Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mountain climbing in a cave? ~Perak Tong trip~

Everyday on my way to work I always pass by some Tongs.

o.O What is a Tong?

Nonono.... not the malay word tong as in tong sampah (rubbish bin). It's Tong in chinese, literally meaning hole or in this case, cave.

Ipoh is known as 城 (shan1 cheng2) or City of Hills because of its abundance of limestone hills surrounding the city. It's quite majestic to look at actually. The unique thing in Ipoh is that many of the caves in these hills are home to Chinese temples. Most of the temples are located at Gunung Rapat, which is near where I work.

For example,

Sam Poh Tong
Nam Thean Tong
Kwan Yin Tong
Kek Lok Tong
Ling Sien Tong

Did you notice that all the names of the temples end with Tong? Yep, that's right, it's because they are all located in the midst of the limestone hill caves.

However, there is still one famous Tong in Ipoh which isn't in the Gunung Rapat area. This Tong is named Perak Tong 霹雳洞 after Ipoh's state. It's located in the Gunung Tasik limestone caves and was built in 1926 by Buddhist priests from China. It houses over 40 Buddha statues with the tallest one measuring around 13m in height. There are also many beautiful murals on the cave walls.

The courtyard of Perak Tong actually looks like one of the courtyards in those classic chinese movies. I forgot to take a photo of it so I'll just post one of its pics from the internet.
I wasn't that interested in the statues in the temple, but was drawn to the murals and natural architecture inside the cave.

This is the entrance to the cave...

But before you go in, resident-temple-puppies-playing-snatch-with-joss- sticks will greet you at the door.
Can't get them to stay still...

Furry dog finally had a moment to look at camera.

A mural of fairy cranes on the cave walls. I wonder how did the artist paint it so high up there, plus the cave wall isn't even smooth to begin with.

More murals of dragons and mythical characters from ancient chinese legends.

At the back of the cave, we find a passageway that takes us to the top of the limestone hill. At first, it looks creepy to me cos the white washed walls look like chinese cemetery tombstones to me. lolz... I didn't count the number of steps, but the information from various websites tell me that there are 385 steep steps to climb before we can reach the opening at the top.

How steep is 'steep'? This is the view when you look down behind you.

Higher and higher.....we finally reach the opening, and what am I greeted with?

The view of pollution.

The steps don't end there however. There are more steps that lead to a higher view on top of the hill. On the way, there are several pavilions we can rest at.

Can you spot me?

There is an open space some where in the middle that really looks like a scene from ancient kungfu movies. It looks like some kinda hidden Shaolin temple kungfu practice place.

There's a little hidden hall up here, plus calligraphy on the hillside.

This word means Buddha in chinese. I can just imagine some old monk leaping up to paint this piece of calligraphy on the wall.

Behind that small hall there are steps that lead up to the highest point of the hill. It's quite steep but it's worth the climb up there.

Evidence that I reached the top! ^^

This is the breathtaking view you get to see when you reach the top. The majestic hills, the busy township and the smoke and pollution from the factories. =.="

After resting and recovering our breath, we make our way down again.

View of the entrance from within the cave.

One last photo. The words Perak Tong in Chinese written on the top of the cave entrance, plus mini Malaysian flag banner thingies hanging on the top.

Malaysia, Truly Asia.



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