TOURISTS who want to go up to the hilltop station of Penang Hill now have another way to reach there – by catching a ride on one of the 12 4WDs via the jeep track.
The Penang Hill Residents Association is currently providing the 4WD service to ferry tourists up and down the 5.1km-long track between the Penang Botanic Gardens and the hilltop.
Association secretary Beh Chin Siang said the service was a temporary solution to ferry tourists up and down the hill until the funicular train resumes its service from the middle to the top station.
“The drivers are the residents and traders from the hilltop. Business is bad and there are only two foodstalls now.
“The 4WDs are usually on stand-by in case of emergency. When the train breaks down or anyone gets injured, our voluntary special squad would be deployed to help them,” he said.
Beh said the residents are currently relying on a 4WD provided by the state for shopping and schooling.
He said they charge RM90 for four people for a return trip with the driver also acting as the tour guide.
“To some people it might be ex-pensive but we actually do not earn much after deducting the cost of petrol and maintenance,” he said.
To ensure safety, Beh said the association has made it compulsory for the drivers to service their vehicles monthly.
“They have to show us the receipt from the workshop as we must ensure that the vehicles are all in good condition,” he said, referring to the nine Kembaras as well as one each of Toyota Hilux, Pajero and Mitsubishi Triton that are used to ferry passengers.
Engineer Alex Cudia, 39, and his wife Merry Che, from Klang, wanted to use the funicular train at Penang Hill initially.
“We were told by the staff in our hotel that the train would only reach the middle station.
“A taxi driver told us that we can go up via the jeep track. Since we have come all the way here to visit Penang Hill, it would be a waste if we do not reach the top,” he said.
Science teacher Rowdy Boeyink, 28, from Singapore, said that although it would be nicer to go up the hill on the train, the 4WD ride could be a different and unforgettable experience for him.
“Our main purpose coming here all the way is to visit the Penang Hill.
“The price of RM90 for four is quite reasonable. After all, our air tickets are much more expensive than this,” he quipped.
Yasir Abdullah Al-Salmani and his wife Noor Zahir Al-Sulaimani, from Oman, were looking forward to their 4WD trip up the hill.
“We went to the Penang Hill station and was told that it would only reach the middle station,” Yasir said, adding that they had visited the Butterfly Farm and Tropical Spice Garden.
Fumie Hikichi, from Japan, who came down after a two-hour tour with her parents, said they enjoyed themselves a lot at the hilltop.
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