Sungai Lembing, Pahang

Sungai Lembing

The last stop on my Grand Tour of Peninsular Malaysia was the charming little settlement of Sungai Lembing which is located about 40km inland from Kuantan.

There is something attractive about this place. Maybe it is the mineral content of the earth which seems to have this flutter of butterflies excited.

A rabble of butterflies

In fact it was the minerals that brought development here in the first place. It is difficult to believe now but beneath the surface of this sleepy town was, until 1986, the world’s largest, longest and deepest tin mine and Sungai Lembing was the Malay States’ equivalent of Eldorado for a time.

Painting at the Tin Mining Museum

The Deal of The Century

The British recognised the potential of the tin deposits in this area and in 1888 they signed an agreement with the Sultan of Pahang for a London-based mining company, Pahang Corporation Limited, to be given a 100 year concession to mine tin covering  2,500 acres for the grand sum of 1 cent per year. In 1925 the concession was taken over by Pahang Consolidated Company Limited (PCCL).  From 1906, when intensive mining began, until 1986, when the mine was closed following a collapse in tin prices, the mine yielded 150,000 tons of pure tin worth a cool $2 billion.  A good deal from the shareholders’ point of view!

Company Town

Sungai Lembing was very much a company town and all the inhabitants were dependant on PCCL in one way or another. At its heart was the Padang which was used for cricket and other games.

Padang, Sungai Lembing

At one end was the ‘Asian Employees’ clubhouse and at the other end was the cinema.

Asian Employees Clubhouse

CinemaCan you read this?

There were around 40 bungalows in the hillier areas around town for the British managers and their families. One of the best houses , belonging to the company’s tuan besar or General Manager, has been converted into the Sungai Lembing Museum.

Sungai Lembing Museum

This is one of the better museums in Malaysia, with interesting exhibits on tin mining and the lives of the miners and managers. The disused mineshafts and tunnels themselves are unfortunately not open to visitors due to their unstable condition with frequent flooding and cave-ins.

Nona BakerTin Mine Exhibit

This lady, Nona Baker, was the sister of the General Manager during WWII. They both hid in the jungle during the Japanese invasion and were looked after by Communists who were resisting the Japanese. She had to endure terrible hardships but she survived. You can read her story in Refugee from the Japanese by Dorothy Thatcher.

Sungai Lembing Today

After the mine closed the town went into steep decline. Many of the former miners left for greener pastures or switched into agriculture or logging. But thanks to its unique heritage it is starting to attract a few tourists. Apart from the museum, the towns’ attractions include old style wooden shop-houses:

Public Library Main Street Sungai Lembing

Some historic touches:

Old mail boxMemorial listing casualties during the Emergency.

Three ‘hanging bridges’:

'Hanging Bridge' (pedestrian suspension bridge)

Then there is Bukit Panorama – a small hill which, as the name implies, gives good views over the town and, on the opposite side, a vista towards Kuantan. Most people time their climb of this hill so that they arrive to see the sunrise. I got up at 5.30 am and walked up in the dark. It took less than half an hour. The path has concrete steps and a handrail so it is easy to climb in the dark provided you have a torch. Here is a short video from the top. As you can hear from the soundtrack there were other parties who had made the climb.

Bukit Panorama, Sungai Lembing


The unusual shaped hill you can see in the distance is Bukit Charas where a temple cave called Gua Charas is located, containing a Reclining Buddha statue. 

After my climb I went to the Chinese food court and tried to order a coffee and some Mee (noodles). Due to my poor language skills the old lady gave me a coffee and an iced Milo (MeeLo) instead.  Luckily I was thirsty.  I got some noodles in the end.

Mee and MeeLo.

I had stayed the night before in the Pollock View Resort, a small lodge with 9 rooms and an outdoor reception cum bar. Judging by the photos on the wall the place is popular with the Hash House Harrier crowd.

Reception/Bar at Pollock View Resort

The room was simple and clean and they lent me one of their bikes free-of-charge to explore the town. 

Pollock View Resort, Sungai Lembing

Overall I enjoyed my visit to Sungai Lembing. These cats outside my hotel sum up the feeling of the place.

Cosy Cats in Sungai Lembing

Klang – Royal Town

Is that my reflection on the balcony?

My guide book on Malaysia says that the only tourist attraction worth seeing in Klang is the Tin Museum which is housed in a 150 year old warehouse building next to the River Klang. I went there today and found the building quite easily but it was padlocked and there was no signage to indicate that it is still a museum so I suppose it is no longer operational.

Gedung Raja Abdulla - ex Tin Museum.

That was a disappointment but when that sort of thing happens you just have to look a little harder to find something of interest. This historic town, a former royal capital of Selangor, the wealthiest and most populous state in Malaysia, must have something else of appeal to visitors. And soon enough I found it, a gem of a museum, the Royal Gallery (Galeri Diraja Sultan Abdul Aziz) located on nearby Jalan Stesen.

Galeri Diraja Sultan Abdul Aziz

Would you believe it, this classic old building dated 1909 was designed by that prolific architect AB Hubback! This is the third week running that I have come across one of his buildings purely by accident (see my Ipoh and Seremban posts). Originally built as a colonial government office, the building served as a Japanese military headquarters during WWII and was home to various local government departments since independence before being converted into this excellent museum a few years ago. The museum (free entry) contains a great collection of the late Sultan of Selangor’s personal artifacts, memorabilia and royal paraphernalia. The displays include day-to-day items (for a king!) like silver tea services and plates as well as a tea spoon collection, cameras, coins, medals, models, some superb krises (Malaysian daggers), replicas of Selangor’s crown jewels, uniforms, samurai helmets and various gifts from royals and dignitaries from around the world.  I was not aware until I read it in the museum that the Selangor royals were originally Bugis from Celebes (Sulawesi) who were forced out of their island in the 1700s by the Dutch and migrated to the Klang area to set up a new dynasty.

As often seems to happen in Malaysia, I was the only person in the museum.

Across the street from the Galeri Diraja is an interesting building dating from 1874, formerly Chartered Bank, the first bank in Klang, but now occupied and well maintained by a sari shop.  According to the Selangor State Museum, during WWII the Japanese used this building as an interrogation and execution centre for prisoners of war

Former Chartered Bank Building, Klang

Klang was for a time the state capital of Selangor until that honour shifted to Shah Alam. Of course the town had to have a palace for the Sultan and not a modest one either, sprawling over 24 acres. There was talk of opening part of the palace to the public but it seems that has not happened yet.

Istana Alam Shah - Klang's Royal Palace

There appears to be a large ethnically Indian population in Klang and the Little India district, centered around Jalan Tengku Kelana, is one of the more vibrant and colourful ones around. I enjoyed a tasty curry in the New Colombo, one of the more up- market looking restaurants in that area. I opted for a curry in preference to a Bak Kut Teh (literally translated as meat bone tea) which is one of Klang’s most famous and highly sought after dishes, but not really my cup of tea.

Meat Bone Tea or curry? Curry it is.

There are plenty of interesting sights and smells in Little India, (Jalan Tengku Kelana).

1996? That date seems doubtful. 1956. Now that's a good year.

Colourful sari shop. Flower garland sellers.

There is a nice diorama of this same street in olden days in the State Museum in Shah Alam:

Jalan Tengku Kelana (Little India) Klang.

This is the mighty River Klang,  looking a bit feeble at low tide, with only a few kilometers to go to reach the sea at Port Klang, the main commercial container port serving the Klang Valley region which includes Kuala Lumpur.

Klang River. Nearly at the sea.

Klang is quite a big town these days. It has to be said that there a lot of untidy, ugly and run down parts to it. But if you are in KL and have a day to kill, why not jump on the train and pop down to Klang? All the photos taken in this post were taken within walking distance of the railway station.

Sri Nagara Thendayuthapani Temple, Klang