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Climbing Gunung Jerai, Malaysia

Less than 10 miles out of the sleepy town of Sungai Petani, in the northern state of Kedah, Malaysia, stands the region’s highest peak, Gunung Jerai (‘gunung’ is mountain in Malay).

History (and part legend) has it that this ‘mountain’ was actually an underwater island that rose through the tides (pun intended) of millennia to be the lofty peak it is in the current era. And the abundant verdure here bears potent testimony to the legacy of time.
There are several trails for climbing Gunung Jerai, but they are not for the faint of heart. Malaysian jungles are notorious for their thick foliage, which gets further chaotic with the frequent torrential rains in this part of the world, owing to its position on the Equator.

It’s very easy (and very often the case) to lose one’s way in the forest, so only the more intrepid and experienced are advised to go solo. For the others, such as me, there is a perfectly good motorable road and a simple stone cut trail to explore the top and the environs.

It is good to reach here early even though Malaysian days are long and sunsets are glorious, but the unpredictable weather can play spoilsport and a serious trekker would need the extra time.
The views of the paddy fields from the top are breathtakingly beautiful, especially as the adjoining sea and small islands provide a majestic backdrop. There are landscaped gardens and a chic cafe to indulge in when one is done with the rough and tough rambling.

One of the lesser known secrets of this attraction is the Batu Kapal (ship rock), which is said to be a haunted spot where the curse of a nymph turned an actual ship into stone. The ‘markings’ on what is believed to be the ship’s hull, and a few rock formations nearby, are rather convincing, if anyone is still skeptical…
There are also some trails leading out from Batu Kapal towards a waterfall, but it is recommended that one follows the main trail, which is well marked and always has human presence, since ‘getting lost’ among the trees is more the rule than the exception! You wouldn't really want to miss all the other picturesque photo op points here, would you?"


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