As an avid traveller and adventurer of all things Malaysian, I constantly seek the next new trend or must-go destination in Malaysia. Naturally, this mindset has taken me to some extreme places, from rappelling down the side of a cliff in Outward Bound School, to traversing harsh weather to reach Tanjung Piai, the southern-most tip of mainland Asia, to eating sago worms at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. However, through a deep dive into the Malaysian blogosphere, I found the perfect adventuring spot on the road less travelled, in the heart of Ipoh, Perak: Tasik Cermin (Mirror Lake).
The Trip To Mirror Lake
We found ourselves trudging on uneven, rocky pathways through looming limestone caves, drenched in perspiration. Twice the Grab drivers we had hired had driven us to the wrong location. Overwhelmed with lethargy, confusion and a sense of bewilderment, my friends and I finally managed to reach the entrance of the lake. A quick Google search informed us that the entrance to this lake could be accessible through a privately-owned quarry, and we had to follow the signs for Da Seng Ngan Temple. Then, the lake would be located deep inside the quarry, and we would have to go through a man-made cave under a limestone hill. Evidently, it was quite a journey to get to a lake.
The rocky path led us to an opening within the limestone hills, the environment resembling that of a traditional kung-fu movie set in the late 1970s. With the scorching sun beating down on us, I frantically searched for our next landmark, which was a tunnel opening. Eventually, with limited telephone signal, Google Maps led us behind an overgrowth of vegetation, where we encountered an ominous opening into the side of a mountain.
We tread carefully, our smartphone torch lights were our only source of light inside the dark tunnel. The slippery cave path accompanied with the occasional cobwebs and sound of insects made our hairs stand on end. Then, after what seemed like eternity, we reached the end of the tunnel.
The Arrival At Mirror Lake
Saying the lake was breathtaking would be the understatement of the century. We emerged from the cave completely gobsmacked. Limestone hills towered above us, shielding us from the morning sun’s blinding rays. In the middle of it all was a sprawling freshwater lake, hidden from nature by the mountain for centuries, its clear water perfectly mirroring its surroundings. Eventually, we moved on from admiring this natural wonder and spent the next two hours taking pictures. Why two hours you ask? Because there is an abundance of interesting angles and poses that would please even the most demanding of Instagrammers.
Tasik Cermin is the perfect place for the adventurous soul. Its remote location gives the visitors bragging rights, it is a must-go destination that not many people know of: the ultimate travel paradox. Not surprisingly, the lake is usually featured in wedding photography, and receives several visits from the occasional outgoing traveller. People come for the pristine natural conditions and the mirror effect of the lake. Overall, it is a place worth visiting. Besides, in today’s erratic climate, who knows how long more we get to admire these natural beauties in their pristine conditions?
Now You’re Intrigued, But How Do You Get There??
Evidently, travelling to this natural wonder can be a bit of a hassle. This is because the lake is not marketed as a tourist destination. The quarry workers outside the lake found the lake and they basically did the bare minimum to allow visitors to enter, namely building an entrance and a boardwalk.
However, if you are around Ipoh and feeling a bit adventurous, you could make a trip of it. The recommended mode of transportation is self-driving, as not many taxi drivers know about the place, or even the landmarks around it. The landmark to look out for is Da Seng Ngan Temple. (You might find yourself in Guan Yin Cave. The temple is just a short walk away along Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah).
Finally, you have followed all the signs to Da Seng Ngan Temple. You will find yourself in an actual working quarry (bucket list item for anyone interested). Ask any worker for the directions to the lake, and he will point you in a general direction in which you start walking. A few minutes later, you will reach an opening, surrounded by limestone hills, with seemingly no way out.
The Treasure Map to Mirror Lake
Follow the GPS directions given to a cave entrance if you get lost. Slowly but surely, you will walk through the dark, wet cave, and you will reach Mirror Lake.
These are the coordinates to the cave entrance:
Wait, Before You Go…
Before you head off on your expedition, there are just a few things you need to be reminded of:
- Please keep safe at all times. WEAR SHOES.
- Preferably drive yourself to the lake. Go around 10am or 4pm for the best photographs.
- Naturally, you may be expected to pay the quarry workers a small entrance fee (around MYR5 per head) as it is on private property.
- DO NOT SWIM IN THE LAKE. Remember, nobody has explored the lake yet. Nobody knows its actual depth or what is in the deep waters!
In View Of Sustainable Tourism
In preparing this article, I used Kovin Sivanasvaran’s photo (view second picture on top, by @kovzzz). Apparently, he is an Applied Ecology graduate, passionate about sustainable tourism and ecotourism. To my delight, he was willing to leave some notes and comments for this article.
Kovin points out that there is not only one “mirror lake” in Ipoh, but in fact there are 10 to 20 others, in far worse conditions (view Gunung Lanno for an example of how mining has disrupted the natural ecosystem). He encourages all of us to continue visiting these “disappearing” places, as that might compel the authorities to save these natural wonders. He recommends this Facebook group that highlights the encroachment of industrial activities towards nature.
All Ready, What Are You Waiting For?
Finally, you are ready to go explore this hidden treasure in Malaysia. So bring a good camera, some friends, and an adventurous heart. Keep exploring and stay curious.
If you are interested in going off the beaten track, you might enjoy glamping (glamorous camping). Read more here about a glamping resort in Malaysia. Also, do support Kovin at @kovzzz and @glimpseofmalaysia on Instagram.