Bakelalan Salt Factory

Salt Factory Bakelalan

A visit to the Bakelalan salt factory is not to be missed for anyone who is planning to explore this part of Sarawak Borneo. Bakelalan or Ba'kelalan is a highland town that sits at 1000 meters above sea level in the Maligan Highlands of north east Sarawak.

For adventure tourist, Sarawak is probably one of the best places in Malaysia to visit, simply due to the many non-commercialised tourism destinations. Places like Bakelalan are still untouched with very little modernisation and culturally rich.

Visiting the Bakelalan Salt Factory

To get to Bakelalan, there are only two ways to do so, one is via small propeller aircraft from the city of Miri, and the other is overland via logging roads, which can take anywhere from seven to nine hours.

Photo of Bakelalan
The beautiful view when entering Bakelalan
If you choose the overland way, it would be an adventure by itself as you get to see the interior of Sarawak, passing small villages and rainforest. At times, you pass beautiful view points which make you stop just to take a photograph.

Once you arrive in Bakelalan, you will notice that the weather gets a little cooler as you are at the peak of the highlands. Villages are seen in small valleys and best viewed from the peak, and usually it is the main village area where you will be staying at.

There are actually three salt factories found in Bakelalan, but the most popular one is called Buduk Bui, which is a community salt factory and probably the best to visit.

Salt factory process at Bakelalan
Bakelalan salt making process at Buduk Bui
How is the Bakelalan Salt Produced?

When you visit the Buduk Bui salt factory, the locals there will take you through the process of how they make the Bakelalan salt. It is quite interesting to know that they can extract the salt from the natural salt spring or salt well from nearby. 

From the salt spring water, they process of boiling it and stirring it eventually reveals the salt contents from the half metal barrel used. Traditional fire is used to boil the water and firewood of a certain type is collected from around Bakelalan. 

The last process sees the community packing the salt for sale. Nowadays, they use the commercial method of packing the salt in plastic bags, but back in the day, they would use a certain type of leaf to wrap the rock salt.

The local Lun Bawang people posing with the Bakelalan Salt
Where to buy Bakelalan Salt? 

The best place to buy the famous Bakelalan salt is directly from the Buduk Bui salt factory. After you visit here, you can buy it straight from the makers as this is the freshest quality of iodine salt.

Other places that sell Bakelalan Salt include the villages of Bakelalan where you are staying. You can always ask the home owner to buy the salt as they will carry some or get some for you.

Salt from Bakelalan Sarawak
The processed salt after boiling it for hours
The next best place to buy Bakelalan salt is in the city of Miri, where you can find them at the local markets, especially at the Tamu Khas or Special Market. This Tamu Khas is a section of the main Miri market, where only ethnic produce is allowed to be sold. 

If you are visiting Lawas town, they also sell Bakelalan salt as Lawas is one of the gateways to Ba'kelalan using off road vehicles. Note that traveling off road will take you at least seven hours.

You can also find another similar salt in neighbouring Bario. For those traveling to Bario in Sarawak, this is the sister village of Bakelalan and they too produce their own salt apart from other homegrown produce.

Salt from Bakelalan
Garam Bakelalan or Bakelalan Salt
Finally, in Kuching city, there may be a few shops that sell Bakelalan salt, especially along the main Kuching Waterfront shopping bazaar area. Take not that there is also the famous Bario salt, so you can choose wither. 

As a frequent visitor to Sarawak, I have always been fascinated by the ethnic produces, food and overall cultures, namely in Bakelalan and Bario. Something about this that makes everything so real, compared to the current city life that most of us face nowadays. 

I would honestly recommend making a trip to the Kelabit Highlands as it is no one of your commercial tourism destinations. And when you are here, make sure you pay a visit to the Bakelalan salt factory to see how some of the best salt in Malaysia is produced. 

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