Words and photos by Rexy Prakash Chacko
Untamed jungles, breathtaking views and a challenge to remember. Three things one would relate to when talking about the Penang Hill Forest Challenge. This hike is a 11-km trek starting from the beachside town of Teluk Bahang up a series of hills, finally ending at Penang Hill. If there was one trail that any hiker in Penang should do at least once, this has to be the one.
It was a sunny Saturday morning when I decided to do this trek. I was joined by two friends, Babu and Shirish, both of whom were equally excited as I was. The start of our day-long trek was at the Teluk Bahang Recreational Forest. Our backpacks that morning were stocked with water bottles and food to keep us fuelled up for the challenge.
The trek started off at a series of concrete steps beside the recreational pools in the park. As we kept walking, the steps made way for an unpaved path becoming steeper as we went further. Ropes as well as ample directional markers along the way, aid hikers up and prevent them from getting lost. In about an hour of negotiating the ascent, we finally reached our first pit stop, Station 10. This station was the first among 10 stations along the way, ending at Station 1 on the Penang Hill Summit Road. We took a rest at Station 10 before continuing to the first peak, Bukit Laksamana.
The trail ahead of us was a series of ups and downs, and it took us a further two hours to reach Bukit Laksamana’s peak. Bukit Laksamana or Admiral’s Hill is one of Penang’s highest and steepest hills. Little did we know that after 3 hours of hiking, an amazing view awaited us at the peak. From here, we could see the touristy Batu Ferringhi, Teluk Bahang and the seas beyond. The stunning views and the comfortable spot on the peak convinced us to break for lunch here, before continuing the trek.
The second leg of the trek was interesting, instead of going directly uphill to Penang Hill, the path took us down into a valley before making an uphill push to Penang Hill. The downhill journey was steep and slippery, but ropes along the way aided our safe descent. Once we were in the valley, the uphill climb lay in front of us.
Four hours had passed, and mustering every little ounce of energy left in us, we pushed our way upward. The forest along this stretch was beautiful, as numerous colorful fungi dotted the forest floor and towering Dipterocarp trees reached up to the sky.
An hour later, we finally made our way out to the Penang Hill Summit Road. A signboard with the words ‘Station 1’ confirmed that we were finally out of the jungle trail and all that remained was the 4-km stretch of Summit Road to the Penang Hill Station.
We celebrated our accomplishment with a few selfies at the signboard before continuing. Reaching the station, we finally could say proudly that we completed the Penang Hill Forest Challenge. Definitely a trail like none other!
How to get there?
- Rapid Penang (Bus 101 and 102) takes you to Teluk Bahang. Get down near the roundabout and a 10-minute walk will bring you to the Teluk Bahang Recreational Forestwhere the hike starts.
- The Penang Hill Forest Challenge takes about five to six hours to complete
What to bring?
If you plan to hike, bring;
- Sport shoes
- Three litres of water
- Packed lunch