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Balik Pulau - Ngoh Han Hill Temple - Cheng Kon Sze - Paya Terubong

This hike starts in Balik Pulau and takes approximately 5-6 hours. It's a varied hike through both orchards and secondary jungle with some excellent views to Balik Pulau and George Town.

View to Balik Pulau
View to Balik Pulau from just under the TV Towers

Take the 502 bus in George Town to Balik Pulau (RM 3.40) and get off at the Balik Pulau bus station where our hike starts. Buses 401 and 401E also go to Balik Pulau but take considerable more time.

From the bus station, walk along the market to the houses. At the end of the road (200 meters or so), there's a dirt road. At the end of the dirt road, turn right. This is the main old road connecting Balik Pulau and Air Itam. After 20 minutes you will reach a junction with the notification "private property" and "no entrance". Ignore the sign and walk up until you see the road turning right. There will be some car tires on the road. Now you have to take the cement trail to your left. Follow this trail, it will lead steep up. There are several junctions including one with a small bridge but stay on the main path.

Balik Pulau to Air Itam road
Start of the hike, the road to Air Itam, after 20 minutes, look for the sign to your left "No admittance".

You may find further the path blocked by a chain but you can ignore this. After about 25 minutes you will leave the orchard and hike steep up through the jungle. Once back in another orchard (mainly durian and rambutan), you will find a junction. If you take the left, follow the trail until you almost reach the highest point. At the moment the trail moves away from the highest point, climb up to rubber tree trail and follow it to the next cement road. It's just 25 meters away.

The orchard just outside Balik Pulau

If you take the right road, follow this straight on. After 10 minutes you will reach a 4 way junction, keep straight until the trail starts descending. At that moment, look for the rubber trail and climb up to the highest point where you will find the cement road.

View from Ngoh Han Hill temple
Spectacular view from Ngoh Han Hill temple

Follow the cement road upwards to the Ngoh Han Hill temple. Here you can enjoy a spectacular view to Balik Pulau and Pulau Betong. You can refill your water bottles before taking the main asphalt road away from the temple (there is only one). It's mostly down with a few parts where you climb. The road eventually merges with the Air Itam-Balik Pulau connecting road. Take a rest at the shelter.

The shelter at the highest point of the Air Itam-Balik Pulau road
The shelter on the highest point of the Air Itam - Balik Pulau road,
during weekends or mornings/evenings, you may meet some hikers/cyclists here.

At the shelter, follow the road towards Balik Pulau (downwards). Almost immediately you will see a path to your left. Follow it for about 5 minutes until you reach a junction and turn left (going straight leads to a farm). Should you meet any farmers telling you it's a dead end, ignore this.

On the way to Bukit Penara

Once turned left, walk a few minutes until you find another junction with a proper concrete road that leads steep up. There's a shelter with farming materials too. It's a short but steep climb to the end of this road. (photo left below)

Bukit Penara aheadBukit Penara ahead
Left: the concrete road after which at the end you have to climb up
Right: the trail that leads up after the concrete road

Now to your right there is a steep overgrown path which after several minutes levels. You're on the property of the farm below you. To your left you will see some secondary rainforest and to your right a hill slope with recent planted vegetables.

Bukit Penara ahead
View to Bukit Penara

Follow the path (the greens on the left of the photo above) and take a look back towards Balik Pulau (first photo of this page). a truly spectacular view. After a few minutes you will reach a piece of burned forest to your left and directly after that, you will see a path to your left and a yellow board with the sign you have reached Bukit Penara.

Balik Pulau to Air Itam road
Entry to the Bukit Penara forest

Directly after the yellow board there's a junction. The path to your right will continue into the jungle for another 10-15 minutes before you come back on agricultural land. The trail will further lead into farm land and comes evetually back to the shelter on the Balik Pulau - Air Itam road. I have not been able to figure out if there was another way to reach for example the TV towers which are right above you.

Balik Pulau to Air Itam road
The forest of Bukit Penara with an easy to follow trail.

Continue into the jungle. Follow the path that leads through the jungle for about 10 minutes until you reach the concrete road which connects Air Itam Dam (30 minutes steeply down) and the TV Towers.

To the Cheng Jee Chan (Cheng Kon Sze)

You can walk to the towers, about 15 minutes away but there's not a whole lot to see. Instead, opposite of where you exit the forest there is a sign for the Cheng Jee Chan (Cheng Kon Sze). The concrete path lead to some steps and levels once you see the rock temple just above the Cheng Kon Sze temple which, once at the rock temple, you can see below. At the rock temple you might have already a glimpse of Paya Terubong.

Rock temple above the Cheng Kon Sze
The rock temple just above the main Cheng Kon Sze temple, the climbing is over!

From the rock temple, there's a staircase down (5-8 minutes) to the Cheng Kon Sze main temple.

The temple is more than 100 years old and certainly worth a visit. It's unlikely you will see visitors others than the usual people who hang out here. This might include a man in his 70's wearing no more than shorts who every day brings up a load of materials from the Kek Lok Si. You might be invited to drink some tea but you're not allowed to make photos inside the temple (more about the temple including photos of the Nine Emperor Gods festival here).

Cheng Kon Sze

My photos of inside the temple were made during the Nine Emperor Gods festival, the only days the temple is really busy with worshippers. It is also the time when the beautiful 100 years old bronze lamp will be displayed.

Refresh yourself here before you go down to Paya Terubong.

View to George Town

From the temple, take the stairs to a smaller temple and eventually the exit gate on the road (to your left it will lead to the Kek Lok Si, to your right, it will be a dead end to farms although there used to be a connecting trail which is supposedly now closed by a Buddhist monastery, I didn't find any connecting trail).

Steps to Paya Terubong
The steps down to Paya Terubong, not always steep

Once at this road, the stairs continue opposite of you. The steps are partly worn out but easy to follow. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the main road. Once going down, just follow the steps, there are several junctions, ignore them. The exit is next to the United Hokkien cemetery with the bus stop almost next to you. There are several buses which can bring you back to George Town. The Shell petrol station has a small shop for refreshments.

Time schedule

  • Balik Pulau - Ngoh Han Hill Temple: 90 minutes
  • Ngoh Han Hill Temple - Shelter: 40 minutes
  • Shelter - Bukit Penara: 30 minutes
  • Bukit Penara entrance to exit: 15-20 minutes
  • Bukit Penara - Cheng Kon Sze: 10 minutes
  • Cheng Kon Sze - Paya Terubong: 40 minutes

The time is approximately

Map Balik Pulau-Ngoh Han Hill-Cheng Kon Sze-Paya Terubong

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Special Hiking Tours in Penang

Join us on our special hiking tours in Penang. We will bring you around in the jungle of the Botanical Gardens. Our tours include:

  • Botanical Gardens: Lily Pond - Waterfall
  • Moongate - Hikers Resting Spot #5 - Youth Park
  • Trails to Crag Hotel and Penang Hill

Read more and book your hiking tour.

Hiking in Penang around Botanical Gardens

or check the hiking and biking pages

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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.

View to Balik Pulau from the Ngoh Han Temple

Air Itam Dam to Balik Pulau

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The Cheng Kon Sze temple as is, is already a good reason to hike or bike up. However, the trails are worth exploring too.

Take the bike and cycle steep up or go on foot from the main road and hike all the way to Air Itam Dam. You will have a very enjoyable hike or bike adventure.

Cheng Kon Sze

The Nibbinda Loop

An interesting 3 hours hike steep up to the Nibbinda Forest Monastery and further through the Bukit Relau Forest Reserve back to Balik Pulau.

The Nibbinda Loop

Nibbinda Forest Monastery