belaga-4

Belaga is increasingly popular among backpackers – probably because it’s always been portrayed as a laid back , multi-ethnic, and the last frontier of sort. It’s hard not to describe the town as such – since it is the last town found along the mighty Rejang river; a sleepy trading post and administrative center, where residents of the upriver longhouses and villages come to trade, shop for provisions, or simply catch up with old friends

The soon to be completed Bakun dam is located further up the river – about two hours longboat ride – the commonly used mode of transportation in this part of the world. A foreigner is officially required to obtain a permit to visit Belaga. It is a regulation imposed when the Bakun dam construction started a few years ago.

However, lately the rule has been relaxed as some tourists (foreigners) especially those going Belaga via Bintulu need not required to have ones. Many people asked what would you do in small, laid back, town like Belaga in 36 hours? Plenty of course. Here are some suggestions.

LONGHOUSES VISIT

Kids at Long Dungan (a Kenyah settlement) playing with the mud. Long Dungan is about 30 minutes away from Belaga.

Kids at Long Dungan (a Kenyah settlement) playing with the mud. Long Dungan is about 30 minutes away from Belaga.

Depending on your budget – there are several longhouses you can visit. With a budget within RM100 – 400 per pax (fuel ain’t cheap in Belaga, sometime double what it cost in Kapit – careful of dubious tour guide.) you can go to as far as Bakun or going below Belaga – to Sekapan, Kenyah and Punan longhouses (eg, Punan Sama, Punan Bah).

Photo of Tim (a Time journalist), Albert and Mei (son and mother from Catalunya Spain) with a Sekapan man during our recent trip to Long Dungan and Sekapan Panjang

Photo of Tim, Albert and Mei with a Sekapan man during our recent trip to Long Dungan and Sekapan Panjang

However popular destinations is Long Dungan and Sekapan Panjang which is located below Belaga – about 30 minutes longboat ride from the town. Long Dungan is a Kenyah tribe settlement. They were relocated to the area in early 1980s from Long Jawe area.

A walking distance from Long Dungan is Sekapan Panjang longhouse – one of the oldest settlement found along the Balui river. Remnant of a Salung – a burial pole (totem pole) where one of Sekapan great leader Puso still left standing in front of the longhouse – minus the usual burial jar.

There are two barrels of canon – according to longhouse folks given to them by the Brunei sultan to defend Belaga from Iban invasion.

GIAM PASANG AND LONG AMO WATERFALL

Giam Pasang, Belaga. A popular picnic spot and tourist attraction in Belaga

Giam Pasang, Belaga. A popular picnic spot and tourist attraction in Belaga

‘Giam’ means rapid in local dialect. Giam Pasang is located half an hour longboat ride going up Belaga river – a tributary of Rejang river. A popular picnic spot among locals and also the venue of last year Giam Pasang Rainforest Challenge organized by Belaga District Office.

Long Amo waterfall – is another popular picnic spot near Belaga town. If you don’t mind walking – it is about 40 minutes away from the town center. The best way to get there is of course, by hiring a local guide.

WHAT TO EAT AND WHERE TO STAY

There are few budget hotels in Belaga with relatively comfortable bed and clean room. Surprisingly, Belaga has a number of good restaurants offering both ‘halal’ and non ‘halal’ food. However, as in any rural areas anywhere else in Sarawak, the basic rule for ordering meal is very simple – don’t specify what you want to eat, as they probably don’t have it – just ask for the daily special, which is always fresh and superbly cooked.

OUT OF BELAGA

How to get out of Belaga? You have two options – board an express boat – head downriver to Kapit then Sibu or get on a truck (locally known as 4 wheel-drive) head to Bintulu. The journey to Bintulu will take about four and half hours from Belaga via logging road (for two and half hours) and proper road (2 hours).

If you need help to get around Belaga email Calvin at calvinaj_at_gmail.com or contact Bintulu.Org.