Malaysian family learns the history of Penang Hill and enjoys its natural wonders

The funicular train at Penang Hill. — Photos: OH SEONG POR

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Penang Hill, at 833m above sea level, is surrounded by a thick rainforest that’s inhabited by numerous species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. My family visited the place last Christmas, and we loved it.

We stayed at Hickory Bungalow, a century-old heritage building at the hill. When we got to the lower railway station in the morning, there were already many visitors queuing to board the train. Fortunately, we were able to get on the “fast track” lane because we were guests of Hickory Bungalow.

Just before reaching a tunnel, the train stopped at the Hickory Station where we alighted. From there, we walked to our accommodation, passing by many huge trees, ferns and even a small stream.

Raj, the owner and manager of the bungalow, welcomed us and ushered us to our rooms. He gave us a short tour of the surroundings. According to him, the bungalow was built in the early 1900s by a Chinese tin tycoon from Larut, Perak and was originally named “Dolce Domum”.

Later, the bungalow was sold to another Chinese tycoon, this time from Penang. After the owner passed, it was left almost completely abandoned. Raj then bought the place and restored it.

Most of the original design and structure of the bungalow has been maintained.

The writer (foreground) and his family taking a photo break on the canopy walk.The writer (foreground) and his family taking a photo break on the canopy walk.

We went to the upper station to check out The Habitat, a discovery centre built within the rainforest at Penang Hill. Here, visitors can experience and learn about the magnificent flora and fauna of the rainforest which is estimated to be 130 million years old.

In the middle of The Habitat, there is a 13m-tall observation platform upon which you can see a 360° view of Penang. It is the highest peak and is known as the Curtis Crest Treetop Walk. My family and I climbed the three-storey steel staircase to reach the platform.

On our way back to the bungalow, I saw what is said to be the nation’s oldest post box located along Jalan Tuanku Yahya Petra. It was built by the British more than two centuries ago and is still being used today.

I also saw a family of dusky leaf monkeys sitting on a canopy at the station.

While my wife, daughters and I went back to our accommodation, my son volunteered to get some local delicacies at the nearby shops located after the lower station. We had a wonderful dinner together while enjoying the beautiful night view of Penang.

Looking at the narrow Penang Strait, we could see the two bridges brightly lit, linking the island and the mainland.

The next morning, everyone woke up early because we wanted to catch the sunrise. We hurriedly walked to the Hickory Station in the dark using torchlights provided by the host. We managed to get on the first train to the upper station, though there were already many passengers on board.

Once we got to the station, almost everyone walked towards the observatory corner; they seemed to know the right spot! At around 7am, the sun gradually appeared from the horizon. It was a spectacular sight.

When we returned to the bungalow, breakfast was all laid out for us by Raj at the garden overlooking the sea.

It may have been a short trip, but it was a fulfilling one with lots of fun and sweet memories with the family.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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