It’s my dream to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible and Asia is a good place to start for me. It’s cheap, near and diverse. While most of these sites used to be remote, with so many budget airlines plying Asia now, travelling to these places is really convenient.
There are three main transportation mode to get into Mulu Caves. There is no road leading into Mulu from any towns, Miri being the closest. So one either has to hike through the jungle, or go in by boat, a 9-hour journey. The easiest is to fly in, with the airport located 5 minutes drive from the Park (RM5 per pax ‘taxi’ service).
At Mulu, you can stay either at the Park itself, or at the posh Marriot Resort near by (RM6 per pax shuttle to get to the park). Resourceful travelers I met from Japan and Poland arrived without any booking and stayed at the kampong outside the park, or B and B, at very cheap rate (no hot water shower and not very clean.)
I stayed at the Mulu Park itself, which offers three types of accommodations – hostel, long house (both non-aircon with common toilets/shower) or bungalows with attached bath/toilets/aircon/sleeps three.
I booked the bungalows (RM265 per night with breakfast). The park is usually full between July and September so it’s advisable to book early. The park provides basic hotel service, with hand soap, bath towel plus a tea/coffee kettle in my bungalow. There is no toiletries, hand/face towels, TV, bottled water – one commonly finds in local hotels. Wifi is chargeable but it’s slow and there’s no guarantee that you may get any internet upon paying. Credit card payment has a 2% extra service charge which we had no choice but to pay as we booked our reservation online with a deposit.
The ‘taxi’ service dropped us at the entrance. We trudged with our luggage across a suspension bridge into the protected reserve area that is the park.
At the park office, we were given a map showing all the places of interest – caves, waterfalls, hikes etc. All visits to the various caves are guided and should be booked before hand as there is a limit to the number. We wanted a change of plan when we arrived but was told all guided walks were full. The staffs were obviously very proud of the UNESCO status and we perceived them to border on the arrogance, with a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude. There is no hospitality felt as expected from a hotel.
This map served to be very useful as the guide had written on the left all the guided walks we had booked and the time to assemble. The map also listed other trails that we could go on our own.
There is no porter service and we had to find our way to our bungalow, lugging our bags. But it was a charming cottage that greeted us, a wooden house with a pond in front.
The canteen in the park is where we ate our breakfast every morning before we started our walks. If you are sick of the food there, you can eat at the ‘restaurants’ outside the park but don’t expect anything better, just slightly cheaper.
There are three choices of breakfast every morning – nasi lemak, Fried bee hoon, or muesli and pancakes, these are accompanied with orange cordial (tasted terrible to me), fruits and unlimited coffee/tea. On the first day, I opted for nasi lemak, served with ikan bilis and peanuts and a hard-boiled egg. I went to asked for more sambal and was charged RM1 for it. My plate of fruits had a banana, a slice of papaya and watermelon. The next morning, I decided to take the bee-hoon, which smelled really good when Mike had it the day before, except that mine was cold and oily. The banana was not ripe and couldn’t peel. On the last morning, the plate of fruit only had a slice of papaya and watermelon. So much for the standards. Thankfully the menu served better food but that’s for another blog. (As you can see, food is very important to me :)!)
The other facilities at the park comprised of a shop selling souvenirs, ice-cream and second-hand books which you can re-sell back after reading. There is also an exhibition room with a small theatre, the only air-conditioned place in the park, which we and some staffs congregated when we needed some cool air.
Next blog, the trails and caves of Mulu.