The Fascinating Niah Caves in Miri, Sarawak

May 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Miri Sarawak, Sarawak

Niah Caves in Miri Sarawak

Most people had known about Niah as one of the birthplace of civilization. Modern human remains had been discovered in Niah, and it had become one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. There are plenty of human settlements found in the area such as cooking utensils and ornament made from bones, stone or clay. In 1958, it was gazetted as a National Historic Monument. A team led by Tom Harrisson, a curator of the Sarawak Museum at the time had unearthed a skull which was estimated to be 40,000 years old, and it was the evidence of human settlements there. Another discovery is the large burial site further into the cave that had been used from Palaeolithic times up to the year 1400 AD.

Main entrance of Niah Caves

Main entrance of Niah Caves

Image credit to Wikipedia.org


These archaeological findings were found in The Great Cave. While most of the early settlements were found here, The Painted Cave also holds great treasure. It houses detailed wall-paintings portraying the boat journey of the dead into the afterlife. These paintings were interpreted by the “death-ships” (boat-shaped coffins) on the cave floor.

The Great Cave can be reached by walking for about 3.5 km via the plank walk, and you get to view the dense rainforests from the ground. You may see some of the park’s wildlife, such as birds, squirrels, lizards, butterflies and uncommon insects. The first section of the cave that you will encounter is the Trader’s Cave, which is in fact an extended protruding rock, and not the actual cave. The cave got its name when the birds nest and guano traders conducted their business there in the past. Walking a few minutes later, you will be awed by the view of the West Mouth of The Great Cave, at over 60 metres high and 250 metres wide. The archaeological excavations can be seen clearly on the left side of the cave entrance.

The interior view of Niah Caves

The interior view of Niah Caves

Image credit to Sarawak Tourism Board

Voices of the guano collectors can be heard when you proceed into the cave. Moreover, you get to see local people collecting birds nest, or just the evidence of birds nest collecting which can be seen by the strategically placed bamboo poles and ironwood ladders. Although colleting the nest is a dangerous job, the risk is very rewarding, as the price for the best quality raw bird’s nests are worth over USD1,000 per kilogramme.

Walking through the passage at the back of The Great Cave, you will reach a large chamber known as Padang. Illuminated by the sunlight streaming down the large holes in the cave roof, you can see the bizarre rock formations in the Burnt Cave (Lubang Hangus). Another few minutes’ walk will take you to the dark passage of Gan Kira (Moon Cave), where you need to use the flashlight to see the extraordinary rock shapes and weathering effects.

After that, the plank walk leads to a short pathway under the sun which leads to the Painted Cave. You can see the painting of spread-eagle human figures, some of the animals and the longboats carrying the souls of the deceased with the help of dim light.

The archaeological site at The Painted Cave

The archaeological site at The Painted Cave

Image credit to Wikipedia.org

Niah Caves is just 1 hour 40 minutes’ drive from Miri or 2 hours’ drive from Bintulu. From Batu Niah, you can go to the Park Headquarters by car, motorised longboat or a stroll for about 45 minutes along the riverbank as it was just 3 km from Batu Niah.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Bird’s Nest

April 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Shopping

unprocessed-nest-from-birdhouse

If you are thinking that bird’s nest is something to observe and admire, well, you are in for a surprise. It is actually a type of traditional soup popular in this part of Asia especially among the Chinese population in Sarawak. It is prepared from the nest of Swiftlets- a kind of bird found in Sarawak and is said to contain high nutritious value due to its composition of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. The bird’s nests may not seem as attractive as other dishes available, but for those who believe in this exotic delicacies ability to promote long life and good health it’s worth its every cents of value.

There are two types of nests of Swiftlets- the black nest and the white nest. These birds make their nests in caves or on high walls of a bird house. The bird secrets a sticky solution from their salivary glands, which later solidifies to form the nest for their young ones. Once they grow up, the nests are of no use for the birds. To man they are a commodity so valuable that they are known as white gold.

The seaside caves in Sarawak forms the natural habitat of the swiftlets. However, today people have realized the profits of rearing bird’s nest. The nests build in artificial conditions of birdhouses are much cleaner as compared to those found in caves. Most of the cultivation is in the urban area besides the sea. While harvesting, it is important that there are no babies or eggs in the nest.

Unprocessed white bird's nest from birdhouse

Unprocessed white bird's nest from birdhouse

The white nests are more in demand as they are made solely out of the saliva of these birds, while the black nest is mixed with feathers, insects and twigs. As such they require a lot more time and effort to clean. Both these varieties of nests are soaked overnight and then cleaned before consumption.

After harvesting and subsequent cleaning, these nests are bought by restaurants where it is served with chicken broth. Usually the soup is not quite savoury but when mixed with sugar it tastes nice. However, its demand is not due to the flavor but because of its capacity to dissolve phlegm, proper renal functioning, prolong beauty and suppressing cough. The Chinese have been consuming Bird’s Nest soup for four centuries now.

So come and have a taste of Bird’s Nest soup and you would want to have it often. You can have it either sweet or savoury. The preferred one among visitors is the savoury one which is prepared along with mushrooms, chicken breasts at times ham and eggs.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark