The ‘capital’ of the Highlands, Bario consists of about a dozen ‘villages’ – each with its own church – spread over a beautiful valley, much (though less and less) of it given over to growing the renowned local rice. Some of the appeal lies in the mountain climate (the valley is 1500m above sea level) and splendid isolation (the only access is by air and torturous 4WD track), but above all it’s the unforced hospitality of the Kelabit people that will quickly win you over. An amazing number of travellers find themselves extending their stays in Bario by days, weeks or even years. Do yourself a favour and get stuck here for a while!
Before the Konfrontasi, Bario consisted of only one small longhouse, but in 1963 residents of longhouses near the frontier fled raids by Indonesian troops and settled here for safety.
Except for a few places powered by a small hydroelectric dam and by photovoltaic cells (a large solar farm is planned), Bario has electricity – provided by private generators – only in the evening. It’s hard to imagine life in hyper-social Bario without the mobile phone, a technology unknown in these parts until 2009.