When the going gets tough...

IF you are game for a challenging five-hour hike through the Penang Hill Forest Challenge trail, put on proper sports attire and head for the Penang Hill Railway station. 

From there, you can start your journey on the jeep track to the first station at the Western Hill and go on to the forest trail that leads you all the way to the Teluk Bahang Recreational Forest. 

The 11.3km trail is said to be the longest and most challenging in Penang. 

Cool and crisp mountain air greets trekkers who will get to experience Penang's verdant tropical rainforest.  

According to Penang Forestry Department deputy director Foong Lai Hoy, it was difficult to find a mega biologically diverse forest today, especially in a developed area like Penang. 

As we trekked up the trail covered with a thick canopy, we were embraced by the serenity of nature that was a stark contrast to our hectic city life. 

While admiring the lush greenery surrounding the marked path, we enjoyed the beautiful “nature's symphony” – a combination of the sounds of insects, wind blowing through the leaves and birds’ chirping. 

Watch out for some interesting flora and insects and you may come across some rarely seen species. 

Some of the plants look interesting and unique. But trekkers are warned not to touch or grab the plants in the forest as some of them have thorns or latex that may cause allergic reactions to those with sensitive skin. 

“Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but your footprints,” Foong reminded visitors. 

Before setting out on this trail, trekkers must prepare sufficient supply of food and water for a five-hour trek across the forests and up and down hills. 

After a tough time of climbing steep slopes and crossing the forests, we were duly rewarded when we reached the 'Eagle Point' - a hilltop at the Bukit Kerajaan forest reserve overlooking the picturesque Teluk Bahang Dam and Batu Ferringhi. 

From here, lucky trekkers may be able to watch a few eagles soaring across the sky.  

We took a break and rested our sore feet for a moment at a rain gauge spot. Here we had lunch that we brought along. 

If you are not a regular hiker, watch out for warning signs at dangerous sites and follow the trees marked with white paint along the trail that will help you trek safely. 

Foong advised trekkers to go in groups of at least four and inform either the department or the police before and after trekking for security purposes. 

“This trail is the most challenging and one must be able to assess their own physical condition before trying out the route,” he said.  

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