Malaysia

Published: Saturday September 7, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday September 7, 2013 MYT 8:41:10 AM

Looking around Lenggong

Going back in time: Participants of a previous Lenggong Valley Trail trip by the Perak Heritage Society admiring Gua Gunung Runtoh where the skeleton of the famous Perak Man was found. — Filepic

Going back in time: Participants of a previous Lenggong Valley Trail trip by the Perak Heritage Society admiring Gua Gunung Runtoh where the skeleton of the famous Perak Man was found. — Filepic

The Lenggong Valley in Perak was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in June 2012, but more needs to be done to showcase its archaeological and cave treasures.

IT TOOK just a day to go back in time 200,000 years — and that was without a time machine. The device: a car.

I’ve been to the Lenggong Valley in Hulu Perak several times before. After it obtained its Unesco heritage status, I readily agreed when my friend, Law Siak Hong of the Perak Heritage Society, suggested a day trip recently.

As it had been some time since the inscription, we thought the Lenggong Valley would be geared up by now to welcome masses of visitors. But we were wrong. We took the highway from Ipoh, but at the Kuala Kangsar exit, we realised there were no road signs for Lenggong until after the toll booth.

It is always a pleasant drive to Lenggong as the road is quiet. South of the town we followed the signs to the archaeological museum, now oddly renamed as a “gallery”. When we got there, we signed the guest book, and the caretaker went in to switch on the audio visual displays. But having three of them running at once meant we were bombarded by a cacophony of sounds and it was hard to know which to listen to.

The historic cave drawings at Gua Badak, drawn by the Negrito orang asli, depict scenes of their everyday life. Unfortunately the drawings have not been protected and seem to be rapidly fading.
Intriguing: Historic cave drawings at Gua Badak by the Negrito orang asli. The drawings lack protection, so they seem to be fading.

The building is quite compact, but perhaps too small if many visitors arrive at the same time. The displays cover much of the archaeology from the Lenggong area, including stone tools, Stone Age lifestyles and cave paintings. There is even a replica cave to walk through. Some of the original posters are still there and haven’t been updated. For instance, some show Bukit Jawa as being 40,000 years old, whereas it has more recently been dated at 200,000 years old.

Outside the museum, there is a geological park with an interesting display of several rock types – however the English on the signs is atrocious.

We took a path which led to a five-storey observation tower. It was hard work climbing to the top in the midday heat, but we were rewarded with nice views over a sea of oil palms to the distant hills.

From the museum we took the old road to Lenggong, stopping to take photos of the kampung mosques in Banggol Batu and Banggol Belimbing. We also spent some time admiring the old Bailey bridge just before Kampung Chain.

After lunch, we headed for the caves. Our first stop was the new Tok Giring park, but there was just one small cave. So we went on to the better known archaeological caves.

The old wooden bailey bridge just before Kampung Chain is still in operation.
The old Bailey bridge before Kampung Chain is still open to traffic.

First, we aimed for Gua Teluk Kelawar. But due to a lack of signboards, we walked quite a distance on the wrong path and ended up at Gua Ngaum. This cave has a series of archaeological digs around the entrance and was named by the team who heard a tiger roar when they were at the site.

We backtracked to a junction and took another unnamed path which thankfully led to Gua Teluk Kelawar. This is where Perak Woman was found in 2004. Dated at about 8000 years old, she is not related to Perak Man, who was found earlier in Gua Gunung Runtuh, and is about 11,000 years old.

All the caves now have shelters built near the entrances, with information boards inside, but it was quite hard to read them in the gloom as they have reflective surfaces.

The mosquitoes had a good feed as we walked to the caves. When we got back to the main road, we realised we had missed Gua Ular, which was only sign posted once.

Our next stop was Gua Kajang. Having trekked in the hot sun to the last two caves, it was a pleasure to be able to drive right to its entrance. This cave is just a short tunnel through the hill and from there we followed the boardwalk to Gua Asar, and then climbed up the cliff to Gua Puteri.

Perak Woman, dated at about 8000 years old, was found at Gua Teluk Kelawar.

Perak Woman, dated about 8,000 years old, was found at Gua Teluk Kelawar.

This is my favourite cave in the area as it has a large chamber full of interesting stalactites and stalagmites – one at the entrance reminds me of a donkey’s head. We went through the cave to the small “back door” and followed the trail back down to the road leading to the car.

We didn’t have time to visit other caves, so as a finale to the day, we went to Bukit Jawa, a 200,000 year old open air site, making it the second oldest site in Malaysia after Bukit Bunuh.

From 200,000 years ago, we fast-forwarded to a mere 100 years, and went to have a look at the cave drawings at Gua Badak. These are thought to have been drawn by the Negrito orang asli and depict scenes of their everyday life, such as hunting and fishing and a beruk (ape) climbing a tree to get some coconuts. Unfortunately the drawings don’t seem protected and are fading, as they are not in a cave but on a rock wall.

On the way back to Ipoh, we stopped to watch the sunset at the Chenderoh Lake. It had been an interesting day, retracing the steps taken by humans some 200,000 years ago.

Related stories:

Sitting on a treasure trove

The rock star is coming

Trivia on Lenggong town

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Unesco, Heritage, Caves

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