Considering Gua Tambun Cave Paintings have been around for thousands of years they are not that well known due to poor promotion (they are not even mentioned on the official Tourism Malaysia website for example).
They were ‘discovered’ in 1959 by Lt. RL Rawlings, a British army officer with the 2nd Battalion of the 6th QEO Gurkha Rifles while on a routine training exercise. He would have realised that these reddish-orange drawings were not the usual graffiti and this was confirmed shortly thereafter by a team from the National Museum who identified the doodles as Neolithic rock art.
Their exact age is rather fuzzy with most estimates putting them between 2,000 to 5,000 years old. They’re certainly very old!
They have been painted on the side of a limestone cliff ~ they are not really in a cave at all but on a rock shelter, a slightly overhanging ledge, located between 5 and 25 metres above the ground level. They were most likely painted using haematite.
Given their age and the fact that they are exposed to the elements, it is not surprising that large parts of the rock art have faded and can no longer be seen by the naked eye. Vandalism and graffiti have encroached on some of the lower level rock art.
In 2009, a team of researchers from University Sains Malaysia, using close range high resolution photography and digital image analysis conducted a thorough examination of the site and were able to identify that there were once over 600 distinct rock art elements, possibly making Gua Tambun the largest rock art site in Malaysia.
Most casual observers would be lucky to identify more than a few dozen or so drawings now remaining.
The drawings are of humans, animals, fruit, geometric shapes and abstract motifs. A dugong, a tapir, boar, deer, goat, turtles are among the recognisable creatures.
How to Get to Gua Tambun Cave Paintings
I visited on 28 February 2015 which is when these photos were taken. Here is how to get there:
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the map. As shown on the map, the landmark to look for in Ipoh is the Caltex petrol station on Jalan Tambun (A13), close to where Jalan Tambun passes underneath the Lebuhraya Utara – Selatan (North South Expressway).
There is a short lane next to the petrol station which leads down to the gated entrance to a polo field. Park here (next to the no parking signs!) or somewhere nearby and continue on foot.-Squeeze past the gated entrance (it feels like you are trespassing but there is a sign here pointing to Lukisan Pra Sejarah (Prehistoric Paintings).
Follow the track at the edge of the polo field along the foot of the hill.
Soon (after 500 m) you will see a wooden gazebo with a flight of concrete steps going up the hill.
Once you reach the top of the steps the rock paintings can be found on the cliff face in front of you, off to the right.
6. Gua Senyum
Gunung Senyum Caves are located in Pahang about 45 minutes drive from Temerloh.
Gunung Senyum, which means Smiling Mountain, is a limestone outcrop which rises sharply 478m above the surrounding oil palm-dominated countryside.
The mountain is riddled with caves, some of which are visible as soon as you pull up in the car park of Gunung Senyum Recreational Forest.
Next to the car park is a traditional Pahang house dating from 1907, a park management office, a food stall, campsite, toilets and surau. There is also a lake, partly spanned by a suspension bridge. The remains of a defunct aerial ropeway/flying fox are also evident.
7. Gua Charas
Gua Charas is a temple cave found in a limestone hill (Bukit Charas) about 25km north west of Kuantan, Pahang.
The cave is a holy site for both Hindus and Buddhists and their symbols and statues are dotted around the interior of this vast cavern.
Bukit Charas is a 400 million year old limestone and granite massif reaching 355 metres at its highest point. (The Tourism Malaysia information plaque outside the cave says that the mountain is 1000 metres high but I do not think that is correct.)
How to Get To Gua Charas
The cave is located on the main road from Kuantan to Sungai Lembing (C4). You cannot miss Bukit Charas and the cave is clearly signposted.
8. Kek Lok Tong
Kek Lok Tong (sometimes spelt as Kek Look Tong) is translated as Cave of Ultimate Bliss (or Great Happiness) and indeed it does seem to bring a feeling of well-being to the many local visitors who regard it as their favourite among Ipoh’s many splendid cave temples.
As the crow flies this huge cavern is no distance at all from Sam Poh Kong, Nam Thean Tong and Ling Sen Tong, those other famous cave temples on the southern outskirts of the city. But it is located on the reverse side of Gunung (Mt.) Rapat and it is not that easy to find, requiring a lot of zig-zagging through residential backstreets before arriving at Kek Lok Tong’s car park.
9. Nam Thean Tong
Let me tell you about my recent spooky experience at Nam Thean Tong, one of Ipoh’s oldest cave temples having been established in 1867 by a Chinese priest called Kuong San Teik.
This cave temple, which is sometimes spelt as Nam Tian Tong among other variations and was formerly known as Lum Ting Toong, is located next door to another more famous cave temple, Sam Poh Tong.
I had read that Nam Thean Tong is a Taoist temple and this was evidenced by the painting over the entrance of the Eight Immortals, characters from Chinese mythology who are revered by Taoists.
How to Get to Nam Thean Tong
Directions to the Nam Thean Tong Cave Temple can be found on the Sam Poh Tong page.(Sam Poh Tong is right next door).
10. Gunung Reng
You cannot miss Gunung Reng if you are driving on the East West Highway in Jeli district in western Kelantan. It is a spectacular limestone outcrop located close to the highway between the towns of Jeli and Belimbang.
I went there recently on my way from Baling to Kota Bahru.
Just before the mosque in the photo there was a rough road leading to the recreational park at the foot of the hill.
I could not see any steps or path going up the side of the hill so I suppose it is not possible to climb to the top unless you are a skilled mountaineer with all the right equipment.
The recreational park contains a dilapidated children’s playground, a shop and food stall, surau, toilets etc.
How to get to Gunung Reng
The location is marked on the interactive map on the Caving in Malaysia page. There is no entry charge and no gate to the cave entrance so I guess you can go at any time. At dusk you might be treated to the sight of thousands of bats emerging from the cave to look for their supper.