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PAINTING CAVE ( NIAH CAVE )
Located on the Sungai (river) Niah, about 3 km from the small town of Batu Niah, a 110 km to the south-west of Miri in northern Sarawak. The park was first gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958, gazetted as National Park on 23 November 1974 and was published to the public on 1 January 1975. The Park is one of Sarawak's smaller national parks, but it is certainly one of the most important and has some of the most unusual visitor attractions. The park's main claim to fame is its role as one of the birthplaces of civilisation in the region. The oldest modern human remains discovered in Southeast Asia were found at Niah, making the park one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Forty thousand years ago, the Niah Great Cave sheltered human life. Here lies the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia, along with many other relics of prehistoric man. Today the Cave is home only to bats, swiftlets and other specially adapted forms of life. However, a few locals still venture into the dark interior to collect guano (bird and bat droppings used as fertilizer) and bird's nest. The famous Painted Cave is another highlight of the visit to Niah Cave. Here, little human-like figures drawn in red haematite watch over a gravesite where the bodies of the dead were each laid in its own boat-shaped coffin. The Great Cave and Painted Cave have been declared as National Historical Monuments. The Caves are accessible via a raised plankwalk that winds through lowland forest vibrant with birds and butterflies. Apart from the Caves, visitors can explore several kilometres of forest trails to feel the richness of tropical rainforests, climb a 400m tall limestone ridge or visit an Iban longhouse located near the Park boundary. Visitors can also rent a boat or walk along the river from Park headquarters to Batu Niah town. The Painted Cave Shortly after the moon Cave, the plankwalk emerges into daylight and a short pathway through the forest leads to the Painted Cave. This is the site of the famous Niah cave paintings and the place where the 'death-ship' were found. The contents of the death-ships have since been transferred to the Sarawak Museum, but the wall behind the fenced-off burial site. The paintings can be difficult to see unless you allow your eyes to become accustomed to the light. They are rendered in red hematite and cover a long narrow strip (approximately 30m) at the back of the wall. They potray spread-eagled human figures, probably representing warriors and hunters, some of the animals of the souls of the deceased on the dangerous journey to the land of the dead. Although the burial site at the painted cave is far more recent than those at the Great Cave, it is no less important as it offers a clear insight into the develoment of the traditional religions of Borneo. It is worth spending some time at the Painted cave, as the atmosphere of the place is very tranquil and relaxing resting place for their ancestors.The old Man at his balcony...
…staring down, watching the world go by. ‘What has he seen?’ you think to yourself ‘has he lived here through it all? Through the mortar shells and the cannon fire; the sectarian kidnappings and the terrorist bombings;? did he watch all of that happen and survive to be here today? What thoughts must he have? What lies in his dreams and behind those tired eyes? ‘Wait a minute, what is he looking at? Is he? Oh.’ You walk away feeling a little stupid, a little pretentious and over-wrought in your searching for relics of the war. The old man stood at his balcony every day. When a young girl came by he leant over and, taking full advantage of his raised perch, enjoyed a long lingering look down their tops (Beirut fashion can be very revealing) before slouching back down with a quiet chuckle and a patient glance up the street for the next passing girl. There ain’t no war in his eyes, just low cut tops and young girls passing by. ‘Kind of grubby’ you think about the old man. About the dirty old man. Then again, as you walk away you remember your time in Bosnia. You remember what they told you in Sarajevo and Mostar about the after-life of a seiged city. You remember that instead of hand-wringing and fear, they embraced life in all its glories. Slow coffee mornings, slowly baked food, conversations with friends and the joys of a beautiful body, male or female, passing by. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Maybe after all he has seen, the bombings, the crumbling lives, the broken families, maybe it’s not so bad to allow him a small harmless pleasure. Maybe it’s just a rarely written about aftershock of war. Maybe he’s not such a dirty old man after all?
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