SOS call to remain open


Spice Fam members will get to enjoy exclusive camping passes at Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang.

TROPICAL Spice Garden (TSG) in Penang is appealing to Malaysians to help it remain operational through a ‘Join the Family, Save the Garden’ crowdfunding campaign.

The eco-attraction near Teluk Bahang has been hard hit by lockdowns and travel restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

With nobody through the turnstiles, the drop in revenue was drastic.

In a heartfelt video posted on its social media on Aug 1, TSG owner and managing director Katharine Chua said: “Our doors have been open and shut for the last 16 months and our existence is hanging by a thread.

“Although we’ve always prided ourselves on running a sustainable, environmentally-conscious business that places people at its heart, nothing could have prepared us for this challenge.

“We urgently need the community’s help to keep this garden open for the future generations.”

A screengrab of the heartfelt video of Chua highlighting their plight and appealing for help.A screengrab of the heartfelt video of Chua highlighting their plight and appealing for help.

Speaking to The Star recently, Chua revealed they had done all they could to balance the books, including trimming around three quarters of their staff shortly after the pandemic first hit.

The handful who remained took severe pay cuts or are working voluntarily.

Chua and husband Kenneth Khoo also had to dip into personal finances to cover overheads.

But amid all the gloom, they found a silver lining. There was a paradigm shift in the garden’s role.

Rather than a tourist attraction catering to one-time visitors, they felt it could instead be an extended backyard for the community to use regularly and connect with.

Towards that end, they introduced the Spice Fam garden membership programme last October.

The crowdfunding campaign aims to raise funds through subscriptions to this. But donations are also welcome.

Virtual cook-alongs are among the online activities the garden currently runs.Virtual cook-alongs are among the online activities the garden currently runs.

Memberships start from as low as RM25 per month, entitling one to unlimited entry to the garden, exclusive camping passes, as well participation in monthly activities, events and virtual classes or workshops from anywhere in the world.

“Your subscriptions are our lifeline. It will allow us to stay afloat and reopen once travel restrictions are lifted.

“In return, we hope to continue sharing this unique and special place which does so much for bringing the community together, nurturing a love for nature and educating the young and old alike.

“In this new normal, more than ever, we need green, healing spaces. Every sen raised will go into maintaining the garden and growing the Spice Fam community,” Chua added.

Billed as Asia’s Hidden Eden and sprawling over 3ha, TSG is a treasure trove of over 500 types of flora from around the world, many of which are deeply intertwined with the history and culture of Penang and Malaysia.

Visit tsgspicefam.com/save-tsg or its Facebeook page Tropical Spice Garden for more information or to buy memberships.

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