The magical cloud-covered views of Sungai Lembing are reason enough to wake up early and make the heart-pumping stair climb up Panorama Hill.
It can take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour to climb Panorama Hill. I took 20 non-stop at an even pace.
The route starts 150 meters off the town’s main road (Jalan Sungai Lembing). It’s mostly flights of stairs broken up by short stretches of well trodden dirt path. The steps – between 850 and 950 when I counted, although I’ve read there are 1,100 – are split down the middle by a handrail, either side used as fast and slow lanes.
There’s a shelter at the top of the stairs and another at the end of the ridge. Explore its length to find a quiet spot above the chattering of excited voices waiting for the sun to come up over Gua Charas (in the left), a limestone outcrop that rises out of the near-flat monoculture of palm oil plantations.
On the opposite side of the ridge, nestled in the valley surrounded by the faint blue outline of hills, warm amber lights glow beneath a thick white blanket of cloud, the sounds of a town slowly waking up filtering up from below – dogs, cockerels, insects and in the distance the hoot of gibbons.
Stay to enjoy the view, then at 7.30am make your way back down where you can breakfast at the food court and on Sundays wander the morning market.
Altitude 271 meters.
Time Depending on your fitness level and how frequently you exercise the climb can take anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour.
Rating Moderate. 1000-over stairs would be tough on anyone but it’s over relatively quickly. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks by pulling over to the side when space is available.
Must bring A headlamp. Without exception. Torches are okay but it’s better to have your hands free.
Tip Check sunrise/sunset times and plan your ascent accordingly. You’ll also need to check the weather forecast – the stairs can get slippery during a downpour and you’ll want to avoid the peak when there are risks of a lighting strike. Fortunately you should be able to see a storm roll in when you’re up there.
Facilities Public toilets are located at the foot of the stairs. On weekends there’s a stall selling drinks and renting out bamboo hiking poles. There’s a shelter at the foothill, two at either end of the ridge and one 1/3rd of the way up.
Getting there If you’re facing the market, take Market Street located between the food court and Country View Inn, past the school and library. Turn left at the T-junction.
GPS coordinates 3.915827, 103.036582