It may sound rather astonishing, that within the hot and humid environs of a tropical city like Penang, lies a much needed cool and serene escape to relax and rejuvenate. Locally referred to as, Bukit Bendera, Penang Hill is located at an altitude of 2723 feet. It boosts of mist covered trees and breezy views all day long.
I had heard great things from fellow travelers so during my recent visit to Malaysia with my folks, we grabbed the opportunity to visit this idyllic hill station in the tropical town of Penang.
The city itself has a lot to offer but if I had to choose, I believe the top crowd-pullers are – Georgetown’s street art, Penang hill and the exotic Blue mansion. Ofcourse Penang’s amazing street food and Batu Ferringhi are close seconds.
However, I am headed to Penang again tomorrow so this list might change very soon – Stay tuned 🙂
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Penang Hill Railway
Many tourists preferred to take the lovely winding scenic path to reach Penang Hill on foot, but due to shortage of time (and since I was with my folks), we chose to take the Swiss made funicular railway instead. Though I am sure I must have missed out on some great natural sights of the mist laden valley had I walked up, still the visitors gallery, located behind the ticket window, more than made up for it, with the rare photos and items vividly depicting the Penang Hill history on display.
Plus, the train has full glass doors and the steep uphill incline is quite an adventure in it self. A mini-adventure on a fun mini hill train. What a lovely way to spend a fay with family.
The funicular train leaves every 20 minutes, and the lines for tickets can become really long, especially on holidays and weekends. The two-way ticket cost on the normal lane was RM 30, and on the fast lane RM 60 for foreigners. The locals have to pay roughly half of the above fare. Even though we reached the station quite early in the morning on a weekday, we were confronted, as luck would have it, with a long line of school children. Regardless of the crowd, within 20 minutes of a relaxing ride, we were at the top.
Penang Hill – First Look
The roads on the hill had kiosks, restaurants, temples and a lot of souvenir stalls lined up on both sides. Amusement avenues, in the form of multi dimensional movies with extra effects and guided rides in golf buggies were the order of the day. The Bellevue Hotel, the oldest one here, is an iconic landmark of Penang Hill .The area also offers stunning views of Georgetown and the mainland Penang bridge.
Along with my dad, we tried surviving a Tsunami, followed by an earthquake – safe within our 6D movie room comforts, of course ;p
One of the coffee outlets on the summit road, at the Monkey Cup garden, not only serves some of the best Arabica coffee and home baked cakes, but has a friendly juvenile myna (aptly named Monkey Cup) on the premises who likes to perch on the shoulders of the guests. She’s happy to be fed and loves to play with everyone. So, If you are feeling blue, go meet Monkey Cup, she will surely cheer you up!
There are plenty of food stalls as soon as you reach the top and you can try the famous Indian chick pea seller or one of the many other Malay foods.
Birding at Penang Hill
Being an avid naturalist, and a bird lover at that, I headed straight to the Owl Museum, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia devoted to this fascinating bird. There were numerous trails leading from the hill, with some of them leading to Tiger hill, Botanical gardens and the Monkey Cup gardens.
My birding passion got finally fueled when I reached a vantage point some distance to the right of the rail station summit road. I was rewarded to find some high class birds, all new to me of course, like – Thick Billed Pigeon, Yellow Vented Bulbul and the Greater Racket Tailed Drongo.
The ridge top of Penang hill is known as Strawberry hill, primarily because its esteemed founder Francis Light, had a passion to grow strawberries here. While most people came here to enjoy the cool and pure mountain air, I was thrilled to know that the place was home to nearly a 100 bird species, ranging from the ordinary to the elusive deep forest inhabitants.
Important Information for Visiting Penang Hill
Surely by now you are convinced to pay a visit to this popular attraction of Penang. Here’s some quick info –
Penang Hill Map
Reaching Penang city is pretty easy. We got a swell deal on air asia malaysia as we booked at a special fare three months in advance. Pretty much covered 6 destinations in under $300. Quite similar to the – Air Asia ASEAN pass where I covered 3 different countries for $115 – Crazy!
Once you make your way to Penang on these insanely low air fares, just follow this map to reach this spot –
Penang Hill Entrance Fee
Cost to enter is just RM 10 for locals and RM 30 for foreigners. For details of normal lane, fast lane, senior, child and MyKad ticket rates, please visit their official website.
Penang Hill Opening Hours
Open everyday from 0630 – 2300 hours.
So, have you visited Penang Hill? Malaysia is more or less my second home now (As everyone says) so would love to hear your thoughts and favorite attractions in the country.