Sungai Lembing was built on a history of tin mining. The lands were rich with precious metal, and the mines were among the largest in the world, reaching more than 300km with a depth as deep as 700m. That’s like a 140-storey building!
The town thrived until the 1980s when world tin prices collapsed. Despite a last-ditch effort by businessman Sia Hok Kiang to revive the industry in the 1990s, the land was eventually returned to the state government.
The mines were duly shut down, until a few years ago when the state government decided to develop Sungai Lembing as a tourist attraction. One part of the tin mine was restored, and is now open to the public for a fee.
Having been there, I can tell you that, this is the perfect place to bring your kids if:
a:- you want them to learn about Malaysia’s history;
b:- you want them to know that life was rough back then, and they’d better bloody well appreciate what they have now;
c:- you want to scare the living bees out of them in a dark, confined, scary place; or
d:- all of the above.
Once you’ve gotten your ticket(s), go stand in line to sit in a mine cart that runs a very short distance into the mine. Then it’s on foot all the way until you see a guide, who is too happy to take you around.
The mine is decently lit, cool and honestly, a bit creepy. Especially with effigies of miners all over the place, stories of how many people died in mine disasters, and a naughty guide who insisted on regaling you with ghost stories.
I scolded the guide and he apologised, but it was too late, things can’t be unheard.
One highlight of the visit was to sit in a restored ‘kiew’, a mining lift built for travelling between levels. This one simulated the dark, crampy, hot, sweaty experience of going down the multiple levels in the ‘kiew’.
Good experience, though I was quite creeped out. Later back at the inn, I couldn’t sleep. Troubled by haunting and disturbing dreams, mental images of ghosts and weighed down by a real sad, scared feeling for hours, not helped by the street dogs’s pitiful non-stop howling.
Ticket prices: Malaysian adults pay RM15.90, children RM7.95. Non-Malaysians adults pay RM31.80, children RM15.90. Senior citizens and person with a disability rates available.
The Sungai Lembing Mines is open daily from 9am to 6pm. You can check out their website at sungailembingmines.com.my