Air Itam (also spelt Ayer Itam or Air Hitam), is a town in central Penang Island (Pulau Pinang). Located west of George Town, Air Itam is largely a suburban area home to the famous Penang Hill, or Bukit Bendera, and the gigantic Kek Lok Si Temple.
Orienting yourself around Air Itam is fairly straightforward. If anything, the biggest challenge is knowing where George Town ends and Air Itam starts as both now merge seamlessly together. For the purposes of this article, Air Itam begins west of Jl Masjid Negeri and Jl Scotland.
Central Air Itam is situated around three main streets: Jl Air Itam, Jl Pasar and Jl Balik Pulau. This area is often overflowing with pedestrian activity and a barrage of traffic courtesy of the popular local markets and businesses that help to congest this major, yet tiny road. To the north, along Jl Bukit Bendera, is the Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) base funicular train station. Taking a ride on the funicular lifts you up to the top of the hill, offering scenic views and a much cooler climate.
Directly to the south of central Air Itam is the township of Bandar Baru Air Itam, more commonly known as Farlim. Largely a residential area, Farlim runs along Lebuhraya Thean Teik and is littered with housing estates and condominiums. Much of Air Itam’s amenities, including banks, supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics and laundromats are found here. Northeast of Farlim and east of Central Air Itam, is Kampung Baru, another residential area, which runs along Jl Air Itam, and is the most common route from George Town.
The climate in Air Itam is very much similar to George Town. Expect year round hot and humid days that are often broken with a cooling afternoon shower. Evenings are much cooler than the daytime, but rarely drop below 20°C. Being further inland than George Town, Air Itam tends to experience slightly less rainfall and lacks the cool breeze that occasionally blows in from the Strait of Malacca.
As an exception, Penang Hill tends to be much cooler compared to the coastal plains of George Town and Air Itam. Elevated 833 m above sea level, Penang Hill offers much welcomed cool climate once described by Isabella Bird, a 19th century travel writer, as ‘delicious’.