I’ve now had the pleasure of spending two days hiking in Penang National Park, and both trips have been absolutely amazing. Living in Bangkok, nature is a bit hard to find, and getting to national parks in Thailand is just a hassle. That’s why every time I’m down in Penang doing visa runs I make sure to spend at least one day hiking around the National Park.
Getting to Penang National Park from George Town
It couldn’t be easier to get to the park from just about anywhere in George Town. All you have to do is take the 101 bus to the end of the line. When you get on tell the bus driver you are going to the National Park. It will cost 4 Ringgit ($1.30). The ride will take about 30-40 minutes, and you will know when you will probably the only person left on the bus. They drop you off literally right in front of the entrance, you can’t miss it.
Penang National Park
Check in with the ranger station and get your map (it’s all free), then head off for one of the most beautiful hikes you can imagine. You will start off on a paved walkway that runs right next to the beach. About 10 minutes in, you’ll cross a small bridge and hit a fork in the path. To the right is monkey beach and the old lighthouse, while to the left is the interior of the forest and eventually the Meromictic Lake.
Both paths are amazing, but I think I prefer going left into the interior of the forest. You immediately start off with a pretty insane climb, and then you plateau for a bit and enter an area called the “Jungle Orchestra” or “Sound Zone”. The noise from the insects and birds is nearly overwhelming in this particular area. You feel totally sounded and enveloped by nature in a way that is just unforgettable.
This feeling is probably what I miss most about living in Florida. Every weekend I could take my kayak and paddle up some little river until I was just surrounded by nothing but nature in all directions. Maybe occasionally I could hear a small propeller plane fly by overhead, but that was about it. Here in Bangkok sometimes I just feel like I’m going to go crazy. It is a constant bombardment of people, transportation, advertisements and electronics.
Eventually you will come down quick from the plateau and end up passing by the Meromictic Lake. This is a lake that has layers of water that do not intermix—there are only 3 in all of Asia. In Penang the lake has warm (salt) and cold (fresh) water in two distinct layers. Just beyond the lake is a beautiful beach that very few people come to.
Had you gone right at the initial fork, you would have hiked very close to the beach the entire trip out to Monkey Beach. However, the hike is not actually on the beach sand, it is over cliffs, and you will be doing lots of climbing and descending. Neither one is an easy stroll to done in flip flops. Both hikes probably involve the same amount of climbing, but going to the lake you will do it all right at the beginning whereas with Monkey Beach you will climb up and down every few minutes with intermittent periods of flat land.
Getting Back to the Entrance
Whichever way you go, you probably won’t want to hike back. They each take between 1.5-2 hours. The good news is you can flag down one of the small fishing boats that zip around the park and haggle with them to take you back to the entrance. Depending on where you are and how good you haggle you are looking at 10-30 Ringgit ($3 -$10).
All I can say is that I can’t wait to go back to Penang National Park and explore some more!