Entering Sungai Lembing
Sungai Lembing (Spear River) was known as the ‘El Dorado’ of the east once during it’s heydays where this hamlet was one of the key factors to the economic growth in then Malaya ( Malaysia). The origin of how Sungai Lembing originated according to the myths is that the early pioneers of Sungai Lembing found a hunting spear in the river left by an ancestral tribe and the other myth is that the current of the river that bypasses the current town was very fast as a spear.
This was my third visit to Sungai Lembing, the very first in 1979 when I was on an attachment visit during my military college days and the last one was in 2002 when I had to visit the Sungai Lembing Post Office when I was working with a computer firm. Sungai Lembing, located around 42 kilometres from Kuantan is well known for its underground tin mining operations instead of the common open cast tin mining which the industry boomed until the tin prices fell during the mid ’80s.
Entrance to the mine complex.
Sungai Lembing underground tin mine complex.
Entering the mine
Inside the shaft of the mine.
Figures of mine workers on display.
Exiting the mine
Another entrance to the mine.
On arrival at Sungai Lembing, I followed signs that led me to the underground mine which is located on top of the hill. There is an entrance fee of RM 15 + 6% GST. Luckily for me, there were no other visitors there so I had the VIP treatment from the staff of the complex. One has to ride a train for about 200 metres into the entrance tunnel before walking through a mine shaft. The underground mines has been closed since 1986 due to flooding since the mining operations stopped. Figures of mine workers are displayed to show the conditions of work in the mine. At that moment I wished I could meet and talk to some of the workers who have worked there..
Old colonial house now a capsule hostel.
The town padang, ‘Oval’ where cricket once played on a regular basis.
Remaining shops @ Sungai Lembing.
Shop houses that had seen better days.
Colonial Post Box.
On exiting the mine complex, I stopped at a resort that offers capsule themed accommodation which is unique. The kind owner even offered me a drink. I stopped to take some pictures of the town from a small hill where one could enjoy a good view from there especially the padang, (field) where once the game of cricket were played on a regular basis by the British expats who worked in the mine. I then drove down to the town where only a handful of eating shops were operating.
Sungai Lembing Museum once the mine’s General Manager’s residence.
Sungai Lembing Museum.
Sungai Lembing Musuem entrance.
Former servant’s quarters turned into museum office
Former mine Assistant General Manager’s residence.
The highlight of this trip was the visit to the Sungai Lembing Museum where there are a lot of artifacts of the mine. Equipments from the mines vary from the operational items up to the clerical works could be viewed. The Museum building used to be the residence of the General Manager of the company that operated the mine and it also used to be the resting place of the late Sultan of Pahang when he visited Sungai Lembing. I enjoyed the time spent at this museum as it tells the hardship of people who used basic equipment to get things done. Adjacent to the Museum is the residence of the Assistant General Manager which also boasts grandeur but lesser than the museum.
En (Mr) Muhamad, former mine employee.
Depleted tennis courts at the former clubhouse
Remains of the “Pounding Plant”
Sungai Lembing Post Office.
Suspension Bridge @ Sungai Lembing.
Suspension Bridge @ Sungai Lembing.
River Bank @ Sungai Lembing.
I stopped for lunch and ironically, my wish of meeting a former employee of the mine came true. En (Mr) Mohamad who used to work hundreds of feet down in the mines told me stories of the good old days of Sungai Lembing where the town never sleeps. He explained that the company took care of its’ employees very well with strict regulated working hours, duty free goods, etc. etc. He said that Sungai Lembing would never be the same as before as there were no other industry that can support the economic factor of the town. The younger generation has left the town for much greener pastures and what is left is the mushrooming of home stays that is run by the ones who decided to stay. Other than that he could see nothing more that can rekindle the economy of Sungai Lembing.
According to him too, the company clubhouse was the meeting point of the employees of the company where once there were tennis courts, a swimming pool, barbeque parties, afternoon teas were held while the expats’ employees were playing cricket. I could see the gleam in his eyes whilst explaining those moments to me.
Former petrol kiosk.
Sungai Lembing Police Station.
Sungai Lembing masjid.
After lunch I took a short drive out of the Sungai Lembing town where there were suspension bridges linking the town to the adjoining villages. The remains of the ‘Pounding Plant’ where the ore were crushed to it’s powder form were left in tatters after years of being left, can be seen nearby. The day was late and I left Sungai Lembing with stops at the centre of the town taking a few photographs of the once ‘El Dorado’ of Malaya…….