Ba Kelalan ready to flaunt its rich treasures for VMY 2014

READY TO SERVE: (from fourth left) Frederick, Daniel, Nelson and Lim (left) with the group of volunteers wearing Sarawak Shell Bhd red T-shirt with printed slogan of ‘We Care, We Share’.

GOTONG-ROYONG: Suriya (left), Daniel (third left) and others working hard to clear the flooring surfaces.

TEMPERATE FRUIT: Apples grow well in Ba’Kelalan both for export and local market.

BA KELALAN: The Lun Bawangs in Ba Kelalan are ready to receive the influx of tourists during Visit Malaysia Year VMY 2014, starting tomorrow.

Their rich natural heritage is a priceless treasure to its existing 1,200 inhabitants and 8,000 other migrants, as well as visitors.

The cool mountain climate made them famous in producing their brand of temperate fruits such as apples, oranges and vanilla, prized “Highland Adan Rice” with fine, sweet grains and mountain salt – which are sold in both domestic and international markets.

But there is more one could explore even within Ba Kelalan, a name derived from Kelalan River that irrigates the padi fields in two of the nine villages – Buduk Bui and Long Langai and Ba  means wetlands in Lun Bawang dialect. The others are Buduk Nur, Buduk Aru, Long Lemumut, Long Ritan, Long Rusu, Long Rangat and Pa Tawing.

Ba Kelalan is strategically located 152km from Lawas town and 4km from the border with Kalimantan, Indonesia, making the settlement the easiest point of access for visits to Kayan Mentarang National Park in Krayan, Kalimantan.

It has flight connection from Miri/Lawas using DHC6-400 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft.  Ba Kelalan too has a nine-hole natural golf course.

Tourism has increased in recent years and this had prompted the Ministry of Tourism Arts & Culture (MOTAC), Sarawak, to certify at least 14 individuals or families for their homestay programme.

In addition, the Ministry with Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), MASwings and Sarawak Tourism Action Council (STAC) supported the Borneo Jungle Safari (BJS) Sdn Bhd in organising the ‘Apple Fiesta in Malaysia’ in Ba Kelalan since 2007 to make it an annual event and tourist attraction, based on the Apple Lodge in Buduk Nur.

Thus, all these go into making agro and eco-tourism very promising products. Tourists can join in the harvesting of apples and padi, and other adventures from jungle trekking and mountain climbing of Sarawak’s highest mountain – Mt Murud (2,650m) and Batu Lawi (2,043m), both in Ba’Kelalan and gazetted as the Pulong Tau National Park.

And to consolidate their preparations for the VMY 2014, the Lun Bawang Association  (LBA) of Limbang led by its chairman Federick Lalung wasted no time in jointly organizing a community project recently (Nov 2).

They joined forces with MOTAC, Sarawak Shell Berhad, and the locals to clean up a salt spring cottage industry centre in Ba Kelalan, besides sharing sessions.

Among those participating were the former Ba Kelalan state assemblyman Datuk Nelson Balang Rining, a local Lun Bawang from Ba Kelalan and Lawrence Lim, manager of Purnama Hotel in Limbang, who has over 20 years’ experience in the hotel and travel industry.

According to Nelson, Ba Kelalan is a ‘heaven’ for culture, adventure and nature (CAN). As such the people should prepare themselves well for VMY and beyond.

“CAN are all there for nature lovers, trekking and Merarap hotspring, a two-hour drive from Lawas Town, is very popular among visitors from Brunei, Japan and Korea. The hotspring is believed to have some medicinal properties,” Nelson said when contacted by The Borneo Post yesterday.

Thus, he urged MASwings to increase the frequency of flights to Ba’Kelalan from the current 2-3 times a week, for easy travel as roads as still being built from Bario and Lawas to Ba Kelalan.

“MASWings should provide at least one direct flight a week from Miri. Currently the flight is from Miri/Lawas/Ba Kelalan and this is a burden to the people.

The government too should also improve facilities like building war memorial like in Bario, as the Japanese surrendered to the British in Long Langai, Ba Kelalan, in World War II,” he said.

Lim, meanwhile, was invited to share his professional advice in promoting Ba Kelalan.

Being a first timer to Ba Kelalan, he was very impressed with its blessed “treasures” ranging from the world’s finest Adan rice, the  rare natural salt, hotspring, chilled mountainous climate to grow apples and natural wonders like Mount Murud – Sarawak highest and 4th highest mountain in Malaysia.

“Ba Kelalan is a suitable place to hold various international sport events including an annual Marathon Run and Mountain Biking race.

“The hospitality is superb. I strongly believe that with the great enthusiasm shown by them, the associations with encouraging support including from the government sector, Ba Kelalan will enjoy an influx of tourists soon,” said Lim.

Two other Lun Bawangs, Suriya Charles Buas (Sarawak director of MOTAC) and Daniel Punan (Shell staff), also shared their views on tourism potential and promotions.

Suriya urged them to continuously improve on their services and products, in order to be successful in the tourism business in 2014 and beyond, adding that great hospitality is just a plus factor to woo visitors.

“It is important that the people form a Tourism Task Force and seek the assistance from the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to share ideas and establish more concrete steps to promote Ba’Kelalan.

Those working in urban centres, come must help LBA’s branches to find effective means of promoting our unique treasures including the rich biodiversity at our famous and sacred Mount Murud, and Batu Lawi,” he said.

Daniel, meanwhile shared Sarawak Shell Berhad’s enthusiasm in helping the community under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme by providing the necessary tools, roofing sheets, cement, woods and even t-shirts to participants for cleaning and renovating the salt spring cottage industry centre.

The centre too is a tourist attraction and an income generator to 24 families, producing an average of 40 kg of salt per week for sale mostly in Lawas and Limbang.

“We need to work with local universities on new technologies to increase the production for both the mountain salt and Adan rice cultivation and increasing earnings,” urged Daniel.

BaKelalan holds many other attractions like endemic species of animals and flowers besides mysteries surrounding ancient cultural sites such as stone megaliths and burial grounds besides the tragic death of its assemblyman, Datuk Dr Judson Sakai Tagal and all six others in a helicopter crash in July 2004 at the foot of Mount Murut, and the disappearance of Swiss environmentalist Bruno Manser at Batu Lawi.

Meanwhile, Sarawak is expecting a 12 per cent increase in tourist landing with the launching of Visit Sarawak Year 2014.

Tourism and Housing Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said in Kuching as recently as in October that tourist landing was recorded at 4-million and tourist spending at RM8.6 billion. By December, it is expected to increase to 4.2 million. He urged everyone to play their part in making the VMY 2014 a success.

HOME COOKING: The group of volunteers grateful to the ketua kampong’s hospitality – heavy meals of home delicacies .

GREATER HEIGHTS: Nelson (back row, fifth left) and the expedition team successfully scale Mount Murud.

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