors to come in and recharge from their busy lifestyles – to enjoy the simple yet forgotten pleasures of walking barefoot, dipping your toes into the stream, listening to natural running water, drink natural spring water, look up and enjoy the wildlife that passes through and inhabit the gardens – all this is a form of therapy both emotionally, physically and spiritually.
On another level, here is plenty to intellectually learn at tropical spice gardens – with our well researched audio tours to our experienced garden guides and also plenty of interpretation signages on plants and animals – there is plenty to learn when visiting the gardens- so it is very much growing in knowledge of what Malaysia tropical rainforests have to offer – it is a treasure trove that once upon a time used to fully sustain our lifestyles – food, shelter, clothing, medicines, instruments – it is all to be found in the amazing rainforest!
MD: We were the first organized cooking school to take off in Penang – our school offers guests individualised work stations and guests work on their dishes from scratch. So they really can say they created their own dish from scratch. All guests follow the same instructions and its amazing how different the results can come out! that it is finer skills of cooking. The teaching experience we offer are from people who have grown up in the kitchen learning family and traditional recipes from their elders. So their recipes are authentic and built on home grown love and pride.
And of course you would not find another school surrounded by a lush garden and overlooking the sea coastline also when dining for lunch! as the herb garden planted direct outside of the cooking school grows in maturity, students will be encouraged to harvest fresh for their class too!
MD: As we rely on passionate home chefs, of course securing these cooks who are willing to share their recipes and commit their time is a challenge. One may be a good cook but not necessarily a good teacher/ communicator. One may be a good cook but may be unwilling to share their recipes and time – looking for the perfect combination is a challenge!
Developing a local audience has also been a challenge as we have been initially so focussed on the tourist market being a tourism destination. so developing new ideas to build new customer base is a challenge but a good one!
MD: We have progressed quite rapidly since 2010 with many new developments already – building Cooking School, shifting the new Gift Shop and building 2 new event spaces and a bathroom to boot! We recently opened up a new retail, garden outlet in George Town so we are actually trying to slow down and focus on what we have!
How we intend to build on our existing facilities would be to look at developing more languages in audio tours, offering worksheets for walk-in kids to enhance their experience at the garden, open up a gardening patch for children’s planting exercises and on-going propagation, and also to keep developing our monthly talks to introduce more interesting topics and really become a place where the people of Penang really begin to identify the spice gardens with a gathering place of like minded folks – passionate about our natural and cultural heritage and also recognise the importance and fascination of spices to the development of Penang as an island on so many levels.