ash be nimble fans in Penang, this post is for you, and the 1 million people living in KL who are actually from Penang 🙂 if you’re from Penang and never hiked up the Hill, you should! 🙂
I’ve always wanted to do the trails up to Penang Hill ever since I got into trail running. It makes the road trip up north worth it, and you end up burning up everything you’ve just stuffed yourself with (or about to). Penang is not just about the food, to have a 700m+ hill easily accessible is not to be missed! With Uber and GrabTaxi in abundance, getting to and fro the trails are easy and very affordable!
This is what I love about Malaysia, in every single state we have access to some of the most beautiful, lush and adventure-filled jungles and mountains! I hope this will inspire you to appreciate whats in your backyard – that you don’t have to go too far to find adventure, a beautiful experience with nature, and discover what your body can do in the process!
Earlier this year when we went to Penang with baby Asha we took a rather ‘tame’ trail and hiked up to the Aqueducts around Batu Feringghi area. Very cool and unusual terrain and views, very educational reading and learning about the aqueduct construction & usage too!
Earlier this year April 2017 we hiked to the Aqueducts via Chin Farm waterfall with baby in tow
These aqueducts are still in use and are quite an engineering marvel. Theres a fair bit of tarmac for this hike.
Taking a break and letting Asha out of her carrier. For details on the hike we used this blog post.
This trip I really wanted to tackle the leading lady, the star attraction of Penang.
Penang Hill Trails Stats
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes – fast paced hiking + running on flats
Difficulty Level: 7/10 – no scrambling and the trails are well-worn, but the elevation is very harsh and it just goes upppppppp – to take it easier you can hike slowly and allocate 3-4 hours
The Penang Hill Heritage Forrest Challenge 2017 is a 14km race held along some parts of the route we took, you may see some of their signs left behind.
Our Penang Hill Adventure
Husband and I had a rare baby-free weekend over the Merdeka weekend, so we decided to head up to Penang as there was also a wedding to attend. Sunday morning, after a late breakfast at Love Lane (to refuel after a fun wedding after party with ended up at China House), we got an Uber around 10am which cost us just under RM10 and less than 20 minutes to get to the Moongate entrance, along the road leading to the Penang Botanical Garden.
Trivia: The Moon Gate is a heritage gateway along Jalan Kebun Bunga, on the way to the Penang Botanic Gardens. It is the gateway to the 19th Century country house of Cheah Chen Eok, the famous millionaire best remembered for building the Queen Victoria Memorial Clocktower at the Esplanade to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the monarch. The remains of his bungalow is just a few yards up the path. Not much is known of Moongate and the bungalow but there was an article in The Star about it in 2005.
First Junction: We walked up the flight of stairs and went to our right, and immediately entered the trails that we first saw. It was immediately a 30 degree climb from the get go! Lots of natural cut steps amongst the roots. Glad it was rather dry otherwise it would have been slippery.
In 5 minutes we got to our first fork but we met a lady coming downhill and checked with her, she confirmed that both ended up at the same area. So I guess we learnt that if in doubt, take the steeper way and keep going UP. In a few minutes we came to a small bridge crossing a waterfall, called the Half Hill Bridge – but don’t be fooled darling you are no where near half way up the hill
After that its a lot of solid hiking, constantly going up hill. I was sweating more than usual and felt a bit weak, probably thanks to the lack of sleep, too much dancing at China House & a lot of happy, bubbly, chilled beverages the night before. We took a short break and some selfies and I felt like I had sweated out most of last night’s shenanigans and assam laksa. We finally got to a section of trees that thinned out for us to see the view on the left overlooking the ocean.
I’m feeling more confident and warmed up now and we start to run a bit more. We soon hit our first encounter with the tarmac portion of the road going up Penang Hill from the Botanical Gardens route. Some old derelict structures – which I’m glad we weren’t hiking close to dusk as it would have looked creepy! From my rusty mandarin I could make out that the sign was a list of people who had donated to what I assume was a recreational resting area. Ok, confirming not a graveyard or something else creepy of the likes. How sad if you saw your money go to waste just like that. Perhaps it was once a look out point on the trails.
From here we entered the trails almost immediately again on the left after the last abandoned building, and are greeted with a wide grassy dirt road with some bamboo groves on the left. We relish the opportunity to take some wider strides and not be bent over hiking. It doesn’t last long.
Thank God this section doesn’t last long, but it takes a bit of the wind out of our sails. We stop to admire the mountain bike tracks as we struggle to even climb up on all fours. It reminds us to pay attention to see if any are angling downwards towards us. What thrill & suicide-seekers!
We plod on. It only gets steeper. At this point, apart from the lady at the start, a couple we encountered before the first views and some European middle-aged men hiking up this last steep bit, we have not encountered anyone else. We soon bump into a bunch of serious-looking hikers with large backpacks whom we learn are training for an expedition. It was a relief to bump into people, to know that you’re not in the wild all alone, as adventurous as we are, its nice to know we’re on the right track.
Getting There & Back
Entry Via: Moongate, just before you reach Penang Botanical Gardens
Directions for Uber / Grab: Penang Botanical Gardens, about RM10 from Love Lane
Exit Via: Penang Hill Tram Station, Bukit Bendera
The view is stunning from the top as you get a good lookout over Penang town, the bridge and the ocean. The bonus is that RM5 short cut back down using the tram, which helps you appreciate how steep you’ve climbed!
If traffic is congested, walk about 400m downhill, past the chinese temples and out to the end of the road where the sugar cane stalls are to get picked up
What to Wear / Bring
Shoes with good grip – if it rains there will be some muddy, slippery and steep sections. I had my Altra Superior 2.0’s with me so it was a comfortable grip over steep clay-packed areas and kept my feet well supported despite the constant uphill. As long as your shoes have good grip you are ok! 🙂
A good 1L of water – it gets hot real fast!
Your IC if you plan to take the tram down, its RM5 for Malaysians, one-way
If you have space in your bag, 1 spare top to change before getting into the tram 🙂
I wore my Limited Edition Merdeka Fox Tank from ash be nimble and Christina Running Skort in Tribal grey with hidden inner pockets where I kept a small stash of cash, wet wipes and a bottle of water, allowing me to run free! You don’t really need high socks or long sleeves as the paths are quite clear. Shop my new tank collection here.
The top of Penang Hill at The Habitat look out point can get very crowded – we went on a Sunday morning September 3, 2017 – so be prepared for a long queue to get onto the tram if it is earlier in the morning or on a public holiday!