Sungai Lembing is a tiny town in Pahang, Malaysia, located about 42 kilometers northwest of Kuantan. The town began as a tin mining hamlet in the early 1900s, when the British company Pahang Consolidated Company Limited (PCCL) established a tin mining industry after mining activities began in 1886. Electricity, schools, a cinema, a gas station, and a hospital were all available at Sungai Lembing.
Flooding in 1926 forced the suspension of mining operations for three months. The town’s tin mining sector was severely impacted by the Great Depression and the Japanese occupation of Malaya. Sungai Lembing has been in decline since Malaya’s independence, since global demand and tin prices have fallen, leading in the mines’ closure in 1987. A large number of locals moved away from the town, causing facilities such as shops and petrol stations to close.
With the opening of the Sungai Lembing Museum in 2001, Sungai Lembing was reinvigorated as a heritage tourism destination. It was popular amongst local from all over Malaysia. The town has a population of roughly 5,000 people in 2014.
We visited on 26 March 2016.
The Malay name Sungai Lembing has two possible etymologies (“Spear River”). One theory is based on a local tradition about a ruler who got a vision of a spear in a nearby river and called his town after it. Another story shows a group of Orang Asli hurling a spear at a deer that had jumped across the Sungai Kenau to flee (“Kenau River”). Because to the abundance of natural riches in the area, the town has been dubbed “El Dorado of the East.”
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