An Escape to the Countryside

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“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

It has always been a dream of anyone to take a break from the urban sprawl and visit the relaxed countryside. A place where the air is cleaner, the views are extraordinary and the life is simple. Here in Malaysia, there are tons of places that will give you that kind of desire and one of those is Bario Highlands.

Bario Highlands—a gathering of wooden cabins and quaking rice paddies. It is a place which has been endowed with multitudes of historical, cultural and fascinating tourist attractions. Last May 18-20, 2017 I got the chance to explore the enchanting Bario and discover its amazing wonders. Join me, together with my trail running buddy as we unleashed the beauty that is Bario.

 

BARIO BEGINNINGS

Lying at an altitude of about 3,500 feet above sea level in the northeastern corner of Sarawak and a gateway in the beautiful mountain valley of Kelabit Highlands is the famous Bario. Known as the “land of a hundred handshakes” for its friendly locals, Bario is a portmanteau of Ba-a and Marariu meaning “windy swamp” in the Kelabit language.

The Kelabits were originally a tribe of fierce warriors and headhunters who spoke their own local language. During the World War II, British troops made a parachute drop into Bario and set up the town as their Headquarters. After the war ended, the British troops eventually left the place and were replaced by the arrival of Christian missionaries. As being influenced by their religion, until today, the Kelabit people are predominantly Christian.

At approximately 5,000 people, the Kelabit is one of the smallest ethnic groups in Sarawak. Like many other indigenous communities in Sarawak, the Kelabit live in longhouses in the highlands. The Kelabit language is widely spoken, while many have also learned to speak English and Bahasa Malaysia.

ADVENTURE STARTS

“I was in great awe with the untouched natural beauty of the place as well as its isolation characteristics making Bario mysteriously interesting”.

My journey began as we took a 2-hour and 15-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur to Miri. Then from Miri to Bario Highlands, we took a 16-seater turboprop plane which is definitely one exceptional experience especially for those who has never flown in a small plane. You can see the amazing aerial view of the mountain peaks like a cloth draped over a pillow. The takeoffs and landings are the ones to look out for while on board, it is only you, the local villagers, pilot and co-pilot in the plane. Note to those who want to go to Bario, there are only three flights daily from Miri to Bario. So, if you’re planning to pay a visit to this magnificent highlands, better to book early.