An Escape to the Countryside

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1992

Upon arrival to Bario, I was in great awe with the untouched natural beauty of the place as well as its isolation characteristics making Bario mysteriously interesting. It is like an upland bowl surrounded by rocky cliffs and serrated limestone peaks.

We stayed in one of their famous longhouses that were built during the 1950s. As cultures adapt throughout time, the longhouse will remain culturally sustainable, a constant home. The longhouse family’s clan symbol was hung over at the long and very cosy hallway of the longhouse. By looking through those black and white photos I feel like I’m walking down to their memory lane. Those remnants of the past is indeed a treasure that’s worth keeping.

WHAT TO DO IN BARIO?

As soon as I reached Bario, the weather is relatively bad. The dark clouds loomed over the tree tops and it started to drizzle. That certainly won’t stop me from exploring the fascinating Bario. I decided to first visit a small hill with a large amount of pineapple being planted in the area. The Hill has an overlooking view on the Bario farmlands.

Bario pineapple is juicy, sweet and totally organic. Apart from the tasty pineapple, Fragrant Bario rice also has a sweet and premium taste. However, you can only find Bario rice in East Malaysia. It’s very hard for you to find it elsewhere. I guess the high altitude of this place is the reason for the pineapple and rice to have a distinct taste.

Every mountain in Bario has a story. From the Bario Asal Longhouse, it’s a steep, slippery ascent (two hours) up to the summit of Prayer Mountain, which has a wooden cross that was erected in 1973. Brushes of pitcher plants and the 360 views of the Bario Valley can be seen at the peak.

Next stop, is the crash site. My tour won’t be complete without even paying a visit to this place, where the history and discovery of Bario Highlands took place. As I went through this site, the light rain escalated into a heavy downpour that forced me to return to the longhouse.

When you visit Bario, you are most likely be introduced to a traditional Kelabit dance performance at one of the local longhouses. And I was not an exception for that, during my stay. A senior residing in the longhouse celebrated his birthday so they invited the residents and guests to dance, party and eat a full traditional Kelabit dinner.

Bario has their own Food Festival called ‘Pesta Nukenen’. It is a 3-day festival during the month of July when you can be assured of some pretty unique local dishes, traditional and cultural performances. Through this celebration, you can see the entire highland community getting together for this festival.