This blog post on Borneo – one of Nezasa’s newest travel destinations – was contributed by Nezasa’s Isabella Minzly, who recently visited this amazing part of Malaysia. Check out her earlier article on Bagan and Myanmar.
My immediate thought the first time I entered Borneo’s tropical rainforest on a traditional wooden longboat was that I had never seen so many shades of green.
The jungle in Borneo is absolutely unique; most of it is older than 130 million years of age. Even when walking down beaten tracks, you feel like you’re exploring uncharted territory and all around you the wild and unruly nature takes over.
Multicoloured birds stand out against the deep blue sky, monkeys of all sorts and sizes watching you while jumping happily from one tree to the other, and flowers you have never seen before – such as the rafflesia, the biggest flower on the planet and well-known for its off-putting odor.
One of the most fascinating parts in the Malaysian part of Borneo is the local tribes. The Ibans, for example, still live in Sarawak, many counting up to as many as 10-20 families, live together in a traditional longhouse on stilts, close to the river.
Skulls still hang from the ceiling in the longhouse, in proud memory of a great-grandfather who was a famous headhunter, but some inhabitants also have modern television sets placed right under this antique piece of memory. The Iban people still go hunting with a traditional blowpipe and build longboats out of local wood.
Tourists can also stay in a longhouse, or simply visit one and stay in the beautiful Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort. While here, they can admire the beautiful traditional costumes, see the local way of life and learn the famous bamboo dance after having enjoy a drink of Tuak, a potent rice wine. Don’t have more than one glass unless you are ready to fall asleep on the terrace of the longhouse – the Ibans will happily host you, but might share a laugh about the unfortunate visitors who can’t handle this very powerful drink.
Make sure you don’t miss the sunset. Seeing the sun set over the river without artificial light in the area is an unforgettable experience.
In the northern part of Sarawak, you can visit Mulu, remotely set in the middle of the jungle and reachable only by flight. While staying at the resort here, you’ll feel far away from the rest of the world. It’s a truly unforgettable experience to travel on the rivers to the caves which display a stunning array of stalagmites and stalactites.
The area around Kota Kinabalu is ideal for relaxing on a long, secluded golden beach, snorkeling on nearby islands, white-water rafting or climbing Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in all of Southeast Asia.
There are numerous wooden signs at the entrances of the national parks in Borneo that espouse the spirit of this remarkable island: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” You can also take with you numerous memories after exploring the multilayered green swathes of jungle on the remarkable – and very mystical – island of Borneo.
Nezasa has two customizable itineraries focusing on Borneo: Wild Island of Borneo and Discover Borneo. It’s an experience that can’t be missed if you’re going to Southeast Asia and particularly Malaysia.