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Penang Hill Bungalows

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Penang Hill bungalowPenang Hill bungalow (5 March 2005)

Penang Hill Bungalows is a legacy of a time past. They were built by Europeans as well as rich Chinese tycoons. When Penang Hill was first developed, the British (and later their Eurasian friends) were allowed the opportunity to own real estate above everyone else. This was in the 19th century. Many of the Europeans who made their homes on Penang Hill were British officers, many coming to Penang to seek convalescence from the malaria-plague lowlands.

They were carried up the hill on sedan chairs by coolies. At that point in time, there was clear class segregation between the races. Regarding themselves as superior to Asians, Europeans earmarked for themselves the choices land on Penang Hill.

Some bungalows, such as Bukit Pinang, is in private hands.  This help to ensure the better upkeepSome bungalows, such as Bukit Pinang, is in private hands. This help to ensure the better upkeep (5 March 2005)

Many of the bungalows on Penang Hill were owned by the British government. One of the most opulent was Bel Retiro, a bungalow used by the highest ranking officers. After Merdeka (independence), the British bungalows were taken over by the local government. Today they are under the care of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP), but they continue to carry their British names such as Bel Retiro, Richmond, Convalescent Bungalow, and so on.

By the third quarter of the 19th century, particularly after the discovery of rich tin deposits in the Larut Valley, many of the local Chinese became the newly rich. They too wanted a piece of the action, and there was no better way to show off that you have arrived than to build a bungalow on Penang Hill. In the early stage, the Chinese tycoons were forbidden to own or build properties on the highest level of the hill, so they built their below the properties of the Europeans. This can be seen in bungalows such as The Great Wall.

Today many of the bungalows on Penang Hill are privately owned. As development on Penang Hill is strictly controlled, owning one of these bungalows is like being struck by a comet - something not easy to obtain, even if you have the money. Also these bungalows are high maintenance properties. As ownership means having to bring all your items up the hill, you can expect a highly elevated cost.

Moy Craig, one of the most beautiful bungalows on Penang HillMoy Craig, one of the most beautiful bungalows on Penang Hill (5 March 2005)

It is not surprising that many of the Penang Hill bungalows have fallen into disrepair, especially if they are owned by the government rather than in private hands. As these bungalows are often rented out, they are often subjected to "abuse" from overnight trippers who are not the most civic-minded visitors on the hill. While some of these bungalows - such as Richmond - has seen some restoration and repair, others have fallen apart.

The following are some of the bungalows on Penang Hill that I have described:

Bungalows on Penang Hill

Many of the bungalows are rest houses belonging to the Penang Island City Council. If you wish to book the use of these rest houses, please visit the office of the city council in Komtar to make your enquiries.

Bel Retiro

The most prestigious property on Penang Hill


Convalescent Bungalow

One of the oldest rest houses on Penang Hill.


Fernhill Bungalow

Disused bungalow at the top of a steep slope.


Moy Craig

One of the most beautiful privately owned bungalows on Penang Hill.



Rest house belonging to the City Council of Penang Island.


The Great Wall

Hill retreat on Penang Hill built by late Penang tycoon Khoo Sian Ewe.


Penang Hill main page

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