Niah caves are 132 km South of Miri, which is an 8 hour bus ride north of Sibu. General consensus is that it is best to visit the second largest cave system in Malaysia with an organized tour from Miri because of costs and transportation, so why do anything else? That was our plan…which we never accomplished.
The bus ride from Sibu was not very comfortable ( I probably have a worst impression than what it really was because of my wisdom tooth) and about 2 hours before ariving to Miri it stopped for a lunch break. Checking very often that it would not leave us we ate some Roti Chanai and a burger, paying more attention to our bus after a white one parked in front of ours, but despite I was checking often it suddenly dissappeared and I barely caught a glimpse of it as it was turning around a corner and into the main road, leaving us behind without our backpacks!
I called Liza and ran to the parking lot asking the passing cars if anyone could help us out. Fortunately it only took me 2 cars to get a yes and off we went. Aswan, the driver, turned out to be a very friendly person who asked us about our trip and travel plans. As soon as we did he told us not to waste time going to Miri, and that once we caught up with the bus we should place our bags in his car and he would take us to the park, dropping us at a cheap hostel he knew of. The following day he had to go to Miri anyhow, so he would pick us up once we had seen the caves. Now that’s what I call luck!
The caves are quite impressive, particularly the Great Cave which aside from being huge is also home to the nest catchers. These people risk their lives climbing a 30 m rope without protection to get a bird’s nest with which a delicatessen soup is made:hte main ingredient of the soup is the saliva of the birds found in the nest . One nest means enough money to feed a family for the whole month.
Getting to the painted cave means crossing the pitch black moon cave which hosts some rather creepy and big insects, and the primitive paintings (over 40000 years old) have faded too much for them to be attractive to the eye.
The sweaty trek to the caves and back is about 4 hours long and at a good pace, and eventhough we hade covered most of it with a couple of friendly Malay girls we were forced to leave them behind and head back to the park entrance and meet Aswan.
Once he arrived we hopped into his car and stopped at his cousin’s place because he would come to Miri too. Friendly as well, he was amused by our story and offered some mango juice to quench our thirst.
The bumpy roat to Miri was covered quickly, unlike finding the hostel where we would spend a night before heading to Brunei. However the rude lady at the hostel made Miri even less attractive than wht it appeared, so Aswan suggested we rush to the bus terminal hoping to get the last bus to Brunei, and so we did. And we were lucky again! It was about to leave but waited for us to purchase our tickets. We couldn’t invite Aswan and his cousing for lunch in appreciation but they were not bothered at all. We took a few fnal pictures and thanked him profoundly for all his help, and off we went to Brunei!