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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Siniawan - Fairy Cave - Panchor Hot Springs

W was the self-appointed driver, tour guide, photographer, waiter, even. Heh. He'd asked a few colleagues and I whether we'd like to go to Fairy Cave. Of course we would!

At 7.15 a.m., we gathered at school. W arrived right on the dot and then we set out. All of us teachers in the car ... and there was so much of talk about school ... of our colleagues past and present. Lol. Soon, we arrived at CWC,

CWC

The main entrance

CWC stands for Christian Worship Centre. W and his family worshipped here. For so long, he had told us about his church and his Sunday activities. For so long, we'd listen to his stories, but we'd never come out this far to see the church for ourselves. Since an opportunity presented itself today, W brought us here. 

CWC was at Jalan Spaoh, which was off Jalan Sungai Pinang, which was off the Batu Kawa-Tondong Highway. Heh. Anyway, at the end of Jalan Sungai Pinang was the river, Sungai Sarawak Kanan. Across this river was the little township of Siniawan. 

Siniawan Old Town was just across the river ..... 

We went across the river in a small boat. The fare was a RM0.50 per person. Just drop the money into a plastic bucket in the boat. It took only 2 minutes to get across the river. 

Yong Tai Cafe
This was the most popular breakfast place in town. Well, I think the shop is popular at night too. Heh. We ate our breakfast here. 

I'd eaten here a few times before. The food was not bad. That morning, we had .... 

Kolo mee

Mixed Soup 

A set of noodles and soup was RM8.00. The portions were so generous! A huge bowl of noodles and huge bowl of soup! By the time they had finished their food, they could hardly sit straight. Haha. 

 Kolo Mee in Soup, RM5.00
Also a big serving of noodles, topped generously with many ingredients.

I ordered Kolo Mee special, slightly red. I wanted a bit of BBQ sauce to flavour the noodles. I asked the vendor what he ingredients he would put in a special bowl of noodles. Instead of answering me, he asked whether I ate prawns. Of course, I did. 

Kolo Mee Special, slightly red, RM12.00
This was fancy kolo mee. Heh. The fanciest ever that I had ever eaten. It was, nonetheless, a very satisfying plate of kolo mee, worth every bit of the RM12.00 that I had paid for it. The noodles were springy, moist, and very fragrant, with a bit of tantalising sweetness because of the red BBQ sauce. Fantastic. I also liked the generous ingredients - fish cake,  meatballs, wantons, liver, sliced pork, minced meat and 2 huge prawns - fresh, sweet and succulent. 

Wow! My friends gazed at my plate with envy .... heh ... it was a plate of kolo mee fit for a royalty. That morning, that royalty was me. Lol. 

Our drinks ... 

Steamed layered cake 
W bought this from one of the shops; the cake wasn't too sweet, quite springy and had a hint of santan. Not too rich ... quite pleasant to eat. 

After breakfast, we took some photos around the town and then walked back to the jetty for our ride back to the other side of the river .... 

View from the boat 

The boat
It transported motorcycles too .... 

What a beautiful day at Siniawan ... 

We then drove to Fairy Cave. There was only 1 other car there, so we knew that there weren't many visitors yet that day.

I was fully equipped - I had a torch and I had gloves. Gloves were so important to me when I visited caves. I knew I'd be hanging on to the railings, and I knew they'd be covered with dirt or even guano, and I knew I'd feel yucky touching those with my bare hands. Heh. So with my gloves on, I would grab on to the rails tightly while I maneuvered the tricky stone trails.

The entrance
We paid for our entrance fee at the little booth, RM1.00 per Malaysian adult. The smaller building further away was the toilet.

It was a 4-storey climb up the platform to reach the cave entrance. We climbed slowly and leisurely, stopping to catch our breath and to take photos .... 

The limestone exterior of the cave ... 

View of the field from Level 3 of the platform .... 
The view was covered by the thick foliage ..... too bad .... 

Before long, we reached the entrance. We felt the cool air coming from the cave. There were steps leading into the cave ... and then we had to climb up steep concrete steps through a narrow passageway into the cave itself. I think there were 3 flights of stairs up into the cave ... the third flight of stairs consisted of wooden planks, and they were a little rickety ... so be careful.  This part of the climb was also dark ... so a torch was helpful. 

I climbed ever so slowly, holding on to the rails .... pausing to breathe .... after making through the dark passage way, there were more steps to climb before we reached a large chamber. At least there was some light here so I could see better ... 

Glancing up from below, we saw 2 people coming down .... 

 The main chamber was huge!

There were 2 platforms at this chamber ... so we climbed up more steps to the first one. There were benches here to sit down and rest .... 

The stalactites which took years to form ... 

 Interesting rock formations

The ceiling of the cave 

A rotund mound of rock ... heh ... cute 

We spent about 30 minutes here before making our way down ... I always thought that going down was harder and more taxing than climbing up. Again we made our way slowly and carefully ...... 

A hut by the field 

The field ... 

Somehow this scene reminded me of Langkawi Island .... 

Next to this hut was a drinks stall - there were fresh coconut drinks and canned carbonated drinks sold here ... the lady operating the stall had just harvested cangkuk manis. She did not want the leaves, though they were still edible. She only wanted the stems to replant the vegetables. So she was more than happy to give them away to us .... 

 Helping ourselves to free vegetables ... 

Next, we drove to Blue Lake next ....

The mysterious Blue Lake
Beautiful mirror images of the sky, the cloud and the greenery reflected on the serene surface of the water. It was so beautiful. Looking at the lake, I realised that it was only blue when it was sunny, when it could capture the reflection of the blue sky. I came once on a cloudy day ... and the Blue Lake was not blue at all ... 

W told me of the incident where a bus plunged into the lake, killing 1 trainee teacher and 29 students. The incident had occurred back in 1979 ... and people still talked about it today. Hmn ... it's my first time hearing about this, though. How said it was.

We went to Panchor Hot Spring after that. It was 40 minutes drive away from Bau. Entry was RM4.00 per adult.

The hot spring entrance looked very welcoming .... 

The toilets and changing rooms were clean 

I was already in shorts and t-shirt, and I merely changed my shoes to slippers .... and then made my way to the pool area. There were about 7 pools here - 3 outdoor, 3 shaded, and 1 with walls enclosing it, for ladies apparently.

Lucky us, there were only a few people bathing at the time - an elderly couple and 2 Chinese families - probably about 12 persons. We heard that this hot spring could get pretty crowded at times.

Outdoor pool 

Outdoor pools
Wooden planks encircled each pool .... visitors could sit on the plank and soak their feet in the water

The water looked murky .... and there were bits of leaves and twigs floating on the surface, so all these could be a turn off for some people. The ground water was hot at 42 degrees Celcius. Most people were soaking in the shaded area. 

After surveying the pools, I went back to the shaded area. W had soaked himself in the waters, while AL and M were soaking their feet. I was talking to them when the elderly uncle in the pool commented that I should soak my feet as well. Slowly, he instructed, as I placed my feet in the water. Geez. Hot. My skin turned red and I sweated.

Uncle Hot Spring started to talk about how the water would be good for me - reduce the flabbiness of my tummy and smoothen my skin and improved my blood circulation and make me sleep better at night. He urged me to soak my entire body into the water. And I did. Hot. Beads of sweat trickled down my forehead. He said that I should not move too much in the water so that it would not be so hot.

Where did the water come from? I asked him. He said it was from Indonesia. Huh? Erm ... this needs verification. Haha.

Then he continued talking about how often he came and how he recovered from stroke after soaking himself in the hot spring regularly and how his wife's swollen legs were cured from soaking in the water, and how his daughter-in-law lost weight by soaking in the water ..... and he went on and on and on ..... he was 78 years old, lived in Kuching, but would drive all the way to Panchor regularly. He'd come at noon. He'd come again in the evening. He'd leave before the crowd arrived. He'd soak for 20 minutes and then sleep on the wooden planks and then soak himself again.

My friends who'd been only soaking their legs followed suit, immersing themselves in the hot water. Heh. None of them too, had initially wanted to soak their bodies. M and S who were fair, turned really pink. Hehe. As I soaked in the water, I could feel my heartbeat increase and I was thirsty. My friends felt sleepy. After 20 minutes, we got out of the water. We sat at the wooden plank, and continued to sweat.

Uncle Hot Spring then dispensed more advice - do not bathe immediately, do not drink anything cold immediately. I called out my goodbye to Uncle Hot Spring and left to change.

Yeah, I do believe that the natural ground water had minerals and healing properties. I'd love to come back some time to soak.

It was about 2.30 p.m., and M wanted to eat something. We drove to Siburan and to takeaway the famous triangular chai kueh and bak chang. Both were very yummy. Chai kueh was RM0.50 a piece and Bak chang, wrapped in bamboo leaves, was RM2.00.

The lady was friendly; she wrapped the chai kueh upon ordering

Bee Pang and peanut brittle from Goh Hak Hiang
These 4 packets cost RM11

W joked about this being a shopping tour - like the one we experienced in Beijing the other day. Heh. Of course it wasn't like Beijing. The things we bought today were reasonably priced, and we bought them out of our free well. 

We went to Chung Chai Poh - located at Lorong Barat - that little road just beside Eastern Mall. W raved about the Stirfried vermicelli with cangkuk manis. He had told us that the cangkuk manis was so fresh that the whole plate of noodles would turn light green. 

ABC with milk, RM2.00

Colourful ABC with lots of ingredients, not too sweet but very yummy

Rojak 
There were crunchy fritters, jicama, cucumber, tofu puffs, but no pineapples in there; the ingredients were generously coated with rojak sauce - but the rojak sauce was not pungent enough for me

Stirfried Vermicelli with Cangkuk manis
This noodle dish was surprisingly savoury. My super senses detected good quality ground dried prawns and lard. Combined with the rich flavour of the egg and the sweet distinct flavour of the vegetables .... this was a VERY GOOD plate of noodles. 

Mochi
I loved the warm glutinous rice cake which was soft and chewy; the coating of ground peanut and sugar was a bit too sweet, though 

Our stomachs full, we drove back to town. There was a jam along the way, so it took us an hour to get back to our cars which were parked at school. What a wonderful day it had been, thanks to W, our driver and tour guide, our friend. 

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