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Borneo with Kids: Miri's Lambir Hills Park aka tours with the headhunters!

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Vagabond Kids: Borneo with Kids: Miri's Lambir Hills Park aka tours with the headhunters!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Borneo with Kids: Miri's Lambir Hills Park aka tours with the headhunters!

Last October (2009) the Vagabond Kids and family set out on a new adventure, to a spot we had not yet done, a place we had not yet traveled. We went on a family vacation to Miri Malaysia on the island of Borneo.

Borneo (so far we have only traveled to Malaysian Borneo) is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots for a quick get away. It is an hour plus by plane from Singapore and still has some native forest left (as compared to much of Indonesia and all of peninsular Malaysia), pristine beaches (for now) and native cultures unlike those on the peninsula.

Jeff, aka Vagabond Dad, is always looking for a new place to see, someplace before it hits the big time. This time, the new spot that cropped up was a couple hundred bucks on an Air Asia flight, two hours in air and a Marriott hotel later and boom, we were in Miri.

Miri is just south of the very oil rich Sultanate of Brunei and is also home to the first oil well in Malaysia. Miri is also a bit of a "hot spot" for Bruneian and expats working in Brunei (Brunei is an Islamic country and no Alcohol is sold there). While we were in Brunei a good size group of British Army-men and their families were camped at the Marriott for a weekend of pool, beer and camaraderie.

Lambir Hills Park

Miri is still a sleepy town, much of it is either oil or timber industry and has not yet become a popular tourist destination in Asia. Much of the tourism that is there, is of the adventure type and Miri serves as home base prior to departing out on a jungle trek and a welcome shower and soft bed upon your return.

We weren't really interested in a big hike, and frankly I am not sure the kids are quite ready for it, but we did want to take the kids out and show them some real forest. Jeff and I grew up in small towns in Oregon, where forests are thick-day hikes are common- and an appreciation of the wild is part of being a kid. Needless to say, Singapore, you don't get that.

We found that there was a nearby day hike, less than an hour drive from the Hotel in the Lambir Hills National Park. The park has multiple waterfalls, suspension bridges and a swimming pond at the end of one of the trails. There are multiple trails in the park, the easiest is about a 25 minute gentle walk towards the swimming hole. There are two ways to get to the park, you can either hire a taxi for the day which would run you about US$35-40 or you can hire a guide and driver. We went ahead and hired the guide and it was a great way of doing the park. The guide, plus car and driver, was only about $60. US, so for the additional $20 we figured it was worth it.

Jeff showing off little minnows

Our Guide was a local Dayak, and the Dayaks are the indigenous people of Borneo and contain around 200 subgroups. The most infamous of the Dayak tribes were the headhunters, which our guide told us his family was part of that subgroup. We were assured however, that they had not taken any heads for at least 20 years, so we were in safe hands! All jests aside, one of the advantages of having hired the guide we walked through the park and were given some of the local flavor of the park and he showed us how the local peoples used different plants as medicines, how children would make helicopters with certain seeds and how the Dayak people were much more in touch with nature. In many ways much of that culture is gone (and not just the headhunting). The current Dayaks are leaving the forest and going to work on the oil rigs or in the timber plantations so it was interesting to get some of the traditional information while it still exists.

Man this was cold water!

At the end of the trail we sat down to a picnic lunch that we had packed and enjoyed a bit of a dip in the swimming hole. We were by ourselves for an hour or so before another family we had met at the hotel also went for a dip. It was a neat opportunity to get out of the city, to enjoy some trail time and to show the kids what being outdoors really means. After another drive back down the hill a little grubbier and tired we made it back to the hotel and the kids burst back into action in order to hit the pool in time for the Inflatables... but that is a post for another day.

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