The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Jalan Chai
Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.
This walk is readily combined with a second walk which ends where this one starts making for an excellent experience - a link is given in mid-walk. Overall it would be about 50% longer and through similar countryside.
Earlier during this January 2014 visit, we came over the hill from Balik Pulau ending up in Jalan Chai, a Jalan Kampung to the west of the town. It was clear to us that there was much more hiking to be enjoyed in this area and this report describes a second visit.
We got off the 10.30 501 and walked down Jalan Chai. these are the pictures from our earlier visit showing the junction and beautiful Titi Heights - continue walking in front of the flats and very soon you will enter a shaded road.
Being Chinese New Year's Day, money was literally growing on trees and mega joss sticks were being lit at the small temple:
Staying on the tarmac we passed what appears to have been the estate manager's bungalow for the former surrounding rubber estate and as the road turned to sand and then became a motorcycle track, we passed some fish ponds.
It's got to be one of the pleasantest starts to any of our walks, normally they start to climb (or descend) immediately. In this case, ignore the two paths to the right.
It's so gentle that I was hardly breaking into a sweat, while this is a reminder that there are two blogs to write...
We passed into some overgrown rubber which led us round into a new valley which had left the plains very steeply. Yuehong is not normally good on landmarks, but this is where we came in from the right previously and stopped for lunch (follow the link to see that walk). It was far too early for a break this time.
Shortly after we came to a major junction complex. We were tempted to go left (I am sure it would have eventually recombined with our route), but straight ahead we could see the power lines which we had followed on the other walk and it made sense to stick with these. These views are looking up and down. Note the extra curve which allows a connection to our other route which was wide enough to take small trucks to remove the seasonal durians.
Madam was hot but definitely purring, this was 100% her idea of a good hike. On we went until we came out at a small col and I have to say that she made a face when I suggested a small diversion. No it was not to admire the total clearance behind her.
Of course, it was at that stage of a hike where the obligatory view would appear, once again down to Pulau Betong, note the unwelcome development in the middle of the picture.
The track curved around above a valley in which we could see a road. On the opposite side climbing high up was another road - one we shall explore later. It's become fashionable to build Buddhist retreats in these hills, some are successful, others less so. The Dhammadipa Vihara falls into the second category while just along the road behind the barrier leads to the Ratanagiri Bhavanarama (Forest Meditation Resort), one of whose monks came sweeping past us in a large 4WD vehicle.
By now we had started to descend, we were still with the power lines but they had almost reached their end. I have more than occasionally been guilty of over-confidence on these walks but given the condition of the road we were now on it would indeed have been major surprise if it had not led out. At the end of the steep descent there was a 4 way junction. To the right out of sight was a house, the road to the left passed another house before bearing left, clearly it was the road up the hill we had seen from above.
We were making good time and stopped to talk to a friendly resident. He said that the road to the Resort was a dead end but there were paths off it which would lead to places like Sungai Pinang, Titi Kerawang and even Penang Hill although he doubted our ability to follow that one as it was narrow and snake infested. He also added that the road to the left would lead to Sungai Rusa beyond the hill top, all of which would be for another day (or two). For a little while we were on a shady road but when we could see an open area ahead, I declared it lunchtime. We had made such good progress that we would easily make the 14.30 501 from Balik Pulau.
This is where we came out, it's at the top of a 'high quality development', this is where we joined the already built part, it's called Jalan Sungai Air Puteh 2/2. Coming down, we turned right here.
At the next T-junction we turned left to come out at some kind of Greek or Roman public garden. Those of my readers who have had the misfortune to see the modern China will immediately recognise the genre. Going down the street this is the view back, the Resort is high on the hill behind, it must have a lovely view of these delightful rural houses.
We came out at the main road through the development, just where the 404 Pantai Aceh bus does a U-turn after taking a diversion in here. Actually making allowance for the fact that these are town houses dumped in the middle of the countryside, they don't look too bad from the front, but I have to say that I'm not too keen on the back gardens:
They are being promoted on the basis that they are 'built for people with vision', what kind is not specified but this poster gives a pretty good idea. That's a nice computer generated image to be sure, but, hang on, isn't that England's green and pleasant land in the background?
All that glisters is not gold, caveat emptor, there is a real chance that this part of the island will become a concrete jungle to match Bayan Baru.
Hopefully, that won't happen until I am too old to walk the hills, but future generations of Malaysians will have only pictures to show what they missed. On this occasion, we sheltered from the sun until the 501 came, grabbed a Nasi Kandar at Teluk Bahang and returned to our own idyllic retreat at Seaview Garden.
If you are doing this walk in reverse, then you should come out of Balik Pulau and get off the 501 bus where you see the signs for the Air Puteh development (and Prince of Wales Island International School). If you are on a 404, then ride up to where it does a U turn and avoid the worst of being cooked by the tropical sun. Make your way to the top of the estate as indicated above. Enter the shade road and then once the power lines start follow then up to the col and down the other side. For the short walk continue down to Jalan Chai as described above, for the long walk just keep following the power lines all the way to Balik Pulau.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson