The International Steam Pages

Penang's Top Ten Walks - Sungai Ara to Balik Pulau

This is one of my 'Top Ten Walks' in Penang, click here for the full list. This is a Grade 2 walk, although it is quite long. 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 - The Carpet, part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index.

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

This walk owes everything to an excellent trail account I found on the web - (Link broken by 1st November 2018)- written by a local mountain biker who included first class directions and pictures to back them up.

Take the 302 bus from Komtar and alight at the Jalan Kenari junction in Sungai Ara. Walk up the road to the Indian temple and turn right just after it.

Follow the concrete road up the valley parallel to the stream with its rock pools until you come to the rest area. Turn right here and climb a short distance until a small path goes off on the right just after a particularly attractive rock pool.

The turn off shown above looks completely different in 2015 owing to the installation of a new concrete road, the path can be seen disappearing off in the bottom right hand corner on the second picture.

You are now heading back along the opposite side of the valley you have come up but rather higher up and rubber gives way to durians.

Carry straight on past all the paths on offer until it becomes a 4 wheel vehicle road and you come to this left turn, tree and metal fence are distinctive. It runs up the side of a very well presented durian estate:

Go up and over the small rise and down to a further T junction with this house where you should turn right. This rises gently until you come to the critical junction below, note the twin electricity cables..

Just to the right side is a small ridge cum viewpoint. On the right is what was once 'Relau Village' and just to the left of centre is the Relau Pass, with the 'new road' to Balik Pulau somewhere on the upper left of the picture. Maps show the concrete road down from here going to Relau.

Above you will see a transmission mast which you will have to climb past. Head straight up ignoring tracks left and right, taking in the view over the end of the airport runway. Eventually you would reach this last key junction. The trail on the right goes to a small house and we needed to take the right fork just ahead, the left path goes round the corner to "The Carpet" a flat area where mountain bikers can meet at the end of their climb and enjoy a snack, a drink and, no doubt, a gossip.

However, just before this point and opposite the birds' nest factory farm, take the (new) concrete trail that heads up into the rubber (the path suggested above had been abandoned by 2015). 

It is now only a short but sharp climb to the main ridge, once across it the path drops rapidly through a further durian estate. The picture on the left below is 'history' but that on the right is still good in 2015.

The view is towards Pulau Betong:

The rest of the descent is unremarkable, the path zags and zigs and eventually becoming useable by 4 wheeled vehicles again. By 2015 most it was a wide concrete road. You will come to a major T junction - Yuehong is approaching it in the left picture below. Turn right and wind around the hillside until you come out on the Balik Pulau - Relau road, just above a convenient layby where you can wait for the next 502 bus down. Note there's no way an ascending bus could safely stop in the area, so even if you are heading back to George Town, enjoy some refreshment at one of Balik Pulau's many traditional coffee shops.

Take another 502 bus over the hill to Komtar or the infrequent 501 bus to Teluk Bahang - check the bus guide for the times.

Sungai Ara Valley


 ____ = Concrete Road

 ____ = Path

 ____ = Easy '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