Monday, August 8, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Gunung Jerai and Bukit Bendera Pulau Pinang

This is my final post on my Trip Down Memory Lane series. I will be going easy by using pictures to tell my story.
We left Kuala Perlis early after breakfast so that we will arrive in Gurun before noon to be able to perform my Friday prayers there. We had promised our friend Haji Zakaria that we would stop over at his place in Gurun on our way down to Penang. As Gurun is along the way, it was very convenient.
We took the old route from Kuala Perlis as we prefer to see life along the way rather than drive along the mundane North - South Highway. Driving on highways is a boring thing to do unless you are in a hurry. The problem with our road signage is most signages will try to lead you to the highway negating my very intent in the first place.
It was in Alor Star that I had a bit of problem when I took the wrong turn which would take me away from my direction to Gurun. A good samaritan told me to back track and he was intent on my getting the right direction and made me repeat after him all the numbers of traffic lights and the turns I need to take to go the correct way. Alor Setar has changed that much since I was last there in 1981.
Tuan Haji Zakaria's house was easy to locate as it was close to the Gurun Mosque.

One for the album with him and his wife at his residence.

He has another new bungalow located not far away from his present home. His daughter and family lives in the new bungalow.

The fruit of his labor, a durian tree laden with delicious fruits. We were lucky as a solitary fruit had fallen on that day and we were given the honour to eat it.
After performing the solat Jumaat at the mosque near his home where he is also the treasurer, we decided to ride up Gunung Jerai as I wanted to see how Gunung Jerai is now since my last trip was in 1980. Tuan Haji told me there has been many changes since a private company has taken over the management of the rest houses on top of the hill. His daughter who has never been to the summit tagged along. Imagine after living for about 20 years in the vicinity of the hill this is her first time there!
As we don't want to unnecessarily stress up our cars to ride up the steep incline, we hired a van which plies the route daily for a fee of RM50.00 for the five of us. It was a fair price indeed and he promised us to take us to the Resort which is out of bound to non paying guests.

The entrance to the foothill of Gunung Jerai from inside looking out.

Abd. Wahab Aminurahman aka Pak Long whose van was hired to take us up Gunung Jerai. Pak Long has a lot of stories to tell and can be contacted on his HP 012 4137341 for reservation.

Click to enlarge to read some information about Gunung Jerai.

The Regency Gunung Jerai Resort as it is now known after extensive makeover.

The Forest Museum and Gallery belonging to The Forestry Department near the summit of Gunung Jerai. We didn't get to see the inside though.

The Restaurant and Reception of Regency Gunung Jerai Resort.

Room rates ranges from RM240 to RM600. Pretty steep price but definitely worth every sen of it.

That is the elevation where the resort is located.

At the time of our visit the Grammatophyllum sp. was in full blooms. This is one of the biggest orchid species in the world.

Another one for the album. Pak Long took the picture for us.

We didn't stay too long at the summit. After returning to the base we drove back to Tuan Haji Zakaria's home for a delicious treat of 'pulut durian' (Durian with glutenous rice and coconut milk sweetened with grated palm sugar).
We had to decline his invitation to stay for the night at his place as we did not want to change our itinerary so we took our leave and drove onward to Seberang Prai via the North - South Highway as we need to reach Prai before dark as I was not familiar with the route to my sister in law's place.
True enough we had to call her assistance to come and lead us to her home as I was clueless on how to get to her place despite her giving instructions via the phone. Fortunately for us, we were not really very far from her place.
The next day we drove to Pulau Pinang via the Penang Bridge. My sister in law tagged along to be our guide. We had no specific itinerary and we will just go with the flow of the traffic. We headed for Tanjung Buggah and halfway we found the road to Bukit Bendera so we just turned towards it.

Driving on the Penang Bridge.

At the end of the road we saw the entrance to the Hill Railway with a brand new but yet serviceable multilevel car park beside it. Parking was definitely a problem and we paid RM3 to a parking tout to park along the side lane leading to a temple.

This entrance is for the residents of Penang Hill and VIPs.

Being tourists we had to buy tickets. Foreign tourists have to pay a higher rate and locals will have to show their mykad to enjoy a lower rate. The guy at the ticket counter noted our age and charged us a child's rate of RM4 each. The privilege of being a 'warga emas' hehehehe.

Scale sized first generation and second generation railway cabs and other paraphernalia relating to the old railway operation on display along the way to the embarkation point.

Rushing to board the brand new train

The inside of the new air conditoned cabin which is much larger and faster.

If I remember it right this is Andrew and his spouse from Yorkshire England. When I told him this was my second trip after 30 years, he shocked me that it was his second trip after 50 yrs ago when he was living in Singapore. Learnt a lesson today: Never brag in front of complete strangers.

From the top station we just walked to the summit.

Midway we saw a little girl having 'inai' painting on her hand.

If you are unable to walk around or just love to see more, the services of electrically operated buggies are available for a fee.

The first generation train cabin on display.

The food court and souvenir shop is under extensive renovation.

Fatthiyah found her fridge magnets that brought her so much joy to cram up the outside of our two large refrigerators back home.

A short flight up brought us to a Hindu Temple.

Another flight of stairs brought us to the mosque.

A young boy training his cannon on his enemies in the city below.

The City of Penang as seen from the top of Bukit Bendera.

On a stage you can be photographed with an albino python, for a fee of course.

I group of mountain bikers arrive at the summit. We wondered which route they took.

We descended Bukit bendera and drove over to The Botanical Garden. We had visited this place once with our children when they were small.

This was the entrance to the Botanical Garden and the track to the top of the hill is on the left of this entrance. Now we know where the bikers started their climb.

With the above signs, you shouldn't be lost in the botanical garden.

We were tired so we took the mini train ride around the garden.

Along the way we saw two visitors photographing a monkey with the male partner doing all sort of antics to coax the monkey to give his/her best pose.

This is how my mini train would look if I were to be photographed from afar.

A stream listlessly flowing through the garden. During our first visit, our children bathed in a section of the dammed up stream. Now a sigboard clearly advised people from bathing in the stream. That shows how contaminated the stream is nowadays.

Having done with the botanical garden we drove on on to Tanjung Bugah where we once had fun bathing in the sea. We couldn't find a parking place and could revisit the spot but still managed to find a spot to photograph the sea at high tide.

A stop at a floating mosque in Tanjung Bungah where we did the combined solat Zohor and Asar.

Driving along Gurney Drive.

Stopping by at Fort Cornwallis.

The entrance to the Fort. Entrance fee must be paid inside the entrance.

A statue of Sir Francis Light was relocated to this fort from a round about outside the fort. Sir Francis Light managed to find Penang even after the natives have found the island several hundred years ahead of him.

Yours truly being photographed with the British soldiers.

Sir Mohamad Zawawi with My Lady who had to stand on some raised slabs just to make her face visible in the face slot.

Hey we did the same thing as the other tourists did.

A canon with a missing wheels. Unlike the stolen wheels of the cannons in Malacca, the wooden wheel of this canon in Fort Cornwallis just disintegrated due to the relentless weather.

If you want to know about the canon, just read it up there. There was going to be a cultural show that evening but it was too long for us to wait so we just leave it for others to enjoy.

Having entered the island via the Penang Bridge it is only right that we took the ferry ride back to the mainland. This is the ultimate nostalgic feeling as there was no Penang Bridge when we came here some thirty years ago. So we proceeded to The Tun Uda Jetty just around the corner from Fort Cornwalis.

Our 7 years old Toyota Vios bearing the distinct Kelantan number plates riding the ferry to Prai.

This is how a double decker vehicle ferry look like from outside.

Leaving off the pier.

The Star Cruise ship berthed at the pier. The sight of the ship rekindled our dream to take a cruise on it one day. I guess this may not be my last visit to Penang.

The Penang Bridge as seen from the ferry. it was hazy and thus the sight isn't really discernible.
Upon disembarkation from the ferry, we proceeded to my cousin's place in Kepala Batas. My cousin Haji Rahim was not home as he and his family had gone to Gurun. Obviously he had not received my SMS that was sent from the top of Penang Hill. I found out the obvious after checking my phone. I laughed at myself. Learned another lesson that a cloned iphone4 is never good enough as the real thing.
Anyway I did stop over at his place the next morning on our way home to Kelantan.
Dear readers,
If you have reached this far, I would like to say thank you for bearing with me over this long post.