Long Pasia (The Complete Guide)

by | Jun 24, 2019 |

Before we begin, check out this video we put together of our journey to Maga Waterfall.

In the southwest corner of Sabah, high up in the hills, two rivers meet. One is red (Pasia River) and one is clear (Matang River). At this convergence there lies a sleepy village known as Long Pasia. The inhabitants here are known as the Ludayeh. Lundayeh are friendly and welcoming. Their food is to die for, especially their locally grown rice. Long Pasia is a place of amazing beauty, unspoiled nature, and unique culture and history rooted in the jungle. Visiting Long Pasia is an absolute must if you love adventure and venturing off of the beaten path.

We’ve put this blog together as the first part in a series about Long Pasia. This blog covers everything you need to know about going to Long Pasia and what to do when you’re there. Click on any of the links below to navigate to that topic.

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View of Long Pasia from a hill in the village.

The Village of Long Pasia

The village of Long Pasia has existed in one form or another in its current area for many generations. Long Pasia’s history is rooted in folklore and legend such as the legendary warrior and first Lundayeh, Upai Semaring. Much of the history people know of Long Pasia and their area revolves around oral history passed down over generations. In addition to the legends, there is archeological evidence of people inhabiting the Long Pasia area more than a thousand years ago. This evidence includes tombs, rock carvings and ceremonial mounds.

Present day Long Pasia is home to about 1000 inhabitants. Most of them are of Lundayeh heritage. The people who live in Long Pasia are typically subsistence farmers. Their primary crop is a type of rice known as Adan and it is absolutely delicious. Adan rice is grown only for personal consumption.  As a result, there are no farmers in Long Pasia who are growing the rice for commercial sale. Despite this, we were able to buy some from a villager when we visited. Ours didn’t last long when we got home, we ate it right away.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) put together a cool brochure on Adan rice.  Click Here to view it.

Only the basic necessities

Due to it’s remote location, Long Pasia remains a place of only the basic necessities. There is no electricity here. Some houses have a generator that they run for a few hours at night for light and a bit of TV watching.

There is no paved road to Long Pasia. The village can only be reached by a fairly primitive dirt road used by logging trucks. Subsequently, during times of heavy rain the road becomes very difficult to navigate and is only passable by 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Although Long Pasia is a difficult place to get to, some modern comforts have begun to spring up. Within the past few years, a cell phone tower has been constructed and the villagers are able to now get 3G phone signal and reliably make phone calls. Many people in the Long Pasia also have satellite TV. Additionally, the village has a clinic, a primary school, churches, and a library. On the outskirts of the village, there is a small military base for soldiers who are tasked with monitoring the nearby border of Sabah and Kalimantan (Indonesia).

A recent solar power installation for the Long Pasia school.

Despite the existence of these modern implements, visiting Long Pasia makes you feel like you have stepped into another world. A world where the hustle and bustle of our modern lives becomes unimportant. No doubt this is partially due to the remoteness, but a much larger part of this is the amazing Lundayeh people who inhabit Long Pasia and their chilled out way of life.

The Lundayeh People of Long Pasia

The Lundayeh people of Long Pasia share common roots with other peoples in the highland areas of Sabah, Sarawak, and Kalimantan. Although they are of the same heritage, the Lundayeh in Sarawak and parts of Kalimantan, are known as the Lun Bawang.  If you ask a local in Long Pasia, they will tell you they are Lundayeh.

Jerry, our amazing Lundayeh guide.

In the not too distant past, the Lundayeh practiced headhunting, much like many of Borneo’s indegenous tribes. Headhunting is in the past now and the way of life here is a relaxed one. The inhabitants of Long Pasia are some of the most welcoming and accommodating people you will ever meet. Furthermore, it’s evident in one of their favorite sayings, “Pelan Pelan”, which means slowly*.

*”Pelan pelan” is a slang variation of the Malay word perlahan, which means slow or slowly. When said twice in a row, it is done so for emphasis.

Why visit Long Pasia?

Long Pasia is truly off the beaten path. Due to it’s remote location there are few, if any tourists. Usually if there are tourists, they are mostly Malaysian. If you are looking to get off the tourist trail, this is a prime location. It’s not just being off the beaten path that makes Long Pasia worth visiting.

Long Pasia offers you an array of experiences. Here you will find incredible natural features, amazing jungle, historically significant sites, and the unique culture of the Lundayeh people of Sabah. If you are looking for adventure, Long Pasia is a good choice. The opportunity for hiking is pretty limitless. Some of the guides in Long Pasia know the jungle so well that they can take you just about anywhere.

In our opinion, this is one of the best places to visit in Borneo or Asia for that matter. Long Pasia has it all, adventure, culture, history, and people who really welcome you like family.

This recent news article by the New Straits Times, highlights some of these historical treasures in Long Pasia and their fragility.

Ultimately, Long Pasia will become a more modern place as Sabah continues to advance.  It’s great for the people there.  Conversely, it means Long Pasia may not remain the quaint sleepy village it is forever.  For this reason,  If you’re thinking of going to Long Pasia, we recommend heading there sooner rather than later.

Visiting Long Pasia

Top Peak Travel provides several packaged options to visit Long Pasia and stay with our friend, Nooh Dawa. You can visit our tour package page here if you are interested.  For something more in depth, we can put together a custom package to suit your liking.

If you want to go on your own, we’ve done our best to provide you with the relevant information that you might need to find your own way, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we can help you out.

How to get there

Getting to Long Pasia is a challenge. From Kota Kinabalu, you’re looking at a drive of about 5 and a half hours to reach Long Pasia. That is of course assuming there has not been any rain. When rain gets thrown into the mix, it means the driving time to Long Pasia can increase drastically.

If you are a visitor to Sabah, we recommend you arrange transport ahead of time.  Furthermore, if you don’t have lot’s of time to spare, it’s best to arrange everything beforehand. You can contact us and we can help you arrange it.

If you want to visit Long Pasia on your own, your best bet is to arrange a driver from the village to meet you in the town of Sipitang. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to find your own way to Sipitang either by bus or taxi. The other option is to rent a 4 wheel drive vehicle in Kota Kinabalu, however, the daily rates can be prohibitively expensive (it is possible to do it though!).

Directions

We’ve included the google maps directions below in case you choose to go yourself.  Luckily, google maps has recognized the logging roads and does provide you with the correct route to follow to arrive in Long Pasia.

From Kota Kinabalu, you will follow Jalan Sipitang Beaufort (Also known as A2 or AH150) until you reach the town of Sipitang.

A few kilometers past the city center, you will take the third exit on a roundabout on to Jalan Sipitang-Tenom (if you reach the border of Sarawak, it means you have missed this turn!). You will follow the path at this sign marked “Kg. Paal, Kemabong, Tenom”

Follow Jalan Sipitang Tenom until you reach a right hand turn for Kg. Mendulong (see street view image). There is also a sign at the junction for Long Pasia Homestay (see street view image). This is the road you will follow all the way to Long Pasia. A few kilometers after turning on this road, it will turn into a rough dirt road for the rest of your trip.
From this point, we recommend you rely on Google Maps directions to reach Long Pasia otherwise you may end up turning off onto a road that leads to nowhere. In our experience, these turns are few and it’s not too difficult to make sure you are going the right way.

Again, we must emphasize, if you choose to go on your own, you must have a 4 wheel drive to navigate the bad conditions of the logging roads. Here is the map with directions from Kota Kinabalu

Drive Time from Kota Kinabalu

5.5 hours in good weather.  In bad weather anywhere from 1-3 hours additional depending on the severity of rain.

Distance from Kota Kinabalu

245 km (approximate)

Transportation Information

Kota Kinabalu to Sipitang

  • Road Type: Tarmac
  • Bus Service:  Yes
  • Taxi Service: Yes
  • Private Driver: Yes
  • Type of vehicle required:  Any

Sipitang to Long Pasia

  • Road Type: Unpaved logging road
  • Bus Service:  No
  • Taxi Service: No
  • Private Driver: Yes
  • Type of vehicle required:  4x4, 4-wheel drive

What to expect

To emphasize what we mentioned above, reaching Long Pasia is no easy feat. Over the years, the road to Long Pasia has slowly been improving.  At the present time the road is ok, but it still requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle to reach the village.
No matter how you do it, the drive to Long Pasia is long and rough. Just getting there is an adventure in itself. We recommend stopping along the way to admire the view and take in your surroundings. You will notice that through the course of this drive, you transition from the high population areas of the coast to the sparsely populated interior.  Despite this transition, you might not believe your eyes when you crest the hill into Long Pasia, as you enter a full on village full of houses.

The long drive in will have you thinking Long Pasia must be a tiny primitive place, but you will find that Long Pasia, although remote, supports a healthy population.

Where to stay

Long Pasia has a number of homestays you can choose from. Most of them cannot be found online, but when you arrive in the village, you can ask around or look for this sign above the doors on houses to know if they are offering homestay accommodation.
We recommend Nooh Dawa’s homestay (click here for a link to the map).  Firstly, the benefit of staying with Nooh Dawa is his wife’s cooking. Seriously, it was to die for. Secondly, when you stay with Nooh Dawah, he can directly arrange any trips into the jungle and to the amazing sites around Long Pasia.

What to do. What to see.

Long Pasia is a place of real adventure. There are waterfalls, mountain lakes, caves, ancient rock carvings, flower filled jungle meadows, and wildlife.

In this section, we are going to give you the details on how to reach these places when you are in Long Pasia and after that, we’ll describe several of them in detail.  This list starts off with our favorite place in Long Pasia, a place called Maga Waterfall.

All of the sights around Long Pasia take some trekking to reach, but it is worth it. What is particularly notable is that most of the treks take you through unspoiled, rarely visited rainforest.  That means that you will get a firsthand look at truly wild jungle.

Below is a photo of the illustrated map located near the library in Long Pasia. From the map, you can see that there is a multitude of places you can visit in Long Pasia.

Jungle Trekking – How to visit the sites in Long Pasia

You will have to trek through the jungle to reach most of Long Pasia’s best sites. The terrain is typically rough with lots of hills. Additionally, it gets hot during the day and the humidity can be a bit bothersome; however, due to the high elevation of the area, the level of heat is tolerable.

We recommend that you have a decent level of physical fitness to trek around Long Pasia as some of the treks can be very challenging and all of them take some effort.  The difficulty is due to the hilly nature of the highlands and the immense growth of tropical jungle.

It’s important to realize that if it has rained recently, there will be a lot of leeches. There is no method to avoid leeches completely, but there are many ways to mitigate leeches. The good news is that they aren’t dangerous, just annoying and strange.  In fact, leeches aren’t known to transmit diseases.  They leave that to the mosquitoes.

Guides

Generally speaking, you will need a guide to be able to visit any of the sites around Long Pasia. You can arrange a guide through The “Guardian of the Jungle” himself, Nooh Dawa.  Conversely, you can arrange your guide ahead of time by contacting us (link below). It is our understanding that there are a few other guides around the village, but we are not sure who they are (If you happen to know, leave a comment and we will add them in). Guides can be arranged upon your arrival, but we highly recommend arranging one beforehand. If you’re interested, you can contact us and we can arrange a jungle guide for you.

You definitely need a guide to visit the sites around Long Pasia due to the fact that the best sites to visit are typically several kilometers from Long Pasia, through thick jungle. The trails aren’t easily discernible and even more so, there is sometimes no trail all. It’s certainly not all bad to bring a guide because they are very knowledgeable about the jungle, they can help you carry and prepare your food (yum!), and above all, if something happens, they know the fastest routes and the quickest ways to find help.

Top sites to see in Long Pasia

We’re gonna fill you in on the best places to go in Long Pasia. Firstly, we’ll start with our favorite, Maga Waterfall.
Maga Waterfall
Maga Waterfall is an absolutely stunning multi-tiered waterfall located in pristine rainforest. It’s about an 11km walk from Long Pasia.  On the whole it takes 4-8 hours depending on your fitness level, weather conditions, and how often you stop. In addition to its beauty, the waterfall is shrouded in legend and the locals revere this place as a magical place.

The water in the river is dyed red. This is not from mud, but appears to be due to some other natural phenomenon like minerals or tannins; however, we aren’t completely sure.

First Tier of Maga Falls.

Above the waterfall, at a point where 2 rivers converge is Nooh Dawa’s camp. He and his sons have hauled all of the materials here on foot and built everything. The facilities are basic but comfortable. Just below the camp, the confluence of the two rivers has created a great spot for swimming.

The chilly water of the river is amazingly refreshing, especially following a hard day’s hike to reach the camp.

In summary, if you hike to Maga Waterfall, you will spend the night here with your guides.

Confluence of two rivers at the Maga campsite.

Relaxing at the Maga campsite.

Generally speaking, the trek to the waterfall is pleasant. The terrain is not overly challenging, but the distance and jungle conditions make it a difficult hike to reach Maga. If you are in decent physical condition, it will be no problem for you to reach Maga Waterfall.

Using a fallen log to cross a small river on the way to Maga Waterfall.

As you trek to the waterfall, you will pass several spots that are related to the legend of Upai Semaring.  This includes the large stone slab where he took his lunch and rested. Once you reach Maga, the guides will show you the giant footprint in the rock that came from Upai Semaring.

One of the many large trees on the way to Maga Waterfall.

Your trek to Maga will also take you through some stunning jungle. There are massive trees, wildlife, and enchanting views of the river.
Caves
By taking a short detour from the trail that leads to and from Maga Waterfall, you can find yourself at a cave formed by a split in the rock formation. Bats reside in part of this cave and can be heard before you can actually see the cave.
Depending on your level of comfort, you can descend into the cave. It is important to note that descending into the cave is a bit dangerous, therefore you should only do it if you feel comfortable with the conditions.

To enter the cave, you will lower yourself down by scaling the rock and holding on to a large rope. It is a bit hair raising as it is difficult to see what is below you, but that’s what adventure is all about. The interior of the cave is not terribly exciting, rather getting in and out of this cave is the adventure.

Just beyond the cave there are a couple of other notable spots to check out.  First is a small cave known as Lepo Batu. This spot is where the legendary warrior Upai Semaring and his wife found shelter and rested. The indentation in the ceiling was supposedly left by Upai Semaring’s wife when she stood up suddenly and hit her head on the cave ceiling.

Lepo Batu – the cave where the mythical Lundayeh warrior Upai Semaring stayed with his wife.

If you continue on the detour a short bit further, you will come to an area of giant boulders surrounded by cliffs on each side. This is an exceptionally beautiful area and worth taking the detour to check out.
Flower Garden (Pfayeh Maga)
Not too far from Maga waterfall (10-30 minutes) there sits a unique area of the jungle. It is a large open area (which is rare for the jungle) that sees a huge bloom of flowers and orchids from July-September. If you are visiting Long Pasia during this time of the year, this garden is a must see.  When we visited, the garded was out of season.  Due to this, we unfortunately weren’t able to get pictures.
Sinipung Hill (Bukit Sinipung) & Sinipung Lake
Another great place to visit is Sinipung Hill and Sinipung Lake. Reaching this area is a hard trek.  The trail goes straight up the hill.  There are no switchbacks or hiking gentle slopes to the top.  This means that you will spend several hours in the jungle heat going straight up the hill to reach the top. You will find that its all worth it however, as you will be treated with great views overlooking the small valley of Long Pasia.

Just near the summit of Sinipung hill is Sinipung Lake. This lake is shrouded in myth and villagers were afraid to visit for many years. Less than an hour’s trek from the summit, you will find a stunning waterfall called Rekong. Sinipung is home to many types of orchids and pitcher plants. They thrive at the high elevation and if you keep your eyes peeled, you may just find something special.

If you have the time and you are up for the challenge, Sinipung is definitely worth visiting and with the help of a guide, you could wrap this location in with a trip to Maga Waterfall and really challenge yourself.

Rock Carvings

There are two sites near Long Pasia where you can see ancient reliefs carved into rocks.  Batu Inarit is the first and closest site. There is another site located somewhere near the Sarawak/Sabah border. According to local legend, these rocks were carved by Upai Semaring, who was so strong that the carvings were made simply by him running his finger along the rock. Recently, researchers have determined that these carvings are more than 600 years old.

Batu Inarit is the easier of the two to find and also the one that is closer to Long Pasia village. It is located on the Matang River (Sungai Matang) on the way to Fefuken Falls. This video by John Kong shows the Batu Inarit (about 31 minutes in).

Wildlife
The remote forests of Long Pasia are home to an abundance of wildlife. Although you won’t see elephants and orangutans here, there are many animals which are spotted consistently.  We have included a few of the common inhabitants below:

  • Mouse Deer
  • Barking Deer
  • Bearded Pig
  • Langurs (leaf monkeys)
  • Pig-tail Macaques
  • Rhinocerous hornbills

There are many more as well animals as well, however, it must be remembered with jungle trekking in a such an immense forest that there is no guarantee you will see anything. But if you keep your eyes and ears peeled, you will probably have a good chance to spot something during jungle treks in Long Pasia.

In addition to the animals, there are always unique and interesting insects like this bee’s nest we found as we were heading for Maga Waterfall.  Furthermore, if you keep your eyes peeled, you may just see strange and unique mushrooms, orchids, pitcher plants, and much more.

Other Notable Sites

The Long Pasia area contains so many hidden treasures that it would take weeks to see everything and we would have to write a book to fill you in on all of them. Below is a list of some of the other notable sights in this area:

  • Ceremonial Crocodile and Serpent mounds – Ancient mounts constructed for Lundayeh ceremonies.
  • Historical burial sites – One of the burial sites has been determined to be more than 1000 years old.
  • Ancient Chinese Jars – These jars were buried with wealthy members of the area and they are priceless historical artifacts.
  • Fefuken Falls – Another amazing waterfall located on tha
  • Mt Muruk Mio – Muruk Mio is the tallest peak around. It can be reached by trekking from Long Pasia and ancient burial sites and ceremonial sites can be visited along the way.

What to Bring

We’ll keep this list brief. We’ve tried to include all the basic necessities you will need for trekking in the jungle around Long Pasia. If you just staying in the village, you will only need to bring what you would bring to any other town.

First and foremost we want to mention that the daytime can be quite hot and humid.  Night times there can get fairly cool, so you definitely be ready for both hot and cold.

  • Good sturdy footwear suitable for trekking (recommend the local Adidas Kampung shoe).
  • Waterproof jacket or poncho.
  • Water bottle & drinking water.
  • Backpack suitable for trekking (recommend internal or external frame backpack with hip straps).
  • Head torch/handheld torch + spare batteries.
  • Personal clothing (fast drying clothing is recommended).
  • Leech socks.
  • Dry bags or plastic bags to protect electronics from rain.
  • Sunscreen/insect repellent/personal medication.
  • Rehydration salts (available at local pharmacies).
  • Personal first-aid kit.
  • Camera (recommended).
  • Sleeping Bag.
  • Towel.
  • Water purifier (the guides will boil water for you and it is suitable for drinking. If you are worried that is not sufficient, it is recommended to bring your own water filtration).

How Long to Stay

The length of your stay is up to you; however, we have some basic recommendations to help you maximize your time.

In the event you are visiting the village only, 2 nights is probably sufficient.

If you are planning to do any trekking then you should stay a minimum of 3 nights. This allows you to get settled in the afternoon you arrive and have 2 full days for day treks or the ability to do an overnight trek.

If you are planning to visit multiple sites (ex Sinipung Hill and Maga Waterfall) then you will need to stay more than 3 nights. Have a look at our multi-day itineraries for some idea on how long you should stay.

There is no maximum amount of time you could spend in Long Pasia and there are so many things to do and see in the area, you could probably spend 2 weeks here and still not see everything.

How to arrange a trip to Long Pasia

Ultimately, there are a few ways to arrange your trip to Long Pasia. First is by arranging your trip through a local travel agent/tour company.  Secondly is by simply showing up.

The best and easiest way to arrange a trip to Long Pasia is to let us handle it for you (time for our shameless self promotion).

Top Peak Travel works closely with the “King of the Jungle,” Nooh Dawa and his family to arrange a trip for you. We are a full service tour company, so this means Top Peak Travel can arrange everything for you from transport, packaged tours, or your own personalized, custom trip to Long Pasia.

Top Peak has worked with the people of Long Pasia for many years and we have established a great relationship there, however, we’re not the only game in town.  There are several other tour agencies in Sabah that can arrange a trip for you as well. You should have no problem finding agents offering Long Pasia with a few web searches.

If you want to plan and go yourself, it is difficult but not impossible.  There are not many people in Long Pasia who are proficient in English and the phone lines are somewhat hit or miss, but with a dictionary or translator app, you can probably communicate proficiently enough.  In conclusion, your best bet for going on your own would be to simply show up, find a homestay, and with a small amount of effort, you should be able to find a guide.  On a final note, if you want to do it yourself and you have some questions or need some guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to help you figure it out.

 Contact us to book a tour today.

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