Penang, a northwestern Malaysian state by the Straits of Malacca, is a popular tourist destination in the country. Besides having a reputation for its world-renowned delectable street food, there is also plenty of green natural spaces on the densely populated state for the nature lover.
For a breath of fresh air, Penang Hill provides the perfect escape from the bustling city and there are plenty to be discovered at its peak. Read on to discover 5 things to do for a lovely time atop the highest point on Penang island!
1. Get to the peak with a funicular train ride
There are several ways to get up to the peak of Penang Hill, such as driving, hiking or taking the funicular train ride up the 833-metre (2,732 feet) high hill. If you haven’t been on the world’s steepest funicular tunnel track yet, ride on the funicular train for a unique experience!
As the longest funicular track in Asia with a total length of 1,996 metres from Lower Station to Upper Station, be prepared to feel some pain and blocked feeling in your ears as the funicular train heads uphill speedily in less than 15 minutes.
Spanning 79 metres (258 feet) long and 3 metres (10ft) wide with a steepness of 27.9 degrees, the Penang Hill train provides an enjoyable view before you even get to the peak.
To avoid the crowd, take the funicular train ride during off peak periods, either on a weekday or non-public holiday in the late afternoon. You can save lots of time queuing up at the Lower Station and spend more time chilling on the hill!
2. Check out the historical and religious landmarks on the hill
Being a colonial state in the old days, Penang Hill is the oldest British Hill station in Southeast Asia dating back to the late 1700s. Therefore, you can look forward to viewing old but well-preserved British colonial and Asian architectural landmarks up on the hill.
The oldest building - the Bel Retiro Bungalow - brings you all the way back to 1789 when it was built for the governor of Penang, and remains within the exclusive use of the government. It is the most prestigious building on Penang Hill, as a resort for high government officials and visiting dignitaries.
In addition, you will also be able to find the Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Hindu Temple, the Hill Mosque, the 250-year-old cannon as well as a colonial era post box nestled along one of the nature trails. Have fun discovering these heritage landmarks as you tour the hill!
3. Enjoy the rich flora and fauna along the nature walk
Take some time to explore the lush forests of Penang Hill by embarking on the relatively easy nature walks suggested on the map of this major attraction. You may grab a copy of the map at the funicular train station for reference. There are plenty of interesting plants such as the tropical oak tree, bright and colorful flowers, as well as the carnivorous pitcher plant.
You will be able to see ancient tree ferns and cycads that have existed since the Jurassic period! In addition to the rich flora that can be spotted in the forests, you will also be able to get up close to the cute squirrels, gigantic spider and dusky leaf monkeys roaming around during your nature walk.
Just remember to keep your eyes and ears open for pleasant little surprises, as they often appear in the most unexpected situation. Enjoy the cool and refreshing nature walk in the forest with tall shady trees to shield you from the glaring sun!
4. Relax and chill at Kopi Hutan
Towards the end of your nature walk, you will find the first and only Monkey Cup Sanctuary in Malaysia with a Kopi Hutan. Kopi means “coffee” in Malay & Hutan means “forest”, so Kopi Hutan is actually a quiet little outdoor cafe amidst the tranquil rainforest that lets you catch your breath and relax with some nice coffee.
Sip a cup of freshly brewed Arabica coffee or pot of soothing lavender tea at Kopi Hutan as you immerse yourself in the peaceful natural setting here while relaxing on the stone bench. It is definitely a much-welcome rest at this cafe after the nature walk, isn’t it?
The friendly owner will be glad to show you samples of the Monkey Cup, also known as tropical pitcher plants that they are growing in the sanctuary next door. Feel free to hop over to the sanctuary for a visit to gain more information about the carnivorous plant if time permits. Otherwise, you can get a free ride back to the Upper Station on the owner’s van to save you the hassle of walking along the trail again.
5. Soak in the beautiful views of Penang at night
Upon return to the Upper Station, do not hurry to depart Penang Hill, for you should not miss the beautiful night view of Penang’s Georgetown. There are several good spots to check out the night views from Penang Hill, including the love locks area, main viewing deck and Sky Walk.
All these are near the Upper Station so you can just explore the area before determining the best place for great photos. Unobstructed panoramic views of the city can be found at the main viewing deck and Sky Walk, but you should reach there earlier, as it tends to get very crowded.
Take your time to admire the beauty at the peak of the pearl while enjoying the cool breeze on the hill!
Enjoy your day in nature in highly urbanised Penang
Penang may be highly urbanised these days due to rapid economic development, but you will still be able to escape and find some respite from the crowded city atop the highest point on the state at Penang Hill.
Pace yourself to spend time to do each suggested activity and choose a less crowded time to visit so that you can relax and enjoy the lush forests here without getting too tired or stressed with the limited time you have.
You will realise that Penang is not just about good food afterall. Have fun for a lovely time at Penang Hill!
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