Penang Trip: Romance of Penang Hill
Air Itam, the site of magnificence perched on hills. It’s a fitting name even if “air” doesn’t mean 20% 0xygen, and is actually pronounced with two vowels: “AH-eh” (simplified IPA: [ɑ.e]). Better yet, it means ‘water’!
(As for the other word, I’ve heard both “EE-tam” and “AI-tam”. I’m tending towards the first, since Hitam is an alternate spelling. But that’s not important.)
My family planned to visit Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple one after another, though persistent rain nearly scuppered our plans. (We did little at the latter so I won’t be writing about it.) You can get there in various ways, but the only public bus to Penang Hill is Bus 204 from the KOMTAR Bus Terminal. We boarded at a bus stop along Jalan Dato’ Keramat, and it cost just RM2 per person (min = RM1.4; max = RM4).
At the foot of Penang Hill, we had to buy 2-way shuttle train tickets at RM30 for adults and RM15 for students (both non-local). It took some waiting, but the inclined shuttle was quite an unnerving experience. Somehow, going up was much scarier than going down. Perhaps we are wired to fear the fall the more we climb?
We spent only about an hour atop the hill, but it left me with a deep impression. The view is foggy, but picturesque. The clouds lended dreaminess to the scenery.
Love is a major theme at Penang Hill – unsurprisingly. First there’s the mini heart-shaped structures walking you into the arms of romantic bliss.
Next there’s the love locks signifying commitment, though it’s easy to say yes to anything when you are up in the skies, shrouded in fluffy clouds. Just take the money already!
The ideal tourist experience, I believe, must be uplifting. There are many ways to achieve this, but the most effective probably involves romanticization. Here, I enjoyed taking in the air (no fixed volume) and mesmerizing scenes, natural or artificial. “Love” is in the air, literally!
It’s all too easy to get caught up in idealizations of love, especially on our travels. But the heavens – hehe – clearly has different ideas. Towards the end of our brief summit stay, the drizzle grew heavier. We were literally ambushed by clouds. The clouds duly followed us for the rest of the day.
It’s like love. You take your ride up with a little trepidation, but soon you are brimming with joy. Nothing can stop you, you assure each other. Yet as time passes, clouds darken and it starts to pour. Overwhelmed, you make the descent. The ride down is nothing special. What’s special, though, is that the clouds follow you, and follow you home. You lean on them. Until morning, when you can choose to stay home, ride up a different mountain, or ride up the mountain of now-guarded hopes.
Drifting too far? Well, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder!