Monday, August 24, 2015

Visiting Sandakan -- Borneo's charming entrepot


Sandakan is a port town and an entrepot to the wildlife refuges of the fabled Kinabatangan River. There's no question that most visitors to Sandakan are strictly passing through and are not going to be in town too long.

We strongly suggest that if you're heading to the river, don’t be in a rush. Otherwise you'll miss out on Sandakan’s ample charms.  In short, we think Sandakan is well worth spending an extra day or two exploring.

In addition to the Memorial Park, which we covered in part 1 of this series, there are three other venues that you should definitely not miss. All are a bit off the beaten path, so you won’t be inundated with other visitors.

The first steps we would take are in the direction of The Sandakan Heritage Trail which is a comprehensive walk that covers the town's most important and culturally significant sites.

The walk begins at the 100-year old Masjid Jamik, a mosque originally built in the 1890's as a place of worship for the Indian Muslims in Sandakan. Muslims

sought refuge here during the Second World War, and the venue even acted as a hiding place for a few Europeans.

The next stop is the Pryer Memorial, a granite structure erected to honor the founder of Sandakan, William Burgess Pryer. It seems a bit incongruous that Pryor, a Brit, would have founded a town in Malaysia but at the time it was a British Colony and he had permission from the local Sultanate. By chance Pryer and his wife who were on their way to Sabah met Filipino nationalist Jose Rizal in Hong Kong. Rizal shared with Pryer the plan establish a Filipino settlement in Sabah for those dispossessed of their lands. The plan never saw fruition but Pryer did establish the town on the 21st of June 1879.

Following the Pryor monument, you will then climb the Stairs with a Hundred Steps which will lead you to a beautiful view of Sandakan town and bay. It also brings you to the famous Agnes Keith House.

Agnes Keith Museum and Tea House

Agnes Keith is not a household name but in the mid-twentieth century she was a well-respected writer in a unique time and place.  During this period, Keith, a native of Hollywood, California, captured the experience of colonial life in North Borneo. She was married to a high ranking British colonial official and lived a fairy tale life portrayed in her autobiographical book Land Below the Wind. However, her fairy tale turned into a nightmare with the outbreak of the War.

Her second and most arguably her most popular book, Three Came Home, depicts the hardships of her time as a prisoner in Japanese POW and civilian internee camps in Borneo and  Sarawak. This work was subsequently made into a film (of the same name) in 1950 with superstar Claudette Colbert. (The sensationalist poster of the film, pictured at left, would certainly not fly today for many good reasons but is an illustrative period piece).

Perched on a hill, her original home (really a mansion) was devastated during WWII. However a replica has been constructed and turned into a museum bursting with memorabilia from her storied life. Literary fans and others who want to understand a semblance of life in colonial Malaya will not be disappointed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Visiting Sandakan -- Borneo's charming entrepot
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First run to save Bornean elephants in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: The first “Save the Bornean Elephants Run” to create public awareness on the importance of conserving the habitat for Bornean elephants in Sabah attracted around 2,500 runners here yesterday.

The event, organised by Wildlife Alliance (Borneo) Sdn Bhd and Valiant Event Entertainment, was officiated by Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director Jumrafiah Abd Shukor and KTS Plantation Sdn Bhd executive director Ngu Ngiong Hieng.

It was also jointly supported by KTS Plantation Sdn Bhd, Felda Global Venture (FGV), Kwantas Corporation Berhad, Jurukur Luaran and Associates, Directors, Proboscis Lodge Bukit Melapi, Montanic Adventures and Shangri-la's Rasa Ria Resort and Spa.

The 11km run took place along the beautiful coastal roads in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, starting at the Likas Stadium parking area to the roundabout near Jesselton Hotel and then to the roundabout near the Likas Mosque before returning to Likas Stadium.

The categories were Mens Open, Womens Open, Veteran Mens Open (41 years old and above), Veteran Womens Open (41 years and above), Boys Below 17 Years and Girls Below 17 Years.

Fabian Daimon Osman won the Men’s Open, Wincentbert Latius second and Imaldy Zakin third. The top three winners of the Womens Open were Katie OBrien, Roziana Ramlee and Mailin Salungin respectively.

The Mens Veteran winner was Yusop Tunkob with Guianus Salagan and Ahmadul Tahir the first and second runners-up respectively. Taking the first prize in the Women Veteran was Kona Liau with Chong Vun Lung second and Hamisah Antahar third.

Refson Tirip, Gregory Cornelius and Elvin Lazarus were the top three winners of the Boys Below 17 Years and Erristiana Joel, Jenny Kissin and Dewanty David the winners of the Girls Below 17 years.

The overall winner of the school category was SMK Tanbunan.

Dr Raymond Alfred, the race director and programme advisor, said that the aims of the charity run were to enhance the knowledge of the public in wildlife conservation, especially the Bornean elephants through information dissemination.

It was also to raise fund to support the publication of the research and reference book on Population, Ecology and Conservation of Bornean Elephants.

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Aggressive promotion needed for Labuan tourism


LABUAN: Labuan is considered a potential tourist destination in the region, albeit the low pace of development.

Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said there was a need for aggressive promotion to market domestically and internationally, the island’s existing tourism products .

“Based on my visit today to the homestay and briefings by my Labuan Tourism Office and the member of parliament here, there are tourism icons that can be further promoted and some attractions to be explored,” she told a press conference after witnessing the Labuan Strongest Man Competition 2015 here yesterday.

She said in future, the promotion of Labuan’s tourism industry would be given priority by her ministry.

Ermieyati said tourism products like Chimney Labuan, the only such chimney still existing in Asia, should be promoted to boost tourism development on the island.

“Labuan also has a shipwreck and artificial reefs for diving sport, while the homestay in the water village and unique traditional food are also potential tourist attractions.

“Owing to all these, the ministry should be able to do something to help boost the industry and to generate income for the people through tourism activities.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

MICE players get closer look at Sarawak during '7 Wonders of Borneo' trip


KUCHING: Key business decision-makers from Australia and Singapore recently undertook a familiarisation (FAM) trip to the state.

The trip, run by Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), aimed to shed true light on the state with its unique wildlife and beauty, tradition and heritage, culture of hospitality as well as its world-class facilities slated for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry.

Global marketing and communications director Amelia Roziman explained that the FAM trip was held as part of SCB’s ‘7 Wonders of Borneo’ campaign – an essential part of the bureau’s strategic plan for this year to showcase what Sarawak had to offer to some of the most established markets in the Australasia region.

“It’s only by being physically here in the heart of Borneo that our clients can truly appreciate what Sarawak has to offer as a destination for business events. The feedback has been fantastic.

“Our guests enjoyed a tailor-made programme, experiencing everything here – from sights of the orangutans in our ancient rainforests, our many indigenous tribes, up to the state’s colonial history and world-class convention facilities.

“We hope that they could impart this new knowledge to their peers, so that we can transform Sarawak from being the region’s best-kept secret to a recognised global business destination for events. With SCB, Sarawak can be proud of its 80 per cent success rate in bidding (for hosting jobs) over the past few years,” she added.

The delegates visited the main attractions across the state including Kuching Waterfront, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Sarawak Cultural Village here, as well as Gunung Mulu National Park. In addition, they had the opportunity to visit various hotels and venues up for consideration as the hosting platforms of their future events here.

The FAM also allowed the guests to experience the internationally-acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival and kayaking at Kampung Semadang.

“We have such strong support from the industry and the FAM trip is the result of our efforts as an experienced and mature industry player. Many thanks to our main supporter, Malaysian Airlines (Sydney), as well as Cat City Holidays, CPH Travel Agencies, Planet Borneo Tours, Hilton Kuching Hotel, Mulu Marriott and Spa, Meritz Hotel, Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, Sarawak Tourism Board and Event Horizons Management for making this trip a great success,” Amelia said.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

All out to save Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has expressed strong willingness to do anything it can to save the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction in the country, particularly in Sabah.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the State government had done a lot to secure a future for the Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah but there were things beyond their control.

The efforts undertaken have included setting traps in the wild with the hope of capturing more rhinoceros.

However, since the capture of Iman, the female rhinoceros in Danum Valley last year, there have been no new sightings in the wild, said Masidi.

Aside from Iman, there were two other Sumatran rhinoceros now kept at an enclosed facility in Tabin, Lahad Datu. They comprise of Kretam, the sole male in the facility and Puntung. Both females have fertility issues.

Masidi said that other efforts have included forging international cooperation, in particular with Indonesia, to carry out captive breeding.

However, he said that a memorandum of understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia on the matter did not materialise, unfortunately.

Masidi stressed the importance of having government-to-government cooperation in the effort to save the Sumatran rhinoceros because otherwise, the future would be bleak for the species.

Plans to send Kretam to the Cincinnati zoo for breeding was also stopped when Suci, the female Sumatran rhinoceros at the zoo, died.

In addition, the expertise of scientists from the Leipniz Institute for Zoo and Wildife Research (IZW) was also sought to help in breeding efforts.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: All out to save Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah
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