Monday, 22 October 2018

Lenggong: double storey rivers, automatic tin dredging and a very old man

Looking for a very old man...

More exploring! One would think we’re amateur archaeologists what with our interest in the various digs around this northern region. Having visited the Bujang Valley and seen digs dating back 1000 years, we thought we’d have a look at Lenggong where the remains of Perak Man were found.

The oldest human remains found in the Peninsula, Perak Man dates back about 11,000 years and is usually displayed at the Lenggong Archaeological Museum & Gallery. I’d wanted to come by when Mei, the kids and I made a trip to Belum a few years ago, but we were in a rush to get back to KL and skipped the visit. Time now to fill in that gap and meet the man…

As we have done a few times now, we set off from Penang and went across the second bridge and onto the North-South before exiting at Bagan Serai and then onto the A6 which makes a slight northern loop before coming back south past Lenggong as Route 76.

Maps are screen captures from Google Maps

This part of Perak has many quiet, well-paved roads and we could cruise at a very slow 65-70, a speed that allowed us to have a better look at the kampungs we went through and the road signs that sometimes pointed out interesting spots.

Along this route you might see large brown signboards listing multiple places of interest, the majority of which are waterfalls. We spied one called Lata Buluh and also had our curiosity piqued by two other names: Telaga Gergasi and the very oddly named Sungai Atas Sungai.

Bamboo Waterfall and a nice old man, but not THE old man.

To get to Lata Buluh (Bamboo Waterfall) you have to get off the A6 at Kampung Ayer Jerneh and drive up a very narrow but well-surfaced kampung road. The road runs beside a river for the most part then shortly after you see a small dam, it takes a left across a narrow metal bridge before climbing right past a few houses. A short distance later the road ends in a small cleared area beside a house and this is where we parked to explore. The owner smiled his agreement when I asked if we could park there and we then wandered down to have a look. A nice enough spot for a picnic actually, though this wasn’t our intention.

A low waterfall that was more a series of rapids than anything else, this area had quite a few pools that probably lent themselves well to wading and splashing about. Lots of rocks, not too much rubbish though enough to indicate that it was a reasonably popular spot.

Lovely curls in the roots

We walked up a short distance then decided not to carry on. Would it go to the top of the falls? Maybe we'll find out on our next visit.

A concreted path ran up on the right of the rapids. This in itself is not unusual as many areas here are actually estates and these paths give access for the workers. Concreting them make them more accessible to motorbikes that may be carrying rubber or other produce.

We didn’t go up very far and it seemed to deviate a little from the path of the rapids so we walked back down and headed back to the car. The area itself is quite pretty and would make a nice spot to have a picnic, though there aren’t many clearings to set a mat down.

I looked out for the gentleman who had let us park in his garden, to thank him, but found that he was instead looking out for us, to tell us that if we went up the hill past the carpark, the waterfall was even more impressive.

And so we drove up the 100 metres or so to a place where we could park and walk down. Impressive indeed!

Much higher than the low rapids we’d seen, this was a good 2 or 3 stories high, the water crashing down over a rock face and into a large pool in which a family were splashing about. The water ran off to the right, down to the rapids we’d been at earlier.

On this side of the bank was a small clearing where people have set campfires and so on. A few large rocks gave a clean surface to rest or place one’s belongings, as this family had done. The clearing itself was just bare earth and grass and I cast a wary eye out for leeches…

The Old Man hides from us

On the A6 and heading northwards, we crossed a few bridges, one of which had been laid across a gorge. To the left of the road was a tall, meandering waterfall, the water cascading down a hundred or more feet of foliage-fringed rockface,  disappearing beneath the bridge and then continuing on the right, as a much quieted river weaving through a verdant countryside. Quite pretty.

The A6 makes a curve southwards whereupon we turn onto Route 76 and continued south, going through Lenggong town. We had no difficulty locating the Lenggong Archaelogical Museum a little distance away. It is well sign-posted with even a big stone sign on the main road. The road in is also well paved and the building looks brand spanking new. But the gate was shut…
The guard at the guard house told me the museum is being renovated.
‘When will it open again?’ I asked.
‘Don’t know’
‘So where are the exhibits and all that now?’
‘Don’t know. But I think there’s a temporary gallery.’
‘Where is that?’
‘Don’t know…’

I could see this was going nowhere so we headed off, leaving Mr Don’t Know to his work. It seemed a shame as the museum building looked quite ready, from the outside. It had been painted and was actually quite stylish. So, after all these years, it seems I was still to be denied my introduction to Perak Man.

Back on the main road, we turned left and headed south. And what do you know… a short distance down the road we spied a small signboard, stuck in the ground, and pointing right to ‘Temporary Gallery’… Further up were a couple of right turns and we took the second one which led us through a large Chinese village only to come back to the main road a the first right turn. Maybe we’d missed it, so we went around again. Nothing.

On our third pass, locals were beginning to stare at us… and, nothing. We could find no building or structure that could have been a temporary gallery for Perak Man. This old guy was proving to be very elusive indeed!

We headed back north towards the gallery, keeping an eye out for maybe a small road that we’d missed. Just a little south of the small signboard was a turning on the left side of the road and it led to a bungalow about 200 metres in. Frustrated after a number of loops, we decided to drive in and ask if anyone knew of the temporary gallery.

Quite a modern single storey bungalow, there was a small guard house clad in corrugated plastic sheeting and in the porch was a sofa set and a desk manned by a guard. Out front were the 3 flagpoles denoting a government or official function. We stopped and I wandered over to the guard to ask him.
‘Hi, sorry but we were at the Archaelogical Gallery and the guard there said it’s closed for renovations, and there’s a temporary one which he didn’t know the location of. On the road though, we saw a sign but can’t find it. I wonder if you know where it is?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘This is it…

Turns out a left arrow had been pasted over a right arrow on the signboard but had fallen off…
And so we spent the next hour in this small and rudimentary home to a replica of Perak Man. So we still have not actually met, as it turns out…

There were a few young archaeologists preparing for an official visit the next day but one of them took time off arranging display boards and so on, to explain a few things to us.

We finally meet. But it's not really him

Through him we realised the skeleton on display was really a replica and that the original would be in the gallery when it reopened. He also explained that Perak Man was unusual as he was around 45 years of age when he died, almost double the normal life expectancy pf the time. He was also deformed and that, together with the fact he was buried with a lot of tools and decoration - shells and so on - indicated that he had special social standing and was probably a shaman or something similar.

The remains were actually found in a cave, Gua Gunung Runtuh, in a limestone massif called Bukit Kepala Gajah, a little distance away. Lenggong itself is the site of the oldest known human activity in the Peninsula with prehistoric stone tool workshops dating back 74,000 years. Other sites in the area have stone tools dating back 100,000 years!

Picture of the new Gallery as taken from Google Streetview
Replica of Perak Man
Various stone tools
An Axe Head can be seen on the top right corner of this chunk of stone
On display is a rock blasted out by a falling meteorite. In this rock is clearly embedded a stone axe head. I asked if this was a replica but it seems it’s the real deal. Also on show are some stone tools.
The temporary gallery is hardly visited by the public (perhaps the sign has something to do with it… Having said that I am looking forward to dropping by the gallery when it is open again, which they told me is scheduled for the new year.

I hope then to finally meet the Old Man in person.

A Double-storey River?

Back out on the road again, we headed north, retracing our steps and when we once again saw the signs for Sungai Atas Sungai and Telaga Gergasi, we swung off the main road and went down a very narrow kampung road. On one side was a canal and on the left were a few kampung houses. A few hundred metres in, the road curved left and then ended at a concrete structure that looked like a bridge but rather smaller.

The bridge was of concrete and had an arch on either side, giving the impression it was a suspension bridge which it clearly was not. Beneath the bridge ran a river, its brown waters running between two heavily foliaged banks.

The bridge span was also of concrete and wide enough for a car though a sign on the left proclaimed it not to be designed for vehicular traffic and anyone attempting to traverse it by vehicle was doing so at his own risk. Strangely, along the length of the span, set in the middle of the concrete surface was metal grating, painted blue to match the concrete arches. A canal ran right up to the concrete span, perpendicular to the river beneath.

And then it struck us! This is why it’s called Sungai Atas Sungai - the canal continued WITHIN the span, running merrily along under the blue grating, to emerge on the other end and continue on its way above ground. Here really, was a river above a river!

The sign, in very poor English, but better Malay, detailed that this irrigation structure was built by the British in 1936 to irrigate padi fields as well as to run stream water through the Telaga Gergasi 5km away.

I’m writing this a few weeks after our drive, and am still amazed at how this structure was even conceived and executed. Surely one of the stranger feats of engineering I’ve ever seen.

Well, well, well

To get out we had to reverse the car onto the bridge and it held. Good - I would have been very embarrassed to have effected the destruction of a very quirky piece of engineering.

Across the main road and a few kilometres up a narrow gravel road running alongside the canal, we found an even stranger sight. Telaga Gergasi or Ogre’s Well. The canal ended abruptly in a fenced-off circular metal structure, water pouring down the throat of this well in a continuous thunder. The bottom of the well could not be seen and I had no wish to sneak around the fence to have a peek.

A sign said the well was 100 feet deep though I suspect it is a bit shallower. The water went down this structure then spilled over a lip below to run off down to the river behind us and maybe about 2 storeys lower down. A set of concrete steps could be seen, heading towards the river, but we didn’t explore that.
Presumably the lip allowed heavier tin deposits to lie trapped at the bottom of the well and this is apparently its purpose - a sort of automatic tin dredge. Very clever indeed!

This was built at the same time as Sungai Atas Sungai, and I can’t help but wonder at the imagination and cleverness of the engineers back then. They certainly had created two very quirky, clever and innovative solutions to some basic problems.

Very clever, these British fellas…

Lata Buluh is here:  5°7'45"N 100°52'34"E
Telaga Gergasi is here:   5°6'12"N 100°45'26"E
Sungai Atas Sungai is here:  5°7'9"N 100°46'27"E

You can read more about Perak Man here:

Monday, 1 October 2018

Sg Sedim: Plunging into rivers and walking among the treetops

Where could you go and what could you do, in one day?

Now that we no longer have to feed kids at the school canteen we ran for two and a half years, Mei and I have a bit more time to explore. I’ve always maintained that there’s an abundance of things to see and do in Malaysia and so we set about looking for places we could go to on day trips, as a start. Day trips are great as you can see things at relatively low expense. You won’t have to spend too much on food and nothing on accommodation, and if you don’t like where you end up, you can leave pretty quickly.
If, on the other hand, you do like what you find, you could always scout around and come back again for an extended stay. So all in all, a great way to explore.

Mei and I have done a few day trips out from Penang recently, and we constantly search for new places to check out. We’d done the northern lakes trip and the Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu one, both of which I’ve written about here, and then while idly scrolling Google Maps one day I came across a name I’d never seen before: Sedim.

Why have I never heard of this place before?

According to the various maps I looked at, along Sungai Sedim lay a string of resorts, waterfalls and other natural features as well as man-made attractions, including a tree-top walk. Wikimapia even listed white-water rafting and hiking to nearby mountains. Why had I never heard of this place before? Intrigued we decided to go explore Sedim.

It isn’t too far away - just to the east of Kulim HiTech Industrial Park, and a little over an hour’s drive away. The road to Sedim is well signposted and that’s an indication it is popular and/or noteworthy. After the main highways, the last few kilometres are winding and lightly trafficked. You go past the usual kampungs, plantations and orchards, and it’s a pleasant drive. In fact, I do like the kampungs in this area. The houses are generally well kept and the compounds quite well tended. Various little visual cues like these indicate the people here have a sense of pride in their homes and surroundings and this makes the drive an unhurried pleasure.

A few branches off the main road towards the end have signs pointing towards attractions and resorts. One resort, Sedim Vista, sited right next to the road, looked promising enough - what we could see of it looked well maintained. We marked this and the other branches off for further exploration on another day as we were running a trifle late and needed to press on.

We eventually came to an archway with a table manned by two people selling entrance tickets, beyond which the road narrowed noticeably. I can’t remember now how much we paid to drive in but it wasn’t more than 2 or 3 ringgit. The road thereafter is narrow and is well-surfaced, but has a shoulder almost a foot below, so you can’t pull over to let a car pass in the opposite direction. Occasional wider stretches allow for this but may mean someone’s got to back up a hundred metres or so sometimes.

Image from Google Streetview.
Sg Sedim is, unlike what some online commenters have declared, actually quite well appointed. There are two resorts/accommodation choices within this area, and quite a few small food and drink stalls too. There’s a toilet and shower complex though I had no chance to check the condition of that. It was very busy when I glanced at it so I suspect it may not be quite pristine… Then there’s even a multi-purpose hall and two car park areas.

At the far end, the road continues and there appears to be some sort of adventure area on the right - 4WDs and that sort of thing. This may be where the white water rafting groups set off from as well but I did not verify this.

On the right, a road leads off, beneath an arch that announces it to be the entrance to the tree-top walk. We head first in the opposite direction, near where we’ve parked beneath some trees.

A river to leap into…

A concrete and metal bridge spans a gorge maybe about 2 storeys deep. At the bottom the river flows over a wide plateau of rocks in a series of pools and rapids, walled on the right by a high slope of lush green vegetation. The left has a gentle slope down from near the carpark and access is easy. Quite a few people - families or groups of friends - are on the rocks or splashing about in the water here. It’s a nice spectacle and  the laughter, shouts and squeals of adults and kids alike is a very happy accompaniment to the forest sounds around us.

Across the bridge is the Sedim Rainforest Resort. The chalets dot the hillside here, all facing the river, serviced by a concrete path that runs parallel to the river. This resort has a cafe area and has a separate entrance at the far end, more convenient for those arriving by bus. The brick-and-cement chalets are in perpetual shade and thus suffer from a bit of damp on the walls, inside and out. They’re clean enough and the fittings seem alright though at the asking offer price of RM138 (more if you want breakfast included) I would probably be tempted to check the other place out.

The river narrows on the right of the bridge.

The chalets at Sedim Rainforest Resort.

The Resort has a back entrance closer to the carpark. 

The manager says the cafe is open when there are guests and they can do catering for groups so if you have a retreat or workshop here, you can have all your meals taken care of.

And it is a nice enough setting, to be honest. It’s not particularly noisy or busy and I’m sure weekdays are even quieter and suited for silent reflection if that’s what’s needed.

Back on the bridge, we watched in amazement as some young chaps leapt into the water below. A deep pool below was what these young men were aiming for and we watched with our jaws hanging open as one after the other leapt off, landing safely in a loud splash moments later.

A nice spot and seems clean enough. 

Then these young chaps started leaping off the bridge... 
They were aiming for the deep pool but I shudder to think how it would turn out if they missed... 
Did Pandelela Rinong have her start in diving doing this? 


Among the treetops

We headed off to the tree-top walk, fighting off the temptation offered by the fried foods on display at the stalls. Why is it that holidays spent near water are never complete unless one digs into some fried chicken, pisang goreng or fried nangka/cempedak? Think back to your childhood holidays by the sea. Didn’t you gorge yourself on fried chicken, fried sausages and so on? Whatever the reason for this pairing, we ignored it  (me with some difficulty) and made for the tree-top walk instead.

RM10 per person gets you entry via a little gallery area. The steel structure of the walk is solid and rises to 20m above the forest floor. The floor of the walkway is a metal mesh which gives you a clear view of what’s below. This mesh is anchored to and rests on a very sturdy galvanised steel frame, itself supported by large pillars sunk in concrete. Yet, despite the girth of the beams and supports, there’s always a little bounce as you walk along. You can even see it and to those less accustomed to heights, it may be a little unnerving.

I think the walk is almost a kilometre around. 

Interesting colour in the leaves and trunk of this plant. 

We had to keep looking ahead for the first 100 or so metres but soon got accustomed to the height and began to enjoy the view and could even peer through the mesh beneath our feet to look at the river or forest many metres below. The trees sometimes lean in and over but are otherwise close at hand and I reckon if we had come earlier in the morning, there’d be more wildlife visible. As it is, you hear a multitude of insects and quite a lot of birdcall too, though they mostly remain hidden from sight.
I love this tree-top walk. Despite its stout construction, it blends in quite well with the surroundings. And the surroundings are very nice too. You walk over forest floor and river and there are a few signboards along the way proclaiming the height you are at. For those who are not comfortable with heights, this is a nice touch that gives one a sense of accomplishment.

The tree-top walk is open daily from 8am to 5pm. It is only shut during inclement weather. In my opinion, it is well worth a visit and if you have someone who knows a bit about flora and fauna, drag him along so you can have a greater appreciation of what you see around you. We spotted a tree marked as the Kulim Tree and wonder if the area was named after this species.

On the way back down from the tree-top walk, we stopped at the building next door. Here are facilities for seminars and talks as well as accommodation. We did not check rates but I have attached the website below if you are interested. They do organise a whole heap of activities so if you have a group staying over you can go kayaking, go on a guided nature walk or play paintball. Of these of course I would suggest the first two but I understand that for some people, activities like paintball, which have absolutely nothing to do with the wonder and beauty of the surroundings you are in, are a desired activity. To each his own I guess.

I’ll come back again one day - maybe for a riverside picnic. Hopefully I’ll be able to explore the surrounding area more. Stay tuned…

For Sedim Rainforest Resort, you can contact the manager, Jasman Jaafar on 016-419 4166. The website is no longer active though the blog still is.
The Tree Top Walk website is here.
Wikimapia link to Sedim is here.

Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...