Wednesday 11 April 2018

The Good Times

When I bought my flight ticket to Bario, I was both scared and excited. I was about to go to this
beautiful place, but I was also about to spend ten days with hardly any internet and live in a
completely different environment that I’ve never been exposed to (city boy represent).
I was freaking out a bit on the inside, but I somehow knew that this adventure was a work of faith
(also because I’m four years late).

We landed in Bario, and the first thing we did was to hop on the back of Uncle Julian’s Hilux.
On 3% phone battery, I recorded a short clip of us welcoming the Bario air and scent, which I love and
have come to miss so much since.


Bario, from the moment I landed, felt calm, clean, and homely. Whether I was on the back of
Uncle’s four-wheel drive (or a kind stranger’s one) going everywhere, or walking to and from the
internet centre back to our fantastic homestay, it felt so good to be surrounded by tall hills, paddy
fields, and fresh clear air. This place, right off the bat, is magical in its own unique way with all that
it has.

What I truly love about Bario and all the Kelabits I’ve come to know, through actual conversations and
even through passing-by, was that each one of them was the nicest people I’ve ever known. Several
tepuqs (elders in Kelabit) would wave to me on my way to the paddy fields (where I was assigned to
work with the sweetest human ever, Tepuq Ribed), and everywhere I went, everyone I saw, had a
smile on their face, and I dare say everyone whom I met shook my hand. I loved everything about this
experience, and I am grateful to have been assigned to my Tepuq who, thankfully, was patient in
teaching me how to harvest and dry paddy. I won’t forget our tea break talks where I’ve come to
conclude that my Tepuq loves fizzy orange drinks.  

Gloria took this great candid shot of Tepuq Ribed and I at her paddy hut.

Going into this, I have to admit I was nervous of how I would work and live with the other WHEE
participants. We’re all so different, but truly, it was those differences that made us connect and
resonate with each other. I will forever remember our hikes(all three of them) and how we’d sink in
mud literally all the time, and our deep talks that were both inside and outside, during the afternoons
and night. I will remember us gathering for every meal, food piled up on Alex’s plate and the time I
cried leaving this place, in the tiny plane, looking out at the open space.  

Poor Rhon, legit sinking in mud. 

I would do this adventure all over again, because god knows how thankful I am of this experience.

I'm smiling on the outside but dying on the inside after our morning hike. 

Bario was filled with good times and I hope it isn’t long before I go back there and revisit them. It was
truly unforgettable and the best start to my year that I’ve ever had growing up.  

Friday 6 April 2018

On The Horizon

Bursts of light at the end of the horizon surrounded by lush paddy fields on my last day in Bario.

It was our first day in Bario and I was already blown away by the beauty of the Kelabit highlands.
All around me was lush green paddy fields, mountains, and optimum temperatures of perhaps 20+ degrees.
I loved the moment I spent alone, looking at the view that was absolutely breathtaking, just staring into the
horizon and sky – it gave me so much peace and helped me think through life from a very different perspective
and penned out my thoughts. I savoured the wonderful feeling of waking up every morning to such beautiful
sights, especially on my walks through the villages of Arur Dalan and Arun Layun. There was something so
mysterious about this land when mist shrouded the mountains with birds chirping and “bangau” (stork) flying
over the paddy fields. Not forgetting the hike up to Bukit Korea, Prayer Mountain and even wading through the
mud at Pa Umor, those sceneries reminded me why I fell in love at first sight with this place seven years ago
by just looking at a photo of the highlands that I didn't even know then.

By: Mei Yin Aw