Picturesque dam and enthralling sunset views

  • The revitalising rural landscape unknown to many a city dweller. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

  • Perching high above Bukit Mertajam and Penanti, Suling Hill is a hit among nature lovers. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

  • The serene Suling Hill. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

  • Green resources awaiting your exploration at Sungai Lembu. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

  • Mengkuang Dam is embraced by greenery on all sides. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

  • The eye-catching private antique museum designed after a traditional Malay stilt house. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

  • Among the rich collection of rare antiquities at the private museum. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Guang Ming Daily

PENANTI, Penang -- A by-election tainted with scandals has catapulted the tiny town of Penanti to national prominence.

Fortunately, the three lovely attractions here have managed to kind of redeem the honours of the town and deliver it out of its undesirable image to one of a much adored place.

First of all, the Mengkuang Dam is known for its breathtaking scenery. Next, Sungai Lembu's rejuvenating hills and lakes have injected a new lease of life to Penanti. Finally, the pretty Suling Hill cheers up the town with excitement and recreational options.

Entering Penanti is like walking into an oil painting with majestic trees and flowering shrubs on both sides of the narrow roads. Even a private antique museum in town looks like a fine setting for a movie, and this alone is enough to make a visitor yearn to come back.

With 77% of its population being Malays, 22% Chinese and 0.5% Thais, Penanti is not purely a Malay enclave, and you can actually find a Chinese new village as well as a small Thai settlement here.

The slow-paced Penanti offers a perfect hideaway for urban folks living in hectic environments. The Mengkuang Dam, known to almost everyone in the northern part of the country, is a wonderful location for photo shooting while the Suling Hill perched above the town, is great for sunset views over Penanti and the adjacent town of Bukit Mertajam.

The Penang state government is planning a series of cycling trails to promote health tourism so that visitors can enjoy Penanti on two wheels while exercising their bodies.

One-day excursions to Penanti have become much sought-after options for travellers nowadays, some organising trips to the only Chinese new village here at Sungai Lembu for the local delicacies and speciality products it offers.

Along the main road heading towards Penanti are verdant rubber estates, vegetable farms, rice fields and oil palm plantations. Cows and sheep can be spotted moving along sluggishly while traditional Malay kampung dwellings dot the picturesque countryside.

Surrounded by verdant hills

Mengkuang Dam is located in the vicinity of Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest at Cherok Tok Kun. The dam is surrounded by verdant hills on three sides, and is only about ten minutes' drive from Bukit Mertajam.

Many people come here to stroll, jog or just relax every day, be it morning or evening. During the weekends, parents will bring their kids here for picnic. Occasionally, you might chance upon newly-weds taking their bridal photos here.

Mengkuang Dam welcomes its first daily visitors as early as five in the morning.

Built between 1982 and 1984, the dam is 1.04km in diameter and has a storage capacity of 23.5 million cubic metres.

Catching the sunset

About a kilometre from the dam is the well-known Suling Hill. Despite its rather remote location, Suling Hill has managed to draw many nature lovers and young couples yearning for its unbeatable natural scenery and breathtaking sunset views far from the hustle and bustle of cities.

Although Suling Hill is a privately owned property, its owner has been generous enough to open it to the public, including hikers, picnickers and cyclists. All visitors are urged to take good care of the cleanliness natural environment on the hill.

Atop Suling Hill is a little bungalow fitted with a conference room, toilets and bathrooms. A reading room and observation deck can be found on the upper floor of the bungalow.

Suling Hill is planted with a wide variety of flowering shrubs and fruit trees, including durian, nutmeg, mango, mangosteen, rambutan, petai and chilli, among others.

Mengkuang Dam, Bukit Mertajam town and even the fabulous Penang Bridge can be seen from the hill, which has since become a favourite spot to catch the sunset and the subsequent twinkling city lights as the night falls.

Priceless collection

Back in the town of Penanti, the privately owned 15,000 square foot antique museum at Tanah Liat boasts a collection of more than a hundred pieces of priceless antiques that have drawn not only visitors to the town, but also local TV stations and newly-weds for location shooting.

As a sizeable part of its collection is found nowhere else in the open market, foreign movie producers have even come here to loan some of the antiques as props.

The gallery is very well ventilated and cooling inside. Visitors not only need not pay a single cent to enter the museum, they are also allowed to take pictures as much as they like.

Among the collection here are antiques hailing from different eras and regions such as antique cars, antique bikes, bicycles, irons, lamps, gramophones, vinyl discs, clocks, kitchen utensils, television sets, telephones, typewriters, etc., many taken out of market decades ago.

The only Chinese new village in Penanti, Sungai Lembu offers the visitors yet another choice for recreation and sightseeing.

The once neglected hamlet has in recent years started to gain the attention of the general public as well as the state government owing to its geographical location and captivating views of vegetable farms, orchards, rubber estates, rare plants, flora and fauna.