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Penang's Top Ten Walks - Gertak Sanggul to Pulau Betong

This is one of my 'Top Ten Walks' in Penang, click here for the full list. This is a Grade 2 walk at the easy end of the spectrum. There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed.

This is a summary of the original report which appears elsewhere on these pages - Third Time Lucky, part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index.

In November 2016, the only suitable 501 departure from Teluk Bahang is at 10.30 (and the last bus back from Balik Pulau is at 17.30), check the Penang buses page for possible updates.


These pictures date from 2012, necessarily parts of the trail 'evolve'. We did the walk from south to north in December 2016, it might help to review later pictures.


This walk can be done in the opposite direction, instructions for this are given at the end. We prefer to walk from Gertak Sanggul to Pulau Betong as the Hai Ching Coffee Shop is very near the end of the route and is a great place to chill out afterwards.

First you need to get to Teluk Kumbar, for this take a 401 / 401E bus from Komtar and get off at the junction on the round-the-island road and wait for a 308 bus - these go roughly every half an hour. Alternatively, you can go 'over the hill' with a 502 bus from Komtar to Balik Pulau (the second best bus ride on the island) and a 401 / 401E bus to Teluk Kumbar. If you are based in Batu Ferringhi, consider coming to Balik Pulau via Teluk Bahang on the infrequent 501 bus - it's the best bus ride on the island - check the bus guide for the times. 

Take the bus to where it turns round and before starting look around, Gertak Sanggul is an unspoiled treasure.

Go straight ahead up the wide path at the end of the tarred road, it will curve around to the right and you can safely ignore the inevitable 'no trespassers' sign, the path narrows and you will reach a view of Pulau Kendi, note the gate landmark.

You need to be very careful here, after the left fork with a gate there is immediately a right fork which goes up the hill on a wide concrete trail. Proceed straight ahead here, there is soon another fork, again go straight and not right. Some few metres above it there is a 'dog' house which you have to skirt - if you don't pass it then you are on the wrong trail! And just afterwards, you need to take the right fork which climbs gently upwards.

There is a sketch map here to show the area.

Afterwards it is more or less a contour path through fruit orchards and near abandoned rubber trees. The abandoned wooden house is a landmark along the way and eventually you will come into an open area with views down to the sea - the beach is Pantai Panjang and can be reached by road along the coast from Pulau Betong village.

 

 

The path then returns to the trees and another path trails in just before a small bridge. Keep on going round the side of the hill into more dense trees whereupon the path will suddenly emerge at a four way junction on the north side of the hill with Pulau Betong ahead of you. Ignore the path on the left which no longer goes down to Pantai Panjang, go straight ahead down the hill through the oil palms and at the bottom you will pass various temples before you get to the main road.

If you are lucky then there will be blachan out to dry. Very soon you will reach the Hai Ching where you can wait for the infrequent 403 bus to Balik Pulau. After that you can make your way back to base using the 502 bus over the hill to Air Itam and Komtar or the infrequent 501 bus to Teluk Bahang, check the bus guide for the times of the 403 and 501 services.

The path between Gertak Sanggul and Pulau Betong is simply one of the nicest walks on the island and deserves to be better known, it's too far from George Town to ever attract large numbers of hikers even at the weekends. We'll certainly be bringing our future visitors here to enjoy it.


First you need to get to Balik Pulau, you can either go 'over the hill' with a 502 bus from Komtar (the second best bus ride on the island) or if you are based on the north coast (Tanjung Bunga / Batu Ferringhi) consider coming via Teluk Bahang on the infrequent 501 bus - it's the best bus ride on the island. From Balik Pulau take the infrequent 403 bus to Pulau Betong - check the bus guide for the times of both these services. As of January 2014, the 10.30 501 service should connect with the 12.00 403 service.

If you fancy a drink you can go to the end of the route where the bus turns around outside the Hai Ching Coffee Shop, but the trail actually starts about 200 metres before. Go straight down past a selection of temples.

At the bottom of the hill, bear left into the oil palm onto a concrete path that rises quite steeply.

You'll get snatches of view back towards the higher hills in the centre of the island. As the climb eases at the top of the hill, take care! You will come to a four way junction. The path to the right no longer leads down to Pantai Panjang as suggested in some older reports. The path to the left leads into the hills but we know from experience that it would very difficult to use it to get to Gertak Sanggul.

Instead take the minor trail into the overgrown area, it soon opens out again. After curving round the hillside you will see a house ahead which is to the left of this small concrete bridge. Cross it and take the right fork. You can now relax and follow the contours of the hillside.

Soon you will be able to see the buildings of Kem Bina Negara at Pantai Panjang, then the path variously goes through rubber and fruit orchards, there is one branch downwards to the right, but maintain your height and eventually you will start to drop down until you come to a cultivated area with views of Pulau Kendi. After this the path widens and curves down the hill before finishing at Gertak Sanggul.

There's not much to do here except 'take the air', there's a small seafood restaurant just off the main road ahead. Depending on your luck, the 308 bus will turn up sooner rather than later (nominally they go every half an hour). You can take it to Teluk Kumbar and get off for a 401 / 401 E bus which will take you back to Balik Pulau or directly to Komtar as you wish.

The path between Pulau Betong and Gertak Sanggul is simply one of the nicest walks on the island and deserves to be better known, it's too far from George Town to ever attract large numbers of hikers even at the weekends. We'll certainly be bringing our future visitors here to enjoy it.


Pulau Betong Area

Key:

 ____ = Concrete Road

 ____ = Path

 ____ = Easy 'Off piste'

 ____ = Seriously 'Off piste'

(Not all paths are shown, there are many more
which are seasonal or just go to houses.)

Click here for information on the maps.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk