Nibbinda Forest Reserve and the Ridge Path
to Nan Shan Hills (Pink Trail)
A recent hike brought me back to the Nibbinda Forest Reserve. This time however,
I didn't want to take the known trail (see this page)
back to Balik Pulau. When I arrived at the water reservoir, just 10 minutes from the
monastery, I thought it might be interesting to climb up the hill. This shouldn't be a
big problem as the slope was not jungle but a rubber plantation. And so this trail,
completely new to me, folded itself out.
The start of this trail is described here, so
I'll be brief here: walk out of Balik Pulau in the direction of Air Itam Dam and
take the junction Nibbinda (15 minutes walk). Follow the road all the way to the
monastery, and climb all the way to the stupa which is under construction. Pass it
and follow the small rubber trail under you arrive at a small water reservoir. This
shouldn't take more than about an hour or so.
At the water reservoir, take a little rest. To your right there is a clear entry
into the forest. Just 3 meters further there is a second entry point albeit less visible.
Both entries into the rubber plantation at the water basin
behind the Nibbinda Forest Monastery.
Walk into the second entry point. You're already in the rubber plantation. Now you
have to follow the rubber trail and climb up to the top. For most of the time, you'll
be able to climb up without much walking on the rubber trails. Make sure you aim for
the top and do not turn too far left or right.
Directly after leaving the water basin, you're in the rubber plantation.
Although the climb can be here and there a bit steep, it's very doable. You should reach
the top in about 20-25 minutes. Just under the top, you'll find an excellent path that will
lead you all the way further on the ridge.
In about 10 minutes you will reach a point where the trail start turning right and you
will see a few meters high wall on your left. The path now will start to be completely overgrown.
This is the moment to climb up to the path on top of the wall and you have to turn left towards
the ridge. In a few minutes you will reach an open cleared area.
If it turns out the open area is mostly above you, follow the forest edge until you
see the stone above on the photo. It is possible you leave the forest exactly at the stone.
Entry of the Bukit Relau Permanent Forest Reserve.
You have now a free view towards Bukit Elvira and you might see the Ngoh Han Hill Temple.
Follow the forest edge on the path until you see the sign Bukit Relau Permanent Forest Reserve.
Just left of the sign you can enter the forest.
Initially the path is not completely clear but quickly you will find the trail which
continues on the ridge. Although the path is mostly clear it's very important to keep in
mind you should not go down on either left or right. Especially to the right is difficult,
not only is the slope steep but it also leads to the stream as
described on this page. Should you want to go
down, remember to find the stream and follow that either up (Nan Shan Hills) or down (to
Balik Pulau) but there's no real path, just dense jungle.
The ridge trail at Bukit Relau Permanent Forest Reserve.
So stay on the ridge path. The trail continues to ascend and descend but never difficult.
After around 25 minutes, you will reach the top of the second hill. The trail now turns
slightly right and goes down steeply but ...
The Obstruction, manmade, I think, if you see this, climb back to the
open area above and turn left and descend to hike along it.
... there's no way to follow the path this way. Or so it seems.
There are 2 ways down.
Once the path descends there is a small almost invisible track to the left. This trail quickly becomes clearer and leads in a few minutes to the main track.
At the hilltop, you can turn left and look for the trees obstructing. To the far left of the large fallen tree, there is a a faint sign of a trail by the lumberjacks. Mind you, this is a tricky trail, steep and hard to follow. If all goes well you should in a couple of minutes reach path, turn right to the fallen trees with the roots in the air and turn right. When descending you turn too far left it's possible you find another piece of obstruction. Stay on the right side of the obstruction and follow the path, it leads to the main fallen tree with roots up. Turning left leads ultimately with a lot of difficulty back to Balik Pulau.
To pass the obstructed area shouldn't take more than about 10 minutes. Just minutes later
you're entering the Nan Shan Hills at the farm described on this
page. You should be able to hike Nibbinda Forest Monastery to the farm in less than an hour
and a half.
Back on the trail and minutes away from Nan Shan Hills.
Continuing can be in many ways.
Follow the trail down to 6 way junction from where you can:
Go to the Relau Pass (this page).
Go to Paya Terubong (this page).
Go to Air Itam Dam (this page).
Follow the trail from the farm to the next hut. After the hut you will find a junction
to your right to a water basin and from there you can reach the Balik Pulau Road by walking
down through the forest. An interesting modification of this last trail through the vegetable
farms starts at the moment you come down and pass the larger farmhouse. After the farm, the
cement trail will turn sharply left but there is a forest trail to your right.
Back in the forest after the vegetables in the valley.
Follow this trail which seems to be used on occasions. It leads to a vegetable farm. Once
at the vegetable field, look for the farmer shelter. There are two paths from here. The one I checked
leads left out of the farm on an asphalt road. You can follow the road down to P14, the road
connecting Balik Pulau with Relau/Paya Terubong. From the moment of entering the forest to exit
at P14 should take about 15 minutes. On the way down you will have to go around an obstruction
of fallen trees. Just before the obstruction, there seems to be a trail going up the hill and
should lead to "The Hill", see this page.
End of the hike, end at P14 and waiting for the bus to George Town/Balik Pulau.
Doing the trail the reverse
For the most, it's quit easy to do the trail reverse. Just take the trail from Paya
Terubong to 6 way junction and continue to the farm shelter. Once you enter the forest,
take a look for a small trail to your left. You should see this within 4 minutes. If you
missed it, continue to the fallen tree with the roots above the ground and turn left.
The trail ends within meters but there is a tiny trail leading steep up to the top of
the hill (and the fallen tree just under the top as described above).
The large fallen tree with roots above the ground, turn left for the ridge trail,
turn right to continue into the rubber plantation,
see this page.
Once at the top, continue follow the trail on the ridge. When you start climbing again,
ignore the temptation to climb to the top of the second hill but follow the path (in fact
if you climb the hill to your left, you will eventually enter the next valley and be able
to climb the last hill - or walk around it- but it will be more difficult to figure out
where you are). In a minute from the tempatation, you're in the open area. Follow the tree
line until you see the stone (see photo above). At the stone, enter the forest.
The obstructed area just under the top. You can pass on the right side.
Here it gets tricky. The trail leads down into a valley. It might be dificult to find
the ridge and if you missed it, it is very possible the trails leading back to the ridge
are obstructed. The best option is to keep descending with the ridge to your right. Soon
you will get the possibility to start climbing again, back to the top of the last hill.
Once at the top, continue descending in a straight line as possible. You should soon
see the pond.
This hike, starting in Balik Pulau and ending at the P14 road, should take about 3 to 4
hours. Although I wouldn't recommend it for beginner hikers, it's a good hike for those who
love hiking and do it frequently.
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
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.
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.