Penang Hill, 700m above sea level

Trip Start Feb 11, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, March 8, 2008

We wanted to visit the Penang Botanical Park but the buses, as we have discovered, only run every other Tuesday in a month with a z in it so we opted for the easier bus journey to Penang Hill, located just outside of Georgetown. The bus was modern and had cool, cool air conditioning, something we are craving everywhere we go (in fact, we'll walk around a shopping mall just for the relief of AC!) While we were on the bus and waiting at a set of traffic lights an American style yellow school bus filled with school kids pulled up alongside us and the kids started to wave at us. I gave them a thumbs up and every one of them beamed and gave us a double thumbs up, laughing with each other and they waved frantically as we pulled away. So that's what it's like to be Britney Spears!!!

We also got chatting to a lovely Malay lady on the bus who was about 106 years old. She asked us lots of questions about wether we liked Penang, what we had done, did we enjoy the food, the people, the culture. When she asked us where we hailed, from she asked us all about the UK and when she got up from her seat to get off at her stop she smiled and said "cheerio" to us. I bet she'd been waiting years to say that to some Brits.

The journey up the hill took 1/2 an hour by funicular train and passed through an old gully which was converted to the track way in 1870 something but was improved in 1926. The station was wonderfully 1920's and the colonial bungalows we passed on the way up the hill were like little corners of England with immaculate bowling green standard lawns and tropical plants. There was also a small troop of Rhesus monkeys eating fruit beside the train tracks about half way up!

After an ear popping journey we took a stroll around the top of the hill looking out across Georgetown and the straits toward the mainland. We followed a track way up some stairs and walked around the renovated Hindu temple built by the Indian labour who built the railway. Sadly it was painted with a grey exterior paint which was the base layer over which the builders had started to paint the beautiful sculptures the vibrant colours they deserved. On the way down from the temple Jo pointed out a HUGE spider the size of my hand sitting in the centre of a meter square web strung between two bushes. On close inspection we saw about 8 more of these ghastly arachnids who had spun their webs between telephone lines, trees and buildings. I beat a hasty retreat while Jo bravely returned to capture a photo of one of them.

We then took a stroll for about 2 km along a road upon which more bungalows and extravagantly 1930's houses were built toward the Canopy Walkway, a series of rope bridges strung between the trees tops, winding it's way through the jungle canopy giving excellent views of the landscape, the flora and fauna of Penang Hill, Georgetown and the mainland in the distance and a 50 foot drop below into dense undergrowth! I faced two of my fears yesterday: bloody big spiders and bloody tall heights!! Jo wandered along the rope bridge as though she were strolling along the promenade at Weston Super Mare, occasionally stopping to point out a particularly interesting view or to take a photograph of some richly coloured flower dangling from a tree branch 20 feet below us; while I took slow, slow steps, holding onto the rope either side of me, looking straight ahead and meeting Jo's cries of delight at the lovely veiws surrounding us with a teeth clenched grunt! Never have I been more happy to step onto solid ground, I could have wept!

By the time we'd returned to the bottom of the hill the sun had gone down and it was about 7.30pm. When the sun sets in Asia you rarely get a sunset as we know it back home, where the clouds and the sky turn a myriad of reds, pinks, purples and oranges, instead it's as though someone has turned out a light, one minute it's light, then it's dark - none of this evening dusk malarkey! The remainder of the evening was spent waiting nearly an hour for the bus, which turns out was the wrong bus, so we had to change onto another bus which wasn't going in the right direction, but we'd had enough by then and decided to jump off at the first stop we recognised - which fortunatley for us, was right outside a great little Indian restaurant we'd eaten at the night before, so we decided to have our fill there and retire to our soft bed!

Ahhh, another day over! It's hard to believe we've been away for nearly four weeks. Sometimes it feels like ages, but then we consider what we've done and where we've been and we feel that we've hardly started yet! Still, seeing as we're enjoying Penang and Georgetown we figured we'll hang out here for another day and make our way to the south of the island where, I hear, there is a WW2 museum near a little fishing village, which also has a beach of sorts! Sounds okay!!
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