After a slow day yesterday, we needed to “get our sweat on” today. (Ok technically we sweat just existing here.) We decided to go for a hike around Penang Hill. First off, we had breakfast at the local hawker center, ticking some delicious nasi lemak off our “must eat” list. Then we jumped in a Grab up to Kek Lok Si buddhist temple, which is in an area called Air Itam above George town. We visited the temple on our previous trip so didn’t stick around – it’s just a convenient starting point for a hike.
The path we were following (from AllTrails, naturally) took us from Kek Lok Si up to a meditation temple in the hills. We picked this path because it promised to be on paved road – there were big storms overnight, so the idea of trekking on muddy leaf covered trails didn’t sound so great. The hike covered about 3 miles and 2000ft of elevation gain, including some properly steep sections. Along the way, we spied plenty of cool birds and plants, and a few not-so-cool massive orb weaver spiders. No pictures out of deference to my fellow arachnophobes.
The temple is part of a retreat complex, where buddhists can stay in a small hut for meditation. We enjoyed the cool air coming up the hill and the great views out over the island. As we prepared to make our way back down the hill, one of the old men from the community stopped us to ask about our hike and our plans. It turns out he helps run the temple, and told us about some new trails that would let us hike across to Penang Hill, the hilltop tourist site with a funicular. We weren’t super excited about three miles of very steep descent, so we took him up on it.
His directions were of the “go past the two coconuts and then look for the lemongrass” sort, but we found our way. We also found another surprise arachnid friend – a scorpion walking across our path. We, uh, didn’t know they had scorpions. Lesson learned! Less time looking for birds, more time watching where we walk.
We had to do about a kilometer of jungle hiking before emerging onto pavement. Penang Hill got a huge amount of investment during COVID, as Penang residents sought outdoor spaces for recreation. There’s a whole network of new construction and very nice paths. We were able to mostly traverse the hilltop to Penang Hill, which made for easy hiking.
As a reward at the tourist site, we got some shaved ice with fresh fruit, before catching the funicular back down the hill to Air Itam. We got some lunch at a hawker center and then caught a car back to George Town to chill at China House. Kat painted and I read, and we worked our way through some of their cakes. The owner of China House, an older Australian lady, stopped by for a chat as well.
For our evening entertainment, we went to the Gurney Plaza mall to check out the newly opened Project Rock bouldering gym. It was nice to get some climbing in, and I met some local climbers. They confirmed that Penang Island doesn’t have a lot in the way of outdoor climbing, but the mainland has plenty. For dinner, we went to the Gurney Plaza night market, a longstanding outdoor bazar with tons of food vendors.
Since the night had cooled off a bit, we decided to walk home from Gurney Plaza, with a stop at a Crème De La Crème, an ice cream shop making super cute ice cream patisserie and interesting flavors.
All in all, I think we did a good job of balancing exercise with cake and ice cream intake today – my watch says we did 13 miles of hiking and 210 flights of stairs, but I think we ate enough to avoid risky weight loss. It’s important to take care of yourself after all.