Mulu Moolah

Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2008

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, February 15, 2007

After spending some decompression time in Kuching, I boarded an overnight bus to Miri, bypassing about half of Sarawak. I'm getting used to these fourteen hour bus trips - they are rather easy on my increasingly plastic-seat-toughened behind. Miri was exceptionally unexciting - a burnt out mining city with little to do. However, while searching for a new camera, I stumbled across an archery lane in one of the malls and tried my hand at some targets. This seems like a strange place to have a thriving young archer population, but it seems miri has a lot going for its arrow slinging youngsters. I mostly suck, and may have to practice if I wish to ever seriously pursue such a calling.

Gong xi fa cai is plastered everywhere - the Chinese culture of 'make more money' and 'be more prosperous' is a least balanced this CNY season with some healthy shutting down of businesses and hanging out with family. I think it looks strangely similar to Christmas - lots of money being spent, materialism, then a few days of being with family. But mostly, outwardly, it is kind of disgusting. Meh, I'm still undecided. I saw some really bad Chinese karaoke, and watched the ever-popular wushu all over the city, and then retired to my seedy Chinatown hostel, where several hookers spouted hilarious broken english phrases to me much like 'Full Metal Jacket'. ("Me so hoah-nee", "I need, I need")

I woke up at eleven in the morning, and decided it might be a good idea to go to the UNESCO heritage site, Gunung Mulu. The only way to get there is by a small air charter, or else with ten hours of river speed-boat cruising. I opt for the plane, and find that I am compelled to go to the airport immediately as the flight left in about an hour and a half. I hurriedly pack my bag and grab a 'texsi'.

I buy a ticket, and whilst checking in, get to have the pleasure of explaining for a very long time how a camping stove works, and what my fuel bottle is for. It was quite funny, scince, this is the first time any airport athourity has questioned me about it, and that the security guys were really relaxed about it, and in a way, just wanted to know what on earth this contraption was that I was carrying. I was more than happy to oblige, epecially scince I was pretty blase about having emptied the fuel out of it, but not really "cleaning" it of the residual fuel. All is well, and I go to eat breakfast - airport price mee goreng.

This is the point at which I meet Thomas, Andrea, and Trevor - the infamous trio blogged about elsewhere:

"Andrea and Thomas were two fine folks I met in the Miri airport, as I was freaking out, eating my horrible mee goreng with much rapidity to catch my flight to Mulu, which turned out to actually be about half an hour later than I had read the ticket to be. Tom, being the outgoing token kiwi he is (pardon the pun), waved and gave his saluatation to me whilst I was basking in the glow of an added half hour wait for my filght in the small departure hall. Andrea, sarcastically noting my demeanor asked, "are you excited? You look like you're excited!". Now this could be the checkout girl who told Chuck that plastic bags didn't come from trees, or she could be for real. Yep, definitely for real, 'no fluff of the average female traveller in her' I said to myself in the many seconds that I was outwardly responding with an emabarassingly dumb look on my face. Anyhow, we all got along grandly, and bashed the greed of the Mulu resort all weekend whilst indugling in the pleasure offered by the obviously unstrenous pinnacles hike. (I note this as our frightfully fit friend Trevor the Canadia (sic) hiker busted his knee on the way down.)

So I changed my plans a bit, and followed these guys around. We drank beer with the locals in this tiny and inaccessible National Park town, made fun of gawky Brits who turned out to be National Geographic explorers, charting the Mulu cave system. (we found this out later, as we watched them back in Miri on CNY, scantily clad women hanging off them with the air of girls looking for money, not conversation.) (Probably the language barrier was used to their advantage.) (I use a lots of brackets, because it's fun and confusing.) (Get it?)"

At any rate, and I realize this is a very disjointed post, I think that the Mulu park has a bad attitude. I don't think it is helped by the rich tourist who go there, but I think it is poor to exploit such a rich heritage by overcharging tourists, hikers, and speleunkers, by forcing them to use guides in even the easiest of trails (the headhunter's trail never had mandatory guides until mulu was privatized). Additionally, I found it impossible to book anything other than the pinnacles trek, a mediocre trek with not-hugely impressive peaks. I mean, sure, this is a cool attraction, but it is outshone by the huge cave system, and this is what the national park should be emphasising - not just one trek that is mediocre, but easy to get people on as a cash cow.

I enjoyed Mulu, but I would not recommend it to anyone, simply on principle.
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paul on

Hi - sad to hear about Mulu
Hi - just quickly flicking thru your pods and was expecting to see how much you loved Mulu. Real shame to hear about your feelings there. It has been a few years since I have been there. I reckon it was beautiful, so pristine and we got to hang out with the locals a lot.

But sounds crap now - I imagine the rivers are still clear and the jungle still very very green, but sounds much less relaxed and much less interaction with locals. Bugger.

Hmmm, not sure what to say. I used to reckon that was such a nice place and I would've recommended it. But ???


fourloves on

Re: Hi - sad to hear about Mulu
Hey Paul -

I guess I might've been ina bad mood when I wrote this :P, but I guess I am mostly just disappointed in the shift towards money, versus promoting what is still an absolutely beautiful and stunning place to tourists. I guess this is what a large influx of people brings. I guess what I say is pretty take-with-a-grain-of-salt I suppose, as I still enjoyed the hiking. I guess I'm one of those who gets kind of antsy when I'm forced to have a guide. Thanks for the input - it reminds me that people might actually base some travel decisions on my harebrained thoughts! :P Cheers, MacK

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