Bario and the Kelabit Highlands

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Bario

The Kelabit Highlands

Sarawak

Borneo

January 29, 2013

Dear Friends, 

The Kelabit Highlands is pleasant place and a good way to end my visit to Sarawak. 

The flight on the De Havilland Twin Otter 19 passenger airplane from Miri to Bario was short and comfortable.  The views were excellent and I could watch the pilots at work at the controls. 

There was one “fascinating” moment.  As we approached our destination and before we began our descent, I noticed that the very nearby mountaintops on the right and on the left were higher than the flight path of the plane.  Later, when I encountered the pilots at the airport café, I mentioned my observation to them.   They smiled. 

The Kelabit Highlands are picturesque and the villagers are hospitable and generous.  The children are children – rambunctious and curious.  Even the chickens are colorful.

On the hike from the village we spotted a pitcher plant.  Fruit falls from the trees.  Like everywhere else in Southeast Asia, farmers tend to their fields of rice.  

We found one of the many petroglyphs in this area. The petroglyph is called Batu Nerit Arur Bilit in the village of Pa' Umor.  The carving is of a man standing wih his arms held above as if in victory. Below him are markings that count the number of his enemies - the number of heads taken! 

As in many remote locations, the evening activity consists of like-minded travelers entertaining each other with their tall tales of travel.  Naturally I contributed to the group – a French couple, a German couple and a couple from Kuala Lumpur.  At times, I had them rolling in the aisles. 

By the way, the German couple was headed for the Philippines for an extended time.  Since they were in their early 40’s, I was curious about how they could afford to be away from home. 

At the café at the small airport I noticed that they were both using their computers.  The lady, an engineer, explained that she tired of corporate life and had quit her job.  When I inquired about her husband, she pointed to him at the keyboard and said, “He’s working now.” 

I have met many many couples on the road.  They travel where they please.  They live where they please.  They find an Internet connection and make a living.  Even at a tiny airport in the hills of Borneo, they are open for business. 

Our return flight was cancelled because of the morning fog in Bario.  The little plane was running short of fuel so it returned to Miri.   We were rebooked for the next day.   I had anticipated such a problem and had a couple of days to spare in the big city of Miri before my long distance flights home. 

The hotel in Miri was first class and served a huge buffet breakfast.  I wandered around town and bought a few trinkets to add to my collection.  The folks in Sarawak specialize in beaded art. TheI beaded woman is called Orang Ulu.

I also bought a small flag of Sarawak.  I love the powerful design: a nine-pointed gold star on a background of red and black diagonal stripes.  I have added the flag to my “flagorium.”  (The word was coined by a friend in Bangkok.) 

Snap!  My apartment in Bangkok is filled.  Yet, somehow the new stuff finds its way to a spot on the walls.  Or on the shelves, or on the floor.  

Jan

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