The International Steam Pages

Penang Hills and Trails - Prawn Crackered
Gertak Sanggul to Pulau Betong - One More Time

This is part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang. Click here for the index. This is a Grade 3 walk and there is a sketch map of the first part of it at the end of the page.

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

It was our last full day in Penang, Yuehong wanted to lay back and enjoy the view from the flat, I wanted a walk and I won but it was a pyrrhic victory. We took the 101 bus to Teluk Bahang for a second breakfast of Roti Chanai. Being a Sunday, there were more bikers than you could throw a stick at. God knows when they had left home but the place was swarming with them, some, like us stopped here for breakfast, but as most were Malaysian Chinese, they ate next door.

PHH 4498 was spot on time as usual, going up we must have passed 50 more bikers coming down and at the summit there were at least 50 more taking a break. It's good to see, of course, but alas they are in a tiny minority compared to their couch potato countrymen. I have an increasing affection for Balik Pulau, it's 'Old Penang' as I remember it and I'm not alone as the Chinese medicine man suggested I photograph the traditional barbers opposite and he laughed when I demonstrated that I had already been there and done it.

We shot off on a 401 and were delighted when we saw the 308 turning a corner in front of us at Teluk Kumbar and the driver kindly waited for us to run down to join it. I'm afraid I don't have a picture of Yuehong chasing the bus, she would have killed me for it. The Higers won't be around much longer so here's another one from what will soon become memory lane, Yuehong was still breathless from the chase.. Afterwards we again went up the road at the east end of the village and going on the say so of the estate owner, we took the road behind the barrier at the back of the white house, it was a very hot day and the climb was no great fun, even Pulau Kendi didn't seem its usual attractive self.

We had been led to believe that the road would go right up to the ridge, but it expired half way up. Apart from a path down, there was just a rubber tree level to the left at the top of the bananas and that just brought us back to the Gertak Sanggul Circular path which we had used two days earlier. Rather than admit defeat and repeat that experience, we tried the first concrete path on the right. This got us to an abandoned house  and then right up to the ridge through some overgrown rubber. Alas, there was no obvious way onwards and down and I had again promised Yuehong 'no jungle bashes'. Back down we went photographing a giant spider and so we now took the second path on the right.

This started very pleasantly as it climbed steadily till it reached another semi-abandoned house which appeared to be used by the 'guest workers' who tap the rubber. The trail beyond was enticingly good to start with but once we were committed it became clear that it saw no regular traffic and we had to do our best to read which rubber level would give us the best route onwards. Madam was not amused, she hates this kind of hiking and to make matters worse her knee started to play up.

I offered her the chance to go back but it was sharply turned down. It was just a matter of (a long) time before we hit the 'Gertak Sanggul Quickie' route and the rubber gathering point was instantly recognisable. Neither of us saw any point in going up the hill again, so we turned left and went down to join the regular Gertak Sanggul to Pulau Betong path. This meant crossing the cleared area for what would presumably have been the 19th hole of the aborted golf course project. Anyone who leaves part of Penang Island looking like this should be strung up by the testicles and left out in the sun to bake.

The heat was really getting to Yuehong now, and we had just over an hour to go till the next 403 bus from Pulau Betong to Balik Pulau. That was always going to be a big ask, but things got much worse when I realised that a reticulated python was curled up right next to the path ahead. There was no sign of movement, but when I asked Yuehong to retreat a sensible distance and explained the situation to her, then her reaction indicated we had a serious problem. I lobbed a dead durian at the snake, but without any effect. There was no alternative route and both sides of the path were totally overgrown. Yuehong asked me if I was willing to walk past the obstruction swiftly and I agreed. She bravely followed and I then took the camera back to get some kind of record. In fact there were actually two snakes locked in a deadly embrace. In addition to the constrictor, there was what looked like a king cobra, even if I had a tape measure with me I wasn't going to use it, but it appeared to be at least a metre and a half long. Of course, it was impossible to estimate the python's size but I guess it may have been around two metres.

I doubt there will have been a winner in this contest, but it wasn't something for which I wanted to hang around to check out. Time was running out but we made it down to Pulau Betong in what should have been time for our bus just before 15.30. We ambled to the Hai Ching Coffee Shop where they said they hadn't seen it go yet and grabbed some take away drinks. By 16.00 it was obvious that there was not going to be a bus and so we settled down to wait for the next one at 17.30. At which point while I sunk several Tigers, despite a bag of prawn crackers, Yuehong's radiator boiled over and even a cold shower at the back failed to do the job. We got the 403 at 17.30 and it left us on the road out of Balik Pulau in sufficient time for the inevitably late running 17.30 501. Yuehong collapsed and I popped across to see where the newspapers we had seen delivered would end up.

I doubt Yuehong will remember much about the bus journey over the hill and when we got to Teluk Bahang for the first time she needed a taxi home. I'm pleased to say that she soon got over her discomfort. However, I guess for our next visit in February 2013, I shall have to do a recce before asking her to go out in what is the hottest time of the year in Penang.

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