27 June 2010

Mulu: Penetrating The Big Holes In Sarawak

So, it really is true that while Sabah can be proud of having higher mountains, Sarawak for sure can also be proud of having, errr, bigger holes. Some of these 'bigger holes', not to mention the more beautiful ones, can be found in a place called Mulu.
You know how crazy can people be sometimes but the idea of going to Mulu was actually initiated when we were still struggling to finish the tormenting jungle trekking at Maliau Basin.
(Courtesy photo by Ulai)
I thought it was merely a joke but before I knew, I already bought a return ticket to Mulu together with 4 others, of which all of them were ladies. Being the only one with a dick, I knew MOST of the pressure would all be on me. Hehe.
Just for the sake of bringing something, I bought a stack of stuff that I thought would be at least avoiding the jeers from the ladies. I knew, there would each give me a long disgusted look if I turned up with an empty hand.
I used to be skeptical about taking a Forker for a flight before. Luckily this time, I was too excited to be scared. LOL!
Any flight from outside of Sarawak would be required to make a 20 minutes stopover at the Miri airport for immigration check. Each of you will be given a small piece of immigration pass so make sure you have it tucked safely in your wallet or you’ll have problem on your way out of the state later( I lost mine!).
The weather appeared to be OK as we hopped onto the flight again.
But then, it was amazing to see how weather could change so fast within the 30 minutes of a flight. It was drizzling when we arrived in Mulu. Not really a good omen for a trip of activities that depend so much on weather conditions.
Getting out of the airport, you’ll be served with the first sighting of the Mulu Mountains. Looking at them was like looking at somebody with a widely-opened arms and saying ‘Come.. Come to papa…’ LOL!
You really don’t have to worry about your transport to the Mulu Park. There is always somebody to offer you a lift for RM5 per person or RM10 per return for a less than 10 minute ride. You’ll just have to shut your mouth up and stop complaining. I’ll show you how a luxury is not really a Mulu thingy. Not on this trip anyway. :-P
Welcoming you to the Park HQ is this beautiful bridge that crosses over a beautiful river.
Just on the other end of it is the Park HQ office. It is here where every arrangement for each of your tours is made.
Be warned, you gotta make your tour arrangement very very carefully. Mulu has quite a number of tours and some of them can be mind boggling and probably intermingling with each other. You really don’t want to pay twice for the same tour or probably the same damn place.
Take your time to fully understand each of the tour and how you want to prioritize some of them over the others. By doing that, you’ll save much on your time, energy and above all, money.
Ohh, while we only booked for our accommodation, we had almost come to Mulu for nothing when we were told that most of the tours that would fit well with our itinerary had been fully booked!
Mind to tell you that each tour has its own capacity so it is so advisable that you do your book in advance. Guys, please, please and please book in advance. Begging like this, you know how I mean it.
A little bit of adjustment on the pre-planned itinerary had saved us the trip. But still, a lesson was learnt. We might be lucky now, we might not that lucky in the future. o.O
We were checked into a hostel that was named after the herbal plant that is so famous for its medicinal values.
As I told you, luxury is not a Mulu thingy. AT RM40 per night, Tongkat Ali is actually a large room of dormitory with beds placed next to another to create a hostel-like environment. Being the only guy amongst four ladies, I volunteered to be placed here.
I was glad three of them were placed into a different room. With the high decibel of noises that they can create, I was so sure some of the guests would have checked out within a matter of hours after we stormed in.
Three things they provide for your basic needs – a mattress cover, comforter and a towel. That’s all. Nothing more.
Despite its all-basic concept, everything is basically there. You’ll just need to know how to take your turn.
The toilets and shower rooms are OK and actually regularly cleaned. With hot shower being provided, I really couldn’t think of any better idea not to take shower as regularly as the ladies do. Seriously, they take shower like every now and then. You know la.. city ladies. :-P
And how I just wished they didn’t have TOTO for a urinal brand. It felt just so awkward to stick my thing to it knowing that TOTO in the Sabahan ethnic of Dusun’s language means… errrrr, vargina. Sorry.
You’ll be surprised how you need a drying space in a rainforest like Mulu. With such a high humidity that they’ve got here all year long, you’d give nothing but a big solute to the management for providing a 24-hrs running fan right in the middle of it. Go back to your Form 3 Science Class in case you forgot how wind blows can quicken the process of evaporation. LOL!
With a heavy downpour around, there really was nothing much to do for the rest of the evening.
I was glad how night came so sooner that I had expected. A walk through this long aisle from Tongkat Ali hostel would lead you right to the Wild Mulu Café – the only café within the Park HQ actually.
And adjoining the café is the souvenir shop selling a variety of stuffs.
And I couldn't help but smirking my face on this limited collection of fridge magnets here. Quite too pricey for something that don't even look like fridge magnets at all.  
Another adjoining room was allocated for the Mulu Discovery Centre.
It feeds you up with just about everything that you probably need to know about this declared National Park.
Came night, came dinner. o.O
A little knock on my appetite had led me into ordering this and it wasn’t that bad.
Not really. Priced at around RM10, that was probably the only meal that was cheaper than the others. LOL! I felt so sorry for those who had ordered Laksa. It should have been named ‘The Oily Laksa of Mulu’ instead of ‘Laksa Sarawak’. I swear it was like dipping noodles into a bowl of palm oil before eating them. Erkkk.
Ohhh, and I actually ordered a can of Heineken just to keep the night going. I had to brace against the idea of ordering another even though I really wanted to.
I mean, just how do you expect me to drink comfortably when this lady in green veil here kept staring at me with a disgusted face from just across the table?
Scary. I woke of the next morning feeling so exulted and jubilant. Waking up to the sound of nature in the morning has never failed to make me so happy and relaxed.
I took some time to take a stroll around the hostel area just to take in what I’ve always liked to call The Morning Glory.
It was like all the trees were looking down on me with a welcoming ‘good morning’ smile.
And a moment like this one here is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything else.
It wasn’t long before breakfast.
Breakfast at the Wild Mulu Café was surprisingly OK. There was a list of meals for you to choose from.
And most importantly, it's free! Feeling so Asian, I chose to have this for my first breakfast in Mulu.
It is only wise for you to finish your food quickly. Otherwise, the forest habitants might come to claim their share.
And they might want everything even if they have to die for it. 
Our very first tour actually began at 10am that day.
Good thing about Mulu that I like is that they wouldn’t ruin your shoes if they really don’t have to.
Mulu has some of the longest walk-boards that I’ve seen in any of my trip to anywhere so far.
And most of them are provided with lamps just in case you happen to drag your tour through night.
I would say The Park had been smart when they put up the handrail along the walk board.
Every now and then we would bump into a living creature that comes out onto it as if they wanted to be seen by the visitors to their territory.
They could be anywhere though.
Some of them were created by God to put up an excellent camouflage.
You’ll just need to switch on your eagle-eyed mode.
Some of them were cursed with beautiful but easily-spotted color.
And being in a thick rainforest like Mulu, you’d have to expect to see a vast variety of jungle fruits that are probably so unfamiliar to you.
And the look of a fruit doesn’t make something like this edible to our human stomach.  
And despite the abundance of Snake Fruit (Salak) being sold at open markets in Sandakan, I’d actually never seen a Snake Fruit tree until I came to Mulu.
Mulu is probably the only place where you can see snails hanging so adamanantly on trees.

Even key chains!
Or probably a stack of Tuaran Mee hanging down just in case ‘the dogs’ get so hungry inside your belly.
Hehe. And you know you’re almost there when you see this towering tree here that is broad enough to be a projection board.
We were actually there for the Canopy Walk!
Stretching out from one tree to another to make a total span of more than 400m, the sky bridges in Mulu would provide you with one of the longest canopy walks in the world.
As much as I enjoy canopy walks, the one that they’ve got here is actually quite scary to me.
I mean, look at those overhead wood planks. If they are vital to the structural functionality of the bridge, they definitely don’t look reliable enough to me. No no.  
And I’ve always believed that complexity is not good when it comes to something where safety matters most.
And some of the wooden boards seemed to be rotting.
Only two persons are allowed to walk on each span at a time. What is that trying to say to you? I wonder it that rule would still apply if the next season of The Biggest Loser Asia would require the contestants to do the canopy walk right here in Mulu. LOL!
Truth is, for the RM35 worth of a short tour, I wasn’t really that impressed. I’d seen more beautiful canopy walks before. But then, it is probably just a perfect place for you to test your nerves over frightening heights. Seriously, the creaking sounds of the planks as you make your way across the bridges would send the chills up your spines.
A sudden rain had prompted us to quicken our pace and get it over with.
Slipping into their rain coats, you know how ladies would always make things colorful. ALWAYS. :-D
Wet, cold, itchy, bitchy and horny hungry, I was forced to half-run my way back to the hostel and feed myself with my favorite food in the world – Instant Curry Noodle. Slurp!
WE had at least a couple of hours to be prepared for the next tour. First up, a short briefing by the guide in-charge – Mr. Eugene something.  
It would be a tour to what Mulu is most known for – The Caves!
Going there via the same walk board that we used to the canopy walk earlier on, there were actually more things to see (look closely).
And I really thought this was another one of those weird creatures that I saw in Mulu. LOL!
Every time we came upon something interesting, the guide would stop to talk about it. It really was like a practical biology class of some sort and you were free to ask anything to the teacher guide including why these leaves have those holes like that.
Errrr, I don’t think that was my finger. It must be one of the ladies’. :-D Walk 3KM from the Park HQ and you’ll get to the Bat Observatory for a 10 minutes stop.
It is actually therey where you’ll get your first glimpse of the gaping mouth of the caves.
A little walk from there would lead you right to the entrance of the Deer Cave.
You probably don’t come to Deer Cave for its rock formations as it lacks the esthetic values that the other caves might have.
But the Deer Cave has the size to be proud of. Out of 4 man main holes that Mr. Mulu has to offer, Deer Cave is the biggest one. Seriously, it is dizzyingly BIG.
As to why it is called the Deer Cave, I’ll spare that one for your own visit. :-P
The tour to Deer Cave would actually bring you to a circle with the furthest end is on a viewing platform from where you could see the other entrance of the cave known as The Garden of Eden. Our tour the next day would actually require us to go there and beyond and believe me, it wasn't as easy as it looks.
Making a circle around back to the entrance, we were led to another cave – The Lang Cave.  
The light didn’t really flicker in me when I was at the Deer Cave but getting inside the Lang Cave had really turned me on.
Stuffed with so many beautiful rock formations, Lang Cave was exactly the kind of caves that I had flown all the way to Mulu for.
It was at the Lang Cave that I finally saw why Mulu National Park was declared a World UNESCO Heritage.
I was amazed by the beauty of the Cave of Awe (Sung Sot Cave) in Halong Bay when I went to Vietnam earlier this year but I didn’t remember I was as awe-struck as I had been when I was inside the Lang Cave.
The Cave of Awe didn’t have somebody that pees right from its wall.
Or these jotting nipples that would probably give you the feel of being a baby cattle.
While I remembered how the tour guide at the Cave of Awe highlighted the existence of a few rock pillars inside the Cave of Awe, I was so surprised to see how the Lang Cave has like dozens of them!
And while it takes millions of years for all the rock formations to get into the shapes that they are today, it is strictly prohibited to touch any of them when you are in Mulu. This is probably the only one that you are allowed to land your fingers on.
Being so naïve for my age, I couldn’t read what was in the mind of this lady here when she kept pointing at this rock formation here.
If the tour guide didn’t say “Aiyoooo. Everyone over 18 should see IT la…”, I could never have seen it. You see, I've always been naïve. :-P
SO….. coming out of the Lang Cave and walked back to the Bat Observatory, it was time to see one of the highlights of anyone’s visit to Mulu –the Bat Exodus!
Mind to tell you that Bat Exodus is one damn of a luck thingy. IT’s not like they come out every day and up until today no research has been successful enough to read their schedule. The chances? 50-50. You can’t do much about it but praying. :-D
You know, waiting for the bats to come out was like waiting for somebody to come out of a toilet when you really need to use it. The difference is, you know whoever inside the toilet is gonna come out eventually but the bats? NOPE – no way of telling.
All eyes were on the exit of the cave. Everybody was in full anticipation. And you know what this picture here means.
Ladies and gentlemen…………………………………
Bat Exodus!
The first group departed at around this time.  
And everybody went……. Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
Some went…….. Wooooooooooooooohhhhhh!!!
FLAGGING across the sky towards whenever they were going, bat exodus is just so damn phenomenal. Just check out how Ulai had spoiled this brief moment clip of mine by talking too much.
He he he. Everybody was amazed and you can see how those ladies reacted to it here.
Coming out group by group, it really was amazing how they really know how to take their turn. It was like somebody inside the cave, probably their king or something, arranging the time of departure for each group so that they wouldn’t clash.  
One group after another and sometime two groups at a time. Never clashing.
SO, luck had been on our side so far. The Bat Exodus had been one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen in my entire life. We returned to the hostel with a big smile on our faces. 
We were actually there when the whole world was HOT with the ongoing World Cup. Quite a disappointment to us when there was no TV for visitors within the Park HQ area. But then, being hardcore followers of World Cup, nothing could stop the ladies from initiating at least something. 
And something means, apart from turning into a bunch of lollilops like that – we had to walk in the rain. 
And paid RM5 each for a 5-minute one-way ride to the Royal Mulu Resort, the nearest TV that we could get to watch for FREE. 
We arrived just in time to catch the first goal by the Argentinians in the Group B match in which they trashed the South Korean by 4-1. 

It was amazing to see how the likes of Christiano Ronaldo could do to  some ladies. Some of them wanted to stay back for the 2am match. I begged them to call it a day.
What a hectic first day in Mulu. A canopy walk, a tour cave, the Bat Exodus and a World Cup match, not a single hour was wasted. The real adventure actually began the very next day. All in the next post. ;-)


Kelvin said...

The mountains looks like there is some deity living on top^^
Btw, is the river red coz of minerals?

aud said...

I was wowed by the Bat Exodus too.

Erm, THAT has to be the single most photographed rock formation in Mulu :)

JIPP said...

Aud: Hehe. Yaa, THAT it is. :-D Yepp, bat exodus really is amazing to watch.
Kelvin: I think it has someth to do with the mineralogy for a place that is full of limestone. but it doesn't look like that all the time.

Lizeewong said...

That's really awesome! I mean the bat exodus!

JIPP said...

ya Liz. We were so lucky we got to watch it.

TOLANIC said...

Wow, great trip you got there. I really wish I can appreciate the green more like you. The bats formation looks like a snake! Owh ya, why are you wearing leather shoes in the jungle? Not slippery isn’t it?

JIPP said...

yupp yupp. apart from the fact that it is not slippery, it is also very tahan lasak one, not to mention very cheap. It really is easy to spoil ur shoes in Mulu so we didn't want to sacrifice our expensive shoes. :-D

The Little Girl from Borneo said...

Hey, i think you missed the Abraham Lincoln profile at Deer Cave. Glad you enjoyed your Mulu trip. You should do the Mulu Pinnacles next, it's even more exciting and challenging.

JIPP said...

Hello Little Girl from Borneo. Thanks for dropping by. Actually I did write about those things that you mentioned in my next entries on Mulu. Yupp, I enjoyed the Pinnacles very very much. :-)


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