Over the National Day long weekend, we escaped to Penang for a short 3D2N family trip to visit the kids’ paternal Grandma and took the chance to check out one of Penang’s most kid-friendly hotels at Batu Ferringhi.
Here’s a video which gives an overview of our stay at the Holiday Inn Resort, Penang.
Not just 1 but 2 Playlabs!
“The kids just don’t want to leave…they just want to play!” remarked a staff member as we were trying to peel our two kids away from the Playlab for our dinner…I don’t really blame them! Here at Holiday Inn Resort Penang, there is not just one but two big Playlabs – a kids’ club of sorts, designed specially for kids! Better still, the two Playlabs are differentiated for two general age groups – Preschool Age and Primary School Age. How cool? Both Playlabs look spanking new, very inviting and well-stocked with craft and games to occupy the kids.
The Playlab at the Feringghi Tower is catered for older kids and is about twice the size of the Preschool Playlab. It has a makeshift ‘rock-climbing’ slope that leads to a tree house with a a slide that slides down to a ball pit – a hit with the kids! Below the tree is a tunnel lit by UV lights, right next to it is a little room filled with Lego bricks for the kids to engage in some imaginative-play. A smart projector throws an interactive game for the kids to play using their shadow. Not far is also an interactive table with a drawing software that allows the older kids to indulge in some digital drawings. In fact, the entire room just oozes with vibes of creativity, experimentation and play.
The Beach Tower houses the Playlab suitable for preschoolers. Situated next to the hotel pool, it comes complete with a tree house with adorable toadstools that double as cosy reading caverns. At the other side of the room are book shelves with two tree holes cut into the wall, decorated like trees for kids to sit within to read. Very imaginative and cosy. In the center of the room is a large table for children’s art and craft /Lego activities. Both Playlabs are in a class of its own! No wonder the kids can spend hours there and still find it so reluctant to leave.
Both Playlabs are manned by staff who would supervise the kids as they play. Occasionally, movies or cartoons are shown. Do note that there may be a slight language barrier with the staff as some are proficient only in basic English so it’s recommended for at least 1 parent to keep a watchful eye over their activities. However, at the Holiday Inn Resort Penang, play is not just confined to the Playlabs only –there are plenty of fun outside too!
Onsite Kids’ Activities:
A range of wholesome activities for families are featured during the weekend afternoons at the poolside. Today it is kite-making out on the lawn. One staff member was showing the kids how kites are made in the traditional way. In addition, there are seasonal pool games and lots of water sports options along the beach.
Hop On-Hop Off…and Hop in!
The Hop On and Hop Off (HOHO) bus is a fuss-free, convenient way to travel around Penang with two routes that ply the beach area and city area respectively. We found out that there is a HOHO bus stop right outside the hotel so we took the HOHO Bus across two days to visit two of the latest attractions in Penang, namely:
1) The TOP at KOMTAR: Penang’s latest attraction at the heart of Georgetown itself. There we were able to see and experienced an indoor amusement park of sorts which includes the following:
o Jurassic Research Center where we could see a wide-range of life-sized dinosaurs in a ‘research lab’ setting.
o The Rainbow Skywalk where we walked on the ‘see-through’ bridge 60-over stories above Penang!
o An Indoor Kids Playground (Dino Gym)
o An exciting carnival with simulator rides and old school carnival games
Note: To reach KOMTAR, we took the Beach route to Gurney Drive where we switched over to the City route. The entire route before reaching Komtar took us through large parts of the city and the major city sights including Penang Hill station. The total journey took us about 2 hours. We started in the morning and reached Komtar in time for the opening times of the Top around 11am. The return trip was much shorter and took half the time.
2) Entopia: A world-class sanctuary for butterflies and insects! This newly opened attraction is highly educational and features a wide range of insects in their natural habitats. The whole place is so engaging!
With the HOHO Bus, we were able to say goodbye to the costs and hassle of getting a taxi. Read more about our experience of the HOHO Bus from our previous post or from the HOHO Bus website. Note: The HOHO Bus journey from hotel to Entopia took about 20 minutes. For more details, visit Entopia’s website.
Recreational and Dining Facilities
With the kids gainfully occupied, we adults then can take things easier and enjoy some of the facilities around this iconic Batu Feringghi hotel. Aside from the two Playlabs, the hotel has the following facilities for guests to rest, relax and reconnect:
– A spacious gym with state-of –the art exercise equipment,
– A pool that is big enough for a myriad of activities
– A lap pool for the younger kids
– A games area the 1st floor of the Feringghi Tower where guests can play either a variety of games or just lounge around comfortably watching their favorite cable channel
– An in-house spa
The Terrace Café is the main restaurant of the resort. Situated at the Beach Tower, it is the ‘go to’ place for meals throughout the day. The buffet spread during breakfast has a mix of continental, western and local cuisine. Our favorite during our stay was the Nasi Lemak and Roti Canai. During our stay, the dinner buffet was serving Indian cuisine ranging from North to South Indian. We were excited, as it was a cuisine that we seldom get to try at home. The chefs themselves were there to meet and greet the guests as we dine.
We love the myriad of curries and the especially the Tandoori Chicken which was delectable – not overcooked, succulent with a smokey hint from the tandoor oven. Just as we were impressed with the chicken and curries, the chef impressed us even more with his Butter Chicken served with fresh Garlic Naans – this sealed the ‘deal’ for us: chicken cooked so well in butter based curry that it exudes the subtle taste of the herbs. The savoury Garlic Naan was one of the best we’ve tasted. I could go back there just for this alone! For desserts, we were recommended the Galub Jamun – sweet dough balls cooked warm and cold served in sweet syrup. The chef recommended that we try the hot version with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. It was heavenly!
During both breakfast and dinner, the service was brisk and personable. Do note that the Terrace is across the road at the Beach Tower so allow some time to walk across and back if your room is at the Feringghi Tower. During peak hours, the restaurant can be teeming with families – a testament of the popularity of the resort among family travellers in the region.
We stayed in the Family Room at the Feringghi Tower. The room was a large room partitioned comfortably into two. One side had a King-sized bed while the other had two single beds. There was enough space to put in a 3rd single bed for the kids’ Paternal Grandma who came over to spend some time with her Grandkids.
The décor and furnishings of the room had a retro feel but the beddings were comfortable and clean. The room boasts of modern amenities including LCD TVs and even PlayStation 3 set for the kids (with 3 games included with the room). The bathroom is large with a feel reminiscent of the 80s. But it had a complete set of bathroom amenities including a set especially for the kids. The room came with a balcony but some construction work over at the nearby hillside marred the scenery slightly.
A Note to the GM:
This is a new feature in our hotel reviews where we sum up our stay in a short blurb highlighting the areas we enjoyed as well as areas, which we felt needed some attention. We enjoyed the warm hospitality accorded to us at the Holiday Inn Resort, Penang and are fond of the facilities and amenities that cater especially to children.
A few points to note however. The décor and furnishing in and around the hotel, including the rooms, though clean and comfortable, seem slightly dated. We hear that the hotel has plans to carry out refurbishment in phases and we look forward to see the hotel being given a new lease of life in the near future.
Another area of suggestion is that the two hotel towers are linked by a pedestrian bridge stretching across the busy Batu Ferringhi road. Families who are travelling with young kids (in strollers) and guests with mobility issues (e.g. the aged or disabled) should be given special priority to be housed in rooms at the Beach Wing (where the main restaurant is located). This will save them the hassle of negotiating the stairs of the pedestrian bridge when crossing over to use the key facilities, including its main restaurant, found only at the Beach wing. Alternatively, the hotel could provide a complimentary trishaw or buggy service to bring guests back to the Tower Wing.
The two new Playlabs are a big hit with kids so kudos for this new addition. Perhaps you might want to provide the option for parents to pre-order Kids’ Lunch (from the Kids’ Menu) upon drop off should they want to leave their kids in the Playlabs across meal times. The convenience of having HOHO Bus Stop right in front of the hotel offers families like us easy access to major tourist spots of Penang. For free and easy family travellers, the Holiday Inn Resort Penang serves as an affordable and safe accommodation choice to rest, reconnect and discover Penang. So Dear GM, thank you for this unforgettable experience. We’ll be back!
Full Disclosure: We were invited to stay at the resort for the purposes of this review. All photos and opinions are, as usual, authentically ours.