The mystical story of Upai Semaring (spelled as Yuvai Semaring in Indonesia) is unlike other local legends. It transcends international boundaries, from the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, to Long Pa’ Sia in Sabah and even to Brunei.
The legend of Upai Semaring in Krayan
Since stories of his legendary exploits can be found among the Lun Bawang people in Sarawak and the Lundayeh people in Sabah, here is the Krayan Highlands’ version of Upai Semaring.
According to local guide Alex Ballang, Upai Semaring once lived in a cave on a hill in Long Bawan.
Upai Semaring was considered a local hero because of his fierce defense of the people, taking his stand on the top of this hill looking out for the enemy. (The hill became synonymous with him that it was named Yuvai Semaring hill or ‘bukit Yuvai Semaring’.)
Back in those days, headhunting was rampant. The hill worked as a watch tower for Upai Semaring looking out for headhunters from what we know as Sarawak and Sabah today.
Even before the enemy could even reach the Krayan Highlands, he would warn his people to be prepared. So the people of Krayan were always able to defeat their enemies.
Upai Semaring: An ancestor of current day Brunei Sultanate?
After some time, Upai Semaring left Krayan to explore, ending up in several places including Ba Kelalan, Long Pa’ Sia and Brunei.
In Brunei, there are many stories of how Upai Semaring became the ancestor of the Brunei Sultanate.
One legend has it there was a huge dragon living on the coast of Brunei, guarding a pearl. A king in Brunei offered up his daughter’s hand in marriage to anybody who could retrieve the pearl .
Since Upai Semaring was a giant, he was able to defeat the dragon and get the pearl. He married the princess, and it is believed that Upai Semaring’s descendants are today’s Brunei royal family.
Another version of the story has it that he was known as Awang Semaun in Brunei.
The sultan of Brunei back then was very fascinated by Awang Semaun’s strength that he offered one of his daughters to him in marriage.
Upai Semaring, the mystical blacksmith
Upai Semaring is renowned for his mystical powers; one of them being able to make a good parang.
“There is one spot near this hill where you can leave your parang and ask Upai Semaring to make it into a good blade. Come back the next day and your parang will be sharpest parang you could ever asked for,” Alex shared.
Although Upai Semaring travelled to so many places and died hundreds of years ago, his spirit is believed to have returned to the Krayan Highlands where it still lingers to this day.
No one to this day has ever claimed to have actually seen him, but his legend is still so strong that sometimes people say they can see campfire light coming from his cave, saying that it is him.
Hiking up Yuvai Semaring hill
When the moon is full, some believe you can sometimes hear his flute playing from the cave in Long Bawan.
Alex said, “The cave still exists to this day but the entrance to it has been closed. There used to be a trail leading into the cave but only a few daring locals are willing to take that route.”
Although the cave is inaccessible, visitors to the Krayan Highlands are more than welcome to visit Yuvai Semaring hill.
Yuvei Semaring hill stands about 1,100 meters above sea level. It takes less than an hour up a steep climb to reach to the top.
The top of the hill gives the perfect view of most parts of the Krayan Highlands settlements.
It might be the best place to catch a view of the sunrise if you are visiting it early in the morning.
Even if you miss it, the view is still magical as you watch the morning mist slowly being lifted, revealing the beautiful scenery of the villages and paddy fields down below.
Visitors can also see the mountain ranges which border the Krayan Highlands to Sarawak and Sabah from the top of the hill.
As you gaze down, you can imagine how Upai Semaring with his ever watchful eyes could see his enemies coming from miles away.