Road To Bakelalan Part 1

On the first day in office, the day started out slow. It was confirmed that I would be reassigned to a new section in the office. However my job description will only be determined by the Director this Friday as we see our office going through a major reshuffle amongst the officers. Okay, it means I have to clear my tray this week, prepare a handing over note etc etc...... before that happens I have to submit my past travelling claims before the close of the financial year 2005 by 15 Jan 2006. It reminds me of the last trip I made to Lawas. I have yet to post a blog about the trip to Ba'kelalan last August 2005 - its for the benefit of those who have not been there. Here's a pictoral account of the trip (Part One) and I hope you guys can make go there one day, especially if you want to see how the highlands look in its most natural state. Some of us tend to compare the highlands development by transforming them into Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands or Borneo Highlands. On one you can find a place where the casinos are (Genting), on another you will see a town and agriculture plantations (Cameron) and on another you will find a golf course and Resort (Borneo Highlands). Ba'Kelalan is a different setting all together, natural forests, padi fields, fruit trees, buffalos, the people in their most natural setting - living the rural life in a modern environment. One needs to take note that the most active thing happening on the Sarawak highlands are the ongoing timber extractions - presently the forest covers are still plenty as the rugged terrains there prevent extensive logging - for now that is.

When travelling, one will also have to note that the trip there is not the most straightfoward in terms of planning. The flights do get canceled due to the weather and the trip by road is also affected by the weather. If the rain is heavy, the road will be so muddy that the wet mud can reach up to your waist - a four wheel vehicle travelling in convoy is needed. To jump there from Kuching, you have pass through Miri, Limbang and Lawas. And from Lawas the journey can take as long as 5 - 6 hours depending on road conditions. This is my trip while going to Ba'kelalan on a study tour to discuss with the villagers on how to develop their areas. It was a wonderful experience. I could have flown to Ba'kelalan but at that time the flight was not available - and I discovered more on the road trip :)

Airplane's view of Limbang - the orange building on the top right is Purnama Hotel

Limbang Airport - it has transformes into a modern airport, able to cater for Fokker 50 airplanes now. Last time it can only take twin otters.

Limbang Airport - the view you will see when you arrive

Posing with the Twin Otter pilot plane - on the trip to Lawas from Limbang

Lawas Airport - the view you will see on arrival

One rural school you will see on the road to Lawas - Long Semadoh - Ba'Kelalan - notice how dangerously close it is to the edge of the hill.......though completed, it is still not occupied as it is deemed to risky. Funny it did not get the attention of the TV3 who always report about unoccupied schools in West Malaysia. Our driver informed us that the people within the vicinity are anxious to send their kids to school there because it would solve the problem of sending their kids to hostel schools in Lawas.

The danger of the journey is seen when we noticed an overturned tanker - though the road seems okay on the first part of the journey - it is still slippery.

Long Semadoh entrance - a Lun Bawang village

Long Semadoh individual houses are like Kampung settings - I thought they would live in longhouses as most of the villages here are called 'Long' in prefixes... e.g Long Bedian.

Timber Camp - one of the few timber camps you will pass by on the Long Semadoh - Ba'Kelalan trip.

Timber Lorries - remember this is a timber track road and it is owned by the timber companies (the road and lorries are company properties also so they have reason to drive at high speed - so if you plan to drive alone, stay away from the monster size lorries!)

Timber road blocked - the red banner put by the side of the road indicates timber blockade is being put up by one the villages there. Its not a hostile one we were told - its just that the villagers wanted to negotiate with the timber company. You do not see anyone holding any spears or weapons of that sort. The villagers who put up the blockade are also not seen. The lorries could just run over that wooden blockade with no problem but the drivers being locals mostly respect the symbolic blockade as they come from the same area too. Usually the blockade is solved once the representative of the timber company meets the village head to solve the cause of the blockade.

Timber track road gets nasty

Cafe at one of the timber camps - we were surprised to see it clean and hygienic. The food there is also nice though I did not take a picture of it as I only took Maggie Mee for lunch.

The cafe deco is adorned with the news of the helicopter tragedy which claimed the lives of the local assembly man - YB Dr. Judson Tagal, together with a few other important local leaders. The owner of the cafe is related to the late YB so that is why its full of his pictures, history and news of the tragedy.

Buffalos swimming in one of the padi fields that you pass by from the Long Semadoh - Ba'kelalan Road

When we reached Ba'kelalan I was surprised to see that they have two Telefon Rakyat installed there. As the handphone signal does not cover this part (though you may notice some Celcom and Maxis line providers advertise on television and newspaper that they have receptions in the rural areas - this could be a good test ground for them if they want to be try their slogan of "nationwide coverage". I was dismayed that the Telefon Rakyat here was not working. I was informed by the villagers that it would take weeks before a Telekom technician would come to solve their problems. When they call the Telekom Office in Lawas some kind of football match will happen. Telekom Lawas will pass the ball to Telekom KL saying that it is Telekom KL project. Hmmm...Telekom..... don't look at me, its the villagers who told us. Do not underestimate them - I discovered that they are smarter than you think. After all people like Idris Jala, the present boss of MAS, who is a Kelabit, comes from the highlands area.

Ba'Kelalan village library (perpustakaan desa): Its fitted with two computers - quite new ones but one is not working. The Lawas District Council maintains the town and village libraries and the books supplied sometimes come from Pustaka Negara and Pustaka Negeri - and some are donated. The books are sometimes circulated (recycled) between the other village libraries. If anyone has the chance, have a look at the quality of the books at the libraries they can use some more good books - not only for Ba'kelalan but the other village libraries.

The computers are also supposedly Internet ready - but I noticed that its the same case as the Telefon Rakyat. The modem was not able to connect, otherwise it would provide excellent service to the villagers. One of the villagers informed us that the Internet would help them solve their problems in connectivity to the rest of Sarawak or the world even. Ermm... Telekom? It has one huge sattelite dish outside the library.... I do not suppose that is for decorative purpose.

Airport - this is the airport strip/runway which caters for twin otter flights coming in to Ba'kelalan about twice a week. Its about one kilometer in stretch.

Okay that is all for now. I will return with Part 2 soon :)


Wilson Chin said…
i grow up at Limbang, my family now still at Limbang. is nice to see the photos that you shot from Airplane's view of Limbang town.
Wil - next time i travel to Limbang i will try to get more photos if i travel there. I was on the way to lawas that time so passed by Limbang... u can update yourself on Limbang at the webpage project I started when I was in the Ministry. It here
Francis Ho said…
thanks for sharing that with us. can one get to bakelalan by water?
fh2o - better use road. Ba kelalan is in the highlands so the rapid streams and water falls are the main hindrance to water transport :) not that i have not tried but its gonna take sometimes to reach there by boat.
moggie said…
still waiting for part 2, desmond. : )
drudra said…
Hi Desmond, this is a very good blog item you posted on Ba Kelalan. I work for MASwings, but am posted in Subang and have never had the chance to travel to Ba Kelalan yet. A group of us are trying to plan a community project there in the next couple of weeks and we are researching now to find out what sort of community activities we can do. In order to do that, we would like to find out what is needed there. Initially we are looking at helping the senior citizens of the area, and later on we would like to look at projects for the school and children. Would be good if you could provide us with some of your inputs and thoughts on the matter. We'd appreciate it a lot. Thanks!

zizane62 said…
Hi Desmond. If u don't mind could you please send me Apple Lodge phone number? or at 0198546282.