Up Penang Hill
I could not remember when the last time I was up Bukit Bendera - as what the locals refer Penang Hill as. I must have been a child. And it was not pleasant. You had to wait for the funicular at Air Itam in hot weather, in time to endure a half-hour trip on what is best described as a makeshift train. Because of the different angle of the climb, we had to switch to a separate cabin halfway up the hill - at Middle Station. It was 30 minutes up. And another 30 minutes down ...
It has now changed. In the last decade, there was a big terminal built at Air Itam complete with cafes and shops while we wait for the train in an orderly queue inside an airconditioned building. Parking was made easy by multi-story carpark literally next to the terminal. And the journey up is now cut to only 5 minutes. You zoom straight up to the top station without needing to stop at the middle one.
How times have changed.
The area around the Upper Station had undoubtedly changed as well. Penang Hill is not exactly one big hill. It was a collection of peaks, now connected with roads and trails. Over the century, houses and facilities had been built. There was even a small hotel, many restaurants and stalls, mosque, even a police station at the top, around an area called Festival Square.
Anita certainly had done her homework as her main plan at the top was to have a meal at David Brown Restaurant, up Strawberry Hill. More on that later.
After we had our meal, we ventured around the square. Idlan wanted to see the Owl Museum - which was a waste of time and money, unfortunately. Cool weather and plenty of flowers made the excursion a pleasant one. There were also a few new attractions nearby - the main one being The Habitat. But The Habitat proved too popular, and we had to book in advance to get in.
According to what I read, you can choose to trek up the hill if you wish through trails from the Penang Botanical Garden at the foot of the mount. Not this time ...
After almost two hours, it was time to go. Despite being a Monday, the crowd had indeed been building up. I could not imagine how packed the place would be on the weekend. And the attractions are open until the last train at 10 pm. Certainly, an attractive part of the island to venture too.
According to the website, the only hotel there - the Bellevue - only had limited rooms and is pretty basic. Maybe not great to bring my children to stay there .... but I would not mind staying overnight with Anita. For those visiting Penang, going up the hill is a must. I was pleasantly surprised with the redevelopment of the area. Certainly getting up and down the hill is no more a chore ...