Our second day in Malaysa was a very relaxing visit to Penang.
First, we took the Hop On Hop Off bus to get a nice feel for the actual city of Penang. The HOHO bus is pretty easy to use and stops at several interesting points of interest! Here are a couple of things we saw – I don’t know what any of them are! (In the photo at the bottom, there is a crowd of people outside of a temple, and I think they were taking part in some sort of religious ceremony.) We also passed by a lot of schools that were filled with children, which I thought was strange considering it was New Year’s Eve’s Eve (December 30).
Our main goal for the day was to enjoy the nature provided by Penang Hill, so we got off the bus at the appropriate stop, and were greeted by long, snaky lines for the funicular that would take visitors to the top of the hill. We decided to use the “fast pass” and paid around 3 times more than the regular price. We were then ushered to a shorter line for paying, a shorter line for waiting, and also an air-conditioned room! (It was definitely worth it.)
When we arrived at the top of the hill, we had a quick lunch, then it was off to The Habitat at Penang Hill, something of an educational nature conservation centre. There had recently been landslide activity in the area, so the regular entrance was closed, which meant we had to take shuttle busses (trucks) to enter the centre from its exit! Since there wasn’t enough space for our entire party to fit inside the truck, I jumped into the back and felt the wind in my hair as we travelled along the path and I’ve never felt more free!
Once we arrived at the Habitat, we started walking along the path and admiring the nature and animals. It’s not a difficult path; everything is paved. There are occasional lookouts, and some lookout points even have a swing that can easily fit 2 or 3 people! How picturesque! (I truly apologize for the lack of pictures … it really was so beautiful!)
As we walked along, we met a tour guide/naturalist who explained so many things to us and made the walk a lot more educational and useful. He explained what different plants ate and how they grew, how tarantulas buried themselves into rock by making perfect cylindrical burrows, and he even told us about biomimicry! This guy was so passionate and seriously loved biology; I found it quite admirable and inspiring! Our guide then explained to us that tour guides purposely don’t engage with visitors until after they’ve walked along the path for a little bit – giving people time to explore on their own and form their own questions naturally is a lot more interesting and engaging than if a tour guide just droned on and on about something that they deemed important. (As a teacher, I found this very cool.) We also walked across the canopy bridge (pictured above), where we saw a giant flying squirrel and monkeys!
We also visited the 360° observatory which is very very high off the ground. It took us far above the rainforest so that we had a beautiful view of the tops of the trees, as well as the city of Penang. It was a little bit shaky and there’s no reason to be afraid, but the wind does blow very hard and I can see how that can be disconcerting for some. The observatory also has information plaques to let you know what you’re looking at (for example, there are a couple of former colonial government buildings up in the trees (Why there? I don’t know.) and I learned about who lived there and what they did.)
After our afternoon of walking, we returned to the base of the hill, hopped back on the HOHO bus, and I promptly fell asleep until we arrived back at the cruise terminal.