02 November, 2014

10 Facts You Need to Know About Bario, Sarawak

I'm back with my travel diary to Sarawak! After spending 1 day of exploring Kuching, our destination was the famous Bario Highland, a Kelabit territory, one of the minority Orang Ulu tribes of Sarawak. But...

Fact #1: There was NO direct flight from Kuching to Bario, so we had to stop over at Miri for flight transfer.

Flight from Kuching to Miri: Approximately 1 hour
Flight from Miri to Bario: Approximately 45 minutes

Interestingly, the only rural air services offered at Bario was MAS Wings, so we boarded the ATR aircraft that fit a maximum of 14 persons. It was my first time boarding such small plane and sit directly behind the pilot. P/S: There is no divider between cockpit and passenger seats!

Travel Tips: For MAS Wings, you will be weighed TOGETHER with your luggage before boarding, so be sure to travel light! Around 15kg of luggage per person is ideal :) Confirm your return journey at the airport upon arrival if you hold a return ticket.

First time seeing hand-written boarding pass! Any other places still do it manually nowadays?

From the back, the pilot looks like Sam in Triumph in The Skies (Hong Kong TVB Drama actor, in case you're wondering)! The flight across from Miri to Bario is a wondrous sight. Sitting above the clouds, you can enjoy the birds' eye view of Sarawak's jungles and Murud mountain peak beneath your feet if the weather is good.

Welcome to Bario Airport! The size of the airport is comparable to any police station in KL. Just by looking at the check-in counter, you'd get a rough idea on how remote this place is. Despite of that, the officers welcomed us with open arms upon landing. 

Fact #2: Bario is affectionately known as the 'land of a hundred handshakes' as this is how friendly locals will greet you as you wander around the community. True indeed, everyone is friendly and helpful even to outsiders like us!

According to the locals, it is a must for visitors to try Bario's maggi noodles at the airport cafe. You must be wondering what's the difference compared to elsewhere. Well, here it tastes better because it is loaded with human kindness (人情味) which I hardly find in KL. And that's how every mouthful of locally-cooked noodles warms the heart. 

Found this map at the airport. Bario consists of a cluster of 13 villages, and the area I explored throughout the trip was only those marked in green shading. It was the town of Bario, the only area with shops, schools and paddy field there.

Fact #3: There is only one main road that branches out to small lanes that lead to multiple villages. Surrounded by mountains at all angles, Bario has very limited flat land areas, therefore the you'd experience bumpy and hilly roads along the journey. Nothing too horrifying, so simply sit back, relax and enjoy the picturesque scenery!

Travel Tips: Roads may get muddy after rain, so a pair of old sport shoes will be your best footwear here.

Fact #4: Located 3,500 feet above sea level, Bario's temperature can go as low as 15°C at night, and reach a maximum of 28°C during the day. Despite of the strong sunlight, it can get really chilly regardless of day or night. I spent a few mornings waking up to icy cold water and freezing breeze!

Travel Tips: Sweaters, socks (and mosquito repellent) may come in handy especially during bed time.

The town area where the local community gathers every morning for breakfasts is actually a chain of shoplots located a stone throw away from the local government administrative office. To my surprise, there is a cyber cafe at the corner lot of the row! 

Fact #5: There is no line reception for ALL telcos except Celcom. For non-Celcom users, just relax and stay away from the phone calls, SMSes, emails and internet for a couple of days.

Travel Tips: If you really can't stay away from the gadgets, be sure to get a Celcom SIM card prior to travelling.

At the market, we met plenty of local Kelabits who speak Bahasa Kelabit, Bahasa Melayu and a bit of English. The older folks were spotted with traditional elongated pierced earlobes adorned with heavy brass earrings and Kelabit tattoos, while others wore Kelabit banes (bead necklaces).
#1 Roti Goreng (Deep fried bread with butter filling)
#2 Kuih Pulut (Deep fried glutinous rice cake)
#3 Onde-onde dengan gula merah (Glutinous rice balls with brown sugar)
#4 Large currypuffs with egg and chicken fillings

We had our Saturday breakfast at the market, and each piece of local delicies was only 30 cent! Darn cheap and huge in size. Sitting with the locals, you might want to sip on a cup of hot coffee while listening to their stories about Bario. 

Fact #6: The Kelabits are so good at cooking! They plant their own paddy and vegetables, rear chickens at home, pluck the fruits from their trees and prepare everything from scratch. That's why Bario is famed for its incredible organic food such as the renowned Bario rice and pineapple.

Visiting the tribal long houses (Rumah Panjang) was one of my to-do list in Bario. It's my first time seeing ancient timbers of the unique kitchen darkened by the constant smoke of generations of cooking fires. During special occasions, the whole Bario community will gather here for celebrations.

Fact #7: There is NO 24-hours electricity supply, as the community depends solely on the diesel generator or solar power to generate electricity. Due to the high cost of fuel, we can only enjoy electricity there for limited hours (From 6pm to 10pm). Therefore, hot water supply is a luxury in Bario.

In case you're wondering how do the locals charge their electronic gadgets, I bet the above is a good method for all!

Fact #8The arts of bead weaving, carving and straw basket making are pretty well-preserved here, and become an additional source of income for the old Kelabit folks here. I'd love to get myself a colorful bead necklace too!

Fact #9: The community here are 100% Christian, and during Sunday morning, the whole village will gather at the church for prayers. I admire their closeness to God as they are very religious people and hardly skip the weekly church gathering.

Fact #10: Accommodations and transportation services are ample in Bario. There are plenty of homestays ranging from RM80 to RM120 per night, with tour guiding services (For jungle trekking, village exploring, etc) at additional costs. 

Travel Tips: For the adventurous ones, do opt for Bario-Ba'kelalan jungle trekking adventure and be entranced by the beauty of nature! It includes an overnight stay by the waterfall and night hunting that make a great lifetime experience!

Although Bario is one of the most isolated settlements in Malaysia, the place has the freshest air, organic healthy food, cooling environment and beautiful scenery that I love the most. During my trip at Bario, I went on jungle trekking, hill climbing, and loads of adventures that I can't wait to share with you guys!

Be sure to stay tuned for next post to see the homestay and adventure I embarked in Bario!


  1. wah, nice leh, i want to go there next time

  2. wow very interesting! i wanna experience something like this too! thanks for sharing :)

  3. What a beautiful landscape,I hope I have the opportunity to go to these places.


  4. wow im amazed by the fact that their population are 100% Christians! nice blog btw :]


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