The backdoor to Penang Hill

The backdoor to Penang Hill

Go Hiking with Rexy

Do you want to see a dam, a waterfall, farms and some history, on a hike? If you do, the trail to Penang Hill from Air Itam is your definite answer. Early one morning, I brought along a friend KH Ooi and we set off for the Air Itam Market, from where we were to embark on this hike. Being ever so curious about tracking my hikes, I took along my trusted Garmin Forerunner 405 Watch, which would track the distance, altitude and pace of the hike.

We started by walking along the road which led from the Air Itam Market to Kek Lok Si Temple, and took a right turn midway onto a cement path which led into the hills. The trail passed numerous farms and houses along the way to lead to the 55-year-old Air Itam Dam.

The dam, an icon of 1960’s Malayan construction, is a scenic spot for recreational activities. My Garmin Forerunner 405 Watch, showed that about 30 minutes had elapsed since we started and we were about 1.5 km into the hike. After a short rest, we were back on our feet, walking along the circular road around the dam.

After crossing a few rapids which fed into the dam, we took a right turn on a cement road which went off into thick jungle. Although this stretch of the walk was steep and tiring, it was also scenic as it snaked its way through the thickets accompanied by the soothing sounds of water flowing down crystal clear streams.

As we inched our way up, we stumbled upon an absolutely gorgeous waterfall off the main trail. We took a short detour to explore this waterfall and spent several minutes soaking into the beauty of this gem. Back to reality, there was still a final push to the Iron Cross, an important pit stop where the trail branched off in 4 different ways. We finally reached there, exhausted from the continuous hour long uphill ascent.

After a quick lunch at Iron Cross, we continued our journey. A small red signboard with an arrow to the right showed us that our walk would follow the unpaved trail to the right. We followed it as it meandered through a valley and into a small farming community right in the middle of the hills.

Here, the terrain was downhill, and thus much easier than before. All around us were tall stands of Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan), an important ingredient in the famous Penang Laksa. Its blooming pink flowers were a beautiful sight to behold. Along the way occasional farm houses, some almost a century old, reminded us how long this farmland had been cultivated. We followed the trail as it rambled its way and ended up at the Summit Road.

A gentle one-hour walk along the Summit Road finally brought us to the Penang Hill Cafe where a scrumptious bowl of Ice Kacang was waiting. Looking at my watch, it showed that we had walked 14.73km at a pace of 5 hours 46 minutes. The trail is easy to follow. Another 20 minutes later after a train ride down, we arrived at the Penang Funicular terminal at the foothill.

While it was relatively a long trek, the views and experience definitely make it a hike worth trekking and tracking!

How to get there?

  • Rapid Penang (Bus 201 and 203) takes you to Air Itam Market where the hike starts.
  • Hiking to Penang Hill from Air Itam takes about 6 hours at a leisurely pace.

What to bring?

If you plan to hike, bring;

  • A pair of sports shoes
  • 2 litres of water
  • Packed lunch