Air Itam (or rather Ayer Itam, which is the correct name) is a suburb of George Town. It’s famous for its Penang cuisine (Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Peranakan) and for its access to the Penang Hills. The British established the hills as agricultural area with nutmeg and pepper farms. Still today fresh produce comes from these hills to George Town. Within these farm areas the British colonists built residences to escape the oppressive heat of the lower region. Some of the residences, especially the ones rebuilt after 1935 when a fire destroyed more than 100 homes, can still be seen today.
This is not the reason though to make your way up to Air Itam. Up there you finally find nature. Lots of it. Even monkeys were suddenly around.
Seeing nature is especially great since there is not a lot of it in George Town itself. So a trip up the Penang Hills is a breath of fresh air. Also the temperatures are a lot cooler, the old settler definitely knew what they were doing.
Nowadays it is easy to get up the Penang Hills, you just get on the funicular. Once on top the view on Penang is quite spectacular.
My goal was to see The Habitat, to experience the Malayan rain forest. So after a short stop at the Bellevue Hotel for coffee, I bought my ticket and started with the experience. The Malayan forest is definitely different from the Amazonian forest. In Brazil there were no walkways and a lot more insects. Nevertheless the Malayan forest is worth your time. Where else can you see monkeys in their natural habitat in a big city?
The walkways took a bit away from the rain forest adventure, but had the advantage that you can’t get lost. Which is great when you travel alone, with no other tourists in site, get regularly lost, and actually dislike the rain forest (after Brazil I can say ‘Been there, done that’). The Habitat is designed in a one way fashion, so all is safe here.
Next up was a canopy walkway, which allowed for another great view on Penang but also on some of the still standing residences.
The cool temperatures on top of Penang Hill made the walk around the Habitat a pleasant experience. After two days of sweltering heat in George Town this was a welcome relief. Here for example I passed a very large stone. Might be even bigger than the one from the Baalbek.
The walk around The Habitat takes anything from an hour to a whole day. The Habitat offers swings to share and other seating arrangements, so that you can take a break. I really enjoyed the afternoon I spent here. Yours, Pollybert