Over study break, gather a few friends and hit the road to see more of Sarawak. Head south and visit the state’s capital in Kuching for some great museums, sprawling mangrove forests, Proboscis monkeys and Organutans. Alternately head to interior for a true jungle experience. Here you’ll find the longhouses of the “remote people”, the Orang Ulu. Well known for their bead-work and detailed tattoos, the locals will be happy to share with you the beautiful forests and mountains they’ve called home for generations.
Kuching, is the capital of Sarawak, and it certainly has a unique charm. The city boasts picturesque Malay villages, a golden-domed mosque, a Victorian fort, a whole street of 19th century Chinese shop-houses and an imposing wooden-roofed palace, all set against a background of distant mountains. There are ornate Chinese temples, many fine examples of colonial-style architecture, a beautiful waterfront and a number of interesting museums, including the historic Sarawak Museum. You can try local delicacies such as deer meat and jungle fern, drink a glass or two of tuak (local rice wine), or feast on a vast array of seafood dishes. The nearby national parks include the famous Bako, home of the rare proboscis monkey, Gunung Gading, where giant rafflesia flowers bloom, Kuching Wetlands, which protects a fascinating mangrove ecosystem, Kubah, with its rare palms and orchids, and Semenggoh and Matang Wildlife Centres with their resident orangutans.
North and East of Miri you’ll find the Baram district of Sarawak and it is here that a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the original Bornean peoples can be found in one of the longhouses found in the area. Long Bedian is located within the Kayan territory, up in the Apoh Tutoh region of the Baram district and it is reachable by 4WD in 4 ½hrs from Miri through some really tough roads. A more scenic and slower way of getting there is from Miri by speedboat to Marudi and then on to Long Lama before a much shorter 4WD journey to Long Bedian itself. Bedian is one of those rare longhouses that is not gradually losing members through migration to the cities. Instead, it is thriving to such an extent that it has even been visited by the King and Queen of Malaysia. Keen to showcase their success to others, the Kayan people of Long Bedian have set up a community tourism program with riverbank chalets and a lodge attached to the longhouse. They offer an authentic upriver experience, complete with an extensive network of jungle trails and treks and boat trips to picturesque waterfalls and other idyllic locations.
Long San is something of a surprise to those who expect a sleepy riverside village rather than a mini-boom-town. However it’s still the principal home of traditional art, crafts, music and dance in the area. The region around Long San is a complex ethnic mix, and visitors can take in the Kayan longhouse of Long Mekaba, famous for its traditional musicians who are expert in playing the lute-like sape, as well as the abandoned Brooke-era fort at Long Akah, and even visit nomadic Panan groups when they are in the area.
Lying at an altitude of about 3,500 feet above sea level in the north-eastern corner of Sarawak is the famous Bario Highlands, a Kelabit territory. The Kelabit are one of the minority Orang Ulu tribes of Sarawak and Bario means ‘Wind’ in Kelabit language. The area is affectionately known as the ‘land of a hundred handshakes’ as this is how friendly locals will greet you as you wander around the community.
About thirteen villages are located in & around the Bario area. A must-visit is one of longhouses where one can see the ancient timbers of the unique kitchen darkened by the constant smoke of generations of cooking fires. In addition to treks throughout the area one can go kayaking or immerse in the historical tales of the monoliths that dot the area. Bario has incredible organic food including local rice and pineapple. The internationally known Bario Food Festival also known as ‘Pesta Nukenen’, is held in July each year
To get here you can take a daily 45 minute flight departing from Miri to Bario via MASWings Twin Otter. For the more adventurous the trip by 4WD will take you on a rugged logging road through rough terrain from Miri to the Highlands, a journey of approximately 10-14 hours journey depending on the road and weather conditions.
Mountaineers can tackle the summit of Mount Murud, at 2,423m – the highest mountain in Sarawak (reasonable going), or the famous Batu Lawi (2,043m, very tough) located within the Kelabit Highlands area. However, these are both serious expeditions and guides and porters will need to be hired (RM 80 per day) in Bario or Bakelalan. For Batu Lawi, mountaineering equipment and experience is also necessary. Please note that Mount Murud is a Holy Mountain, alcoholic drink and smoking is prohibited.
In addition to the DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop flights to and from Miri to Ba’Kelalan and Bario, about four days trek through forest that is now part of Pulong Tau National Park is required for those who wish to visit either of these mountains.
IN PROUD PARTNERSHIP WITH SARAWAK TOURISM
This page has been developed in proud partnership with the Sarawak Tourism Board. For extensive information about both Miri and Sarawak, including attractions, accommodation, wildlife, food and culture, please check out the Sarawak Tourism Board’s website at sarawaktourism.com or their Facebook page.