KAMPUNG houses surrounded by nature is part of Balik Pulau’s charm.
Predominantly rural, this part of Penang island is famous for great eats such as laksa, durian and mee udang (prawn noodles).
As a Parliamentary constituency, Balik Pulau has three state seats — Bayan Lepas, Pulau Betong and Teluk Bahang — with a total 59,136 registered voters according to the 2017 electoral roll.
Malay voters make up the majority with 38,476 voters or 65.1%, followed by the Chinese with 17,831 voters or 30.2%.
There are 2,558 Indian voters making up 4.3% in Balik Pulau while others make up 0.5% or 271 of the grand total of voters.
But hiding beneath the rustic peace, locals worry about social and developmental problems including landslides, rising property prices, hill clearing, drug problems and young racers on modified bicycles commonly known as ‘Mat Lajak’.
ESCAPE theme park founder Sim Choo Kheng said his company had to reject many job applicants who are locals of Teluk Bahang because they tested positive for drugs.
“It is a real problem and people are unable to secure jobs due to this. I hope the elected representative can provide a solution,” he said.
Teacher Khalisa Amir, 52, said cycling in Balik Pulau is an amazing experience but there was not enough infrastructure planned.
“I hope that the town area will have improvements to allow for safe cycling, similar to the cycling lanes that you see in George Town,” she said.
She also hopes youth programmes could be developed to keep youngsters away from the ‘Mat Lajak’ culture.
Aside from the Bayan Lepas industrial zone, the land on the western side of Penang island has many fishing villages, largely untouched by development and an example is the picturesque Kuala Sungai Betong, which has mangrove forest.
Nature-based tourism thrives in Balik Pulau with the likes of Bao Sheng Durian Farm, Happy Goats Farm and Countryside Stables that homes horses.
ESCAPE theme park, Entopia, Tropical Spice Garden and three hotels including a glamping (glamorous camping) site are in Teluk Bahang.
Astronomic tourism is up and coming with star gazing events held at Sheikh Tahir Astronomy Centre in Pantai Acheh and Lim Choon Kiat Observatory in Pulau Betong.
A road-upgrading project of RM207mil, from Bayan Lepas to Teluk Kumbar was completed in end-2017.
The Congestion Alleviation Transport (CAT) Balik Pulau free bus shuttle service was launched on April 20.
Garden townships are also part of Balik Pulau’s development plans, fully furnished and priced between RM713,000 and RM1.7mil.