Meltdown @ Tropical Spice Garden, Penang

Penang, Malaysia By

I try never to listen to the labels people place on each other especially the labels they give children. Terrible Twos is a horrible term in which I am constantly refusing to believe, but there are those moments when you are in a lush garden surrounded by beauty and birds singing, water trickling, monkeys jumping, lizards crawling… that can be ruined within seconds with the defiant cries of a my two year old son.


Our journey to the Tropical Spice Garden started off with good intentions. Like most plans where we aim to be out the door early, we didn’t leave until after 10:30am. This is really setting us up for a fail since my son generally needs his nap about 11:30am, but we persevered. 

The Tropical Spice Garden is an award winning man-made garden, just past Batu Ferringhi on a pleasant drive down the coastal Teluk Bahang Road. The large wooden gates frame the entrance nicely and we brought our 15MYR ($5AUD) tickets each just inside a small hut. Kids under 4 are free. Inside the hut while we were buying our tickets and getting map information the kids were getting stuck into the spices.

On the counter is a bowl full of lemongrass, cinnamon, nutmeg, and plenty of other spices. One of the ladies was breaking them open and getting my son and daughter to smell each one. We had quite a number of crinkled noses, “that’s disgusting” comments and “ooooooo yummy” too, thank goodness.

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After that amazing entrance it went down hill. Granted it was near naptime. Granted it was very hot and humid in the garden. Granted it was a walk. Granted he is 2 years old, but really?!

A few minutes in, the tears started and the breakdown happened. My toilet-training son peed his pants, refused to walk, and just sat down and cried. We cleaned him up, picked him up and, of course the tears were resolved. But any amount of putting down started the whole leg squeeze around the waist and “no, mummy, no” as his hands choked my neck.

From what I could see over my baby’s head the gardens were beautiful. There were so many different varieties of plants, spices, etc. There were bridges to cross, fish to spot, turtles to watch. But lugging around a 17kg baby in the hot Malaysian heat was not enjoyable and I quickly opted to take the kids to the 3D Slides & Ladders while Daddy photographed the surrounds on his own. Plus he is the spice king so better he bask in the glory of spices then be burdened by the squalling child.

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Set amongst the jungle trail is snakes and ladders come to life. You know the board game where you roll the dice and land on a square. If it’s a ladder you go up, if it’s a snake you are back at the bottom of the board? Well here amongst a canopy of trees is a real life board game set with squares, steps for ladders and slides for snakes.

Caius managed to detangle himself for a small wonder around before the sweat pooling around his face mingled with tears again. Mia refused to go down the slides. They were tunnels and she is not a fan of the dark. I managed to coax her down one, but it was hard work and we just played on the steps after that. She, of course, spending most time on the bright pink ones. 


Finally we made our way to the end of the garden where we spotted Tree Monkey. Nestled in the quiet of the Tropical Spice Garden sits this treasured gem. A Thai restaurant with a huge wooden veranda with tables overlooking the jungle and trees parted just so for glimpses of the ocean. The ambience and beauty of this place is worth the price alone, but then they bring out unbelievable Thai food as well.

Caius fell asleep on the final steps towards the restaurant and lunch was an absolutely quiet, divine affair.

If you are into gardens and spices you will love this. Older kids will find the Slides & Ladders a wonderful game as well. I would love to come back and visit the cooking school, I’ve heard great things about it and our great friend Beatrice from Our Foray Into The “Real” Penang also runs guides through the garden, which is extensive.

I love my son. I love him when he’s cranky, I love him when he has a meltdown, and I love him enough to carry him around a garden. But I tell you what I love, my mum so much at the moment, as she brought my stroller from Australia and now? Now I love that my son has a place to sleep after a terrible two moment. My son might not be a terrible two, but he sure has a few terrible moments.

How about you? Got a crazy tantrum moment? You can check out the first major tantrum Caius had 41 metres in the air!

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

We had a few meltdowns in Penang too. And it wasn't only the two-year-old who was terrible.
It's just one more parenting war story now it's over, Erin. And it's your story, too, because the poor little pooker is unlikely to remember it.

Barbara Oct 30th, 2012

You're such a lovely family! your kids are too cute :)
But I also must say that I admire you. I'm not really a maternal person and just the thought of having children makes me want to hide somewhere and wait until people stop asking me when I'm gonna have

Jo (The Blond) Oct 30th, 2012

Looks like a great place! I love that you traveling families write about experiences like these. We have an 8 year old (who is developmentally much younger because of his diagnosis of Down syndrome), a five year old and a two year old. Some days at home are very difficult and patience is hard to come by. I dream of traveling more, but wonder when we are having melt downs at home or on shorter trips, how we would manage on the road. It is encouraging to know that you guys are doing these big things despite dealing with the tantrums and melt downs and all the other challenges that being a parent brings. In the end, I feel like having the experience, even if it doesn't turn out the way we wanted it to, is better than not having it at all. That goes for us and the kids. Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into the not so glamorous moments of travel!

Rose Oct 31st, 2012

Oh our girls have meltdowns all the time. Mostly Kalyra. It is so difficult to deal with, but you get through it. It's all worth it in the end and you'l never stop loving them even though some times you have to move to the next room to get your time out space.

Caz Makepeace Nov 2nd, 2012

happened to us in the Vatican!! Oh geez!!

Paz Chentnik Nov 3rd, 2012

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