Annah Rais Hot Spring in Sarawak Kept Secret for 250 Years

October 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

THERAPEUTIC: Dip in hot (pool) and cold water (river) in turn.

KUCHING: A hot spring kept secret for 250 years by early settlers in Annah Rais longhouse is open to the public.

The early settlers regarded it as a holy place to seek blessings and cures for sickness.

Annah Rais Hot Spring is a natural feature caused by underground water being heated by geothermal forces and brought to the surface, where it empties its hot water into Sungai Semadang, more commonly known as Sungai Sarawak Kiri.

Both hot spring and cool river can be enjoyed at an entrance fee of RM5 per head.

I turned up at this site one bright Sunday afternoon around 3pm.

While I was descending the steps, a scenic river with lush bamboo groves growing on both banks came into view.

Small fishes swam in the pristine clear water, and tiny bubbles of gas were intermittently released from the pebbly riverbed.

Two pools – one bigger than the other – are located on the other side of the river. The poolside is fashioned from cement made to look like granite slabs.

The pools collecting hot water diffusing from underground were constructed on Jan 12 this year, according to the inscription on one of them.

Visitors were seen sitting around the bigger pool, dangling their legs in Nature’s hot tub.

They were mostly locals though a few foreign tourists from Kampung Annah Rais homestay had found their way here.

The proximity of the hot spring to the river allows visitors to gravitate between soaking in hot and cold water.

Alternate dunking in hot and cold water is believed to dilate and constrict blood vessels in turn, stimulating an otherwise sluggish circulation.

For instance, a swollen injured ankle alternately dipped in bearably hot and icy cold water, as per doctor’s recommendation, has been known to be efficacious in reducing the swelling if all else has failed.

Since ancient times, soaking in a hot mineral spring has been a form of hydrotherapy to treat disease, injuries and improve health.

Doctors acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of moist heat. Soaking in hot water can speed up healing and relieve pain caused by some types of arthritis and short-term injuries.

A warm soak relaxes muscles, soothing the body and reduces stress. It’s good for arthritis, psoriasis and insomnia.

A regular visitor at Annah Rais hot spring said the hot water had softened the hardened fat located below the back of his neck.

A woman claimed it was effective in relieving her muscle spasms and a young man said it helped him de-stress.

According to health experts, pregnant women and people with diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should not soak in hot water in case it provokes health problems for them. And to avoid infection by protozoa that inhabit some hot springs, avoid being submerged so the water does not go up the nose.

Temperatures can be as high as 70C in hot springs and some may reach boiling point. Immersion in extremely hot water can prove fatal very quickly. Therefore, a little dilution with cooler surface water may be needed.

The water in the Annah Rais hot tub felt too hot that day so the channels were cleared of debris by one of the visitors while another poured cold water from the river into the bigger pool to bring down its temperature. This enabled all of us to soak in the still steaming water.

To cool off, we sat on the pebbly riverbed, and felt the warm sand heated by the hot spring below. We could feel tiny jets of hot water moving upwards  before having their heat dispersed by cold currents in the river.

A few outdoor showers and changing rooms complete the basic facilities at the site.

To get there, drive from the 10th Mile Old Penrissen Road – also known as Jalan Puncak Borneo – to Annah Rais longhouse where you cross a Bailey bridge, then a one-km stretch of gravel road before coming to another Bailey bridge.

Cross it and look out on the right for a wooden building with a signboard saying, ‘Welcome to Annah Rais Hot Spring’.

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Blooming Rafflesia Flower, the Largest Flower on earth?

January 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

I have always been intrigued that the largest flower in the world, the KPI Rafflesia is found right at our homeland and yet for the life of me, i have never seen one. only postcards pictures and from the internet. Is it really that big? Does it smell?

So, on my recent trip to our neighbour state, Sabah, Land Below the Wind, i took the opportunity to go see one. There is a floral and butterfly park in Poring Hot Springs, near Kota Kinabalu Park where this flowers could be found. Alas, we arrived too late and the park is closed by 4pm.

So, slightly disappointed, we head on to the van to go off. Then, suddely the guide told us that there are land owners nearby the hot spring where rafflesia could be found. We walked on and found 2 entrances to 2 different places. We chose one on a rainy afternoon with muddy and slippery tracks to go see the elusive flower. We each paid rm10 for entry to a group of youth and a young boy, about 9 years old, wearing slippers walked on ahead and seem to enjoy the rain and the muddy tracks while the 3 of us and the guide followed behind, carrying an unbrella to shelter us from the rain. We looked like the typical city folks walking slowly and carefully along the tracks. We must have walked for 30 mins before we needed to go down a slope. there were no proper handle as we made our way down the slope. i was concerned for my 2 city friends who wear shoes that looked too slippery for the mud. The guide asked me if i am ok as i made my way down the slope. I said yes, and suddenly, I slipped and l let out a “Yeow!” I fell and my back hit the rock.everyone had a shock. The guide helped me on my feet. Luckily i could feel no broken bones. Phew!!

after gaining back my composure, and i assured everyone that i was Okay!, i made my way further down the slopes and finally, finally we was the elusive flower, all fenced up by the owner i presume.

KPI Rafflesia

KPI Rafflesia

it was only around half meter as it has been blooming for 4 days. We took several pictures and then went on back to where our car was.

sandy walking with a stick after her fall, see stained pants & shirt

sandy walking with a stick after her fall, see stained pants & shirt

I guess a fall and a fee of rm10 to see the elusive Biggest Flower on earth was all worth it.

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An Italian’s 21 Days Adventure in Borneo on Motorcross

August 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

In line with the launch of cheap, affordable MASwings Adventure Packages, one of the largest travel agency in Italy, AVVENTURE NEL MONDO has organised their first motor cross riding in Borneo on 10 August 2009. The group comprises of 16 persons, with 10 riders and the other 6 persons being from the media in Italy. Their 21 days tour aptly named “Borneo Raid 2009” started from Kuching, Sarawak into the heart of Borneo and will end in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Avventure Nel Mondo Group in Miri Marriott Hotel

Avventure Nel Mondo Group in Miri Marriott Hotel

The tour leader, Mr Vittorio Kulczycki, who is also the Managing Director of the Italian tour company stated that even though this is his first trip to Sarawak, but he knows very well about Sarawak as all tour leaders who had led a trip to Malaysia were required to write a detailed report of how their trip went. Their company even has a library and various departments to stock information about various places around the world.

This group belongs to a club where members go motorbike crossing the world. Even as the group is on motorbike crossing in Borneo island with the distance covered being around 4000km, there are 2 other groups doing motorbike crossing in South Africa and another 2 such adventure groups in South America with the distance covered being 6000-7000 kms.

The group’s destinations are:

10th Aug – From Kuching city to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Park to see the feeding of the wild orang utans. Then proceed to Lemanak Iban Longhouse. The bike will reach across the river of the Longhouse. Traditional dances and gong music were performed during the evening and the group stayed overnight there.

11th Aug – Head off to Sibu. In the evening, visit the night market and the Pagoda temple, Pulau Babi wharf etc.

12th Aug – Flag off to Bintulu before proceeding to Similijau National park. Overnight at the Park Chalet and BBQ with camp fire at the beach.

13th Aug – From Sibu enroute to Long Bedian Kayan longhouse. Stop at Long Lama town for lunch. Then continue journey to Long Bedian and overnight at the longhouse and be entertained by Kayan traditional dances.

14th Aug – Head towards Tenjok Rimba Forest Reserve. Checked in at the chalet and go trekking . There is a nice river, “Tenyok river ” beside the chalet and 7 waterfalls. Then night walk to look for nocturnal animals.

15th Aug – Flag off to Long Seang Penan settlement which would take 2 hours of riding through the logging road. The group would then trek with the Penan guide into the forest looking for the nomadic tribe ” The Penan” and return late in the afternoon to Tenyok Rimba Forest Reserve.

16th Aug- Trek to Bukit Song and ended up at Hornbill waterfall where the group would be able to see many hornbills and return late in the afternoon to Tenyok Rimba Forest Reserve.

17th Aug – Flag off to Long Terawan longhouse to catch the longboat to Mulu National Park. Then take the plankwalk to visit Deer and Lang’s Cave and wait for the evening bat flight and return late in the afternoon to Park HQ

18th Aug: Go by boat to the source of the clearwater River. Visit Wind and Clearwater Cave Then return to park HQ and take the canopy walk (the longest in the world)

19th Aug – By boat to Long Terawan and then by bike to Miri.

20st Aug -Drive to Brunei for city tour in the afternoon by motorbike. Then head off to Limbang.

21nd Aug – Ride to Kota Kinabalu ( 7-8 hrs) and stop at Beaufort. Then overnight at Kota Kinabalu.

22rd Aug – Head to Kinabalu Park and take the nature trail and in the afternoon. Visit Poring Hot Spring.

23th Aug – Head to Sandakan to visit Sepilok Orang Utan centre to see the feeding of the wild orang utans in the afternoon and stayed overnight at Sepilok Jungle Resort.

24th Aug – Depart to Sukau and check in at Bilit lodge and go for cruise in the evening to see the Proboscis monkey and other wildlife animals.

25th Aug – Head to Semporna and overnight there.

26th Aug – Proceed to Mabul island.

27th Aug – Return to Semporna and head off to Maliau base camp and overnight there.

Observation Tower at Maliau Basin

Observation Tower at Maliau Basin

28th Aug – Head back to Kota Kinabalu stopping at Keningau for lunch. Proceed to Kota Kinabalu.

29th Aug – Free leisure .

30th Aug – Group depart to Kuala Lumpur at 6.50 pm.

This trip will expose the group to the various culture of Sarawak and Sabah as well as the uniqueness of Borneo island and the various flora and fauna, caves and mountain that can only be found here. Once they have completed their 21 days journey, they will depart back to Italy on 30 August 2009 and ship back their motorbikes by cargo. This will be the first of many future motorcross riding from Sarawak to Sabah.

I am sure they will bring back with them many exciting, adventurous and fond memories of Borneo Island.

Check out their article report in their Italian Motorcross magazine here:

Read here >>

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Amazing Mulu Caves, Sarawak

August 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

Below is an Honest Unbiased view of Mulu Caves

These magnificent caves are the main attraction in northern Sarawak, a Malaysian state in Borneo. The caves, nestled deep in the thick tropical jungle, were discovered by chance in the 1970’s by a local hunter. They boast the world’s largest cave passage, the world’s largest natural chamber and the longest cave in Southeast Asia. With its rich diversity of flora and fauna and the world famous caves, the Mulu National Park offers visitors an exhilarating jungle and cave experience that is unrivalled.

Four caves are open to the public. The walk from the park headquarters takes visitors over elevated planks through the jungle, allowing visitors a fantastic view of this dark green world. The first cave is Lang’s Cave, a breathtaking cave with amazing stalactite formations. Then there’s the Wind Cave, known for its cool breeze and strange calcite formations. A short distance away is the Clearwater Cave, an impressive cave that is reputed to be Southeast Asia’s longest (with 107 kilometers of passages). The cave derives its name from the crystal-clear water of the river that runs through it; with a diameter of up to 30 meters, this is one of the largest underground river passages known. The most awesome of the four caves is undoubtedly Deer Cave. The immense dimensions of this cave is difficult to describe or to film. With a length of 2 kilometers, a width of 170 meters and a height of 120 meters, this is the largest cave passage in the world. It is an awe-inspiring experience to walk through the cave from one end to another. The cave is so enormous, it houses its own little eco-system replete with hills, valleys, creeks, forests and swamps. The cave is also home to millions of bats who fly out in a single stream each day at 6pm in search of food; a spectacular sight that lasts about an hour from head to tail!

If you do plan a visit to this park, the easiest way to get there is a short 20-minute flight from the town of Miri. The best part about the flight is if weather permits, the pilot obliges the passengers with a low swoop over the stunning Pinnacles, a series of jagged limestone spikes, some 45 meters tall, that protrude majestically from the flanks of Mount Api. A truly amazing sight!

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Did Colin Need a Passport to go to Indonesia

June 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

A friend wrote to me after watching the video of Colin and my write up. Here was what he wrote:

“They remind me of the time when I visited there.
Man! I really miss the place.
They make me really want to go back there again.
I wonder, do you need passport to cross between Indonesia and Sarawak like the English man Colin did?

I will glad to meet up your friend and click with them, hahaha… Ivan

Well, Ivan, we never crossed over to Indonesia. We were near the border of Kalimantan, Indonesia. That was why we were able to see the thick lush forests of Kalimantan from Borneo Highland. In fact, while waiting for everyone to get ready to leave, I saw 3 persons coming out of the forests. I asked my friend who those people are and what were they doing emerging out from the forests on Gawai Day. Shouldn’t they be celebrating the festive at home, er.. enjoying themselves and getting high on tuak ?

Here was what she said, “They are actually Indonesians. They crossed over from Kalimantan to here. I asked , so they need to go through the check point right? She said, No, they can just cross over like that without going through the check point. They would come to here to sell their veges or wares. We are usually nice to them because they would also be nice and friendly to us when we go over to their village.

So, that means that there are still places which is not maned by the authorities from both sides to enable those local folks to cross over to the neighbouring country to sell their stocks/veges/wares.

However, please note that if you are a tourists/ of different nationalities, you need a passport to go to Indonesia. Our last trip were within the border of Sarawak.

p.s.: Ivan, my friends went kayaking yesterday. Today, they are going to a waterfall at a nearby place. Sorry you are not here to join them.

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Colin’s Honest View on Borneo

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

Here is Colin from London, England being interviewed by me at Simuti Longhouse, Borneo Highland, Sarawak.

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Natural Happiness on Gawai Day

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

Monday and Tuesday are public holidays here in Sarawak. I was invited to join a group of “hard core” outdoor adventurers on their trip to visit a friend staying in Borneo Highland longhouse and later to visit a waterfall nearby. There were 15 of us all together with a few backpacker tourists from France, England, and a few expatriates.

It was a 2 hours drive to the long house. We were driving in 3 cars. We were driving from tar road to driving through mud tracks and rocky roads. Our friend, Saloma stays at a wooden house perched at almost the top of the hill. We also brought 2 crates of beer with us. She treated us to some cookies and cakes, barbeque pork, stir fried vermicelli, langkau and tuak ( both are strong rice wine). As we were chatting, I suddenly heard a loud “bang” sound. So I said to my friend, Sim, “Oh! The villagers also play fircrackers in the forest. He laughed and said, “That is a gun going off, someone shooting a wild boar in the forests”. I laughed. That is how most city folks would think. This being a festive season, so most likely the native would play firecrackers for fun like the Chinese as well.


Kitchen in Saloma's house

Kitchen in Saloma's house

Picture above shows a traditional kitchen in Saloma’s house. After a sumptuous lunch, we then head over to a waterfall nearby.

Top of land cruiser ride

Top of land cruiser ride

My adventurous friends decided to be really adventurous and sat on top of the land cruiser along the journey there.

Danny’s wife, Esther loaned me her slippers as it is easier to walk in slippers on the muddy steps than my sandals. She walked bare-foot as she is used to such steps. We walked for 20 minutes on muddy tracks and narrow steps to reach the waterfall. Everyone just jumped into the natural pool upon reaching there, no holds barred.

The water was cooling and refreshing. The waterfall was not a big one but it was a very refreshing one. Yours truly did not get herself wet though as she did not bring extra set of clothing though Sim offered to lend her his black Bermuda shorts. Haha!

After an hour or so of deep water dipping, we then head off to visit Saloma’s friend at a longhouse not far away called Simuti Longhouse bordering Kalimantan Indonesia. Again here, the longhouse here is perched high atop a hill and we had to climb a few hundred wooden steps to reach the longhouse.

Here is a view of archipelago of Indonesia.

football-field-top-of-field After passing through the longhouse, we had to climb more steps to reach a football field located on top of the hill.  Picture shows Collin (from England) walking.Â

Boys and girls were playing football there. As it was a girls’ football game, when the boys join them in a game, they had to wear sarong that covers all the way up to the chest. Don’t ask me why because I won’t know either.Â

We did not join them in the game because Claire needs to catch the 8pm flight to head to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Imagine a football field at a highland on top of the hill. Right beside the football field is Goodnews Church. Its great to see a church planted here so deep inland.Â

We then head back to the car and headed home while a few of us head back to Saloma’s house for more beer.


Watch Colin’s honest view on Borneo >>

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Unforgettable Experience at Bako National Park

May 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Road Less Travelled

An overnight stay in Bako National Park, gives you a unique opportunity to view the natural beauty of the park, its abundance of varied and rare plant life, trekking trails, secluded beaches, waterfalls, jungle streams and plentiful wildlife. Though the reserved park may not be instantly recognized as a star attraction, but very few places gives you such a combination of natural beauty. Spread over 2,727 hectares at the peninsula of Muara Tebas, it is the oldest national park in Sarawak.

The trip from Kuching to Bako National Park by taxi or bus would bring you to the village of Kampung Bako. Then you take a 25 minutes boat ride through the South China Sea and you will reach the coast of Bako National Park. Telok Assam is the park’s headquarters, but from here, you would be in for a big surprise.

Over the years due to constant erosion, the coastline has turned into scenic stiff cliffs, sandy bays and rocky head-lands. The base of several rocks has been carved by nature into sea stacks and sea arches due to the constant flow of waves. Throughout the coastline, wonderful sandstones have been formed which features iron and pink patterns.

If you reach Bako National Park early in the morning, you may want to start off with a delicious breakfast of banana bread served in small containers made of palm leaves in the shape of a boat. Start off on a jungle trail by observing the numerous vegetation and plant species. You can find all the different types of vegetation found in Borneo be it Peat Swap Forest, Grassland Vegetation or Padang, Mixed Dipterocarp Forest, Mangrove Forest, heath or Kerangas Forest, Cliff vegetation and Beach vegetation within the park. In order for you to spot the different and varied vegetation, you would need to have a keen eye. Some of the strange plant varieties that could be found there include bladderworts, sundews and pitcher plants.

On the trail through the lush green vegetation, you can see some animals in their natural habitat such as 150 rare species of proboscis monkeys which are found only in Borneo, the Hairy-Nosed Otter, the Oriental Small-Clawed Otter and Borneon Bearded Pig. The best time to observe these animals is during dawn and dusk when they are most active. If you plan to stay overnight, you get a better chance of seeing the animals on their trail. Make sure that you walk silently and slowly in small groups or else the creatures will run away from you.

The park office’s surrounding area is the best place for observing silver leaf and long tailed macaque monkeys besides mouse deer, bearded pigs, plantain squirrel and common monitor lizards. Take care not to attract the macaque monkeys or else they would be emboldened to snatch food from you.

The olive green Common Water Monitor Lizard, the largest of its kind found in the region is another great attraction of the park. These lizards feed on carrion and can be found mostly around the boat jetty. Other varieties of lizards include Sun or Skinky Lizard, which are most commonly found lazing around the rocks on the beach. Green Crested Lizard is the most common species found throughout the park. Usually it is bright green in color but if it feels that it is in danger, it can change its skin color. Flying Lizards can be seen gliding through the air from their launch pads on tree trunks.

You can find numerous snake varieties most of which are harmless. You need to have a very keen eye as they are well camouflaged and would slide away at the slight sense of danger. The Grass Green Whip species is the most easily recognizable with its long snout, pencil-thin body and bright color. Paradise Tree Snake is another common species with black upper body and green spots while the underbelly is yellow with yellow-green-spots. Pit Viper the only poisonous snake found in the park has a triangular, flat and broad head.

Bird watchers would love Bako National Park as there are more than 150 bird species making it their home. The mangrove forests are the best place to observe birds. If you are really serious about watching birds, make sure to have a pocket guide and a pair of binoculars with you.

Mangroves and rock pools are the best place to observe small animals like hermit crabs and mudskippers. Nocturnal creatures in Bako National Park include palm civet, slow loris, tarsier, bats, mouse deer, pangolin and flying lemur.

You can opt for one of the 16 jungle trails where hiking and walking options are on offer. You can choose an overnight camping expedition or a full-day jungle hikes. If you take the Tanjung Sapi trail you can have great views of Santubong, South China Sea and Telok Assam but here you need to climb through steep cliffs and dense vegetation which takes about 30 minutes.

The Telok Paku is by far the easiest trail and takes about an hour. You reach a secluded beach through forested cliffs. You are bound to see different species of monkeys like proboscis, langur or macaque as you trek along the trail.

Ulu Assam passes through swampy forest where monkeys are seen at times dangling or swinging from trees. Upon reaching the top of this trail, you are rewarded with views of the wonderful coastline of Bako. The best trail to spot proboscis monkey is at Telok Delima. If you want to have a view of the park’s boundary, opt for the Serait trail which takes about half an hour. Though not used frequently and somewhat secluded, it provides an excellent view of the rainforests.

So if you love nature, birds and animals the Bako National Park is one of the best places to go adventuring into.

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