Balik Pulau, literally translated as ‘the back of the island’ is a town located on the western front of Penang Island. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the east, divided by the island’s central mountains, there is a welcome relief here where life is arguably as it has been for the past 50 years. From the last stretches of paddy fields left, the fishing villages, the durian and nutmeg plantations, the area is the quintessential location for those searching for a rural getaway. While urbanization is an inevitable reality, Balik Pulau nevertheless represents remnants of a preserved heritage, hidden amidst the island’s continuous growth that is worth treasuring for generations to come.
Within the town itself, bike rentals are available at the visitor’s centre and is a good way to go travel around given the relative ease of traffic. The town is reachable via 3 main roads on the island, that intersect within the town centre. Jalan Balik Pulau links the town to fishing villages near the south, Jalan Sungai Pinang to Teluk Bahang in the north and Jalan Tun Sardon to the east across the central mountains. By air, the nearest hub is Penang International Airport, connected to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur via a 1-hour flight, by Malindo, AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines. The airport itself is famous for being the oldest in the country and connects the island to numerous destinations such as Singapore, Surabaya and Hong Kong.
Approximately 10 minutes away from Teluk Bahang Dam, lies a haven for durian lovers. Established since 1959, Bao Sheng Durian Farm offers visitors the experience of tasting different durian flavours and at the same time, learning about the importance of farming free from pesticides. Of pride to them is the cultivation of durian that produces a distinctive ‘numb’ flavour, one that is rare and very much sought after even among themselves. Durian lovers are welcomed to book in advance of the season for a spot on their durian buffet, expected to occur between May to August. Hence, if you’re arriving within the vicinity during the season, then dropping by this farm becomes a must!
Imagine wooden houses erected on stilts, colourful fishing boats lining the harbour, and flower beds all around, then you have a brief expectation of what to see in Pulau Betong Village. Named after the small island opposite the harbour, this sleepy fishing village located some way off from Balik Pulau itself, where fishermen bring up their local produce every day and sell them to visitors. With abundance of fresh seafood, visitors can also naturally find restaurants within the area to cook them to their hearts content. The 2004 tsunami calamity very much challenged the existence of the village, and their presence today stands as the symbol of resilience for the locals committed to their way of living.
Just off the town of Balik Pulau lies Malihom Private Estate, a retreat like little other. Located up on high grounds, the premise offers sweeping views of the Straits of Malacca, surrounded by lush forests, koi ponds, and rustling winds, that brings a feeling of serenity and privacy to all guests. With a name that means ‘village of the fragrant rice’, guests are welcomed to choose from 8 different uniquely named barns, each with ensuite bathrooms and private garden available at deck level, creating a distinct character of its own. With the barns being formerly used as traditional rice storage and the decks remnants of forgotten railway sleepers, guests with definitely feel the authenticity of their surroundings. A perfect getaway for nature lovers!