At Bario, visitors can expect authentic Kelabit food prepared by the highly skillful local chef's who have carried the recipes from generation to generation. The beauty about the local dishes here is seeing how they are prepared in the traditional longhouses. On a normal day, they are prepared in the kitchen of the longhouse which also doubles at the main guest area.
|The main area where the Bario Food Festival will be held|
This food festival is considered to be one of the world's most unique festival due to the overall culinary process and experience. Because Bario is not an easy place to reach in the highlands, this resulted in the locals having kept the centuries old tradition and recipes safeguarded.
|Pitcher Plant Rice, a local Kelabit speciality dish|
In the recent Miri Country and Music Festival, the Bario Food Festival 2015 was promoted by the organisers by bringing the Kelabit people down from Bario to showcase their ethnic Kelabit food. At the bazaar, there was a Kelabit Food Tent where visitors were introduced to this authentic food and also for branding awareness for the festival.
|The Bario Food Festival Committee promoting the event in Miri|
|The media was given a preview and taste of the traditional Kelabit food|
|Dato Isaac Lugun (centre) and Nikki Lugun (right) sampling the Kelabit Food at the festival|
This is also one of the main reasons why you will not find any authentic Kelabit restaurants anywhere. Among the recommended food to try here is the Nuba' Laya' which is softened rice wrapped in banana leaf. Another popular dish is Labo Belatuh or smoked meat done Kelabit style.
|Kelabit Food, very authentic dishes|
However, when dusk arrives, you will also see another side of the locals here where song and dance come into play. As the highland people are avid followers of the country and western lifestyle, don't be surprised to see locals in cowboy hats and boots singing along to popular country tunes.
Pesta Nukenen is organised by the Rurum Kelabit Sarawak, the Kaum Ibu and Belia Bario and supported by Alde Valley Food Adventures UK, the Sarawak Tourism Board and the Sarawak State Government.
|Trekking in Bario|
Due to the high elevation, Bario is truly an amazing place for anyone who loves the outdoors, culture and nature. Here, you can witness the locals going about their everyday lives harvesting and planting highland paddy or rice padi. This is one of the main industries of the Kelabit people. Apart from this, smaller farming lands cater to vegetables and fruit.
Hiking and trekking is also on top of the activity list as there are many trails available around Bario. Some of off road while a number of them lead to other villages.
Bird watching is also available for avid birders and even beginners as a number of montane birds are available here, including endemic ones. It is said that there are two or three species which is very rare and found only in the Bario Highlands.
There are also visits to the local salt farm where you can witness how traditional salt is processed and made here. The salts are processed from salt water which is pumped to the main centre and then cooked before fire drying them. Each designated family takes turns to process the Bario Salt here.
Other activities include kayaking down the Daphur River which is something that I would like to try one day.
|A Kelabit Longhouse in Bario|
Kelabit longhouse visits are the main highlight and not to be missed as this is truly a one-of-a-kind experience where you can walk through these extremely long wooden houses on stilts which have about 20-30 families staying there.
The longhouses have three main sections - The tawa which is the main hall or corridor, the bilik which is the actual homes of the locals and the back of the longhouse which is the kitchen and open area.
While many may think the tawa is the main area, it is actually the kitchen area which serves as the main area where guests are hosted and families gather. When I visited one of the longhouses, the locals told me that it was common for guests to enter from the kitchen and be greeted and hosted here.
|Flying inside a Twin Otter Turboprop Plane to Bario|
Bario is accessed only via flight from Miri, Lawas and Kuching and only via the small turboprop aeroplanes which can seat 16 passengers at one time. There are three flights a day but during the festival, MASwings has allocated additional flights to make it 6 flights a day. Note that each passenger is weighed along with their luggage before checking in.
As for land transport, it takes about 10-12 hours just from Miri and only the locals will go for this. A flight will take you 1 hour only. There are no taxis or buses to Bario.
Taking a flight to Bario is one amazing experience as you will fly around 1000 to 3000 feet above ground and you can see the vast primary and secondary rainforest below you. Even more amazing is the landing experience at the Bario airport.Check out the video I did for the plane landing at Bario Airport.
|Nigmat Ayu Homestay in Bario|
|Map of Bario, Sarawak|
|Map of Bario Highlands|