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Long Bedian beckons the adventurous

by Norni Mahadi. Posted on March 6, 2011, Sunday

ALTHOUGH a long way from Miri city, Long Bedian is worth a visit.

HIDDEN JEWEL: Nawan Fall is the second highest after Hornbill Fall.

Located in the Northern Region, it is a symbol of pride for the Kayan.

Not many people are aware that this remote village in the Baram, more than 200km from Miri, has a ‘hidden’ natural tourism asset − the Tenyok River.

Recently, thesundaypost joined the team from Miri Visitors Information Centre (VIC) for a tourism-update trip to Long Bedian.

I’ve been there a few times on official duty. If you want to get to the village, you have to plan your journey properly. Due to the village’s remoteness, logistics is the most important factor to consider.

Normally, locals who want to return to their villages in the Baram will try their luck at the bus station next to the Miri City Council (MCC) field. Now, with the help of VIC and local tour operators, they can call up to hire transportation.

However, due to the high expenses involved – around RM450 per trip from Miri to Long Bedian − the driver will not start the journey until he gets enough passengers to cover costs.

Off-road challenge

For us, the journey was rough as the Beluru-Lapok route is in poor condition. Apparently, everyone felt the discomfort as we drove along the bumpy and dusty gravelled road. Hopefully, a tar-sealed road will be laid soon.

After transferring by ferry to Long Lama, we started the two-hour drive on ‘timber’ roads to the village.

These roads get muddy during the rainy reason and the slopping terrain makes the journey a gruelling, yet exhilarating, off-road drive, especially for people who never travelled on timber roads before.

One has to be alert at all times. It’s risky travelling on a road used mainly by big timber-laden trucks. But our driver, Langang, is very experienced − and there wasn’t much to worry about.

At Long Bedian, we put up at the home of a local resident. We were supposed to stay overnight at Tapun Homestay (Inap Desa Tapun) but the plan had to be cancelled at the last minute due to generator breakdown.

However, we were happy to stay at Wan Jok’s place.

Our host’s warm hospitality not only made us feel at home but also gave us the opportunity to experience Kayan lifestyle.

Tatooing culture

Before nightfall, we went exploring the village, hoping to discover some things of cultural significance that could be developed to promote tourism.

At the long house, we met some elderly Kayan women sitting on a long bench in the veranda, and spent some quality time with them. They are the last group of women in the long house who are distinguished by tattoos on their hands and legs.

According one of them, Mujan Jah, tattoos or tedek (in Kayan) are considered a form of feminine beauty in her generation.

The friendly grandmother in her 80’s said she started tattooing her limbs a long time ago.

The process was painful but she is proud to be among the last batch of women in her community still carrying the vestiges of a vanishing culture.

According to her, tattooing takes a long time and, once done, will last for years.

A 10 or 12-year-old girl will first have her fingers and upper part of her feet tattooed. About a year later, her forearms will be tattooed. The thighs are partially tattooed the next year, if she could afford it, and by the third or fourth year, the remainders of the marks will be laid on the skin.

Mujan said girls could not be tattooed during menstruation because it’s believed this attracts evil spirits.

Apart from tattooing, Kayan men and women used to pierce their earlobes. The men wear leopard’s teeth through the perforations while the women wear brass or other types of materials through their earlobes to elongate them. However, today, only a few Kayan, particularly the women, wear earlobes.

Long Bedian

During the war and the Japanese occupation, a group of Orang Ulu from Apau Kayan in Kalimantan migrated to the north of Sarawak where they settled around the Apoh and Baram River.

In 1946, while moving out, they came across a small canyon at Kuala Sungai Bedian − locally known as Sungai Durian. Due to the strategic locality, they settled down and built a longhouse there, and named the settlement Long Bedian. In Kayan dialect, Long means Kuala.

Nowadays, Long Bedian has improved in many ways.

The residents have abandoned their old religion and embraced Christianity which has guided them in their search for progress.

The socio-economic landscape in the village has been positively transformed and the people, mostly farmers,  have embraced the government’s new land development concept of planting oil palm − in addition to tourism entrepreneurship and many more.

The village is also equipped with various facilities such as a school, a clinic and grocery shops. The almost completed clean water supply project and the new K9-concept school project will help boost economic activities in the area.

In fact, Long Bedian is the nearest stop for the nearby villagers, including Penan, to get daily supply of food.

Community resort

To explore Mother Nature, a 45-minute 4WD journey on gravelled roads from the Long Bedian is necessary.

At the Tenyok Rimba Community Resort (TRCR) − a gotong royong project undertaken by the locals − visitors are greeted by unspoilt greenry set against a backdrop of lush virgin jungles, hills and mountains.

Like all first-time visitors, I was impressed with the beautiful waterfalls in the verdant surroundings. The captivating scenery is a natural therapy to sooth the pains from the five-hour drive on the bumpy timber roads.

I have been informed most of the TRCR projects are fully funded by the local community. This shows the people are keen to develop the tourism potential of the area to improve their livelihoods.

Everyone in the village has chipped in either financially and with manpower in the hope of transforming the area into another attractive Culture, Nature and Adventure (CAN) tourism product.

The idea of turning the Tenyok River into a tourist attraction was mooted by a local, Wan Imang Wan, who works for the timber company, not far from Long Bedian.

In 1955, he suggested setting up TRCR to conserve the area as a natural heritage. In 1999, the Resort came under the management of JKKK of Long Bedian and has remained so till today.

The state government has gazetted an area upstream of Tenyok River as forest reserve for tourism.

Under the initiative of JKKK and TRCR shareholders (local people), over half a million ringgit was raised to build chalets, fish ponds, a restaurant, a long house and boats as well as buy two generators to supply electricity for the Resort.

The government has also allocated about half a million ringgit for the construction of a suspension bridge, a chalet, a 700m wooden access walk, water supply, courts and a culture building.

Telang Usan assemblyman Lihan Jok described TRCR as a good example that should be emulated by rural folks throughout the State.

“I’m really touched by the people’s spirit of commitment. They are keen to develop the area on their own and share the benefits.”

He urged the people in Long Bedian to keep up their community spirit in lifting their living standards on par with those in the urban areas.

Apart from Nyang Fall, there are also others to explore such as Ipul Fall, Nawan Fall, Dancing Fall, Sang Fall and the most challenging of all – Hornbill Fall which also promises a spectacular view.

Of course, you have to apply repellents to keep mosquitoes and leeches at bay.

An adventure through a dense jungle in a cool mountainous region is such an exhilarating experience − as well as an opportunity to discover various kinds of flora and fauna that thrive there. The fresh air, lush vegetation and chirping birds truly made us feel we were in paradise. The tall forest canopy sheltered us from the scorching sun.

At Sang Fall, the women were having a great time exploring the surrounding areas while the men were cleaning the picnic area and looking for firewood to start a barbecue.

After lunch, we dipped in the cool water to refresh ourselves before returning to the village.

Those planning to visit the village can look for Kenneth Jarit from Borneo Touch Ecotours Sdn Bhd (013-5662925/012-8741560) or the local people from the village – Jok Eng Jok (013-8305962) and Cr. Dennis Ngau (016-8725477).

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