The high life: Growing up on the peak

loading Goh Thiang Siang, caretaker of The White House.

For many Penangites, the Hill is a place for Sunday morning hikes, a slice of nature close to the city. But some people remember growing up on its slopes and still call the highlands home today.

From George Town, Penang Hill is a quiet presence, a thought that barely registers even as it looms in the background. It appears intermittently throughout the city: turn a corner and it’s there, grey and distant, like an old friend you run into briefly on the street. The crumbling villas that dot the hillside are a ghostly souvenir of colonial grandeur that has long since decayed, fading memories of a half-remembered empire.

But there are those for whom the Hill was – and still is – home. I meet Tan Boon Kuan and Goh Thiang Siang, Ah Siang for short, at the Penang Turf Club to hear stories about life on Penang’s highlands. 

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