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Langkawi's Giants

Mount Raya

Difficulty Rating : 2.8 / 10.0 (Class 3 - Straightforward)

*Click here to learn more about the difficulty rating.

*The difficulty rating of 2.8 applies for the return hike up to Mount Raya. The rating for terrain has been reduced as the entire route follows a stairwell. The difficulty rating also increases to 4.0 and the difficulty to class 5 (Moderate) if you choose to descend via the 278 road that leads down to Jalan Ulu Melaka instead. This is due to the significant increase in the distance covered.

Getting There

To get to the Mount Raya stairwell from Chenang Beach, follow the road northwards towards the airport. The road swings around the southern end of the runway, and traces the western coastline. Turn right immediately after the runway and head towards the airport roundabout. Take the second exit here, as well as the second exit at the next roundabout about a kilometre down the road. Turn left onto Jalan Ulu Melaka at the fairly large intersection after the roundabout, and keep following the road for 5.5 kilometres.

You will eventually come to a T-junction at the foothill of Mount Raya. Turn right there onto Padang Gaong Road and continue along the road for one kilometre. Turn left once again and follow the road till the very end until you reach the Hutan Lipur Lubok Semilang carpark.

Getting to the Mount Raya stairwell from Chenang Beach

The trail for Mount Raya is basically a climb up a long stairwell, called 'Tangga Helang Seribu Kenangan' (English : The Eagle Stairwell of a Thousand Memories), that ends once it meets the side of the road not too far from the actual summit. The start of the stairwell can be found within the confines of 'Hutan Lipur Lubok Semilang' (English : Lubok Semilang Recreational Forest), the entrance of which is a recreational park of sorts that can get very crowded on weekends. From the carpark, follow the walkway that runs parallel to the river by keeping the river on your left. After just a few minutes, you should come across the stairwell on the right of the river.

My Hennessy Hammock setup the morning before the hike

The stairwell consists of 4287 steps and leads straight up to the summit, so navigation is a breeze. The 800-metre ascent, on the other hand, is fairly relentless, and continues almost unabated for 3.6 kilometres. There is a slight dip 2.7 kilometres in, but the ascent continues once again almost immediately after. For comparison, the first section averages out to a 19.9% (11.3°) incline, whereas the last 800 metres averages out to a 30.7% (17.1°) incline. There are also frequent reminders along the way that tell you how many steps are left to go.

The stairwell walk can be quite pleasant, especially in the cool early hours of the morning. Narrow shafts of crepuscular rays pierce through the jungle canopy, fine moisture lingers in the air, and towering trees that are held up by massive buttress roots flank the sides. Whishes and whooshes can occasionally be heard above the tree canopy, that are accompanied by squawks and squeaks. One may think that these sounds are made by monkeys, but in actual fact, they come from oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris).

These frugivorous hornbills are the smallest that can be found in Asia, and are easily the most common. This is because they are a versatile species that can adapt to different habitats and situations. Their only concern is that there is sufficient food and that the trees have cavities that are large enough to accommodate their nests--as they are simply unable to excavate their own. There are two other species of hornbill that can be found around Langkawi, the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and the wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus), but unlike the oriental pied hornbill, they are both classified as vulnerable in the IUCN redlist, so you are less likely to come across them.

The stairwell flanked by buttress roots

Next : Langkawi (Part 3): Mount Raya (Continued)