Friday, August 28, 2020

Same Time Last Year: Traveling to a Malaysian Paradise Called Mulu

Trees, trees, trees as far as the eyes can see
A year fraught with worries including a pandemic that is persisting to the present with no end in sight can really give you  different perspective.   Almost the same time last year, I got lucky to hitch with my best buddy, Ironwulf, to tag along on the invitation of Sarawak Tourism to cover the 2019 edition of the Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival and afterwards make a side trip to the Gunung Mulu National Park.

Leaf insect along the trail

From the small aircraft, it's wonderful to see trees, riverways, more trees, and distant mountains for literally, as far as your eyes can see.  So much so that I was wondering where the MASwings airplane is going to land.  Muli is something like 25-30 minutes flight from Kuching and we did land on a clearing near where the Gunung Mulu National Park is located, and where the lone luxury accommodations, the Marriott in Mulu, is situated along a stretch of the Melinau River, right at the fringes of massive rainforest.

If I rely on my memory, the details of the trip can seem hazy in parts (seems like a long time ago) but there were a lot of memorable highlights I can enumerate without consulting my notes.  

Visiting the park on two occasions (including the humongous caves), the second trip hiking alone to the birdwatching tower and walking all the way back to the Marriott, count as two.  Befriending a local dog, and discovering Philippine-made goods at the lone large grocery about 12-15 minute walk from the Marriott, is another.  

Little joys really count a lot -- secretly feeding the friendly stray cats during alfresco breakfast  at the Mulu Marriott; finding skinks and squirrels on the trees near the stilt/elevated wooden walkway leading to our accommodations; hearing so many birds while having coffee at the porch; lucking out in shooting (albeit very blurry) a hornbill on one boat ride to the caves as well as snakes (including a juvenile green viper above the wooden trail walkway -- not that I'm daring or brave but seeing a snake along the trail or in the forest is a big deal; they're that elusive or well-camouflaged).

Lagalog near the entrance/exit of Clearwater Cave
Times like these make one cherish the memories no matter if not all the details are crystal clear anymore.  More so that in all honesty, we really don't know if and when things (as far as tourism goes) can go back to the way it used to be.  It's not as if only the tourism and travel industries have taken a hit from the pandemic; there are jobs, livelihood, and lives, that have been affected.  Bittersweet to note how a virus can change things drastically but at the end of each day, we just have to be grateful to be healthy and alive for another day.

Lagalog befriending a Mulu dog
I reiterate my profuse thanks to the kind people of Place Borneo for making this dream trip to Mulu a reality:

• Again, special mention goes to our two companions from Place Borneo, the dynamic duo of Sel Eday Helbat and Carshena Emileen, for coming with us on this trip on the heels of sleepless nights before and after the Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival

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