Day 3 in Penang. I told my partner that I am going to Penang “Taman Negara” (National Park). It is located in the northwest corner of Penang island with lush tropical forest and pristine white beaches, which can only be accessed by trekking or boat.
There was heavy rain early in the morning which had cleared some of the haze from the previous day. The temperature was mild below 30 degree Celsius. My partner decided to join me. This was a break from his usual routine of shopping. It is something different to do in Penang.
Most visitors are unaware that Penang has beautiful swimming beaches with clean, white beaches. Most tourists have only heard of the famous Batu Ferringhi, which is crowded with hotels, motels, restaurants, street stalls, beach vendors and the famous night market, “Pasar Malam”. It is noisy and congested.
There are numerous quiet beaches at the national park. I recalled as a schoolboy, I had been to the national park only a handfull of times. It was difficult to get there as it is tuck at the furthest northwest point of the island, past Teluk Bahang. The locals called this end of the world. Over the other side of the hilly forest was where the Japanese soldiers landed and invaded Penang during the WWII. The local Chinese believes there are unrest spirits there as many had died there during the war.
I have never been back there since my school days. It was a long journey. Almost a day trip. I was glad that I have finally relived my school day memory today by going back there. I borrowed my sister’s car and drove there. It was mid afternoon by the time we left our place. It was a long drive from Queensbay to “end of the world” in Teluk Bahang. Almost 45 minutes. By the time we arrived there, it was already packed with lots of car, and the main carpark was already full. I parked the car at one of the residential narrow street.
The entry to the national park is free, but everyone needs to register in and out at the information centre. I registered both of us to our destination – “Pantai Kerachut”. I remember that I am very fond of this place with the fresh water lake joining to the sea to form a “Meromictic Lake“. This beach is the green sea turtle sanctuary as well. Each year between March and July, the giant turtle will come to shore to lay her eggs. Some of the eggs will be dug up by the rangers to hatch separately at a set temperature for male turtle. I was told that the hatching temperature will determine the sex of the turtle.
I told my partner that we should trek to the beach, and then catch a boat back. The trekking trail up and down the forest is slightly less than 3 km, about 1.5 hour trip. It was a good walk, except trekking up the hill. It started off very easy with nice concrete path next to the beach overlooking some floating oyster and fish farms.
We reached the main sign posts. Left to Pantai Kerachut. That was where we were heading. It was pleasant until we saw our first challenge – up a very steep hill, but with proper concrete slaps.
Nature crossing in front of our path.
The track became more challenging as we got higher up the hill.
After a gruelling an hour and the half, we almost reached the bottom of the hill, and it started to rain. It started lightly, but within minutes it was bucketing down with torrential rain and thunders. We managed to seek a shelter. Listened to the rain and thunders surrounded by virgin forest. It was quite surreal.
It rained for half an hour, and then stopped. We made our way down to the beach. It was the prettiest natural scene I have ever seen in Penang – close to nature, surrounded by lush green forest and hills, with white sandy beach and open sea. There were some people around, mostly locals and a few tourists. It was not crowded or noisy.
I walked further along the beach to have a look at the green turtle hatchery centre. I was a bit surprise when I saw five baby turtles swimming around a small blue bucket of water. It was sad in such a small confine space. One of the turtle kept swirling towards me and looked at me. I felt like scooping it up and free it in the sea. But, refrained myself from doing so as it may not be the right thing to do. I wish there was someone around for me to ask why they are kept in such condition.
I went for a swim in the sea after that. It was nice and warm in the water, with great waves splashing on my back. We then took the boat back to the base of the national park. It was the best day so far in Penang. Something nice and diffrent from the usual shopping and eating.