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Field Trip: Penang Butterfly Farm

I’m glad we made ourselves get out of our hotel room at 4pm to make the drive down to Teluk Bahang. We’d just checked in to our rooms after a rather sleepy and long car journey out from Taiping, and it was truly tempting to just sprawl on the bed and veg out.

Finding out that the Butterfly Farm closed at 6pm, we thought the timing was just about right, as we could leave directly from there to go for a hawker fare dinner on the beach afterward. 😛

It was a magical experience. DH and DD held butterflies on their palms for the first time.  This is a New Lacewing on DD’s hand.

I have to admit I was too chicken to try. Still am, haha.

Penang tourist attractions maintain a differentiated pricing structure, tourists pay a higher price whereas MYKAD and MYKID holders (Malaysian citizens) pay a subsidised price. So Malaysian citizens, do not forget to bring your MYKAD as there is a MYR 9 difference which can buy you a plate of char kuey teow, a bowl of curry mee and cendol for dessert with some change left over!

We arrived just in time to join a free nature guided tour which turned out to be an immensely educational experience. I wished I had brought a notebook but it was probably not possible to take any notes with DS clinging onto me, so I tried my best to remember snippets from the commentary. Tough…

The Penang Butterfly Farm was established in the 1980s, it is a live butterfly and insect sanctuary. Behind the scenes of the public exhibition, is a research and development facility dedicated to breeding, conservation and nature awareness of butterflies and insects, with particular focus on the conservation of the endangered Yellow Birdwing (Troides Helena).

On our tour, we were shown the four stages of a butterfly life cycle, from egg

to larva (this is a New Lacewing caterpillar)

to pupa (chrysalis)

and imago (adult butterfly, I forgot to ask which species this is).

Butterflies come from the order of Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings” in Greek. Enlarged on a microscope, these are the scales on the wings of a butterfly, it is like what our human skin is to us.

This is the image of the scales under a microscope.

Image Credits: Penang Butterfly Farm

These scales can detach from the wings easily upon touching them, so we were told to not catch or hold a butterfly by its wings as the powdery substance left on our fingers are actually the scales fallen off, which can negatively impact the butterfly’s ability to fly.

Our guide also showed us an example of mating butterflies in the garden. The male attaches itself to the female and the two may remain coupled between an hour to overnight, depending on the species.

When a mating couple flies, it is usually the female who bears the weight of the two, and does most of the work in the flying. Hmm, lazy males!

The farm also houses insects in both its greenhouse as well as an indoor education centre. Outdoors, we were shown a Mexican Redknee Tarantula

and a black scorpion.

And some 30 cm long millipedes that the Nature Specialist explained were really harmless and misunderstood.

Misunderstood I can understand, I won’t harm them but I’m still running far far away if I encounter any of these foot-long crawlies….brrr…I have shivers down my spine just writing about it…

Can you spot the stick insect amidst the twigs?

Here it is, on my mum’s hand!

In its indoor education centre, visitors can view a huge collection of spiders, beetles, bugs and frogs. Kept safely behind glass walls, phew!

At the end of our tour, we were each given a little container with a butterfly inside that had just freshly emerged from the pupa and was ready to fly. You can open the container and release the butterfly into the air.

DD was so excited about this, she was given a second container.  That was fun! 🙂

For the educational and informative value, I really would like to go back again, but I have to say the entrance fee is a rather prohibitive factor.

Whilst I acknowledge that I really shouldn’t complain given the favourable exchange rate between the SGD and MYR, hopefully in future, the farm could find a way to either provide more value in the experience, or lower the pricing a little more.

Getting there:

Penang Butterfly Farm
No. 830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: 60-4-8851253
Web: http://www.butterfly-insect.com
Email: info@butterfly-insect.com

Field Trip: Taiping Zoo

We spent a few days holidaying in Malaysia during the December school holidays, and took a driving trip up to Taiping and Penang.

When my aunt, who lives in Taiping, heard that we intended to visit the Taiping Zoo, she laughed and said, if our kids had already visited the Singapore Zoo, what could a small town zoo offer in terms of excitement and new discovery for our kids?

Well, quite a lot, as we soon found out to our delight! 🙂

The first zoo to have been established in Malaysia, the Taiping Zoo is more of an unpolished gem – a little rough around the edges but with some really invaluable discoveries – as compared to the more tourism savvy Singapore Zoo which is very geared towards edutainment, shows and structured activities.

Admission is priced at MYR 12 per adult, MYR 8 per child (3–12 years) and the day zoo is open from 8:30am to 6pm.  From 8pm to 11pm, it runs a Night Safari which is priced slightly more expensively.

Commentaries and label descriptions are largely dispensed in local Bahasa Malaysia, which means either you understand it fully or you don’t understand it at all. Language challenge opportunity to figure out why a hippo is called badak air and a rhino, badak sumbu?

There were no maps available at the ticketing counter, so we had to find our own way around the place. In this respect, it is useful to take advantage of the free tram ride and go for it first thing, to gain your bearings.

With a compressed schedule, we didn’t quite get to walk the entire length and breadth as we would have liked so we personally found the tram ride that much useful in at least getting a brief overview of the different sights the zoo has to offer.

When we got off the tram, we stopped by the usual favourites of the children, like the giraffes and zebras, elephants, tigers and lions.

The animals appeared a lot livelier in Taiping than Singapore, and we think this could be because of the lack of shows in the former. There aren’t any scheduled shows, so there are no droves of people rushing for seats and spaces. I personally like this because each can then people or animal-watch at leisure and go about their own business. Sometimes I tend to feel that because we’ve paid an expensive admission into the Singapore Zoo, we need to make the most value of the price and see every show there is – which becomes a rather stressful undertaking!

We saw a tiny baby elephant nursing from its mother, surrounded by all the other elephants in the herd, who took turns to assure and protect the little one between their strong legs.

Majestic Malayan tigers enjoying a morning swim.

 

Cute but fierce little lion cubs gambolling around while their father and mother relaxed lazily in the shade in a neighbouring enclosure.

And an interesting “one-sided argument” between an antagonized ostrich and a nonchalant giraffe.

It was all very relaxed and pleasant, and a very enriching experience for the kids who had not to date, seen baby lions or baby elephants in the Singapore Zoo.

The zoo is located within the Taiping Lake Gardens, the gardens themselves valued for its deep historical worth as the first public gardens established during British rule in Malaysia.

There is always a constant hum of activity in the Lake Gardens with joggers and walkers traversing its paths at dawn, and cars passing through the busy roundabout throughout the night.

These over-hundred-year-old golden rain trees with their branches bent down towards the water are the most frequently photographed and admired residents of the garden.

Travel Cherating

Chatting to friends after the camp, we realised that for many of us, it was our first time driving to the eastern side of the Peninsular Malaysia.

Which is a bit of a shame. Because the east is really very pleasantly rustic and peaceful. Or maybe it’s just Cherating itself, ha!

People go about their daily activities without the rush and bustle we’re so accustomed to in the city. And life in general just slows down to the pace of a lazy stroll along the beach.

DH is already talking about a return trip. 🙂

*****

We split our drive to Cherating into two parts – Day 1: Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, and Day 2: Kuala Lumpur to Cherating.

Day 1: Singapore – Tuas – Pagoh – Ayer Keroh – Kuala Lumpur
The North-South highway up from Singapore is an easy 4.5 hour drive. Roads are well sealed, with many conveniently situated R&R stops for food, restrooms and petrol.

If you would like to take a break from preparing breakfast and try the R&R stops along the way, Yong Peng or Pagoh make good breakfast stops for local food. I personally feel that Ayer Keroh’s bridge restaurant is overrated. But in its defense, it does have an A&W restaurant (now defunct in Singapore) to satisfy those of us with root beer and coney dog cravings.

I do still bring breakfast for the kids, mostly because stopping for meals with kids really does take up a significant amount of time that we feel could be better spent mowing down the miles. That’s because we usually like to get to our destination as soon as possible, where the following await:

  1. a piping hot lunch by grandma (she always prepares their favourites)
  2. the creature comforts of a home environment (oh, to stretch our legs on a couch!)

You should bring your own tissues for restrooms as the rolls provided sometimes run out. Tissue paper is usually stocked in a single dispenser located just before the toilet stalls. There are none provided in the toilet stalls.

As for babies and young toddlers… some R&R stops do have diaper changing facilities but I’ve never actually used the rooms, preferring to change DS quickly with a changing mat on the driver’s seat. 

*****

Day 2: Kuala Lumpur – Karak – Temerloh – Maran – Gambang – Cherating
On paper, Kuala Lumpur to Cherating, does not look like a long journey. It baffles the mind of the unitiated, how it can take almost the same amount of time north from Singapore and east from KL.

But you have to see it happen to believe it. Bleah.

The KL-Karak highway, which is a necessary part of the journey, is super prone to traffic jams. At all hours of the day (why ever, escapes me…)
That stretch alone, takes up the bulk of the journey time, after which the route through Temerloh that eventually winds north after Gambang is a very happy drive.

The two biggest R&R stops along the way from KL-Kuantan are Temerloh and Gambang. We chose to stop at Gambang for lunch. Road-wise it is only a 45 minute drive further on from Temerloh but map-wise, it gives one a greater sense of achievement – we are that much closer to our destination!  😀

The Eastern highway is not as well-sealed as the main North-South, so the ride can be a tad bumpy at times.

But jumping mini-fridges seem to make good entertainment for the kids…      *shrug and smile*

By the way, Eastern food is even more spicy than what you get on the Western coast. You have been forewarned.

I like to get our holidays off to a good start, so I pack travel lunches for the kids to mitigate the risk of upset toddler stomachs. 😉    (yeah that’s me, a signature kiasu* control freak in every sense of the word…)

* N.B. kiasu = Singaporean colloquialism that means “afraid to lose out or be left behind”

*****

Kiasu Tips for Road Travel with Young Children:  (even more kiasu than the average Singaporean!!)  😛

  1. Invest in a travel potty. It’s singularly the most useful item in our car for emergencies when we’re unable to make a stop for a pee or poo break.
  2. On Malaysian highways, if you use a Touch-n-Go card for the toll payments, top up as as soon as you see a “Tambah Nilai” booth because the next one could be really really really really really really far away…
  3. Bring back-up food, snacks and water. The local spicy cuisine is great tasting but can play havoc on young stomachs or even adult stomachs not accustomed to the seasoning used.
  4. Forget the Amex, what you really need are tissues and wipes, tissues and wipes, tissues and wipes. Don’t leave home without them.
  5. Bring toys, books and music to keep occupied. Traffic congestion on the highways, when it happens, is an awful bumper-to-bumper crawling affair.
  6. Time your drive around the children’s naptime and steer clear of rush hour timings. Good planning can get children napping about midway or two-thirds through the drive and awaking close to arrival time – perfect!

Click on this link to view a map of Peninsular Malaysia and track our route.  🙂

Scenes from Cherating

What better way to start a workweek than by reminding myself of our holiday!  😛

A beach with no ships, no tankers and no containers on the horizon.  Just glorious endless sky and sea…

My futile quest to build sandcastles…none of them lived to see more than 60  seconds of life as DS systematically demolished them one by one with his trusty red spade.  Gah.

The garden walkway from meals to the function hall.  Lots of real-life vines and climbers to revisit our Alphabet wall craft on v for vine.  😀

Jackfruit (I think, haha…) fallen from trees lining a pathway behind the hotel lobby.  There were many on the ground…and many more weighing down branches overhanging our heads!

 

Morning walks with a restless son who’d tired of quiet colouring activities during the bible study sessions!

Sun sand sea

image from www.cuti.com.my

Goodbye city.  Hello beach!

Goodbye office. Hello resort!

Goodbye fluorescent lights. Hello sun!

Goodbye concrete. Hello sand!