i felt nostalgic and sad reading about the demise of the 87-year old penang hill's funicular train. the railway system, construction of which began in 1897 and took 26 years to complete, had conveyed millions of visitors and locals to the 830m peak known as flagstaff hill, the highest point on penang island.
according to the newspaper report, the railway had to be dismantled because the track and coaches were so worn out that services were often disrupted. a new air-conditioned system with bigger and faster coaches is expected to be in operation sometime in october this year.
on one of our trips to penang, when we failed to secure accommodation along batu ferringgi beach and the town, we stayed at bellevue hotel which is at the top of penang hill. from the restaurant of this hotel, you can get a breathtaking view of georgetown and parts of the mainland. bellevue is more like a hostel than a hotel. anyway, it was meant to tie us over for one day until we found accommodation at the beach.
the setback was that you felt stranded because if you wanted to do the usual touristy things like shopping and sightseeing, you would have to ride the funicular train to the base. i think there is a track or path up and down the mountain but it will take much longer than the half hour train journey. one of the places we took our two daughters sightseeing was the botanic gardens.
a one-way trip on the funicular cost rm$4, rm$2 for a child. it took about half an hour to travel from the base, at air itam, to the top and vice versa. the train service started at 6.30 a.m. and the train stopped for the day at 9.30 p.m.
the train or coach could get quite crowded from 8.00 a.m. onwards. the train made a few stops along the way to the top. you can feel the slight difference in the air temperature when you reach the summit. it was during our stay at bellevue that we came across a giant millipede. we found it among some potted plants.
it was about 15 cm long. millipedes have between 200 and 300 legs and they curl into a tight spiral when threatened. they can be kept as a pet but we left that one alone.
last year, during one of our walks to the tree-top at macritchie reservoir, my roup came upon a giant millipede along the track leading to the bridge. until then, i was not aware that these gentle giants can be found on our own soil.