Sunday, October 09, 2016

Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera / 升旗山) - Taking Railway Train to the Summit @ Pulau Pinang [Malaysia]

In essence, Penang Hill is a collection of peaks on the island state of Pinang but the Western Hill was most significant for having the highest point at 833 meters; which also means it is the best spot to build a railway up to the peak! 

The original station was built in 1923 and i recalled in my last trip (1996 or earlier) that the way up to the summit involved taking a slow tram! Memory is fuzzy now and that's the reason why i keep a blog; to pen down memories that could be referred to a few decades later. 

Buying the tickets via the non-Malaysian counter! As it was a weekend, the crowd was immense although they comprised mostly Malaysians; in comparison, our foreigner queue was way shorter.

300 ringgit from the ten of us to purchase the two-way pass! Do make a mental note on the queue inside the station as you may want to consider buying the fast-lane pass which cost twice as much.

Distributed the passes to the rest of my travel mates. Hm... "The hill resort of choice in Malaysia..." - kind of disagree with that statement since i thought Cameron Highland is better placed for that title. 

The wait in the air conditioned building. My trip was made end of July and that period was still within the one-month celebration for Hari Raya Puasa; hence the decoration.

At this point, i wished i had listened to my friend who suggested buying the fast lane passes. As mentioned in other postings, we had hired a minivan with chauffeur and there's a time schedule to keep!

Things appeared to run faster once we got to this section; psychological i presume since i can roughly see the tracks and train from this spot. 

Finally, the train was in full sight and i didn't even have time to think about where i should position myself when the staff on duty beckoned me to board the train quickly! 

My immediate response was to go to the nearest middle door although once i am inside, i figured the front of the train would be preferred and maneuvered myself in just in time before the doors closed. 

Right in front with the track ahead of me. To balance the photographs to be taken, i made a decision then to also plonk myself right at the front of the train in my return trip. Easier said than done as that "decision" fails to materialise. 

Train operator in full sight with a ton of gadgets surrounding him! I was expecting a rather simple system but it's the technological age we are living in now and this system is in its 4th generation! 

On our way! 

Up the steep slope! Now, the railway at Penang Hill is known as funicular railway which means it uses both "ascending and descending cars" to counterbalance; similar to a pulley system. Want to know more? Check our my favourite Wikipedia

The track covers about 1,996 meters and given that the time taken from foot of hill to the peak is around 5 minutes, the train would be travelling at roughly 24 km/h.

Compared to a hovering cable car with bird's eye view of the surroundings, taking a train has its limitations; hence, the perpetual showing of train tracks in photos so far. 

Drove past the middle station which had a display of the older train; the same red and white one that i took twenty years ago! And i don't think it was air-conditioned then too! 

I think this would be the point of counterbalance between ascending and descending trains! And for those curious to know how many trains are in service on the mostly single-way track; there are only two.

The never-ending tracks! 

Another display of the nostalgic train - i thought it's nice of the Penang Hill Corporation to incorporate element of its history along the track; at least it gave travelers like us a visual treat among the greenery.

Doubt the mid stations were in use anymore as i understand it's a non-stop journey from top to bottom and vice versa.

Oh, i spotted a tunnel!

I am copying the following from the website: "at 79 meters long and 3 meters wide with a steepness of 27.9 degree, this is the steepest tunnel track in the world"! Wow! 

Past the world's steepest tunnel track and we are about to reach the upper station very soon! 

Arrival and with the train operator looking as if he was tired out! Honestly, it was repetitive work for him and it's a five-minute up and a five-minute down for a few hours straight. For a hyperactive man like i, this kind of work would likely bore me in no time. 

Getting out with the rest of my train mates; the five minutes up the hill were enough and i must spend the rest of the time at the peak marvelling at the top of the world view!

Before i forget, the above shows the interior of the train which was in a slanted, tiered format. If i am not wrong, there were about six compartments and each can house may be about 15 persons, including 8 who would be seated. 

Photograph of the way down, including the world's steepest tunnel track! 

On the breathtaking view at the top of Penang Hill, i have generated a separate post and you may click here for more photographs, including the viewing decks and tower (latter of which can be seen on the left of the above picture). 

Half an hour later, we were back at the Upper Station for the train ride down the hill. If you ask me, i would suggest you allocate about two hours for the peak as you can then truly relax in the lower temperature and even enjoy coffee and sweet desserts at the David Brown.

I tried and failed to get to the front of the train; was allocated to the back which means it's exactly the same spot that i was at earlier! :(

Nevertheless, i shall make the most out of it; for example, i didn't manage to take a picture of the tunnel on my way up until i was IN the tunnel.

The friend's son wasn't in the same compartment as me earlier and to him, he was ecstatic over the good spot he was at! Bet he must be wondering why i didn't appear as motivated to take picture after picture. 

Counterbalanced point again! 

Bypassed the Middle Station again; as you can see from sign, the station was at an elevation of 349.4 meters above sea level. I know Stensen is Malay for station but is Tengah Malay for middle?! 

So near yet so far - the tip of the 60.9-meter tall pavilion for the gigantic guanyin statue at the impressive Kek Lok si temple! You know how long it took us to get from Penang Hill to the temple? About 25 minutes! 

Buildings at the hillside - most of the bungalows were on top of the hill as the cooler climate at the peak was preferred by the crème de la crème. 

Reached the base station and faced with an impatient crowd waiting for us to get out of the train so that they can get in! To be frank, i feel for them and believe i had the same expression as them when i was waiting to get up the hill! 

See this sign that's placed right above the driver's seat. The driver was yakking non-stop during the entire journey but let's not be too fast to judge him as the one driving was at the train front and i was at the train end! 

Better photo of the newer blue train, i think.

I am unsure how long each train was even though my guess was about one train carriage from SMRT trains along the North-South, East-West lines.

Souvenir photos - before you join the queue to take the train up the hill, there was actually a green backdrop where a designated photographer would take photos to be super-imposed into nicer backgrounds as shown above. Our group literally skipped through the section! 

Upon your exit, there would be kiosks selling souvenirs, toys and even local biscuits! If you are not in a hurry like we are, take your time to go through their wares! 


Penang Hill, Perbadanan Bukit Bendera, 
Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Air Itam, 
11500 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

Operating Hours
From 6.30am to 11.00pm

Includes details on how to get to the penang hill railway station from the two penang bridges, the ferry terminal, the airport and via public transport. 

Map of Penang Hill
As above

Ticket Pricing (Non-Malaysians)
As above.

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