Sungei Lembing, the place that time forgot
I got woken up by Anida at 5am in the morning. One by one we slowly emerged from the dorm room without making too much noise and hopped in a car to drive towards Sungei Lembing. Felt ever so lucky that I managed to carpool with Maryanne, Rajesh & Anida. I could have taken the bus, but that would also mean that I had to stay the night to catch the sunrise on Panorama Hill. Getting a good start from the morning for a day trip was pure perfection!
Arriving in Sungei Lembing around 6am was interesting. Never have I seen a small town so alive at the break of dawn. There were people crowding in coffeeshops, having breakfast and coffee, groups of tourists going off on jeeps to visit the attractions nearby.
Sungei Lembing was indeed unique. As if stuck back in time, I felt like I was on a set of an old film from the 1970s. The town was mostly populated with an older generation of senior citizens, all of whom were extremely friend and seemed really happy to see tourism expand in their little town. There were hunchbacked old women and men with their greying hair, all of them looked so peaceful and content just working small odd jobs at a store selling biscuits or clearing tables in a coffeeshop. The pace of life is really slow, locals and tourists would be wasting their day slowly, sipping on Teh-Os or Kopi-Os, chitchatting and participating in friendly daily gossips. In a nutshell Sungei Lembing reminded me a lot of North Thailand’s Pai in a different way. But not the Pai that everyone knows, the Pai that was possibly untouched before hippies and backpackers destroyed it. The main flock of tourists here are mostly people from other parts of Malaysia, Singaporeans and also a bit of other travellers from neighbouring countries within SEA, there was hardly any “western backpacker”scene as you would witness in Thailand, and even if it has a lot of potential to be THAT lazy town to chill out and do nothing as a hippie, I’m glad Sungei Lembing only attracts people who truly want to see it for what it is – The heritage.
So since we arrived slightly late, it was almost a rush up to the peak of Panorama hill to catch the sunrise. I was climbing up flights of stairs at full speed, going past many people along the way who stopped to catch a breather. It was a fairly easy climb up the hill via a long flight of steep steps, most of the way there were metal handles to grab on to. The cold air started to turn slightly damp as sweat starting to run down the back of my neck, but I still pushed on. Within 30 minutes I finally reached the top.
Upon reaching the top 30 minutes later, I found that the peak wasn’t just a small view point but a whole stretch along the tip of the hill that had a wide panoramic view of the surrounding landscapes, hence the name of the hill! I found a quieter spot, stood there and just took in the view. The wind was cool and it would have been perfect if it weren’t for the huge crowd of people, most of which were busy taking pictures with these “œselfie-sticks” that they call a monopod -.-
Some families have packed picnics and sat in a slightly less crowded area, enjoying the chilly morning breeze. I watched the layers of clouds float by like a foggy river over a sea of trees surrounding the mountains. The view wasn’t too spectacular by comparison to many other viewpoints I’ve been but anywhere that offers a panoramic view of Mother Nature at it’s best is enough to make me feel rewarded, especially after a hike.
The other next rewarding thing after completing a hike is of course FOOD. There was a food centre at the base of the mountain that sold a wide variety of food ranging from Yam cakes, dim sums to Hakka noodles & roast meat. I had to try the famous Yong Tau Foo and Mountain Water tofu. The queue was massive and the amount of people anticipating to try the Sungei Lembing speciality was unreal.
I spent the rest of the day taking a walk around Sungei Lembing, looking at the old buildings, sipping on milk tea in a coffee-shop and writing in my diary, occasionally having short broken conversations in dialect with this friendly old lady. There was also a river that you could cross, small roads that make perfect bicycle trails. Shame I didn’t have anymore time to explore or else I would have rented one and cycled around the villages off the beaten track!
:Â from Kuantan:
Driving from Kuantan takes 45min to 1 hour on a easy highway that have signs almost the whole way to guide you there.
Take bus 500 from the main bus station (Hentian Bandar Kuantan) and alight at the terminal. It’s as straightforward as it gets !