Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tourists bask in Kaamatan spirit


PENAMPANG: The warmth and friendliness of Sabah people, the beautiful terrains and its nature, and the uniqueness of its cultural diversity may all sound like words taken directly out of Sabah tourism promotional reading materials.

But these qualities remain to be the very reasons tourists from across the globe come to the Land Below the Wind and make that decision to visit this multicultural state, and for some, to keep coming back.

A visit to the Kaamatan Festival at Hongkod Koisaan KDCA yesterday affirmed that these attributes remain relevant to this day.

Australian couple, Kevin, 59, and Linda Jones, 64, have visited Sabah for the fourth time.

For them, the hospitality of the people is one of the many reasons that made them keep returning to Sabah for vacations.

Having visited many countries, they were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness that Sabah people in particular, showed.

“It’s the people,” replied Linda when asked why the couple kept coming back to Sabah.

“Other than being welcoming and hospitable, it is also interesting to see the multicultural backgrounds they come from and it is enlightening to learn about people that way,” she added.

“Yeah, we have been to Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong and other countries, but it’s better here. We have random people just coming up to us and greet us,” her husband, Kevin, concurred.

Although it was their fourth visit to Sabah, it was the couple’s first visit to the mammoth Harvest Festival celebration at Hongkod Koisaaan KDCA.

“We heard about this festival when we were on board the cruise ship that took us to Kota Kinabalu. We heard it would be grand but we did not know it would be this big, nor did we expect it to be this interesting,” said Kevin.

“It’s always interesting to learn about people of diverse cultures and coming here today to see all those colourful crafts produced by the locals, the traditional costumes, traditional games and dance performances, it just keeps getting better,” noted Linda.

Another interesting bit of the Kaamatan Festival for the Jones  was the free entrance.

“In Perth, we have the Royal Agricultural Show, which is almost a similar festival but not as cultural as this, where local farmers bring their agricultural produce to showcase and sell.

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First ever wingsuit flight at Mt Kinabalu


KOTA KINABALU: The region’s first ever flyby using a wingsuit will take place as part of the fourth annual Expedition Mt Kinabalu to be held August 15-17.

The annual event raises awareness about Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common fatal childhood genetic disease. It has become a showcase of both Sabah’s natural treasures and community kindness, and is organized by Sabahan Catherine Jayasuriya, the founder and executive director of international charity Coalition Duchenne.

The expedition featured in her 2013 award winning documentary Dusty’s Trail: Summit of Borneo.

Capturing the essence of the event, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the Guinness World Record Greatest Living Explorer said, “Boys with Duchenne have challenges even I cannot imagine and this climb is a great way to celebrate their spirit”.

The expedition has grown each year to become a significant part of Sabah’s international event calendar. It shows that Sabah can be a focus for international media attention and serve to make a difference on global issues.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and the Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun recognized that importance when he met Jayasuriya’s son Dusty Brandom, who is now 21, at the inaugural event in 2011.

“I told Catherine when she interviewed me for her film that we welcome her and Dusty back home. This is the place of their ancestors. Dusty is the epitome of courage and he puts a face on disability. A child in the kampung who faces obstacles like Dusty can find hope in what he has achieved. Here in Sabah, we respond to global themes and causes. Catherine is a mother, a filmmaker, a philanthropist, and a Sabahan who is making a difference in the world. We are very happy that she has come home and shared this event,” said Masidi.

This year, over 100 international climbers will take part in Expedition Mt  Kinabalu. A historic wingsuit flyby by two professional wingsuit pilots adds to the excitement. Wingsuit flying is the sport of “flying” while wearing a special suit with air filled wings.

Coalition Duchenne has worked in collaboration with Squirrel, a manufacturer of wingsuits, to develop a bright red Coalition Duchenne wingsuit, which has been worn by wingsuit pilots around the world to promote awareness for Duchenne.

Wingsuit pilots participate in a challenging, dangerous sport and can relate to the losses experienced by the Duchenne community.

In March 2014, one of the most experienced, professional wingsuit pilots, New Zealander Dan Vicary, lost his life in a tragic accident in the Swiss Alps where he lived.

Dan was strongly committed to the Coalition Duchenne cause and had planned to travel to Sabah to take part in Expedition Mt Kinabalu 2014.

His wife, Lisa Hutchins, will travel from Switzerland to Sabah to fulfill his dream. Also supporting Lisa, honoring Dan, and flying for the cause, is his friend, Australian Chris “Douggs” McDougall, a world champion wingsuit pilot and BASE jumper.

Current plans call for two wingsuit flights. One will be the first ever flight in Sabah and will be from a helicopter above Kota Kinabalu. The wingsuit pilots will cross the sky above the city and land at a yet to be determined public location.

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Jazzing it up in Borneo


THE usually serene ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak was a hive of activity and merrymaking as award-winning musicians from around the globe enlivened the atmosphere during the 9th Borneo Jazz Festival recently.

And there was no better way to kick-start the two-night festival than with Diana Liu. The vocalist from Sarawak, who has made it big in China, set a high benchmark for other performers that evening.

A pianist and composer as well, Liu entertained the crowd with her songs Someone Like You, Fly and I Can.

Up next was pianist Mario Canonge from Martinique in the French West Indies, who was backed by a double bass player and a drummer. He definitely lived up to his Flying Fingers nickname as he worked his magic on the ivories with a winning meld of classical melodies and Latin vibes. He had the crowd swaying to his mesmerising rhythms.

During Malaysian outfit JunkOFunc’s performance, its two vocalists Elvira Arul and Russell Curtis captured the crowd with their powerfully soulful and funky vocals, which would have made Aretha Franklin proud.

The endearing factor was intensified by their flamboyant showmanship and teasing swagger, which inevitably got the appreciative crowd shouting for encores. The last performance for the first night came from Cuba in the form of an a cappella group, simply known as Vocal Sampling. No musical instruments were needed as their voices alone were sufficient, easily imitating the sounds of a lead guitar, percussion and everything else, as exemplified by their version of Hotel California in a catchy Caribbean style.

On the second night, the first performance came from YK Samarinda, from Kalimantan, which totally infused the rock and ethno jazz genres.

Clad in traditional garb, complete with hornbill-feather headgear reflecting Borneo’s identity, the group’s lead guitarist alternated between his sape (a boat-shaped lute) and a typical axe to deliver energetic riffs.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Task force to roll out Visit Sibu Year 2016


SIBU: Sibu Municipal Council is in the process of forming a task force to prepare for the proposed Visit Sibu Year 2016, with council deputy chairman Dato Andrew Wong saying it needed 18 months to plan out the event.

“We’ve decided to go for 2016 as we will need at least 18 months to get the necessary infrastructure ready,” he said, adding that a regatta might be a highlight event in that calendar year.

“Our Social and Community Development standing committee wants to make sure that this Visit Sibu Year is really a Visit Sibu Year and not merely a slogan.

“That is, really to attract both foreign and domestic tourists to come to Sibu,” Wong said.

He disclosed that tour operators would be enlisted into the task force.

He was asked on plans to boost tourism here when met after officiating at the opening of E.S. Bar here recently. He believed that Sibu had much to offer to visitors.

He stressed that it was important to offer tourists something unique which they could not obtain elsewhere.

Wong named the mighty Rajang River and rich culture as among the products which could be fully exploited.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Unduk Ngadau bid an expensive affair


KOTA KINABALU: It is not cheap to take part in the Unduk Ngadau competition.

The Sabah Kaamatan Festival Unduk Ngadau contender from Tenom, Estherlyn Joseph, said she had to rent the elegant traditional Murut costume that she wore during the State Unduk Ngadau registration held at Le Meridien yesterday.

“I had to fork out RM200 to rent the costume. Another RM150 for the makeup as well as several hundred more for the hairdo.

“When I took part in the Tenom district Unduk Ngadau two days ago, I spent about RM500,” she told the Borneo Post.

Looking elegant in the costume, Estherlyn, 20, didn’t know how much more she would need to fork out to vie for the State level Unduk Ngadau title but noted that so far, it has been an expensive venture.

“I work in Kota Kinabalu, so I had to travel back and forth to Tenom for the contest,” she said.

Fortunately, her ‘investments’ had been worth it after she was crowned as Tenom’s Unduk Ngadau two days earlier.

She added that it was the first time she was competing in the competition and felt happy to be able to represent Tenom in the State Level Unduk Ngadau pageant.

The 160cm tall Kadazan lass who presently works as an accounts assistant for a local firm here hopes to become an accountant in the future.

“I sat for my STPM (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia) last year and will be enrolling into the Banking course at Universiti Malaysia Sabah during their upcoming intake,” she said.

She said that she opted for accountancy because of her penchant for numbers, and that her brief working experience as an accounts assistant further strengthened her resolve that accountancy would be the perfect career path for her.

On the upcoming pageant, Estherlyn said that she hoped to be among the top seven winners.

“However, my main aim is for the experience I would be getting from participating in the pageant. After all, I am still young. I can always try again,” she said.

Liz Lorena, 25, who is representing Johor Bahru in the upcoming State Level Unduk Ngadau competition also described her happiness at being picked as the first Johor Bahru Unduk Ngadau.

“I was quite pleased, proud and happy,” she said.

Standing 165cm, the lanky lass said she moved to Peninsular Malaysia six years ago to pursue her tertiary studies.

She now works for an oil and gas company as an executive in Johor Bahru, while the rest of her family continue to live here.

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