For our last morning in Penang there was much debate about what we should do. The kids wanted to do one of the gimmicky museums like the upside down museum. Paul wanted to see the fort. Since this is an educational trip, the Fort won, followed by the Time Tunnel Museum.
Parts of the fort were closed for restoration and we were advised it wasn’t really worth paying the entrance fee during this time, but that there is a lot to see from outside, walking around the walls. I’m sure once the work is complete it would be well worth a visit.
There are large information boards all the way round explaining the history of the fort and we spent a fascinating hour reading these. Here are some highlights:
On August 11, 1786 Captain Francis Light hoisted the Union Flag and took formal possession of Penang, naming the settlement Prince of Wales Island.
Despite being a military installation, Fort Cornwallis has never been engaged in any battle although its history was not completely peaceful.
The Fort was used as a military and administrative base for the British East India Company. They built it to protect their interests in the region, against a possible French attack ( which never happened ).
In the first world war there was a surprise naval attack by a German cruiser, sinking two Allied warships off the Penang harbour.
On December 11th, 1941 Japanese forces invaded northern Malaya and headed towards Penang. Instead of fighting the enemy the British forces left the island. Arial bombing of Georgetown was devastating, 5 days later Penang was completely occupied by the Japanese army. The occupation lasted for 3 years and 8 months.
On January 1st 1957, Georgetown was declared Malaya’s first ‘city’ by Queen Elizabeth II, and eight months later, Malayan independence was declared.
While many online reviews say the star shaped fort is not that interesting, and has not seen battle, the fort represents an interesting period of Penang’s modern history and is a good place to learn more about it. There is archaeological work underway to expose the old moat and we watched this for awhile.
There is a large park near the fort and a playground so we spent some time here. It was quiet in the mornings but is a popular place for locals in the evening. A 5 minute walk from the Fort takes you to the Penang Time Tunnel History Museum.
Penang Time Tunnel
Combining these two attractions worked perfectly, not just because they are located near each other. The Penang Time Tunnel reminds us that there is more to Penang’s history than the colonial period! Beginning in 1592 it brings history to life with models, photographs, dioramas and special information boards for kids.
Upstairs there is a 3D and Fluorescent photography gallery. Totally unrelated to history except for a few of the scenes, it is lots of fun to pose in front of the different scenes. This made up for missing the upside down museum, so in the end everyone was happy.
For foreign tourists to visit Penang Time Tunnel it was 29RM for adults and 16RM for children aged 5-12 years.