Fresh from my Sabah vacation (I came back on Sunday, 18th December 2016), I felt restless at my house in Batang Kali. The supposed “Research Design” class on Monday was postponed as my lecturer was not feeling well – and by right, I should have been continuing the momentum on Ph.D; BUT honestly, I am feeling very sloth and lazy AND I have been attacked by the wanderlust bug!! Hence, without further ado, my mind automatically concocted spontaneous plan and by Wednesday 21st December 2016, I was out from Tamu Hill; I was heading my way to the Northern of Peninsular!!
The Rahmat Maritime Museum at Lumut Waterfront.
I took my sweet time driving from Tamu Hill, Bandar Baru Batang Kali towards Lumut, Perak via Teluk Intan. This marks my 2nd solo trip this year (the first one was to Melaka earlier this year to assuage my depression – REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/battling-mental-depression-with-self-serenity-notes-of-my-travel-the-settlement-hotel-melaka/) and my first solo trip to Lumut. I have been to Lumut in 2011 (that was 5 years ago! My God; and I was accompanied! REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/cuti-cuti-malaysia-beach-retreat-lumut-the-maritime-naval-hub-licking-good-malay-cuisine-kuala-kangsar-royal-town-of-perak/) but this time was my first attempt of visiting the township as a solo traveler. Around 1.00 p.m. I passed by a mosque at Kampung Selabak at the junction to Lumut and Telok Intan and I found a stall selling Laksa & Cendol. Both were so delicious and I gave 5 stars!! Hopefully, I could repeat there again if I happen to go to Lumut again via the same route.
My cousin Kak Alia and her husband Abang Najib and their daughter. Thanks so much for your hospitality although must be tiring to have a guest during working day. It is nice to see Mak Ngah Nah now leads a tranquil life at Manjong.
Around 2.30 p.m. I arrived at Lumut, the township for naval army and maritime ecotourism. I checked in at Blue Bay Resort, the place I went 5 years ago but this time, the place seemed so dilapidated and unorganized. Still, at this peak season of school holiday, the pricing is at RM120 but now no breakfast is prepared unlike 5 years ago. The hotelier was somewhat a good communicator in terms of liaising with customers but I can see that perhaps the hotel isn’t doing well anymore. Perhaps due to the Malaysian economic these days and it is costly for maintenance – the lobby was dimmed and the dining hall was closed. But the room was big and as a solo traveler, I have no fuss about that! For more information, you guys may peruse the website at http://www.malaysia-hotels.net/bluebay/.
The front facade of Bellevue Hotel. It was reportedly to be among the oldest buildings on the hill; first erected by Mr. Haliburton at the Haliburton Hill. This house was an epitome of a retreat house for the English colonialists years ago. They came to the hill to rejuvenate themselves with the cool weather and to escape from the tropical scorching hot weather at the lowlands.
So happened that my cousin, Kak Alia now lives at Lumut and she bought a house there. My aunt, Mak Ngah Nah also resides with them after the demise of my other cousin, Kak Aida early this year (REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/the-end-of-a-kidney-battle-a-fiery-spirit-a-fighter-for-life-the-demise-of-my-beloved-cousin-aida-shaari/). Kak Alia’s husband, Abang Najib happened to see my Facebook status (last checked-in at Teluk Intan! Well you know, I am quite a Facebook aficionado! lol!) and he messaged Kak Alia to invite me to their place at Taman Manjung Point. Thus, around 6.00 p.m., I went there and I am happy to see Mak Ngah Nah now leading a new life. We went o have dinner at nearby Thai restaurant and they insisted I stayed the night at their residence but since I have already checked-in Blue Bay Resort, I told them perhaps other time. Coincidentally, their residence was not that far from my other cousin’s house, Kak Yati at Venice of Perak!
The banner clearly says it all. The only hotel on Penang Hill. So I guess all the bungalows scattered are private-owned?
An rainforest garden for you to explore at the side of the entrance. However, I did not have the time to wander there. There is also an aviary owned by Bellevue Hotel.
The trip was a layback vacation. I strolled along the Lumut Waterfront at night and saw the Rahmat Maritime Museum floating majestically there. Lumut’s sea water was heavily-scented with oil, perhaps due to the numerous naval ships operating nearby. Nevertheless, seeing the murky sea tide at a secluded corner in Lumut Waterfront provided me therapeutic space to ponder about my life and my missions in life. It was an aloof practice but all I can say, it was therapeutic. On the next day before I checked out, I browsed through the Internet for Bellevue Hotel at Penang Hill. I have always have the wish to spend night there and I wanted to crystallize that dream. I compared the pricing between Internet and direct-call; seems like Internet provided cheaper pricing – my first attempt using Agoda.com. I managed to get RM270 for a single room! I then checked-out from Blue Bay Resort circa 9.15 a.m. and headed towards Penang, my Island home birthplace!
Guess it was my lucky day. I paid for single room but since the rooms were already occupied, the hotelier gave me the Family Room. It was spacious (,”).
My first attempt trying the Panorama feature. This is the picture of the whole room.
It was around 12.30 p.m. that I arrived at Butterworth Ferry Terminal which is now known as Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim. Nevertheless, many vehicles queued up so it took me around half an hour to board the ferry! Nevertheless, it was a nostalgic reminiscence when I was on board of the ferry. I recalled that ferry was the transportation that my family and I used to board when we commuted from the island towards Seberang Perai (Province Wellesley) to visit my father’s parents at Penaga, Butterworth. So, my sister (big the Big Sister, you know! Haha!) always fooled me by exclaiming that she saw a mermaid and dolphin swimming at the side of the ferry. And of course, I being the mythical freak boy was agitated to see them but was crestfallen when I couldn’t see them. Haha! Such a sweet memory.
The cafe. The courtyard is very English-like with gazebo and panoramic view of Penang and Province Wellesley. Picturesque scene.
Once arrived at Penang Island, I drove towards KOMTAR for the sake of “Nasi Kandar Telor Sotong” (Nasi Kandar with squid eggs) despite the heavy traffic and the heavy rain! Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky as the restaurant I aimed was no more to be found and all I could find was a reconstruction site at the former place at the entrance to the KOMTAR parking lots (opposite POPULAR). I drove out towards Penang Hill via Dato’ Kramat Road which happened to be the usual road I took for 19 years when I lived at FRU to Penang City Centre! Suddenly, I remembered a small stall called “Kedai Bawah Pokok Ceri” (Stall Under Cherry Tree) which is situated at the Dhobby Ghaut Mosque’s compound and Ayah used to take me there for Nasi Kandaq. So, I stopped by there and savoured the Nasi Kandar. No squid eggs for me but that would do for my luncheon, though! Haha! After that, I drove straight to Penang Hill located at Air Itam, which is not far from my old residence at Boundary Road, Padang Tembak.
A gazebo ala Bali style. Beautiful landscape. Green pasture against the misty scenery. Cool after-rain feeling. Perfect! For once, you did feel like a celestial being dwell at the highest zenith observing the lives of the mortals. Haha!
I was surprised to see that there was a building specifically for parking lot at Penang Hill! When I was there in 2012, it was quite chaotic and messy as vehicles had to be parked at the sides of the road or at a limited space parking lot (REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/the-diary-of-a-salt-water-people-embracing-my-island-home-penang/) but now you can safely park your car in that building! There were so many people thronging at the ticket counter so I opted for the Fast Lane (RM15). The counter boy expected me to buy the return ticket so he instantaneously quoted RM30; when I told him I only needed one way ticket as I am spending night there, he was taken aback and sniggered. Well, you can’t blame him as based on his looks, he is still a young lad without much life experiences!
Breathtaking scenery captured from the courtyard.
With the new funicular train, the ride took less than 10 minutes! Once up there, I walked straight to Bellevue Hotel which is not far from the Penang Hill Police Station. The counter person wasn’t expecting me as I paid my reservation via Agoda. Initially, the RM270 was slated for a single room; nevertheless since the single rooms were occupied, he gave me the Family Room – 1 queen bed and one extra complimentary bed! Guess it was my lucky day! The room was spacious but the compartments were old ala 80s design. All I can say is don’t expect a lavish decoration – it is all about getting acquainted with authentic Old Colonial English style. For a solo traveler like me, it was a commendable place.
At the left side of the courtyard, you could see Jerai Mountain, the highest peak at Kedah. There is an old mansion visible at the top pf hill facing Jerai Mountain. That is Crag Hotel, which was built by Armenian expatriates. The building had undergone many operations as expatriate house retreat, school and also films production such as for the Oscar-winning French film “Indochine” as well as British TV series “Indian Summers”. Unfortunately, it is now a deserted place.
Now, the unique thing about Bellevue Hotel is the surrounding landscape. There was an aviary and garden at the side of the hotel. At the backyard, there was a cafe. I met the cook, an old Chinese man and tried to make a civilized greet but my oily gesture was reciprocated negatively with a smug and a simple head-nodding. Perhaps it was because of my petite stature or because I was casually dressing up which make him think I am a harmless “boy” – but I was taken aback and didn’t bother to make any further conversations. I simply savoured the courtyard at the cafe and was blown away by the panoramic scene of Penang! From there, you could see Penang’s whole landscape under the white fleece of after-rain clouds and at the other side, you could see a deserted old English mansion facing a visible Jerai Mountain of Kedah. The Straits of Malacca was clearly visible from this point as well as the mainland Province Wellesley! I then understood why the British opted for Penang Hill as an observatory point for their military security as well as a temperate climate getaway from the tropical Penang climate at the lowlands! I love history so my mind instantaneously had that mental image. Amazing!
At the Owl Museum. Quite mundane for those who do not like artistic features. I, however find it quite fascinating. The furthest left picture is depiction of Grecian Goddess of Wisdom, Athena with her owl.
Despite the hostility shown by the cook (and I didn’t have the appetite to eat anything there – not confident; now this is my own issue. Haha!), the staffs generally were nice and friendly. The WIFI provided was not functioning until way passed midnight – perhaps due to the heavy rain at the evening. Nevertheless, the ambiance of Old English was very eminent there and I imagined myself in those colonial day ala “Almayer’s Folly” by Joseph Conrad! I guess people who spend night there are those who prefer the quiet atmosphere as throughout the night, I kept hearing one fussy occupant reprimanding the hoteliers due to “annoying disturbance” such as light at the aisle as well as sound from generator/refrigerator (which I don’t feel caused any significant sound)! For more visualization of the hotel, you guys can check the official website at http://bellevuehotel.my/.
I was exploring the pathway for hikers towards Penang Hill when I stumbled upon this dilapidated house. Seemed like an English house built by colonists for their retreats. I suddenly feel like I am in that era like a scene in “Hanyut”, a Malaysian adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s “Almayer’s Folly”! Imagine if you lived in that era!
I also had the opportunity to visit the Owl Museum. With RM12 per entrance, it houses eclectic collection with owl themes. Definitely, owl is a very unique and mysterious creature. There is also an “Astaka Bukit Bendera” or Penang Hill Pavilion which houses various types of food. Since I am now in the so-called regime to control my diet, I didn’t feel the urge to eat at nighttime. In case if you guys are hungry, I suggest you buy the food and take them away as the shops usually close circa 7.30 p.m. The night at Penang Hill was very tranquil and quiet. Nonetheless, music from David Brown’s Strawberry Hill was eminent until 9.00 p.m. Seeing the night landscape of Penang with millions of neon lights was a peaceful sight. It provided me sense of therapeutic session and allowed me to do some in-depth self pondering. I also had the opportunity to do a Sunat prayer at the Penang Hill Mosque at an elevated terrain which is situated not far from the Hindu temple nearby. Of course, it was really quiet and there was only one elder man performing prayer at the time I entered the mosque around 8.00 p.m.
The love padlock balcony and corridor from the funicular tram station.
On whole, I enjoyed this experience of spending my night on Penang Hill. I am glad that I make effort to crystallize that ambition by following my heart! Anyway, I checked-out around 8.00 a.m. and the morning was very misty due to the morning fog. Now you can’t buy any tickets up at the hill. If you buy only the one-way ticket, you can board down the hill via funicular train first; and then at the lowland, you have to pay for the ticket (I was a bit freak out when I found out there was no ticket counter on the hill! Haha!).
Majestic view of after-rain Penang. Fleece of white clouds at the yonder.
You can see ferries move from Port Swettenham at the island towards Butterworth terminal.
I then drove to Kampung Melayu to savour Roti Canai. This was the place not far from my old residence at FRU Flats and Ayah used to take me there on motorcycle. The area used to be covered with lushes greenery and trees but now, you could hardly found trees as the surroundings were cleared for the sake on new budding buildings! After that, I planned to hike towards the Air Itam Dam (I’ve been there years ago with my primary school friends). Using Waze, I drove towards the Kek Lok Si Temple and parked my car at an elevated terrain there. Just as I was about to walk into the trail heading up the damn, I was stopped by a policeman who told me no one now is permitted to go to Air Itam Dam due to the recent landslide! Argh, I was crestfallen but what to do?
The night scene by the million of neon lights.
The night view from the hill where the Penang Hill Mosque was located. The other one was a restaurant called David Brown’s Strawberry Hill.
Before called it a quit on my Island Home, I drove passed by Boundary Road where my old residence, FRU Flats (Federal Reserve Unit; my father was policeman!) was located. I really wanted to meet Pak Cik Salim, a bookshop keeper whose shop has been the “one stop center” for my sister and I as we commuted our ways back home from school – in fact, most boys and girls at FRU always frequent the bookshop! He sold many kinds of books and I remember being avid reader of comics such as “Dragon Ball”, “Dragon Quest”, “Sailormoon”, “GS Mikami”, “Dik Cerdas Shin Chan” and the Malay Language of Tony Wong’s comics such as “Alam Perwira”, “Dewata Raya” and “Lingkaran Terkunci”! Well, he even presented me free comics when I scored 4As in my UPSR 1996 as well as straight 8As in my PMR 1999! Well, 4 years ago when I visited Penang, I did make an attempt to see him but he wasn’t there so this time, I am making attempt to see if he is there.
With Pak Cik Salim, the bookshop-keeper who I have known since my childhood days. Imagine he gave me comics as gifts because I did well in UPSR and now I am 32 years old?! An eloquent Hokkien speaker, he touches many hearts with his impeccable humanistic interpersonal skill. Having a doctorate or even if you are at the highest point in social hierarchy are meaningless if you do not know how to touch people’s hearts. And this man is the testament of that. Alhamdulillah, my solo trip to Penang this time is worthwhile!
The moment I saw his face, my heart thumped but I braved myself greeting him and asked him whether he recognized me (after all, it has been 16 years since I left school!). To my delighted surprise, he effortlessly recalled my name at second attempt :-
“Laaa, awat tak kenai? Apa..Shahrul ka; Shahrill ka? Muka ang dok tak berubah dari dulu!” (Why won’t I recall you? Your name is..Shahrul or Shahrill, right? You face hasn’t change that much from the younger days!)
Wow, I am amazed with his vivid memory recollection! We talked about the good old days for a while and he told me that the book store now is taken care by his son-in-law and he just visit the shop once a while. Surely it is my luck to meet him that day. Alhamdulillah, I felt exhilarated with this and I am glad I put courage to do a solo trip this time!
I wanted to hike to Air Itam Dam but due to recent landslide, visitors are not allowed anymore. The most I could do is to capture this Air Itam Dam clock which was visible from my residence at FRU Flats. Sometimes my family referred to this clock. Such a majestic view. You guys can read about the history at the Internet. Very interesting!
Around 11.00 a.m. I drove my way out from Penang and make way towards Kedah. Performed my Jumaat prayer at the majestic Al-Bukhary Mosque in Alor Setar and arrived at Jitra circa 3.15 p.m. On Saturday 24th December 2016, my KPLI buddy, Zahiri (Kod) and I went to eat Laksa Ikan Sekoq which has become an Internet sensation. As a laksa aficionado, I am so eager to experience this. We found the stall at Gangsa Road which is not far from Aman Central shopping mall. Perhaps during its premature years of operation, this stall boasts that customers could have add-ins until you are full – but now one person is limited for once only (and extra eggs are charged!). Nevertheless, the laksa was delicious and the ais kacang was yummy! No wonder people keep thronging the stall every now and then.
Yummy Laksa Sekoq! Only at Alor Star, Kedah y’all (,”).
Picture is courtesy of Kod’s camera. Hehe.
On whole, I am satisfied that I have pull the courage to do this solo trip!! I’ve never done solo trip. Before this year, everywhere I go, I’ve always have at least a confidante. And I’ve noticed that waiting for other people will take ages and time will be wasted (I have the opportunity but the other party keeps procrastinating and don’t even bother to make effort to apply for holidays). In the end, I’ve got to do it myself and my way IF I really want to do what I’ve always want to do. Yeah, I used to think that solo traveling is kinda pathetic BUT now I’ve experience that, I’ve come to realize that it is therapeutic and I can do and go anywhere my own ways WITHOUT having to compromise with other people’s feeling.
A Selfie is a must. Oh, grey hair is becoming more abundant. Sigh. (,”). It is a subtle reminder from God that I am getting old and death is approaching, no? Spirituality needs to be heighten.
This holiday proved to be another eventful year for me – I had Sabah and spending night at Penang Hill on my sleeves now, y’all! Alhamdulillah, God bless.
The trailer of Oscar-winning French Film (Best Foreign Film) 1993 “Indochine” where Crag Hotel of Penang Hill was used as the setting. Seems like an interesting movie!