Contrary to popular belief, Penang Hill is not a single hill (as its name suggests) but a collection of hills and spurs with suitably exotic names – Government Hill, Western Hill, Tiger Hill, Crag Hill, Mt Edgecumbe – reminders of colonial times when afternoons were spent on croquet, tea and crumpets. The Hill was Malaya’s first hill resort, popular with 19th century mat sallehs due to its cool climate.
The famous funiculars operate from the Air Itam station and transport passengers up to the top of Strawberry Hill. The railway which is one of Asia’s most historic funicular railways was completed in 1923, 17 years after construction began and has recently undergone a drastic overhaul. Train services will resume in January 2011 and passengers will be whizzed up the hill quicker and in air conditioned “comfort”.
The hill is an important water catchment area for the state and its ancient forests are believed to “have existed in similar condition for about 70 million years”*; these are home to a huge range of flora and fauna (some on the cusp of extinction).
* Taken from Penang Hill (1991) published by Friends of Penang Hill.