Pro tip for mobile viewers: please rotate phone to landscape mode to get a better view of the pictures as I'm still trying to figure out the whole coding thing, sorry for the inconvenience!
Recently, I took a trip to Bario, it's an extremely quaint town located near the borders of Kalimantan and mainly occupied by the indigenous tribal people known as the Kelabits.
The trip started off with a tiny 16-seater focal plane over a duration less than an hour (with me sitting right under the propellers which is pretty terrifying to be honest) and the landing was really ace so kudos to the pilot for that. The view was amazing though, lucious green forests and very little dwellings dotting the landscape, reminds me of those little 3d boxed landscape structures you see in malls and universities while they're constructing the real thing.
The insides of the longhouse common area was lined with souvenirs, maps, photo of adventures, ancestral bloodlines. On the outside, the sun was shining and the skies were blue, but Bario was at an altitude high enough for the atmosphere to still be cool and breezy. After settling in, we took a stroll around the village that we resided in, and it took about 2 hours to cover on foot, it is so heartwarming to see how everyone was so polite and kind to each other. Bario is mainly rice fields and mountains and I'm not kidding when I tell you, a lot of 4WD's. We were served with home cooked meal at the end of every night, and dear Lord they were so good (as you can tell that's me spooning more food onto my plate while everyone poses for the photo).
Due to the fact that Bario has little to no light pollution, you could see the stars twinkling away in the night sky, we even managed to see the milky-way (makes me think about how insignificant we really are because we are specks of dust living on a floating rock in the middle of a vacuum space), unfortunately due to the lightning show that was going on throughout the entire night, we did not manage to capture any photo that did that awe-inspiring moment any justice.
So the next day, we set out to conquer Mount Prayer. It was a steep hiking race against the sunrise at 3am. It was so tiring that my glutes hurt for two weeks afterwards but the view when we reached was so beautiful. It was a first ever mountain hike for me but definitely won't be the last.
I cheezed out a bit being so high up in the mountains and figured it was mandatory to take a photo of the scenery and my generic geologist hiking boots.
I think I took the most number of photos in this leg of the trip even though I'm not sure if my photos did do the wondrous scenery any justice; but my sense of accomplishment when I reached the top is probably more overwhelming than receiving my A Level results, Also, if you hadn't notice, I'm as much of a sucker for sky photos as the next person.
But such that it is life, all good things must come to an end, so we made our way down Mount Prayer with empty bellies and headed straight to town for food! The heart of Bario was composed two rows of shop-houses and a tiny field with a set-up stage for major events. I'm not sure if I was famished or what but the plate of kuey teow I had blew my mind (aside from the grease factor), also I met a friendly neighbourhood praying mantis whom I have decided to name Peter before setting it off onto the grassy hills.
On our third day, we set out to trek to a "nearby" village (they told me it was nearby, they lied), we made good time surprisingly and took about four and a half hours to trek from Ngimat Ayu Longhouse (the homestay we were originally staying in) to Batu Ritung Lodge. To be real frank, never in my life have I hated trekking that much, we transitioned from jungle trekking to walking on the main road under the scorching sun and vice versa. I didn't really see anything that interesting aside from the couple of outcrop that woke my inner geologist up (was a lot of sandstone and mustones).
And of course, without a doubt, the village was also covered in luscious greens and also a lot of padi fields. Upon arrival, we did walk around the village and our homeowner took us to one of the heritage site that contained this stonehenge looking structure known as a megalith which apparently is a tomb for a Kelabit of a higher class, but I've already lost interest by then so I didn't manage to take a picture. Initially, on our way back oI wanted to ride the water buffalos but figured that is probably not one of the wisest life decisions I will make after taking a closer look at them so I opted for fishing instead, but with unfortunately no success.
I found out that this place was just 45 minutes away if you travelled by wheels and got slightly annoyed lol. Personal opinion but I didn't really liked the second homestay as much, I had five daddy long legs hanging on the ceiling above my bed, and also got bitten by a couple of mosquitoes while asleep. Aside from the bad, there's always the good, from staying up past 3am to talk about politics and the future and the greater good, we also managed to watch the sunset from this cut out of the side of the house. I will probably never stop loving how the sunsets and sunrises are different every single day.
The next day, we were served with pancakes for breakfast (really odd, in my opinion, but I'm not complaining though because they were delicious!) before heading back to our homestay (I was beyond ecstatic at this point to be heading back) via boat ride (they excluded the part where the boat ride was located about 2 hours from our homestay and can only be reached by either dirt bike riding or trekking, and I'm sure you know which one we did)
We were separated into two different groups riding two different boats and it was relatively uneventful for my side of the boat but the weight on the other boat was probably a lot more, combined with the low level of water present which resulted in the delay of the entire trip, a supposed 1 hour boat trip took over 4 hours to complete
On our last night, it was the closing day of Malaysia's election and needless to say BN won by a landslide and we were there to witness the reactions of the locals. People of all ages clustered in front of a TV awaiting for the news and when the victory of BN was announced, everyone cried in joy and sung amazing grace afterwards. After the entire thing, we conversed with some of the locals about the upcoming improvements Bario will be receiving and I also met one of the Kelabits with stretched ears!
We all headed to bed after countless rounds of "Bullshit" before our flight back to Brunei and was once again greeted with home-cooked breakfast in the morning (really missing the food there to be honest). We all packed and before being sent to the airport, the family members of Ngimat Ayu House said a wonderful prayer for us, blessing us on our journey. We all said our thank you's, bid farewell and took one last scenic back-of-the-pickup-truck ride to catch our flight.
With both happiness and a heavy heart, we left Bario on our tiny focal plane back to modern civilization again.
I want to give a special thanks to the people of Bario that made the entire place so easygoing and relaxing and also especially to the members of Ngimat Ayu that made the stay as comfortable and as homey as possible. For welcoming us with open arms and also for the amazing food they cooked nightly. It's not easy to let strangers into your home and it's definitely even harder to make them feel at home and at ease.
Traveling to Bario felt like traveling back in time, back to when life was a lot simpler and easier, where social media drama and banter did not exist. It is definitely a quick getaway fit for nature lovers. This trip (as in accomodation. flight, home-stay meals & transport) was self-funded and cost me about 300 to 350 BND for a 4d3n trip, which is really worth it from my perspective. If you wonder whether I'd go back to Bario again, definitely. (I need to conquer Mount Prayer once more, but the trek...not so much haha)
Stay tuned for the next (probably throwback?) post!
Stay tuned for the next (probably throwback?) post!