WWII War Museum
02 December 2008 | Penang
This open air WWII War Museum was dug into the hill on the SE corner of Penang Island. The British had the foresight to fortify this area in the mid '30s to defend their protectorate. It resembled the set from a John Wayne war movie but it was authentic - concrete bunkers, gun emplacements, and underground control centers with the actual radios, tunnels connecting their foxholes, ammo dumps, and barracks. The major difference was that in the 1940s there were no huge mature trees - they'd been cleared to enable the sentries to watch the sea for the arrival of the Japanese. Unfortunately these wily little devils realized the fortification and arrived in small boats from the Northwest, attacking the fort from the opposite direction in which the lookouts were posted.
It is a magical place, very well maintained, and if you close your eyes to remove the other 80 cruisers, you could envision the enemy sneaking up over the hills to claim your body for the emperor.
This day was sponsored by Pen Marine, a local shipyard looking to generate business from the Sail Malaysia Rally. After a brief tour of their facilities and the visit to the War Museum, our buses swept us up to the owner's home atop a cliff where the sun was setting over the airport just as planes were landing. A little soft jazz playing in the background, tubs of icy beer sitting all around our tables on the patio, only a few minutes of speeches and propaganda from our hosts, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet of Malay, Chinese, and Indian favorites with our hosts coaxing us for another beer or plate of food. Our evening's cultural performance was the Lion Dance, more like Chinese Dragons dancing at New Years, but Jeni loved it - photographing and dancing with them. What fun! Then we left with a gift bag of hats, stationary & pens, and coupons to keep us shopping. These have got to be the most gracious hosts in the world!
Penang Hill's Funicular was down (What a terrible description of the function of the Swiss 1922 small cable car that rises 829 meters, almost 2,500 feet, above the city!) so we chose to walk many miles through the gorgeous Botanic Gardens with its orchid, palm, herbal, and cactus gardens. Penang Hill stream cascades through the gardens creating many waterfalls and pools in which to cool tired feet as well as verdant trails in which to lose oneself. Long-tailed macaques, spectacled leaf monkeys, and huge water lizards, reminiscent of a small monitor lizard, all came out to play and beg treats as we left the grounds.
Check the Photo Gallery for further stories and picts.
Cheers to living history, gardens, and exotic critters! KK