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Painted Cave

Exploring Niah Caves

Exploring Niah Caves

Niah

One of the must-visit caves in Sarawak that I had the opportunity to explore is no other that the world famous Niah Caves, which is located just two hours from the city of Miri in Northern Sarawak. The massive cave system is located in the Niah National Park, which is one of the top three national parks in Sarawak Borneo.

Niah Cave was once a trading cave, where traders from around the world would pay a visit to trade wares with the birds nest that was gathered by the locals from around here. The caves were also discovered by Alfred Russel Wallace in an expedition done back in 1855.

Niah National Park

The wooden stair climb up to the Niah Caves 

A hundred years later, couple Barbara and Tom Harrison made an attempt to excavate part of the Niah Caves and found some interesting discoveries. Till this very day, the Niah Caves are still being excavated. Scientific facts claim that the Niah Caves have been occupied since 40,000 years ago, and proof of human remains have been found here.

My trip to the Niah Caves coincided with a visit to the Patrick Libau Longhouse where the Gawai celebrations or Harvest Festival were held in June. It was my first time and the experience was something that I was looking forward too. From the longhouse, it was an easy trek for about 20 minutes to the cave entrance.

Niah National Park

At the Trader’s Cave, can you see the person in the photo?

Niah National Park

Remains of the traders outpost inside the cave

Trader’s Cave

From there, wooden stairs take you upwards into the Trading Chamber. This was where the Swiftlet Traders set up shop, and you can still see the remains of their wooden structures built into the cave walls.

The chamber is massive, with one side of the cave left open for more than enough light to come in. From the Trading Chamber, it was a short trek up into the main chamber of the caves. Here, I needed to climb a few flights of wooden stairs that had railings.

Niah National Park

Tom Harrison’s House inside the Great Cave

Great Cave

Arriving at the main chamber, Great Cave or Tom Harrison Chamber as I call it, you will be greeted by a house that was once lived in by Tom and his wife. The wooden home sits in one section of the cave entrance and has been preserved by the museum department. You are not allowed to enter the house though.

When looking into the main chamber, you see on your left, an area fenced up to about eight feet. This is where current excavations are ongoing by relevant departments. If you look carefully, you can see what has been dug up or what is in the process of being excavated.

Niah National Park

A fence surrounds the cave paintings at the Painted Cave

Painted Cave

Heading in another 150 meters will bring you the the star of Niah Caves, which is the Painted Cave. This section is also fenced up to preserve the amazing cave paintings discovered. The rock paintings also date back to some 1200 years old and some of them are in good condition while most of them have faded a little.

After attempting to take some photos, at the Padang Area, which is lightly deeper inside the caves, it was soon time to make that return back to the longhouse, as celebrations were still on going. In general, you can visit Niah for half a day, just to explore this fascinating caves.

Niah National Park

Part of the excavation area that is fenced up

Niah National Park

Some of the beautiful cave formations inside Niah Cave

If you are coming from Miri, you will make a stop at the Niah National Park office, where you buy your ticket in. From the park office, it takes about 40 minutes walk to the Trader’s Cave entrance. You will also be walking on a boarded walkway with the beautiful rainforest surrounding your journey.

The entire journey here is worth the visit, provided you love trekking, hiking, caving, nature and adventure. This would easily be listed as one of the main things to do out of Miri City, so if you are in Miri, do look up a tour company that organises trips to the Niah Caves.

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Photos by David Hogan Jr

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The purr-fect town

We’ve reached Kuching! Finishi­­­ng off with the amazing #RWMF last week, and learning about the wonders of Sarawak the week prior, we finally got to rest our tired feet in Sarawak’s capital city; Kuching.

Balanced with a combination of historical buildings and modern infrastructures, it is no wonder Kuching has been listed numerous times as one of the most attractive cities in Southeast Asia.

Better than we imagined! Waterfront, Kuching, Sarawak

Better than we imagined! Waterfront, Kuching, Sarawak

There are multiple versions of how Kuching got its name, but the two most popular theories are;– The name Kuching is derived from the Chinese word kochin, meaning “harbour”, which makes sense because the town is erected by the Sarawak River.
– Kuching, being a literal translation of Cats in Bahasa Malaysia, also mata kucing which literally translates to Cats Eye, a fruit which grows in abundance around the area.

No matter how this charming town got its quirky name, Kuching is very much well preserved and we love it all the same!

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Old but Gold. Fort Margherita, Kuching, Sarawak

Rich in its culture, while travelling through town we saw plenty of eye-catching sights like oriental styled Chinese temples, grand golden domed mosques and colonial-styled buildings. It truly highlights the harmony of the multiracial country of Malaysia.

We must say, right of the bat, Kuching managed to warm us with its quirky charms and cat statues that’s scattered around town.

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We hit a goldmine! Waterfront, Kuching, Sarawak

Cat statues? You read right. True to its name, you’ll be happy to note that walking around the city, we found so much happiness at the sight of wonderful statues of cats being erected everywhere in the city. But! The best part was definitely the dedicated cat museum! It is the purr-fect city for cat lovers all around!

FOLLOWING A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRAIL

Being the centre of Sarawak, Kuching is a melting pot for all the cultures of the land. You know what that means? They have all sorts of different kinds of scrumptious local delicacies from the 27 ethnic groups in Sarawak. So it’s no surprise when we say we went there to get a taste of Sarawak. Pun intended, we went on a food trail!

We tried prized local dishes like Sarawak Laksa, Kolo mee and a vast array of seafood (which is very cheap in these parts of Malaysia), you can see what we ate in our Taming Borneo episodes.

You might be enticed to go on your own food trail during your adventure, but what food should you be looking out for? Well, through our travels, here are 5 dishes you absolutely need to try:

  1. Sarawak Laksa

The Sarawak Laksa is a staple dish of the state, vermicelli noodles cooked in a shrimp-based broth that is thickened with coconut milk.  This dish is served with a generous handful of crunchy bean sprouts, boiled prawns and garnished with shredded chicken and slivers of egg omelet.  If you can handle some spice, a thick sambal (chili) paste is usually served on the side and to complement it, a slice of lime to add some tang to your palette.

  1. Kolo Mee

A bowl of piping hot Kolo Mee (Kolok Mee) is just the thing to kick start your day. This dish of light yellow egg noodles consists of lard, char siew (barbecued pork) sauce and black vinegar.  A common enough dish found in Sarawak, Kolo Mee is available for breakfast, lunch and even supper!  (Note: Halal version is also available at Malay stalls)

  1. Kek Lapis Sarawak

Sarawak Kek Lapis is considered one of the ‘art-food’ introduced by the old generations of Sarawak. It is not only delicious, but also pleasant to look at with intricate multi-coloured cake layers. Domestic travellers usually buy these as souvenirs to give to family members so as to bring home a piece of their travels.

  1. Umai – Umai (Umei)

This would be the Malaysian equivalent of Ceviche. Umai is traditionally a standard lunch dish for the Melanau fishermen.  Usually served cold, it incorporates thin slivers of raw fresh fish, thinly sliced onions, chili, salt and juice from sour fruits like lime or Assam. A bowl of toasted sago pearls usually complements this dish and is sure to tickle your taste buds.

  1. Ayam Pansuh

Also commonly known as Manok Pansoh, this is a unique Iban dish cooked in a bamboo shoot. Ingredients like cut chicken, lemongrass, and tapioca leaves are stuffed into bamboo shoots before it is cooked over an open fire, for a smoky flavour. Besides that, this method would also ensure that all the flavours are sealed in the bamboo shoot and would result in juicy and tender chicken with gravy perfumed by the lemongrass and bamboo shoot.


GOING AROUND, HOPPING TOWNS

While we only visited Kuching during our Taming Borneo trip, there are also other great towns around Sarawak worth noting down when planning your own Taming Borneo adventure.

MIRI

Miri is a coastal city next to Kuching and is the second largest city in Sarawak. It is the birthplace of the petroleum industry in Malaysia.

Miri is a popular shopping destination for both Malaysians and neighbouring Bruneians alike for its modern shopping malls, food haven and traditional handicraft centre at the Miri Handicraft Market. The annual Miri International Jazz Festival is also a huge attraction for music lovers.

Lastly, one of the major attractions for nature lovers travelling to Miri is the Niah Caves. Dating back to 40,000 years, the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia can also be found here.  Here you can also visit the Painted Cave, named after the prehistoric paintings on the cave walls.

SIBU

Sibu town is mainly populated by the Foochow settlers originally from the Fujian Province in China. Sibu’s seven storey pagoda is one of the historical Chinese buildings that symbolizes the Foochow influence in its unique design.

In Sibu, the hand painted Sarawak fine pottery make very popular souvenirs with tourists. At the Lembangan Market, don’t miss the unique opportunity to go shopping at around 700 stalls in the area. Vendors sell some pretty fascinating items, ranging from jungle produce, including flying foxes, squirrels, snakes, turtles, snails, edible jungle fruits and ferns. Not only that, vendors also sell a variety of garments, toys, electrical goods and foodstuff at a price everyone can afford. At night, the atmosphere is thick with a carnival-like feeling.

If you have more questions regarding our Taming Borneo adventure, please do leave a comment in the comment section below, or start a discussion; tell us your personal Taming Borneo experience!

Also do follow along our adventure on our social media platforms:

Instagram: @MyTourismChannel or #tamingborneo

Catch up on the latest episodes by clicking on the thumbnails below!

Sarawak: EP7

Sarawak: EP7

Sarawak: EP8

Sarawak: EP8

Sarawak: EP9

Sarawak: EP9

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