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Showing posts from 2008

Borneo Break: Dissapointment in Niah Cave

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Niah Cave should be a hive of activity in August. Amber asked someone about bird nest collection in the Big Cave and she was told that natives would climb up the cave ceiling somewhere around that time. There were signs of human activities up the ceiling like a rope dangling from the roof high above us and it gave the chills just to imagine people dangling up there to earn a living. There had been fatal accidents of people falling before and eerie tales of their souls wandering in the caves gave the creeps but there was no stopping us from exploring further into the Painted Cave. To reach the Painted Cave, one just have to climb up and down steep stairs to the back of the Great Cave where there is a large chamber known as Lubang Padang. You may not realise passing through Burnt Cave or Lubang Angus but you will definitely not miss the Moon Cave or Gan Kira. The latter was a long, dark and damp passage and you will have to switch on your torchlight here. Then when you were beginning to…

Borrneo Break: The Great Cave of Niah

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The Great Cave of Niah, as has been said, is about3.5 km from the Park Headquarters. Walking along the wooden walkway, one is supposed to pass giant Tapang trees with enormous buttress, Padanus plants twice the size of a person and exquisitely formed orchids and fungi. The brochures also said that if you take your time and walk quietly, you'll get to see some of the Park's wildlife too like colourful birds, squirrels, monkeys,lizards, butterflies and other unusual invertebrates and insects. I didn't see all those things of course and I would like to think that was because I had rushed my way there. The Big Cave has seemed so far away and it was almost lunch time when we made our way from across the river. I thought we should have started off very early in the morning. Occasionaly, when we met people who were on their way out, I would inadvertently asked in Malay, Masih jauh ke gua? which means, Is it still far from the cave and of course, each time, I was assured that the …

Borneo Break: Trading in a Cave

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Niah Cave which is located in Gunung Subis, has been gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958 and in 1974, some 3,100 hectares of surrounding rainforest and limestone hills were included to form Niah National Park. The park while being one of Sarawak's smaller national parks is by no means the least important. In fact, it is definitely one of the most important as the oldest modern human remains discovered in Southeast Asia were found here, thereby, making it one of the most important archaelogical sites in the world. Items found at Niah Cave include Pleistocene chopping tools and flakes, Neolithic axes, adzes, pottery, shell jewellery, boats, mats, iron tools and ceramics and glass beads dating to the Iron Age. The most famous find is of course, a human skull dated at around 38,000 years. Walking 3.5 km from the Park Headquaters, you would probably come to the Great Cave, but not before passing the Trader's Cave first which is really an extended rock overhang where in…

Borneo Break: Walkway to Niah Cave

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Hiking up Niah Cave is easy! You just have to walk the wooden pathway! Of course, you have to pay an RM1 fee to take a boat across the river first and if you are lucky like we were, you would have bumped into some locals carrying guano home too!There is a museum across the river and if it is open, you may want to spend sometime there but it would not take up much of your time. The museum is rather small and in our case it was closed closed. So, we just had a brisk walk along the wooden walkway all the way to Niah Cave. If you are looking for nature and some solitude, this is the place to be. It was pretty quiet walking especially with just Amber and me and we did meet people who having started their journey early, were making their way home. It was almost lunch time when we made our hike and yes, you don't need a map to help you get around; so, there was no point splurging RM 5 for a thin, uninformative book from the administrative office. Just walk along the wooden walkway and re…

Borneo Break: Niah Cave, Here We Come!

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It was evening when we reached Miri. The next day would be the highlight of our trip and we would visit Niah Cave. I had initially wanted to visit the two famous caves in Sarawak, Mulu Cave and Niah Cave but the former was out since the Twin Otter which would take us there was fully booked. Niah Cave however was easily accessible by car and would take perhaps less than two hours or so to reach. Mau Wei who had initially planned to drive us there with her Toyota, however, was not feeling well and had to stay home. She allowed us to take her car though but besides not being familiar with the routes, I was not the type to drive an unfamiliar car and so, Amber and I decided to take a public bus to Niah Cave instead. Bus services and van services too, we heard are available in town but when we were there, we learned that we had to wait for an hour or more for the bus and the spriteful Amber had chatted up a man who wastraveling to Bintulu to send some goods and it was on his van that we …

Borneo Break: Another Glimpse of Bintulu

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Our trip from Mukah back to Miri was a delight. Gendil took over the car somewhere in the middle of the journey probably after we had stopped at a house somewhere at a junction to borrow a loo. Then, we were supposed to drive straight back to Miri but Gendil, surprisngly made a detour to the old part of Bintulu town where she went to shop for some belachan in the wet market there. Belachan, by the way, is a local delicacy, a shrimp paste, which is both smelly and an important ingredient in dishing out a many local delights. Her stop there gave both Amber and I an opportunity to look around Bintulu. Mau Wei who had been to Bintulu a few times said there was nothing much to see but for a first timer like Amber and me, Bintulu Old Town was an interesting distraction...
Glimpses of Bintulu...
















Traveling Tip: Every minutes is precious!

Borneo Break: A Quaint Town by the River

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One thing nice about travelling with Mau Wei was she was spontanteously adventurous. Both times when we were travelling from Miri to Sibu and on our return journey too, she made a detour to a little unknown town called Tatau. The little town by the river surprisingly is the capital of the Tatau District in Bintulu Division and the main spoken language there is said to be Iban and Beketan Punan but in the town, there was a Chinese population and there was a prettly little temple by the river too ...

Quaint Tatau...










A little Chinese temple in Tatau...


Traveling Tip: Make a detour!

Borneo Break: At a Melanau Traditional House

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The morning before we left Mukah for Sibu which was a 3 hour ride and 250km away, we had visited Lamin Dana Melanau Cultural Centre. Lamin Dana is a Melanau traditional house, a longhouse too, I suppose and over here in Mukah, one could rent a room to put up a night if one wants to have a Melanau feel and to visit a sago processing house to see how sago flour is traditionally produced. Otherwise, one can just pay RM 3 per person to look around the place. We did just that as you can guess and luckily for us, Miss Saw was there to point out to us a traditional resting place for a Melanau chieftain. In the past, respected Melanau leaders upon death would be placed to rest on a totem-like structure and the one at the centre, looked like an old tree trunk and was said to be over 200 years old and one of the last remaining ones...



At Lamin Dana Melanau Cultural Centre...









Inside the Lamin Dana...






















A resting place for a Melanau Chieftain in the distance...



Sago plants....





Time to go...





Traveling Tip…

Borneo Break: A Day Out in Mukah

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Mukah is the centre of Melanau culture and there is a place called Lamin Dana Water Village, which houses a Melanau Cultural Center just near town. By the way, Melanau refers to a group of people who live on the island of Borneo, in Sarawak and in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Melanau are among the earliest settlers of Sarawak, and speak a Northwest Malayo-Polynesian language and just as many of them are Muslims as there are Christians.If you are not visiting the Melanau Cultural Center, it would be nice to pay a visit to the wet market at the town's waterfront. You could find delight from watching the various types of fishes sold there, traditional cookies too especially those made from sago. If you do get tired of all that, just hang around to watch the ships and boats that harbour at the estuary and if you are lucky like us, you'd get to see the locals practising rowing their boats for a dragon boat race. Apparently, there was to be a water regatta in Dalat some 15 km the next day…