The International Steam Pages

Penang Hills and Trails - No Fool Like an Old Fool
Gertak Sanggul to Pulau Betong

This is one of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index. This is a Grade 2 walk. There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed.

Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.

We had a 'lock problem' which meant that today's walk required a visit to Balik Pulau at the start and finish. Not only that but it was to be a 'short' one after a long haul two days earlier. So it was that we chose to do what I might term a beginner's walk, the coastal path in the far south-west of the island. It was 4 years since we were last here properly, that should have rung alarm bells given my rapidly aging memory and I didn't take the necessary couple of minutes to read up the route - in fact we had never done the entire route in a single hike. If I had then I would have read the following - "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!" In life there's nothing wrong with making mistakes and learning from them, but to make a habit of repeating them is not a good idea.

We had a good morning on the buses with just a couple of minutes at Balik Pulau for a 401E and even better only 5 minutes for a 308 at Teluk Kumbar. The driver couldn't believe we wanted to go to Gertak Sanggul and then kept trying to unload us at a beach. However, we needed to go right to the end, that's the path behind the bus which is beginning its return journey. There can't be a better start to a Penang hike, it's a wide shady path and the gradient is gentle.

Eventually the path bends sharp right and soon after is as far as cars can go - there was an abandoned one up here for a long time but it seems to have vanished.

There's another shady section and then the aforementioned gate.

Yuehong is laughing at herself as she was leading and chose the right fork which was wrong. At the next junction she actually chose the correct path but sadly I overruled her.

It was very pleasant being a mixture of fruit and old rubber like the others here. It was a bit more overgrown than I had expected but that's true of many paths at the moment after a prolonged and heavy rainy season. The Full Throttle Adventurers Club had been up here recently.

By the time we got to this open area, those bells were beginning to ring, this didn't look right at all. Increasingly, I felt we were maybe on the path that loops round to the far end of Gertak Sanggul (see Gertak Sanggul Circular) and a few minutes later, I called for a halt and retreat. That meant a great loss of face for yours truly but as the path had been gentle and shady, Yuehong saw the funny side of it.

The diversion had taken 40 minutes out of our time allocation and that meant that there could be none of my planned explorations along previously unexplored paths. That was the right path below as we returned and I wasn't going to photograph Yuehong's face as she trying to avoid collapsing with laughter.

This next section has views to the Straits of Malacca and a path to the left which may or may not reach down to the coast.

The hut was a familiar landmark and above it the path had seen better days, the concrete having washed away. We agreed that mountain bikers would probably not want to come down here anymore (the plastic Giant signs from 2014 are still here) and then an old man on a motorbike came past!

The old hut had finally blown down and soon we were in the half way fruit orchard.

Someone was up a tree gathering nutmegs and as we re-entered the old rubber, there were two paths on the right that need checking. The main one may just go to the nearby house, the other leads up to some young rubber and I had come down one of these a long time ago when I managed to get lost up above (Pulau Betong Lollipop). However, a few months ago Peter van der Lans told me this part of the hilltop is very overgrown as tapping of the old rubber had stopped owing to the low price of rubber.

We came to the next orchard which stretches a long way down to Pasir Panjang with its government training camp at the bottom. Again there is a path here but it's not well used and I don't know how far it goes let alone whether it goes through.

Our journey was nearly over, round the corner was the bridge with the adjacent burned out house. Very soon we came out above Pulau Betong, the path was recently been cut back on either side and it would be much easier to spot coming the other way.

The only thing I like about the steep road down is arriving at the bottom, today it was noticeable that the oil palms were being cut back and may be for the chop, being life expired. However, Yuehong and I are on the Cod Liver Oil Capsules (a Mike Gibby recommendation) and as a result we both have far less knee inflammation and this made the descent far less uncomfortable. I know we are only treating symptoms but who cares when it makes that kind of difference?

We had 20 minutes at the Hai Ching Coffee Shop for a drink before the 15.00 403 bus turned up just before 15.25. We leapt aboard, picked up our lock and extra keys and relaxed (too much in my case) in Balik Pulau until the 17.30 501 whisked us home.

Pulau Betong Area


 ____ = 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