GEORGE TOWN: Construction workers and farmers were guarded in their replies when asked about their activities on the slopes of Penang Hill in Paya Terubong.
At one construction site near the famous Cheng Kon Sze Temple which sees throngs of visitors during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, three Bangladeshi workers just pointed to their boss when asked what they were doing there.
The man, who identified himself as Teoh, said his brother had bought the land a couple of years ago at RM18-psf.
“Now, the going rate is more than RM30-psf,” he said and asked whether I was planning to buy land nearby.
Teoh said they were planning to build a small house but he did not know whether his brother had obtained approval from the Penang Island City Council.
Although the building itself looked small, there was a maze of structures below the slope which appeared to be pathways to a garden.
Earlier, Star chief photographer K.T. Goh and I had gone up the hill slope on two motorcycles via a narrow path created by farmers from Jalan Paya Terubong.
The road was wide enough for a four-wheel drive to go up for about 300m.
After that, it became a narrow path, where some stretches had been paved for motorcycles.
There were wooden houses on both sides of the road. They were guarded by dogs.
We noticed some smoke billowing nearby and upon checking saw three men burning wood.
One man, who identified himself as Tan Chong Bin, said the land belonged to a friend who had passed away many years ago.
He said he was clearing the land to expand his banana cultivation.
“My house is nearby. It’s best to clear and put the land to good use. There are also snakes. We saw a python recently and it was a close call,” he said.
We then rode our motorcycles to a large yellow building which can be seen clearly from Jalan Paya Terubong.
There are durian trees in the compound. However, the compound was fenced off.
A man came out after we honked repeatedly and said it was private property.
He refused to let us in to take pictures of the surroundings as his “boss” was not around.
Later, we checked a bald patch near a telecommunications tower. Bottle gourds have been cultivated near the tower but the plants have wilted in the current heatwave.
About 30m away was another bald patch with banana plants all over it.
There was a big shed which may have been used for storing fertiliser and farm equipment. No one was around.
I had hiked to the area about five months ago. The bald patch was much smaller then.