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Health & Fitness / Penang

Adventurous Hike from Botanical Garden to Penang Hill through Old Craig Hotel

Since last year, I have developed a love in hiking/jungle trekking in Penang’s rainforest; mainly because not able to do travel and I had to explore some adventure in my hometown, at the same time getting myself into fitness activity – I do consider myself not fitness active though I would want to get into this good habit.

Since reopening during the pandemic, I did various route of hiking trail in Penang which the recent one, also the most exciting and adventurous one is this trail to Penang Hill from Botanical Garden via Old Craig Hotel.

In hiking, I have this weird pattern that I like one-way trail. Like hiking up to Penang Hill, then take the tram/jeep down. It’s like my persistence is not there to do a return trip, however I do not mind a long one-way trip. (I once did a long one-way hike from Youth Park to Rifle Range, even longer than a return trip but it was really satisfying)

Now, coming back to this fun New Year hike, we started off meeting at Botanical Garden; with no one had experience doing this trail, we embarked on a journey by following All Trails GPS and a blog post guide. We do not have any idea on how long the hike would be, and thus did not do a good prep – bringing enough water and energy bar/snacks.

Tip: Good shoes, insect repellent, long trousers, energy bar and plenty of water.

The hike was really very long for beginner like us; but the long trail was definitely worth it, that I only realised the rainforest is very amazing, with different scenery along the way.

Starting from the trail that leads to station 46, it began with a long climb up the stairs. By following the GPS map, instead of heading to station 46, you’d need to detour to restricted area ala the Waterfall route. Instead of heading down to the waterfall base, continue along the route. Don’t be surprise part of the route was narrow but opened enough for 1-person.

By following the GPS indicator on All Trails app, you would pass by RG3 and RG4; RG stains for Rain Gauge and it’s my first time seeing this instrument. 2hours took us to the junction of Zizai Hill (towards Tanjung Bungah) and RG9 (towards Penang Hill).

Note the sign along the way, it’s fairly easy and will not get lost. Interestingly, the whole Penang Hill is connected and Zizai Hill – another trail that I am excited cross path with me.

Met several hikers coming from Tanjung Bungah, heading towards the same direction, we followed them. However that did not last long as their speed was really fast.

Again, please bring enough water and food. I still can remember the feeling of being exhausted and need food! After passing through RG9, the trail was a surprise as it was a downhill towards a valley and later uphill. Feeling weird as we were in the middle of the hill and valley, it’s something that was not experienced before as I thought hiking is suppose to be all ascend; but this is crossing Penang Hill’s spine thus going down and up again.

Here comes the challenging part – before almost reaching the Old Craig Hotel, there’s a part that need to climb via rope. This was the most interesting part to me.

After 1.5 hours from RG9, we were very near to Old Craig Hotel when we see a long drain, follow the drain line towards right and the Old Craig Hotel would be insight!

Slight right, follow the drain direction and you will find the old Craig Hotel, like time capsule unveils in front of you.

Craig Hotel – an abandoned hotel and former school (Uplands) on the north edge of Penang Hill. Pity that it’s abandoned otherwise it’s a lovely site for vacation.

Few years back it was used as a film set for Indian Summers, thus don’t be surprise to see some modern fixture at the building. I explored a little of the abandoned building, a little eerie but was fun to look at how time stood still.

Spent not more than 30 minutes there, felt the time capsule atmosphere and we continue to head to Penang Hill. You would pass by a bridge and site keepers residence then onto the jeep road.

Read that one maybe denied entry from the top of Penang Hill as the site keeper dislike people visiting the hotel; though there were no complain if we coming from the bottom.

4 hours of hike with good scenery, people, and earned a good meal and fitness achievement. I want to do this trail again!

Tip 2: If the queue time to tram is too long, take the jeep; nego a good rate and they take you straight back to Botanical Garden.

Trail Guide (Use at your own risk, borrow from this blog):

  1. Start inside Botanical Garden Hiking Trail to Point 46 (20 minutes stairs ascend to levelled area)
  2. Continue right to Water Catchment Area (Restricted Area sign, you are free to go further)
  3. Cross the river and follow the trail, will reach a junction. (10-15 minutes from levelled area)
  4. At junction, take left turn (note sign for RG3)
  5. Uphill hike for 10-15 minutes and will reach RG3.
  6. Continue on the only trail to reach RG4.
  7. Continue along the trail you will meet a junction – straight slight left RG9 or right towards Teik Quarry (also is Zizai Hill trail from Tanjung Bungah)
  8. At RG9, take left path (the straight path goes to Batu Ferringhi) and start descend downhill (heading towards a valley)
  9. Cross an underground stream and later will meet a challenging part with rope climbing up to the top.
  10. Continue on for 30 minutes and will meet the drain and follow the right path.
  11. Reach Old Craig Hotel.
  12. Continue towards the entrance of Old Craig Hotel, cross the wooden bridge to reach tar road.
  13. Walk along tar road to reach main Jeep Road, go ascend to reach Penang Hill.

Happy Hiking!

About Author

Nick is an interior designer and tech enthusiast based in Penang, Malaysia who constantly exploring places, indulges great food, discovering good design and is a shutterbug. Nick usually writes about Penang, happenings, travel, food, design and personal thoughts.

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