GUNUNG JERAI, KEDAH
DATE:16 SEPTEMBER 2017
Peninsular Malaysia has four popular hill resorts-Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Fraser Hill and the smallest one Gunung Jerai (1217 metres). There is also Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill) in Taiping which is frequented by local hikers rather than holiday makers.
We decided to make a quick visit to nearby Gunung Jerai to basically “survey”, I mean to check out the place. Gunung Jerai is the nearest hill resort. The first time Nik and myself visited it was way back in 1988. At that time our first born was a little baby. I do not recall much about the conditions of the chalet, but I remember very well that it was cold at night and in the early morning. There was no water heater, but we were provided with a non-electric kettle. My mum (deceased) who tagged along, took a cold shower. However, the rest of us needed warm water and I had to boil water in the small kettle several times.
Nik had booked the chalet for two nights, but the next day we came down and put up at an inn in Sungai Petani. One cold night was all we could tolerate. Now there is the Regency Jerai Hill Resort, a 3 or 4-star hotel on the hill. So, Nik thought we’d better check out the place before spending the night on the hill.
The road uphill is narrow with many hairpin bends. Penang island and some northern areas had been hit by a storm the previous two days. And, the road to Gunung Jerai was strewn with leaves and small branches. The drive from our house to the hilltop took less than an hour. Along the way up we passed by many teenage hikers making their way down. Some cyclists were also seen empowering their muscles for the uphill climb. It was a public holiday, Hari Malaysia (Malaysia Day) and as expected there would more visitors than on weekdays.
Hilmi parked the car behind the resort and we then headed to the nearby Botanical Park. Nik paid RM 10 per person for admission to the garden. The caretaker, Mr Ooi chatted passionately about conservation of the orchids of Gunung Jerai. At this garden, which sits on a slope, the orchids are found on the ground and on the trees. A stick painted red at the top end marks a blooming orchid plant. So, when visiting this garden, do look down to watch your steps and admire the plants. And, do look up occasionally to see the hanging staghorn ferns and the orchids on the tree trunks.
There are also some caged small birds and peacocks. The four of us made a quick tour of the garden. Mr. Ooi showed us a picture of a giant pitcher plant, taller than the average man. He reminded us to look up his page on Facebook (Gunung Jerai Botanical Park) for the latest update. “When the pitcher plant blooms, you can come and visit,” he said.
A visit to Simple Day Cafe for drinks and snacks treated us to a splendid panorama of the Kedah plains and coastline. The rice fields down below were brimming with water and at some points seemed to merge with the sea. The sky was a bit cloudy, but we had a clear scenic view that stretched into the Straits of Malacca. The cafe is located just outside the Puncak Kedah Restaurant, a restaurant operated by the hotel. The hotel surroundings is clean and well-maintained.
We returned to the entrance to the Botanical Park. On the left there’s a concrete footpath going downhill. This is the Tangga Kenari. A walk along this path across the forest brought us to the road. On the other side of the road is another attraction, a well known as “Telaga Tok Sheikh”. It is a small well from 900 years ago. We returned to the car park via the same path.
On our way downhill, we passed by the Muzium Perhutanan (Forestry Museum), saving the visit to this museum on a future trip. We missed the arched entrance to the Hutan Lipur Sg Teroi or waterfall, but Hilmi made a U-turn. Just a few minutes later we arrived at the rocky waterfall. Despite the rain, the volume of water was minimal and the colour was that of black tea. A family was having a picnic at one of the gazebos, their children taking a dip in the shallow, brownish water. The area is bit run down, but there are facilities like public loos and a surau (prayer room).
Instead of going back to Puncak Kedah Restaurant for a buffet lunch, we decided to make our way home and had lunch at a roadside restaurant in Gurun. Nik and I plan to return to Gunung Jerai for a night’s stay. However, it will not be so soon because we are going on a trip abroad next week. To find out our destination, visit our page on Facebook.