Penang War Museum is a 20-acres hilltop museum that is located in the Southeastern part of Penang Island on top of Batu Maung. Unlike other indoor museums, this one is the real deal! Interestingly, Penang War Museum is the largest war museum in Southeast Asia and is an actual fort built by the Royal British Engineers in 1930.
Brief History Of Penang War Museum
When Malaysia was still Malaya, the British built this fort to protect this island from invaders approaching the Strait of Malacca. When the Japanese Imperial Army conquered Malaya during WWII, they turned this fortress into a prisoner of war camp.
After the Japanese withdrew, this fortress was then abandoned for nearly 60 years. Later, Mr Johari Shafie turned this abandoned fort into the first outdoor living war museum in Southeast Asia! This is Malaysian Sejarah at its most exceptional!
The Entrance To Penang War Museum
The road to Penang War Museum is a short and narrow hilly road up to Bukit Maung. At the entrance, you will see the eye-catching yellow words ‘WAR MUSEUM’ that tell you, you are at the right place. You can turn left for more parking or park in front of the entrance.
After the reception, you will walk through a long walkway lined with England and Japanese flags with the words ‘BACK TO MALAYA WWII’ on them. There is a toilet on the left and a vast cannon just right in front of the bathrooms.
Follow The Red Arrows
The receptionist lady will suggest to you to follow the red arrows painted on the ground. Do not forget to refer to your maps when you see numberings to know where you are. The Penang War Museum does not offer day tours, and there are no tour guides. So you will have to figure out certain things. However, there were many helpful information boards in yellow, to explain what you will be looking at in more detail.
Highlights In Penang War Museum
If you are thinking of visiting the Penang War Museum but are not sure if it is worth seeing, here are a few highlights that we believe will help you make your choice!
1. Execution Relics and Replicas
The violence that went on during the Japanese occupation in Malaya is why this place has turned into a haunted museum. It was said that Colonel Suzuki, also known as the ‘hippy executioner’, enjoys drinking his victims’ blood with whisk any of beheadings went on at that time, with eyewitnesses giving their accounts on what happened between the years 1941and1945.
2. The Bunkers And Tunnels
You must not miss this tunnel. There is one near the entrance where you will see a bunker on your right. The bunker is built with reinforced cement and thick steel walls to get shelter if the enemy launches a bomb. As you enter the bunker, you will see military tunnels on your left and right.
These tunnels are so dark that you will be blind inside. These tunnels exist because they serve as a shelter in case of an enemy attack. Strangely enough, it is pretty cool inside. Today, these tunnels are home to bats. It is best to experience the real deal without any flashlights on.
3. Escape Route Through The Bunker
After the dark tunnel, continue moving inside the bunker, and you will come to an escape route to the top. First, you will have to crawl through a tight passageway. At the end of the passageway, you will come to a dead-end with a steel ladder of 9 meters climb. Climb up a straight and high ladder before coming out to an observation post and a swing made out of car tires.
Alternatively, you can skip this and take the stairs outside. Also, if you are wearing a short skirt or revealing pants, we suggest that you miss this completely.
4. British, Indian, and Malay Sleeping Quarters
Toward the end of the tour, you will come to the sleeping quarters of the British army. You can then slowly descended the steps to the sleeping quarters of other races such as Indian and Malay. The British sleeping quarters were built on higher grounds to mark their superiority over other races during their occupation in Malaya.
5. The Images Throughout The Museum
Images during the British and Japanese occupations were framed up and hung up on walls throughout the museum. One of the heart-wrenching ones is the House of Pain next to General Yamashita Gallow. You can also read the testimony given by the actual witnesses in the room that highlights the violence during the Japanese occupation.
On top of the House of Pain is a giant puppet, claimed to be the model of the actual effigy that workers saw back in 2002 when they were restoring the museum. Creepy.
Is It Haunted?
There were signs and newspaper cutouts pasted everywhere in the museum claiming that this is Asia’s most haunted museum. There have not been any reported strange sightings or paranormal activities at the Penang War Museum. However, the aurora did seem pretty chilly. You may have goosebumps when inside.
National Geographic Channel had claimed that this museum is one of Asia’s most haunted sites in its show “I Wouldn’t Go In There”.
Things To Take Note
- The last admission is an hour before closing time, which is 5pm.
- Remember to bring mosquito repellent as the mosquitoes here are ferocious.
- Not exactly wheelchair accessible as there are many staircases around.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Dress in light clothing.
- Bring enough water.
- Camera with extra battery.