Look for Harrowing Pictures in the Bunkers
There are a lot of harrowing wartime pictures in the Penang War Museum so look out for them when you explore the bunkers . From the pictures, you can see the horrible suffering of the locals under the harsh militant Japanese leadership in WWII . Among all the pictures I saw, this one stood out the most. It was a picture of a woman who was not only raped but bayoneted in the back. Somehow, the pictures told me that the Penangites never did thrive under Japanese rule .
Take a Step Back in Time in Penang War Museum
If I can say this, Penang War Museum is probably the best war museum I've been to in ages. Unlike the conventional ( read: boring ) indoor museums that I've been to where I get to see nothing but casement shells in glass-paned cupboards, this one allowed me to run around free in an actual ruins of a fortress. Well afterall, it is a 9ha outdoor site nestled in the rainforest of Bukit Batu Maung (near the airport) . Suits an attention-deficit-disordered personality like me and a war fanatic like my hubby just fine. We crawled through her many tunnels, climbed all the metal staircases we could fine and explored her gun emplacement bays ( see photo ) . It was worth every (Malaysian) sen we spent on the admission, which was RM15* ( RM 5 for Children) .
*Yes, we did hesitate at first on the fee, being the sad cheapskates that we were. But in the end, we reckoned that it was still cheaper than the fee we paid for the Secret War Tunnels of Labrador ( Singapore, S$8) and there was even less to see over there.
The museum is open daily to the public from 9am to 7pm.
Comparing Batu Maung Fort and Labrador Fort
If you're a war fanatic like my hubby , you would have noticed that the British had engaged the WWI war tactic of trench/tunnel warfare in the preparation for WWII in Malaya so this may be partly the reason why so many military tunnels were built in their forts in Penang and Singapore. Well having said that, there are many tunnels in Batu Maung Fort (Penang) , some of which can be explored and some of which have caved in ( eg. the tunnel that links to the submarine bay) . Likewise in Labrador Fort ( Singapore ) which was rumoured to have an undersea tunnel linking the mainland fort to Sentosa Island! Other than the tunnels, there are some similarities between the fort in Penang and Singapore, in terms of layout , structure, etc. If you live within this region, do go to both forts if you can to check out the similarities.
The Torture Chamber in Batu Maung Fort
If you're ever in Batu Maung Fort in Penang, do look out for some of the offices turned into torture chambers by the Japanese. You'll see small metal/wooden cages that the Japanese used to 'break' prisoners and other rusty tools of torture. The sight of it is admitedly creepy but seeing it will reinforce what this place was used for in the past.
Crawl through a War Tunnel
Now if you think I'm in the CuChi Tunnel of Vietnam, you are mistaken, I'm actually in a Penang WWII tunnel, somewhere off the coast of Malaysia! This tunnel was several metres underground in a old abandoned fort (now Penang War Museum) and after crawling around for a while, I had to hoist my self up a tall metal staircase(9.14m) at the end of the tunnel. Boy was I glad to get out . Still, this crawly war museum experience was fun if not more 'hands on' than other museum experiences. Though this tunnel crawl is very do-able and easy compared to the nasty, dank, centipede-esque experience in CuChi(HoChiMinh City), avoid it at all costs if you're:
1)Fat Bastard - You risk cutting all forms of ventilation, killing your mates and getting stuck there forever in your kilts.
2)Claustrophobic - Believe me, it gets to you after a while as some of the tunnels are not lit at all!!
Of course, take my advice with a pinch of salt. If you think about it, the tunnels were built for angmoh, oops, British soldiers, so they are big and wide. The ones in CuChi on the other hand, were built for Viet Congs, the size of Mini-me.So everybody will feel like FAT Bastard in those tunnels:)
- Budget Travel
Stop Over at Teluk Kumbar
"Teluk" in Malay means "bay' or "cove".
Teluk Kumbar is other coastal fishing village at the southern side of Penang Island. You will pass by it when going from Bayan Lepas to Balik Pulau using the southern coastal road. It is also a junction to turn into Gertak Sanggul.
I was amazed that all the old houses in the town have maroon rusty zinc roofs. Zinc was common roofing material, being cheaper than traditional terra cotta tiles or attap leave houses. It gives an impression of a shanty town.
Teluk Kumbar has a beach front and it is fun to stop over and enjoy the famous "Teluk Kumbar Mee Udang" which is prawn noodles cooked in Malay style. Pressed the lime juice to get the extra kick. Price per plate depending if you ask for additional giant prawns. Why not?
Drive to Gertak Sanggul
It is a scenic coastal ride from Teluk Kumbar to Gertak Sanggul.
Gertak Sanggul is a fishing willage at the most south western tip of Penang Island with pig farming and fruit orchards being the major activities.
It is a great place to charter a boat to go out fishing and to the neighboring islands of Kendi and Rimau.
There is a traditional Chinese coffee shop for a cuppa and to chat with the locals. Also there are new modern houses being if you want to retire in this placid idyllic bay area.
Apparently, once there was a plan to buy up the area for retiring Japanese senior citizens.
Walk to the end of the Jetty of Gertak Sanggul
It always a personal impulse to walk to the end of a jetty whenever I see one. The one in Gertak Sanggul was not exception as a draw to go right up to the edge.
There always plenty of small fish and other surprises over the wooden boards. And locals doing line fishing and enjoying themselves in the hot sun even if the biting are few apart.
Then there is the horizon over the sea and to the nearby coast and islands as far as the eyes. This hemispherical scan reminding that the earth is not flat as provened by Christopher Columbus.
Pulau Kendi is a popular destination for longer anglers and boating enthusiasts.
You can easily hire a charter small boat from Gertak Sanggul or Teluk Kumbar to the island.
Main activities is fishing from boat or swimming in the sea. Be mindful of the water current, submerged rocks and branches or sea snakes and jelly fish. Always go with a local informed boatman or guide.
There are othere islands in Penang to explore too, including Pulau Aman, Pulau Gedung, Pulau Rimau and Pulau Betong. Monkey Beach is the main boating trip if you are in Batu Ferringhi area.
Day trip to Batu Maung
"Batu" in Malay means "rock" or "stone".
Batu Maung is located just south of the Penang International Airport.
It is easy reach by 3 routes
1) Scenic route of Bayan Lepas town passing through Malay stilt homes.
2) Short cut narrow road along the airport from junction opposite Snake Temple (Tokong Ular)
3) Fastest by bridge sea coastal road passing the factories.
Being a fishing village it has also many tourist attractions like Penang War Museum, Fisheries Aquarium, Sam Poh Footprint Temple and Batu Maung seafood restaurants.
Built around the remnants of British fort, this 20-arce museum contains several installations above and below ground where old war relics are stored. Visitors can weave through complex to view barracks, old cookhouses, lock-ups, tunnels and ventilation shafts.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
More Photos and Info on Batu Maung
Well, that's about all I have for the fort Batu Maung. For more pictures, you can look at fellow VTer, I_joo's page or click on the website to read on the discovery of Batu Maung.
1) I_joo 's page has lots of photos of the fort.
2)Useful websites of Batu Maung Fort and its linkage to WWII.
a)Historical Facts on Batu Maung
b)The official tourist page on Batu Maung