Sungai Lembing

I have promised myself a thousand times to write about Sungai Lembing, a place which gives me amazing feelings whenever I go there and finally I finished writing this at 2 am in the morning. As a person who was born in Yangon , I did not live physically very close to nature when I was in Burma although I had a chance to travel and enjoy various parts of Burma because of my dad. So this is a post about a beautiful part of Malaysia, written by a non Malaysia who is pretty much in love with Malaysia.  I hope one can forgive me if I make any mistakes here and my aim for writing this is just to share my experiences of this amazing town called “ Sungai Lembing”. In Malay, “ Sungai “ means river and “ Lembing “ means spear. Some people said this is the place they found the spear shot by the hunter.

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Sg Lembing from far

Sungai Lembing located 42 km away from Kuantan and we usually have to drive around 40 minutes to arrive there. Kuantan is a town where you can see lots of beautiful beaches, culture and civilization. But Sungai Lembing is more like a sleeping town where you can see rivers, waterfalls , deserted buildings and old people. A few years back ago, a friend from Germany visited me and I drove her to Sungai Lembing in one afternoon. And the first question she asked me is “ what happened to all people living here?”. IN afternoon, the town sleeps and you can rarely see people on the road. The buildings are quite old although they all are painted cottages with cheerful colours like this.

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people would not believe if someone said Sungai Lembing is a town which used to be a hub of Malaysia with dazzling lights and busy traders. It used to have one of the largest mining industry of the world and produced thousands of tons of tins. The tin business thrived from 1906 until 1986 when it stopped as the price of tin collapsed all over the world. As British colonial has set up the town, there is the influence of British all over the place until now. For example, British people love hills and spacious houses, so there , you can see the house with big rooms and balconies at the top of the hill. With the taste of west and the nature of East, the whole town is unique and beautiful.

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Sg Lembing museum which used belong to a British family or the manager of tin mine

This is the colonial building where the British people could feel the privilege of seeing beautiful river and colourful sunrise from the hill. Some buildings are maintained and renovated properly to keep as a museum. The museum used to be free of charge as long as you can show your identity card to them.  However now they started charging to a foreigner only 1.5 us dollars per entry.There are displays of various kinds of rock ( which I am least interested and will not show it here)  . Regarding buildings, I would also want to show other houses I adore. A lot of Sungai Lembing houses are painted in bright and light color, such as turquoise, purple, bright yellow. They also love to put benches beside the river and they are good gardeners where you can see various shrubs and flowery plants there.

Apart from wooden cottages, there are also stony houses, made of bricks and natural stones. They are so adorable.

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a cute stony house

Most  houses have long footings below the floor. This town has suffered yearly floods for many years and people are used to disaster of broken roads,  electricity cut off and lack of proper health care. Despite all those problems, people are quite contented with their life.

This is the house I love very much which is situated at the river bank where you can see jungles and crossing bridge.

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A beautiful house located at the river bank.

This house owner must have remembered me by now as I love to sit and stare at the house every time I go there. I think the owner is the Chinese people with kids. The kids usually come out and stare at me in return. One of my friend said the cottages are better than brick houses in health wise, as wood absorb heat during the night and it’s cool at night. I can imagine the owner sleeping soundly listening to the sound of river and feeling the breeze blowing across their windows.

Another thing I like about Sungai Lembing is the attitude of people who take pleasure in everything they do. They seem like they have the unlimited time in the world. One day, I saw  a very old woman walking along the road holding the groceries. The first reaction from my friend is “ oh, pity her, she must be tired from walking all the way, why children don’t help her” , but what I think is she is just enjoying her time and this is the reason these old people are healthy, being independent, savouring the fresh air from the forest. In order  to prove my guess, I offered her whether I can help her in carrying groceries and she refused my help. She just walked off  with a snail pace happily.

In fact, these old people have good income as their children migrated to cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Some of them are also very lonely and having “ empty nest “ syndrome. One day, I was  having my delicious breakfast ( a famous fish ball noodle ) at Sungai Lembing morning market. Suddenly, an old Chinese lady sat beside me and started talking to me as if I had known her throughout my life. She talked about her son who migrated to KL and  the son always complains about dust as soon as he came back for holiday. He also insisted to stay at expensive hotel ( she mentioned clearly that it’s hundred RM per day ) instead of staying at mom’s house. All children loved to come back to Sg Lembing although none of them permanently lived there. She mentioned that she was going to follow her daughter in Singapore as she is going to deliver a baby and she is sure she is going to miss her house so much. Her talk went on and I was amazed by her sincerity. Finally, I  told her that I was going back and she gave me a very big hug. She smelt sweet and I could feel the love flowing across my body from her. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

Sg lembing people love to help outsiders. I was cycling across the area with my friend and we wanted to take our photo. Then we found a café where old men were sitting and chatting. We shouted at them from the road whether they could take our photo, then all of them immediately refused, not because they didn’t want to, but because they are not very good with handling phone camera. In the end, one of them went to back yard and called a middle aged woman. She was lining her clothes that time, but she willingly stopped her task and   came towards us with the smile on her face. In big cities, people might be reluctant to help if you ask someone  to stop whatever they are doing and to take your photo. Sg Lembing is totally different, they love to help and they take every visitor to town as their own visitor. We have encountered many people who stop their motor bikes  to show us the way where we can find beautiful scenery. Their generosity in time was quite significant.

one of our cycling trips
one of our cycling trips
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Very happy cyclers, Hana and Gowri
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our group photo beside the river

After the houses and the people, I would like to mention about the attractions of Sg lembing, apart from mining and museum. They have numerous waterfalls in Sg Lembing, some are very close to Kuantan  and everybody can go there without any physical effort. Here is one of them, we call Panching  waterfall. I like to bring some of my friends and their kids to waterfall and all of them enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Panching Waterfall where everybody can go easily

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I have also climbed over the rocks and fell off at one time.  However, I have never tried to climb up the top as the rocks are slippery with algae. My favourite thing to do at that waterfall is sitting under the water at the bottom so that I feel like I am having free massage, feeling the volume of water blow across my back.  It’s a popular place and you can also have a clean shower after you have swimming in the waterfall. There are food stall sellers and I love eating fried prawns tempura there. The only drawback is you can have lack of privacy especially at the weekends as the place can be crowded. The entrance fee is very negligible for citizens and for foreigners, it is around 10 Rm per person which can be expensive for a big crowd.

If you are adventurous, love to see leeches on your shins which suck your blood with ardour, or jungle trek , or walk across “ waist deep water- river”, you can try another waterfall which is so deep inside the jungle.

To arrive that waterfall, you need to go to Sg Lembing town, then take 4 wheel drive ( not our small 4 seater car ) for one hour , then you have to walk for one hour in the jungle.

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rocky journey to reach rainbow waterfall

The road there is excruciatingly rough and you have to prepare your butts to bump the car seat whenever car drives across the stream or rocky lanes.

Finally , we arrived at the area where you had to stop the car and had to rely on your own feet. The beginning of the journey is crossing the river at own risk, holding on the rope which was tied across the river. It’s always better to go with the group as the flow of water is unpredictable and the current can be rough.

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our group posing in front of the river, you can see how people struggle to cross the river

Although it’s only one hour plus trekking, it cost you a lot of sweat and muscle ache as you really need to put your effort to get your feet stable on the ground. However as soon as you see the glimpse of majestic waterfall and feel of water drops onto your face from far away, your tiredness  will be quickly washed away.

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majestic waterfall

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Before the journey , we were already promised that we would have  instant noodle  which will be prepared by using water from river. All of us shouted “ NO way” as we know that state of water cannot be trusted as we spent our adulthood learning about travelers died of diarrhea. But once we arrived waterfall, our stomachs were asking us to reconsider our decision and we were so hungry and ate immediately whatever our tour guides prepared.

The water fall is called “ rainbow waterfall “ as the rainbow pass across the water when the sunlight comes. you can be disappointed if you go on cloudy day as rainbow will not be formed without light crossing the water. The water is icy and it is so refreshing especially when you are sweaty after a long trekking.

So they are just examples of two famous waterfalls , one is the easy destination without trekking where you can bring your small children and second one is the tough one which I am craving to revisit again.

Not only for waterfall, Sg Lembing is famous for the big caves, which you can pay homage to lying Buddha. The name of the cave is “ Panching Cave” which is quite mysterious to me. It’s because according to the history, the cave was discovered by Buddhist monk who used the cave as the get away from people and meditation. He attained enlightenment  in the cave  and it became holy place. Later, other people put statues of Mother Mary as well as Hindu shrines and that is the place you can find different religions and different statues.

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in front of Gua Cheras
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inside the cave, it can be slippery during rainy season

The cave has a lot of mineral on the wall like lime stone and because of water pouring along the wall, some area shows surface erosions. People claimed that they can see the outline of “ Kuan Yin “ in standing posture on the wall.

The stairs are not really user friendly especially for old people. But at least it prevents slipping easily.

I am sorry that I have to steal the below photo from website as I have deleted all my photos before.

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One of my favourite activity there is asking the Hindu priest to do the “fortune telling“. I cannot say that he is correct all the time,  but at least it gives me something to look forward as he usually says all the good things about future.

After I talk about the panching waterfall ( pandan waterfall ) and panching cave ( Gua Charas cave), let me tell you about  “ Panorama Hill” which is located just the entrance of Sg Lembing town. The hill is  famous because of the panorama view of the whole town and beautiful sunrise. To be able to catch the sunrise, one has to wake up at 3 am if you are in Kuantan and have to wake up at 4 am if you are  in Sg Lembing. It is one hour hike and you surely have to bring along your torch lights so that you will not fall down and easily can see the ground.

As I am the late riser, I have never had got the chance to see the sun rise, instead , I end up seeing “sun glare”, still I enjoy my beautiful hike and breathtaking view.

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Panorama hill

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when you hike this mountain, there is one thing you have to be careful is a type of bug called hornet.

These bugs are not very big, but when it bites, it can be quite painful and can cause allergic reaction. I have seen them when I was hiking, but I have never heard other travellers talked about it.

This is the photo of hornet, small, but fierce and painful.

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When we reached the summit , we were so happy and thrilled by the sight of clouds below us.

This is one of the crazy photos I took with my friend Kanimoli who moved to KL after a few years of the trip. The trip would not have been as good as this without her presence and continuous chats along the way.

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After you have finished your hike, you must eat famous Sg Lembing fish ball noodle which is Yum Yum.

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Not only fish ball, Sg Lembing “ roast pork “ is a kind of delicacy which you can only get certain days.

There are some food stalls for muslim and they are also quite nice. The population of Sg Lembing consist of majority Chinese and it’s natural that Chinese food is quite popular there.

However, I always go with my Malay muslim friend and she never has problem in finding “ halal “ food there.

One of my favourite activity there is cycling across the town. It’s not always easy as there are a lot of hilly areas and it make me breathless . At times, I also need to get off from the bike and push the bike as I am not used to cycling across the “ rope bridges”. The residents of Sg Lembing are comfortable with either motor bike or motors, I must say they are also skilful with cycling. They can effortlessly pass the road while I can be shaky and dizzy as I have height phobia.

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When I just need a stroll, I usually sit at the old bridge which is no more in use and have my breakfast with my friend Raihana . She is a lovely person and knows well how to prepare delicious food.

Our day trip will start with driving, then have our breakfast on the bridge or somewhere near the river. Then we usually have cycling .

favorite spots for dining. 🙂

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The water of the river is crystal clear and it’s red color.

Our cycling trip is interesting because along the way, my friend will always find out wild flowers and some mushrooms. My friend Hana has a thing about mushroom, she is usually thrilled like a child who finds out a ice cream bar whenever she see mushroom. Here are her favourite mushrooms.

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golden mushrooms

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Regarding mushroom, there is another person who always loves to talk about mushroom, and it’s my mother. She always thinks most of mushrooms are eatable although a lot of Malaysians might argue with her. But Sg Lembing mushrooms are small and golden color and they all are studded to the rocks. I might have not noticed if if Hana didn’t point them to me.

Not only mushrooms, there are a lot of wild flowers and plants one should have interested in if you are curious person. I will mention some pictures here.

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In a few years time, if I am still living in Kuantan, I determine to explore more about Sg Lembing, there are certain areas we decided not to cycle because we feel like it’s not really safe inside the jungle. But who knows, I might be more adventurous and explore more. Life is a journey and I determine myself to enjoy along the way.

With that, thanks for reading my post, I will think of writing other places of Malaysia later. These photos are taken by all my friends especially Chan, Joy Lay and Raihana.

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