While randomly browsing Instagram pictures of fellow hikers, i came across the hashtag #gunungbaling and was stoked to find these beautiful pictures.
Gunung Baling is a hike located in Kedah, which isn’t one of those nearby hikes where we can just head over for a weekend. Kedah is 700+ km away from Singapore, and even if you drive non-stop, it takes more than 8 hours to reach. I feel that it is too rush to do a trip this far over a weekend. You end up spending more time on the road than hiking, sleeping or eating, not how I imagine a hiking holiday should be like.
During Christmas of 2016, we decided to take some days off from work and squeeze out four days itinerary to make the trip up north. Well, it is kind of a last minute decision, we only book our rental car and accommodation 1 week before leaving. Getting the car rental was more of a headache as many rentals are fully booked during this festive season. Luckily for us, we still managed to secure a proton as our ride.
Our itinerary was pretty simple.
Day 1 – Drive to Penang.
Day 2 – Hike Gunung Baling.
Day 3 – Explore Penang, since we are already there, why not?
Day 4 – Drive back to Johor.
As you know, the trip was kind of last minute and work was busy prior to Christmas. As a result, we did not do much research for the hike. What we only did was to save the GPS location of Gunung Baling. We reckon that we will figure out the rest later. The drive up north was pretty boring. I was quite devastated to find out that the car’s radio can only take CD or FM. There isn’t an AUX-in cable to play your own music which will make the boring drive a little better. Throughout the journey, we question the capabilities of our 1.3L Proton car. How fast can we go before it breakdown. Haha.
So our reliable GPS did bring us to the right place, the road leading to the entrance of Gunung Baling but we did not know where to park. Saw some cars parked at the grass patch outside and in front of an Abang’s house and so we followed. End up paying him a small token to park and look after our car at his house. We only found out later that we can also park inside Gunung Baling entrance for free (i think).
Chatted with some hikers who have completed the hike and they told us it takes about two hours to reach the summit. Ok, not too bad, it’s 12.30pm now and we should have sufficient daylight to get back down. It was also a relief for us to know that the trail up Gunung Baling is pretty straight forward and easy to find. And so, we off we went, and five minutes into the climb, we are greeted with soil erosion and steep slopes.
The slope right at the start was pretty sleep, the incline of 30 to 45 degrees. Quite tiring and made me feel out of breath. Then, we also saw this signboard, 1650m (?!?!) which makes our eyes pop out and wonder if Gunung Baling’s is this tall? Oh my, I don’t know if we can take if the trail is this steep consistently up 1650 meters?!?! Fortunately, we found out eventually that 1650 meters is (probably) the hiking distance (my GPS tracker says it is 1850 meters away from the start). Thank god! The trail also subsequently gradual off with this iconic look up of limestones and sort of curvy spiral stairs cases.
The trail subsequently turns rocky with a decent amount of upslopes. Somehow, the climb now feels manageable maybe because the body has already warmed up and in our hearts, eagerly looking forward to the summit. We have been climbing for about an hour now and think we probably are already halfway through. It is interesting to see these working lamp post signboard along the way (we counted, there are 13 of them I think). They do flash their orange light periodically so long as they get enough solar energy.
We then come across this rock wall like obstacle. Basically, you need to use your hands to pull yourself up and over this vertical rock and subsequently crawl into a small hole, in between two rocks. Nothing too difficult or technical and I am sure even beginner climbers can overcome the obstacle with guidance. Turns out, we were really close to climbing out of the forested area and to the ridgeline.
All good, we made it to the view. However, this is not the summit yet. Have to hike a further bit more to reach the summit. We rested a while to take in the view. We were lucky that it was a cloudy day and it did not rain. The ridgeline area to the summit has got no shade and it will be quite unbearable if it was hot and sunny. If it rained, the hike down might be a nightmare with the steep slopes and slippery trails. Thank god for the good weather.
All in, I enjoyed the climb very much and it was worth the effort travelling all the way from Singapore just to experience the moment, standing up here at Gunung Baling’s peak looking out in nature and breathing in the fresh air.
Want to climb Gunung Baling? Read our detailed hiking guide here.