Up Panang Hill


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Asia » Malaysia
September 4th 2005
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: 5.41667, 100.333

Georgetown is the second largest city in Malaysia, sitting on the island of Penang about 5km off the west coast of Malaysia. The sidewalk is more or less the walkway in front of any given building, so there is no consistency. Sometimes there isn't a sidewalk and sometimes there's tables or motorcycles parked in the way. Malaysia is really not designed for foot travel. Walking in the street is the only good option sometimes.

Our hostel is situated in Chinatown (but so much is Chinese anyways), so the culture is fairly intense around us. Vendors and small shops are just packed up and down the street. It's easy to walk down at night and just pick out cheap eats and treats that people are cooking on their cart for under a ringgit ($0.30). Poor old Chinese men can get really scary in old age. There's a few wandering around that I think might be ghosts they are so wrinkled from the sun. There are very few tourists walking around this part of town so the vendors don't dog me to death with offers of food or drinks.

We headed towards Penang Hill today. Near it is a Buddhist modern Buddhist temple build up on a 120 meter hill. The temple is a moderate tourist attraction, so the entire walk up the path is packed with vendors. In fact, if you're at a tourist location in Asia, I'd say you can tell if you've gone off the right path if you run out of vendors. When I say packed, I mean there is a kind of uphill indoor mall for maybe 1km with vendors on both sides the whole way. It's especially difficult being 6ft as the t-shirt vendors are often hang things that hit you in the head. Anyways, at the top we got to see a big statue of Buddha and a decent view of the town below. Nearby is a beautiful modern pagoda with all kinds of statues and buddhist 'things' inside. I think the Buddhist religion involves some kind of incense-burning ritual. Everywhere I see some type of can, or pot with sand that has a few sticks of incense burning. The streets around our hostel are littered with tin cans that have leftovers burnings from the night before in them.

Next we headed towards the actual hill of Penang. It's not so much a hill as it is an 800m jungle ridge with multiple peaks. To get to the top you take the Penang Hill Railway train to the top for Rm4.00 round trip. The railway was built originally by the British and then upgraded by the Swiss in the late 70's. It's more of a giant elevator with a 50 passenger cab on both ends of the cable. There's only one track, but halfway up it splits in two for the length of the train so that the cars can pass each other. At the top is a 'canopy walk' but it was closed. It looked like one of those walkways built such that you can walk a path along the tops of the rain forest's canopy. Of course more vendors were at the top. These a bit more aggressive since its mostly tourists around. Most of the tourists here are Asian tourists. Either locals, or those from nearby countries. I rarely see other westerners.

We had planned on walking back down to the base of the hill via a hiking trail, but it was 5pm by the time we reached the summit and some of the group felt we didn't have time to make it to the bottom before dark. The sunrise/sunset is completely different than what we are used to in the west. Since we are only 5 degrees from the equator, the sun rises and sets at almost the same time every day of the year. The day is almost exactly 12 hours long starting at around 7:15.

Back at our hostel, I left with companion Chris to go find nothing. Nothing? Well, I mean to say we just started walking around without any plan in mind. Eventually we made it to a boardwalk at the beach where many local kids were hanging out drinking sodas. We passed a few clubs but its Rm50 to even get in. We found a vendor selling some really good banana pancackes for only RM0.40 each. I could eat them all day long.

The people here are good natured and willing to help. Their patience is really something different from the maniacs I saw in Malta. They only want to earn enough money to subsist and are in no hurry to do much. The busses leave the station when all the seats are full.

There was an Indian girl on the bus today who was asking around to how much the rest of the people paid. Apparently she paid Rm1.20 (which is what we paid) and some other people had paid Rm1.00 (they were going to different stops). Eventually she got off the bus and started arguing with a bus attendant saying that others paid a different price. I just can't see getting into arguments over what is more or less a nickel. She's lucky we weren't in Malta, they would have straightened her out really fast.

It looks like we are headed to Hat Yai, Thailand tomorrow by bus. It's my job to find us a bus so I'll be getting up early tomorrow to go searching. It looks like the price will be Rm22 for a 4 hour journey. Not bad!


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