The Anjung Indah - Nan Shan Hills - Nibbinda loop
(Blue trail north - Pink trail south)
If you are looking for a forest walk that is as remote as you can get it in Penang,
this is the one to explore. The trail overlaps quite a bit of hikes elsewhere described.
Take the 502 bus from either the city center of Balik Pulau to Anjung Indah. Here you can
have a nice view of the Balik Pulau area before you enter the forest.
Take the steep slop up to the restaurant and continue along the restaurant and pass the living
quarters for the staff. Just after the huts climb up the grass field to your right. Follow the hill
at the higher point, the grass field will turn around the hill until you enter the forest. A minute
later you will find a water collection point for the restaurant. Signs by the Penang Throttle
Adventure Club (PTAC) will guide you.
The path leads into the Bukit Relau Forest Reserve. The trail is quite clear but in
any case, you should be able to follow the PTAC sign papers. The path slowly starts climbing but
is never difficult. You won't be able to walk very fast as there are many obstructions like fallen
trees and thick vegetation where you have to take care to stay on the path.
After about 20 minutes the PTAC sign papers turn right and continue steeply down, basically
towards The Hill. This is not what we want this time. The
trail to the right with the sign papers is very clear but you have to turn left. There are a couple
of fallen trees that hinder your view. Climb over the tree and you will see the ridge path continuing.
Crucial junction. Here the PTAC papers want you to turn right, instead, you should
go around the big tree, get over a huge log and continue on the ridge.
Keep in mind you have to stay at all times on the ridge. Should you for whatever reason turn away f
rom the ridge, try to climb back where you find the small trail. I've had this several times, especially
coming from the other side, so I speak from experience.
Once the trail starts climbing again the forest gets thicker but the trail stays on the ridge. If
you continue without making any sidetracks, you should be able to reach the last hilltop in about 45
minutes. The hilltop is clearly marked by a huge tree crossing the trail. From this point on the trail
turns slightly left and starts descending.
This is again a tricky point. About a minute from the hilltop you will reach a junction. It's an
easy to miss one but remember this: at the junction the continuing path starts to descend steeply in
the valley below and lead ultimately (about 10 minutes) to a pool and a dam. You can follow the stream
back to Balik Pulau but it's a hell of a hike without much of a path to lead you.
So turn onto the path to your right and follow the clear trail for another 5 minutes. You'll see
to your right the hills on the other side of the valley. You have arrived at the Nan Shan Hills.
The last hill, from here on it's a minute or 2 down to a junction
which leads to the Nan Shan Hills exit.
Once you exit the forest you have several options.
Continue to Balik Pulau via the connecting Air Itam
Dam-Balik Pulau road by continuing to 6 way junction, turn left and find the trail back to the other
side of the hills.
A much nice option in my opinion is to turn back to Balik Pulau using the ridge path to the
Nibbinda Forest Monastery.
The water containers on the Nan Shan Hills.
When you exit the forest turn left until you reach the cleared land area, a minute away and
start climbing the hill towards the water tanks on top of the hill. Here you have a nice view in
Bayan Lepas direction (south) and the Nan Shan Hills (north). Continue down to the main track. To
your right there's a farm hut but the track goes back into the forest.
Top of the hill, the left trail comes from Nan Shan Hills, the right trail continues
steep down to an area with scrub and cut forest, impossible to pass.
Almost immediately after entering the forest there's a large tree across the path. Climb over
it and continue until you see a clear path to your left (about 2 minutes walking). The path starts
with a couple of steps made into the hill side.
Climb up to the hilltop which takes no more than a few minutes.
On the ridge to Nibbinda Forest Monastery.
Once at the top, you have the continuing path right in front of you. Follow it but in case of doubt,
stay on the ridge as much as possible. There are a few junctions which all lead steep downwards.
Within 15 minutes you should reach a cleared land area with a sign board of Bukit Relau Forest Reserve 1911.
Follow the forest edge to the other side until you see the trail descending. You have 2 choices. The first one
is to descend here to a clear path below the field. If you follow this path you will eventually reach the Balik
Pulau-Air Itam Dam connecting road not far from the Nibbinda Forest Monastery entry point.
More challenging is to find your way through the forest and rubber plantation.
The marker stone
It starts with the marker stone. This is the forest entry point. A minute after entering the forest you come
at a rubber plantation. Now there are several ways to continue. First you have to realize where you are:
To your right there's the ridge path
In front of you there's a hill and you will want to continue to the other side of it where you find the
Nibbinda Forest Monastery.
To your left downwards there's a stream as described here.
You can take either way. I've done all 3. None is very straightforward but also none is too difficult.
Trail after the marker stone. At this point you can turn right and find the ridge path
or continue further down using the rubber trails to the other side of the valley.
Walk the ridge
If you think the ridge is your choice, once back in the forest, take the first trail to your right. Most
likely it will quickly end in an obstruction but you should be able to continue a little further down (remember,
this is a rubber plantation). You might have to do this 2 or 3 times before you come back to the ridge. Follow
the ridge to the hilltop.
To the other hill by using the valley
In a way this is the easiest thing to do. Just continue down until you reach the bottom of the valley and
turn right. Once you can cross the valley bottom, follow the rubber trails back up. Again, this is a little
trial and error.
Going to the stream
Should you decide to go to the stream and from there back to either Balik Pulau or the forest edge trail
to the water reservoir and Nibbinda Forest Monastery, continue descending with the ridge in your right eye
corner. In other words, as long as you continue down and left but not too far, you should be OK.
From the hilltop to Nibbinda Forest Monastery
Once you are on the last hilltop either by using the valley or the ridge path, you have to descend.
This is relatively easy, especially the first part as this is a clear path. In a moment you're in the
rubber plantation. From here on you simply have to continue down by using the next available moment to
go down to the next level of the rubber trails.
Cooling off in the water reservoir.
You have to do this several times before you can see the water reservoir through the trees. Regardless
which trail you take, it shouldn't take more than 15-20 minutes from the landmark stone to the water reservoir.
From the water reservoir to Nibbinda Forest Monastery is an easy 5 minute walk.
First house of the Nibbinda Forest Monastery, take the steps to
the house and find the trail 20 meters below it.
Three trails to Balik Pulau
There are three ways to continue to Balik Pulau.
When you arrive at the stupa, follow the cement trail to your right and continue going down
steeply until the road merges with the main tar road leading down to the Balik Pulau-Air Itam Dam road.
Walk around the stupa towards the monastery and follow the road down to the Balik Pulau-Air Itam Dam road.
This is a little more challenging. Use the steps to the first house to the left (photo right) of the stupa. Below the house
is a clear trail leading down to a small bridge, turn right at the bridge and continue this way to Balik Pulau market.
Should you choose this, when at the house descend along the cement to a lower level of grass field, turn right and after a
couple of meters left and you'll see the trail. It's only 2 minutes from the house to the path.
This is an interesting option. The trail can easily
be cycled and hiked. You'll pass beautiful tropical rainforest
and cultivated areas with fruit farms, a wonderful day out in
the heart of Penang with an option to visit the Ngoh Han Hill Temple
with spectacular views to Balik Pulau.