sign in a cave in Laos

31 August 2009

Sadaw Cave different surveys, Myanmar

16 August 2009

Perak Tong cave temple after the 2009 rockfall

Perak Tong is one of Malaysia's most famous cave temples, located north of Ipoh. In Jan 2009 there was a disastrous rockfall there, which killed one person. Although the tragedy was covered for several days in the press, there was no mention of what had really happened, or suggestions as to the cause.

In August 2009 I managed to visit the cave for the first time since the rockfall. The cave was now "back to normal" in the sense that the staircase up through the cave to the top of the hill has been rebuilt.

Inside the cave there is still construction work ongoing. However there is no obvious sign of what happened and most visitors will probably remain unaware of the rockfall.

I was very curious to see what had happened. I went there with my friend Law Siak Hong. Firstly I took some photos of the outside of the hill where the collapse is clearly visible. It covers a much larger area than I expected. 

Then we went in the cave. There is now a new staircase up through the cave to the back entrance. This area is now much brighter as the top chamber (presumably where the collapse occurred) now allows a lot of light to enter. As we left the chamber with the 3 large statues, on the left we saw 2 new pillars which seemed to be supporting a massive rock.

Hong translated the Chinese writing and said the pillars have just been constructed, this summer. I was stunned - were these pillars meant to hold up the rock, or were they just for 'decoration'.

As we neared the top, we could see parts of the old staircase.

One section was on a huge boulder which appeared to have fallen. From here it looked as if there were 3 enormous rocks which had moved, but they are so large, I couldn't believe that the place has been rebuilt and reopened in around 6 months. One man told Hong that these 3 rocks had moved, but were now wedged naturally in place. We could see a lot of fresh cement joining and covering various rocks.

I was quite stunned at the enormity of the collapse - although of course I am not 100% of what actually happened. I really wonder how safe the place is now, have the huge boulders already stabilised themselves....? What are they actually resting on....? I heard unofficially that no proper safety check was done as it would have been too expensive.

notice at top
Unfortunately I have no photos taken prior to the collapse of the inside of the affected areas of the cave, so cannot compare my photos of before and after.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Gua Tambun overnight trip 2009

In Jan 2009 I went to Gua Tambun rock paintings to see Noel's erection Gua Tambun scaffolding. August 14-15 he was spending 24 hours at the site to do some data recordings, so I joined him along with Law Siak Hong, Juliana Rahim and her husband Ikmail.

Noel was there from around 9am on Fri morning, and I arrived at 1pm, having had a nice lunch in Ipoh, whereas Noel was heating his chunky soup and instant couscous on a brand new stove.

The others arrived during the late afternoon and time passed quickly as we chatted and had a look around. The pondok at the base of the steps has been constructed since my last visit in Jan, though the info board is still empty, and the roof tiles are already covered in moss or algae.

Noel was taking readings of temperature, humidity and luminosity every hour.

Surprising the site was quite dry as the humidity was around 60% during the afternoon, compared to much higher readings of 90+ in other places such as Penang. The temperature only once reached 33C in the afternoon. The meters were positioned on the cliff face. It was quite hazy and the views to Keledang hills were disappointing.

We had set up tents on the stony floor.

It was the first time I had used my tent since I was in Madagascar in 1999 - luckily it hadn't rotted. Hong put up a hammock on the steps, so we declared him our guard dog. Incidentally there were no signs of the dog family we had seen in Jan. At the end of the cliff area, some people have scattered a lot of textbooks (English and Chinese). We couldn't understand why people would carry books up to this site and then destroy them there.

By 10pm we had all gone to bed, but it was too hot to sleep inside the tent. There was no need for a fly sheet as we were protected from any rain being under the huge overhang of the cliff. At 11pm our peace was shatterd as the soldier boys in the army camp directly below us started karaoke. It was BAD. Really bad. Absolutely awful. It lasted about 2 hours, then after that, there was still noise as stragglers returned to the army camp in cars and noisy bikes.

Also the floodlights from the army camp remained on all night except for one hour. These lights were so bright that we hardly needed torches depsite there being no moon. Part of the cliff face was really illuminated, but luckily not the main area where the paintings are.

Even then it was not a peaceful night as the birds were calling the whole night. I think they are swifts. Why do they spend the night calling when they should be sleeping. I wondered if it was because of the floodlights. Noel had set his alarm for every hour on the hour. Then we heard the loud crunching of his footsteps on the stones as he went to read the 2 meters. So I didn't get much sleep.

We got up around 7am, and the last reading was taken at 9am. We said our goodbyes to the paintings, then left and went to town for breakfast and durians.

examining the paintings with a magnifier

goat droppings

some of the noisy birds

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission