Experience serenity, nature’s beauty at Kiyau Campsite in Sarawak’s Bidayuh village above the clouds

The magnificent view of the sunrise over a sea of clouds at the dome tent pitched on a tanju (bamboo deck) at Kiyau Campsite. Photo credit: Kiyau Campsite - Kampung Sapit Facebook page

By Karen Bong

Can you imagine anything better than being woken up by a breathtaking sunrise over a sea of clouds and enjoying a mug of hot coffee on an extended bamboo deck to the melody of a whistling cool breeze and cheerful bird songs?

A camping trip to a truly unique location can offer all of this and more, as well as the chance to escape the daily grind of modern life.

For those looking for an escape not too far from Kuching city, there is one such ideal place that combines the beauty of nature with the thrill of adventure – Kiyau Campsite at Kampung Sapit which is known as one of the few Bidayuh villages above the clouds in Padawan as it sits about 1,000 metres above sea level and is only about a 90-minute drive away from the city.

This is nearly a daily routine for Julia who has the opportunity to enjoy a mug of coffee in a tent with a stunning view at Kiyau Campsite. Photo credit: Kiyau Campsite – Kampung Sapit Facebook page

Kiyau means Burung Tiong

Kiyau is the first among eight campsites established on private initiatives within Kampung Sapit. The others are Siroh, Bung Shiroh, Keked Dungan, Deremin, Gated, and Bung Siju.

Kiyau takes its name from a bird known as ‘Burung Tiong’ in Malay, or the ‘Common Hill Myna’ which has a glossy black body tinted with purple and green glow and bright yellow head wattles. This social and vocal bird can still be found in Kampung Sapit, particularly this campsite owned and operated by Julia Jue Kiyau.

An aerial view of Kiyau Campsite offering several spacious tanju for campers to pitch their tents in the great outdoors. Photo credit: Kiyau Campsite- Kampung Sapit Facebook

“When I was little, there were a lot of Kiyau birds here. Now they have scattered but every now and then people can still see and hear them singing, especially in the morning and evening.

“A lot of areas in the village are named after something for easier identification, such as ‘kombok’ which means pitcher plant. So when you tell someone where you are, they know the exact location,” Julia shared.

The serene atmosphere as the sun begins to set at Kiyau Campsite.

Camping in nature is a form of ecotherapy

Nestled amidst lush forests and towering mountain peaks, Kiyau campsite offers five spacious ‘tanju’ or bamboo decks with high roofs for campers to pitch their camping tents. Alternatively, you can rent a tent which can sleep one to two campers or the one and only dome tent which can squeeze in four or five campers.

Each tanju is equipped with a small kitchen, cooking utensils and a barbeque pit. The shared bathrooms have toilets, and water is readily available, though don’t expect the luxury of a hot shower. A cold shower can be just as invigorating and refreshing to awaken your senses.

However, the area is powered by solar energy so campers will have to use electricity sparingly to charge their phones and devices to avoid draining the system’s resources.

The facilities at Kiyau Campsite.

According to Julia, the inspiration for the campsite came from hikers who inquired about accommodations in the area. “They were tired and didn’t want to drive all the way to the city,” she explained. “So they suggested we create a campsite where they could pitch their tents and rest overnight. That’s how it all began.”

Each tanju is constructed by hand, using bamboo sourced from the surrounding forest. “We started with one tanju and a bamboo hut where I stayed to attend to the visitors’ needs,” Julia reminisced.

Upon arrival and settling in, take a moment to appreciate the stunning view of the valley that stretches out before you and tune your body and mind to soak in all the natural environment.

Listen to the sound of birds chipping, the rustle of leaves in the wind, take in the scent of the trees, the still atmosphere without distractions, the verdant scenery and the gentle crunching of bamboo underfoot.

In a still atmosphere without distractions, one can set their mind at ease and take in the breathtaking views. 

From here, you can take a hike through the forest, go for a dip in a nearby waterfall, visit the village to learn about the culture and traditions of the people who call this region home, or simply laze around the tanju and read a book. The possibilities are endless, and it is up to you to decide how you want to spend your time.

Straddled between Sarawak and Indonesia

Embark on a trek to check out the two Malaysia-Indonesia border pegs with No. 144 located about 1km away from Kampung Sapit and No. 147 just a short walk through the village.

Border peg No. 144 is located near the edge of the village and requires a hike of about an hour that will take you through forests, farm lands, across mountain streams, and up steep hills, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Climbing up a steep hill enroute to Malaysia-Indonesia border peg No. 144.
A rest stop to appreciate the magnificent forest and valley with village houses nestled down below.

On the site, there is a tanju that allows visitors to straddle two countries simultaneously with their legs extended towards Indonesia as they sit on Sarawak land.

The border pegs inscribed with the letters ‘M’ and ‘I’ are among the many markers that serve to define and protect the boundary between Sarawak and Indonesia. It is also a symbol of the ongoing friendship and cooperation between the two nations.

Malaysia-Indonesia border peg No. 144 allows visitors to straddle the two countries simultaneously.

Experience the sunset, sunrise and sea of clouds

In the evening, gather around the tanju and marvel at the setting sun behind the majestic mountains. If the weather permits, the sky will be painted in hues of orange and pink, creating a perfect backdrop for a relaxing evening. This is the perfect time to unwind and start preparing dinner.

No camping trip is complete without some delicious food cooked over an open fire. Appreciate this moment while you enjoy your meal with friends and family, telling stories while surrounded by the serene beauty of nature.

Gather around for a relaxing evening over barbeque or Bidayuh-style dinner.

For a unique culinary adventure, campers can also put in a request in advance to have Julia prepare authentic Bidayuh food. This is a great opportunity to savour local flavours and indulge in traditional dishes while immersed in the great outdoors.

As night falls, one will be able to see a myriad of stars illuminating the night sky. Prepare for a night sleeping under the stars and maybe even catch a glimpse of the Milky Way while stargazing.

The highlight of Kiyau or any campsites within Kampung Sapit, however, will be the stunning view of the sea of clouds that forms during the early morning hours. Wake up early and witness the mountains and valley vanish, swallowed by a soft, white ocean leaving only the peaks of the highest mountains visible above the clouds. The transformed landscape seems to transport you to a place that feels like heaven on earth.

Witness the sun rising over a sea of clouds. Photo credit: Kiyau Campsire-Kampung Sapit Facebook page

As the sun rises higher in the sky, the sea of clouds gradually dissipates to reveal a clear blue sky.

These experiences are truly breathtaking, so be sure to wake up early to catch these beautiful moments that will make your camping trip an unforgettable experience.

Mountains and valleys vanish in the soft, white ocean leaving only the peaks of the highest mountains visible above the clouds at Kiyau Campsite. Photo credit: Kiyau Campsite-Kampung Sapit Facebook page

“We are fairly new as we started during the Covid-19 pandemic time when movement restrictions were in place. As an avid hiker, I love to exploring different hiking places and what the places have to offer,” shared Julia.

“That’s when I realised we have more to offer, with our amazing carpet of clouds and breathtaking views of sunrise and sunset, along with the natural surrounding of hills, mountains and forests for trekking and hiking.”

Kiyau camping in the clouds at Kampung Sapit was one of the featured destinations under Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) Sarawak Product Experience programme. — DayakDaily