Before the turn of the century, the native Dayaks of Borneo lived in relative seclusion with occasional trades at the coastal settlements. Headhunting is rife, which made communal living the norm.
The Bidayuh, a generally mild mannered people, built self contained villages on hilltops or mountains for defensive purposes. And this is where we chose to hike.
Bung Jagoi, or Summit of Jagoi Hill/Mountain, is an almost abandoned village located in the Bau district, half and hour away from the Indonesian border. A relatively easy hike with plenty of hateful stairs, you wind through fruit orchards and thick lush jungle, while getting a view of the distant ranges that form a natural border with our Indonesian brethren. The summit is 366 metres above sea level, with half hidden vistas of the undulating jungle below.
At the turn of the century as headhunting became outlawed, and agricultural land grew scarce while the population grew, the inhabitants of Bung Jagoi decided to move to the base of the hill. Most of the villages within the area and some across the Indonesian border can trace their origins back to Bung Jagoi.
There are still houses there, and during the Gawea (Harvest Festival), they do come up. Apparently there is one family living there but when I arrived I was greeted by many homes in various states of disrepair, a headhouse and 3 adorable dogs that tailed us.
We reached Bung Tesen, the true and higher summit located another 10 minutes hike uphill. After that we stopped in Bung Jagoi for a short break, snacks and some exploring.
The village is like a time capsule, abandoned and humming with the buzz of insects and birds. You can feel the air undisturbed and we the visitors create ripples of movement. The headhouse has been renovated, but the skulls are still placed respectfully. They need to fed annually to appease the spirits. A story goes that now most Bidayuhs are Christians they were supposed to bury it but “it” didn’t like its new home. So they put it back.
The weather started getting overcast so we decided to hike back down. Hungry, we drove to Serikin Border Market for lunch. This market sits close to the border and many local and Indonesian traders set up stalls on both sides of the main road selling textiles, crafts, clothes, cheap knockoffs and erectile dysfunction ointments. Serikin never struck me as a food destination so the find was a real surprise.
Our next stop is supposed to be Fairy Cave, but it was already closed. Dropped by this Gua Kapur, literally Limestone Cave, with a temple inside.
As we approached Bau town we dropped by the infamous Tasik Biru or Blue Lake. Formerly an open cast mine for gold, this became flooded in the 20s and has since been a recreation area until its closure due to the many drownings and extremely high levels of arsenic in the water. On a clear day it gives off a green blue sheen that ripples beneath the sunlight. Now only the annual Bau Jong Regatta is the only water activity legal. Of course plenty of people fish by the lake, which they keep as pets.
Our final stop on the way to Kuching is Siniawan, an old row of shophouses with a Night Market every weekend. Due to the torrential rain many stalls were closed. Behind the shophouses is the Siniawan River, with a jetty where you can take a boat across for 50 sen. I have to applaud the efforts of the Siniawanese who made an effort to revive their homes and turn it into a heritage attraction. Now with alternative incomes they manage to open homestays, cafes and continue their idyllic lifestyle.
There’s no entrance fee for the trail, although the Bung Jagoi Heritage Centre does receive donations where you are required to register first. Parking is RM 3 for the whole day. When heading towards Serikin from Bau the entrance is on the right, between Kampung Duyoh and Kampung Jagoi.