Monday, September 3, 2007

Penang Hill Railway

The journey is the destination, goes a famous saying. Penang Hill is a wonderful hill resort destination on the island of Penang. A number of actual peaks around 2500 feet in elevation make up the hill resort that provides for a refreshing change from the heat of the island. Although lovely in of itself, I enjoy the journey of getting up there. You can hike up one of the many trails, like the famous Moongate Trail. Or you could take the funicular railway up which our kids find terribly exciting.

passing
Passing a car

Opened in 1923, the Penang Hill Railway takes visitors to Penang Hill from Ayer Itam. The journey takes about 30 minutes, and railway has two sections. You take the car from the bottom station to the mid-point station (very visible from many parts of Penang), and then change cars to get to the top. Cars on both sections run on a single 1 meter gauge track, with passing loops in the middle. There are intermediate stations along the way, where passengers may get off or get on from.

As you head up the hill, you are treated to a first class view of the dense jungle. With the omnipresent ring of crickets, you try to spot various birds through the bamboo and ferns, and the odd monkey or two. As you get higher, it feels like someone has fortunately turned the a/c on, ahh, how refreshing.

passing again
You're going the wrong way!

Each section has two cars connected by a cable. The incline of the track in parts gets as steep as 51%. Each car has a luggage cart where you can dump anything big you happen to be toting. You can purchase round trip or one way tickets from the office at the bottom, or the top. Note that the cars tend to get very full (one size fits all!) especially during the weekends and school holidays. You can take the RapidPenang U204 bus to the bottom station.

viaduct
Penang Hill Railway (source wikipedia)

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