The most charming sights in Penang (and arguably in Malaysia) are Georgetown and Penang Bridge. There’s no way for you to truly enjoy Penang, Malaysia’s premier tourist destination, without being mesmerized by the beauty of its capital city and the iconic bridge. This is why Penang Hill is so popular, too. You get the best view from Penang Hill, especially at night when the city and bridge are flooded with spectacular night lights.
Getting on top of Penang Hill is not a problem at all. You simply take the Penang Hill Railway for a return fare of RM 30 if you are an adult foreigner. Child tourists are charged RM 15 for fare, while local adults pay only RM 8 and local children only RM 4. You can catch a ride every 30 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Most visitors take the 10-minute ride in the evening when it is really cool on top of the hill and the sights become much more stunning. You can also see the Straits of Malacca from there.
Penang Hill is actually made up of a number of hills rising above the island. The highest peak is 830 meters above sea level. Also known by its local name, Bukit Bendera, Penang Hill is a must-see destination in Penang, not just for the view but in itself also an exciting hill to hike. Hikers, trekkers and Nature enthusiasts often forego of the railway and would rather replace convenience with adventure. (It is not that convenient on weekends, though, when the trains get overly crowded with tourists.) Hikers may begin at different starting points; two of the most popular are within the Botanical Gardens (just before the reservoir) and the nearby Moon Gate.
The hike typically takes about two to three hours. For the less adventurous, there is a 5-km long paved path that starts just beside the Botanical Gardens entrance. Reaching the top is a joyous experience. On the summit are bungalows, a hotel, restaurants, a bird park, a mosque, a Hindu temple, and walking trails. Hikers may enjoy tea time and light snacks in cool, refreshing air, in contrast to the heat and humidity below. More than a century ago, the English writer, Isabella Bird, talked about Penang Hill’s summit. She said the temperature was “delicious” since it was much, much cooler than the plains. Tourists began climbing the hill as early as 1923.
To get to Penang Hill from Georgetown, you make take Transit Link Bus No. 1, No. 101, Lim Seng Bus No. 91 or minibus No. 21 from Lebuh Chulia. Any of these buses will take you directly to the Air Itam Terminal where the Penang Hill Railway is located. The best time to visit the place and climb up this popular hill is before 9:00 a.m. when there are fewer people cramming inside the trains. An incidental attraction is the friendliness of the local people. They will gladly guide you where to go if you decide to hike to the summit. There are no signs or directions along the paths. Penang Hill has a local population of only about 1,000.