Gunung Datuk (885m): The “Beginner” trek to Malaysia Mountains

Gunung Datuk (885m): The “Beginner” trek to Malaysia Mountains

Mount Datuk (885m) is located at Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, about an hour away from Malacca. It is one of the most popular treks in Malaysia for both locals and Singaporeans due to the accessibility and ease of doing it. It is also one of the shortest treks in Malaysia but with a challenge and a view at the top.

If you ask me, it is one of the best short treks from Singapore. especially for anyone who wishes to get out, or you are a nature or adventure seeker looking for some exercise over the weekend. You can also easily pair it with sightseeing and extremely good food in Malacca!

If you combine it with Malacca for a 3D2N trip, it can be done within 100SGD. If you wish to find out how to do it, especially from Malacca, do read on about my trip!

Why go there?

Gunung Datuk

  1. It takes an average of 2.5h up and 2.5h down, one of the shorter and more fulfilling beginner treks available
  2. The trek is not too long, so even if you are slow the difference isn’t that great. If you are fast, you can actually complete the whole trek within 1.5h
  3. There is a view and some fresh air at the summit as compared to other Malaysia treks
  4. There are some ladder and rope sections which can make it quite fun
  5. It is quite a steep ascent and descent which makes it reasonably challenging
  6. It is situated near to Malacca and Tangkak. One can have good food and durians before or after the trek!
  7. Travelling there and back is not too expensive! Accommodation and transport to Malacca are quite affordable.

How to DIY/get to Gunung Datuk

For most Singaporeans, they would hire a driver or go together with a meetup group. For the Malaysians, most of them will drive, or they come mainly from Kuala Lumpur (KL).

Driving

Nothing google maps can’t solve, but if you so need, follow the below instructions.

From Kuala Lumpur:

Exit the North-South Expressway at Exit 223. At the T-junction after the toll, turn left.

You will reach a roundabout where you should turn right (3 o’clock exit) signposted towards Rembau. From Rembau town you will see signposts directing you to Hutan Lipur Gunung Datuk (or Dato’) which will take you along route N111. After 15km or so you will see a turning to the left pointing to Gunung Datuk. After a short drive through a rubber estate, you will arrive at the Gunung Datuk base camp where you can park your car.

From Singapore:

 

Take expressway AH2 towards Tampin. On the way you would go past Yong Peng, Tangkak and Alor Gajah. Those are possible supper places. Instead of turning right towards Tampin, you would turn left to head towards Gunung Datuk up some rounding slopes. There will be a sign that says Datuk with an arrow. Follow it all the way in and you will reach the carpark.

Public Transport

Take a bus from Singapore to Seremban. It takes around 4.5h and cost around 20 SGD.

From Seremban, you can either take another bus to Rembau from Terminal 1 Bus Station and at Kota. It cost around MYR4.

  • By Bus – Take a bus to Rembau from Terminal 1 Bus Station (it is a short walk from the train station, walk past the Seremban Fire station to get to it) and stop at Kota; cost around MYR4.++
  • Once you have reached Kota, there is no further public transport to the foot of the mountain where the admin office is. You will either have to travel about 2.5km by foot to the office (not advisable as there are no clear directions to which path to take), or you could ask one of the locals in Kota to give you a lift (for a fee maybe). There are no taxis in the area.

Hired Transport

From Singapore

For most Singaporeans, if you have a group the best choice would be to hire a driver. It takes only around 3 hours to Gunung Datuk. The cost for a hired driver or vehicle can cost from 400-600 SGD for a return trip from Singapore. It depends on the type and size of the vehicle. The most common are the 10 seaters.

Some people charge based on 12 hours (which I find it ridiculous for hiking trips because timings are unknown) while others might charge based on 1 direction. To me, the moment they charge based on 12 hours, I know that they are not particularly experienced with organizing for hiking. It should be based on days.

From Malacca

We hired a driver from our accommodation. It cost us: 180RM 1 way, so 360RM 2 ways. It was a 6-seater vehicle.

An alternative would be to grab there and arrange with the driver a timing and a return fare. It should be cheaper than that as Gunung Datuk is only 45 minutes to an hour away. The only thing is paying for the driver’s time.

Facilities and Fees

The only 2 things you might need to pay for is the entrance fee or the usage of the toilet. Both can be iffy as there might be any

Entrance Fee: RM5 per person

*The park ranger might not be at the hut collecting the fees all the time

**You can camp near the summit. I have never done it before but these are the fees that I found online

Camping:

  • Camping Fee: RM 3 per tent
  • Tent Rental(holds 4 people): RM5 per tent

Climbing Guide: You can request for a guide at the registration fee. I have never used a guide and these are the fees apparently.

  • Less than 20 people: RM60
  • 25-50 people: RM120
  • More than 50 people: RM180
  • Basically 1 guide = RM60

Additional Services:

  • Chalet Rental RM50 per night or RM30 for a half day
  • Rubber Tapping RM2 per person

Gunung Datuk Contact

Mount Datuk Administration Office (Koperasi Gunung Datuk Rembau Berhad)

Phone Number: +60 64381046 

Email: [email protected]

 

Trek Information

GPS: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move215064297

  • Peak: 885m
  • Total elevation: ~600m
  • Incline: 30 º (feels like more)
  • Walking distance: 3km (1-way)
  • Average time: 2.5h (1-way)
  • Basic shower/toilet facilities at the base
  • Forest terrain – Tree branches and rocks. Some trees have spikes!
  • High humidity
  • Mosquitoes and leeches
  • Uphill all the way
  • Some parts have steep ascents so it requires usage of hands (or rope assists)
  • Ladders at the summit
  • Unsheltered at the summit

Expenses

For an overnight trip, I think if you DIY you can do it for around 40-50 SGD or less. All you need to pay for is the transport. Entrance fee and food are pretty much negligible.

For us, we stayed in Malacca for 2 nights. This is an overview of our expenses for Gunung Datuk.

Accommodation in Malacca: D’Riverside Inn

Accommodation Cost: 384 MYR for 2 nights for 6 beds. 192 MYR for 6 person for 1 night, which is around 11 SGD per pax per night in Malacca.

Transport Cost: 180RM 1 way from Malacca to Gunung Datuk for a 6 seater. It is 360RM for 2 ways, so around 20 SGD per pax.

Return bus ticket from Singapore – Malacca via Starmart Bus: 46 SGD

 

Breakdown per pax

Malacca Accommodation: 11 SGD

Transport to Gunung Datuk from Malacca: 20 SGD

Entrance Fee: 2 SGD

Bus Ticket from Singapore – Malacca: 46 SGD

Total: 79 SGD 

Additional expenses: Grabbing around Malacca is extremely reasonable, especially when you can share the cost with people. We ate a hell lot of different food within Malacca. In the end, I thnk I only spent 130 SGD max. 

If you are looking to join others to do Gunung Datuk, I am now running trips to Gunung Datuk via my meetup group: https://www.meetup.com/Little-Monsters-Travel/ so feel free to join  or contact me if you are interested!

If you are looking to do Gunung Datuk privately and can’t find a reliable driver, I can help arrange for you. Please do contact me via email: inf[email protected] or via my website.


Our Trip

Gunung Datuk

This was supposed to be a Malacca Food trip. As usual, I always need to hike so I thought, why not do Datuk together with Malacca. Afterall I had always wanted to find out about Gunung Datuk having heard about it from friends. I had always complained that Malaysia hikes had no view and were really hot and humid, perpetuated by my Mount Ophir Trek. My friends had assured me it was beginner friendly so I convinced the rest to do it.

To maximize our trip without taking leave, we wanted to set off on a Friday night to stay 1 night in Malacca before heading to Gunung Datuk the next morning. Thus, we could get some sleep and save time too. Additionally, I also didn’t want to do Gunung Datuk in the dark as I was not confident of leading the rest in the dark as I had not hiked Datuk before. It was also cheaper for us to take a bus there as compared to booking a transport. So we went along with taking Starmart.

The “highly rated” Starmart Experience

Starmart is the “Ryanair” of buses to Malaysia. It is usually the cheapest option, has a lot of bus timings but comes with a notorious reputation. There are many bad reviews and frustration associated with Starmart.

We had to take Starmart because it had the best timing for us to Malacca on a Friday night. The bus was supposed to leave at 8 pm and it was the 2nd last bus of the day. The last bus was to depart at 11 pm.

Not knowing how it would work, we reached an hour earlier to ensure that we would get the tickets as you would need to present your e-ticket to exchange for a ticket (weird system). It is like an airline check-in, except it isn’t your boarding pass.

Credit: Bustravelstation. I did not take the picture but I thought this would be a good representation.

I actually went to queue twice, but both times I was rejected because they said that it wasn’t ready yet. The queue was for other trips. It was already 7.30pm by then. It was only until 7.45pm where they started issuing tickets for the 8 pm trip.

There was constant chaos with confused people queueing up and wondering which bus it was for. As there was a chokepoint due to the counters, Starmart officials came out to try to reduce the queue length by directing half the people to the other counter on the lower floor to get tickets. This only made people more confused as nobody knew which way was faster and everyone was afraid of changing the queue or missing the bus.

I stayed in the original queue and we finally got our tickets!  but we had no idea where the bus would be or which bus. There was a guy directing the buses and we had no idea what he was shouting.

One Starmart bus arrived and suddenly everyone rushed towards the bus and filled it up. It was like a zombie apocalypse out here. There wasn’t enough space for all of us to get on and we couldn’t stand on the bus, so we had to take our baggage out.

The picture below isn’t my picture or the bus which happened that day, but it just gives you a rough idea.

Credit: Railtravelstation

Did we miss our bus? I guess so.

Ain’t there fixed seatings? Apparently not.

We were told to take the next bus. Another bus came and this time, we were not going to make the same mistake and we got immediately. It was a lot less crowded than the first bus because most of the passengers had boarded already.

My suspicion was that they just had drivers to drive to the border. At the border, we would then change bus to the “correct” bus to Malacca. When we approached the checkpoint, they started speaking in Bahasa and I had no idea what they were saying. There was apparently some bus number they repeated.

Once we had crossed the checkpoint, I started looking for that bus number and asked the driver it was to Malacca. Thank god they did not leave without us. Everyone seemed to have waited for at least an hour for us because we took the “2nd” bus.

Originally, our bus was slated to depart at 8 pm. I was hoping we would reach Malacca by 11 pm, or at most by 12 midnight.

However, due to the Friday Jam, we had only managed to reach the border close to 11 pm. We started taking bets on what time the bus would reach Malacca. In the end, we reached around 3 am.

So much for sleep!

We stopped at the bus interchange and took a grab to our accommodation. I thought the Malacca Bus Interchange was the final stop.

On hindsight, there was another stop that would be closer, the Hattan Hotel stop. So even if your ticket was to Malacca, ask the driver if he would stop at the Hattan Hotel!

By the time we reached our accommodation, it was already 3.30am. We had gotten a place where it was all 6 of us one room. In fact, there was 4 beds on the 2nd level and 2 beds at the lower level. The pictures don’t look like much but the 2nd-floor beds and place was a lot more comfortable.

Credit: D-riversideinn

I wanted to sleep at the higher level which was really beautiful and comfortable, but the girls immediately went there and took all the spaces before I even had a glimpse of it.

Credit: d-riversideinn

The toilet flush in the room was a bit weak and the 1st-floor aircon had issues, but other than that it was fine. I took a quick shower and looked at the time.

4 am.

It was only a few hours of sleep before we were supposed to hike Datuk.

So much for a “relaxing trip” or getting some sleep before Gunung Datuk.

We were really tempted to sleep in, but since we were already here, might as well stick to the itinerary. Surprisingly, everyone was on board to waking up early and doing Gunung Datuk.

 

The Trek (28th April 2018)

Our driver thought that we were going to trek the next morning because we had arrived so late. They didn’t expect us to be so “garang”. We left at around 7+ and had breakfast at Uncle Oh’s Kopitiam along the way. Our driver who was the accommodation’s owner’s brother recommended us the local laksa which was just beside the kopitiam.

Gunung Datuk

The laksa was decent, but laksa with a few hours of sleep and hiking after that spelt disaster. The rest were pretty happy eating it though. Having said that, I am always game for having something really local and cheap. Apparently, the nasi lemak is really good too but we didn’t try.

We dilly-dallied and by the time we reached the carpark of Gunung Datuk, it was almost 9 am.

Gunung DatukWe started our hike at 9.15am. In my mind, I was still planning the afternoon itinerary. I was hoping we could reach down by 12 pm, then go and find the Chendol stall and go on a food trail in the afternoon.

I was so, so wrong.

Gunung Datuk

From the carpark, you can see the green sign or the path downwards. The green sign is slightly inconspicuous. The path down led us to some small water streams where there was a bridge across.

Gunung Datuk Gunung Datuk

After the bridge, the path suddenly stops. This is because the path leads upwards as you would have to walk a bit up rocks and some branches before reaching the registration hut.

Gunung Datuk Gunung Datuk

At the registration hut, surprisingly there were many locals and other groups who were preparing and registering for the trek. I thought that most people would do it in the dark in order to see the sunrise, but there were many other groups still. I guess we were not that late!

There were also still quite a few people who were on the way down and out. This mountain is really crowded and popular!

Once past the registration hut, the trek finally starts. The uphill was relentlessly straightforward.

I honestly thought it was going to be pretty easy. In my mind, I had an idea of Batulao or one of those European day hikes in the park.

I did not expect it to be so steep for so long. Everyone had mentioned it was a beginner trek, the entry hike to hiking.

However, from the moment we started, we had to walk up boulders, rocks and branches almost non-stop. There were many points where I had to use my hands to aid my ascent. It was way easier to use your hands on the rocks rather than holding on to the ropes.

Gunung Datuk Gunung Datuk

Gunung Datuk

Of course, as I had hiked many times, this wasn’t particularly difficult for me. In fact, it was pretty fun.

However, it was tiring for J as she was not used to it. The rest were fine though and I was quite impressed. The fact is, almost everyone with a sense of adventure and willingness to try will be able to do it.

Gunung Datuk

Gunung DatukThe first half of the trek was a lot steeper until the big tree midway checkpoint. There were some rope sections along the way that was slightly helpful but not necessary. A tricky section was in the middle was it was really steep and one had to really use their hands to push themselves up or get someone to help.

The swarm of mosquitoes were a real bother. Every time we stopped, they started flocking to you. There was no way we could stay still for long if not we would get bitten non-stop.

Gunung Datuk

The 2nd half after the big tree had a lot more gradual incline. On the way, we met many locals coming down. Some of them looked really professional like they were over-equipped not in terms of dressing, but camping. They were really nice and friendly as they asked us if we were okay and if we needed anything!

Gunung Datuk

There are more big rocks with arrows marked on it. Just below the summit, it was a bit confusing but there are a slight plateau and a big wall of rock. At that point, we had to turn right and climb up the steep rock and after walking a few more metres, it was the top.

It was the summit, but only the camping summit. There was a wide plateau for many people to gather and sit down.  Some of the groups brought their camping equipment and were cooking their meals or lunches there.

Gunung Datuk

There are some ladders up some rocks. Follow the ladders and you will reach the famous outcropping of rocks which is the “true summit”. I had seen the previous pictures of the older ladders, which were simple verticle ladders that were lined up against the rocks and loosely tied down. The ladder to the summit now is a real solid building, a staircase that even had handlebars.

I am glad they built it! Some of them were still quite scared as they said it was dangerous! I mean yeah you might fall through the handlebars, but it beats not having them!
Gunung Datuk

After walking up the ladders, we had finally reached the summit.

It was a nice view, not mind-blowing, but better than Mount Ophir. More importantly, there was wind, fresh air and it wasn’t stuffy.

Gunung Datuk

Gunung Datuk

Not bad, not bad at all. The trek was reasonably short, had some thrills in terms of the ropes and ladders and had a nice view and air at the top. This beats Mount Ophir. It was half the pain with a much better outcome. I can see why people enjoy Gunung Datuk so much.

I had asked Esti if this was better than Gunung Ledang/Mount Ophir because she was with me on the trip. We both agreed that it was way better, but slightly steeper which made it more fun in our opinion. Maybe not for J!

Even for ‘Ant’, which was her first “mountain”, she took around 2.5h which was an average timing.

J didn’t really take that much longer. She took about 3.5h, which was slightly slow but still fine.

There was a group of Malaysians who actually brought donuts all the way up. It was pretty amazing the donuts lasted all and pretty funny too.

Gunung Datuk

We spent about an hour at the summit just resting and taking photos. The clouds were coming so I thought it was a good time to descend. We are definitely not doing it in the rain.

The descent is via the same route. I thought the hard part was over since we had reached the summit. For most people, ascending is always slower than descending. I knew it would be steep for J but doable. It was around 2 pm when we started descending.

The pace started off slow and steady before I realised the rest of us were too far ahead. We tried to wait at the big tree checkpoint but the mosquitoes were really too much. We descended further until I decided to wait for J and CJ. I considered going back up but was too tired and lazy.

Gunung Datuk

So I sat there and waited, and waited, and waited. The mosquitoes started biting through my tights. I lost count of the number of bites I had. There were not many people left on the mountain as most had descended by then. I sat for around half an hour around in silence with just the buzzing mosquitoes for companionship before a group who were cooking lunch went past me. I asked them if they had seen my friends and they said they were super far away.

So I continued waiting. With every group that passed, I asked them, “Kawan?” They either gave me the shocked look (like they are super far away) or told me that I had to wait.

I was very tempted to give up but was really worried about them. Should I ascend? Should I just go down first? I was just about to pack my back and head down when a group said they were not so far behind.

I sat back down again. It was a total of 1h45 min before I finally saw J and CJ. I breathed a sigh of relief, at least they were alive.

They looked really exhausted. I felt extremely bad and sorry for them, but there was no way except to walk out.

CJ was perspiring like crazy so I was quite concerned. We did not have lunch and had a lack of sleep. When he told me to get some food, I knew something was wrong. He wouldn’t ask me unless he was really really tired. On hindsight, I think it was the lack of sleep and slight heat exhaustion.

I decided to race down to buy some 100 plus and raced back up again. When we finally reached the hut, I felt really guilty for making J have such a torturous experience because this was supposed to be a Malacca Food trip.

However, she was really sporting and persevered all the way without any complaints and I think that is the essence of anyone going hiking! I was lucky to have such friends.

It was a good learning experience for me.

Descending can be really tiring for beginners especially if they do not have leg strength. Descending is like doing a lot of squats. As it was no problem for me as I was used to pushing through, it would not be the same for others. If they used up most of their strength going up, going down would be crazy slow on steep portions.

We reached down at 6 pm, having started at around 9 am. We took a good 8.5h!

When I told my other hiking friends, they were all flabbergasted, wondering how it was possible. Our driver was really worried for us and he kept berating me, saying we were unprepared for this and he almost called the police as it was getting dark. I was honestly too tired to bother.

We implored J to write her version of this trip. That would be the real perspective of a true beginner.

Gunung Datuk
The Champ

The only redemption after a trek is always good food. It was really quite late and still another hour back to Malacca. All my plans for the geat huntof Malacca food were thrown out.

We had to rush to get our dinner after washing up because most of the shops were closed. The Nyonya restaurant of choice was Auntie Lee because they closed pretty late and we were, in fact, the last customers there. It was almost 9+ pm, but it was all worth it gobbling up the tasty Nyonya food of Malacca. Gunung Datuk

 

Conclusion

Is it a beginner trek?

Yes. I still believe it is for beginners and extremely doable. This is because J still managed to do it. It is reasonably short, so even if you are slow, you can’t really reach past sunset. If you were slow for a trek which on average is 5 hours up, it could really extend to be a 20h trip. The average for Datuk is 5 hours (2 ways), so even if you were slow and took 10 hours, it wouldn’t be that bad.

Is it easy?

No, it isn’t. So although it is for beginners, it doesn’t mean it is easy. Technically, the terrain is quite steep and requires quite a bit of usage of hands.

Overall, I think Gunung Datuk is quite a fun trip, for both beginners and experienced people. The only difference is how long one would take.

I wouldn’t mind doing it if I simply wanted to hike nearby. If I could do it again, maybe I might do it in the dark to reach for sunrise or run up and down. The bonus of having awesome food in Malacca is a much better draw than doing Mount Ophir.

Gunung Datuk is definitely worth doing for a short hike, especially togethe with Malacca.

I am now running trips to Gunung Datuk via my meetup group: https://www.meetup.com/Little-Monsters-Travel/ so feel free to join if you are interested! If you are looking to do Gunung Datuk and wish for someone to arrange it, you can contact me at [email protected] or via my website.


Other Links:

 



Share your thoughts!


%d bloggers like this: