Crazy hiking: 5 Way Junction to Balik Pulau
The trail on this page described was certainly the most crazy hike on Penang I have been doing. The trail starts at 5 Way Junction which can be reached from Air Itam (see the first part of this page) or Balik Pulau via Ngoh Han Hill.
Once at 5 Way Junction there are 5 options: back to Air Itam Dam, Tiger Hill and Penang Hill, Ngoh Han Hill, Sungai Pinang and .... a "shortcut to Balik Pulau". For those hikers willing to give this a try, expect a 3 hour hike from 5 Way Junction to Balik Pulau IF you are able to get the right path. Should you want to start in Balik Pulau and hike all the way up to Bukit Elvira, check this page.
So at 5 Way Junction you have to take the left road. This is a good asphalt road that swindles up towards Bukit Elvira although it never reaches the top.
Follow this road for about 45 minutes. It will continuously ascending but it's not steep nor difficult. You won't see more traffic than an occasional motorbike. The road swindles around Bukit Elvira until at the highest point you will reach a small shrine (it's not the top of Bukit Elvira though).
You will have some excellent views to Balik Pulau and even Relau and the airport. Unfortunately during my first hike here, it was all hazy, during my second hike it was all raining!
So far so good. I could see the Ngoh Han Hill temple and Balik Pulau. It was not even 1PM and I expected I could climb down in just about 2 hours or so. As it would turn out, I would be back in Balik Pulau at 5.45PM. So what happened?
The first part went on a very steep and very new tar road down into the plantation but it took me only 20 minutes. I saw a old farmer cleaning up his banana trees and collecting some durian. He waved me by to join him eating durian.
After leaving him I followed the road further for another 10 minutes ... and the road just ended. It was just like that. There were some steps up to an abandoned house so I checked that out.
There was no trail here, the house was surrounded by thick secondary rainforest. So I went to check if the slopes at some options and spend about half an hour or so trying to find a way through. It was no use. I could hear from below a chainsaw and an occasional motorbike so there should be a path not too far down. And I had heard there was a jungle trail. But where?
I hiked 5 minutes back until I saw a complete overgrown set of steps. I thought I would have the solution. The steps went in a few minutes to another abandoned house although this house seemed to be used. There was some running water and the door was open.
But it didn't seem there was any trail from here further. In front of the house there was just a cliff. To the right it seemed there was only wilderness. And to the left more jungle. I climbed back and saw a farmer. We spoke for a while but he too didn't know.
Now I am persisted enough to try my luck. That, plus that I had heard there was a trail, made me going back to the first house, double check, but there was really no way through. Than I went back to the steps and the house further down.
That's when I heard it: water! I heard a running stream. And better, I found a set of ladders and a rope to help me climbing down. This was the trail, I thought.
I followed the rope and the ladder, which was mostly rotten away, a sign no one ever comes here to the stream. I suspected from earlier hikes this stream would eventually cross a path I had hiked before in the hope to find an alternative way up to Ngoh Han Hill temple (and failed). This and considering the chainsaw and motorbike I had heard before I expected it couldn't be too far, so "all I had to do was to follow the stream down".
Going down was easier said than done. The photos above and below show a little of the dense forest that surrounded me. At some points it seemed there was no way passing. Sometimes I just sat down and slide on the rocks with the water down to the next point.
It was certainly not without risks and had I known it in advance, I would certainly not have done it. Once I was going down, I realized I wouldn't be able to go back, that would even be more difficult. Time passed but eventually I made it to the my well known jungle shower. Coming down following the stream had cost me al most an hour and a half.
I was soaked, had an additional hole in my trousers, several scratches on my arms and legs but had arrived where I wanted to be. It was time to refresh myself with a nice cool shower.
Although I knew exactly where I was I still had to walk back to Balik Pulau. The exercise had made me feel really tired and although the shower was refreshing my legs were not too happy to continue. It took me 5 minutes to reach the gate above, where I should have come out had I have found the right trail.
From this point on it took me another hour and a half to reach my home in Balik Pulau, worn out.
Although I was tired, I wasn't too tired to pick up some excellent mangosteen fruits before I reached home in Balik Pulau.
Would I do it again? Apart of the jungle stream, I will do it again, even if it is to find the other trail described to me by some other hikers. And I do think I know where to find it ... now when I am back home!
Additional: finding the right trail!
A couple of days later I tried this trail again. Instead of following the ropes to the stream, I now went to the bushes right of the steps. After about 50 meters, I found a water pipe. Now I followed the water pipe down to the main path and the gate (see photo above). This was of course the trail I should have taken in the first place.
Additional 2: doing it reverse with a lot of troubles
Several weeks later I finally tried my luck to find my way up. This turned out to be a disaster. It wasn't because I couldn't find the trail, it was because of a swarm of wasps that attacked me and after some time left me for an hour or two unconcious. I was able to turn back but the walk back to me instead of one and a half about 3 hours.
3 days later I was back on the same trail, now I was able to find the trail without any problems. That said, it's a tricky trail and it's certainly not a trail you want to try without having done other trails first. In case you want to know more about the trail the reverse way, read my report here.
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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:
Air Itam Dam to Balik Pulau
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 Temple with spectacular views to Balik Pulau.
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.
Cheng Kon Sze (Ching Ji Chan)
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.
Balik Pulau, Ngoh Han Hill Temple, Cheng Kon Sze and Paya Terubong
This is a challenging hike of 5-6 hours through orchards, farms, secondary rainforest and back via the United Hokkien cemeteries to Paya Terubong. It's a beautiful hike!.
5 Way Junction to Sungai Pinang
This is a slightly difficult to find. The key in this hike is to follow the main trails and keep going down. It's a scenic trek through cultivated land and secondary rainforest to durian plantations. A great trail!
Air Itam and the Old Ridge Path
Another trail to Tiger Hill following the Air Itam side of the hills towards the Old Ridge Path from where you can hike further to Tiger Hill, Balik Pulau or back to Air Itam via 5 Way Junction
Trails to Sungai Pinang
There are two excellent trails leading from 5 Way Junction to Sungai Pinang.
Hiking to Ngoh Han Hill and Ngoh Han Hill Temple
This 3-4 hours hike is a great alternative if you don't want to do the Tiger Hill hike but still want your adventure in the hills of Penang and find some awesome jungle waterfalls.
Balik Pulau to 5 Way Junction
Should you consider doing the trail described on this page reverse, ie, starting in Balik Pulau, read this page: