Penang Hill is the best attraction on the island for this Malaysian hiker

The writer at the top of Penang Hill. — Photos: POLA SINGH

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No trip to Penang would be complete for me if I did not hike up Penang Hill, where I can be assured of a challenging workout!

Penang folks should consider themselves fortunate to have an excellent and convenient place to visit, as well as to exercise.

The 833m-high Penang Hill (also known as Bukit Bendera) is strategically located in the heart of the island and is very popular with locals and tourists.

I was in Penang during Chinese New Year and the first thing I did was to head to the Youth Park to start my climb up Penang Hill. It took me about three hours to reach the top, where the funicular train station is located, and this included some time spent just enjoying nature and taking lots of pictures.

Tough as it was, the climb was satisfying as I had “shed enough calories” to justify enjoying the lovely Penang food. It felt really good to reach the top, even though I was sweating profusely. The fresh cool breeze at the top was simply invigorating, and I was also rewarded with a panoramic view of George Town and the mainland.

Lots of bamboo along the trail.Lots of bamboo along the trail.Thanks to the relevant government departments, as well as a group of retirees and senior citizens, the trails up the hill have been well maintained and have enough signboards. Several rest areas have also been set up at strategic locations along the trail for walkers and hikers to take a breather.

There are a few trails that you can follow, with varying difficulty levels, hike duration and starting points. The most popular ones begin at either the Youth Park, Moongate, Botanical Gardens or Rifle Range Road (which is in Air Itam).

If you start your hike from the Moongate trail, the first two rest areas – No.3 and No.5 – are the most popular ones. Some of the rest areas are equipped with basic amenities like toilets and benches.

It took me about 30 minutes to reach the first rest area (No.3) from the Youth Park. The climb from that rest stop to No.5 was challenging, as if going up a spiral staircase.

Quite a few walkers stopped along the way to catch their breath. Nearer to the rest area, walkers can either take the steep steps up or go on the longer trail with a gradual incline.

From rest area No.5, it is another 30 minutes to the next stop, which is No.39. Along this trail, the number of walkers and hikers are considerably fewer.

Things usually get a bit misty about halfway through this trail, but the fresh air is something money cannot buy.

After another 20 minutes on the trail that’s rich in flora and fauna, you will arrive at rest area No.84. It is best that you take a bit of a breather here before continuing with the hike. It took me another 45 minutes or so to reach the top from rest area No.84. By that time, I was pretty spent, having walked for more than three hours.

Fortunately, the cool air helped me power through all the way to the top. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction once I got to the peak.

Another interesting way to go up the hill is to cycle. There is a mountain bike trail from the Youth Park but many prefer to use the metal road.

Instead of hiking down the hill, which I believe is not good for the knees, I took the funicular train which cost me only RM3 for a senior citizen ticket. Interestingly enough, I had a “free” ride down but had to buy a ticket to exit the station.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my climb up Penang Hill. I must say that not only are the trails well maintained, but the whole area is clean and inviting. The lush forest was just beautiful. If you plan to visit, please do your part in maintaining the cleanliness of the trails by not leaving behind any litter.

I would recommend any tourist in Penang to take a break from the city attractions of George Town, and hike up Penang Hill.

Penangites should not take the hill, a prized natural beauty and an icon, for granted. Let future generations continue to enjoy what Malaysians are currently enjoying.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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