Tourism Minister of Malaysia visits the gardens

YAB Dato’ Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen visited Tropical Spice Garden yesterday 14 April.  I postponed some travel plans but it was well worth the sacrifice.

Spice & Flower bouquet for Dato

After having attended a ‘Gardens, Parks & Flowers in Malaysia’ meeting earlier this year in KL chaired by Dato’ Seri herself, I realized that we have now on our hands, a federal Minister committed and passionate about gardens and parks in Malaysia. Her vision for her time serving as Tourism Minister is to raise the standards and profiles of gardens and parks in Malaysia – believing that our rich and prolific natural heritage and biodiversity should be promoted to the world as a tourism asset as well.

So it was with great cheer that we welcomed Dato’ to Tropical Spice Garden yesterday when she requested a visit in hre usually busy schedule. Upon entering, I showed her the currently flowering Victoria amazonica (Amazon lily). She insisted our usually more shy Garden Curator, Kenny, follow her to give a running commentary of all the species that sparked her interest.

Dato looking at the Black Lily

The hordes of press and TV stations were having a field day with Dato’ stopping at every flower or plant of interest. She even climbed off the beaten trail to stand beneath the gorgeous Johannesteijsmania magnifica  (Silver Joey Palm) pretending to take shelter from the sun and rain as we explained that zinc roofing very possibly took its inspiration from this frond.

Dato insisted meeting all the tourists in the gardens

Having skirted through the Ornamental Trail, we headed for the Spice Terraces where I breathed a sigh of relief that we had just recently received our brand new aluminum signage – so all the trails were well sign posted. Along our walk, Dato’ was most pleased with the shadiness of the gardens emphasizing that gardens in Malaysia must take into consideration our climate when developing gardens, our in-house guides, whom she met 2 of that day – Raja and Uncle Lim and our signage.

The press conference was held at the Bamboo Garden and amongst the things she spoke about was bringing more ‘Music in the Gardens’ for all public gardens in Malaysia – small pockets events as she began to visualize string quartets being played at the Bamboo Garden.

Walking up to see the new restaurant

Her parting words were that she hoped Tropical Spice Garden would one day be in the ‘101 Must see Gardens of the World’ and that she would ensure that our gardens would be promoted throughout all her Tourism Malaysia offices in the world.

Thank you for your passion and encouoragement Dato’ and do come back to visit us again now that you will be making more trips to Penang! [note: she recently won the MCA seat for Penang] 

Dato's guestbook entry


Hey folks

We are having a jumble sale selling mostly kitchen and household wares for cheap prices. We are also looking for buys for the slightly larger stuff too!

Here are the details of the event:

Venue: Tropical Spice Garden, Front Entrance

Date: Wed, 24 March 2010

Time: 2 – 5pm

Tell your friends about it! thanks

Invasion of the Lantern Bug!

Anna Biddulph, current Design Technology and Art teacher at Uplands International School, has done a great service to Tropical Spice Garden. Her fabulous eye for creating beautiful creature art from recycled materials has been delivered without disappointment.

Anna was a full time sculptor back in the UK where she was commissioned to do work for a private childrens hospitals and private homes. This was before embarked on a teaching career abroad only to land not so far down the road from us. Speaking with Anna, she soons reveals an effervescent personality full of colour and life much like the lantern bug she has created for us entirely from recycled rubber tyres and paint.

Beautiful colours of the lantern bug

The gardens constantly have their beady eyes open for artists and sculptors who who like to exhibit their works in the gardens along our trail. There’s just so much excitement for the family to ‘bump’ into strange and beautiful works on the spice garden journey.

So when exploring ideas for Anna’s sculpture, we knew we wanted it to represent a living creature and more so life too be found in the Malaysian rainforest. Lantern Bugs fit the bill perfectly with their naturally bright occurring bodies spanning the whole colour chart of the rainbow. Anna’s currently in the process of creating another one for us and that of course will be strategically placed to creep up the slope.

Try and spot me!

So come on by and try to spot our new friend at the gardens which joins other glorious pieces including Hitori Nakayama’s ‘Sound of the Earth’ black scultpure and Wong Keng Fuan’s ‘Tree of Life’ mosaic.

And for all you budding artists out there…remember our feelers are out and our doors are open!

Jazz Workshop – Brazilian acoustic guitarists

Workshop Title:    Acoustic Guitars in Harmony (Paulo Bellinati & Cristina Azuma)

Blending the Combination of Jazz, Classical and Baroque acoustic guitar techniques in Brazilian rhythmic musical flavours and styles.


Time : 10.00 am

Date: Saturday, 5 December 2009

Venue : Tropical Spice Garden, Teluk Bahang, Penang

Entrance Requirement: By festival ticket (Tickets on sale at Tropical Spice Garden)

More info:

Here’s a profile of the 2 of them :



Winner of numerous awards, including the Guitar Player magazine poll as one of the top 10 Brazilian guitarists, the 1994 Prêmio Sharp awards (Brazilian Grammy) as best arranger for Gal Costa’s CD “O Sorriso do Gato de Alice” and many others – Sao Paulo born Guitarist / Musical Scholar / Composer / Arranger, Paulo Bellinati, a graduate from the Conservatory Dramatico e Musical of Sao Paulo and Conservatory of Geneva, is noted as one of Brazil’s most accomplished contemporary guitarists.


Besides performing solo concerts and giving master classes in many international guitar Festivals, he has recorded and performed with many internationally renowned Artists such as Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Joao Bosco among others. Paulo, who plays a very typical Brazilian serenade guitar with steel strings (a very rare instrument made in Rio De Janeiro in 1935), has written arrangements for many different ensembles, drawing his inspiration from rich tradition of the various Brazilian musical styles and has developed a contemporary approach to Brazilian folklore – enhancing traditional forms with modern compositional techniques and harmonies.


Joining Paulo on stage is Cristina Azuma, with whom Paulo has performed with for over 20 years and in his own words says, “We have been playing together for more then 20 years and she is my best interpreter by far, as she understands Brazilian music as well as the classical and baroque guitar styles. It’s always a huge pleasure to share the stage with her”. 


Cristina, who is also a Doctor of Musicology from the Sorbonne University specializing in the late 17th Century, plays a nylon string classical guitar, has received international awards for her solo performances and has clearly defined her musical personality as an innovator with a willingness to expand her repertoire on the guitar. She has to her performance credits, performed in many music Festivals in Havana, Martinique, Cordoba, Tokyo, London, Paris and many other countries.


“Paulo Bellinati and Cristina Azuma’s performance in The Penang Island Jazz Festival is supported by The Embassy of Brazil”


Sand Crafting= Team Building

Fond memories of playing by the beach front often conjure up images of children frantically shoving sand into small plastic buckets and overturning them to create little lego building blocks on the sand and shrieking with joy at their new creation.


Could it be possilbe that adults could share the same pride and joy in building sandcastles? It would have appeared so for an Intel stronghold of 80 that descended on our shores on 20 April 2009. Armed with buckets, spades, window scrapers, ice cube and cake moulds, this team were on a mission to re-define sand art and leave more than a footprint!

Divided into 8 separate teams, they were put to task to build the most creative and intricate sandcastle with one major hint : Build a strong base and build upwards. Now why weren’t we ever told this as children? Had we known at 5, with our vivacious imaginations, we would most certainly have been capable of producing more than just incessant lines of sandy ‘teeth’ along the beach.

The teams busily set to work and one must give kudos to the teams for using the elements in the environment like the existing stones, rocks and gullies to create some really neat little ‘sand sanctuaries’ I like to call them.

One team managed to carve their team name in an almost perfect stencil set atop a smooth sandy mound. And still another used the slant of a jutting rock to encapsulate the ‘Batu Caves’ look with a little cavern tucked tidily beneath it. We were treated to an array of self styled citadels also, complete with moats, gates and various houses and centres.

But I must say, the team that really reached far into their imaginative recesses produced a thrilling replica of a crocodile-like creature and stole the show for me. Moulding a creature with that detail takes some amount of genius and these guys were obviously just bursting with some crazy creative energy.

Unidentifiable creature found by locals in Teluk Bahang...

Sandcastle building certainly put a new twist on these guys day out for teambuilding with some awesome results. Are you up for the challenge? Call us at 04-8811797

Staff on Foot!

So for ‘Car Free Day’ I unfortunately was in KL and couldn’t hold to my promise of riding the bus to work as I had pledged to do. sob sob. But, to my great pleasure, I received an sms from Helen in the office informing me that the girls have walked to work!

I was almost brought to tears to know that Nalini, Vijaya, Naresh and Azimah all walked from their homes to get to work on the morning of 25th March. Nalini, from Batu Ferringhi, actually rode on Rapid to join the bee line to the gardens. (and they arrived on time!)

Garden staff in support of Earth Hour

They managed to attract quite a bit of attraction from passer-bys, most of them fellow neighbours anyway, to which only Vijaya answered ‘Trying to lose weight!’. I was told the rest of the group told her off for that.

And of course the best part is that they all managed to grab some breakfast on their way in – I would imagine at the roti canai stall beneath the large ‘ketapang’ trees.

So I was most impressed with their efforts and hope they keep it up. Next time I’ll belanja them breakfast on the way in. Great job guys, I’m really proud of you!

Cooking Demo for Japanese Womens Association

Ladies from Japanese Women's Association

The Penang Japanese Women’s Association enjoyed a good morning out thanks to the efforts of Keiko and her family. After various ‘missed’ appointments, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Keiko and family who made all the arrangements for her team.

We would like a guided tour and a cooking demo please – what can be arranged? Her husband was quick to ask whether beer could be included too! (Not a problem there either!)

So come 26 February, we had 17 ladies confirmed and three children who all had the pleasure of Uncle Lim as an in-house guide. Vijaya and Manju, our cooking maestros were eagerly awaiting the ladies at the Cafe to  pluck a few curry leaves from our tree to open the session. Next they expertly demonstrated the manipulation of the traditional grinding stone. Grinding either dried or fresh spices from scratch changes the aroma of any curry – it’s an age old truth.

Testing the Grinding Stone

Vijaya was also keen to share all her age-defying secrets with the group with using all the natural remedies from the kitchen – oftentimes just left over scraps we tend to throw away like juiced orange pulp and carrot skins.

The garam masala chicken arrived at the lunch table served on banana leaf together with papdum, mint dip and freshly grated cucumber. Albeit a bit spicy for our Japanese friends, it was great way to spend the morning and to pick up a few useful tips in the kitchen. Step one…purchase a 100kg grinding stone!

Thank you to all the ladies for your fun level of participation and see you again soon 🙂