On the third day into the trip, our activities include driving around Bario, enjoying local delicacy of Nuba’ Laya’, trekking to Pa’ Umor Salt Spring, visiting another pineapple farm and cultural performance at Bario Asal Lembaa’ Longhouse Homestay. After breakfast on the next day, Auntie Lucy and Lian drove us around the village.
After being in Bario for one day, it was only then that I got to see the paddy fields of which Bario is famous for. Bario rice is premium rice named after the Highlands. To be honest, the price for a kilo Bario rice is more expensive than the normal rice. Since the size of Bario rice is small, the Bario rice is best cooked for porridge.
It was nearing the harvesting season. Most of the farmers had already harvested their paddy fields by the time we were there. However, there was a few paddy fields which were reaping.
A school in Bario.
After the drive around the village, we had another sumptuous lunch prepared by Auntie Lucy with special delicacy of Kelabit known as Nuba’ Laya’. [picture of Nuba’ Laya’] While arguable Nuba’ Laya’ is similar to nasi impit for the people in West Malaysia and Kelupis for the Sarawakian, the Nuba’ Laya’ is iconic for the Kelabit because it is cooked using the Bario rice.
What makes Nuba’ Laya’ a special delicacy is the art of its preparation. When the rice has been boiled with little water left, the Kelabit mashes the rice in the pot using a wooden ladle until it becomes soft. When the texture is right, the Kelabit scoops the rice using the ladle and put it on isip leave for wrapping. The art of wrapping is not an easy task. It takes years of practice before one can wrap into a perfectly neat packet. It has to be wrapped in a certain way as quickly as possible. In the leaves, the rice remains warm and fresh into the day. When eating the Nuba’ Laya’, you will have to use the isip leave as plate. At lunch, we met our new friends, Seth Peli, James and Andrew.
The trek to Pa’ Umor Salt Spring did not take long. It only took approximately 30 minutes to reach Pa’ Umor Salt Spring.
The trek to Pa’ Umor Salt Spring.
The view while on trek to Pa’ Umor Salt Spring.
Lian Labang explained to us the plants normally used by the Bario people.
Apart from the pineapple and fine grains of Bario rice, Bario is famous for its salt which is rich in natural minerals. Pa’ Umor salt spring is one of the last active salt spring and also the most accessible to the locals. According to Lian, the salt spring is open for every resident of Bario, who takes turn to prepare their salt for own consumption or for commercial purpose. Normally they would be there for days or weeks.
The salt spring looks like man-made well, instead of natural spring. It has been there for generations producing salty water – the source of Bario salt.
Bario salt spring.
After scooping the water from the salt spring, the Kelabits boil the water for 24 hours until the water evaporates, leaving only the salt at the bottom of the large pot, known as “kawang”.
A man stood by ‘kawang’ overseeing the preparation of Bario salt spring.
The salt left-over will then be left to cool down before being transferred into foot-long bamboos. Just like the preparation of lemang, the salty water in the bamboo will be cooked over strong fire to harden the salt. Then, the bamboo is cut open and the cylindrical-shaped salt blocks are extracted and wrapped one by one in leaves that the Kelabits call as “Ilat” and tied with cane vines.
Freshly prepared Bario salt blocks.
The Bario Salt Spring
On the way back to Labang Guesthouse, we stopped by at the Dhapur river, which serves as trekking trail to go to the salt spring.
Crossing the bridge over Dhapur River.
Lian told us, if we were lucky, we would be able to catch sight of a herd of water buffalos in the area. And we were not that lucky!
The pineapple farm belongs to Auntie Lucy’s sister, Nicole, who worked with Malaysia Airlines. She travels back to Bario almost every week to oversee the pineapple farm. Sometimes, she does two transits to fly Bario-Kuala Lumpur. What best way to enjoy the pineapple than freshly cut pineapple at the farm itself.
Hover and click your mouse on the title to read the earlier entries on Bario:-