Hike: Island Park to Bukit Hijau

Distance: 2 km (return distance)

Total Time : 50 minutes

Grading: Very Easy (Suitable for beginners)

Land Status: Privately Owned, Secondary Forests.

Trail Guide

Map to Bukit Hijau

The trail to Bukit Hijau from Island Park is extremely popular among the locals in the Island Park Township. Maintained by the local community, this trail is kept clean and clear, thus chances of getting lost is very slim. Though this hill is less than 200 meters above sea level, it rewards hikers with a breathtaking view of the Paya Terubong Valley and Penang Hill. It is also located beside the beautiful Bukit Hijau waterfall, a singular cascade which drops a sheer cliff.

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View from the top of Bukit Hijau

To get to the trail head, one has to get to the Cangkat Tembaga road in Island Park. If you are heading along Jalan Masjid Negeri from the Gelugor side, you should turn into the left junction (Jalan Tembaga) when you see The Penang Home For the Infirm and the Aged (Old Folks Home) on the right side of the Jalan Masjid Negeri. Continue straight along Jalan Tembaga for about 600 meters and turn into Lorong Tembaga. Once you are in Lorong Tembaga, go straight for about 60 meters and turn into Cangkat Tembaga. Drive till the end of this road (about 300 meters) and you will see the trail head (a flight of stairs into the jungle) on the very end towards the left, just behind the last house in the row. You can park your car here.

 

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Parts of the trail are cemented steps

Starting on the trail, climb up the row of stairs and within a minute you will be standing on what looks like a small badminton court. The trail continues behind the court, up the slope of the hill, occasionally passing by large boulders. When in doubt, always keep to the path closest to the gully to the left. In about 3-5 minutes from the start, the jungle trail is replaced by cement steps which carefully navigate around the contour of the gully and brings you across a small stream to a small rest shed.

You should reach this rest shed in about 7-10 minutes from the beginning of your hike. Rest here awhile and continue beside the shed (towards the right) and cross a second smaller stream. The trail opens up into narrow tarmac path and soon you will hit the first ‘Datuk‘ Shrine. You will be able to see a path heading up to the right of this shrine  but ignore this for now as we will be saving this less scenic short cut for our descent.

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In about a 1-2 minutes from this first shrine, there will be a second ‘Datuk‘ shrine. Continue for less than 20 meters from this second shrine and you will see on your right, a flight of stairs steadily leading uphill. Take this turning and continue uphill. Certain parts of the trail is exposed, but as you keep going higher, the trail becomes more shady and green. In about 7-8 minutes  from this second ‘Datuk‘ shrine junction, you would be able to reach the peak of Bukit Hijau.

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A ‘Datuk’ Shrine

Bukit Hijau’s large barren rock faces have meant that visitors are able to see magnificent views of the Paya Terubong Valley as well as the North Eastern Coast of Penang.  Once you’ve rewarded yourself with the views, you’ve got two options of going down. First would be through the same trail you came up from and the second one is the shorter and steeper trail which is located 20 meters away on the right of the earlier trail. This second option will take you directly down to the first Chinese Shrine and back to where you started. Happy Hiking!

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Other side of the view towards Island Park and Jelutong on the North east coast of Penang

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The amazing waterfalls of Penang

The sheer magnificence of waterfalls has captivated humankind from time immemorial. Penang Island’s hilly core is the source of a few streams and small rivers, some of which end up as stunning waterfalls on their downhill course. On the mainland also, a few  exist, in isolated hill ranges that dot the largely flat expanse.

1. The Great Waterfall

So delightful were its waters that the nineteenth-century traveller Ibrahim Munshi (son of the famous writer Abdullah Munshi) described it in his account, Kisah Pelayaran: “The water springs from the hill, clear and cool; it flows down in torrents in the same volume between rocks and boulders.”

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2. The Sungai Pinang West Waterfall

Sungai Pinang Barat is marked with numerous smaller cascades along its downward journey. Most remarkable of these cascades, is a huge and wide cascade midway along its downward journey. It empties into the sea at Kuala Sungai Pinang in Balik Pulau.

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3. Tat’s Stream Waterfall

Tat’s Stream Waterfall is a small waterfall located on the slopes of Penang Hill, near the Penang Hill Lower Station.

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4. Cascades of Sungai Batu Ferringghi

Sungai Batu Ferringghi is one of Penang’s important catchment streams, feeding into the Batu Ferringghi Aqueduct.  The aqueduct, completed in 1929, is the legacy of James Fettes, the first municipal water engineer of Penang.

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5. Mount Elvira Waterfall

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6. Chin Farm Waterfall

Chin Farm Waterfall used to be very popular with tourists and locals who used to visit the waterfall regularly for picnics and to camp around. Today, its popularity has faded away and it is rarely visited.

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7. Titi Kerawang Waterfall

The Titi Kerawang Waterfall is the most famous waterfall in Penang. Located along the hilly Teluk Bahang road which connects Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang, the twin cascades of Titi Kerawang are officially on the tourist map, being a hive of activity on weekends with both locals and tourists frolicking in its cold waters.

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8. Bukit Hijau Waterfall

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Hike: Bukit Cendana through Moongate

Distance: 5.8 km

Total Time : 2 hours 30 minutes

Grading: Moderate

Land Status: Secondary Forests and Highlands Forest Reserve

Cendana Map

Bukit Cendana Map

Bukit Cendana is a a peak which stands near but separate from the rest of the hills in the Penang Hill Range. Formerly known as “Highlands”, Bukit Cendana’s history spans back to the mid 1800s when it used to be the site of a retreat whose ruins are still visible at its peak. Today, its slopes are home to popular trails like the Station 3,5 and 39.

There are a number of trails up to Bukit Cendana, but this guide describes the one which starts from the popular Moon Gate trail. If you are heading in the direction of the Penang Botanic Gardens, The Moon Gate trail starts to the left of Jalan Kebun Bunga about 400 meters before the Botanic Gardens. Its circular entrance painted in a bright coat of yellow is never too difficult to spot as you pass this road. The trail starts here.

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Moon Gate

Follow the popular trail up from Moon Gate to Station 5. It will pass through a wide and eroded jungle trail, wind its way up a series of steps with occasional views of townships below and finally come to a flat wide path. It will take you about 20-25 minutes to reach this wide flat path. Here beside the trail, you’ll be able to spot the ruins of Ravenswood, a dwelling which was built back in the 1840s.

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Ravenswood’s ruins

A further 5 minutes of walking along this wide path will bring you to the Station 5 rest area. This rest area built on the donations and goodwill of generations of hikers is a popular hiking spot in Penang. Take a short rest here before continuing.

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Station 5

Just after the Station 5 rest area, the main trail goes straight along the contour of the hill, joining up to the Jeep Track at Station 84. However, you’ll notice that just before the makeshift badminton court and after the Gym Equipment in Station 5, a series of steps goes off to the right on the slope. Take this right turn and continue up the slope. In about 1 minute or 50 meters of walking, you’ll come to a junction where there is a left fork up the slope and another which just keeps going straight. Take the left fork and continue up the slope. This trail zigzags along the edges of the Highlands Permanent Forest Reserve and up the Bukit Cendana slope. A large fire in 2014 destroyed much of the trees on the left side of this trail resulting in a very bare and exposed region along the trail.

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Shorea trees on Bukit Cendana

The slopes of Bukit Cendana also have a high concentration of Seraya trees (Shorea curtisii) which can be spotted while hiking along this trail. In about 50 minutes from Station 5, you will be standing at the peak of Bukit Cendana.

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Densely forested slopes of Bukit Cendana form part of the Highlands Permanent Forest Reserve.

Here the trail branches in two. If you continue straight ahead, the trail starts going downhill. If you take the left turn, it leads to the remains of the old Straits Sanatorium retreat atop Bukit Cendana. This century old retreat was unfortunately ruined by a fire about 40 years ago. All that remains today are its beautiful stone pillars.

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Remains of the Straits Sanatorium on Bukit Cendana’s peak

Once you’ve explored the remains of this mansion come back to the junction and follow the straight trail ahead which goes downhill. In about 5 minutes you’ll come to junction where there is a small left fork. Take this left fork and continue for about 15 minutes along the steep trail as it zigzags down the steep slope and eventually ends at a point right before the toilets near the now defunct Station 84 rest area. Take a short rest here before continuing down along the Penang Hill Jeep Road to the Penang Botanic Gardens. This would take a further 50 minutes to complete.

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A Dillenia suffruticosa blooming on the peak of Bukit Cendana

 

Hiking to the Tail of Penang

Penang Island is often described as a turtle shaped island, with four flippers, the head (Batu Ferringghi) and an almost rectangular shaped body. So where’s its tail? All the way down south, between Teluk Kumbar and Bayan Lepas, is where Penang’s little tail is. It is also a small area of forest and rubber shielded away from the ever growing development woes of the island. While unknown to most hiking circles, it makes a good walk (except for certain parts where the trail disappears)

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The point marked as ‘Viewpoint’ is ‘The Tail of Penang Island’

We started in Sungai Batu, at the beautiful Teluk Bayu Beach. The usual Hiking ‘Kakis’, me and Peter had the company of a lady, Mohanah on this hike. While the hike was anything but ladylike, the both of us were impressed that she did it with relative ease and 0% complains!

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Teluk Bayu Beach, one of the most gorgeous beaches in Penang Island. ‘The tail of Penang’ is the forested cape in the far end of the picture.

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Wild Ixoras

In about half an hour we walked over the beach and through the jungle and came out at a viewpoint (a huge rock) which was the very tip of Penang’s Tail. Beautiful views of Penang’s Southern seas and every 20 minutes, planes fly across, to land at Penang International Airport.  It was a beautiful view indeed and one that I will always cherish.

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A Plane! A Plane!

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Numerous fishing boats dotting the Southern Seas. If the Penang State Government’s plans for  reclamation to create three new islands in the Southern Coast gets its way, this and many other gorgeous view will be history.

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Hiking Kakis for the day: Peter, Mohanah and yours truly, Rexy

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Fungi, possibly Cookenia sp

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Bracket Fungus

The hike continued from the viewpoint, in a northeast direction. The trail ran out at various points and we were forced to bash our way through the thick rubber and shrubbery. With some help from Mr GPS as well as a few ‘I think its this way’ from me and Peter, we made it out to the next beach, a rather hidden one, cut off from the rest by the hills. I haven’t found its name yet, so I’ll call it the ‘Secret Beach’

 

 

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Coming out at the ‘Secret Beach’, we were the only odd hikers there as only the fishermen seem to know it.

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We found a wonderful swing there and proceeded to take a good rest and of course feast on some snacks.

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Photo credits:Peter Van Der Lans

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The bliss of a Saturday morning, on the beach.

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We spent some time at the Secret beach before continuing along the seafront (in a Northeastern direction). A clear trail started at the end of the beach and we followed it as it winded up the hill and went eastward to Kampung Binjai, in Permatang Damar Laut. The journey took about 2 and a half hours and was indeed a great hike by the sea!

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Yellow flowers (possibly a legume) as we walked along the trail. A pleasant sight indeed!

 

Hiking Trails of Penang Island

Its been a long time that I’ve wanted to make a trail map of the trails in Penang Island. From the time I began using a GPS device (my phone app, Sports Tracker) in 2011, I’ve been constantly tracking the various trails we have on the island. By no means would I say this is a complete map but this is the closest I have gotten in my 13 year hiking journey (I’ve been hiking since I was 12)!

If Penang were to be compared with the other cities in Malaysia, I can very confidently say we are the hiking capital of Malaysia!
Here is a rough picture of the trails we have in Penang. I hope to complete more in the days to come and make this map a lot more colourful!

Trails of Penang Island

Pantai Acheh to Pantai Mas

Today me and Peter did a seven hour hike from Pantai Acheh to Pantai Mas and finally back to Pantai Acheh. The route taken was via RG25-Bukit Batu Itam and scrambling down to Pantai Mas and back to Pantai Acheh via Tanjung Gemuroh.

The map below shows this 11km hike. The green lines indicate the Penang National Park boundary while the purple line shows the trek we did.

Pantai Mas

We parked at the Pantai Acheh Chinese School and proceeded to start at about 9.45am. Pantai Acheh to RG 25 and the peak of Bukit Batu Itam is relatively an easy trail to do, albeit finding it might be a slight challenge. It starts off at a cement trail not too far away from the school and rises through durian and rubber plantations, passes Rain Gauge 25 and finally enters the Penang National Park through its southern border for an onward ascent to the peak of Bukit Batu Itam.

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Walking through the Durian Orchard

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Not many people take selfies with rain gauges these days

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Tall trees along the Penang National Park border

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Nearing the peak of Bukit Batu Itam

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Bukit Batu Itam and RG26

The walk seemed very doable at this point, however a difficult part started when we descended down to Pantai Mas from Bukit Batu Itam. Initially the trail is well marked after which it totally disappeared into the thick jungle!

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We had a spectacular view of the Pantai Acheh Mangroves soon after leaving Bukit Batu Itam

Me and Peter had to rely on intuition and predicting the trails which went down. A lot of scrambling and getting the old trail down was like looking for a needle in a haystack! There were points we had to rely precariously on trees,roots and rocks to get down.

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A huge landslide in the middle of the forest!

We followed the sound of a stream and kept pushing downward, finally ending up at a beautiful waterfall all by accident! (This was the second time on a hike with Peter. Unfortunately I do not know how to trace my steps back there,as this was during our scramble down).

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The hidden waterfall near Pantai Mas

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Another shot of the hidden waterfall

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When was Peter not excited about new waterfalls?

We reached Pantai Mas at about 3.10pm while it was high tide and it was quite a disappointment as the beach totally disappeared under water! The only thing visible there were the stands of old coconut trees from the time this beach was a private plantation and the newly planted mangroves by National Park Authorities (Perhilitan).

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Stands of coconut trees at Pantai Mas

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A beach? When it is high tide its more of a mangrove swamp!

We took a few photos and continued along the National Park Border trail which skirts along Tanjong Gemuroh, to Pantai Acheh.

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The well marked border trail from Pantai Mas to Pantai Acheh

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Signboards from a time when the Penang National Park was the Pantai Acheh Permanent Forest Reserve.

This trail is usually used as a ‘shortcut’  and ended up at the ‘infamous’  Pantai Acheh pig farm. Pushing our way through the unbearable smell, we finally came out to the Pantai Acheh Village. We ended our little adventure at the Kopitiam opposite the Pantai Acheh Chinese School about 5.00pm. And its back to work as usual tomorrow!

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At the pig farm. The pigs here are a lucky lot, they spend their last days enjoying the sight of a rain forest, before ending up as bacon.

The Accidental Waterfall: Exploring Sungai Pinang Barat (Titi Kerawang River) via the Mount Elvira Pass

In my 13 year hiking journey through the hills of Penang, 2017 has been a particularly eventful year, exploring the great unknown and untamed corners of the island’s hills. This particular hike was a good catch up from the fun and excitement we had in early 2017, when me, Rob and Peter formed a unlikely alliance to explore the last untamed portions of the island.

This particular hike was in mine and Peter’s minds for some time, and intended to explore the upper regions of the Titi Kerawang stream (where I’ve been previously and offered to bring Peter up, albeit failing “this mission” miserably as you will find later in the story) and also his kind offer to show me “new hiking territory”, the Mount Elvira pass.

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Looking down at Balik Pulau midway to the Elvira Pass

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A Trilobite Beetle

The Mount Elvira pass is a small pass which goes between the 700+ meter peak of Mount Elvira and its shorter sister peak, Batu Itam (A <700 meter peak, not to be confused with Bukit Batu Itam in PNP). This pass can be spotted from the Balik Pulau market, where we began this hike. A trail up to this pass from Air Itam area has been in existence since the mid 1800s and continues (albeit in much less use), to be used by  hill dwellers who call parts of Mount Elvira home. It was our intention to join up to this trail (which has now been tarred over), from the Balik Pulau side.

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We were just talking about the voodoo lily while hiking, when, guess what we stumbled upon a dozen on the trail!

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Voodoo Lily (Armophophallus prainii)

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Steep Ascend up to the Pass. Tired or not, we are always in for a selfie!

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That “M” indicates that this trail was surveyed by Charles Jules Moniot, a surveyor who resided in Penang in the 1840s-1850s

We went up to this pass and came down to the well known Iron Cross Junction (Tiger Hill Junction) and continued down along the trail to Titi Kerawang.

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Mr Millipede!

As I promised Peter, I was to take him on a trail to a well hidden campsite along the Titi Kerawang valley, however our plans took a twist when all by accident, we took a steep right turn down into an “unknown” trail, meters away from where I really intended to show him.

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Looking up to the peaks of Laksamana and Penang Hill

And guess what we stumbled upon! Yet another beautiful waterfall which forms part of the puzzle in Sungai Pinang Barat’s (Titi Kerawang stream) marvelous downhill journey! All by accident, we stumbled upon a simply amazing find!

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Another puzzle in Sungai Pinang Barat’s (Titi Kerawang river) journey downstream

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And down she goes, into a bottomless pit!

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What do you do when you stumble upon a new waterfall? TAKE A PHOTO POINTING AT IT!

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Grizzly find at the river, a python devouring its prey. We assumed it was dead, but soon realized it was not!

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Magnificence in the forest!