Sungai Lembing tin mine tunnel

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.

Sungai Lembing Mines - entering

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.

Sungai Lembing Mines - info poster
Plenty of things to read along the way

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.

Sungai Lembing Mines - tunnel
In case you were wondering, that’s a real person

I scolded the guide and he apologised, but it was too late, things can’t be unheard.

Sungai Lembing Mines - kiew
The Kiew

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’.

Sungai Lembing Mines - steep steps
Steps going up to 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.

Sungai Lembing Mines - exit
Exiting the mine

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

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing

A famous Sungai Lembing attraction is the Rainbow Waterfall, thus named for the promise of a rainbow appearing by the fall at certain hours in the morning. You need a 4WD to get there, which you can easily book (for the next morning) once you’re in town, about RM40 – RM50 per person.

If you’re solo or in a small group, you get to make friends with fellow nature enthusiasts.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - in the 4x4
Hello! If you see yourself in this photo and want to get re-acquainted, buzz me! ๐Ÿ™‚

The itinerary is straightforward, pretty much the same for everyone. You’re advised to get some food at the hawker centre at 5.45am. At 6.30am, you get into the 4WD, and it’s an hour journey to the hiking trail.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - 4x4 trail
Get ready for a bumpy ride. I wouldn’t expect anything less!

This trip to Sungai Lembing was in 2015, at the tail end of the haze crisis. We didn’t know if we’d see the sunrise at Panorama Hill, and we weren’t sure if there’d be a rainbow waiting for us at the waterfall.

The only constant was the logging.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - logging
Deforested

Don’t know the story behind the land clearing, so can’t comment on it. One can only wish that there are no plans to clear out the entire forested area.

Once you reach the start of the hiking trail, you will need to cross a stream. Then it’s a 45 minutes easy hike to reach the waterfall.

I say easy, but some parts could prove challenging to those with knee or balancing problems. You have to navigate through some massive rocks, and little streams in between. Be sure to wear shoes or sandals with a good grip.

And watch out for the damn leeches.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - trekking trail
That’s our going back photo, but it’s one way in and out

Before long, you’ll see a tall waterfall. Unlike Chamang Falls, the water does not come roaring down. Instead, it comes down as a spray, like a shower with super low water pressure, hah. The spray maketh the rainbow, which you’ll see later.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - falls

Take picture first.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - Suanie

The gathering spot is not big. Get here early to get first dibs on the best seats for the optimal view.

Pro-tip: avoid visiting Rainbow Waterfall during public/school holidays and weekends. Not if you value peace, quiet and space with Mother Nature.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - pool area
One side of the waterfall area

The pool area seems shallow and easily navigatable. I’d advise you to check with your guide on the water conditions, and get some tips on which pool spots to avoid before going all out to the middle of the pool.

But that’s me, Ms ‘Extra Careful’ and ‘I Love Being Alive’, because I know that waterfalls can be sneakily dangerous.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - pool

The rainbow would usually appear between 9.50am to 10.45am. You might see it, you might not. If the sky is grey and the sun hidden, chances are, no rainbow for you. If it rained the night before, chances are, no rainbow for you (because it would impact how much and how fast the water comes falling down). Rainbow science dictates that you need light and water droplets to create a rainbow. This spray potentially makes rainbows:

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - misty water

But there was still a mild haze in the air, and we were mentally prepared not to see a rainbow that day. Well, what can you do? You can’t force Mother Nature to choke one out, can you.

It was still a treat to be there, sitting on some stones, watching the waterfall, taking in the glorious view.

Then, we got lucky.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing

A small one, but so beautiful in my eyes. A reminder to be grateful for every blessing we receive.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - low rainbow

At some point, your guide will feed you cup noodles and coffee, using water sourced from the waterfall. I didn’t take photos of the food and drink, because I was too busy watching the rainbow.

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - up close

What an amazing place! You should absolutely make a trip to Rainbow Waterfall and see it for yourself. Just remember to keep the place clean, take out your rubbish with you ๐Ÿ™‚

Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing - Suanie and Shirley

Also, a final helpful reminder to plan your trip during off-peak season. Feel free to search for photos of Rainbow Waterfall during school or public holidays, and you’ll see what I mean ๐Ÿ˜‰ Even though there are new rules in place to limit the number of visitors, lower density is always better when it comes to these sort of outdoor activities, eh.