Friday, 26 September 2014 22:37
‘Greener Cleaner Penang’ is the slogan used in George Town to stress on the need to keep an attractive city which draws large crowds. Bus travel being so popular both among locals and visitors, the message is conveyed loud and clear at the bus stops which themselves are very neat and tidy.
When I saw the message loud and clear in a bus stop I was reminded of the campaign CTC did many years ago to keep the Kandy city clean. We used a simple message – ‘Lassana Maha Nuwara lassanata thabaganna’ for an attractive poster campaign. With its beautification program in full swing, Colombo city dwellers and other users have a responsibility to keep the streets and parks clean.
In George Town once you reach the central bus station it is very easy to find the route and time of buses to get to your destination. Staff at the information counter is knowledgeable, courteous and willing to help. Once you get to the correct stand and wait, the times of arrival and departure of the buses are updated via a computerised screen. And the buses seldom get delayed.
We took a city bus to the central station one morning. We were heading for Penang Hill, one of the most popular visitor destinations. With separate spaces inside the bus to keep standing we were quite comfortable even without a seat for most of the distance and were able to enjoy the scenery along the route.
At the end of the bus ride we had to take a mono rail car to reach the peak. It takes you up to an elevation of 833 m (2,723 ft) above sea level. With an elevation of more than 2,000ft above sea level, we were told that Penang Hill offers the best panorama of George Town and the eastern coast of Penang island. It’s only on a bright day that the view can be seen. Unfortunately being a misty day we missed the sight.
The Swiss made railway gives you a fascinating ride with lush greenery on either side. Both sides are covered with huge trees and bushes. If you are lucky enough to get a place in the last compartment the view down below is exciting. Mid-way there is a loop for two trains to pass. The 2,007 m (1 mile 435 yards) journey takes about half an hour.
Penang Hill is hilly and forested. Like the town, it had been founded by Sir Francis Light during his pack horse track in 1788. Horses and ‘doolies’, where masters were carried up the hill on special chairs, were the earliest modes of transport. Paths were cut using Indian prisoners and bungalows were built to make it a hill resort so that the officials could often move out of the warm town to the cool climes of the hills.
During the 19th century the colonial administrators had made the place accessible with walking tracks and the railway. The latter had been in existence since October 1923.
The hill resort comprises a group of peaks. The monorail takes you to the highest point at Western Hill. Once you come out you can browse around enjoying the vegetation, a few old buildings, a bird’s park and play area for kids. A Hindu temple and a Catholic church are among the old buildings. These are well maintained.
With an elevation of more than 2,000ft above sea level, Penang Hill offers the best panorama of George Town, and other conurbations on the eastern coast of Penang Island.
An owl museum offers the visitor a rare experience. It is a unique collection of hundreds of owls of different types and shapes made out of numerous materials. Beautiful owls carved out of word, stone and even pebbles as well as ceramic ones in different colours, crystal owls and even silver ones are displayed on racks and in cupboards. The history of owls and descriptions of various types are interesting reading.
Another rather unusual sight in the Hills open air observation deck is the 80 feet long padlock fence. It is described as Penang’s adaptation of the popular love lock concept around the world, in the likes of Rome’s Ponte Milvio and Germany’s Hohenzollern Bridge. Visitors can buy padlocks of their choice from several sizes and have it sealed at the fence.
Once the round is done, there are plenty of cafes for visitors to enjoy a good meal.