Saturday, December 17, 2011

Penang National Park, Penang, Malaysia

This happens to be my first hike along a coastal line... And, just like every other 'first' in life, this one was lovely.

Penang Island  lies on the north eastern coast of Malaysia. Penang National Park is one of the smallest national parks in the world. The good part is that each of the trails ends in a beach !! After a tough day's hike, all you need is a dip in a scarcely populated beach.

In terms of planning, this hike was exactly like every other 'regular' hike done by me. Everything right from transport to stay to registration was pre-planned. So, here was the plan:

1000 PM: Leave Singapore for Sungai Nibong (Penang)

730 AM: Arrive Sungai Nibong
930 AM: Arrive Weld quay, take bus 101 to Teluk Bahang
1030 AM: Start hike at Penang National Park
530 PM: Back to guest house

900 AM: Back to National Park to complete other trails
400 PM: Take the bus back to Weld quay
730 PM: Return bus for Singapore

730 AM: Arrive Singapore and go to office !

I am realizing that this itinerary would resemble that of most of the hikes that i plan to undertake in South Asia - Except a few tough ones which might need more time.

Everything went on track and I completed the 4+4 km hike to the light house on Day 1. I had underestimated the effort required - it was much more exhausting than i had anticipated. Humidity was the killing factor because almost the entire trail runs along the beach. Here are some snapshots of the trail to light house.
The entrance of Penang National Park
Well marked trails
Some nice resting spots !

Good views along the hike
The Lighthouse

At the top of Lighthouse
Coastline from the lighthouse
Beautiful views from the lighthouse
The next day, I started early and completed the hike to Kerachut beach. If you start really early, right when the park opens, you can have the beach all for yourself for quite some time. By the time i reached Kerachut, there were less than 10 people on the whole beach..

Lake crossing just before the beach
Meromictic Lake (Lake with different layers of Fresh water and Sea water)  

Kerachut beach - Almost noone present early in the morning!!

Kerachut beach is famous for 'nesting turtles' (only specific times of the year)
Turtles routinely visit Kerachut for nesting. This happens only during specific months - However, I was told that camping is restricted at this beach year round. So, I am not sure if you can see them even during the nesting season.

I left the beach post noon so as to spend the afternoon in Georgetown before heading back to Singapore later in the evening.

I would love to come back to Penang to do Penang Hill.. I could not attempt it this time.

Trip specifics:

Singapore - Penang (Sungai Nibong): Many operators ply this route (about 70 SGD for a return ticket) - it takes about 10-11 hours depending on the traffic.

Sungai Nibong - Teluk Bahang: Take bus no 401 to weld quay (every 30 mins b) and then 101 to Teluk bahang (every 15-20 mins)

Budget stay: I stayed at Fisherman's guesthouse - costs about 18 Ringgit for a night. This is as simple as it can get - just a small room for yourself - shared bath/washroom - no a/c. Despite being small, the room was clean. Finding this place might be challenging - Take right just before the park - walk for about 5 mins - keep watching on the right for a small sign board. There is no pre-booking - you have to try your luck.

Where to Eat: I had all my meals at Mom and Pop's cafe - Lovely food - Great hospitality. This is right at the entrance of the park - You will like it.

Up next: Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand (Last week of Jan 2012)