Today, we decided to do a little exploring on our own. Penang Hill was our target. Here is how one Web site describes it:
“Penang Hill is located on the island of Penang. It is 6km from the city. Situated about 823 meters (2,750 feet) above sea level on this northern part of Penang, this oldest hill resort and the first in Malaysia, has cool, unpolluted air and historical features. It stands prominently from the lowlands as a hilly and forested area. It’s original name was Flagstaff Hill known by the British, back in the old days of Penang, when a flag fluttering from a flagpole at Bel Retiro, the home of the Governor of Penang at that time, was used as a signal transmitter. The locals affectionately called it Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera. The hokkien Chinese call it ‘Seng Kee Sua.’”
We used a taxi provided by the hotel (35 ringgit/$12), which took us to the base of the hill. Here, we paid 15 ringgit each to ride the train to the top. Even on a Tuesday, the train was full; we were told the hill is much more crowded and the train wait can be long, on weekends. The ride to the top takes 5-10 minutes.
At the top, you have vistas of the city below in several directions. The day we were there was cloudy and rainy, so the pictures are a little drab. The temperature was certainly much cooler than at the bottom of the hill, especially given the damp weather.
There is a paved pathway once you leave the train that takes you even higher. Perched looking over the city skyline is a coffee shop, which also served beer and alcohol, but we ventured even higher. At the top, on a flat area, is Dave Brown’s at Strawberry Hill, a British-like restaurant where you can dine in or sit outside, with some of the tables overlooking the scenes below. Since it was drizzling, we sat in a covered area outside the restaurant, where we were served lunch – we shared a small roasted chicken and fries, along with a Tiger beer and fruit juice. The restaurant is a little pricy, as you would expect from its location. Lunch was about $20.
After some photo taking, and with little else to do at the top, we headed back down in a fully loaded train. We still had a lot of afternoon left so we grabbed a taxi and went looking for an outdoor market in town. However, our driver seemed confused by what we were seeking, eventually dropping us off at a small outdoor food court that was near the upscale Gurney Plaza mall, located on well-known Gurney Drive. The mall was just another mall and there was no outdoor market anywhere in sight.
Finally, we decided to just walk for awhile, my favorite way of exploring new places. Somehow, we ended up in what looked to be Little Burma. Lots of ethnic restaurants (Burmese, Japanese, Chinese) but few shops. We weren’t hungry yet but the afternoon was almost over, so we hailed a taxi and returned to the hotel.
Tired from our excursion, we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, where I wanted to try some Malaysian food. I had some kind of spicy chicken and rice dish that I hope was not indicative of the great food I had read about, and Putrie had some sort of spicy soup.