The two main villages in the Kelabit Highlands are Bakelalan and Bario, both at an average 1000 meters (3300 feet) above sea level which makes the overall atmosphere here very cooling. The only way to get here is via road which can take anywhere from 4-8 hours via four wheel drive (4WD) and the other faster but costlier way would be to fly in via small plane from nearby Lawas or Miri. There are no flights out of Sarawak.
|A MasWings Twin Otter Plane makes a landing in Bakelalan|
Merarap Hot Springs
|Merarap Hot Springs, a popular local spot on the way to Bakelalan|
Bakelalan Salt Factory
|Salt making process being demonstrated|
|Lun Bawang ladies in traditional costumes|
For the main dish, Nubu 'Laya, a rice wrapped in banana leaf and also the Lun Bawang rice cake or Kelupis as it is locally called was served. Chicken and fish dishes which were fried were also included alongside some local vegetables and ferns.
|Authentic Lun Bawang Food on the Nubu Layar|
After about five minutes, you will see the rice browning and they continue to fry it until it becomes coffee brown or slightly burnt. Then it is removed and then a small portion is put into a cup topped up with boiling hot water.
At the end, I managed to get a few packets of the rice coffee to take away. Totally mind blowing if you ask me. In other words, you - the reader, should put this in your bucket list if you love all things coffee.
Homestay in Bakelalan
Spending a night at the Apple Lodge next to the smallest airport in Malaysia was another exciting adventure. Not only was the temperature cooling at night, there was absolutely zero to do here once the night falls except catching a good nights sleep. The nice thing about this lodge is that is it run by a former pastor named Pak Tagal and this was Ba Kelalan's first homestay which was started back in 1997 with only 10 rooms.
|The triple room at Apple Lodge in Bakelalan|
Pa Sarui View Point Bakelalan
The following day saw our group trek up one of the hills to catch a birds eye view of Bakelalan village and having trekked many places, I have to say that this trek was pretty easy where in the beginning, you will pass through paddy fields and farm lands, exposing you to the local lifestyle and culture here.
|View of Bakelalan from Pa Sarui view point|
What to do in Bakelalan
|One of the villages seen from a distance in Bakelalan|
Trekking/Hiking in Bakelalan - For activities in Bakelalan, there are a lot of trekking and hiking to do as you can trek or hike from village to village. This is best done with a local tour guide as you would not want to be lost here. Trails come in simple to advanced ones therefore you should enquire with the tour guides about the type you want to do.
Trekking from Bakelalan to Bario - There are a number of visitors who trek from Bakelalan to Bario and this takes about two to three days which is also a popular tour activity. A number of tour agents in Miri and Kuching sell these packages.
Bakelalan Salt Factory Visit - One of two salt factories in the Kelabit Highlands, the Bakelalan Salt Factory is a must visit to see how the salt is produced with simple methods. The other salt factory is located in Bario.
Cultural Experiences in Bakelalan - Visiting the Lun Bawang homes will introduce you to some very unique cultures where you can learn about the history of the people here. Seeing the local costumes and traditional dances are also an eye opener.
Lun Bawang Food - One of the unique highland cuisines is the local food here. The Lun Bawang cuisine is totally different from the local Sarawakian food therefore, it is highly recommended to try the food here, as you will be served during your stay here.
Nature Walks - Walking around Bakelalan will expose you to a variety of flora and fauna. From seeing the local farms, paddy fields to the many birds and even buffalo's that help plow the villagers fields.
|Waiting for the flight out of Bakelalan, notice the unique baggage carrier.|
For more information, you can visit the Sarawak Tourism Board website and you can also book tours to Bakelalan from most travel agents around Sarawak, namely in the cities of Kuching and Miri. Make sure you get a licensed tour guide too.
Once again, I have to remind you that this place is not your ordinary tourist site but more of a cultural and ecotourism destination which caters to the niche markets or those looking for something different. If you want to know what a simple lifestyle is all about, then I would highly recommend you pay a visit to Bakelalan in Sarawak Borneo.