A true retreat sometimes means discovering hidden gems in lesser known towns, instead of visiting popular tourist destinations which are likely to be crowded during the height of holidays. Bordering mainland Penang in the west sits such a town named Kulim.
A small district in the state of Kedah, Kulim is surrounded by a curious collection of spectacular spots that will make it onto any serious traveller’s list. From enchanting forests to historic sites and quaint villages, you will find your expectations for an adventure repeatedly exceeded in this unlikely place. Check out our top picks for a trail of attractions to visit in and around Kulim.
Zen out in Terap Pine Forest
With an endless rows of towering pine trees, Terap Pine Forest looks like something out of a European postcard. A blend of breath-taking nature and wondrously fresh air, this woodland speaks to both photographers and nature lovers.
Make an afternoon campout out of it by tying some hammocks between the sturdy pine barks. If you are up for a photography stroll through the cooling woods, scenic spots like a wooden swing or stacks of fallen logs abound for an effortless photoshoot. With lattices of sunlight dramatically filtered in by the tall trees, you will find almost every corner perfect for a captivating shot.
Take a dip in Frog Hill
A mere half an hour’s drive from the city of Kulim, Frog Hill is a paradise of turquoise lakes and crimson cliffs that is quickly gaining fame for its Insta-worthy tranquillity. A true hidden gem, getting to this abandoned quarry is itself an adventure as travellers need to exit the main road via Jalan Arumugum Pillai followed by a short drive through uncharted paths before they glimpsed the sanctuary.
Whether you are an avid photographer or simply a soul-searcher, you will be rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of rocky landscapes that look almost like works of art and serene blue lakes after a short hike to the peak. Thrill-seekers can come in their swimming gear and leap off the cliffs into the crystal-clear waters below. Bikers can also enjoy their time here on the rocky terrain.
Visit early in the morning or in the evening for the best experience, as this isolated haven can get scorching hot in the afternoon. Gather a few friends, pack your hiking gear, and a bountiful lunch for a genuine outdoor retreat.
Countryside charm at Permatang Rawa
Named after the Rawanese people who settled here, Permatang Rawa is a quaint village of wooden houses surrounded by an infinite stretch of paddy fields. With nothing in sight except for a few lolling coconut trees that dot the endless greenery, the village commands a definite countryside charm especially at sunrise.
Whether you take a leisurely stroll down the narrow paths or simply sit by the fields, you are guaranteed to find inner peace in this unlikely paradise. As the village has limited streetlights, visit earlier in the day for a safer trip.
Fruit feast atop Suling Hill
Located in Mengkuang, Bukit Mertajam, Suling Hill offers a resplendent view of Penang Island from a distance as well as the plains of Mainland Penang. Among the main attractions atop this hill is the fruit orchard which yields various breeds of durians and other tropical fruits like rambutans and mangosteen. Travellers get to feast on handpicked fruits on beautifully landscaped gardens overlooking the horizon.
Laid with paths that winds elegantly alongside trimmed shrubs and multicoloured flower bushes, the garden also grants a surprisingly enjoyable stroll around the peak for visitors after their fruit feast. You can also arrange for a seafood steamboat dinner on the manicured lawns.
Although the journey up the hill can be quite challenging for a passenger car, the delights that this peak has to offer far outweighs the bumpy ride.
Stroll around the Church of St. Anne
Built in the 19th century by French missionaries, the Church of St Anne is a true historic monument and the perfect place for an introspective stroll. Standing majestically in Cherok Tokun, Bukit Mertajam, this church is the biggest of its kind in the country – comprising the Old Church erected in 1888, a present church building where Mass is held, as well as other facilities.
The first church in Malaysia to be granted the status of a “minor basilica” by the Vatican City, the Church hosts an annual Feast of St Anne in July which draws over 100,000 pilgrims from the Southeast Asian countries as well as Australia.
Even if you miss this significant celebration, you can still treat yourself to a step back in time by walking the grounds around the magnificent Sanctuary of St Anne and admiring the colonial architecture. Glimpse the Cherok Tokun Relics housed just across the driveway, a megalith inscribed with Pali which is believed to date back to the 5th or 6th sanctuary.
Birdwatching at Penang Bird Park
Situated in Seberang Jaya, the five-acre Penang Bird Park houses over 300 species of birds of both local and foreign origins. Featuring gigantic aviaries blooming with tropical greenery, visitors will be able to see feathery friends ranging from the hornbill and parrots to exotic fowls as if in their natural habitat. The beautifully designed enclosure also boasts lotus and lily ponds around which pelicans and flamingos roam freely.
Birds aside, this peaceful oasis is also home to a plethora of animals including deer, monkeys, pythons, and crocodiles, giving especially children an exciting zoo-like experience. With such a novel proximity to wildlife, this might just be the refreshing escape you have been looking for from the hectic city life.
Feast at Raja Uda Apollo Market
Drive a little further out from Kulim and you will find the bustling Raja Uda Apollo Market. Known as the Chatuchak Market of Penang and arguably among the biggest of its kind in Northern Malaysia, this market houses over 400 vendors selling everything from local delicacies and fresh produce to children’s toys and sundry supplies.
The star of the market is uncontestably the vast selection of food – incredibly tasty, authentic, and supremely cheap. Feast on local favourites like Rojak and Curry Mee on no-frills plastic stools by the road or queue up to get your serving of dim sum or the famous yam dumplings from mouth-watering steamers. With the unending waft of delicious food and the wide choices available, be prepared to eat more than you can hold.
Sunset at Mengkuang Dam
The second dam to be built in Penang after the Air Itam Dam, the Mengkuang Dam is a serene stretch of sprawling green and jogging treks by the waters. Overlooking a horizon of hilly slopes across the dam, this beautiful park makes an incredible spot to catch the sunset.
Fill free to lay out a picnic spread on the well-kept lawns, or cycle along the trails by the dam. Visit in December to be part of the annual Penang International Dragon Boat Festival, where impassioned teams race each other in elaborately carved dragon boats in a grand event. Cheer alongside fired-up locals and be fully immersed in an exotic water sport that you will rarely witness in the cities.
Tune out at Tune Hotel Kulim
Unwind and rest up at Tune Hotel Kulim after your day of adventure. A short drive away from most of the hidden gems recommended here as well as just a stone’s throw away from the Landmark Central Shopping Centre, we offer all the essentials for a relaxing night’s stay at an unrivalled and budget-friendly rate. Access impeccable comfort, cleanliness, and modern amenities in a contemporary accommodation. Whether you are a travelling pack of two or four, Tune Hotel Kulim has a room for you.
Get in touch with us today for more information or to book your stay with us!