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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).

Nibbinda Forest Monastery
Goal of the day: to reach the Nibbinda Forest Monastery

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.

Start of the Nibbinda Loop

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.

Start of the Nibbinda Loop

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.

Start of the Nibbinda Loop
The path swindles steep up

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.

Nibbinda Loop

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).

Nibbinda Loop

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.

Nibbinda Loop

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.

Nibbinda Forest Monastery

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.

Nibbinda Forest Monastery
The construction site: there's a path to the right that leads away at the back.

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.

Water reservoir

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.

Start of the forest trailStart of the forest trail
The forest trail next to the water reservoir

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.

Farmers trail down to the market
Follow the trail down, it's mostly a clear though small trail.

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.

End of the farmers trail

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.

Start of the forest trail
It looks like a path down, but in reality you're better go left and continue
on a leveled path until you reach a cement trail

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".

Bukit Relau Forest Reserve
The well in the Bukit Relau Permanent Forest Reserve

The forest

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.

Bukit Relau Forest Reserve

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.

View to Nibbinda Forest Monastery
View to Nibbinda Forest Monastery

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.

But Relau Forest Reserve

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.

View to Balik Pulau

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.

In the durian plantation

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.

Balik Pulau

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.

The Gate on the way to Nibbinda Forest Monastery
The gate at 20 minutes on the trail

Addition

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.

Nibbinda Forest 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.

Bukit Relau forest

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.

Nibbinda Loop Map

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.

  • Bus stop - Nibbinda Forest Monastery junction: 15 minutes
  • Nibbinda Forest Monastery junction - Nibbinda Forest Monastery: 40-45 minutes
  • Nibbinda Forest Monastery - Water Basin: 10 minutes
  • Water Basin - Well: 15-20 minutes
  • Well - Rubber Plantation: 25-30 minutes
  • Rubber Plantation - Balik Pulau: 55-60 minutes

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

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Read more and book your hiking tour.

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Paya Terubong to Anjung Indah


Anjung Indah to Nan Shan Hills and Nibbinda Forest

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Anjung Indah to Nan Shan Hills and Nibbinda Forest Monastery


Crossing into the Nan Shan Hills

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Crossing into the Nan Shan Hills


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The Anjung Indah Loop


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5 Way Junction to Balik Pulau


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View to Balik Pulau from the Ngoh Han Temple

Air Itam Dam to Balik Pulau


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Balik Pulau to Relau pass


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