Yes, Penang is listed as one of the places in the famous tome ,"1000 Places to See Before You Die" . But if you believe in the author, Patricia Shultz, you'll have to do these three things to enjoy Penang:
1)Sit on a trishaw and meander through Georgetown
2)Visit the legendary E&O hotel
3)Go on the Furnicular and conquer Penang Hill
Hmm, tempting options. Guess I'll eschew the first and try the other two. Afterall, when was the last time you've seen an Asian on the back seat of a trishaw anyway? But honestly, I love the last option. But I think it should be corrected to "Having tea at Penang Hill" since the furnicular ride sucked. But sipping Darjeeling tea at 830m above sea level in the Garden of Bellevue Hotel, Penang Hill is another thing altogether The view was astounding and I could even see KOMTAR and Penang Bridge from where I was. Plus it was 5degrees cooler at the top of the Hill. Simply amazing. I could stay the whole day there.
The 830 metre high Penang Hill is well worth a visit for the cooler air, and the lovely views over Penang.
To get there, you can either walk to the top, or ride the Swiss made Funicular up the steep hill, it will cost about 9rm return. Halfway up the hill, you get out and change trains.
The Funicular starts operation at 6.30am and departs half hourly.
The line was built in 1923, and takes about a half hour to reach the top, its quite a slow journey. On the way, you will see the temple, Kek Lok Si, some homes and Guest houses.
At the top, there is a Kiosk, Restaurant, Souvenir Stalls, Bellevue Hotel, a Mosque, Hindu Temple, Bellevue Hotel, Bird Park ( open 9-6pm) and a Canopy walk if you wish to do.
The views are magnificent.
You see Georgetown, the mainland and Penang Bridge.
a must do is taking the Funicular train up Penang Hill. you will see breathetaking views on the way up and once up the top. It is 701 metres above sea level.Once you get to the top there are gardens to walk around in and food stalls to get something to eat or drink.
The rail servicxe begins at 6.30am and ends at 9.30 pm. the fare is RM4.00 for adults and RM2.00 for children.
Penang Hill is an interesting way to spend an hour or two....one of the reasons is that it's so much cooler than the rest of the city down below.
It's a lush place, with nice views of the city and the water, and some lovely birds, and semi-aggressive monkeys.
In addition, there's an interesting old hotel, and if you sit on the veranda (just like an old colonialist) you can check out the pit vipers that live there.
Penang Hill is one of the most popular tourist destinations. I have been there umpteen times and still always find it a great get-away.
There are no cars up there. The entire George Town is 800 meters below your feet.
The most popular and recommended way for tourists is to take the funicular train. There is a waiting time and so plan ahead.
The second way which used by local hikers is the trail of "Moon Gate" or "84" from Botanical Gardens or the steeper route from Heng Teik Estate of Air Itam or even the most adventurous route from Air Itam Dam.
The third way is by jeep from the Botanical Gardens but this is reserved for hill top residents and for emergency situations.
During school holidays and weekends, the funicular train can be very crowded with long queues. Often tickets are sold out.
Now same day ticket can be bought in advance and you can just come back at your assigned time. You can come down at any time but factor 30 minutes to an hour wait.
Round trip ticket at RM4 for an adult is a steal.
Up at the top, you have excellent views of George Town, Penang Bridge and the mainland across the channel. Worth having coffee or tea at the Bellevue Hotel for an outstanding panaromic view. It is cool and can be chilly and windy at night especially after a rain. Night view when the lights are out is spectacular. So if you want to see that, plan to stay up until 8pm.
The funicular train is a two levels system. Each level has two tram coaches linked by a cable and pulley. The tram coaches will pass each other at a junction. This is a great time to take a photo. There is a "Middle Station" where passengers alight and transfer to the other level system. Usually, passengers will rush to the next coach to get a seat. Safety comes first especially with younger children and seniors. So be prepared to stand all the way up.
Train arrives every 15 minutes. Total of 30 minutes to get to the top of the Penang Hill. The waiting time can be up 2 hours on crowded days. Visit to Penang Hill a must if you have time.
The small cable-pulled railway cars will take you up to Penang Hill and bring you back down.
Take a look around while you are up there.
On the top you will find a hotel & restaurant, a Hindu temple, and a mosque.
On clear days there is a great view of the island.
It is also good for birding . We saw several birds. Speaking of birds there is also a aviary on the hotel grounds.
Head to the base of Penang Hill (every taxi knows where it is) round late afternoon.
Jump on a train which I'm sure is the only one built on a 45 degree angle and enjoy the slow but very scenic ride up to the top.
The train stops halfway up and you can get off here and walk the rest of the way or follow everyone else to the train on the adjacent track which will take you up.
Once at the top, you can grab a meal at any of a number of stalls or go to the resturaunt right at the top. Great views from the open garden out the back. You can get souviners here but they are cheaper in Georgetown.
You can also visit a bird enclosure which, apart from it's size, will put the Penang Bird Park to shame with the variety and number of birds in here.
Photographers note: The wire on the cages has a big enough gap to satisfy most photographers who don't want the 'jailhouse' look in their nature photos.
Watch the spectacular sunset and then get the next train down. A window seat is good for viewing the antics of the wild monkeys as they wait by the track.
Don't worry if you've missed the last bus back to the city as there will be a number of taxis who will take you. DONT pay more than 10RM as this is the normal local price.
The hill, also known as Bukit Bendera, is 830 meter high
(2,750 foot) and it's much cooler than in the city below. It's about 3 degrees cooler than the places near the coast.
The station to get to the top is located in Air Itam. From Georgetown, take a Transit Link bus No 1, or No 101, or Lim Seng bus No 91, or minibus No 21 from Lebuh Chulia to the Air Itam Terminal. Penang Hill has a population of about 1000 locals.
The funicular at the railway station takes you to the top and it will cost you RM4.50 for one way. The train leaves the station at Air Itam at 6.30am and at half hourly intervals.
The funicular railway will not take you straight to the top, you have to change trains halfway. in the meantime you'll pass several small station, where the local people get off. There are are also some small hotels and guesthouses on this stretch. The railway was built in 1923 and it takes about half an hour to the top.
At the top of the hill, you'll find a tea kiosk, restaurants, souvenir stalls, a mosque, Hindu temple, and the old Bellevue hotel. The summit offers a magnificent panoramic view of Georgetown, the mainland and Penang Bridge.
As usual in Penang, good food is never that far away! Up on Penang Hill, there is the Penang Hill Famous Peanut House. It's not a house exactly, and I don't know how famous it is, but it's good, and the guy is really nice....we spent a fairly long time talking about chickpeas, and the various names it goes by: garbanzos, channa, cee-cee beans, etc....
I asked if he could make curry chick peas, and he did! Fresh curry...very delicious, and worth a stop when cooling off on the hill.
From the foot of Penang Hill, you can see the steep track of the funicular (half way).
The taxi will take you directly to the foot of the hill where u can purchase your funicular tickets for RM4.
Many people are queuing for the funicular so go early to beat the crowd.
There are a few shops selling tourist items.
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