The bungalows atop Penang Hill are as integral to the hill as the funicular railway or the cool climate. The first residence on top of the hill was established by Captain Francis Light himself. He chose the highest peak visible from the north-eastern coast to establish his holiday home, and similarly delineated several plots of lands on the hill to his friends.
The peak eventually saw more and more bungalows emerge, owned by the island’s colonial masters. The distribution and ownership of the bungalows on Penang Hill reflected the colonial supremacy thinking of the day. Bungalows along Summit Road (presently Jalan Tuanku Yahya Petra) were owned by colonials, and it wasn’t until the early 20th century that other ethnic groups were allowed to build their residences there. While wealthy Chinese tycoons built lavish bungalows on Penang Hill, they were always on an elevation lower than Summit Road. Indian caretakers were employed to manage the bungalows, and some families remained as caretakers up until the present day.
Today, most of the bungalows are privately owned and no longer limited by cast, creed or colour. While some bungalows are being restored for various functions, some remain abandoned, and have even vanished from plain sight.