Gunung Jerai (also known as Kedah Peak) has a sort of brooding silhouette when seen in the distance from the top of Penang Hill.
It is a good size, 1,217m and is the second highest peak in the state of Kedah. Because it rises steeply from the surrounding pancake-flat paddy fields it seems even higher.
According to Malaysia Traveller’s list of the Highest Mountains in Malaysia it is ranked 148th. Another discovery? It is possible to drive up the mountain.
So why not use the road instead and save energy for those mountains (the vast majority) where walking is the only choice.
It is also possible to catch a van up the 13 km road to the top but driving your own is just as good. It is quite an easy two-lane road for most of the way and not much traffic.
The 8,560 hectares of jungle enveloping Kedah Peak is a protected forest reserve and you will pass by the Sungai Teroi Recreational Forest on the way where there are jungle trails to explore.
Here too is the Forestry Museum.
The museum is in an attractive wooden building but to be honest the contents are not hugely exciting unless you want to know that you are passing through Hill Dipterocarp Forest and Upper Hill Dipterocarp Forest.
The museum manager was friendly and unlocked the museum’s modern annex which contained geological exhibits. He also pointed out a poisonous green snake lurking on a tree near the entrance which one would never have spotted otherwise.
Entrance to the museum is free.
Almost at the top of the mountain is the Regency Jerai Hill Resort, a smart looking four-star hotel opened in 2010. It has 75 rooms and chalets, a swimming pool and a nice restaurant.
The hotel has a good collection of orchids and there is an indoor recreation centre, no doubt useful for the frequent times when the weather is poor.
There are trekking paths near the top of Gunung Jerai (there is the Alur Naga Waterfall to visit and a shitake mushroom farm).
There seemed to be a lot of large spiders’ webs trailing above the paths.
This article first appeared in malaysia-traveller.com