August 3, 2015

Climbing Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera)

View from Moongate Trail

Climbing Penang Hill

There are many trekking routes to Penang Hill from different starting locations such as the Botanic Gardens and Ayer Hitam. We chose to climb Penang Hill via the popular Moongate trail because it is well marked through popular use. The start of the trail is just before the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.

Moongate Trail

The trail can be divided into three stages. The first stage of the trail consists mainly of steps - easier on coordination but still tough on knees and heart as the vertical ascent is 250m over a distance of 1.2km (Bukit Timah Hill about 140m over a similar distance). Just before the rest stop at #5 the steps change into a well-kept earth trail. I came across a man sweeping it clear of leaves. Later on I saw that he was the same guy who prepared hot tea for trekkers. Usually the local trekkers will stop here then turn back to the Botanic Gardens.


Jungle Trail

The second stage of the Moongate trail is basically a jungle trail. It is easy and the elevation change is gradual - about 180m over 2.3km. It ends at #84 rest stop where it meets the Jeep Road.

The final stage is along the Jeep Road which is a steep ascent of 340m over 2.5km. While tough one can walk at one's own pace rather then being dictated by the varying heights of the steps in the first stage.

The Climb

We started at 9.30am with nephew and girlfriend of BP. They climb up to #5 three times a week and to the top of Penang hill once weekly. During the walk their fitness showed and waited for us often. Early on in the first stage they led us on the jungle trail but we decided to change to the staircase trail because the jungle trail needed more coordination of hands, legs and eyes as there were protruding roots caused by over usage.


Staircase Trail

When we eventually reached the #5 station we had a rest here and had a cup of hot tea. There is also a gym here and a complete exercise equipment.

The next stage to #84 was not as steep although at some stretches we have to be careful of our footing as we sometimes moved downhill. #84 was under repair when we visited.

After resting for a short while we continued the final stage on the Jeep Road. It was tough because of the steep incline. The fitter ones moved on ahead while I reduced my steps to conserve my breath. Occasionally a motorbike or vehicle would pass by. In the earlier two stages we were sheltered from the sun by the canopy but here on the road we were occasionally exposed to the overhead sun.

Finally we passed the first bungalow called Grace Dieu and know that the destination was near. We arrived at the junction with Summit Road at 1pm. It took us about 3hr. We mounted the steps of David Brown's in anticipation of a well-deserved lunch. Although we did not try to schedule a meet we were glad to hear that our wives were on the way up by train so we could lunch together. They had just finished a tour of Kek Lok Si before taking the train up. It was a joyous reunion.

David Brown's Restaurant and Tea Terrace

David Brown's has a restaurant on the upper level and a Tea Station on the lower level. The Tea Station being nearer to the edge of the hill has a beautiful view of Georgetown and beyond so one can enjoy a drink and take in the view. We had lunch at the upper level at the restaurant. There were a total of 16 of us.


David Brown's Tea Terrace

Summit Road

After lunch the wives took the train down first while we proceeded to visit the Indian temple and posed for pictures with the cannon in front of it.

Along the Summit Road we passed a lookout point that gave a good view of Georgetown below. Then we walked to the Convalescent Bungalow and the abandoned bungalow beyond it which was situated at the highest point of Penang Hill at 790m.

We returned to the Top Hill Station to take the train down to Ayer Hitam to take our bus back to the hotel.