Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Penang Hill Hike, Malaysia

This was my second trip to Penang. Penang is one of those beautiful small islands in Malaysia. My first trip to Penang was to Penang National park which is located in the north west corner of Penang island (Penang National park hike)

This time around, i wanted to attempt the most difficult hike on the island - From Teluk Bahang forest park to Penang hill. It was not difficult in terms of terrain but in terms of timeline. It is a hectic 8-9hr hike with no camping options. The only place you can stay for the night is at the hotel on Penang Hill. It seemed  like a good challenging hike...
However, i didn't know that i was in for a surprise despite all the research i had done.

Forest park trail closed !

None of the blogs or travelogues had a mention of a virus outbreak in the forest park (Taman Rimba Teluk Bahang). Apparently, the park was closed since May 2011 until further notice.

Last time I was stranded at a trail head was in Canada (Why you need to know French in a French province !)

Now, since i had booked Bellevue Hotel (top of Penang hill) for the night, I had to reach Penang hill by some other route. As per my initial plan, I would have reached Penang hill around sunset and I was not sure if i would be able to catch the last train back and hence had booked Bellevue (My review of Bellevue on Tripadvisor is available HERE)

So, here i was at the entrance of Teluk Bahang Forest Park, trying to figure out an alternate hiking route to Penang Hill. I had come across another route through Botanic gardens during my online research. The challenge was to reach botanic gardens trailhead. After a couple of inquiries, i realized that i would have to take two buses to reach Botanic gardens in a journey that would last hour and a half. Took the right buses but i was dropped at Air Itam which is the starting point of the train to Penang Hill. 

It was 1230PM and it had been four hours since i landed in Penang. I was still trying to figure my way out... Now, I had to reach Botanic gardens from Air Itam and apparently, the only way out was to trace the route all way back to Komtar and take another bus. That's where i met Dominique, who was also stranded at Air Itam and was trying to figure her way till the trailhead. She is a Canadian on a month long backpacking trip in Asia. I admire the courage of these backpackers - I would love to do a similar trip across the breadth of Europe some day..  

Now, this is called a Black n White picture !
We decided to do the hike together. We had a good long discussion on what each of us were doing in our lives. And of course, we discussed Canada, Asia and India too. She was planning to hike half the way up and i was to continue on to Penang hill. 

The trail from Botanic gardens is not so daunting. It is relatively easy. The second half is on a tar road and that part is frustrating. There is an alternate hiking route through the jungle but has no markings. I reached the start of tar road around 330PM and had to choose the tar road because i was too close to sunset to risk the unmarked path. And, I was rightly advised so by locals.

The tar road
It was close to Sunset when i reached
All the drama since morning had zapped all my energy. I was not greatly satisfied with the hike but the turn of events more than compensated for it !! A treat was due despite the fact that alcohol was expensive at the hotel !

The view from Bellevue Hotel
After resting through the evening, I had a good night's sleep. The next morning, I got up early, took the train down and spent about 5 hours walking through Georgetown. It has a nice ethnic mix of Chinese, traditional Malays and Indians too. As i was going through different communities i realized that Malaysia is actually more tolerant to all religions than i had expected. I could see churches next to mosques and then temples (Indian and Chinese) 100 meters away. It was great to see that atleast some pockets in Malaysia are not as radical as i thought they would be. Maybe even other pockets are as liberal - I do not know.

I spent time at the Penang Museum - got to know a bit about British rule, Japanes invasion and other petty wars that Penang has gone through. Visiting museums is NOT something i usually do - but, i can clearly see a change coming through in me. I have started paying attention to cities as well !! 
I also had a look at Fort Cornwallis, rather whatever is left of it. I was reminded of Shaniwar wada in Pune (India) when i first entered Fort Cornwallis. Both of them are in shambles partly because they are not maintained and partly because its been long since their construction. Over the next couple of hours, I just roamed aimlessly on the 'sunday afternoon' lazy streets of Georgetown.

And, that was the end of the trip - a trip that had lots of drama, unplanned events, some hiking, sight seeing and much more.. I am falling in love with Penang !!

Here is my video blog capturing some events live !


Singapore-Penang (Sungai Nibong): Konsortium bus <<10-12 hrs>>
Sungai-Nibong to Teluk Bahang Forest Park: Taxi RM 60 (you can bargain more - i had pre-booked so it was slightly expensive) <<30 mins>>
Teluk Bahang to Komtar: Rapid Penang Bus No 101 << 45mins to 1 hr>>
Komtar to Botanic Gardens:  Rapid Penang Bus No 10. Don't take the bus that goes to Air Itam if you want to hike up. It does not go through Botanic gardens. Take the Air Itam bus ONLY if you want to go by the train <<30 mins>>
Komtar to Singapore: Newsia Bus company <<10-12 hrs >>

UP NEXT: Mcleod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh, India (End of May 2012)

1 comment:

Bus From Singapore to Penang & Malacca said...

Thanks for your sharing :) morning view is very nice. adventure trip :)