Tropical Spice Garden
Teluk Bahang, Penang, Malaysia

by Kenneth Khoo
Click images to enlarge


"Water is the prominent feature whereby visitors can hear the sound of running water wherever they are, providing a cooling and soothing experience whilst strolling and exploring the garden." from Page 1


Water Features

Water from the living stream is recirculated throughout the garden via waterfalls, sluice, lakes and streams. The use of waterways not only provides an alternative habitat for a more diversified ecosystem but also serves as an irrigation network. 

< Watergarden - elevated view





Nature's spotlight on
aquatic plants >



These are manually constructed using natural and recycled materials. An important design element is working around the many bulging or protruding roots that often dictate the direction of the pathway complementing the garden's philosophy that we (human beings) are second to nature. As a safety measure, no step is built more than five inches in height and less than 19 inches in width (13 cm by 48 cm).  



< Areca Walkway



Wooden Structures

Pavilions, gazebos, gateways, bridges, benches, steps, sign posts and decking are constructed out
of a variety of Malaysian seasoned and mature hardwoods salvaged and recycled for use from demolished godowns and pre-war houses in Penang.  

Chinese Gate


< Chinese Door | ^ Malay Pavillion | Malay Pavillion interior ^

Thalia sp.


The challenge is to harmonise over 500 species/varieties of local and introduced tropical flora with the existing valley whilst maintaining the natural habitat of the local fauna through preservation of the indigenous plants. Endemic and culturally significant plants that are used as flavouring for food, medicines, dyes, perfumes and in customary practices have been specially selected to be showcased.  

Bamboo Garden

Ornamental Valley

Licuala palms


A mix of graphics and photography is used in signage application as a communication device to deliver the message and design relating to the garden. Easily read and visually attractive signage mounted on recycled timber poles are found throughout the garden providing plant information in both the English and Malay languages.

Giant Swing >

Viewing Stations

Benches built with more than generous proportions and deep seating are strategically positioned throughout the garden where visitors can rest and take in viewlines carefully crafted by managing plant growth habits to provide framed views of the Strait, valley and garden.

View from the Giant Swing >



Dry Stone Walls

These are built by a master builder from England based on a centuries-old craft which involves careful sorting and chipping of stones into shape which are piled into a wall without cement and held together solely by their own weight.   


Visitor Centre

Lone Crag Villa has been converted into a visitor centre hosting the Spice Museum, left, information counter, gift shop and the Spice Café, below. 

Perfume Door



Each trail begins at the water garden and provides sufficient interest for a 20-45 minute walk.


Large image | Larger image (250K)



Jungle Trail

A shady elevated pathway meandering through the existing jungle and overlooking the living stream showcases ferns, wild orchids, understorey palms and other significant jungle flora, some of which are major commercial crops (palm oil, rubber, cocoa) or used by Orang asli (indigenous tribes).



Ornamental Trail

In the heart of the valley is a collection of exotics chosen for their structural form (palms), ornamental foliage (ferns, crotons, Costus) or stunning flowers (gingers, Heliconias, etc). To provide a frame for the trail, mature and endemic palms are planted which will eventually give majestic presence and height.




Spice Trail

On the disused rubber terraces are over 100 species of tropical spice and herbal plants grown either in the ground or in 12-year-old oak barrels specially imported from Canada. There is also a "Spices of the World" globe installation painted by local artist-designer, Rebecca Duckett.

Spice Globe and its shelter


Tropical Spice Garden Article

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