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Selected Nature Trails of Penang Island

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(c) Forest Ang

Length: 2 km 1 hour
Recreational grading : 2-3 Condition: hewn granite steps of historic interest
  • light
  • busy and crowded only on the ninth day of the ninth Chinese month Status: orchard

    The mystique of the Cheng Ji Chan Temple makes this hike an interesting one. The Temple is commonly known as Temple of One Thousand Two Hundred Steps. (It should not be confused with another temple in Air Itam, Penang, the Tua Pek Kong Temple, usually referred to as having one thousand steps.) The trail follows old granite steps up to the temple, which is situated just below the summit of Bukit Penara

    There are two possible starting points for this trail. The first is the United Hokkien Cemetery arch along the Paya Terubong main road. The second is more convenient, since there is ample parking space and the trail is shady. Enter the sideroad opposite the premises of Bubble Plastic (M) Sdn Bhd and follow the road to the left. Keep following it as it curves to the right and continues up the slope. You will see a large, cylindrical water tank. Park your car here.

    Walk to the end of the road and you will see a small path leading off to the left. Follow it downhill towards a stream, cross a bridge and go up the other side. You are now standing on the motorbike trail which also leads to the Cheng Ji Chan Temple. (The map shows both the motorbike trail and the stepped path and how the one continuously criss-crosses the other.)

    Walk on for about 100 meters and you will see a large Taoist shrine. About 30 metres beyond it a series of neglected and somewhat overgrown cement steps can be found. The steps here were originally granite but it is believed that during the occupation the Japanese took away many of the granite slabs for their own use. The local people then rebuilt the steps using cement. The cement steps are found only at the beginning of the path. The rest of it is composed of the original granite slabs. Since this stepped path is only crowded once a year, and there is an alternative motorbike route, it is rare to meet people here, thus inducing a pleasant feeling of isolation. From the starting point, the climb to the Cheng Ji Chan Temple takes about 40 minutes.

    Your climbs starts from the point where the cement steps begin. It is a steep but pleasant climb, and the path passes houses and orchards. After about 15 minutes you will reach the first rest shed. Take a break here and imagine how devotees of yesteryear also rested on their way to the top. Spare a thought also for those who built the steps. They had to carry the heavy slabs all the way up. Another 5 minutes of steep climbing will bring you to the second rest shed.

    After the second rest shed you will find yourself on a more open trail with less tree cover to shade you from the sun. From time to time the steps continue to cut across the winding motorbike road. If you look back you will see a panoramic view of Paya Terubong township. And when you see a signboard announcing, ‘Cheng Ji Chan Temple’ you will be within 100 metres of your destination. Time spent looking at this historic temple will be both enjoyable and instructive.

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