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Often we only look on the surface of things; not often do we see what goes on underground. As we explored this tin mining town of Sungai (river) Lembing (spear), we exactly went beneath the surface of the town and saw its origin and culture right before our very eyes.
As soon as we began to pedal our way through the main road, two rows of wooden shophouses hailed our coming, showing off their vernacular charm. If that was not enough to remind you of how time-honored the town is, the main road was split into two by a row of really old trees, with the oldest one claimed to be planted since 1775.
Entering the town on our wheels felt like we were time traveling and cycling through the past as probing strangers. It was one of those rare gems of the country that are still strongly upheld today, and one of those that are undergoing community policing. The town, mostly inhabited by old locals, has a population of around 1,000—a big decline from around 10,000 people before the tin prices fell, the mining operations ceased, and locals moved away for greener pastures.
Muzium Sungai Lembing
Our first stop was at the 1. Muzium Sungai Lembing on top of a small hill that opens daily from 9am to 5pm. We hopped off our bicycles after a 1.42km ride, and walked up to the entrance, decked on each side with a 50-year-old fire extinguisher. Looking from the outside, it was easy to tell that more surprises were waiting for us.
Highlighting the tin mining industry, this museum was developed in 2001, and exhibits a collection of mining artifacts arranged in a maze-like pattern, as if you were treasure hunting yourself. True enough, every turn was taking us to another interesting dimension of tin mining. While the museum thrives to keep its British architectural features, it is now made of both preserved materials and replacements. Nevertheless, it still evoked that sense of mystery and history; thinking that, once in the lifetime of Sungai Lembing, it was the richest town in Pahang, and was dubbed as the ‘El Dorado’ of the East.
Terowong Sungai Lembing
From looking at mining tools and equipment in the museum, we cycled half a kilometer to 2. Terowong Sungai Lembing to visit the tin mines and see what was left of the once longest and deepest tunnel in the world.
To kick off the journey through the underground mining past, we rode the so-called train for two minutes to bring us to where we began our tunnel-after-tunnel journey. It was dark inside, and all we could hear were the rail noise and vibration. Since it was raining outside, water would leak through cracks. Knowing how all the levels down below (450-640m) were entirely flooded added to the enigmatic impression of the place.
The tunnels were modified to allow the public to experience the actual atmosphere. Inside, you would see some original turn hole tunnels tin miners once passed through. There were also audio-visual displays and simulators to walk visitors through the history of the town’s tin mining from discovery to closure.
Time Capsule Retreat
Coming out from the tunnel after about 45 minutes was a breath of renewed air, and the long-awaited sunlight was more than appreciated. Thrilled to get to the next stop, after learning about and experiencing the past of Sungai Lembing, we hopped on our saddles, and cycled to the 3. Time Capsule Retreat.
We were welcomed by Kevin Young, the young man behind the design of the capsule accommodation, together with his father, the resort owner. The design was nothing short of inventive — a warmly lit white capsule with a queen-size bed, a window and a hole on top, allowing for natural lighting to pass through. It was placed strategically amidst the lush forest background, and given the rich history of the town, staying here would allow you to reflect on the town’s culture and nature. It would definitely be worth a visit, especially with the hospitality of the owner and his family. Before we moved on with our ride, the owner played a leaf for us. He took out a shiny leaf from a tree and began blowing it, playing his favorite music. We knew then where Kevin got his strong artistic streak. It runs in the blood!
We were all smiles as we left the lovely resort, and could not hide the joy and excitement, knowing what was next for us—it’s lunchtime! Our tummies were filled to satisfaction with the all-time favorite chicken rice and satay. Recharged, and after waiting until the rain subsided, we cycled close to the river, and stopped to walk on a 4. Hanging bridge, one among a few others. This wooden bridge connects locals from the other side of the river to the main town.
As we marched over the bridge, it started swaying. Letting out our internal thrill seekers, like we were on some amusement ride, we crossed the bridge leisurely. We even saw motorcycles slickly passing through it.
Town Square of Sungai Lembing
There were stalls selling local snacks on the other side. We bought some, then cycled back to the tree-lined 5. town square, where the shop houses are situated, to end our tour.
Sungai Lembing is a portal to another world of discovery. It was an extraordinary quest that took us back to the tin mining town’s rich past and humble present. Spanning a short distance of 11.93km, this cycling package is suitable to everyone who seeks for a curious adventure in the underground scene.
Cycling Route - Panorama Kuantan
This cycling tour package is provided by: East Coast Holidays Sdn Bhd
Ground Floor, Building LKNP, Jalan Besar, 25000 Kuantan. Tel: 09-515 8992