Exploring Niah Caves: Sarawak, Malaysia
The great thing about living in Singapore is being able to jump on a plane and head to beaches in Thailand, the Balinese countryside or the jungles of Borneo, and be back in time for work on Wednesday (Wednesday is my Monday, I have a weird working week!).
My trip to Niah caves started in Miri, a mid-sized city in Sarawak, Borneo. There isn’t a lot to do in Miri but it makes for a comfortable base to explore the area from, and is a good jumping off point for a visit to Brunei.
A trip to Niah Caves from Miri
That trip to Brunei will have to wait; I was in Miri for the caves. I joined up with a fellow traveller and we hired a car, which took about an hour, to the park entrance. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from the car park to the caves, and the journey is a pretty casual boardwalk stroll through the green Borneo jungle. There is also a small river to cross, which means jumping on a boat for the 1 minute journey to the other side. You aren’t going to see tigers or rhinos here, but you do feel like you are pretty far from civilization, a great feeling when on a short trip from Singapore.
The first cave we reached was full of scaffolding. I had no idea what was going on, but I later found out that this area is famous for its bird’s nests, which people turn into soup. I’ve never tried this weird dish and that won’t change anytime soon. Apparently it’s a bit of a delicacy, but so is fermented fish and eggs with fetuses inside; just because it’s a local delicacy obviously doesn’t mean it tastes good.
There are quite a few caves to explore, and the main one is huge. It takes a while to walk around and it gets pretty dark, but it really is other-worldly and makes for an interesting few hours. The best thing about Niah Caves is the complete lack of other tourists. We saw maybe 10 other people (mostly local) which made it a really peaceful place to amble around. The ceilings are huge, so don’t worry if you are claustrophobic, you should be fine. There is one area where it gets a bit tight, and you do see the odd bat, but the caves are accessible for almost every age and fitness ability.
We took a different route on the way back from the caves and wandered into a small village. It was one of those idyllic jungle villages where the pace of life probably hasn’t changed in a long time. One section of the village boasts a couple of modern looking long houses (they are really long with a big communal hallway kind of thing at the front, and individual units towards the back). These are traditional houses in Borneo, and we got to see inside one because the town’s unlabeled shop (really just someone’s house that happens to have a fridge full of coke and water) resides inside. We had met up with a couple of other travellers, and it was weird (but cool) to be sitting in someone’s living room having a drink.
If you are travelling in Borneo, Malaysia I’d recommend heading to Niah Caves. Apparently Gunung Mulu National Park, which also has a lot of caves, is more impressive but it’s a lot harder to get to and way more expensive. Niah Caves makes for a great day trip (and it’s cheap) and Miri is a decent place to base yourself for a few days.
Further reading: Looking for more information about Niah Caves? Check out this Wikipedia page
Have you been to Niah Caves, or any other big cave systems? Let me know!
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