Just half an hour's car ride west of Kuantan is the sleepy little town of Sungai
Lembing. Nestling in a river valley, it is a haven of peace and tranquility,
particularly if one can take a little time to enjoy the surrounding countryside.
Sungai Lembing is situated just above the point where two rivers meet. The sandy
flats are ideal for fishing or birdwatching. One can stroll along the riverbanks
and watch golden orioles, parakeets and iridescently blue kingfishers. One can
also sit in the cool of the evening for half an hour and witness the sunset over
Gunung Tapis, or watch a delight of pastel mauves and purple colors wash the
mountains of central Pahang.
The Museums and Antiquities Department of Malaysia is making an excellent job
of refurbishing the general manager's bungalow. By carefully studying historical
records, the museum director and his staff have successfully reconstructed the
appearance and atmosphere of a working tin mine. While visiting Sungai Lembing,
it is worth taking a walk past some of the old bungalows which give an idea of
the scope and size of this once thriving community. In its heyday, the world's
deepest lode tin mine company employed a couple of thousand men who lived here
with their families; making up a population of about 15,000. When the tin ran
out in 1985, the population dwindled to a few thousand, many of whom commute to
Kuantan for work.
Not far up the valley past the museum is the mill, where the mined tin ore
was crushed. The huge iron balls were lifted around large revolving steel cages
and then fell by the force of gravity down onto the tin ore, crushing it to a
powder ready for further refining and collection. This process is clearly shown
in the museum.
In the old expatriate club, close to the museum entrance, one can eat a
simple but excellent meal of fried noodles, laksa or rice with the day's
curry. The jovial Malay host serves his speciality, a strong, piping- hot
village coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, full of taste and guaranteed to
make you go back for more. Past the club, on the way to the mill in the
direction of the pedestrian suspension bridge, one really must make a stop at
the biscuit factory. It is a small family-run village enterprise. The crisp,
wafery coconut biscuits, however, are famous throughout the eastern part of
peninsular Malaysia. Dipped in coffee they are a superb reminder of life's
Over the suspension bridge there is a peaceful village that has not changed
for 50 years. The wooden houses close to the river are built on stilts to keep
them above the flood level. Further up the hillside the houses disappear in a
shady confusion of fruit and magnificient jungletrees. For the slightly more
adventurous, there is a possibility of spending a night in a chalet at the top
of Gunung Tapis. To get there one has to make the three-hour journey along
logging tracks by jeep and walk the last few kilometers. The reward is being
able to spend time in the beauty of the primary forest and experience the peace
and harmony of undisturbed jungle for miles and miles.
Some people find the calls of the gibbons that live in the area hauntingly
plaintive but strangely calming.
The chance to experience magnificient scenery and countryside, with the
possibility of seeing exotic wildlife, makes a trip to Sungai Lembing
worthwhile. The road from Pasir Kemudi carries on past Panching and takes us
through durian, mangosteen and duku orchards and many miles of planted oil
palms. At Panching, it is possible to catch a fantastic view of Bukit Cheras and
visit this impressive limestone outcrop which contains caves and a resident
Buddist monk who silently watches over a 30 foot reclining Buddha.
With the hectic busy lives most of us lead, it is a wonderful opportunity to
stop for a few hours, take stock, look and listen to the wonders of nature.
Sungai Lembing offers you just that magnificient opportunity.