Penang's main beach strip -- Batu Feringghi, or Foreigners Rock, is arguably the island's most swim-friendly beach and one of Malaysia's biggest holiday resorts, located about 15 km west of Georgetown along a winding coastal road. This once-sleepy beach village didn't see much change until the 1970s, when locals started to rent out their bungalow homes to a few wandering hippies for next to nothing. During the economic boom of the 1980s, hotels and resorts started to appear and it's been more or less downhill from there.
Today, especially during high season from December to September, hordes of tourists converge on Batu Feringghi, filling the high-rise hotel chains and resorts that jostle for space among the too-many seafood restaurants and trinket shops. Take a ride on a jet ski, go banana boat riding, try paragliding -- this is not the spot for a quiet beach holiday, though the long yellow sand beach stretching along the bay affords a magnificent view over the mainland coastline and you could choose to just absorb yourself in a few good books in a deckchair.
You can rent a motorbike or hop on one of the frequently running buses to one of the more peaceful spots, such as Shamrock, Moonlight or Miami beaches, some of Penang's better coastal spots. Moonlight for instance stretches some 10m below road level, and boulders litter the fine-grained sand. The beach takes its name from the lovers who have long taken night walks here. These quieter beaches typically have a few cafes or Malay restaurants set up and are a pleasant retreat from Batu Feringghi's madness.
Heading north further along the main road will take you to the quiet fishing village of Teluk Bahang passing along the way Tropical Spice Gardens, Penang Butterfly Farm and batik factories.
You'll find the four- and five-star hotels in Batu Feringghi along the main road, beginning where the road from town hits the beach and ending with the Park Royal up the road. The area between the main road and the hillside behind is mostly residential, along with some holiday homes and high-rise apartments.
Some 100m after the Park Royal is a relatively charming spot called Kampong Bala Chan, where small lanes crisscross between wooden houses. This is where you'll find the budget backpacker accommodation, together with more affordable restaurants and cafes. Family-style guesthouses like Baba's, E&T, Beng and Shalini's offer simple clean rooms with share bathrooms in the 40-100 ringgit range.
Bayu Senja Road leads down towards the beach, where it takes a sharp left and continues along the beach for 500m before heading up through the village and out on the main road again.
Text and/or map last updated on 21st August, 2009.
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