Off the beaten track in Borneo

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End May 21, 2012

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Sunday, April 29, 2012

After weeks of self indulgance on the Thai islands (lets not lie we pretty much drank ourselves into through most of Asia) we decided we needed new experience and headed for Borneo Jungle.

Bario is a malaysian village in the centre of the Kelabit Highlands in Borneo, close to the Kalimantan Border. Bario accessible only by a small 12 seater plane which was also laden with goods; eggs, bags of sugar, mattresses piled onto empty seats, along the aisle, at your feet and in
the holding compartment.

Once famous for its plots of World Famous Bario rice has now become a cash orientated society focused on overcharging tourists whenever possible. It seemed as if they wanted us there for money but weren't welcoming of our presence. Overcharging for food and drink is common. I think half of the male population of Bario also has a photo of us...including one rather fetching one of us caught in a tropical storm.

Despite the cold showers, stares and mostly lacklustre food; Bario is beautiful with fresh paddy fields in between the wooden longhouses in a valley surrounded by jungle covered mountains.

We decided we wanted to get even more remote so we hired a local guy to take us to a village Pa Lungan which is only accessible by a 4 hour trek through the jungle. we started our trek with our guide wearing his wicker basket on his back and carrying a shot gun..we were hopeful this was for hunting animals only and not that he was maintaining the headhunting tradition. After a night of rain the track was a mud slide (and i only fell on my arse once) and we were attacked by leeches.

After leaving Bario we were blown away by the warmth and hospitality we received from the villagers. Everyone we met in the village shook our hands and welcomed us. We stayed with a lovely couple who made us feel totally at home. As soon as we arrived Supang made us some homemade mango juice as we ate our rice out of a leaf. Pa Lungan was even more beautiful than Bario, also in a valley but surrounded by primary jungle and mountains. Not touched by roads and also being the only tourists in the village it was extremely peaceful except the sounds of Gibbons and Barking Deer.

We spent our day walking in the jungle and past locals working in the rice paddies. We went to 'the Jungle Supermarket' to collect food that we could eat for our tea. It was fascinating how many plants can be eaten; some for survival, some medicinal, some aphrodisiac and some for our dinner! of course they all looked like green leaves to me so i would make a rubbish Jungle woman. For our dinner we picked River fern, wild ginger flower and wild ginger route, asparagus, wild orange, guava fruit, bamboo shoot and to accompany our pickings we were served wild boar and snake! The food was amazing and we ate until we burst.

Our hosts at Batu Ritung were amazing and on a completely different level to Bario. It pains me that Lonely Planet have refused invites to visit their village and homestay but instead include their Bario counterparts who offer a really poor service. If im ever in Borneo again I will be back to visit them.
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