Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tea on the Hill

Penang from Above
The last time I went up Penang Hill, I was around eight or nine years old.  My family is not big on holidays but we were on a week-long visit to Penang.  I remember us being taken around by our relatives, visiting the Snake temple and looking at the turtles at another temple. My brother was given a pair of terrapins by my grandaunt and somehow he managed to smuggle them back to Singapore, carrying them up the plane without being detected.  (We would have successive pairs of terrapins in the house for years, with the last one dying a few months ago aged about 20 years old).

The Funicular over the years
But one of the highlights of our stay had to be our visit to Penang Hill. For my brother and I, it was a real adventure to sit the little funicular railroad, chugging its way up the hill, as we watched the ground fall away beneath us as we moved ever higher and higher.  We stayed overnight in the little hotel there and I remember waking up and walking (and running) around on a misty morning - it was so strange and exciting for two children from sunny and humid Singapore. We never realised it could be so cold even without air-con!!  

Penang Hill today is very different.  There has been two changes in the funicular system since I last went there (this old poster really made me feel old).  No more chugging - its a smooth fast ride to the top.  The area is also a lot more developed, with an impressive viewing platform and far more little shops and stalls.  

English afternoon tea
It was a busy day, with everyone wanting a day on the hill that Saturday afternoon, so we queued for quite some time to make our way to the funicular.  But the journey up was worth it for the panoramic view of Penang.  And the beautiful flowering plants, which flourish in the cooler air.

Of course, my greedy family members were more interested in food than botany. David Brown's Terrace at Strawberry Hill for our tea. David Brown's is an old colonial bungalow, where presumably the British stayed whenever they couldn't stand the heat of the tropics any longer.  The area was formerly used for growing strawberries, hence the former name of Strawberry Hill.  We had ourselves an English afternoon tea of scones, sandwiches and dainty little pastries, eaten sitting by the "infinity pond" and the butterflies flying around us. Ah, the British influences are still alive and well in this corner at the top of Penang.

We walked around the hilltop a little before going down.  It was nice to see a mosque and a Hindu temple here, side by side, looking down on the city below.  But we had our driver waiting for us below and soon we found ourselves back in our funicular railway.  I stood in the front of the car and believe me, it's a lot more exciting than going up. 

video

Check out my other photos of Penang Hill here.

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