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Air Bunga, the Fountain of Youth in the Krayan Highlands

The Fountain of Youth for Krayan Highlands is rather accessible.

Tales of the fountain of youth have been recounted across the world for centuries. Supposedly, it is a spring that restores the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in its water.

Up on the valley of Krayan Highlands in North Kalimantan, Indonesia, there is a small stream which might be the local equivalent of the fountain of youth.

Located at an altitude between 760m and 1200m, the Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo is an important site to maintain the sustainability of Borneo’s last remaining of rainforests.

The Dayak Lundayeh people there call it Air Bunga (or flower water in Indonesian language).

It is water that flows from a small stream named Ba’ Sarang near the village of Tang Paye.

Wash your face with Air Bunga and you might wash away some wrinkles.
Air Bunga, the healing water used for generations
Besides washing your face, you can also drink the water straight from the bamboo pipes.

Located about 5-minutes walk from the village hall, the water has been used for generations by Lundayeh people living in the Krayan Highlands.

Just like the Fountain of Youth, the locals believe the water has anti-aging properties as well as healing powers.

According to local guide Alex Ballang, the locals would collect the water and keep some for storage at home.

Those who live in the surrounding villages besides Tang Payeh, would also come and take some Air Bunga for various reasons.

“If you have itchiness on your body or even your eyes, you can take a bath using this water or go to the stream to take a dip,” Alex said.

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The locals also use it to clean their wounds, believing it would prevent infections.

Besides using Air Bunga externally, the locals also consume it believing it would cure minor sicknesses such as stomachache.

Some even use the water for daily activities such as cooking.

Another reason why the locals believe that Air Bunga is a miraculous source of water, is that it never run dries even during drought season.

The water never run dries even during dry season.
Conserving Air Bunga
The walk to Ba’ Sarang requires visitors to stroll through paddy fields.

Nobody really knows how Air Bunga was discovered. Regardless, this traditional knowledge has been passed down for so long that the current generation decided to conserve the miraculous stream.

They built a small concrete dam to collect the water and use two simple bamboo pipes for the water to flow.

To maintain the place, the villagers do not allow any clearing of the forest near the stream.

Additionally, they are looking forward to the area to becoming a tourist attraction site. The villagers strongly suggest those who visit the place for the first time to bathe or wash their faces there. With that, the visitors can experience first-hand the healing properties of Air Bunga.

It does not matter if the water of Ba’ Sarang is truly miraculous or not, Air Bunga is another reason why the Heart of Borneo initiative is an area like no places in the world.

This initiative of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia aims to improve management and governance of protected areas while documenting important biodiversity areas that are conserved by local communities.

While it is important to protect an forest area for its environmental value, it is equally important to conserve it for its cultural value just like this Krayan Highlands’ Fountain of Youth.

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Whether it is truly the Fountain of Youth, it is still nice and chilling to wash your face with Air Bunga.
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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