Penang Hill

To escape the heat of tropical Georgetown, do what many of the early colonial settlers did when the air got a little too thick: head up to the top of the 830 meter (2,750 foot) Penang Hill. The early tourists had to be carried on sedan chairs, if they could afford it, but the way to go is to take the funicular railway. The rail station at the base of the hill is a short 10 minute walk from Kek Lok Si temple, so you can easily visit both sights on the same day. Plan a visit to Penang Hill late in the afternoon, once the cloud cover clears.

A bit of jungle on the way up the funicular A bit of jungle on the way up the funicular

The funicular railway was originally built in 1923, had wooden cars with two classes. These were retired a few years ago and you can see some of the original cars at the national museum or at the top of the hill. The ride takes 30 minutes, with a change of trains in the middle. Along the way you can see bits of wild-looking jungle, possibly some jungle wild-life such as monkeys, old bungalows of the former colonial masters and some other odd buildings.

At the top of the hill, you'll find a tea kiosk, souvenir stalls, a mosque, Hindu temple, and the old Bellevue hotel. The hotel is one of several hotel cum sanatoriums which originally dotted the hilltops. The most famous of these was the Crag Hotel built by the same Sarkies brothers who built the Eastern & Oriental down in Georgetown. The Bellevue has definitely seen better days, and the interior in particular has all the charm of a government hospital.

Hindu temple on top of Penang Hill Hindu temple on top of Penang Hill

In the garden in front of the Bellevue is a small aviary garden with several species of parrots and a few hornbills. The birds are beautiful but the cages are a bit too small for them to have room to fly and socialize. You may wish to skip this sight if you don't want to support such a place.

Numerous trails traverse the hills and you can in fact walk all the way down (or up if you're really in the mood for a lot of exercise).

Admission Fees

A round trip funicular ticket costs RM 30 (6.11 USD). Admission to the Bellevue aviary garden is another RM 4.

Getting There

A taxi to the funicular station from Georgetown should cost between RM 15 and 20. Taxis are usually waiting at the bottom to take you back to town, for the same price. You can also get a bus from Weld Quay or the Komtar to Air Itam bus station.