Saturday, March 28, 2020

Penang’s attractions are well worth the price

Jul 28. 2016
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Re: “Thailand not alone in ripping off tourists”, Letters, July 27.
“Thai Teacher in Rayong” states, “Clearly Thailand does not have a monopoly on ripping off tourists. Perhaps Thailand is not as bad as people make it out to be – or Malaysia is not so advanced after all.”
Saying two-tier pricing exists is different from saying tourists are being ripped off. Thailand and Malaysia are hardly alone. You’re “whinging”, as the Aussies say, and the price is fair and transparent to all. 
Admission charges at most well known tourist attractions are similar no matter where you go. Penang Hill is administered by the state, and if it earns profit, so be it.
If you want to comment on real rip-offs in Malaysia, there are much bigger fish to fry, starting with Prime Minister Najib Razak, embroiled in a money-laundering and fraud controversy. The country’s political stability is being threatened. The allegations and resulting undemocratic security clampdown are perhaps the real rip-off for Malaysians you should be far more concerned about.
If “Teacher” is too cheap to pay the US$8-$9 tram fare, he can walk up the 830-metre-high mountain by road or trail. Of course the winds swirls and the air is humid, so I think that, after 100 or 200 metres carrying a day pack probably laden with ready-to-eat ramen noodles, he’ll agree the tram price is a bargain.
Plus, it would take at least a day of climbing and you’d have to return by sundown, so that’s really not too practical. Or try a private hired car – it would cost at least Bt3,000 round trip and take almost an hour one way. Meanwhile the tram is fast and efficient, taking as long as a BTS ride three or four stations.
Just pay the price, like the tens of thousands of non-Malaysians do every year, and they’re not complaining. I’ve seen many nationalities visiting there and, with its amazing environs, people are more than happy to pay extra to be driven around in golf carts and buy snacks, souvenirs and more. What’s $10 or $20 for a lovely half-day excursion surrounded by natural beauty?
Penang Hill is a worthy and fair value for money, a world-class attraction that brings attention to rare and unusual flora and fauna. It has an aviary, temples, a historic-landmark hotel and more. Let’s hope my plug for Penang Hill will get me in for free next time! 
In the 17 years I’ve been visiting this amazing place it has been continuously improved and been well provisioned to attract many kinds of travellers, school trips, families and nature lovers.
Yes, it has become slightly over-commercial, but it has its finer points, including a historical points-of-interest audio tour and areas where you can see wild monkeys and beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery. Malaysia is much fairer to foreigners in its legal codes than Thailand, yet unsurprisingly fewer foreigners choose to become long-term expats there, whereas Thailand has an abundance of them. 
Get over it. 
Niels Jeffreys

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