sign in a cave in Laos

23 September 2011

Perak Tong 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.

The collapsed area can be seen from the road. It covers a much larger area than I expected.
Statue at the base of the stairs.

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

This pillar wasn't damaged

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 had just been constructed, that 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 - white block on top is remains of old staircase wall, tilted.

This huge boulder appears to have fallen.
Looking down, presumably this huge boulder fell down

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.
Looking down

Inside the main cave construction work was ongoing.
Damaged statue base on right
New floor in front of damaged statue

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. But I remember some of the statues that were missing, such as the big laughing Buddha.

However there was no obvious sign of what happened and most visitors will probably remain unaware of the rockfall.

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.

Perak Tong register number Prk 34/02.

See more on Peratk Tong murals and Perak Tong views.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

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