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The Enchanting Penang Hill

Penang Hill


The Penang Hill is located on the island of Penang. Here you can ride on the funicular railway, explore enchanting nature trails, walk among 30-meter high trees, and glory in the gorgeous views of the island. Situated about 800 meters above sea level on the northern part of Penang island, Malaysia’s oldest hill resort has much to offer in the way of its cool unpolluted air, historical heritage and environmental significance.

Penang Hill
Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera in Malay

Penang Hill is the oldest hill station in Malaysia and remains a tourist attraction with a Swiss-made funicular tram making its way up and down. The hill was first started to become the retreat for the British when they discover that the high altitude cool serenity was the perfect escape from the heat, noise and squalor of the city below.

Since then the new rich Chinese adopted many British habits, including education, dress and living habits. Many luxurious mansions were raised along Northam Road by Chinese millionaires. ‘Grace Dieu‘, high up on Penang Hill was raised by cinema magnate Khoo Heng Pan as a hilltop retreat showing that the Chinese were now adopting the very best idea of a hill-station retreat.

At the foot of the hill is the Penang Hill Railway, one of the world’s oldest funicular systems. Built in 1897, but commissioned only in 1923, the railway has a track of about 2,007 meters ascending to a height of 710 meters above sea level. The pleasant ride up takes about 30-minutes with passengers having to change trains midway. On the way up, look out for the various residences dotting the hill, the lush vegetation and occasional Macaque monkeys.

Upon reaching the summit, you will be rewarded with spectacular vistas of Penang Island. On a clear sunny day, the entire eastern half of the island and the mainland, as well as the Straits of Malacca are visible. At the summit, a food court, fruit and souvenir stalls, and a hotel can be found. The original funicular train is also on exhibit here.

Several private bungalows dot Penang Hill. Most of these Victorian styled buildings have stood the test of time because of the hardy materials used in their construction. Among these, stands the hill’s oldest bungalow, ‘Bel Retiro’, the holiday residence of the Governor of Penang. Many of the hill’s bungalows that were once open to the public are now privately owned and are thus not accessible to outsiders anymore.

Bel Retiro
Myself Inside the Bel Retiro Bungalow

The Bellevue Hotel, the only remaining hotel on the hill, offers magnificent view of the island and its restaurant is quite popular for lunch or dinner. The hotel’s Aviary Garden boasts a unique collection of pheasants, pea fowls, crowned pigeons, parrots, hornbills, macaws, Bali mynahs and Nicobar pigeons. A wide collection of art works by local and regional artists is scattered throughout the hotel.

Penang Hill Private House
Penang Hill Private House

Two kilometers away lies the Canopy Walk. It is supported by towering tree trunks all along its 220-meter walkway. You are literally walking among the trees as you traverse the length of the canopy walk some 30 meters high in the air. Penang Hill also offers visitors various nature trails. The Penang Hill Forest Challenge trail comprising the jeep track and forest trail, begins from the Upper Station and ends at the Telok Bahang Recreation Park. The entire 11.3 kilometer route takes about six hours to complete.

The best time to experience Penang Hill is at night when the island lights up and Penang turns into a dazzling jewel.

Following your return trip down, take some time to visit Penang’s myriad attractions. The Kek Lok Si, Asia’s largest Buddhist temple, just a stone’s throw away from the foot of Penang Hill, is a good place to begin. Stroll through the picturesque Botanical Gardens or journey into the past at the many heritage sites in the city.

From its spectacular golden beaches to its evergreen hills, from its rich mix of modern and colonial architecture to its sizzling potpourri of tantalizing cuisine and enchanting cultures, this Pearl of the Orient is a truly mesmerizing tourist destination.

Penang Hill Railway Schedule
Departures from the Lower Station:
Sun – Fri:
6:30am, 6:45am (during holidays)
7:00am and thereafter every half an hour until 9:00pm.

6:30am, 6:45am,7:00am and thereafter every half an hour until 11:30pm.

Departures from the Upper Station:
Sun – Fri:
6:15am (during school days), 6:30am (during holidays), 6:45am, 7:00am, 7:15am and thereafter every half an hour until 9:15pm.

6:30am, 6:45am, 7:00am, 7:15am and thereafter every half an hour until 11:15pm.

• Adults: RM4.00 Return.
• Children under 12 years: RM2.00 Return.

Practical Tips
The Canopy Walk is not recommended for those who have a fear of heights. For your own safety, you are advised to inform the Forestry Department if you are trekking into the forest. You may also want to carry a light jacket or an umbrella as there may be sudden showers at the top of the hill.

Penang Hill Latest Update

The Penang Hill railway is getting a major revamp. It’s closed as of now. It’s estimated that the railway will be opened to tourist again in December 2010.

Tourists will expect to see a new train that can accommodate more people and run faster as well as safer. The coaches would be able to glide down at a slower speed to the lower station should there be any technical glitch or power supply disruption.

penang hill coach
The new Swiss-made coaches for the Penang Hill funicular train service have arrived.

There would also be a sensor system to enable early detection of landslides or trees falling onto the rail tracks as well as a stand-by generator to provide power should there be electricity supply disruption.

It’s said the commuting time of the new service would be less than 10 minutes per way compared to 30 minutes previously. The new service would be able to carry 1,000 passengers per hour compared to 250 under the old system.


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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Ivy August 28, 2015, 12:41 pm

    Wonderful blog! Where is the Penang Hill private house pls? Along which road?

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