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17 Apr 2015

Canopy Walks in Malaysia

Malaysia Canopy Walks

For the outdoor and nature lover, did you know that there are quite a number of amazing Canopy Walks in Malaysia? Yes, these jungle or rainforest tree top walks or skywalks seem to be a must have activity at most national parks and forest reserves around the country. As I am avid outdoor lover, I have personally been to almost all of the canopy walks in Malaysia in the last few years and finally have come down to putting them in a list for everyone to enjoy.

In this article, I will be highlighting some of Malaysia's most amazing canopy walks or Titian Kanopi in Bahasa Malaysia where some of them are exclusive to staying at the accommodations and others which are easily accessed by just about anyone. Below is the list of canopy walk and skywalks in no order;

KL Forest Eco Park Canopy Walk
The new KL Forest Eco Park Canopy Walk, yet to open - Image: www.ummifathiah.blogspot.com
Canopy Walk at KL Forest Eco Park

Bukit Nanas has been recently rebranded as the KL Forest Eco Park or Taman Rimba Eko KL, and a canopy walk is about to open to the public somewhere in May or June in 2015. Speaking to the tourism officials in KL, they have stated that it is scheduled for mid 2015 and if all works out well, or even a little sooner. 

This means that visitors to Kuala Lumpur can have a unique canopy walk experience here in the heart of Kuala Lumpur at Bukit Nanas or KL Forest Eco Park as it is now called. Till then, we await the news of the opening. 

KL Eco Park Canopy Walk information
Location: Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur
Length: 200 Meters Long
Above Ground: 15 Metres High
Website: VisitKL
Entrance: Currently Free

FRIM Canopy Walk KL
KL Canopy Walk at Forest Research Institute Malaysia or FRIM. Image: www.travel-junkies.com
FRIM Canopy Walk 

This is the most easily accessible one located in the Selangor area and about 20-30 minutes from Kuala Lumpur city. (Many still think this place is in KL). FRIM stands for Forest Research Institute of Malaysia and is a great place for anyone who wants to see how a Malaysian rainforest feels like. The FRIM Canopy Walk is located deep inside, about 15 minutes trek and needs to be accessed by one of the park rangers. 

In total, you will walk 130 meters across and 30 meters above ground level here. There is a entrance charge which can be found below, and this includes the park ranger guiding you to the canopy walk and back. The trek there is interesting but easy as you will come across flora and fauna. The FRIM Canopy Walk is also located about 20-30 minutes drive from KL city and taxis know of this place. 

The FRIM Canopy Walkway will be closed temporarily for:
1) Maintenance & Hari Raya Aidilfitri (18 June – 27 July 2015)
2) Hari Raya Aidiladha (24-27 September 2015)

FRIM Canopy Walk information
Location: Kepong, Selangor
Length: 130 Meters Long
Above Ground: 30 Metres High
Website: FRIM Canopy Walk
Non Malaysians: RM10.60
Malaysians: RM5.30
Students: RM3.20
Children (6-12): RM1.05

Sungai Sedim Tree Top Walk in Kedah
Sedim Tree Top Walk in Kedah
Sungai Sedim Canopy Walk

Called the Sungai Sedim Tree Top Walk, this is claimed as the longest canopy walk in the world to date based on structure as it is made entirely from steel. This unique canopy walk is also located in the Sungai Sedim Recreational Park and the Gunung Inas Forest Reserve here in Kedah. The total length of this is almost 1 kilometer long where at the highest point, it is at 26 meters above ground level.

In general, the longest actual canopy walk in the world is still the Taman Negara Canopy Walk which is made entirely from wood and rope stretching a whopping 510 meters long. The Sedim Canopy Walk is 925 meters long but all in steel. Again, this is an awesome experience if you are a nature lover or bird watcher as you have more ground to cover up in the rainforest canopy.

To get here, it is about 30 minutes drive from Kulim town in Kedah. Sungai Sedim is also known as an Eco Camp offering a variety of outdoor activities and team building. 

Sungai Sedim Tree Top Canopy Walk information
Location: Sungai Sedim, Kedah
Length: 925 Meters Long
Above Ground: 26 Metres High
Time: 9.00 am to 5.30 pm
Adults: RM10.00
Children: RM6.00

Maliau Basin Skywalk in Sabah
Maliau Basin Skywalk in Sabah
Maliau Basin Canopy Walk

The mother of all canopy walks in Sabah Borneo is the Maliau Basin Sky Bridge Canopy Walk. The main fact is that Maliau Basin is one of the least explored places in Borneo and one of the hardest places to access. It is also known as 'The Lost World of Sabah' and only specialised tour companies make trips here for hardcore nature lovers and trekkers.

The Maliau Basin Skywalk Canopy is located about 15-20 minutes trek from the main study centre and upon reaching here, a journey into another world takes place. The starting point crosses the Maliau River and then leads into a 45 degrees vertical canopy climb to the first tower. From here, you will make your way up cylinder staircases to the main canopy walkway. There is a lookout tower for birders too. This is totally an amazing experience for any nature and outdoor lover or bird watcher.

When I was here in 2014, I managed to see over 20 species of birds and even wild gibbons passing through the rainforest canopy. I was totally mesmerized with this and one thing's for sure that I will come back again! To get here, see Explorer Lifestyle for their Maliau Basin Packages. If I had to rate the best Canopy Walks in Malaysia, this would be on top of my list.

Maliau Basin Canopy Walk information
Location: Maliau Basin, Sabah
Length: 400 Meters Long
Above Ground: 22 Metres High
Time: 6.00 am to 5.00 pm
Website: Maliau Basin Canopy Walk
Entrance: Only for Maliau Basin Guests

Penang Hill Tree Top Walk
The Penang Hill Canopy Walkway - Image www.perroviajante.com/
Penang Hill Canopy Walk

Another new canopy walk is set to open somewhere in 2015 which is the Penang Hill Canopy Walk which is currently undergoing a facelift. This is actually part of the original 290 meter canopy walk which was damaged by fallen trees due to a storm back in September 2008.

A local Penang private company came in to rescue this attraction and to date, there has been no official news on when it would be open. The Penang government issued a press release in mid 2014 about Penang hill getting a makeover of RM15 million. Until an official announcement is made, the canopy walk on Penang Hill is still there, just not open to the public.

Penang Hill Canopy Walk information
Location: Penang Hill, Penang Island
Length: 200 Meters Long
Above Ground: Unknown
Other Info: Unknown

Penang National Park Tree Top Walk
Canopy walk at the Penang National Park - Image: Synergy Tours
Penang National Park Canopy Walk

Located inside the smallest national park in the world, the Penang National Park is the Penang Canopy Walk in the Teluk Bahang area. To get here, you need to go all the way to the end of Batu Ferringhi where it once was called 'End of the World. The main entrance to the national park is here and it is free to enter. However for the canopy walk, you need to purchase a ticket at the entrance and optional park guide.

Once you enter the park, you need to trek along the coast path about 20 minutes to the start of the canopy walk. There are signs along the paths leading you to various parts of the park. It is recommended you go early to try this. There are local public buses to the national park from George Town. A taxi will cost you RM45 to RM45 one way. This canopy walk is highly recommended for anyone visiting Penang as it can be easily done in half a day. 

Penang Canopy Walk information
Location: Penang National Park
Length: 250 Meters Long
Above Ground: 15 Metres High
Time: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
Close: Friday Closed
Adults: RM5.00
Children: RM3.00
*Park Guide Available at extra cost

Mulu National Park Canopy Walk Sarawak
The Mulu Canopy Walk crossing a river
Mulu National Park Canopy Walk

One of the oldest canopy walks in Malaysia is the Mulu National Park Canopy Walk situated in Mulu, Sarawak Borneo. There are a number of accommodations available at Mulu ranging from budget to luxury and to enter the national park, there is a fee applicable. Most travelers would stay around the park area and take a longboat ride to the park entrance.

The Mulu Canopy Walk is also located about 20-30 minutes trek into the park following the wooden elevated walkways. The canopy walk also crosses a river and joins back the the trail at another section. This tails also leads to the world renown Mulu Caves to see the magnificent caves and also to do bat watching in the evenings. For outdoor and nature lovers, this is one of the highly recommended canopy walks to experience in Sarawak. 

Mulu National Park Canopy Walk information
Location: Mulu, Sarawak
Length: 480 Meters Long
Above Ground: 25 Metres High
Time: 7.00 am to 4.00 pm
One Price: RM42.40 (Includes guide)

Batang Ai Canopy Walk Sarawak
The canopy walkway at Batang Ai National Park
Batang Ai Canopy Walk

Located at the only Hilton Resort in a Longhouse style at Batang Ai National Park is the Batang Ai Canopy Walk. Highly private and remote, this unique canopy walk if found behind the longhouse resort about 30-45 minutes trek inwards the national park.

This is also considered as the shortest canopy walk in Malaysia but the bonus here is the 40 metre viewing platform that lets you absorb in the natural wonders of the national park with amazing views. This experience is generally only for the Hilton Batang Ai guests as no walk-ins are entertained, meaning you need to stay here to try this canopy walk. Many travel agents in Kuching sell this package and you can contact them. Note Batang Ai National Park is about 5 hours drive from Kuching. 

Batang Ai Canopy Walk information
Location: Batang Ai, Sarawak
Length: 60 Meters Long
Above Ground: 30 Metres High
Time: 7.00 am to 4.00pm
Entrance: For Hilton Longhouse Guests Only

Taman Negara Canopy Walk in Pahang
The majestic Taman Negara Canopy Walk in Pahang - Image from jakdrinnan.wordpress.com
Taman Negara Canopy Walk

The Taman Negara Canopy Walkway is apparently claimed to be the longest canopy walk in the world, based on the original specifications of a canopy sky walk made from wood and ropes. However, reports indicate that many sections have been run down and needs repairs.

For anyone going to Taman Negara, this would be on your itinerary as the distance itself is quite amazing while the height if the walkway is way over 40 meters high. In total, there are over 10,000 species of flora and 600 species of fauna available for just about any nature lover. I'd spend a good 3-5 days here given the chance. 

Taman Negara Canopy Walk information
Location: Taman Negara, Pahang
Length: 510 Meters Long
Above Ground: 45 Metres High
Time: 11.00 am to 2.45 pm
Time: Friday 9.00 am to 12.00 noon
Adult: RM5.00
Children: RM3.00 

Poring Canopy Walk in Sabah
Poring Springs Canopy Walk - Image from www.mygola.com
Poring Canopy Walk

One of the most popular canopy walks in Sabah is in fact the Poring Canopy Walk located just before Mount Kinabalu. This is also a major stop for tourist visiting Kinabalu Park, especially on route back to Kota Kinabalu city. The journey here takes about one hour and usually with a tour company in KK. 

This is also the highest canopy walk in Sabah with a height of 43 metres overlooking the beautiful rainforest. The length is average with 175 metres and a main attraction in the area is the Poring Hot Springs which is the first thing you will see when you get there. The canopy walk is a 15 minute walk up the hill from the hot springs. 

Poring Canopy Walk information
Location: Poring, Sabah
Length: 175 Meters Long
Above Ground: 43 Metres High
Time: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Non Malaysians: RM5.00
Children (Below 18): RM2.50
Malaysians: RM3.00
Children (Below 18): RM1.50
Camera: RM5.00
Video: RM30.00 

Danum Valley Canopy Walk Sabah
The mother of all Canopy Walks here in Danum Valley, Sabah
Danum Valley Canopy Walk

This is probably one of the most interesting and tree-friendly canopy walks I have been on and the Danum Valley Canopy Walk also showcases a very unique multi-tier canopy walk system. This means at one end, you can climb a spiral wooden staircase around the tree to the next station of the canopy walk. 

For nature and bird watchers, this is considered the mecca of canopy walks here in Sabah. Words alone cannot describe the experience here therefore it is best for you to do it yourself. One needs to book a stay at any of the two accommodations offered here to experience the canopy walk at Danum Valley in Sabah. Walking in is not available here. 

Danum Valley Canopy Walk information
Location: Danum, Sabah
Length: 300 Meters Long
Above Ground: 26 Metres High
Entrance: Only for guests who stay at Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) or Danum Valley Field Center Guesthouse. 

Rainforest Discovery Centre Steel Canopy Walk
The Rainforest Discovery Centre Steel Canopy Walk in Sepilok, Sabah
RDC Canopy Walk 

Located in Sepilok, Sandakan, the Rainforest Discovery Centre or RDC as it is commonly called houses the country's first steel structured canopy walk and possibly one of the most advance in the world. This was the highlight for bird watchers in Sabah as it is here that you can spot quite a number of endemic birds. The RDC also offers a botanical garden, nature trails and a great place for a weekend getaway here at the Kabali-Sepilok Forest Reserve. 

The RDC Canopy Walk or Skywalk also houses two 40 metres high steel towers for bird watchers and nature observers. These two towers called the Bristlehead Tower and Trogon tower - both named after the local birds here, provide a spiral staircase up to a circular viewing deck. These towers are also the first of its kind in Southeast Asia to be integrated with the canopy walk here. 

RDC Canopy Walk information
Location: Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah
Length: 347 Meters Long
Above Ground: 25 Metres High
Time: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm
Website: RDC Canopy Walk
Non Malaysians: RM15.00
Children (5-17): RM7.00
Malaysians: RM7.00
Children (5-17): RM3.00
Children (Below 5): Free

Bukit Gemok Canopy Walk in Tawau, Sabah
Bukit Gemok Canopy Walk in Tawau, Sabah - Image by Mewot
Bukit Gemok Canopy Walk

At the Tawau Hills Park in east coast Sabah, you will find the Bukit Gemok Canopy Walk which is a mere 20 minutes drive from Tawau town. At the entrance of the Bukit Gemok Forest Reserve, you will need to hike up about 45 minutes to an hour to the start point of the canopy walk here. 

Bukit Gemuk translates as Fat Hill and offers nature lovers a chance to explore the area where you can trek, hike and also do bird watching. From Tawau town, you can grab a taxi which will cost you about RM30-40 one way. A reminder that you should make return arrangements with your taxi as there is no public transport available here. There are basic facilities like washrooms and shelter huts around the area. 

Bukit Gemuk Canopy Walk information
Location: Tawau, Sabah
Length: 231 Meters Long
Above Ground: 26 Metres High
Time: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm
Entrance: RM1.00 for everyone

Tawau Hills Park Canopy Walk
Canopy walkway at Tawau - Image from www.etawau.com
Tawau Hills Park Canopy Walk

Another canopy walk in Tawau is the Tawau Hills Park Canopy Walkway which is located in the park and about 1 kilometer from the entrance. However, this canopy walk has been having some problems where it is most of the time closed for maintenance over the last few years.

The best thing to do is contact Sabah Parks or ask at the entrance is the walk is open before heading there. There have been many cases where visitors make their trek there to find the entrance padlocked. Tawau Hills boasts of showcasing the worlds tallest rainforest trees and visitors can see these here at Tawau Hills Park.

Tawau Hills Park Canopy Walk information
Location: Tawau, Sabah
Length: 231 Meters Long
Above Ground: 40 Metres High
Time: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Non Malaysians: RM10.00
Children (Below 18): RM6.00
Malaysians: RM3.00
Children (Below 18): RM1.00

Madai Caves Canopy Walk Kunak, Sabah
The canopy walkway at Madai in Kunak, Sabah
Madai Caves Canopy Walk

The Madai Caves Canopy Walk is located in Kunak, Sabah in the Madai-Baturong Forest Reserve. Located near the famous Madai Caves, this canopy walk is also sometimes closed for repairs and it is best to check with the park rangers or office if it is open on that day when you visit.

Madai is well known for the beautiful Madai Waterfalls which is about 40 meters high and also the Madai Caves which is one of the Birds Nest Caves. Many locals and foreigners come here to experience the rainforest, waterfalls, caves and also the canopy walk which is about 30-45 minutes trek. The Madai Canopy Walk also crosses a river and was closed for maintenance in 2012 with no recent updates. Best to double check before heading here.

Madai Canopy Walk information
Location: Kunak, Sabah
Length: 119 Meters Long
Above Ground: 40 Metres High
Time: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Website: Sabah Tourism
Non Malaysians: RM5.00
Children (Below 18): RM2.00
Malaysians: RM2.00
Children (Below 18): RM1.00

Sabah Danum Valley Canopy Walk
Sabah's Danum Valley Canopy Walk is highly recommended
There you go, a list of the best canopy walks in Malaysia, compiled by David Hogan Jr of Malaysia Asia. You can also follow me on my social media channels under the same name on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

There are a total of 15 canopy tree top walks listed here and I have personally been to all but the Sedim Tree Top Canopy Walk in Kedah, Madai Caves Canopy Walk, Tawau Hills Canopy Walk and also the Taman Negara Canopy Walk and these are next on my list when given the chance.

For the outdoor and nature lover, I hope you will have the opportunity to experience some, if not all of the Canopy Walks in Malaysia. If you have visited some of them, do let me know your feedback here. 

16 Apr 2015

Pentatonix Live in Malaysia

Pentatonix Live in KL Malaysia 2015

Pentatonix will be performing live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the first time and this concert is brought in by BlackCat Live and The WonderLand+. The Pentatonix “The On My Way Home” Tour in Malaysia 2015 is set to kick off on Saturday, 30th May 2015 at Stadium Negara at 8.00pm.

Pentatonix often abbreviated as PTX was formed in 2011 and it comprise of 5 acapella vocalists; Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstie Maldonado, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola. Their name Pentatonix is named after the pentatonic scale, a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave as the group believed that the scale's five notes matched their membership. 

The band also originates from Arlington, Texas and their genre of music is mostly in the pop music style, consists of covers of existing songs, sometimes in the form of medleys, along with some original material. Their music is defined by their own arrangement style, a strong presence of low bass vocals, and a diverse range of vocal percussion.

Pentatonix Live in Singapore Asia
Pentatonix Live in Singapore - Image from TodayOnline.com
Pentatonix went on to become one of the most exciting music act to conquer the internet and social media, specifically YouTube, having now eclipsed 7.8 million subscribers and more than 880 million cumulative views, the PTXofficial YouTube page is currently the 12th most subscribed-to music channel and the 42nd most subscribed channel overall worldwide. 

Not only that, their Christmas album, “That’s Christmas to Me” was certified platinum (1,000 ,000 unit sales) in USA alone on December 24, 2014, becoming the highest-charting holiday album by a group since 1962, and the fourth best selling album in the United States in 2014. Last but not least PENTATONIX, together with music producer Ben Bram, won “Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella” for the track "Daft Punk" at the 57th Grammy Awards. 

Pentatonix Live Concert in Malaysia 2015Malaysia is the only country in Southeast Asia (SEA) to have a Saturday for the show and PENTATONIX is all set to showcase their brand of dynamic energy on stage to perform their infectious original and also phenomenal cover hits! An extraordinary concert that the usual ones we always see, let PENTATONIX delivers a mind-blowing show!

Jointly organised by BlackCat Live and The WonderLand+; Sony Music Malaysia as Record Label; Fly FM as Official Radio Station; one FM as Supporting Radio Station; Ticket Charge as Ticketing Agent and Sega Irama as Technical Support.

Pentatonix Live in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Pentatonix Live in Kuala Lumpur
Pentatonix Live in Malaysia Tickets;
RM120 (free seating)
RM170 (free seating)
RM280 (PTX zone - free standing)
RM300 (VIP - number seated)
* All ticket prices exclude 6% GST and RM4 processing fees. 

Pentatonix “The On My Way Home” Tour in Malaysia
Date: 30 May 2015
Venue: Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
Time: 8.00 pm

Early birds can enjoy 10% discount on all tickets prices until 19th April. For additional information, please visit facebook.com/onlyblackcat. To do phone bookings, please contact TicketCharge Hotline +603 9222 8811 or you can also make your online purchase via ticketcharge.com.my for the 2015 Pentatonix Live in Malaysia Concert. 

13 Apr 2015

A Journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak

 Journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak

Among one of the least visited places in Sarawak, the Bario Highlands are on top of the list of must-visit places on the island of Borneo. Where is this strange place located? What highlands is this? Many may think Sarawak offers countless hectares of rainforest but bordering Kalimantan Indonesia in the north is the unique and intriguing Bario Highlands and this is my story. 

I have heard so much about Bario over the years, especially from fellow Sarawakian friends telling me that I should visit this place and finally in late 2014, I was fortunate to make that trip there. Before I go on, you should know that the Bario Highlands is home of the Kelabit people Bario or “Bariew” means “the valley of the wind” in the Kelabit language. The place has pleasant temperatures of 16-25 degree Celsius throughout the year too.

MASwings plane arriving at Bario Highlands
MASwings plane arriving at Bario Highlands
Where is Bario? 

The Bario Highlands are elevated to about 1000 meters above sea level and is home to about 6,000 Lun Bawang, Kayan and Kenyah people, all which make up the Kelabit people. Bario shares the highlands with another popular village called Ba'Kelalan and two more smaller villages called Long Lellang and Long Seridan. There are many other smaller villages where in total, there are about 10 villages here. However, it is Bario that is claimed as the capital village here. 

People would say that Bario is one of the most beautiful places to visit and for anyone interested, you should know that there are only three flights daily from Lawas and Miri but they are on a 16-seater turboprop MASwings plane which is one unique experience for anyone who has never flown in a small plane. The takeoffs and landings are the ones to look out for while on board, it is only you, the local villagers, pilot and co-pilot in the plane. There are no stewardesses or toilets like how a local commercial jet has to offer.

Bario plane landing MASwings DCH Twin Otter Plane
Landing in Bario with the MASwings DCH Twin Otter Plane
Flying to Bario

Flying over the vast rainforest at a very low altitude kept me looking out the turboprop plane window as rarely I see things from the air so low. Primary and secondary rainforest stretch for as far as your eye can see with logging roads and winding rivers breaking the green tones of the forest canopy.

Airport Staff in Bario Highlands
Bario airport staff waiting
One thing to note is that if the weather is bad, flights would most likely be cancelled or if you're on flight, the plane could turn back to the airport. I know this simply because I had a chat with the both pilots as I was sitting right behind them on flight. 

The noise of the turboprop plane would silence any loud speaking tourist immediately therefore for once, it was a pleasant one hour flight minus the laughing or gossip. Looking around in the plane saw most of the local and international journalist in their own zone, some excited, some afraid while the local Kelabit passengers were seen snoozing comfortably.

Nearing Bario, I asked the pilots and they pointed the village from the plane cockpit before making a turn in the air to come in for landing. As it was quite a good and clear day, I managed to take a video of the plane landing in Bario. Check it out below as the video says more that me typing in words. 

Plane landing in Bario Highlands Video

Arriving at the Highlands

Upon arrival, the media entourage was greeted by our host - Scott Ngimat, one of the local guides and homestay owner whose father was one of the important village heads back in the day. Looking casual and with a friendly and warm smile, Scott got his pickup truck over for us to load our luggage onto it.

We then requested if we could have a cup of coffee by the local airport cafe as the weather was quite cooling. I am estimating that it was about 18 degrees Celsius that day we arrived.

Bario town centre
Bario town centre, that is it. No other shops. 
A barrage of questions was handed down by each of the guests here as it was the first time everyone had been here. Questions like are there shops, cafes, hotels and so on while Scott calmly replied, "there is nothing here but villages. We are hundreds of miles away from civilisation and you are in the Bario Highlands."

Finishing our coffee and tea, we headed to Ngimat Ayu, the homestay that Scott and his family ran here in Bario. The journey from the airport took a mere 10 minutes passing all sorts of farmlands and scattered Kelabit homes in the valley.

Ngimat Ayu Homestay run by Scott Apoi
Homestay on a Hill

As we approached Ngimat Ayu, it put a memory of a decades ago television series called 'Little House on the Prairie' in my mind. A traditional half brick and wooden house up on a small hill overlooking the vast Bario farmlands. This was the homestay and I was quite excited to see the interiors of this place. 

A long and very cosy hallway dotted with remnants of the past was too obvious as I walked in. Photographs of Scott's highly respected family were decorated throughout the hallway while Kelabit artifacts tucked in one corner and an extremely cosy corner complete with a sofa and books stood at the end of the hall way. Scott's late father was Gerawat Aren @ Ngimat Ayu @ BelaanTauh who was the paramount chief of the Kelabits from 1998 to 2005.

Bario Home Stay Ngimat Ayu
Common area of Ngimat Ayu homestay. Rooms are on the right side while outdoor balcony on the left.
The homestay rooms were just next to each other divided only by wooden doors and the hallway also led to a common area outside which was a very large balcony overlooking the paddy fields and the serene beauty of the highlands. Here guests would gather to have meals or just to sit around and absorb the amazing highland air.

Plus, I must acknowledge the free flow of Nescafe Coffee, Milo Chocolate and Instant Tea put at the patio of the homestay is a great bonus especially when you hangout with friends and family there. Dome of the media actually brought a book and at times, saw them sitting in the quiet and deep in enjoyment of reading with the highland wind blowing.

Hiking in Bario
Meeting other visitors in Bario while trekking here
Activities in Bario 

Due to the fact this was a media trip, we only had two full days in Bario and a simple itinerary was created for us where we visited the main attractions here in the highlands.

However, as this place is totally in the middle of the highlands, you would be expecting natural attractions. For me, it was perfectly fine as I have heard and read so much about this place, I just wanted to experience it real-time.

Salt Factory in Bario
The local salt factory where Bario Salt is processed
Bario Salt Factory Visit

One of the popular homegrown products and places to visit in Bario is their highland salt production which is located at Kampung Pa’Umor, located 1,100 metres above sea level. This unique site sees local Kelabit families taking turns to produce the well known Bario Salt and each family spends about two weeks at the salt factory located near some natural salt springs.

The salt is processed by cooking the natural salt water over high wood fire and then putting them into cut bamboo containers to dry out. Being here and observing them was no easy task as the heat inside the hut must have been about 40-50 degrees Celsius and I was perspiring non-stop.

Processing Bario Salt
The Bario Salt being processed
Bario Salt Photo
Packing the salt in leaves
After drying them, they are again put near the fire for a complete dry before opening it and packaging it in local llad jungle leaves and securing it with fine rotan string before loading them on a local buffalo which will transport it out of the salt spring to the main road.

Later, the product will be used for own consumption, sold to the community or the traders who then take them to the main towns and cities for resale. The price then increases by about 30-40 percent too.

Bario Salt is well known for their natural high mineral content making it one of the desirable cooking ingredients for locals. The salt contains natural iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium and the local salt has been traditionally used for treating thyroid problems.

A tube of Bario Salt will cost you about RM20 to RM30 or (US$5.70 to $8.50). It is openly sold around Miri, you can find them in the airports, souvenir shops and even the normal grocers or markets.

Bario Hiking and Trekking
Trekking in the highlands here
Hiking and Trekking in Bario

Those who prefer outdoor activities will be pleased to find that Bario offers some interesting and exciting trekking and hiking opportunities. However, these need to be done with a local guide as the trails and paths are not your regular ones. Some of them lead to other villages while the others lead you into the pristine highland rainforest.

Lucky for me, I opted to explore the standard walking paths which took me past local homes, paddy fields, churches and schools. Walking the tails, some small orchards were seen while locals went about their daily chores as if I was invisible.

Bird Watching in Bario

Chestnut Hooded Laughingthrush in Bario
A Chestnut Hooded Laughing thrush seen while trekking
As I am an amateur bird watcher, I managed to talk to Scott in arranging a morning of bird watching in Bario. I was told by avid birders that there were two rare and endemic species of birds that could only be found in Bario. However, after checking with Scott, he knew where to find those birds and it was a minimum of 5-8 hours of trekking to look for these birds.

Eventually, Scott took me up one of the local hillsides through the old logging roads for some bird watching. There, I was overwhelmed with the number of birds spotted. Overall, I managed to spot at least 20 birds in that one trip and majority of them were 'lifers' for me. So anyone into bird watching, Bario offers proper birding guides and Scott is one of them.

Bario River Kayaking
The Dhapur River in Bario
Kayaking in Bario

I never did get a chance to try this but on my arrival here, I noticed a poster on the airport community board and a company here does kayaking along the main Daphur River here in Bario.

I would easily say that this would be a very interesting experience and the next time around, I am quite sure that I would like to try some kayaking up in the highlands. Something totally different if you ask me.

Kelabit Longhouse Photo
Inside a Kelabit Longhouse - See the depth? 
Visiting a Kelabit Longhouse

There are many longhouses in Bario, some old while some are more modern. If you have been to an Iban longhouse, the ones here are a little different compared to them. While it was my first time walking into a Kelabit longhouse, I pretty much expected a ruai (Iban) or corridor which is quite standard in the Orang Ulu community.

However, here the Kelabit longhouse 'tawa' or corridor presents itself more as a function area during celebrations hence it looks pretty empty compared to the Iban longhouse. Each room has the family portraits displayed outside rather than in the room.

Kelabit Longhouse Kitchen
The 'Dapur' or kitchen in the longhouse
However, as we visited one of the oldest Kelabit Longhouses here called 'Bario Asal Longhouse' I was surprised that we made our entrance from the back or the kitchen area. Our guide Scott had informed us that this was normal practise for guest to come in from the kitchen area as this place is the heart of the longhouse where families and friends gather or are hosted here.

Between each 'bilik' or room, a narrow pathway connects the 'tawa' and the 'dapur' which is the main kitchen area. A fireplace called 'tetal' is where everyone gathers on a daily basis. Some of the kitchens here are nicely renovated which is quite obvious where else the standard kitchens are where the main fire place is .

Inside a Kelabit Longhouse 'Bario Asal Longhouse'

Kelabit Food

Among some of the most unique foods I have tried on my travels, I have to say the Kelabit Food is one of them. Made mainly from natural resources and herbs, the local delicacies here are absolutely different and very interesting for any food lover.

Among them, a popular dish is called Labo Belatuh (Smoked Meat) which is particularly wild boar or venison, salted and smoked over an open fire. The meat is then boiled down and pounded into small strips, and eaten with Bario rice.

Kelabit Food in Bario
Traditional Kelabit Food
Vegetables that I tried during my stay here include various species of jungle vegetables like meedin, tepus, and lanau, Bario ajinomoto leaves, bunga kantan, daun ubi and terong burung pipit. All these are cooked in many different methods here too. Again, the Kelabit food is so unique it sometimes is an acquired taste for some.

Ngimat Ayu Homestay Bario
Our media group at Ngimat Ayu Homestay during lunch
On my last night here, the entire group was invited to one of the popular longhouses called Ulung Palang where a traditional Kelabit dinner was prepared followed by a Kelabit cultural performance. Upon entering the longhouse, all of us were greeted with the locals dressed in full costume and serving us the Bario Pineapple drink, in a nicely cut pineapple.

For dinner, it was a sit-down-on-the-floor dinner where a selection of the local cuisines was prepared for us. Laid out on a mat on the floor was my favourite, a type of river fern, some Kelabit sambal, Steamed chicken in ginger leaves, wild kelabit spinach or 'tengayen' and local asparagus with dried fish called 'Lanau'.

Kelabit Longhouse Dinner
The media group enjoying a traditional Kelabit dinner in a longhouse
Kelabit Porridge Kikid
Kelabit Porridge 
The highlight was a special Kelabit porridge called 'kikid' and the 'nubu laya' which is Bario rice wrapped in palm leaves. After dinner, the incredibly delicious Bario pineapple was served. Called 'Bua Kabar', this was probably the best pineapple I have ever had in my life. You have to try it!

Kelabit Traditional Dance

When you visit Bario, you are most likely introduced to a traditional Kelabit dance performance at one of the local longhouses. Not to worry as this comes with a full on traditional Kelabit dinner followed by the dance. I won't get into details but you can see from the video below on how it is performed here which is absolutely mesmerising.

Kelabit Traditional Dance Video

Homestays in Bario

There are currently 12 professionally managed homestays in Bario and Nigmat Ayu is one of them. You may find others who run the homestays at an ad-hoc basis. However, one should not expect any city hotel standards as these are all run by the local people here who offer you their traditional way of living.

There is no air condition and no hot water therefore, everything is back to basic. For those fearing the cold highland water, you can do it the old way by boiling some water over the fire then taking it into the bathroom.

Food is prepared in each individual homestay and it is all their local food. There are no modern convenient shops (7-11), cafes or supermarkets. Only family run small grocery stalls and a tea stall in the main town area.

Photo of Bario
Bario landscape 
Laman padi Bario
The highland paddy fields here
Bario Megalith

Trekking around Bario, our guide brought us to a unique megalith site, one of more than 300 cultural sites in the area. It is called 'Batu Narit' and it is actually a large rock in the middle of a field with an interesting carving of a human figure with arms stretching outwards. Who carved it? Why carve it? Those were the common questions which was asked by all of us here.

Megalith at Bario
A Megalith at Bario
Without hesitation, I had to climb up the rock to get a better view and also to photograph it. The mystery is somehow explained through the tale of 'Upai Semaring', a legendary warrior who left carvings and marks on several rocks in different areas of the highlands, but then again, why those carvings? No one seems to know why and I believe that it is best left as a mystery here in Bario.

Kelabit Highlands Overview

Once again, Bario is actually situated near the border of Sarawak and Kalimantan, at the foot of the Kelabit Highlands at the northern part of the Apo Duat Range near Mount Murud. There are a total of 15 longhouses in the Kelabit Highlands and the Bario district has 7 longhouses.

The oldest longhouse is Bario Asal followed by Lung Palang, Arur Dalam, Pa’ Ramapoh Atas, Pa’ Ramapoh Bawah, Pa’ Derung, Padang Pasir and Kampung Baru. All of these longhouses were gathered here in the 1960's according to records.

Bario Asal Longhouse
Bario Asal Longhouse
Bario Pa' Ramupuh Longhouse
Pa' Ramupuh Longhouse 
Church in Bario
Local church in Bario
In total, there are about 6000-7000 Kelabits in Sarawak where the present population living at the Kelabit Highlands is numbered about 800 - 1000 people. It is also noted that many have left their homes for work and education while some have moved overseas.

For those still remaining here, farming and cultivation are the main jobs. Mainly for the famed Bario Rice and Bario Salt. There are some other smaller crops planted but when I was here, all I saw were paddy fields scattered all over the valley.

Kids in Bario
Kelabit kids playing freely
The most practical way to get to Bario is via flight from Miri which takes anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes one way. In the olden days, villagers used to trek for days and weeks to get to another town. With the logging roads nowadays and if you choose to travel overland, it is a 13 hour journey from Miri to Bario and mind you, some locals still do it. Especially to move large items here.

For me, I once took a 6 hour drive overland to Bakelalan, the sister village of Bario and that was one amazing journey where I sat at the back of a 4WD all the way using the old logging roads.

Bario Women
Kelabit women welcoming guests
The Bario Food Festival

This is probably one of the most unique festivals celebrated in Sarawak Borneo. Called Pesta Nukenen Bario or the Bario Food Festival, it takes place here at the end of July and early August. This is also the 10th year that the festival is taking place in Bario. Arrangements have to be made way in advance if you want to witness this festival as transportation and lodging is one of the most hardest to book for this amazing event.

Pesta Nukenen 2015
Sampling of the Pesta Nukenen Food Festival 
At the Bario Food Festival, you can be assured of some pretty amazing local dishes, traditional and cultural performances and seeing the entire highland community getting together for this festival which takes place in the centre of Bario and the participating longhouses here. This is in fact is one of the best ways to explore this unique culture.

Conclusion

To me, Bario showcases an amazing unique lifestyle and culture which is hardly seen in today's travels for most people. The locals here still practise centuries old traditions and live simple lives unlike the fast moving life that most of us face in the cities of towns. I am very glad to have visited this highland community as it made me think again about how simple life is without modernisation.

If given the chance, I would go back to Bario again, probably for a week or two just to have my head cleared minus the smart phones, laptops, malls, honking cars packaged with massive traffic jams and that horrible haze and other pollution that I am pretty much used too in Kuala Lumpur. I would also highly recommend that for anyone reading this, will one day make that incredible journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak before it gets succumbed by modernisation.
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