Years ago, I lived in Penang. On a Wednesday afternoon after work, I used to walk from Island Plaza into George Town – where I would usually have my dinner. At the time, I believed that this was a fair way, but looking back, I can see it was only a few miles. I used to love this view across the bay to Straites Quay and on this occasion, I think the clouds look quite impressive. On other occasions, there were huge storm clouds which warned of bad weather ahead.
I know that this view has gone now – the beach has been drained and the land reclaimed for building. One day, I hope to see what it is like now.
Penang Hill is really a group of hills which overlook the rest of Penang and parts of the Malaysian mainland.
Before the invention of air conditioning, it was popular with expatriates, because in the height of the Malaysian summer, it was always appreciably cooler than in George Town (where many businesses had offices). So a number of houses, hotels and a school (Uplands) were built there (you can see the remains in you go there, slowly being overgrown.
The Bellevue Hotel is a remnant of this era and if I were visiting Penang, I might be tempted to spend a couple of nights there, with its lovely view and cooler temperature. Like much of Penang, it evokes another era – perhaps 100 years ago.
There are a number of ways to get to the top of Penang Hill, the most popular is via the funicular railway (state-of-the-art, air conditioned glass carriages fairly rapidly ascending a steep hill. Vehicles must travel up a very steep road called the jeep track (transmissons screaming as they go). But, if you are feeling brave, you could try following one of the many trails which lead to the peak. If you are going to do this, remember it will take 4 or 5 hours walking and scambling through jungle. Leeches.
Once you are at the top, there are various fair type attractions (having your photo taken with a snake or an owl) and food stalls. For people with slightly deeper pockets, there is a restaurant called “Browns”, where they serve a very nice afternoon tea with scones, jam and clotted cream. Again, something which is remeniscent of another time.
This picture shows a famous piece of street art in Georgetown (on Armenian Street if you are curious) called “Little Children on a Bicycle” – and it is a really popular place to have you picture taken, with long queues of tourists waiting for their turn to pose with the bicycle. In this case with couples having their bridal photos taken too.
I like the picture, but it is really two photos trying to fit together and doesn’t totally work. I like the contrast of the immaculate wedding group with the rusty corrigated iron. And I like the new couple with the older couple. If the older man had moved by the bicycle seat would it work better? Yes – but he didn’t.
Any, a fun place top people watch in you are in Georgetown.