Balik Pulau - The Nibbinda Loop (Red Trail)
The Nibbinda Loop is an interesting 3 hour or so walk just around Balik Pulau. Nevertheless, don't expect it is an easy walk. If you start in George Town, take the 502 bus to Balik Pulau (the 401 and 401E also reach the bus station but take usually much longer).
After leaving the bus, head for the market and walk along the market towards the hills, it's a dead end street but at the end there is a path you can follow to the main street. Left goes back to Balik Pulau town center, so we go right.
Follow the road for about 10 minutes, you pass the Catholic Cemetery. A few minutes further is the junction with a signboard. The path goes to the right towards the hills. There's a larger signboard showing the way.
Stay on the main cement road for reaching Nibbinda Forest Monastery. There are several minor junctions left and right. Most lead to vegetable farms and fruit orchards.
The road is wide (albeit steep) enough for a car but it's likely there's none although you might see an occasional motorbike passing. On the way there are several fine views towards both Balik Pulau and Bukit Elvira to be enjoyed.
After 20 minutes you will pass a gate, which is probably open, so it's best to ignore it further. Another 15 minutes later it looks like you have found a dead end road with a farm house that seem to stand in the middle of the road. There is a smaller road to the right of the house and the owners are happy to tell you it's a one way up to Nibbinda (which turns out not to be true).
In a few minutes you will see the first houses belonging to the monastery and at the same time you will get the first views towards Anjung Indah with the Thai restaurant and the TV towers clearly visible. Minutes later you will reach the main buildings of the Nibbinda Forest Monastery.
There is again activity at the monastery, several monks plus staff live here again (September 2014). They will tell you you can walk to the top but have to return as it is a dead end.
Walk all the way to the end, there's no views from the top but there is a construction site that looks like the building of a stupa. Behind the construction is a small path. You can reach it by passing the construction site on the right site. The path slowly climbs. It forks so keep right but it is effectively a dead end. The end is a water reservoir no more than 10 minutes walk from the monastery.
So what to do now? Two options: walk the same way back or ... more interesting, enter the forest. At the right site of the reservoir there is an entry into the forest. The trail is mostly clear although sometimes overgrown. In case of doubt, go back and make sure you're on the right track.
From the basin on it's about 10 minutes through the forest until you reach a proper path. Once out of the forest, the path is very much overgrown but will lead in a few minutes to a proper and clear path that leads to your right down. You can hear water which is a minute further straight on.
The farmers trail
The trail leads at first steeply down to a farmers hut. There are two ways. The first is the easiest and most logic. To the right of the hut the trail continues further down. Keep right and continue. It will lead in about 45-50 minutes down to the market. At first follow the stream down, pass a gate and follow the main trail. Once at a wide 4 way junction continue right and keep going on. You reach after another 10 minutes an enclosed area. Left leads up back to the Thai restaurant, so go right. It's 10 minutes to the market.
Alternative, at the hut, go left and start climbing again uphill. It's effectively a dead end (15 minutes from entering the path) so you have to improvise.
At the end of the path, walk a few meters in the grass and look to your right, you will be able to see a "path" that leads down and than levels. Follow this to a small descending and cross it. Within a few minutes, you will see a hut below but you have to continue on the overgrown leveled path.
It will soon turn into a cement trail. All you have to do now is continue following that path downwards. At first it will be overgrown here and there but soon it will lead to the "civilized world".
There are two ways to hike through the forest. On this page you will find a describtion how to continue along the little stream and how you eventually can reach the Relau Pass.
On this page however, I explain how you can find you way back through the forest back into the orchard and further back to Balik Pulau.
At first it seemed there was a proper trail but quickly that seemed to a bit more challenging than expected. First walk in the forest and follow the stream until you see a little dam. The top of the hills don't look too far away. There is a kind of trail on the right side just behind a big tree with massive roots above the ground that leads steeply up. Start climbing, you will every now and than get glimpses of the Nibbinda Forest Monastery which now is quite far down.
The path seem to come and go. Several times, you will have to decide where exactly to go as ferns and other vegetation blocks completely the "path". After about 15 minutes you might find a paper marker from the hash runners. It's a sign you're on the right path. And indeed it's now a clear path which leads in 10 minutes to a rubber plantation.
You can climb to the top of the plantation where there seem to be a beginning of a path further in the forest. That's however wishful thinking. There's no sign of any path whatsoever. There is however a shelter to your lower right. You have to continue towards the shelter and once you come closer a cement path becomes visible.
Once on the path it looks like it should be possible to reach Anjung Indah (the TV towers). I have not checked that possibility yet but it would make sense as below the forest all the way to the restaurant there's a plantation. Where there is a plantation, there's paths.
This path has several junctions but stay on the path that continues descending. On the way down you will get several nice views towards Anjung Indah, the Nibbinda Forest Monastery and Balik Pulau.
After about 40 minutes you will reach a farm. Dogs will welcome you but they won't do more than barking. The old man I spoke told me every once in a while hikers come from above.
A bit further down you will reach the wide junction you have seen at the Nibbinda Forest Monastery. Continue on the main road. You will quickly pass the electricity towers which come down from Anjung Indah. A few minutes later you're on a main junction. Going left leads back to Anjung Indah, so go right. The road can get busier now with motorbikes. 10 minutes later you're back in Balik Pulau, right in front of the market and the bus station.
A few weeks after my first attempt to hike up to the Nibbinda Forest Monastery, I went again. I went the same way up but just after the gate which is reached in 20 minutes from entering the trail, I went left and followed the road and farmers trail up to the monastery.
It leads to a farmers shelter and birdnest house. From there a smaller trail leads up to the back of the back of the construction site at the far end of the monastery site. You can further follow the trail to the water basin.
After leaving the forest at the river (well), I tried also to find another trail out of the forest by following the small river. It didn't seem to go anywhere but it was surely beautiful.
Providing you don't loose too much time in the forest finding a way through to the rubber plantation, the hike shouldn't take more than 3 to 3 and half hours.
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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:
Paya Terubong to Anjung Indah
Anjung Indah is the pass out of Balik Pulau. There's an awesome trail to hike from Paya Terubong using the Old Ridge Path to Anjung Indah.
Anjung Indah to Nan Shan Hills and Nibbinda Forest
A cool and very doable hike which starts at Anjung Indah, following the ridge trail to the Nan Shan Hills and back via a second ridge to the Nibbinda Forest and Balik Pulau
Crossing into the Nan Shan Hills
The trail leads through farmland into the forest continuing into the Nan Shan Hills before it turns again into the forest and rubber plantation before joining the main road to Balik Pulau.
Nibbinda Forest Monastery to Paya Terubong via Ridge path
This is a very interesting and very doable trail which leads from the monastery to the water basin and into the hills to the Nan Shan Hills from where you have several options to continue incl. Paya Terubong
The Anjung Indah Loop
The loop starts and finishes at the top of the pass on the road to Balik Pulau. It's a cool trail with at parts some serious challenges.
5 Way Junction to Balik Pulau
This is, if you can't find the right trail, a very crazy trail. Take the right trail and it takes 3 hours, the wrong trail takes almost double. Here's the story:
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 Hill Temple with spectacular views to Balik Pulau.
Balik Pulau to Air Putih
A less explored area in the Balik Pulau area leads from the bus station/market via the Catholic Cemetery to Air Putih with some sidetrack excursions possible. This trail can be done on foot or bicycle.
Balik Pulau to the Relau Pass
This is a challenging hike which will take about 4 hours depending on how easy you can pass the secondary rainforest.
Paya Terubong to Balik Pulau
Hiking the Nan Shan Hills from Paya Terubong to Balik Pulau
3 to 4 hours hike across the Nan Shan Hills to Balik Pulau