The name Penang Hill refers to an area comprising of a group of hills in Penang. With the highest peak standing at 833 meters above sea level, it is the oldest British hill station in Southeast Asia. Penang Hill’s main characteristics is it’s cool environment and breathtaking view. Penang Hill was primarily used as a place for retreat during the British administration by British officers to escape the heat. Today Penang Hill is one of Penang’s popular tourist destination.
There are a number of peaks in the region, namely the Western Hill is the highest (833 meters), Flagstaff Hill (735 meters), Bukit Laksamana or Admiral Hill, Tiger Hill, Haliburton’s Hill and Government Hill.
There are a couple of ways getting up to Penang Hill. For the adventurous you could hike up. There are a number of jungle trails and usually it will take approximate 5 hours uphill. Another way up is by using the jeep services. This this is one of the least popular way. There is a tarred road leading up to Penang Hill but it is reserved only for residents and accessible via Penang’s Botanical Garden. This 20 minute ride might cost you between RM 70 – RM 130.
The most popular and fastest way up is using the funicular train. The train station is located at Air Itam and thanks to its recent upgrade, it takes only minutes to reach to the top of the hill.
Here are some interesting facts about the funicular train service:
To the locals, Penang Hill is also known as Bukit Bendera. In the Malay language, ‘Bendera’ means flag. It was said that Francis Light, the founder of Penang, made the first horse track from the Botanical Garden waterfall up to the top of the hill in 1788. The first area he cleared was to plant strawberries hence there is an area called Strawberry Hill today. The name Bukit Bendera or Flagstaff Hill was in reference to the flag pole outside the ‘Bell Retiro’, the residence of the Penang Governor at that time.
Once you step out from the upper station, the first thing you will notice is the cooler temperature. Here the temperature ranges between 20 to 25 degree Celsius which definitely gives a relaxing feel compared to the hot and humid weather of Georgetown city.
Near to the train station there are three viewing decks with different heights. From here, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the city.
Due to the cooler and comfortable climate at Penang Hill, the British built a number of bungalows around Flagstaff Hill. These bungalows were used as a holiday retreat by the British as a way to run from the hot weather.
One of the popular restaurants here is David Brown’s Restaurants. This restaurant is said to be on the same spot where Francis Light cleared the land when he first arrived to plant strawberries, which he then gave to Brown. It is one of the earliest building on top of the hill, however the building was burnt down and rebuilt in the 19th century and now turned into a restaurant.
There are 52 bungalows here on Penang Hill. The first hotel built was the Crag Hotel in 1895 but it has remained closed since World War 2. Today the only hotel in Penang Hill is the Bellavue Hotel with just 12 rooms. The first post office which was built in 1894 and the first police station built in 1929 are still standing today.
The breathtaking view and cool weather makes Penang Hill as one of the best places to visit in Penang.