Beyond the sleek urban high-rises, ultra-modern shopping malls, and the cosmopolitan attractions of its capital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia can be an intrepid explorer’s destination if one is willing put in the effort and look beyond the sand and dunes stereotype. The opportunity to discover storied places, some dating back to ancient times, certainly make visiting Saudi Arabia as a traveler out for a real, honest-to-goodness adventure, a worthwhile thing to pursue. That there are inexpensive Riyadh to Manila flights ticket available sweetens the pursuit all the more.
Coming from Cave of the Winds, we had very short boat ride to our last cave visit – the Clearwater Cave. On the boat ride to the cave, I noticed the plank walk hanging by the rock walls leading to the cave. It looks fragile but walkable. I’m sure it would be fun to take that trail if we had more time. The boat was faster as we arrived soon at the scenic picnic area before clearwater cave. The colorful longboats gather by the riverbanks as the boatmen await each of their guests. We’re excited to explore Asia’s longest cave system but not before having our lunch first.
Our adventure in Sarawak continues. In our first day in Gunung Mulu National Park, we were able to visit two of the four show caves in the park. The massive Deer Cave and the small yet impressive jellyfish-like rock formations at Lang Cave. This time we rode a boat at Melinau river to reach our first cave for the day, Cave of the Winds. But before that, we took a quick side-trip at a Penan Settlement to get a glimpse of the life of an endangered ethnic tribe.
Just adjacent to Lang Cave is Deer Cave. Used to be the largest cave passage in the world before Hang Dong Soon in Vietnam was discovered in 2009. Though facts are still being disputed at this time, Deer Cave is still ostentatious due to its massive size. Deer Cave extends 2 kilometers in length. The southern passage rises 125 meters high passage and has a width of 169 meters. The partially lit entrance chamber is 146 meters high. Capacious enough for 40 Boeing 747 aircraft to fit in. Just the thought of it is mind-blowing enough.
Suddenly there was a startling sound from above the trees. It’s like trees breaking apart or boulders cracking. Then our guide, Jangin yelled “Run!!!”. From the mouth of Lang Cave, we tracked back a few meters towards the plank walk junction where the other path leads to Deer Cave. “What the hell is that?!” I asked Jangin as I was catching my breath. “Maybe wild monkeys!” he said looking up. For a moment there I thought I was in an adventure game or movie, running on plank walks while being chased by rolling boulders. I’m not sure if our young guide was jesting us. But what a start in our exploration of Gunung Mulu National Park.
We were riding a modified pick-up truck to take us to our home in Gunung Mulu National Park, the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa. The painted sceneries of caves, forest, hornbills and more wrapping the truck got me excited on the things we may experience during our stay in this UNESCO world heritage inscribed site. It’s not easy going to this part of Sarawak, Malaysia. On air, only MASwings flies direct from either Kuching or Miri. The long arduous way is by road, boat and a little hike. And what better way to compliment a stay in this nature reserve? Be amidst Borneo’s rainforest.
The gorgeous colonial city of George Town consists of more than 12,000 old buildings and structures of varying Asian and European influences. From Charming shophouses, jetties and temples, colourful Indian temples, Muslim Mosque and British colonial government offices earning its place under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 2008. It’s a real delight to stroll around the city and feel being transported back in the old world of Penang. In 2012, Penang municipality decided to breath life into this old walls by incorporating street art into public spaces. While I love street art, done wrong can make the place messy. But seems like George Town found just the right artist for the job.