Longboats, bats and beds in Mulu National Park: Malaysian Borneo

A day in a longboat then sleeping in the best bed I’ve ever slept in was my introduction to the World Heritage  Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

Gunung Mulu World heritage Area
Gunung Mulu World Heritage Area

My adventure started with a 4-wheel-drive trip from Miri (I’d been at the fabulous Borneo Jazz Festival) during which we travelled along back roads, through oil plantations, over potholes in the snake-like, gravel road, over bridges, and on two vehicle ferries  until we reached Marudi some 2 hours later.

We're off
We’re off

Planet Borneo  had arranged an early lunch for us, then, after a safety briefing, we boarded our longboat – home for the next five or six hours – a journey time that’s water level dependent.

A local woman on the boat tells me she did this same trip some 20 years earlier. She and her family were attending the opening of the national park and had gone up the wrong tributary  and spent the night on the boat lost in a side stream! I’m expecting our local boatman to know exactly where he’s going on this curvy watery highway and that we won’t need to get out to push it through any shallow parts.

During the boat trip (on which many of the locals slept!) I saw monkeys on the riverbanks, some small hawk-like birds, the beautiful white herons and a couple of pairs of hornbills. We didn’t get lost, but we did hit a submerged log once, and had motor issues briefly. At our only toilet stop – at a small village – our bags are moved together and covered – it is obvious rain was imminent. I put my camera in its waterproof bag and get my plastic poncho ready – five minutes later its on as the tropical rain hits. We still have over an hour to go and soon we passengers transfer to two smaller boats to cope with the shallower water while our luggage remains in the original traditional longboat.

I’m one of two westerners on board, and because we’re larger, where we sat is vital to the balance! I sit where I’m told and stay still especially when we go through small rapids.  Travelling along these three rivers, each one smaller that the previous one has certainly been an adventure which few travellers experience – and that alone is a recommendation! I love to get a little off the well-worn trails. (I returned to Miri by plane  – 30 minute trip)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

At about 6pm , after leaving Miri about 9am, we arrive at the Royal Mulu Resort happy to check in and remove our plastic ponchos. I’d have been even happier had I known this was to be the home of the best bed in the world!  Next morning, over breakfast, one of the others in the group said, “I want to marry those pillows” so it was not just me who loved sinking into the soft luxury of the beds. I even looked under the sheet to see what the secret was … a lovely thick topper pad.

The Royal Mulu Resort is being upgraded and their website says:

The 101-room Royal Mulu Resort in Sarawak, Malaysia is set to be rebranded as the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa in late quarter 4, 2014. With an ethnic design resembling longhouses, the resort rest on 15-foot wooden stilts rising over lush vegetation and linked by a series of walkways. Each guest rooms comes with its own balcony overlooking the scenic Melinau River, and modern amenities such as flat screen TVs and high – speed Internet access. 

The resort will feature an all new lobby lounge with open-space business center and library. Guests can dine in all-day, three – meal restaurant with an outdoor seating for al fresco dining. A private dining room and bakery / deli will be located next to the restaurant, while a riverside bar completes the resort’s F&B service.

Other recreational amenities will include a new spa, an outdoor swimming pool, gym and Activity Center, meeting facilities, and Marriott Kids Club. The resort can even arrange exciting outdoor activities such as night cruise, rafting, kayaking and jungle hiking and many more activities available at Mulu National Park – http://www.mulupark.com” 

Just so long as they don’t change the mattress and pillows I’ll be happy with whatever they do!

I sleep in the best bed in the world
I sleep in the best bed in the world

After dinner, it was great to have a good nights sleep as the next day we had some 26ks to walk, about 300 steps to climb, and a boat trip, as we explore the area, visit some caves, meet the locals, and watch the bats on their evening, syncronised, aerial display.

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