THE MIGHTY STONG OF KELANTAN
January 1, 1970
Gunung Stong – Kelantan’s towering mountain.
Gunung Stong (Stong Mountain) is located in Dabong, Kelantan. It measures up to a whopping height of 1421 metres from sea level. Gunung Stong attracts most hiking enthusiasts from Malaysia due to its height and trail that is equally challenging. The main attraction is Air Terjun Jelawang (Jelawang Waterfalls) that is said to be one of the highest waterfalls in Southeast Asia with a height of 303 metres from sea level.
If you are already in Kota Bahru or any other districts in Kelantan, you can always catch a train to Dabong using the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad railway services. Taking a train from Tumpat (nearest to Kota Bahru) to Dabong would cost about Rm 13 one way for an adult with the journey time spanning to about 3 hours.
If you are in Kuala Lumpur, there are several options available
- Driving all the way up to Dabong which will be both wasteful of money and tiring as it is not near and the roads are windy and no street lights are available at night.
- Taking a flight to the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Kota Bahru then taking a train or renting a car to Dabong (Recommended)
- Taking the train from KL Sentral to Gemas and then Gemas to Dabong which will cost about Rm 90 per adult with a total traveling time of almost a day.
Once you reach the Dabong train station, you can catch a taxi to Gunung Stong State Park.
The Hike Up
Things you should know before hiking – duration, guides, trail, safety.
The trail leading to the base camp (Kem Baha) is inclined and would require a good amount of energy especially if you are a newbie in hiking. You can book for guides at the entrance where you will also be required to sign a lease form that states ‘You are responsible for your own safety and the park management is not liable for any injury, death etc.’ You will also be required to provide an emergency contact number in case of a mishap. A small amount of money will be charged as part of conservatory fees and also for hiring a guide.
A guide is recommended as the trails can get a little challenging at times (hanging from rope to rope to get to the other side) but if you are confident that you can conquer the mighty Stong without the help of a guide, go for it! The charges for the hiring of a guide are at Rm25.00 per person as of 2016. Be sure to bring along some snacks in case you run out of energy and need a boost for your low glucose levels.
The hike up to peak will take about 4-5 hours while the hike to the base camp is relatively lower. Be wary of slippery trails that can be muddy too due to heavy downpours. During my visit, we did not intend to hike up to the peak but instead just wanted to take a dip in the famous waterfall. And the best part about the waterfall is that you can also use it as a natural water slide! Yes, you can slide down all the way from the top and plunge into the pool below! Of course, you have to be very careful of your safety as ascending to the top of the waterfall requires some Spiderman like skills This is why you will probably require a guide because they will have ropes and other equipment with them that you can use to slide down later on.
Reaching the base camp and Jelawang Waterfalls
At the base camp, the water is crystal clear with some small fishes swimming about. If you reach there early in the morning about 8 am or so, you will be able to appreciate the cool mist that surrounds the waterfall. Take time to let it sink in and shoot away with your cameras as it is really an Instagram-worthy shot. You can also set up your tents at the base camp and request for some sleeping bags if you intend to stay the night there. There are cooking facilities provided but it is all camp style cooking. You will have to bring along your own materials.
After that, you can continue your way up to the Jelawang Waterfalls. Upon reaching there, you will have to jump on some rocks to get to the natural pool. Be careful of your belongings as it is quite high up and your valuables may get lost in between the rocks and gone away with it.
The water is clean and so far they have not been any cases of Rotavirus or Leptospirosis reported. So sit back, relax and swim away. Most people spend some time here and continue their hike up to the peak.
The journey down
After a few hours, you can start your journey back to the foot of the hill. The journey back down is not as challenging as it was to go up but the trails are equally slippery and muddy as well. Once you have arrived, you can change your clothes at the public restroom provided (It is not very clean but for the sake of changing into dry clothes, it is sufficient) Then you can thank your guides and be back on your way home.
Other interesting activities
If you cannot make it back in time to Kota Bahru, try staying a day in the local homestays. There are plenty of them available and the hosts will be more than happy to teach you a bit about the local lifestyle and tradition too. If you want, you can also head to Gua Musang the following day and try out some rock climbing activities and admire the natural limestone caves there although some may be destroyed by graffiti.
Another interesting point to note is Gunung Stong does not stand on its own. It is connected to a bunch of other mountains that go by different names as well. If you are feeling adventurous, why not try and conquer them all. The most noted mountain is Gunung Ayam which loosely translates to Chicken Mountain.