Friday, August 1, 2014

Sungai Lembing 26-29 July 2014

Ops I did it again~

I woke up at 4 am on the 26th of July, and departed via the KL-Karak highway towards Kuantan. It's a 266-km journey from where I live to Sungai Lembing, and so I had to split the journey into four sessions; stops at Karak—Temerloh—Maran—Sg Lembing—and estimated myself to arrive at about 11 am.

But I was so wrong. So very wrong.

The highway was horrendous because everyone was rushing home for Hari Raya, and I've never seen a traffic jam so severe in my life; it started from Gombak and ended almost 50 km away, at the Bentong Petronas station. That short, 45-km journey, which would otherwise only take about 40-minutes, took me almost two hours to reach.
Oh imagining the wrath of all the drivers and passengers cringing to contain their morning pee (and poop) while getting stuck in the jam somehow gave me an enormous sense of satisfaction *evil grin*.

With that delay, I arrived at Bukit Gambang at about 11:45 am, and the sun was starting to burn my skin already. It took me another hour to figure out the exit that could lead me to Sungai Lembing (just exit via the Kuantan exit and you'll see the sign towards Sungai Lembing). 
I don't know about you, but this is for me the best sunrise I've ever seen.
"Hello, excuse me, may I know what is the time now?"
Okay, now when I reached Sungai Lembing, I had no place to stay—I have picked up the bad habit of not booking for accommodation via the internet because, based on my experience, there are always cheaper-but-equally-comfortable hostels that are not found online, so you just have to go out and find them manually. But this was different. Raya holiday was around the corner and hence the hostels operated by Malay towkays were closed, and the Chinese-run hostels were full. I was lucky one of the Chinese towkays agreed to provide a bed in the lobby of the hostel, and so I slept in the open, with people walking in and out around me.

Now let's get to the places of interest.
There are several places of interest in Sungai Lembing. The town itself is so small you could probably finish exploring the entire town within an hour. By walking.

1) Sungai Lembing Museum.
It's only 3 minutes away from the town. It opens everyday throughout the year except during Hari Raya. It highlights the history of the town, from its humble origin as a tin mine until the collapse of the industry in the 1970s. Entrance fee is RM 2.00 for Malaysian. Simple but informative.

2) Rainbow Waterfall.
It's located deep in the forest, and to get there you have to board a 4WD. Just go to any of the hostels and ask for a quote. I got mine at RM 35 per pax from the hostel I stayed in (017-383 3318, Mr Hoo). The towkay picked me up from the hostel at 6:15 am and together with other travellers we went through the dense forest with muddy road on the 4WD, and we had to cross streams and rivers on several occasion. The 4WD journey took about 45 minutes. Then we had to walk for another 40 minutes or so to reach the waterfall.

Please note that the rainbow only occurs from 7~11 am, when the sun's ray hits the falling water at a certain angle to enable the physics to work. In my case it was a cloudy morning and the sun was completely covered and so we didn't see the rainbow. Therefore, it's always prudent to check the weather forecast before heading down to Rainbow Waterfall.

Look at the crowd !!
Oh and for those of you who are afraid of leeches, there were no leeches during my visit.

3) Panorama Hill.
It's located right behind the hostel, like, only 2 minutes away? Anyway the hill is only 297 meters high, and there are concrete steps to enable an easy ascend. But it was still a tough way up the hill because—screw the person who built the staircase—the steps are quite narrow, uneven, at knee-height, and some sections are completely in ruin. Can't you even build a simple staircase that lasts? By the way the scenery on top of the hill is simply breath-taking! I even met a university friend at the peak (and we haven't met for like, 3 years (?) though we both live in the same city). The only complaint I have is the number of people at the peak.
To be fair, it was the Raya holiday, and according to the towkay the number of tourists pouring into Sg Lembing on that weekend alone swelled from the average 1000 people to around 5000 people. This sudden influx of tourists actually made my task of shooting the stars on top of Panarama Hill much more daunting and difficult: ignorant morons walked right in front of my camera, blocking the scene, and polluting the environment with the lights from their phones and torchlights. Given the circumstances, I was glad I had at least captured the stars and the clouds.

4) Suspension Bridge.
Nothing much here. You may skip it. It's just a bridge across a drying river and it's freaking dangerous—I walked the bridge and found that some of the planks were falling off their places.
This is not the derelict bridge I mentioned. This is another derelict bridge.
Extra tips:
1) There is no petrol station in Sungai Lembing. The nearest petrol station is in the outskirt of Kuantan, around 36 km away. There's a mechanic selling petrol in his garage right next to my hostel, but I suspect he'd added water into the petrol because the colour looked a bit off and it burned exceptionally fast (I'm used to travelling by bike, so I know how far a litre would last).

2) There is no ATM machine in Sungai Lembing. I carried with me RM 100 to Sungai Lembing. I told the towkay I might not have enough to last for three days, and he graciously allowed me to stay first and pay later (I guess it was also partly due to the fact that during our conversation we had a pleasant surprise: both of us are Foochow, and he also stayed for period of time in my hometown. So I guess that actually built up a sense of trust and camaraderie). Of course, being a righteous person myself, I paid via internet banking afterwards :p

3) The internet/3G network for Maxis in Sungai Lembing is horrible. Use Digi instead.

If our guns and canons fired bubbles and not bombs or bullets, the world would be a better place.
After a two-night stay at Sungai Lembing I left for Kuantan. I stayed at Kuantan Backpackers and met Joycelyn, who kindly brought me to the famed Terms and Condition (TC, as the local call it) beach and the mini zoo which harbours erm... not a lot of animals really, and had steamboat+movie night at a friend's house.

To sum it up, backpacking by bike is viable. It's the cheapest way of travelling, though definitely not comparable to walking. A total of RM 232.40 was spent during the trip, which includes accommodation, petrol, entrance fee, tour package, and food. And I've broken my own record for the furthest distance travelled in one day on my bike: from 179 km per day to 266 km per day.

Maybe I should consider riding to somewhere even further?
Well, why not? :)


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