Distance: 5.8 km
Total Time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Land Status: Secondary Forests and Highlands Forest Reserve
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.