Penang Hill is 833 metres above sea level, and is reached by a funicular with an ascent which seems almost vertical in places.
The top of the hill is a strange mix of ancient and modern; the man-made world and the natural world clinging together on a hilltop. If you imagine an English bluebell wood with Mr Blobby’s World jammed right up against it, you’ll get the idea.
After you’ve admired the view –
And wondered what all the instructions for weight lifters could possibly mean –
You can visit the tunnel of lurve –
where you can have your photo taken inside a heart-shaped arch – choosing the most appropriately titled one for your circumstances.
I looked for the heart labelled ‘Gin’, or even ‘Sauvignon Blanc’, but as I couldn’t find either I declined a photo.
Another photo opportunity is the padlocks of lurve.
Presumably inspired by by the Pont des Arts in Paris, you can attach a heart-shaped padlock to the railings and then take a photo. But unlike in Paris, it doesn’t seem to be restricted to couples here.
And perhaps it can also mean ‘I’m looking for lurve’ …
And if all this is just too subtle for you, you can always opt for the lurve installation –
just to make sure you hammer your message home.
But for me – not being a lurve-seeker – the most interesting thing on the hill was the rainforest.
It’s partly equatorial and partly tropical rainforest, and is thought to be 130 million years old. It has some of the oldest plants known to man – and to dinosaurs –
such as this fern, which is one of the oldest species in the rainforest (can’t remember exactly how many millions of years old it is).
Our guide showed us monkey cups
which collect water inside to lure insects to pop in for a drink. Then they slam the lid shut and eat them. Vegetarians please note – plants are hardly the pure, selfless, oxygenating victims they make themselves out to be.
The Amorphophallus Titanium was not in flower when we visited, but our guide showed us pictures.
It only flowers very rarely, which may be a good thing because it smells like a dead rat – which apparently attracts pollinators.
When it’s fully open, the flower is the largest in the world –
… just imagine how a dead rat that size would smell.
The flower is always referred to by its common name of Giant Deformed Penis in Malaysia, and if you look at the bud –
you can see why.
However, the guide told us that when David Attenborough arrived to film the flower for his TV series, he refused to call it the Giant Deformed Penis, and insisted on referring to it as an Arum Lily.
Whoever would have thought that a naturalist would have such a puritanical streak?