Gunung Raya is a 900 meter high mountain in the center of Langkawi Island in Malaysia and just off the southern coast of Thailand and north of another well-known Malaysian island – Penang Island.
I had to do a visa run from Thailand into another country and back, so I figured I would look for something I could climb. Something big that I hadn’t done yet. I’ve been considering going to Langkawi Island in Malaysia for years now, but the ferry schedule was such that I wasn’t able to make it there and back the same day, so I just flew to Penang or somewhere else. Penang was another option because it has a great trail climb at Penang Hill. I’ve talked about that at my other GoUpIt.com site.
You’ve probably seen me mention my unhealthy fascination-addiction to stair-climbing. I’ve climbed the stairs up a mountain near our home over 1,400 times. It’s about 280m elevation gain. A nice little climb over 600m horizontal distance to the top. My average time up when pushing a bit is around thirteen minutes.
I was checking Langkawi out online and found something that said there were 650 steps up a 7-tiered waterfall and then mountain peak on the far west side of the island. That sounded OK.
Then my heart stopped when I saw the other stair climbing option – 4,287 steps up 790 meters to near the top of the highest peak on the island! BINGO!
I started driving around 6 a.m. I was at the ferry terminal in Satun by 10 a.m. Missed the first boat, but got the second at 1:30 p.m. The trip was listed at seventy-five minutes long, but we made it in about one hour. I was done checking through immigration in Langkawi by 3 p.m.
I took a shot from the pier and got lucky to have an eagle fly into the photo at precisely the right time. How cool is that?
I was on my way to “Panorama Country Resort” (link here) which is just across the street from the stair climb by 3:10 p.m.! I hadn’t planned it like this, but since it was so close, I decided to try to fly up and down the steps real quick before it got dark. The estimated time of completion to get to the top of the stairs was 2 hours 15 minutes. I figured I could do better than that, but didn’t know by how much. Could I make it in thirty minutes? That became my tentative goal until I got about half way up in twenty-one minutes. Then I revised my goal to – “hopefully under fifty minutes.”
I’m getting ahead of myself.
I got the 2,300 THB room for just 1,300 THB (about $40 USD) when the guy that runs the place gave me an upgrade room and a great rate. He then proceeded to drive me over to the park where the stairs were so I could see where it was. He drove me back so I could drop off my stuff at my room, my computer with him at the desk, and I walked quickly back over (500m total maybe) to the park and up past a slowly flowing stream with kids playing in it.
At the base of the steps I shot a video (below) and psyched myself up to get going. It was around 4 p.m. It was very hot and humid. I could have picked a better time to go! Surprisingly, there was nobody else climbing when I went, and during the entire climb up the steps to the top – nobody. It’s a difficult climb, and apparently no locals were interested either. If I lived there, I’d be climbing that mountain daily!
I started out moderately and then kicked into high gear after putting away the camera. I had a light backpack and a big bottle of water. The stairs went on and on through lush rainforest. The stairs were in immaculate condition – concrete and well formed, with handrails on much of it. Trees had fallen across two sections of the stairs and I had to maneuver around them. The steps are spaced unevenly, but not all that high – maybe twelve-inches at the most? Most steps averaged five to seven inches high.
It’s 700 meters elevation gain, and 2.5 kilometers horizontally. So, it’s quite a bit different from my usual climb up the mountain here in Krabi. My thirty minute estimate was way off. I finished at the top in forty-seven minutes. Not a bad effort, but I could go a bit faster with ideal conditions – like carrying no pack, camera, water, and leaving in the morning when it’s cool. I ran down in thirty-two minutes and sat on the floor in my hot shower and rubbed my quads, calves, achilles’ and knees for thirty minutes. I wanted to be sure I could do it again the next day.
I woke up feeling great, so I downed a cup of coffee, some noodles and two pieces of toast, and headed back over to the steps for Round 2. It was cooler, which was nice. Still very humid though. I had more water with me, and was a bit burnt from the previous day’s effort but I went at a decent pace.
I focused on keeping my heart rate around 152 for this second round. The first time up I was at 162 for most of it. I wondered if I’d have more energy if I stayed around 152. Turns out – I did. I was able to complete it the second time in fifty-one minutes. Another great time for me, considering I was just shooting for under one hour.
At the top I sucked wind for five minutes and then continued climbing up the road for another 100m of vertical to the top of the mountain which has a tower you can pay $3 to climb up and see the view. You get a hot tea included, and it’s a nice experience. Especially with very few other people up there. (in video)
I found Langkawi to be almost perfect. I can’t complain about anything. The people were exceptionally nice – even the cab drivers that ask if you need a ride outside the ferry pier. Nothing like Thailand where they don’t have a great command over the English language and they sound like they’re being abrupt with you. In Malaysia everyone was very nice and their English was quite good in comparison. I will go back again, next time with the family if we can pull it off.
Video is further down.
Here’s the GPS and heart rate data from my Suunto Ambit2 R GPS watch for the first climb up. Click to enlarge:
611 calories used in 47 minutes. Stair climbing is great for burning fat!
Video of most of what I did on Langkawi Island – from the pier in Satun, Thailand to the top of the tower perched on Gunung Raya mountain. This is an almost thirty-minute video. Watch only if you have a sincere interest in one day going to climb the steps here, or if you just want to see a small bit of what Langkawi is like. Or, if you’re stalking me – you’ll probably dig this.