We booked the Bau History Tour with James during our holiday in Kuching and we learnt a lot about the history of this region. James has a deep knowledge of the area and knows a lot about caving : that was really interesting !
It was a full day tour during which we visited Bau and a “bird nest factory”. Bau has been a gold mining town since 1840. In 1857, there was a lot of fights between the Chinese miners and the first Rajah, James Brooke, resulting in a violent massacre. The dead bodies were left to rot in the river because there were too many to bury. The decomposing bodies produced a bad smell, which is said to have given the town its current name. In Malay, Bau means “smelly” :-) Don’t be scared, the town is not smelly anymore and it is actually quite nice ! On our way to the village, we stopped at a fruit market where we tried some Jackfruit ! It was very sweet !
In Bau, we stopped at a “Bird nest factory”. It was the first time I was actually seeing a real edible bird nest ! In ancient times, the bird nest was consumed by the Chinese Emperor and was considered as a luxurious healthy food for privileged people. Nowadays, it is still very popular in certain parts of Asia and frequent consumption is supposed to promote better immune system and a healthier skin tone amongst others benefits. We visited the factory and we learnt more about this strange practice !
The nest is created by the Swiftlet bird, using its saliva, and is often placed on cave walls. It’s high in nutrients but they must be cleaned from impurities (feathers, mud, etc) before being eaten. The process is often very time consuming and since no chemicals are used this explains the high price. I was shocked to hear that 1 kilo of processed cave swiftlet nests is around 5000 US$.. this is crazy ! I let you imagine the business… I understand why it is sometimes called “the Caviar of the East”.
We also visited the Fairy cave. Accessing to the cave is very easy, as a road is leading to the base of the cliff. You just have to climb the steps to the entrance situated at 30 meters above the base of the cliff. It can be a bit strenuous due to the humidity in the air (I stopped several times…). Inside, the trail can be very slippery at some places, better to have good shoes. The vegetation over there was luxurious and the colours were beautiful, but very humid, not very good for the photography gear !
If you want to know the back story of the first picture, I invite you to visit Hanne’s blog where she organized a photo contest :-)
For lunch, we had a Bidayuh meal and that was delicious ! I can’t remember what was the name of the juice, but it was so so good. It was pouring down outside but the little hut was really waterproof :-) The woman played some traditional instrument and we were able to give it a go ! It was a lot more difficult than it seemed.. and unexpectedly we weren’t that good :D
We finished the day by the exploration of typical Bidayuh village and old gold mine where we saw a lot of fossils. Then it was time to head back to Kuching.
I think this tour is a must if you visit Kuching and it can be suitable for everyone’s physical condition and for every interests. Compared to others tours, it may seems pricey, but when you compare with the service provided, you get your money’s worth and you learn so much !! You also got some complimentary pictures taken by James (I featured some in this post, credited as http://www.kuchingoffroad.com) at the end of your trip.