'Bau' (pronounced as Ba-Ooo) in Malay means 'smelly', and that did not deter us from traveling 45 minutes there on the last day of our stay. We had a plane to catch in the afternoon and instead of wasting the morning away, SK decided to look for the Nepenthes northiana, a tropical pitcher plant that grows on the limestone cliff in this region.
Bau is a former mining town famous for the magnificent limestone caves. In case you're wondering, Bau doesn't reek of any odour. The name probably came about after many deaths that took place here due to conflicts. In 1837, the Skrang Ibans invaded the Jagoi-Bratak Bidayuh settlement on top of Bratak Peak, killing over 2,000 Jagoi-Bratak Bidayuh men and taking 1,000 women captive. Another major conflict in 1857 named the Gold Miners' Rebellion saw few hundred rebels burnt or suffocated to death.
There is nothing there to remind us of the morbid past. Many younger residents have moved to the city to find work. Not many tourists come here to visit the Wind Caves. Even lesser take the trouble to visit the Fairy Cave. More should be done to promote these natural attractions.
For us, it was an eye-opening experience to see the round head house of the Bidayuh, also known as Land Dayaks who live mainly in the steep limestone mountains within the catchment of the Sarawak and Sadong rivers.
Annie and Eric, the owners of Fairview Guesthouse, were so kind to drive us around in search of the elusive Northiana. Our first stop near Turn Red Mini Zoo and Restaurant turned out to be futile.
A little pup helped to brighten the day.
As we drove towards the Fairy Cave, SK was ecstatic to spot pitcher plants growing high up on the limestone cliff. You can see some of his photos here.
Whilst he was preoccupied with the plants overhead, I was looking around at more interesting things like this beautiful snail and a lantern bug.
The Fairy Cave was just a short walk ahead. A new longhouse has been built by the newly appointed headman of this area. He is a Dayak, small in built and about 50 years old. He spoke excellent English and is a lecturer at a local institution. Apparently the older Dayak people converse well in English.
I spotted two interesting fruit pods the size of a rugby outside his hut. These are the pods that hold the buah keluak, a delicacy in Asia.
The fresh fruit and seeds contain cyanide and are deadly poisonous if consumed without prior preparation.The seeds are first boiled and then buried in ash, banana leaves and earth for forty days whereby they turn from a creamy white colour to dark brown or black
The headman spoke of his plans to promote the Fairy Cave as an attraction. Currently entrance to the cave is free but the area really needs some sprucing up.
|Entrance to the cave is via a series of stairs.
|At the entrance.
For me, the highlight of the morning was the visit to a farmer's market operated by the Dayak people. There were so many unfamiliar fruits and vegetables here.
|A kind of wild fruit.
|Savoury glutinous rice in pitchers.
|So tempted to buy some of these baskets.
|Taking pitchers from the wild is prohibited, so they shouldn't be sold.
|Big, wriggly and fat grubs! I wonder how they are eaten?
|The famous Sarawak pineapple.
We made one last stop at Serikin - a small village near the the Sarawak/Indonesia border that is famous for the weekend market. It was very hot and we were running out of time, so we drove through the entire market, but you can see photos of the market here.
Right at the end of the market, you will find lots of vendors selling vegetables and fruits. According to Annie, the prices are no longer cheap, so we left without buying anything.