Andrew Chen, after spending more than a quarter of his life in Sweden, returned to Malaysia in 2016. Upon coming home, however, he realised that the city’s rich heritage no longer seems to capture the hearts of its people which then inspired him to create ‘Ipoh Adventures’, a Facebook page sharing information and pictures of the Ipoh city.
Aiming to re-connect people with local natural heritage while re-discovering the city, Andrew often organises recreational activities/sightseeing excursions to bring people from all walks of life together. His latest adventure involved a visit to Green Cave and Nerja Cave in Simpang Pulai, and I had the opportunity to join in as well.
We spent about four hours exploring the sites. As my first caving experience, it was challenging and exhilarating but the stroll to the caves was mostly smooth except for this one route leading to Green Cave.
There was a two-minute trek where we had to climb up a steep path that was particularly muddy and slippery due to all the recent rain! Having to be extra careful not to slip and fall, two minutes almost felt like forever. Personally, I would like to consider myself ‘fit’ but I arrived at the top out of breath.
In the caves, we came across various unique formations of rock. I was taken aback by how the structures can take so many different forms; stalagmite (on cave floors) and stalactites (on cave ceilings) which according to one of the members, are formed due to the mineral deposits in the water and air. I almost tripped in one of the cavernous spaces.
Some of us (including myself) couldn’t get through the cave wall at Nerja Cave without the help of Andrew. I would have given up if he hadn’t offered to help boost me up to scale the wall.
The air inside the cavern smelled surprisingly fresh yet musty at the same time. Nothing unpleasant and you will get used to the slightly moldy odor pretty quickly.
Even so, as excited as I was exploring the caves and climbing the rocks, it was upsetting to see that they had been vandalised. We are blessed with unique rainforests and mountains but there are so many of us that don’t appreciate the good things we have. The cave walls were defaced with names and dates.
Part of the fun of a group adventure is making friends. Talking to people boosted the mood of the trip, making it more enjoyable and memorable. The founder of ‘Ipoh Heritage Walk Sundra’, S. Sundralingam said, “It’s important to mingle around when you are on a trip. You network so you don’t feel left out and can explore the activities together.
“My caving experience was a leisurely hike up with the group to the entrance of the cave. It was at a normal pace and not strenuous. The views along the hike were great and I came across interesting crystal formations, rare plants and terrains,” he expressed.
He highlighted one particular challenge that was when we had to kneel and crawl to access a chamber in one of the caves.
You may have caved but have you played with lanterns while doing so?
As part of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, each of us got to carry a lantern with us on our cave walk. It really cheered me up, for I have not held one in a long time.
These lanterns were in the shape of birds, butterflies and fish, and regardless what shape they were, they beautifully lit up the dark cave.
Sundra said, “I consider the lighting of the lanterns in the cave floor as a mark of respect to the Buddhist shrine that once was in the cave. The lantern’s lighting has very different characteristics compared to the kinds of Paleolithic cave lightning.”
To be frank, we are a generation consumed by technology, undoubtedly, even young children spend more time glued to the screens. Although the Mid-Autumn Festival is still welcomed by many, children rarely play with lanterns anymore. Mooncake Festival is more than just gazing at the moon, lighting lanterns and eating mooncakes, it symbolises togetherness and reunion for the family.
Likewise, our lives have gotten busier whereby not many people take the chance to go outside and enjoy nature. It is good to escape the busy life/work stress and just appreciate the beauty of nature. Going outside once in a while would help maintain that work-life balance.