The best (and easiest) way to ascend Penang Hill is via the Penang Hill Railway, a white-knuckle, 15 minute ride that travels nearly 3,000 feet up a sometimes 50% grade.
The surrounding jungle and city views are lovely, and at the top you can view the bay and much of the city. Spread out among mountains and foothills, it’s clear that Penang just keeps growing. The city is now the eighth most populous state in Malaysia.
The Penang Hill Railway was finished in 1923, with an original cost of $1.5 million. Upgrades were completed in 1977, which included new cars – some of which you can still view, standing as museum pieces to the side of the track.
A funicular for the 21st Century
In n 2011, further improvements were made to the funicular. The railway now boasts a larger passenger capacity, along with non-stop service, and air-conditioned, wholly modern Swiss-made cars. The funicular operates from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with service every half hour. Cost is about $10, and $2.50 for Malaysian residents.
At the top of Penang Hill you’ll find a Hindu temple, restaurant, hotel and fresh mountain air. On a recent visit, fireworks from the Diwali festival were bursting far below, among buildings and houses. The surrounding views and scene is a true “top of the world” experience.
Penang, long know as the Pearl of the Orient, is also celebrated as the “street food capital of Malaysia.” In 2004, Time Magazine awarded the state as having Best Street Food in Asia.
You’ll find fusions from nearby countries, including China, Thailand and India. Try the traditional spicy noodle soup, laksa. You’ll find it wherever street food vendors operate.
Malaysia Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Kuala Lumpur. Also, consider visiting Malaysia as part of a multi-country stop. Flights into Kuala Lumpur are fairly inexpensive from the nearby countries of Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
Getting into Kuala Lumpur from the international airport is easy with the high-speed rail, KLIA Ekspres. The trip to central Kuala Lumpur takes 28 minutes with trains leaving every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets are about $12.
Kula Lumpur’s hop on and hop off buses are a great way to see the city. They run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost: $12.50 for one day; $21 for two days.
Peruse Malaysia’s official tourism site for more information on the country.