Ba’kalalan panorama. Click on picture for larger size
Bawang dotaga, “beautiful place” in the language of the Lunbawang, the people of Ba’kalalan. I suppose the name Lun Bawang also means beautiful people? And indeed they are! Beautiful, friendly and generous with smiles.
Prior to my recent visit to the Bakalalan, I had never been anywhere near the Sarawak highlands before. I had never even been to Miri except on a flight transit and that hardly counts! I spent 2 nights in Bakalalan and 3 nights in the mountains, hiking up Sarawak’s tallest mountain, Mount Murud (about 7900 ft above sea level).
On the first day in this beautiful highland village, we hiked up a small hill to get a bird’s eye view of some of the 9 villages that make up the Bakelalan community. Then, in the evening, I went for a walk and snapped some photos of the paddy fields. Kids at the nearby SK Ba’kalalan just got out from an evening class and greeted me in English, "Good Afternoon!" Some asked where I was going and some were taking photos of each other. Apparently, there was a photo workshop earlier at their school and a major photo company had sponsored some out-of-production cameras, given to the kids for free.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well they spoke English. Later found out their school is one of the best in the country, having won multiple awards including the Commonwealth good practice award.
This highland village sits at about 3000 feet above sea level and access is either by 4wd over dirt roads and logging trails or by plane. MasWings flies a 19 seater small twin otter, very much a flying bus for the local community, a few times a week from larger towns like Lawas and Miri.
The rice grown here is similar to the rice grown in Bario I was told. No fertilizers are used and the fields are fed with running mountain water throughout the year. I loved the rice so much I brought a couple of kilos back with me. There are also natural salt springs here and some villagers make their own salt, a laborious process which requires one to watch over the boiling spring water throughout the night. I got myself a kilo of this mineral rich salt. It should keep for a long time!
Ba'kalalan has left a lasting impression. It is such a beautiful, rustic place, one which I hope to visit again very soon.
Approaching Bakalalan airport.
The small twin-otter plane that took me and my friends there…
Shortly after dropping off passengers, the plane left again loaded with rice and other farm goods. Some villagers took the opportunity of a near-empty flight to export their surplus produce to the city of Miri. Flights to another small town, Lawas is almost always full however.
Beautiful, green and gold rice fields greeted us first-timers and our hands never left our cameras!
Water buffaloes. We were told most farm work is done by hand, toiling, planting, harvesting etc. The buffaloes are probably for food (we had buffalo meat the last night we were there).
A bird’s eye view of this small highland village taken from a viewpoint not far from where we stayed.
Unfortunately for the villagers, the notorious apple snail has invaded the village, eating rice plants and affecting harvests.
To be a kid again! Kids finding fun and joy in as simple a thing as a burst pipe.
Village kids returning from an evening class at school. These kids politely greeted me in English, “Good Afternoon!” they said. Some others asked where I was headed.
Friends taking photos of each other on a lazy afternoon…
Rolling down a slope! Fun!
hahaha, it was fun to photograph these kids having fun rolling down the slope without a care in the world. If I were to do that, I’d have rashes all over my body! :)
The Ba’kalalan apple. If I’m not mistaken, Bakalalan has the one and only apple farm in Sarawak. Harvests are made once or twice a year, with the next one coming up in about a month’s time (~ Nov 2010).