Weekend Escapade at the Rainbow waterfalls, Kuantan
Malaysia makes a convenient stop for nature lovers like me to seek out greenery and nature spots during weekends. This weekend, my travelmate, Anne and I decided to join a group of like-minded adventure seekers in Singapore for a nature escapade to catch the sunrise at the Bukit Panorama and visit the famed Rainbow Waterfallin Sungai Lembing, Kuantan.
Sungai Lembing, translated in Malay, means River Spear, is located about 42-kilometres away from Kuantan on the east coast of Malaysia. Home to Bukit Panorama and Rainbow Waterfalls, the town has seen its heydays as a tin mining town from 1970s to mid 1980s. Sungai Lembing was once known as El Dorado of the East and was the richest town in Pahang. The mines were subsequently shut in 1986 due to low profitability with the collapse of the world tin prices. Gone are those days of prosperity.
Today, Sungei Lembing is a sleepy old town, home to many elderly miners who spend their leisure time chilling at the hawker centre in the town area. We explored the town and its surroundings, gazed at numerous rustic zinc-clad houses and shophouses that lined the main street and the Malay-styled traditional houses. As we explored further, we crossed a hanging suspension wooden bridge which connects people from the other side of the river to the main town and saw a huge Chinese graveyard that was tucked at the corner of the town. The majestic ancient tree in the middle of the main is probably the only object that withstood the test of time.
On weekends, the sleepy town comes alive with throngs of local families and tourists, who are in town to visit Bukit Panoramic and the Rainbow Waterfalls. The trek to Bukit Panorama is relatively easy as there is only one trail to the mountaintop and is impossible to get lost. The well-trodden trail comes complete with concrete steps and railings which makes it accessible to elderly folks as well. The hike to the summit takes about 45 minutes. We clambered up the endless steps in the dark with our torches and headlights, heaved and panted throughout the way and finally reached the summit by 6.30am. By then, the place was filled with crowds, from avid photographers to families and groups of friends, all eagerly awaiting the first rays of the sun. Unfortunately, luck as not on our side that day, and the sun remained tucked behind the clouds. Nonetheless, we were well-rewarded by the picturesque sight of the sea of clouds that surrounds the mountainview at the summit.
A trip to Sungai Lembing would not be complete without a visit to its crowned jewel – The Rainbow Waterfalls. Touted as one of the most beautiful waterfallin Malay Peninsula, the Rainbow Waterfall boasts of a natural vertical waterfall which drops from a height of approximately 500 feet. The most intriguing part of this waterfall is that when the sun cast its rays onto the mist created by the tall wispy trails of the waterfall from the top, it forms a spectacular rainbow arch across the rocks and the waters.
The journey to the rainbow waterfall was a adventurous one. We had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to take our breakfast before we hit the road for the one-hour four-wheel drive. Changing terrains from tarred ground, muddy trails to rocky surfaces made travelling on the four-wheel vehicle a bumpy yet fun experience. Along the way, we spotted some nature lodges, admired the surrounding greenery and beautiful hues of the morning sun and its silhouette cast upon river and were greeted by occasional canopies of bamboo and plush green ferns.
We waded our way across a small river before we reach the jungle trail that leads to the waterfall. In the jungle, we clambered over roots, fallen trunks and ropeways and crossed streams before we finally reached our destination.
The sight of the waterfall with the colourful arch of rainbow was magical. Some of my travel mates excitedly stripped into their swimwear and headed straight into the waters, while others busied themselves with finding the best spots to capture this nature’s gem. I became an instant shutterbug and took numerous shots of the picture-perfect rainbow from varying angles. My jovial driver candidly asked me to pose for a “rainbow-eating shot”, which I candidly obliged. The photograph turned out pretty hilarious.
“Go in and see the mini rainbow!”, said the friendly driver. I carefully treaded the water to join my travelmates at the waterfall. Taking photographs of the Rainbow Waterfallwas memorable but being immersed in the waters, seeing the “mini rainbows” from within with the wispy trails of the waterfallcascading right above our heads was truly unforgettable. It is surreal to see several mini-rainbows within reach. We lazed around the waterfallbefore we headed back to the shore to have our lunch,
cup instant noodles and hot beverages using the water from the waterfall. Though it was not a big feast, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and the sight that captivated us.
Thrill seekers can also pitch tents and camp overnight near the waterfallor swim to the nearby gorge but beware of leeches. Bicycles and scooters are also available for rental at the town centre.
The Sungai Lembing Museum that is housed in an old colonial bungalow is a worthy stop to learn more about the tin mining trade in the area. The free museum sits atop of a hill and showcases an interesting collection of tin mining artefacts and parahphernalias used for underground mining in the old days.
Despite the stark contrast from its flourishing days in the past, the town has a quiet, rustic charm which makes it endearing for a short stay. We returned home to Singapore, with achy muscles from the trek but contented, as we managed to catch the gorgeous hues of the rainbow at the waterfalls.
Being typical Singaporeans, we hunted all the interesting delicacies and snacks and devoured them to our hearts’ contents.
Chee Chong fun, deep fried fish with mango, braised pork with yam, lazi mian, tomato noodles at the hawker centre, popular coconut biscuits, tea house (big bowl tea at 1 ringgit), yellow noodles (local produce) with Yong taofu
Best time to view the rainbow at the waterfall between 93o to 12.
If you are lucky, you may even see the double rainbow.
The arrangement of private minivan services from Singapore to Kuantan, Malaysia can be arranged from travel agencies at Golden Mile Complex. The drive from Singapore to Sungei Lembing, which is 40 kilometres from Kuantan takes about 7 hours. To save costs, it would be ideal to get a group of 8 to 10 people to share the costs of the transport. Transport for the four-wheel drive vehicle to get to the waterfallcan be easily arranged in the town of Sungei Lembing.
1. Do equip yourselves with headlights or torchlight for the early morning trek to the Panoramic Hill as you will be required to trek in the dark up the numerous steps to the summit to catch the sunrise.
2. Do visit Restoran Hoover, the only Chinese restaurant that is open in the evening. The braised pork with yam, deep fried fish with shredded mango and braised toufu are must-tries. You can bring back some authentic traditional coconut biscuits as gifts from your friends in Singapore.
3. Bring your swimming costumes and your cameras when you visit the Rainbow Waterfalland get into the waterfallto get a close-up view of wispy trails within the waterfalls. A waterproof camera is recommended so that you can take interesting shots of the mini rainbow within the waterfalls. The best time to catch the rainbow is from 9am to 11am.
4. Don’t forget to pack in patience and the right attitude for travelling as there may be times when long waiting hours are expected for transport.
5. Don’t forget to put your valuables including your passport and camera in a waterproof bag as river crossing is required during the trek to the waterfalls.