PENANGITES are a lucky lot when it comes to hiking as there are reportedly more than 30 trails that lead up to Penang Hill for them to choose from.
Most of these trails start from the Penang City Park and Penang Botanic Gardens and they are very popular with not only locals but also visitors from all over the world.
Some trails are more popular than others, with the most popular ones – the No 3 and No 5 trails – accessible from the main car park at the city park.
These two trails are especially popular on weekends with schoolchildren and college students after a hard week of studies.
At the No 5 rest area, there are complimentary coffee and biscuits available throughout the week while at the No 3 rest area in the afternoon on weekends, free fried vermicelli is served with Chinese tea.
Businessman Tay Eng Chye, 55, said he had been hiking for the past 13 years with his wife Jessica Cheah.
“We take it as a form of exercise after a hard day at work. I used to suffer from gout and high cholesterol but they have disappeared since I started hiking.
“My weight has also dropped drastically from 86kg to a healthier 72kg. It is a really enjoyable exercise as my wife and I would hike with a group of friends.
“We would hike the ‘less popular’ trails with names like Black Pipe, Half Hill, Rocket, Rainbow Rock and 525. These trails are less popular because they are very strenuous due to the steep gradient, ” he said in an interview recently.
According to Cheah, 53, the upkeep of the trails is done by volunteers.
Even the coffee and biscuits are donated by a good-hearted Datuk who has been doing this for as long as she could remember.“There are also many photo opportunities, and I’ve taken hundreds if not thousands during my hikes over the years. These photographs are then uploaded to my Facebook account for my family members and relatives to see.
“My husband and I try to walk different trails daily just to make it more interesting, ” she said.
Retiree Terrence Ng, 65, said when he retired eight years ago, he did not know what to do in his free time so he decided to give hiking a try.
“I used to feel tired all the time before I started hiking.
“I now find that I have more energy and I have become a hiking addict. I have to hike whenever
I’m free or else my day would feel incomplete.
“Also during my hikes, I have seen many interesting creatures such as squirrels, green pigeons, water monitor lizards, wild boars and snakes. One of my hiking friends has even seen a mouse deer, ” he added.
Penang Island City councillor Wong Yuee Harng said anyone wanting to enter the city park would have to check in with their MySejahtera smartphone app to ensure no overcrowding and have their temperature checked.
“There’s an enforcement officer stationed daily at the park entrance in Jalan Kebun Bunga from the morning till closing time at 7pm to ensure that this rule is followed.
“The officer will also patrol the park to ensure that physical distancing and Covid-19 standard operating procedures are followed, ” he said.
There are also other trails all over the island including the Carpet trail in Sungai Ara, Bukit Jambul, Jalan Gangsa, Teluk Bahang, and the Penang National Park leading to Teluk Kampi, Pantai Kerachut and Muka Head.
On the mainland, there’s Bukit Seraya, where Penang’s tallest tree is located, Bukit Juru and Cherok Tokun, among others.
In recent months, there has been an increasing number of incidents of hikers collapsing or dying while hiking.
On Sept 17, a 51-year-old hiker from Bayan Lepas died while trekking on Penang Hill. He was pronounced dead by a team of paramedics when they arrived at Middle Station, roughly halfway up the hill.
Another middle-aged man also died after collapsing at the Middle Station on Sept 7. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
An elderly man died while trekking up to Cherok Tokun Hill in Bukit Mertajam on June 20, while a 49-year-old man died at Penang Hospital on June 8 after suffering cardiac arrest while hiking at Penang City Park.
A 56-year-old man collapsed while hiking at the Ayer Itam dam on the island on June 5.
On Nov 21 last year, a Penang Water Supply Corporation employee, 40, collapsed and died while on duty at the Heritage Trail on Penang Hill.
Ng advised hiking novices to take it slow, especially if they are overweight or elderly.
“They should take it slow and hike at their own pace as their stamina will eventually improve over time, ” he said.
He said even veteran hikers should know their limits and not over-exert themselves.
The one simple rule he always follows is “slow down or rest when you are tired and never force yourself to continue.”
For information about the trails mentioned and more, follow the “Hiking Trails in Penang” Facebook page.