Friday, July 16, 2010

Sungei Lembing(林明), Pahang

Sungei Lembing(林明)is the ex-tin mining town, that is special to my heart; it is the town I have been visiting each week since early 80s to late 90s. The town I am very familiar, the people, the building, the food, and the streets, the stories....

The last time I visit was in early 2000, with a couple from Lichfield, England. That time the Tin Mine Museum was just completed, but still not open for the public. The old food courts is still around, but is only with few stalls remain only. At that time we visited the mine tunnel entrance; the factory; the hanging bridge; the bakery; crystal house etc...not many people around, the town is deserted. Other than that the town remain the same.

Some people said that, Sungai Lembing is closest to heaven....what do you think?. But I know it is one of the most beautiful place in Malaysia. I am happy now Sg Lembing have been developed into a tourist town. I still remember during the late 90s, when talking with the Sungai Lembibng locals, it is always their wish to develop the town as tourist destination. I still remember the old Malay state assemblyman who put all his heart into the dream, he later open a resort at Sg Lembing, the first resort. I do not know he is still around.....

Location map of Sungai Lembing

View Larger Map

The name of Sungai Lembing
Sungai Lembing(林明)is a tin mining town 42 km northwest of Kuantan(关丹) in Pahang(彭亨), Malaysia. "Lembing" is Malay word for spear, and "sungai" means river. Sungai Lembing literally means The Spear River. It is said that the name came about when a group of men went hunting and successfully speared a deer. However with the spear still sticking to its body, the deer escaped into the river and disappeared. It was only later when tin miners gravelling for tin in the river found the missing spear, and after this incident residents named the river and place as Sungai Lembing. Another legend has it that a village chief saw images of spears in the river and he decided to name the river as Sungai Lembing. The Chinese word for the town is Lin-bing(林明),and Lam-bing in Cantonese, it is a direct translation of Malay word "Lembing".

There is another story, that in 1868, there was a Chinese miner from Biliton(勿里洞岛), Indonesia, named Lim Ming(林明) or Lim Ah San(林亞三) who bought in a group of Chinese mine workers to Sungai Lembing. Lim Ming was one of the pioneer prospectors in Pahang and he had a daughter married to the Sultan of Pahang. The sultan gave his daughter a piece of land which was later given to her father. Lim Ming with two partners who were tin traders from Singapore, formed a company and on November 8, 1883, an agreement was signed between the sultan and the company where a land of 2500 square miles was leased for 75 years. After the land became the leased mining area of Lim Ming, he began to commercialize tin mining and the locals started to call this place Sungai Lembing after their leader's name. The name of the river that flow along the town is called Kenau River, a tributary from River Kuantan, and not Sungai Lembing. There is no river called Lembing in the area, the name was most probably a linguistic translation from Hakka "Lim Bing" to Malay "Lembing". The river is then call Sungai Lim Bing or Sungai Lembing by the local Chinese. The town is then later named after the river, which was named after their leader, Lim Ming(Lim Bing in Hakka). The village town was Lim Bing, then Lembing, then become Sugai Lembibg, the town is now named Sungai Lembing. However there is no historical evidence to support the story.

Note: Belitung, (or in English, Billiton), is an island on the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia in the Java Sea. The island is known for its pepper and for its tin. It was in the possession of the British from 1812 until the British ceded control of the island to the Dutch in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824. Its main town is Tanjung Pandan. Now it belongs to the new province of Bangka Belitung (Provinsi Bangka Belitung). The island is split into two Kabupatens: Kab. Belitung (capital is Tanjung Pandan) and Kab. Belitung Timur (capital is Manggar). Australian mining company BHP Billiton derives its name from this island. Billiton was a mining company whose origins stretch back to 29 September 1860, when the articles of association were approved by a meeting of shareholders in the Groot Keizerhof hotel in The Hague, Netherlands. Two months later, the company acquired the mineral rights to the tin-rich islands of Banka (Bangka) and Billiton (Belitung) in the Indonesian archipelago, off the eastern coast of Sumatra. The early tin miners of Belitung are mainly Hakka Chinese. That is the possibility the connection of Kalimantan Hakka gold miners, Billiton tin miners, and Sg Lembing tim miners, somebody can do a research on the topic...




View Larger Map

How to get there

From Kuantan take the route Jalan Bukit Ubi to the Indera Mahkota town. The old road Jalan Sg Lembing, passing the junction to Felda Bt Goh/Kuantan area, but the road is flood prone area during monsoon or raining days. The road may have improved when I left Kuantan. From Jalan Sg Lembing it continue to Jalan Sultan Abu Bakar(The C4 route), passing T juction to Felda Bt Goh/Bt Kuantan, Pantai Timor Highway, T junction of Jalan Sungai Panching Selatan, Panching town(班珍小镇), after that you follow a winding road to arrive at Sungai Lembing. From Panching to Sungai Lembing town, you are following the contour of the Sungai Lembing(local name, official name is Sungai Kenau from Sungai Kuantan), the view from the river bank is attractive.

If you go by bus, the town is served by Seng Heng Company bus, a faithful bus company which have been serving the town for long time. Bus Fare : RM3.20. You can go there by taxi, with fare of RM20.

Sungai Lembing Town

When you see Malay village, and mosque, and a police station on the left(near the foot of famous Bukit Panorama or Panorama Hill. The town is close.

When you enter the town proper, you will see a food court on the left, and three Chinese associations on the right. This is the town square or South Main Street(南大街), the exact location is North Main Street of Sungei Lembing. The No. 2,North Main Street is Persatuan Hakka Sungai Lembing or Sungai Lembing Hakka Association(林明客家公会), Cantonese Clan Association(林明廣肇會館), and No. 4 is Kiung Chow Kwee Kuan(林明琼州会馆), which is Hainanese Association, established in 1918. Kiung Chow Kwee Kuan had established a night school(平民夜校)at No.18, South Main Street, but closed down in 1925. If you are lucky, you will see the mobile bank parking beside Hakka Association, the only mobile bank in Malaysia, may be in the world. The town is beside the river, and the main street on the right bank, the North Main Street is split by an avenue of majestic rain trees. One of the big old tree, reported may be 100 years old, which is icon of the town, is still there. The lone heritage petrol station is along the street. At the end, an old wooden building overlooks the padang where once the games of cricket and other social activities were held. Many old offices and quarters around the hill, where post office and the museum is located. You will arrive at the tin processing plant complex if you continue north, and further north is a hanging bridge going to village opposite located at the river bank.

Turning left from the town square, beside the food court, the road( Java Street?) lead to a crossroad, with market(the local call it pasar, a Malay word) on the left, and used to be the busiest part of the town, row of shops on both side of the road. This is Canton Street. At the left of the street, famous Restaurant Hoover is located within the shop house, and opposite under the tree is Sungai Lembing noodle. Going forward at the foot of the hill is the Chinese Primary School, SJK (C) Lembing(林明国民型华文小学), on the right is Sungai Lembing Library(林明民众图书馆), only one of few Chinese private owned library in the state. is opposite the school on the left.

Before entering the town square, just opposite the police station, turning right there is a wooden bridge. Across the river by the bridge, the local called it Seberang(meaning opposite bank in Malay), there are Chinese villages and cemetery hill. The famous roast pork is at A-259, Jalan Jeram Takar, 26200 Sungai Lembing, Kuantan, Pahang. Tthe place is call Jeram Takar(老伙角), but now Jalan Takar or Jalan Jeram Takar?

The orang asli village at Kampung Mas is access by crossing a hanging bridge on the left further south on the way back to Kuantan.

I hope I have a Sg Lembing map, where I can do a tour of town by walking around.What a memory....

Mining HISTORY OF SUNGAI LEMBING

1868 Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Muazzam Shah I signed a concession with Baba Ah Sam
1888 Arrival of European mining company.
1891 Pahang Consolidated Company Limited (PCCL) gets a 77-year lease.
1905 mining started by PCCL.
1921 a fire that ravaged shophouses.
1926 floods.
1950s heydays of the mine with 15,000 people working at the mine.
1985 tin prices in the world market collapsed.
1986 mine closed.
1987 the settlement surrendered to the Pahang state
2003 mining museum opened.

Note: There is also a story that a Cambodian named Wan Muhammad, known locally as Tok Tangguk, who came to mine tin in 1868 at Sg Lembing


Sungai Lembing, a somewhat "sleepy" town in Pahang, located about 42km from Kuantan, was, in the early 20th century, once known as the El-Dorado of the East. It was the place in the East where financial riches were made. It had then the richest deposits of tin ore in the world, second only to Bolivia.

In fact, at Sungai Lembing, there were lode mining as well as alluvial mining activities prior to the arrival of the Europeans in 1888 and before that, it had been worked for more than 100 years by the Chinese and Malays by using open-cast mining. Mining began in the 19th century in 1868 when Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Muazzam Shah I signed a concession with Baba Ah Sam. (Is Baba Ah Sam the same person as Lim Ah Sam@ Lim Bing?).

When the British came to Pahang in the late 1800s, the mining concession area at Sungai Lembing was taken over by the British owned Pahang Corporation. Later, the Pahang Corporation and existing loss-making mining companies in Pahang were wound up and combined to form the Pahang Consolidated Company Ltd. (PCCL) in 1891 with a 77-year lease to mine the area. Sultan Pahang Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Muazzam Shah I agreed to the proposal and in 1905 mining started. This company started to intensively mine the Sungai Lembing area in 1906 until its closure in 1986.(Note: Pahang Consolidated Company Ltd also purchased two pieces of land near Sg Lembing to plant rubber in 1906). The tin mine in Sungai Lembing is the deepest and longest underground mine in the world. It was once commercialized on a big scale and enriched the nation’s economy, making Sungai Lembing renowned throughout the world. Until the 1970s, Sungai Lembing was a major producer of underground tin. It was once the richest town in Pahang, known as El Dorado of the East. In the 1940's about 1400 people worked in the mine.

The tin ores in those days were mined underground via various levels of tunnels. And as the years went by eventually Sungai Lembing had the largest, longest and deepest subterranean mine in the world.

(source: http://www.malayarailway.com/2009/10/sungai-lembing-mining-legacy.html)

The tin mine was opened(not discovered) in 1888 by a London-based mining company. Sultan Pahang Almarhum Sultan Ahman Muazzam Shah I agreed to their proposal and in 1905 mining started. Pahang Consolidated Company Ltd (PCCL) operated in Sungai Lembing for more than 80 years, until the mine finally closed. Tin prices in the world market collapsed, and the mine could not operate any more.

Until the 1970s, Sungai Lembing was a major producer of underground tin. Sungai Lembing town developed in the 1880's when the British set up the tin mining industry, although the history of mining in this area extends much further back. From 1891, the Pahang Consolidated Company Limited, (PCCL), which was under British control, had a 77-year lease to mine the area. PCCL managed the mine from 1906 until its liquidation in 1986 when world tin prices collapsed. In 60 & 70s, this town was a hive of activities. It even has a duty free shop. Sungai Lembing was like a country of his own, enjoying duty free imported goods. At that time some Kuantan residents said Sg Lembing people very proud, they lived better than them. There even a railway to Kuantan.

The pit mines were closed in 1986 due to high operational costs and low yields, but during their heyday they were among the largest and deepest in the world. The total tunnel length is 322 km, with a depth of between 610 m and 700 m. A museum highlighting the tin mining industry was opened in 2003. The museum is housed in an old bungalow once used by the mine manager. The museum houses a collection of mining artifacts.

Further to the north of museum is an old mine shaft which may be visited, but only from the outside. There is so far no underground tour available. But it is possible to visit the existing mining company Sungai Lembing Tin by calling the manager (Tel: +60-9-411-766), and to visit the processing factory.

History of Sg Lembing railway line

To add efficiency and productivity, a narrow-gauge railway line network was built from Sungai Lembing mining area all the way to Panching which is about 25 kilometers away where Panching area also known to have rich iron ore resources.

Steam locomotives were then used to transport iron from Panching to Sungai Lembing mining centre. The Sg. Lembing tin mine in Pahang was reputed to be among the world's largest and deepest. The total tunnel length is 322km, with a depth of between 610m and 700m. There were two main mines. Myah Mine is 700m deep, and Tabeto Mine 488m. The mines were dug on many levels, with about 30m of rock between the tunnels.

Meanwhile, inside the mining tunnel, railway lines were built for transportation purposes. This was how the miners of Sg. Lembing tin mine reached their workplace each day. They would then spend six hours underground, extracting the tin ore from the main lode. At the end of their shift, the lift would transport them back to the surface and daylight and fresh air. For those six hours of subterranean work, they were paid $40-$44 in 1950. Miners dug into the rock face and broke the stones using iron hammers. The lumps of ore would be put into railway carts, which were taken up to the surface by lift.For lighting the men used carbide lights, until they were replaced in later years by personal electric lights. The battery pack was worn around the waist and connected by a cable to the headpiece mounted on the helmet. These lamps are still used by miners around the world today.

The yard was built next to the mining area to gather iron ore collected from the mines in various areas and connected by narrow-gauge railway line.

(extract from http://www.malayarailway.com/2009/10/sungai-lembing-mining-legacy.html with thanks)

Sungai Lembing Today

Today the mining activities of Sg Lembing has stopped commercially, but some enterprising individuals may have continue on small scale since the tin price has returned. Sg Lembing was once the richest town in Pahang, known as El Dorado of the East. It was a duty free town, with even railway serving the town to Kuantan. In the 1940's about 1400 people worked in the mine. That is why it is closest to heaven.

After the tin mine closure, most of the residents move down to Kuantan. Sg Lembing town become a dead town, and only old people remained in the town. There used to be a Taiwanese bamboo chop sticks factory opened, but soon closed down. The attempt to revive the town as tourist destination has shown positive result to the town. From the recent photo taken from various blog, Sungai Lembing has changed and there are development to built it as tourist destination. The old houses and shops are painted with multi-color, it seems the food court at the main road has rebuilt(opposite Hakka Association). The trees at the main road still around. The boss of Restaurant Hoover, must have moved back from Kuantan to Sungai Lembing, I do not know the Mak family, the last time I met them they have a lucrative noodle business at Kuantan Garden. The talkative tau-foo man still around?. How about the friendly couple at the food outlet, are they still around? The young boss of the sundry shop at the main street, should be still open, as he is faithful to Sungai Lembing, despite the decline in population he still open his sundry shop. Opposite the sundry shop, there is fruit stall, is she still selling ice-kachang(literally red bean ice, actually a dessert served in ice)?.All my friends in the seberang(opposite the river)....

The tourist attractions

1. Sunrise on Bukit Panorama(看云海,看日出)
Sungai Lembing. Nearby Sungai Lembing is Bukit Panorama, which is a popular place to watch the sunrise in the early morning. Hike the hill before 5a.m. to get a good view of sunrise.
2. Rainbow Waterfall(彩虹瀑布) - Rainbow appeared after sun shine on the waterfall.
3. Hanging Bridge or suspension bridge(吊索桥)- hanging bridge across the river to seberang. There are three hanging bridges in Sg Lembing, but beware of the missing plank.
4. Tin Mine Museum(林明博物馆) - A mining museum highlighting the tin mining industry is located in the former mine manager bungalow in the north of the town. It was opened in 2003 by the Museums and Antiquities Department with the objective to inform about the mining history of Pahang. The exhibition has the following topics, the PCCL, geomorphology, equipment and attire, mining memoir, dioramas, mining economics, and the Wakaf. There is also a so-called mining arcade for children. The museum was the idea of the former assemblyman of Sg Lembing(name forgot), he has privately collected many of old machinery and tools, many of the equipment and machines have been stolen and sold as scrap iron. Salute to this man for his foresight.
5. Crystal House(水晶屋) - a privately own museum with collection of colorful crystal from Sg Lembing area .
6. Gunung Tapis Nature Park(大卑士山)- 16 km from Sg. Lembing is Gunung Tapis Nature Park, where one can camp, fish, and shoot the rapids. Gunung Tapis itself is 1,512 m high. The risk for the place is beware of the flood.
7. The Sungai Pandan waterfall, , which is 29 km from Kuantan
8. Gua Charas (Sleeping Buddha found in a temple cave) in oil palm plantation called Kuala Reman Estate, near Panching village town, are within short driving distance. You need to climb a steep steps to the cave. Need to pay for the lighting, take care for the steps, it is slippery. For history fan, Kuala Reman Estate was owned by the late Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew under Oriental Rubber & Palm Oil Sdn Bhd, the one who introduced Honda motor and Honda car to Malaysia. The days before his death, it was reported that he was actually planning something for the place, as he was flying to the estate.
9. LAO ZI TEMPLE(太上老君庙)
On the way to Sungai Lembing, at the 12 km milestone, is located the Lao Zi Temple where we can find an Antique House containing antiques of Chinese origin. The Golden Dragon structure there is said to be the longest in the world, measuring 2,700 feet long. It has a walkway where one can walk into the Dragon through the tail and come out at the mouth. Inside this Dragon the words of the Dao De Jing are written in the walkway, and it is believed by the Chinese that when one comes out from the Dragon’s mouth, one has possessed the mystical prowess of the dragon, and will therefore obtain good luck and fortune.

Another must do when visit Sg Lembing, talk with the villagers, especially the old villagers. Most of them are friendly, they are willing to tell you the story of the Sg Lembing, the past, the current, and ma be the future. I hope the Museum have a section on oral history, story telling by the old villagers before the history is lost.

Travel risk

1. Climate risk - Sg Lembing will face flood once a year, avoid going Gunung Tapis during raining season, you may be trapped and not able to come back. Unless you like to experience the flood at Sg Lembing, raining season is not the time to visit. If you want to know the history of the flood, ask the local residents, they will show you the water mark at the shop house for the worst flood in Sg Lembing, where the whole town was practically flood with water.

2. Underground mining tunnel is no longer safe to visit.



Sungai Lembing food

The mineral water of the mining town Sg lembing, like Ipoh city, produced best noodle and bean curd(tau foo), tau foo fa, yong tau foo(酿豆腐) in Pahang, at Ah Fong Noddle stall(阿凤面档). The famous charcoal baked Sg Lembing Kampong Java coconut biscuit(林明椰子饼), fresh bread make using the mine's old oven, hand made Lembing noodle(林明面)from Mak family( used to be selling under the tree, after the market), Sg Lembing Jeram Takar roasted pork meat( Now Jalan Takar 老伙角林明烧肉)and other delicious food, Yingyang milk tea at Jubilee Cafe(千禧茶室).

Take your lunch and dinner at Restaurant Hoover(豪华中餐餐馆),at Canton Street(广东街). I have been taking food there for many years and known the boss. The shop is just opposite the Mak family's noodle stall.

There is a special cookies they called "tan shang", make by a woman at the shop near Hakka Association.



Remains of its Heydays: The underground tunnels & the mine

Someone said the Sungai Lembing town is on top of the underground mining tunnels

The original tunnels to the underground tin mines can still be found there, although they are dangerous for visitors as the wooden beams have rotted. And through the years, at most places the tunnels have caved in.

In one tunnel it is possible to go in for a short distance to feel the cool and dense atmosphere of the interior. But do bring along a torchlight when you visit, and there are bats inside for sure! It may have closed for public now, as it may be dangerous with the risk of collapse.

The skeletal remains of the offices and other work-places of the tin-mining company can still be seen, having been ravaged, not by elements of nature, but by some irresponsible, greedy man in the area. But some may have been salvage and renovated.





If you happen to be in Kuantan, do not miss the chance to visit Sg Lembing. For me I should go back to see the changes. I do not know the folk still remember me.....

林明是山高水长
东亚产锡的名乡
遥望着烟林飞瀑
围绕着泉石风光
林明华小屹立此方
人杰地灵发出万丈的光芒

我们要学习自强
我们要比较万邦
把身心锻炼强壮
大家一起向前进
迎头赶上气概激昂
迈向光明美好康庄的大道

This is the school song of SJK (C) Lembing(林明国民型华文小学).....it is my sincere hope that Sungai Lembing will "迈向光明美好康庄的大道"(toward a better future) as the school children have sing the song over and over, louder and louder .... for their beloved home town, Sungai Lembing.......

Related articles

1. http://www.journeymalaysia.com/MC_sungeilembing.htm
2. http://pahangtrekker.malaysiatrekker.com/muzium_sg_lembing.htm
3. http://www.flsam.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html( about Sg Lembing food)
4. http://lookat.my/blog/2009/03/12/friendly-people-good-food-fantastic-sunrise-a-small-and-colourful-town-call-sungai-lembing/(Beautiful photography of Sg Lembing, must see)
5. Sungai Lembing, The Hidden Treasure (Day 1), http://dexxy.net/2010/05/sungai-lembing-the-hidden-treasure-day-1/(Recent photo of the town on April 2010)
8. Enchanted Sungai Lembing, http://blacktr33.blogspot.com/2009/03/enchanted-sungai-lembing.html(another recent photo of the town)
9.林明!你好 Lembing River Town, http://mypaper.pchome.com.tw/lembingrivertown/post/1291246920
10.Saturday Night Roasted Pork Fever(周末烧肉), http://blog.axian788.com/?p=660
11. A history of Pahang Consolidated Company Limited, 1906-1966(1966), by Pahang Consolidated Co., Ltd. in London. Note: This book should be in the library and meseum at Sg Lembing, if not done so, a history on 60 years of tin mining at Sg Lembing.
12.Sungai Lembing Mining Legacy, http://www.malayarailway.com/2009/10/sungai-lembing-mining-legacy.html(old photo and new photo of railway track at Sg Lembing, an interesting article)
13.Risk Assessment at Abandoned Tin Mine In Sungai Lembing, Pahang, http://www.ejge.com/2009/Ppr0948/Ppr0948.pdf
14.Travel: Sungai Lembing, The El Dorado Of The East(2008), http://www.mysinchew.com/node/18306
15.勿里洞悲慘華工史, http://www.sinchew-i.com/indonesia/node/13690
16. 沾满“契约华工”血泪的印尼锡岛, http://www.skylinemonthly.com/showInfo_gb.asp?id=1734&moduleid=0000800004&title=%CB%FB%CF%E7%B9%CA%CA%C2
17. Standing Above the Clouds – Sungai Lembing, http://erk.wahlaoeh.com/?p=1015( a young doctor's account on Sg Lembing)

No comments:

Post a Comment