Sunday, 1 January 2012

Night view from Penang Hill

For a change, my wife and I decided to go up to the Bellevue Hotel at Penang Hill to usher in the new year. Thanks, of course, to my very old friend, Oon Hup, who had invited us to the hotel.

We arrived at the bottom station of the Penang Hill funicular train service at about 7.30pm. Not many people there at about that time and the coach was practically empty as we deliberately chose the compartment at the end of the carriage. Quite a different experience to see the bottom station disappear in the distance as the train pulled away rapidly. Anyway, the dark gave us a different perspective of the train ride and we could see the lights of Ayer Itam and Rifle Range opening up beneath us.

The top station was pretty misty when we arrived. Rather ethereal, right? Looked spooky, gloomy and deserted. Our first thoughts were, oh no, a wasted trip if we couldn't see anything. We passed by the entrance to the David Brown restaurant. They were offering a new year's eve buffet dinner at RM168++ per person. Very steep prices. I can only hope that those people who came here to celebrate the new year got their money's worth of food and entertainment. The David Brown restaurant was, however, not our destination. We walked on, passing by the stage and the old funicular train carriage on exhibit. Now there were people. They were milling about preparing themselves for the new year's eve countdown. I heard later that the Penang Hill Corporation had prepared some entertainment of sorts. Again, this wasn't our destination. So we just continued walking on. And finally, we reached the Bellevue Hotel, owned by Dato' Lim Chong Keat.

We moved to the garden at the back of the hotel which looked over the city. Breath-taking view. But at first, the mist persisted and so, we couldn't see much. Maybe, just some hazy lights in the distance. But after about 8.30pm, the mist rolled away to reveal the twinkling city lights. (The above picture was taken on manual mode with a time exposure of more than a second. Click on the picture to reveal better details.) We thought the weather would hold for the rest of the evening but right on cue at midnight, the mist rolled in again and totally obliterated our view of the city.

But then the unexpected happened. Fireworks going off at the top of the hill. This was part of the activities by the Penang Hill Authority. For some minutes, there were sporadic bursts of fireworks in the sky right above us. Well, at least this wasn't a totally wasted trip.

Leaving the hill was a bit of a nightmare. Because of the crowd that had lingered on at the hill, no thanks to the Penang Hill Corporation, we had to endure a 45-minute wait for the train to take us down. But once we had entered the carriage, it was just five minutes before we reached the bottom station. By the way, just because of the new year eve celebration, the trains ran past one o'clock just to accommodate the crowd. Normally, service would have ended by nine o'clock. My friend says businesses at the hill top are being held to ransom by the train schedule. Yeah, he's right....

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