Britain has the lido and France has the piscine. In these two countries – where the weather is often unpredictable and usually disappointing – the culture of free communal swimming pools has captivated society since the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, ‘public bathing’ goes as far back to the ancient Greek and Roman eras despite, even then, having to negotiate mostly unappealing climates.
Penang sits in latitudinal bliss just over five degrees north of the equator and is predictably hot with dependable blue skies, more often than not. However, most swimming pools are private, enclosed in condominium or hotel complexes, which is fine if you live in one or have friends that can invite you in but most are inaccessible otherwise, with the exception of a handful of hotels that allow access for a daily fee. The sea itself is not always inviting as even the most pristine beaches often harbour jellyfish. But fortunately there are good public swimming pools hidden away around the island for the use of all.
Youth Park (Taman Belia or Penang Municipal Park)
On Waterfall Road – the road taking you to the Botanical Gardens – is the Youth Park, also known as Penang Municipal Park. Accessible by road or from the jungle after the hike down Penang Hill’s northern side, this little oasis surrounded by jungle is a fun, family friendly water playground surrounded by eclectic jungle fauna. It contains a number of different pools: a long, shallow children’s pool with dark blue tiles and water jets arching over its surface; stepped, curvy family pools leading down to the jungle’s edge, surrounded by shower fountains. Rain trees, provide much needed shade and the abundant greenery cools the area nicely.
As an added dynamic, there are plenty of other activities within Penang Municipal Park. Kids can crawl, climb and slide in the park’s jungle gym. Adults, young and old, can make good on their weekly exercise regime on the circuit of non-weighted training equipment. There is also a giant chessboard, a roller-skating track, skate park and reflexology paths.
Entrance: Free of charge
Opening Hours: 7am-7pm daily
Address: Persiaran Kuari (just off Jalan Kebun Bunga), Pulau Tikus
Teluk Bahang Forest Recreational Park
On the north-west corner of Penang Island, close to Penang’s National Park, is the Teluk Bahang Forest Recreational Park (Taman Rimba). At approximately 32 hectares, this well-maintained park offers swimming pools, picnic and camping areas, and a playground, as well as a choice of four well-marked hiking trails skirting the virgin rain forest adjoining the park. With a more natural approach to these communal outdoor pools, the swimming areas have the aspect of natural ponds, and are more suited to a refreshing dip than a long lap swim; but the rock borders and sandy bottoms with green-blue water are enchanting to plunge in, or to sit beside and enjoy the feeling of being in the countryside far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Entrance: Free of Charge
Opening hours: Every day except Friday: 9.00am to 5.00pm; Friday: 9.00am to 12.00noon, 2.45pm to 5.00pm
Address: Taman Rimba, Jalan Teluk Bahang (next to Entopia Butterfly Park)
SPICE Aquatic Centre
An entirely different, and completely indoor experience is on offer at the family-orientated SPICE Aquatic Centre has something for everyone: an Olympic size lap pool, three-tier diving pool and children’s water theme park. The indoor swimming complex is full of colour and vibrancy. Under the surface, visitors will be pleased to know that the complex is powered by solar energy. The complex also contains a lounge, dance studios, sauna rooms, badminton and squash courts and a gymnasium.
Entrance: Adults – RM8 (Monday to Friday / 8am to 6pm), RM10 (Monday to Friday / 6pm to 11pm) and RM10 (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday / 8am to 11pm). Children under 12 and senior citizens over 55 – RM6 (Monday to Friday / 8am to 6pm), RM8 (Monday to Friday / 6pm to 11pm) and RM8 (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday / 8am to 11pm)
Opening hours: Daily from 8am to 11pm, including public holidays.
Address: Jalan Tun Dr Awang, Bayan Baru.
Permata Swimming Pool
Located in Ayer Itam, the swimming pool in the Permata Sport Complex is open to the public for a small fee. As a professional sports centre with a strong and ardent membership, this pool is for those looking for a more concentrated swimming effort. For those swimmers more concerned with laps than play, Permata boasts a well-maintained nine-lane Olympic-sized swimming pool with racing diving boards. However, despite the slightly more serious swimming environment, at the top end of the main pool is a shallow kid’s pool making it easy for parents to swim while keeping an eye on their little ones at the same time.
Entrance: For non-members RM5 (Adult), RM2 (kids below 12 year old)
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 9.00AM – 11.00AM and 4.00PM – 9.00PM ; Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: 9:00AM – 9:00PM
19, Lintang Paya Terubong Satu, Bandar Baru Air Itam