Monday, November 3, 2008

Lets Go Hiking in Penang - Botanical Garden to 47

Trail from Botanical Garden to 47

Good for -

1. Sweating like a pig.
2. 'Killing' your smoking friends/asthmatic friends
3. Looking at trees/plants/pitcher plants
4. Viewing Tanjung Tokong and Pearl Hill
5. Getting spooked by the local spirits (kena sampuk in Malay, cheong teok in Hokkien; Choi - knock on wood)

Starting point - Botanical Garden
End point - 47 on the Jeep Track

Time - depends on your fitness and whether you want to take a look at everything and anything (ham pa lang ha mi sai pun ai kua ai bong).

Warning - I take no responsibility whatsoever for whatever that may befall upon you from following the instructions given herein. Please take the necessary precautions when you are out hiking. Only you yourself can be responsible for your well-being and safety. Thank you.

First of all, get yourself to the Botanical Gardens of Penang, also fondly known as the Waterfall Gardens.

From the main gate of the gardens, follow the tarmac road (labeled blue) that leads to the Upper Circular Road (refer to the map below - adapted and modified from

The road will lead you to a hilly slope on your left with many coniferous and juniper trees. At the end of this area, there is a dry stream bed laid with stones (it is an overflow outlet). The dirt path (brown) begins here and you should see a well-trodden path that lie beside the tarmac road above the embankment on your left. Get on to this path and follow it. It will run somewhat parallel to the tarmac road but goes up the slope and inwards. After some distance, it will turn left abruptly and climb up the slope rather steeply. The path becomes a stairway of some sort, courtesy of the regular hikers.You should see the liana in the pic below if you had been going on the right track. If the liana is no longer there, the path actually takes a 90 degree turn around that point.

Follow 'the stairway to heaven' as it snakes up the hillside. The stairway goes on until you reach an elevation of about 300m asl. Along the way, especially towards the end of the stairway, you may hear sounds of vehicles even though you are surrounded by the jungle.The Jeep Track is actually just to your left beyond the gully, hidden by the trees.
Looking downhill - the path looks pretty steep.
Stairway to heaven...more like stairway to hell for those who are not fit.
Huge trees line these steps, making it an interesting climb

You will reach a leveling at about 300m asl. The slope on your left is made of granitic rocks and so is the path that you are stepping on. It is kind of dark and gloomy over here because it lies in the shadow of a small plateau above. There is a small path turning off to your left at the beginning of this area that climbs up the slope. Ignore this path and continue walking along the leveling (see sketch map below - follow the brown path and the way indicated by the black arrows). The sound of the garden's famed waterfall should become apparent to you if you have not noticed it earlier.

Directions after reaching the 300m asl leveling.

A short while from the start of the leveled path, the area becomes brighter and the banks and the path that you are walking on are clearly laterite clay. You will come across a clear path that turns left and goes up the slope. It is clearly marked as the way to 47/84/Penang Hill. Take this path which goes up the slope. It is a path cut into the clay earth and made into steps at some places (see pic below).
Path cut into the clayey ground. It is eroded in many spots.

You will reach a small plateau/clearing where you can enjoy the view of Tanjung Tokong and Pearl Hill. The picture below is the view of Pearl Hill.
The view of Pearl Hill and the coast from the small plateau.

If you stand facing seaward (as in the picture above), there is a small Datuk shrine (small red house-like structure on the ground) on the far right edge of the plateau. A small path can be seen disappearing into the undergrowth, which probably leads to the small path at the beginning of the leveling. Ignore this path. Once you are done staring at the view of the sea, turn around (with your back towards the sea) and follow the clear, level, laterite path that leads to a tree lined path.

You will come across a small man-made structure that serves tea/coffee at certain hours (hence the label tea kiosk) on your right. Picture of tea kiosk below (there are toilets here should you need to relieve yourself and have not done so in the bushes).
A shelter for serving tea/coffee. Toilets are available here too, so you need not 'fertilise' the forest.

Looking back from where you came from.

Above is the view of the tree lined path from the tea kiosk (i.e. looking back at the way that you came from)

The path ends at point 47 of the Jeep track (where the tarmac road makes a sharp bend). There is a foot reflexology aka foot torture path at the edge of the grassy kerb. Turn right and follow the tarmac road if you want to proceed to 84/Penang Hill. Turn left and walk down the steep tarmac road to return to the Botanical Gardens.
View of the tarmac road going downhill towards the Botanical Garden

The walk to 84 is an easy stroll (there is another tea kiosk here and it is a major stopping point).

There is a small dirt path directly opposite the exit of point 47 and this goes up to Bukit Cendana. It is a poorly kept path and badly eroded at many stretches.

View of the path that leads to Bukit Cendana.