Going up the hill in the Pearl of the Orient

by Paris B on · 20 comments

in Travel

I was up in Penang – the Pearl of the Orient – during the week for work and as things got done early, we decided to go a bit of local sightseeing and head to Penang Hill, also known as Bukit Bendera. Its been years since I’ve been up the hill which is famed for having a funicular railway to take you up the hill – about 700+ meters above sea level.

penang hill railway

You can just about see the railway track heading up the hill in the back

What’s unique about the train like in most funicular rail systems, is that the train is built slanted as it is pulled up a rather steep gradient. Its similar to the Peak Tram in Hong Kong.

penang hill train

Penang Hill Funicular Railway train

These are new air-conditioned train carriages which are speedy and get you up the hill in about 5 minutes or so. The old ones were wooden and the last one had been out of commission for a while before these new trains were put in. Otherwise, it would have been quite a hike up the hill!

Once you arrive at the peak of Penang Hill, you will find that its actually quite cool in the shade. There is a hotel up there as well as some tea houses where you can pause and have tea in the gardens with a wonderful view of Georgetown below, and the sea. It was a pity however, that on the day I was there, the city was blanketed in haze :( So no photos.


I did enjoy observing the flora and fauna up on the hill, which was fun. Butterflies and bees were a plenty. It was a hot afternoon, so we stopped for some ais kacang (shaved ice dessert) at a small row of hawker stalls.

ais kacang dessert

Ais Kacang dessert to stave off thirst on a hot afternoon

Going to Penang is about eating some very good food (what can I say? I evaluate the cities I visit by the food available! 😀 ) When we headed back down the hill, we headed for my fave Asam Laksa stall at Air Itam.

penang air itam asam laksa

Asam Laksa @ Air Itam, Penang

Its far to get to and opinions differ on whether this is really the best out there, but I enjoy it so much, I will never share my bowl of noodles! It is spicy from the chilies and tangy from the tamarind juice and a little fishy as there is mashed fish and prawn paste cooked into it. Its an acquired taste but a must eat in Penang :)

As we were at the foot of Kek Lok Si Temple – one of the main and biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and perhaps the biggest Buddhist temples in South East Asia – we decided to go up. Eschewing the usual pagoda, we went up to the temple dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.

wishing tree

RM1 buys you a ribbon with you then write your name on and hang on the wishing tree. I was taken in by how colourful it was! Each colour represents a different wish and I saw lots of locals and tourists alike hanging ribbons on the tree, wishing for a Successful Career, Academic progress, Health, Love and the like.

pavilion at kek lok si

Was I magically transported to China? It most certainly looks that way doesn’t it? :) Oh and there’s more food (of course 😛 ) I was taken to the Sg. Pinang food court to have some grilled seafood. The East Coast BBQ seafood stall was pretty impressive, with lots of fresh seafood available to choose from.

east coast bbq sg. pinang

Fish, squid, prawns, crabs, shellfish… the selection was good and prices weren’t too inflated. You pick what you want from the fresh seafood selection and they grill it for you.

east coast bbq sg. pinang

However, all you’ll see here is a picture of the grilled chicken wings we had (RM2 each) because it got too dark to take decent photos thereafter. I’d definitely go back for this one 😀

grilled chicken wings

It was good to get out of KL city even if it was just for a day :) I hope you’ve enjoyed this little armchair travel and gastronomic break too :)

Paris B

Penang Island is about 4 hours by road and about 40 minutes flight from from Kuala Lumpur. Now I sound like a travel brochure don’t I? 😛

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[ 20 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

j3nny9irL July 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Boo hoo for the haze. It has been quite bad lately huh? The haze got me quite sick and I almost lost my voice~! Horrible…

Yum~! But I don’t enjoy that Asam Laksa there… There are better ones but some aren’t carried on by other generations and we won’t get to taste them again :(

Great weekend though 😀


ParisB July 18, 2011 at 9:46 am

Yes boo for the haze indeed! I was super disappointed to get up the hill and see nothing :( I hope you’re feeling better now. We need more water and honey! Where are the other Asam Laksa stalls you like? I heard there is one at Balik Pulau which is really good too but I haven’t eaten there. I guess this one’s now a little more commercial but it still beats a lot of others that I’ve tried :)


j3nny9irL July 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Yaaa water and honey… voice’s a little streaky but getting better. Hope you are fine too :) Thanx for asking Paris. Hmmm I don’t remember the one that I liked the most coz the aunty doesn’t make it anymore. It has been more than 10 years. In kl you can still find very good Penang style Asam Laksa but most that I tried gone back to Penang lah :( double whammy…


ParisB July 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I haven’t found many good Asam Laksa in KL to be honest. Most of the time, the price I pay as opposed to the watery soup I get with no fish in it really makes me mad 😛


July 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Great pics! What camera are you using?? 😀

Can you believe that i’ve never been to Penang Hill despite living here all my life? =X Time to remedy that soon now that they have a brand spanking new train system! 😀
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ParisB July 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

Thanks Jenn :) Its a Canon 550D and I’m still feeling my way around it 😀 I can believe it you know – its something tourists do, not locals LOL! But my advise, since you have the luxury of time, is to go up in the evening. I think it’ll be much prettier and cooler!


July 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm

So pretty and that food looks so yummy!
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ParisB July 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

Yep, the food was good! 😀


Stephanie/Yukaeshi July 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I love Penang, for the food 😀 Everywhere you go there’s bound to be something nice haha! And a trip to Kek Lok Si is never a miss for me and my family too if we go there :)


ParisB July 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

haha yeah Penang is a foodie heaven 😀


milktea July 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm

So nice… takes me down memory lane for the Penang that was…
Still, it’s nice to see the changes for the better. :-)


ParisB July 18, 2011 at 9:49 am

Aww has it changed very much? Although I do notice that every time I go up, I see something different/new.


Nikki July 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Wow…never been to Penang so this is a post where you toured me around the area! Seems like a good day for travel!
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ParisB July 18, 2011 at 9:50 am

Hehe this is just a little part of the island Nikki! If you have the time, I think its definitely worth visiting some time :)


Mari July 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Yummy photos! I don’t know half the dishes you displayed here, but I’ll definitely try them once I find a Malaysian restaurant.^^ Penang seems beautiful and peaceful… and yes, very Chinese! 😀

And you bought a Canon T3i, how cool is that! Mine is a bit older, but still reliable (T2i). I’m still fiddling my way around it. 😛
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ParisB July 18, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I’m still learning too. Its a lot harder than I thought and the learning curve is steep but its a lot of fun! 😀 Did you take it with you on holiday?

And if you have a Malaysian restaurant where you are, make sure you try sate (grilled kebab like meat on sticks), nasi lemak (coconut flavoured rice served with condiments and dishes) and if possible char kuey teow (fried rice noodles) No Malaysian restaurant worth its salt would forget those on the menu 😀


July 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I’ve been up to Penang Hill on the old tram…that was years and years back when I was in my teens! And I just went on the Peak tram in HK on Sunday, so it’s such a coincidence that you have this post on the same day! :)
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ParisB July 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I remember the old tram too! A lot of the romanticism is lost going up in a super powered train to be honest. And I love being on the Peak in HK – how cool that you were up there 😀


Marina(Makeup4All) July 19, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I always love reading your travelling posts and seeing the photos. Thanks for sharing with us. I was actually away for a work myself and I also had a lot of free time so it was nice to explore everything around, eat 😉 and go makeup shopping.
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ParisB July 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Thanks Marina :) Do share where you went too – I love reading about other countries and their food and shopping!


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