Penang War Museum
Estimated Duration: 2 hours
Penang War Museum is otherwise known as Muzium Perang Pulau Pinang. This 20-acres hilltop museum is located in the South-eastern 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 fortress built by the Royal British Engineers in 1930.
I used to be quite put off by the idea of visiting museums, but this outdoor living war museum has certainly changed my perception! In fact, this is my second time here! With that being said, if you are a history buff who’s looking to visit a museum in Penang, then definitely check this one out!
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Brief History Of Penang War Museum
To begin, let’s go through the history of Penang War Museum briefly. When Malaysia was still Malaya, the British built this fortress to protect this island from enemies coming from Strait of Malacca. Unfortunately, the Japanese Imperial Army captured the entire Malaya during WWII, turning this fortress into a prisoner of war camp.
After the Japanese surrendered, this fortress was then abandoned for nearly 60 years. Later, Mr. Johari Shafie turned this deserted fortress into the first outdoor living war museum in Southeast Asia! It’s no wonder I’m hooked! This is Sejarah at its finest!
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’ll see eye-catching yellow words ‘WAR MUSEUM’ that tell you you’re at the right place. You can turn left for more parking or park in front of the entrance.
After the reception, we walked through a long walkway lined with England and Japanese flags with the words ‘BACK TO MALAYA WWII’ on them. There’s a toilet on the left and a huge cannon just right in front of the toilets. We can’t figure out if the cannon is real or not.
Follow The Red Arrows
The receptionist lady reminded us to follow the red arrows on the ground and refer to our maps when we see numberings on the ground to know where we were. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer day tours and there was no tour guide as well, so we had to figure out certain things ourselves. However, there were many helpful information boards (yellow) around to explain what we were looking at in more detail.
Highlights In Penang War Museum
If you’re thinking of visiting Penang War Museum, but not sure if it’s worth visiting, here are a few highlights that I think will help you make your choice:
1. Execution Relics and Replicas
The violence that went on during the Japanese occupation in Malaya is the main reason 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 whiskey. A lot of beheadings went on at that time with eyewitnesses giving their accounts on what happened between the years 1941-1945.
2. The Bunkers And Tunnels
You must not miss THE tunnel. There’s one near the entrance where you will see a bunker on your right. The bunker is built with reinforced cement and thick steel walls so as to get shelter in case 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’re literally blind inside. The reason why these tunnels exist is that they serve as a shelter in case of an enemy attack. Oddly enough, it is quite cool inside. Today, these tunnels (there are two of them) are home to bats.
Funny story, the first time I went in was a few years ago with my friends. We didn’t switch on our flashlights back then because we were told not to. It’s best to experience the real deal.
When I went in with my family this time, we switched on the flashlight and my mom was leading. She was charging forward at full tilt confidently. When she made the first turn, she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks. The three of us behind her asked her what was wrong but she just remained silent. Then, she started moving backward without a word and we ended up leaving the tunnel before we could even finish it.
She later told us that she saw a tail, thinking that it was perhaps an animal or a bird. I figured it might have been a bat. But, who knows? Penang War Museum is one of the most haunted museums in Asia after all.
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 compact 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’re wearing a short skirt or revealing pants, then I suggest that you skip this entirely.
4. Paintball @ The War Zone
The War Zone is a huge area for paintball. From the map we were given at the reception, the War Zone covered quite an extensive area surrounded by trees in a secluded corner of the museum. Perfect for a large group of friends and family with extra time to spare.
5. British, Indian, and Malay Sleeping Quarters
Toward the end of the tour, we first came to the sleeping quarters of the British army and slowly descended the steps to the sleeping quarters of other races such as Indian and Malay. Clearly, the British sleeping quarters were built on higher grounds to mark their superiority over other races during their occupation in Malaya. In fact, someone explained this to me a few years back, but I can’t seem to recall who was the one that explained it to me.
6. 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 really 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 that went on during the Japanese occupation.
On top of the House of Pain is a giant effigy, 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 throughout the museum claiming that this is Asia’s most haunted museum. I’ve not seen any strange sightings or experienced any paranormal activity. However, the aura did seem pretty chilly. I remember having goosebumps inside. But, it might just be me being paranoid.
In fact, 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”.
A List Of Relics In The Fort
Here’s a more comprehensive list of some of the places and relics worth visiting in the fort in no particular order:
- Underground Communication Centre
- Intelligence Room
- Lock Up
- Cannon Firing Bay
- Booby Trap Zone
- General Yamashita Gallow
- Observation Post
Entrance Ticket (As of 2020)
At the reception, the receptionist (actually, the same one I saw many years back) greeted us and asked to see each and every one of our MyKad for cheaper local price. With that being said, remember to bring your MyKad, folks!
Children (5-12 years old): RM 12
Free entrance for children under five (5) years old
Children (5-12 years old): RM20
Free entrance for children under five (5) years old
You need to have a minimum of 40 people. The price will be about RM59.
Call their customer service at 016-4213606 / 04-6265142 or email them at email@example.com
They are open daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
Key in Penang War Museum on Google Map or Waze.
Address: No. Lot 1350, Mukim 12, Daerah Barat Daya, Batu Maung, 11960 Pulau Pinang
GPS coordination: 5.2815, 100.2888
How to Get To Penang War Museum
If you don’t have your private transport, you can book a grab driver to send you there from anywhere in Penang.
Alternatively, you can take Rapid Penang Bus 302 that runs every 20 minutes from the jetty to Bukit Maung. The bus will go through KOMTAR. Let the driver know that you’re getting off at Muzium Perang / Penang War Museum and you’ll need to hike a short distance up a slope to the entrance.
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.
In A Nutshell
Penang War Museum is one of the dark tourism hotspots in Asia. Even though it is notoriously well-known for its haunted and brutal history, it was not exactly packed with tourists the time we went, which makes touring the place enjoyable. With that being said, take it at your own pace and don’t rush things.
Allow about 2 hours to fully learn the history of the place. Watch out for yellow signboards to read more information about the place and keep to dedicated paths (red arrow on the ground). If you have extra time to spare, definitely go inside the dark tunnels and climb the escape route ladder to the top. Just remember to dress decently and bring your mosquito repellent!