The Complete Balik Pulau Travel Guide: 28 Essential Things to Eat, See and Do in Balik Pulau, Penang’s Greenest Corner

Balik Pulau, or the "back of the island", remains an enigma to most visitors to Penang. What to see, what to do? Even if you ask locals, most don't know Balik Pulau too well. But this vast, greenest and less populated part of Penang island has a lot to offer. No worries, for this complete Balik Pulau visitor guide will be your best internet companion while exploring offbeat beaches, lonesome villages, and endless paddy fields flanked by swaying coconut trees.

balik pulau travel guide
Quaint Balik Pulau countryside lined with palm trees at Sungai Burung (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Balik Pulau literally means “back of the island”, and if most think it is just the small namesake town in the southwest of Penang, well, you’d be surprised to know that it actually constitutes about one-third of the whole island. And there are loads of things to do in Balik Pulau!

Still, many prefer to stick to other things to do in Penang, such as visiting Penang Hill, enjoying Penang street art, gorging on Penang Food at one of Penang’s best restaurants, swinging legs at a trendy Penang cafe, or going shopping in Penang.

Once you are tired of all the above (don’t forget a stroll at Penang Botanical Gardens) we recommend setting out of George Town to explore Balik Pulau, the very beautiful and less developed part of Penang island.

We are very surprised that there’s so little valuable information on visiting Balik Pulau online, and that’s why we have decided to write this complete travel guide to Balik Pulau. Without tooting our own horn, trust us, you won’t find anything better researched than this — not online, not in guidebooks, which usually give this area of Penang just a minimally brief space and mention. We have personally been to every place mentioned here, so what you get is real insider knowledge on all things Balik Pulau.

So if you are curious to explore some of Penang’s best beaches, which include the famous Monkey Beach, see paddy fields and palm trees instead of crumbling heritage buildings, and go where the famous Penang durian and Penang nutmeg are farmed… then this complete guide to visiting Balik Pulau will come in very handy.

In our complete guide to Balik Pulau you will learn:

  • How to reach Balik Pulau
  • Learn about Balik Pulau three distinct areas
  • What are the best things to do in each area of Balik Pulau (Pantai Acheh and Sungai Pinang, Sungai Burong, Balik Pulau Town, and Pulau Betong)
  • What is some of the best food you can eat in Balik Pulau

For more Penang travel suggestions, don’t forget to check out our 3 Day Penang itinerary which also includes suggestions for a quick visit to Balik Pulau.

Article Contents

How to get to Balik Pulau, the southwestern corner of Penang island

Balik Pulau penang guide
Follow our expertise, and you’ll get quite far even in offbeat Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Here’s a lowdown on the best ways of transportation to get to Balik Pulau.

Buses to Balik Pulau

Balik Pulau town is connected to George Town and Batu Ferringhi/Teluk Bahang via Penang Airport by Rapid Penang Bus. The bus however can take a long time to get there, sometimes more than an hour, depending on traffic. The main problem is also that it only goes as far as Balik Pulau town. And without your own wheels, your chances for exploration will be quite limited.

Balik Pulau bus station is actually the southern transport hub on the island, and from here you may easily reach Pulau Betong (Balik Pulau’s southernmost reaches) using Rapid Penang bus 403.

Always departing from Balik Pulau bus hub, Rapid Penang Bus 404 instead travels to the north, the villages of Sungai Pinang and Pantai Acheh.

Again, you can use these buses to get around Balik Pulau, but you’ll miss the freedom of getting to the best spots at your own leisure. If you don’t have a car, think of renting one, or strike off by rental motorbike or bicycle.

Driving to Balik Pulau

It’s best to drive to Balik Pulau and these are your main options.

Coming from George Town/the North: The shortest and most scenic drive from George Town/Northeast Penang, in my opinion, is going via the Kek Lok Si temple in Air Hitam and following along Road 220 towards Paya Terubong. You will turn onto road P14 over the hills and end up straight into Balik Pulau town.

View of Balik Pulau and Pulau Betong from the Anjung Indah viewpoint
View of Balik Pulau and Pulau Betong from the Anjung Indah viewpoint along Jalan Tun Sardon, the main way from Paya Terubong to Balik Pulau (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

Coming from Batu Ferringhi/Teluk Bahang: the windy but scenic Road 6 leaves Teluk Bahang skirting its Dam and going across hills peppered with durian estates, and arrives near Pantai Acheh, in the northern part of Balik Pulau.

Coming from Central or South Penang: If you are coming from anywhere on the eastern coast of Penang, Sungai Ara, or from Penang Airport/Bayan Lepas and the southeastern coast, then you’ll have to connect to the southern half of Road 6, and loop back to Balik Pulau town. This is by far the longest route that goes as far south as Teluk Kumbar, and then proceeds north to Balik Pulau town, as there’s no direct way to cross the hills separating the southern coast and the village of Gertak Sanggul from Pulau Betong.

This map of Balik Pulau will help you understand all the geography above:

Some Useful Tips for visiting Balik Pulau

  • There’s too much to do in Balik Pulau for one day, so break off your visit and if you only have a day/afternoon, concentrate and enjoy only one area
  • Sunset anywhere on Penang island is best seen from Balik Pulau. Many say from Pantai Malindo in Sungai Burung. Time a visit to catch it.
  • Banks and ATMs are only available in Balik Pulau town, so make sure you come with enough cash.

Best Places to Stay in Balik Pulau

Balik Pulau town
Be an early bird, book your accommodation in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Balik Pulau is about 45 minutes drive from the more “civilized” northern side of Penang Island and George Town. If you don’t mind commuting, you can certainly base yourself on one of the recommended George Town boutique hotels, Budget hotels in Penang, Penang 5 star hotels, or the best Penang backpacker hostels.

But if you want to stay in the thick of Balik Pulau’s (sleepy) action and hear the crickets and frogs sing at night, here is a selection of the best places to stay in Balik Pulau:

Blogging transparency: this post contains affiliate links. These are products and services that we personally use and recommend. If you click on one and buy any service, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Consider it a small way to say thanks, and keep Penang Insider going.

Treat Yourself in Balik Pulau

Malihom is one of Penang’s best 5-star hotels, with a collection of Northern Thai wooden huts transplanted atop a hill boasting its own durian farm. Expensive but very, very special. Check prices on|Agoda

Boulder Valley Glamping is a high-starred campsite with luxe tents spread within the natural bounty of Pantai Acheh’s backdoor, right on the way to Teluk Bahang. Check prices on|Agoda

Lexis Suites Penang is one of Penang’s best 5-star hotels, and even if it stays in Teluk Kumbar, not Balik Pulau proper, is stylish and close enough to base yourself. Check prices on|Agoda

Angsana Teluk Bahang is a bit of a drive away over the hills, but it’s a beautiful 5-star hotel with its own private bay, views of Penang National Park, and more than one swimming pool to soak away. Check prices on|Agoda

Bao Sheng Durian Farm is where you wake up and smell the durian, as you’ll stay in beautiful hilltop villas perched on a mountainside durian plantation. Check prices on Agoda

Budget Hotels in Balik Pulau

Audi Guest House is a perfect and homey budget option, owned by a cycling enthusiast who organizes bicycle tours of the surrounding countryside. Laid-back and basic, it offers dorms in wooden rooms and in close distance to Pulau Betong village. Check prices on Agoda

balik Pulau Audi Guest House
Audi Guest House is one charming budget place to stay in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

KontenaStay Al Furqan in Sungai Rusa has clean and simple doubles in container-homes, with peaceful common areas. Check prices on|Agoda

Wejdan Inn is a guesthouse housed within a double-storey bungalow, with homey rooms to match. Check prices on|Agoda

Balik Pulau Town: What to See, Eat and Do

Balik Pulau Town square with fishermen mural Volchkova
Welcome to Balik Pulau Town, the starting point of your backdoor Penang island exploration (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

When you hear someone say “Balik Pulau”, they generally mean the small municipality of the same name set roughly at the center of the whole Balik Pulau. It’s a famous place for foodies —start here to know all about Penang food— as some of Penang’s best laksa is to be found here.

In fact, food is probably the first thing you’ll do in Balik Pulau town, as some of the main food vendors are all strung along the main road at whose center there’s a parking lot/Padang surrounded by restaurants, stalls, and food courts.

Here are some suggestions on where you can eat in Balik Pulau town.

Things to Eat in and Around Balik Pulau Town

1Kim Laksa: Great Laksa Siam in Balik Pulau Town

Kim Laksa’s Penang Asam Laksa, a long-standing shop in Old Town Balik Pulau (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

Perched on the right-hand corner of Balik Pulau town’s main parking lot inside the Nan Guang Kopitiam is this famous laksa shop, one of the most talked-about island wise. It’s mostly because it serves delicious Laksa Siam, a different variety from Penang’s usual asam laksa, more similar to a curry-scented taste — read more about Kim Laksa’s review by local chef Nazlina Hussin and our selection of Penang best laksa.

The atmosphere here is no-frill, traditional Kopitiam style with marble-top tables and local uncles and aunties coming to dine in or take away. Sit down, be patient, and enjoy some of the local laksa histories.

Here’s a map of Kim Laksa’s location:

2Cafe’ Ko Cha Bi/Chuan Heong Laksa and Ais Kacang

Chuan Eong/Ko Cha Bi Cafe in Balik Pulau town (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Straight across the street and a few doors down to the right from Kim Laksa is Cafe’ Ko Cha Bi, another one of Balik Pulau’s “competing” laksa shops. The place is a bit more upholstered in the vein of a modern cafe’, but the taste of the food is still quite authentic. The asam laksa and laksa lemak (5RM per bowl) are recommended, as is the ais kacang topped with real ice cream.

You can also try Hakka Rice (4.50RM), Hakka Mee (5RM), crunchy Belacan Chicken (8RM)

Here’s a map of Ko Cha Bi’s location:

3Balik Pulau Famous Penang Heritage Roti Benggali

Balik Pulau’s famous Heritage Roti Benggali food truck — delicious and unmissable (image by Marco Ferrarese)

On the opposite side of the parking lot from Nan Guan Kopitiam, right next to the Old Fisherman mural by Julia Volchkova, is this food truck dedicated to lip-smacking Roti Benggali style. Think of sliced white loaves of bread smeared in butter and kaya, and if you prefer, toasted to perfection.
The food truck is quite recent upholstering for an operation that’s been going on since the 1930s, and you’ll still get the real deal. It’s not for nothing that they call themselves “Penang Heritage Roti Benggali”.

Food Courts in Balik Pulau Town

Customers chewing away at Yeh Lai Xing Kopitiam in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

At the back of the parking lot, there are not only several stalls selling bread and bakery and Chinese fritters but two food courts. On the left side is BP Views Kopitiam, and on the right is Yeh Lai Xing Kopitiam. They both serve a range of Chinese dishes, from economy rice to different concoctions of noodles, and a bit of mamak-Indian cooking — Mee Goreng, some garnished with Balik Pulau’s famous prawns. They are both no-frills and very local, the type we like, and serve dishes starting at RM5 per plate.

5Mak Ngah Gulai Warisan

As the name states, this Malay restaurant serves “heritage curry” and it’s highly recommended, especially at lunch, to experience the culinary traditions of Balik Pulau’s majority Malay population.

There’s a wide choice of food here, from fish and mutton curries to fresh vegetables, all served over perfectly steamed white rice. Come here on an empty stomach for there’s a lot to sample.

Things to See & Do in and Around Balik Pulau Town

6Visit the Church of Holy Name of Jesus in Balik Pulau Town

Balik Pulau’s historic Church of Holy Name of Jesus (image by Marco Ferrarese)

This church along Balik Pulau’s main thoroughfare was established in 1854 as a wooden house, and is more than 160 years old and well-conserved thanks to many renovations. It’s a symbol of life in Balik Pulau town, and a place that we recommend you visit, even if just for a short look. Note that the nine stained glass windows are imported from Bruges, Belgium.

Balik Pulau Street Art

Following the fashion of George Town Street Art, even Balik Pulau spruced itself up in 2016 by inviting Russian artist Julia Volchkova to etch some very realistic murals along the town’s main thoroughfare.

We believe they are unmissable, and yet, most people are too preoccupied with George Town that they still miss them. The series includes, beyond the popular “Old Fishermen” etched on one side of Balik Pulau town’s main square, a few others like the “Silat Master”, the “Hakka Dancing Girl”, and the “Rubber Tapper”. They are all still visible along the main thoroughfare that cuts Balik Pulau town into two. It’d be best if you cycle or drive, as they are a bit far if you are just walking.

Balik Pulau mural art hakka dancing girl
What remains of the original Balik Pulau mural “Hakka Dancing Girl” by Julia Volchkova (image by Marco Ferrarese)

7Roti Man mural Town and Art Festival

The Roti Man mural in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

There’s more street art in Balik Pulau than what you can see in the town. In July 2019, during the three-day Balik Pulau Festival, new street art came to grace the walls of both Balik Pulau Town and other locations, adding more local colors to the original murals by Russian artist Julia Volchkova.

The “Roti Man” mural, in the parking lot on the wall of Nan Guang kopitam, celebrates Munyadi Letchumanan, the resident roti seller who has peddled his trade here for the past 30 years. It’s realized by local artist Abdul Rashid Abdul Raman.

8Lily Garden Flats in Jalan Bukit Penara

Durian and Nutmeg murals on the sides of the apartment block Lily (image by Marco Ferrarese)

This low-cost condo was spruced up with a bunch of beautiful murals of fish by artist Nasrul Hisham, or Nash Art. There is a 5-meter-long Half Moon fighting fish, plakat fish, and a tiger barb that stretches about 3 meters.

On the two sides of the flat, two of Balik Pulau’s most famous produce, nutmeg and durian, are painted much larger-than-life size.

The murals were commissioned by the National Art Gallery and the Culture and Arts Department with the scope to beautify one disadvantaged housing area and create inclusivity among people through arts.

9Kampung Terang in Balik Pulau

Tourists visit the container art in the paddies of Kampung Terang in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Scenically set in the middle of a paddy field next to Kampung Terang, on the way to Pulau Betong, there’s a container painted with two giant murals. They were realized in 2019 for the first edition of Penang’s “Container Art festival”. On one side is “the Joy of Harvest” by Leonard Siaw and Aries Kong, both artists from Sarawak state, which depicts two farmers showing their produce — corn, and the foulest-smelling of all fruits, the Durian.

On the other side is “Once at Balik Pulau’s Street Market” by Russian artist Marat Danilyan. It depicts a hawker seller proudly standing next to his sizzling wok at the Balik Pulau market.

Northern Balik Pulau: Sungai Pinang, Sungai Rusa and Pantai Acheh

coast of Pantai Acheh and the village seen at sunset in Balik Pulau
The coast of Pantai Acheh and the village are seen at sunset from the Chinese temple perched on the hills (image by Marco Ferrarese)

The northern side of Balik Pulau is all about small villages, both Malay and Chinese, flat coastal plains, and paddy fields. Connected to the hills that lead to Teluk Bahang, and tucked against the southernmost border of Penang National Park, Balik Pulau’s northern side hosts both some of the area’s most famous attractions and its least visited corners.

10Pantai Acheh Village

A beautiful wooden Chinese home in Pantai Acheh village (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Pantai Acheh is a small Chinese village set in the northernmost corner of Balik Pulau. The village runs along a muddy coastal area that’s not ideal for swimming as it’s subjected to the tides, and whose northernmost corner blends into the forests of Penang National Park. When we visited Pantai Acheh last, the locals told us that there’s a hiking route from the village into the National Park, but it’s not recommended for its bad state. Nobody stops you from trying, of course, but if you do, come prepared for a tough slog through thick jungle and a lot of mud.

The village itself is a friendly cluster of old Chinese-style homes, some beautifully built with wood, others in concrete. There’s a Chinese shrine with a red and yellow roof halfway up the main road, at whose side a lane goes up into hills chiselled with fruit and durian farms.

The Chinese shrine of Pantai Acheh Balik Pulau
The Chinese shrine of Pantai Acheh. Start hiking on the paved path on its left-hand side (image by Marco Ferrarese)

You can stop at the Kedai Kopi LP Hoe to meet locals and try, among other things, some delicious Sabah Pan Mee.

11Hike to Teluk Bahang Dam

Keep on the path and walk along farmland and durian plantations from Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang dam (image by Marco Ferrarese)

The maze of paved lanes for the use of farmer’s motorbikes that leave from the left side of Pantai Acheh’s Chinese temple is the starting point of a trek to the southern end of Teluk Bahang Dam. It takes about two hours one way, and you can find the route on mapping apps such as or Alltrails.

If you don’t feel that adventurous, you can take a shorter hike up the hill to another Chinese pagoda, from where you can have quite nice sunset views of Pantai Acheh’s coast. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the top, and most often you’ll find locals having tea up there.

12Ghee Hup Nutmeg Factory

The nutmeg juice is extracted from the layer surrounding the nut. The people at Ghee Hup will explain the whole process. (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

The Nutmeg is the seed or ground spice of a different genus of Myristica tree, and it’s been cultivated especially in Penang since colonial times. Ghee Hup is a famous stop on the tourist trail in Balik Pulau, for it has been running for decades, and it’s one of the area’s most famous factories.

Don’t expect to come here and see machines in action, though. It’s more of a farm where you can see how the nutmeg is planted and grown. A visit is definitely interesting, as the old uncle who owns it often gives a speech about his work and the qualities of the plant. You can of course buy the prized essence to dilute into the water and make delicious drinks directly from them. A small bottle costs RM13.

13Bao Sheng Durian Farm

If you love Penang durian, this may be the best place to come and sample it directly from a lover of the thorny fruit. Mr Durian Seng built this retreat on a hilltop strewn with durian trees, making Bao Sheng Durian Farm a real local pioneer in both durian and eco-tourism. You can come here to eat, or even stay in one of their beautiful villas (Check prices on|Agoda) to sample different qualities of durian offered in their stay & eat packages. Besides gorging on durian, soaking in the swimming pool as you watch the sunset is truly magical.

14Art & Garden

(image courtesy of Art & Garden by Fuan Wong)

Realized by Penang glass artist Fuan Wong, Art & Garden is a blend of natural beauty and art installations. It’s a perfect place to bring children, too — check out our other suggestions for the best things do in Penang with kids— and experience something artsy in northern Balik Pulau.

15Audi Dream Farm

Kit Yeng plays with parakeets at Audi Dream Farm in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Set in ample grounds off the main road to Balik Pulau, the Audi Dream Farm is another awesome place to get out of the house for a few hours and experience the most bucolic side of Penang. This place is a half educational park, half petting zoo filled with farm animals, from chickens and rabbits to horses, parrots and ducks, deer, even one camel, and many types of local trees and flowers. Besides walking around and enjoying the farm’s labyrinthine paths that take visitors to meet all the resident animals, families can enjoy a simple lunch and a good selection of drinks.

Get a discounted Audi Dream Farm ticket on KLOOK here.

16Tropical Fruit Farm

One of Balik Pulau’s oldest attractions is still a great place to visit with children in tow. On a guided tour of the Tropical Fruit Farm you will learn about and experience 250-odd of Malaysia and the world’s best tropical fruits. Before you leave, the all-you-can-eat fruit buffet, paired with fresh fruit juices, will make both adults and children happy.

17Visit the jetty and eat asam laksa and seafood at Sungai Pinang

Fishing boats waiting on the river at Sungai Pinang in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

The village of Sungai Pinang is clustered around the jetty on the namesake river. You can come here to watch lines of fishing boats moored along the river estuary. This is not only the second, lesser-known entrance to Penang National Park but is also a low-key and interesting place to come to eat or buy fresh seafood in Balik Pulau

The area around the jetty has several interesting food options.

Kak Chik Wan corner (Tel. 0175173752) is a hole-in-the-wall stall run by a friendly Malay woman. The specialty here is asam laksa, which only costs 3RM per bowl, and is as simple as it’s authentic. Tangy broth, maybe spicier than normal, served with noodles that don’t break (a must for any good laksa) and plenty of fresh garnishing. They also sell some Malay kuih, coffee and tea, and they are open also during the day — something not very common around these parts, where morning is best for food.

laksa balik pulau sungai pinang Kak Chik Wan Corner
Super-tangy laksa at Kak Chik Wan Corner in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Rizz Leman D’Kola (Tel. 017 5015300, Kak Suhana) opens from 3pm to 9pm and is the place to go have Mee Ketam and Udang (crab and prawn) when in Sungai Pinang. You can also try their asam laksa for 3.50RM a bowl.

At last, Ina Cafe is open until lunchtime and serves roti canai and coffee/tea for breakfast, and a mean curry Kepala Ikan (curry fish head) for lunch.

18Take a Mangrove Boat Tour at Sungai Pinang, Taman Negara Teluk Bahang’s Lesser-Known Second entrance

Cruising along the mangrove forest of Balik Pulau’s Sungai Pinang on a boat (image by Marco Ferrarese)

The second, lesser-known entrance to Penang National Park is hidden away in Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau. It’s not very well-known even though it’s the starting (or ending) point of interesting mangrove boat explorations through the river, with a bit of navigation out at sea, that ends on the beaches of Penang National Park. I have seen dolphins here once, so it’s definitely worth a thought. You can read more information on our guide to Teluk Bahang.

A mangrove boat tour of Sungai Pinang leaving from Teluk Bahang’s main national park entry costs RM350 per boat (maximum of six people). The boat will circumnavigate the western side of Penang National Park, entering a maze of smaller canals where you’ll be able to see many species of birds and other endemic species like monitor lizards, mudskippers and fish. This area is still quite pristine, and a very different experience from the culture of George Town — fishermen still ply their ancient trade around here, and besides nature, the area of Sungai Pinang retains an old-world charm that’s difficult to find elsewhere on the island.

You can also book a boat at Taman Negara Penang Sungai Pinang entrance. Here is a map:

Central Balik Pulau: Sungai Burung Area

Night sky with shooting star at Sungai Burung, Balik Pulau
Night sky with shooting star at Sungai Burung, Balik Pulau (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

Sungai Burung is mostly a land of muddy coastal flats backed by low paddies, swaying palm trees and traditional Malay villages. It’s home to Pantai Malindo, where Penangites swear you can see Penang’s best sunset, and a few interesting places to have some time out enjoying nature.

Here are some of the best things you can do in Sungai Burung:

19Ride horses at Countryside Stables

(image courtesy of Countryside Stables)

A fantastic horse-riding center situated in the Sungai Burung area of Balik Pulau, Countryside Stables opened in 2012 and to date has about 30 different horses. From Arabian horses to Polo Ponys, Thai and Burmese horses, the enthusiastic owners always have the best match for horse lovers young and old. You can have some fun feeding hay to the animals or take a relaxing stroll around the lush surroundings. It’s also among the most popular locations for Penang pre-wedding photography. Highly recommended on weekends — but be aware that it can get pretty packed — and as an activity to do with kids. Don’t forget to check out our selection of the best things to do with kids in Penang.

20Pantai Malindo

Romantic sunset gazing at Balik Pulau’s Pantai Malindo (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

One of the little secrets of Balik Pulau, Penang’s most natural western side, Pantai Malindo stretches at the south of Kuala Sungai Burong. It’s a wide and deserted beach, in line with its off-beat location, and sees few visitors. Don’t think you can really swim here, for the high and low tides make the place eternally muddy. But this is one of Penang’s best places to come see the sunset, and there are good views of Pulau Betong island from the shore. The beach is just at the end of the road where you find Countryside Stables.

21Nada Natural Farming

A day out at Nada Natural Farming, one of the hippest bistros in Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

This private organic farm has become some sort of an Instagram sensation — and we don’t see the hype, as it’s a simple field — so much so it became a secluded bistro. Only open from Friday to Sunday, customers are allowed to visit and dine in either from 4 to 6 pm or 6 pm to 8 pm.

The place has simple outdoor seating and a charming gazebo covered by climbing plants from where lights are choreographically hung and come alive at night. They serve kinds of pasta (from 25RM and up) garnished with their natural organic ingredients, coffee, and their own series of different-tasting kefir drinks. Each bottle is about 450ml for 25RM and can be shared among friends. Come if you wish to experience a hip and trendy bistro tucked within a patch of quiet greenery, and far away from the coffee scene of George Town.

Balik Pulau’s Paddy Fields

There’s a big area of flat paddy fields between Balik Pulau Town and Pulau Betong. Once the kingdom of adventurous cyclists, it has now gained popularity thanks to the container that was dropped here in 2019 during Penang’s first Container Art Festival.

paddy fields in the center of Balik Pulau
Lush paddy fields in the center of Balik Pulau (image by Kit Yeng Chan)

Balik Pulau has many paddy fields, but this area is particularly good for walking, taking pictures and observing how the rice grows. You can drive a car or a motorbike through it, and some people started building homes among the paddies — it won’t be surprising to see this place pick up with homestays and tourists pretty soon. This said, a must-see in Balik Pulau, especially at sunrise and in the early morning, when the paddies turn vibrant with light.

Southern Balik Pulau: Pulau Betong

There’s plenty to do in the southwestern-most tip of Penang: called Pulau Betong, this is a less-developed area of great natural beauty, where flat and green paddy fields bump against low hills on one side, and the ocean on the other.

From excellent seafood to quaint traditional fishing villages, durian farms and lush vegetation, this is one of Penang’s most beautiful and most undiscovered corners.

For starters, this is a map of the Pulau Betong area:

And here are some of the best things you can do in Pulau Betong:

22Visit Pulau Betong Village

This diminutive fishing village is the main “stop” in Pulau Betong. It’s literally a cluster of homes set next to a jetty and a fishing port, and their related fish market. There is a good mix of Chinese and Malay populations here, and you’ll be able to visit the traditional areas of both ethnic groups.

Pulau Betong village is also the starting point for angling trips around this corner of the island and has one of Penang’s most celebrated Chinese seafood restaurants, Jia Sang, which we’ll describe in the next section.

23Eat fresh Seafood at Jia Sang

This mom and pop restaurant set under the veranda of a local Chinese shophouse is famous and for all the good reasons. The location is as grassroots as it is lovely, and the food is very good.

If you feel like it, you can walk to the nearby fish market and buy the catch of the day. Jia Sang’s staff are more than happy to cook it for you for a fee. Don’t miss their Thai sauce, with which every fish tastes heavenly.

Here’s a map of Jia Sang Seafood:

24Pantai Pasir Panjang

Pantai Pasir Panjang, is certainly one of Penang’s best beaches to swim on (image by Marco Ferrarese)

When I first found this beach several years ago I couldn’t believe my eyes: long, beautiful golden sand against a backdrop of dense tropical vegetation. The water was clear and warm, a pleasure to swim in. I returned several times until I got stung by a jellyfish on my left wrist. It left a mark on my arm that lasted three long months. Most recently, people have drowned here, and the beach has been declared unsafe for swimming. Watch out, as there’s a military camp right behind it, and they control.
Putting these nuisances aside, in my opinion, Pantai Pasir Panjang remains Penang’s best beach. It’s a pity to see it increasingly dirty with the rubbish that too many callous locals leave behind after their beach picnics. What the hell, Penangites, clean up your act!

Here’s a map of Pantai Pasir Panjang:

25Pulau Betong

Pulau Betong rising off the coast of Balik Pulau (image by Marco Ferrarese)

This solitary islet floats off the southwestern end of Penang, directly opposite the fishing village of the same name. It’s an inhabited, forested little island that has remained cut off from touristic exploitation, and yet doesn’t really offer anything besides a Robinson Crusoe experience. It’s popular for fishing and angling, though. You can see it very close from the main access road to Pantai Pasir Panjang, from where it soars from the sea like the back of a giant turtle.

Pros: super secluded, great natural beauty
Cons: Not easy to reach
How to Get There: Fishermen at the Pulau Betong village can organize boat transfers to Pulau Betong, but unless you want to go angling, it’s probably not worth shelling out to spend just a few hours here.

26Hiking from Pulau Betong to Gertak Sanggul along some of southern Penang’s best scenery

Climbing above Pulau Betong village in Balik Pulau, things start getting green and wild… (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Beyond seafood and beaches, Pulau Betong is a great place to hike in Balik Pulau. There’s a paved track made by farmers that climbs up over the final cordon of Penang’s southwestern hills all the way to Gertak Sanggul. You can leisurely complete this straightforward hike in less than two hours, for the best part of which you’ll be walking high above the coast, taking in beaches, forests, and the undulating curves of the island’s final stretch.

Coastal views of southern Balik Pulau from the Pulau Betong to Gertak Sanggul trail
Coastal views of southern Balik Pulau from the Pulau Betong to Gertak Sanggul trail (image by Marco Ferrarese)

The trek’s starting point is the road that runs next to this red Chinese temple:

Please note that even though Google Maps marks this route as a motorable road, it really is not. You can try using a small motorbike like the Honda EX5 but be warned that the whole track is not entirely paved. Walking and looking out at the scenery is the preferred way to go, and you can consider returning to the city via the Sungai Nibong bus terminal by catching a Rapid Penang Bus from the end of the trail at Gertak Sanggul Beach.

27Go back in time to the Hakka Village

This is another short hike to a traditional Hakka Village perched on the hills above northern Pulau Betong. It’s some sort of “hidden tourist place” where you can order a traditional meal and relax in the Nipah huts. You can find the access road (a sign in Chinese only) to Hakka village along the main Pulau Betong road. It’s possible to continue hiking across the hills to Teluk Kumbar, so you may park your car on either side.

28Take an ATV Tour in Balik Pulau

Riding in Balik Pulau’s countryside on an ATV is a great way to see an undiscovered side of Penang (image by Marco Ferrarese)

Only a short ride away from the second entry of Penang National Park in Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau offers ATV tours. Riding one of these buggies is a very scenic and adventurous way to explore the back roads of Pulau Betong, exploring some pristine and forested areas in the southwestern corner of Penang island. Penang ATV Eco Tour Balik Pulauis operates two different routes that snake for 10 kilometres off the main road and into paddy fields and back paths. One of the two circuits ends at Malindo beach, one of Penang’s best beaches, and it’s particularly scenic at sunset.

The ATV trips in Balik Pulau last between one and two hours and costs RM100/RM150 per person (local/foreigner have different prices). It’s a fun activity to do with friends, even if one can’t drive — riding pillion costs only an additional RM50, and it can also be a cool thing to do with children while in Penang.

Visiting Balik Pulau: the Verdict

As you may have understood if you read until here, there’s A LOT to do in Balik Pulau and you shouldn’t put off a visit once in Penang. We understand: the hype is always for George Town, but aren’t you bored of sharing the same restaurants with the same boring tourists, dodging their selfie-sticks as you try to snap a photo next to a piece of Penang street art?
Seriously, if you are tired of this circus-like I am, Balik Pulau could be your reason to come back and enjoy Penang discovering something you didn’t think existed on the island.

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