Penang Hill

Here’s a new venue for our little adventures: the island of Penang, in Malaysia. After a so-so visit to a beach, we take a day to visit Bukit Bendera, the hill which overlooks Georgetown. Its proximity to the city, as well as its height and general form, remind me of Mt. Tamalpais near my previous home–which I have posted about many times.

The easy and popular way to get to the peak is a high-speed tram, which zips up at about a 40° angle. Pretty exciting! The platform at the top is crowded with massive groups of tourists; the crowding is exacerbated by many of the surrounding footpaths being closed for repairs after the heavy rains. But the view is spectacular.

(Yes, that indistinct figure in the white shirt is me on the famous Skywalk.)

Here’s a video panorama…

There’s a lot of tourist business at the top, restaurants, souvenir stands, but with the several of the scenic byways closed for repairs, we don’t find much reason to dawdle. I want to try hiking down. It’s 5 km downhill, mostly in the shade; should be no problem.

We find ourselves on a very steep road, which is shared by occasional big construction vehicles and service trucks, and soon I wish I had packed my hiking poles. After I mention this, Esso thoughtfully finds a large fallen branch, easily broken into walking-stick size. Still, our knees feel the stress of the resisting the steep slope for so long, and we enjoy increasingly frequent rest stops.

The forest is lovely, and there are some nice views in quiet places.

The road is a deep cut in steep slopes, so of course landslides are a problem. The unstable slopes have been buttressed with state-of-the-art runoff controls.

I mentioned the trucks that we share the road with. After we get about halfway down, we begin to encounter a few other hikers, coming up for their evening walk. And not all the other hikers are human:

This fellow was just the first of a good-sized troop. Maybe commuting from their “jobs” in town, raiding trash cans? Most pass us without interest, but a couple look like they might want to try to grab something from us. A wave of my walking stick dissuades them from getting too close.

Even though it’s shady, the air gets warmer as we descend, and after almost two hours, the last kilometer is utterly exhausting. But we do make it out to civilization.

So tired, I don’t even argue with the taxi driver who wants to charge us double the regular fare, because it’s rush hour. Grateful to get back to the hotel, even though the hot water is off (this is a four-star hotel!!) and we have to settle for cold showers, when aching muscles really need heat.

And really appreciative of the great street-cooked food at the local eatery down the block! Attracted by the “Tom Yum Seafood” sign (Esso’s favorite Thai dish), we find a big fresh fish on display, and let the cook decide what to do with it.


This is what it looks like when it gets back to us. The sauce is something like a Mexican salsa, something like an Indonesian dip, something like a chutney. Tomato, onion, pineapple, chile, and who knows what else. And of course the fish is perfectly cooked. So delicious, and unique! Happy ending!

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