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Ba'kelalan, the "Wind Peak" of secrets

BA'KELALAN: The 45 minute flight from the Miri Tourism City to Ba'Kelalan in a Twin Otter aircraft provided a mesmerizing view of the green terrain below.

Passengers were spellbound by the view of the Mulu National Park, Gunung Murud (Sarawak's highest peak at 2,438 metres from sea level) and the unique twin peaks of Batu Lawi that stand at 2,046 meters.

The arrival of visitors from outside to the Lun Bawang people's heartland was greeted by the enticing melody of the bamboo flute known as "ngapu," played by a group of women in their traditional attire.

The Lun Bawang people are a sub-ethnic group of the Orang Ulu in northern Sarawak.

The time was 9 am and visitors under the invitation of Tourism Malaysia, Sarawak Tourism Board and the members of the local and foreign media received a traditional welcoming ceremony amidst the cool breeze and the bright sky.

Though initially the Lun Bawang people looked shy, their broad smile and hospitality captivated their guests.

The name Ba'Kelalan originates from the word "Ba" meaning paddy while Kelalan is the name of a river where several Lun Bawang community villages are located - Buduk Nur, Long Langai, Long Lemumut, Long Ritan, Long Rusu, Pa Tawing, Buduk Bui, Buduk Aru and Long Rangat.

The "Musang" community

The life and the traditions of the Lun Bawang people are closely associated with nature and they really appreciate the fertile land and the humble life endowed to them. Cut of from the outside world due to the difficult terrain, here the people live in a close knit community helping one another.

The view down from Kampung Buduk Bui, about 1000 metres from the sea level, that literally means 'wind peak' is enchanting.

Ba'Kelalan's 1,500 people follow the "musang" tradition, which means collective effort in every aspect of life, may it be in paddy planting, clearing land or in organising events.

Berark Tadem, the head of the Kampung Singai, noted that the 'musang' culture is an innate character of the Ba'Kelalan people in working their paddy fields. Ba'Kelalan's rice is a well known staple and the area is known as the Adan Paddy Valley.

Other than its paddy, Ba'Kelalan is also known for its mountain salt or known locally as "tuchuk" that can be found in the nearby hills.

Apples that steal the heart

The Lawas Member of Parliament Datuk Hendry Sum Agong pointed out that Ba'Kelalan is increasingly gaining attention not only among locals but foreigners as well.

He noted that the efforts taken by Borneo Jungle Safari Sdn Bhd and Tourism Malaysia in promoting the Apple Fest in Ba' Kelalan, that has entered its third year now, is the step in the right direction in introducing Ba'Kelalan to the outside world.

"Though Ba'Kelalan is not easily accessible by land, the easiest way to reach is by the rural air service operated by MasWings," he said when opening the Apple Fest at the Apple Lodge in Buduk Nur.

He added that the three weekly frequencies to Ba'Kelalan from Miri and Lawas using the Twin Otter aircraft serve the locals and tourists.

Hendry related that the untouched natural splendour, the colorful culture of the Lun Bawang people and their latest product the Apple Fest are all set to allure more visitors to Ba'Kelalan.


Meanwhile, Mutang Tagal, 50, the son of Malaysia's first apple farmer said the apples grown in Ba'Kelalan originate from East Java and was first brought here by his uncle Andrew Balang Paran in 1970s.

He further explained that, the Ba'Kelalan apple variety that is known as "Manalagi" in East Java thrives in the cool atmosphere of Ba'Kelalan.

"Now we have several varieties planted here like the Ba'kelalan (Manalagi), Rome Beauty, Lady Williams, Tropical Beauty and Anna," he told Bernama when met in Ba' Kelalan.

He said currently 11 undergraduates from the Universiti Putra Malaysia's (UPM) campus in Bintulu are studying the viability of Apple cultivation in Ba'Kelalan. The undergraduates are from the Agriculture and Food faculty.

The initial outcome of the study revealed that the apple trees with a lifespan between 25 and 30 years can be cultivated in Ba'Kelalan like being done in East Jawa now.

Adding the number of trees

Ba'Kelalan's foremost apple farmer, Tagar Paran, 75, the fifth generation of Lun Bawang to reside in Ba'Kelalan, said he has been cultivating apples for the last 20 years and is confident that the cultivation area can be increased.

"We in Ba'Kelalan are planning to plant about 4,000 apple trees here following the success since the last 20 years," said the this genial senior citizen affectionately known as Pak Tagal among the locals.

He has successfully planted about 300 apple trees since 1991 and his son Mutang plans to increase their numbers and varieties.

According to Pak Tagal, most of the apples from Ba'Kelalan are sent to Lawas using the logging trail that takes five hours to reach depending on weather and some are sent to Kota Kinabalu.

He said that the apples of Ba'Kelalan hold good commercial potential and contribute to tourism in the area known for its natural beauty and fresh air.

Proud people

The visitors could not believe that they have been in Ba' Kelalan for four days. This sojourn was not enough to unravel the many hidden beauty of the placid Ba'Kelalan and the quintessential rural life of the Lun Bawang people.

Exactly at 4.45 pm the siren blared at the Ba'Kelalan's landing strip, located 40 metres from the village, indicating the arrival of the aircraft that will be taking the visitors back to Miri.

The visitors entered the plane with a heavy heart as it was the end of their memorable stay in Ba'Kelalan.

As the 19-seater aircraft rolled down the runaway, the villagers waved goodbye to their guests.

Little by little the view of Ba'Kelalan disappeared under the very same clouds that hi the beauty of Ba'Kelalan and the legacy of the Lun Bawang people. (By AMRIZAN MADIAN/Bernama)

MySinchew 2009.06.02



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