Penang Hill – an uplifting experience!

Penang Hill © Adrian Cheah

A must-see in Penang is the Penang Hill Railway, Keretapi Bukit Bendera, a fascinating little cable train service that lifts you out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plain and up to a fabulous view and cool breezes. OK!, if you are not quick on your feet you can miss a seat, but the majority of passengers stand. Anyway, you see more and have the added fun of travelling upwards at 45 degrees to the landscape.

This is no tourist train but a serious railway. Goods are carried on a small rail wagon pushed ahead of the passenger car. There are stations where passengers alight and goods are delivered.

Be prepared with your camera for some of the largest bamboos ever, troops of monkeys only an arms distance from the windows, stately hillside bungalows with extraordinary gardens, mountain streams that tumble through moss-covered basalt boulders encrusted with ferns and bush orchids, and we are only halfway to the top!

Penang Hill

In earlier times this was the retreat for the European administration, an escape from the bustle and heat of George Town. The beautifully crafted stonework of the tunnels and the elaborate cast-iron scroll-work that decorates the entrance of each station remind you of some English rural railway picked up and draped across this jungle hillside.

Penang Hill © Adrian Cheah

When you reach the summit you can walk around the hilltop, stop for tea, enjoy a leisurely lunch, buy a souvenir, try to photograph George Town and the Strait, (you will need a long lens and ultraviolet filter) or simply breathe deep lungs full of cool mountain air.

The train service is regular, timetables are readily available and like most things in Malaysia, reliable! Try the Keretapi Bukit – it's an uplifting experience!


Story by John Lyon, 2003. Well-travelled Aussie John Lyon shares his experience on Penang. He gives a traveller's insight on some of Penang's favourite places of attraction.

Photographed by Adrian Cheah © All rights reserved. Updated 2017.