Puteri (Princess) Waterfalls sits on the lower slopes of Gunung Ledang (Mount Ledang also known as Mount Ophir), between the borders of Malacca and Johor in Malaysia. Rising from a lofty height of 1276 metres, Gunung Ledang is the highest mountain in Johor, rich in diverse flora in a lush tropical rainforest.
The mountain is popular with amateur climbers as there is a trail leading straight to the summit. This, however, does not mean that the hike up is easy. Some parts are steep and slippery, requiring ropes to negotiate the rocky outcrops. A climber also needs to be fit as it takes about 6 hours of energetic hiking to reach the summit. Accidents have occurred in the past, some fatal, and it is now compulsory for climbers to be accompanied by local guides.
Gunung Ledang is considered a sacred mountain, steeped in myth and legend. There are stories of gold deposits in the mountain, and the Puteri Gunung Ledang (Princess of Mount Ledang) that lives on the summit.
During the reign of Malacca’s Sultan Mahmud Shah in the 15th Century, it was believed that a beautiful fairy princess lived on top of Mount Ledang. News of her beauty reached the Sultan’s ears and he was eager to make her his wife.
The Sultan sent two of his most experienced and trusted aids, Hang Tuah and Tun Mamat, to go up Mount Ledang to propose to the Princess. The climb was paved with many obstacles and in the end, only Tun Mamat managed to make it to the top. Upon reaching the summit, he did not meet the Princess of Mount Ledang, but was instead greeted by an old woman (believed to be the Princess of Mount Ledang in disguise) who claimed to be the guardian of the Princess. She outlined seven conditions that the Sultan needed to fulfil before the Princess would accept the Sultan’s marriage proposal:-
A bridge made of pure gold from Mount Ledang to Malacca
A bridge of pure silver for her to return from Malacca to Mount Ledang
Seven jars of tears from virgin girls for her bath
Seven jars of young beetle nut juice (young betel nuts do not have juice)
Seven trays with hearts of germs,
Seven trays with hearts of mosquitoes, and
A bowl of blood from the Sultan’s son
Some versions of the legend say that the Sultan was not able to fulfill any of these conditions, while others say that he was able to fulfill the first six requests but not the last one which would have required him to kill his son. Yet another version says that the Sultan attempted to kill his sleeping son, but just as he lifted the dagger, the Princess appeared before him and told him that she could not possibly marry a man who was willing to murder his own son.
The point of the story is that the Sultan was simply too egoistic and blind to realise that the impossible conditions set were merely a tactful and polite way of rejecting his marriage proposal.
Today Gunung Ledang is a place for relaxation, swimming, camping and mountain hiking.
This post is not about my hike up the mountain and meeting the Princess. I would rather not meet her face-to-face. There are stories of unnatural deaths befalling those who claim to have seen the Princess. Furthermore, I am not fit enough to be able to embark on 6 hours of energetic hiking! I would probably take 8 to 9 hours to reach the top, requiring me to spend a night on the mountain!
Instead, I headed for Puteri Waterfalls at the foothills of Gunung Ledang.
My 800-metre hike to the waterfalls started from the car park at Puteri Waterfalls Resort. There is ample car park space at USD0.50 per vehicle and an entrance fee of USD0.75 per adult.
There are a number of sections along the path leading to the Falls that accommodates the kind of activity that suits you. At the start of the hiking point, the walkway is cemented and the surrounding area sandy and open. This section is popular among the locals for picnics, with the water being shallow enough for children to splash in.
Further inwards, the cement path gives way to a stone path. Huge rocks and boulders are everywhere, adding to the beauty and serenity of the forest. A camp site is available for nature lovers who wish to take in the natural sights and sounds of the surroundings. There is an alternative dirt trail to the waterfalls for those who wish to get off the beaten track and experience the thrill of adventure.
While making my way along the deserted track, the therapeutic sounds from the forest were rudely interrupted by a disturbance coming from the bushes. I stopped short on my tracks and looked around, expecting a snake or wild animal to make its appearance. From nowhere, a huge monitor lizard, the size of a small alligator, sauntered in front of me, and disappearing as quickly to the other side of the path. It had come to depend on the litter bin for its food supply, scavenging and scattering rubbish all over the ground.
The hike became more and more energy-draining as I made my way along the slopes of Gunung Ledang. My only consolation was that with every step, the sound of gushing water became louder – a clear sign that I was getting nearer to the waterfalls.
Finally, the thick bushes opened up to a clearing and I was overjoyed to see a curtain of white water tumbling over the rocks. A stairway leading to the top of the waterfall had been carved out of stone on one side, providing an uninterrupted view of the powerful rapids as they made their descent across the slope to the ground below.
I spent quite some time on the steps just watching the water coming down like a never-ending water bucket! It was also an excuse for me to take a short rest before mustering enough energy for the long climb up find out what lay beyond the staircase.
At the top, I was slightly disappointed not to find a plunge pool, but yet another trail leading into the shadowy recesses of the forest. Throughout the entire hike, I had not come across a single soul headed in the same direction. I was getting a little concerned that I had made a wrong turning and was unknowingly on my way to pay homage to the Princess on the summit! The track descended round a bend so I decided to check out where it would lead.
I made my way along the trail across some boulders and rocks. About 30 metres in, the undergrowth opened up to reveal another waterfall – this one bigger and more impressive than the earlier one. I had come upon the second tier of Puteri Waterfalls!
This tier of Puteri Waterfalls marks the end of the paved track and the start of where the real climbing begins. It’s best not to venture beyond this point if you are unfamiliar with the topography of the mountain. As I stated earlier, Gunung Ledang is a spiritual mountain and it is not advisable to go up alone. If you must go, be sure that you are accompanied by a local guide.