Since the first Penang bridge was opened in 1985, the only way to cross the straits channel separating Penang island and mainland Malaysia is to take the ferry, operational since early 1920s. But, the cross-straits services began much earlier since 1894 by two Chinese brothers using boats to transport people and goods, making it the oldest ferry service in Malaysia.
Penang Ferry is iconic to the locals who were born and grew up in the early-mid 20th century. On a weekend, the adults would take their children on a ferry ride for fun, to breathe the air, enjoy the views and natural surrounding. Penang was less busy then and people were less in a rush. Now, it looks old, tired and slow in this fast pace world with commuters preferring to use the two bridges to get to their destination quicker.
Since mid-2018 Penang Ferry is changed over to Rapid Ferry with its remaining fleet of six double-decker ferries under a new transportation company. The future of the remaining ferries is yet to be known. For now, the commute time takes approximately 20 minutes between the two terminals with a waiting time of 30 minutes on either side based on a Sunday schedule when I last travelled. The ride from the island side is free, whereas it costs RM $7.70 from the mainland side for a motor vehicle.
It was very quiet and peaceful when I used the ferry on a Sunday in the early dawn. As I am not a frequent commuter using the ferry, I suspect this isn’t the norm during the week with the long waiting time.