Sunday, April 30, 2006

Showcase of the Melanau in Sarawak


By Achong Tanjong

Bruneians are among over 10,000 people who attended the Pesta Kaul Mukah 2006 at Taman Kala Dana, Mukah in Sarawak.

The week-long festival featured a series of activities by the Melanau, who have been celebrating ceremonious Pesta Kual for decades.

The community gathered to show off their cultural heritage as well as handicrafts, cuisine, costumes, games, and dances.

This year, the festive event was opened by Sarawak Chief Minister Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Village chief of Tanah Jambu Haji Asar bin Hj Beruddin was impressed by "the local hospitality and cultural showcase during the celebration".

He also said the objective of his visit to the Pesta Kaul Mukah was to foster closer ties with the community, take the opportunity to learn about the culture, and learn how a large-scale event is organised by the Melanau.

Ceremonies aside, the festival also saw booths set up by various Sarawak's government agencies and communities to showcase local food products and handicrafts.

Popular Malaysian artistes such as Ezad Exists, Zamani and champion of Bintang RTM 2004 Rina Azhar also teamed up with Bruneian singers Christina Bulan, Ahmad Solhi and Sazzia to entertain the visitors.

Pesta Kaul Mukah is listed in the Sarawak Tourism calendar as one of many cultural events to attract tourists to Mukah.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sabah Museum gears up for Crafts Exotica


By Ismail Hj. Mansor

KOTA KINABALU - The annual Crafts Exotica is back again with a range of exciting activities for 25 days at the Sabah Museum beginning from May 2 to May 27.

Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, who is also State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment will be expected to launch the three-in-one programme - Crafts Exotica, World Museum Day and Children Discovery Centre - at the Sabah Museum on May 18.

Although Sabah Museum would be hosting the event, cultural activities will take place at the museum's Heritage Village.

This year, museum visitors would be able to witness a demo on handicraft- making by the Brunei community from the West Coast area such as "Mukun" - a type of drum made from coconut tree, basketry, pandan mat, seraung, weaving, gambus, beduk among others. The finished product are also on sale.

Another activity scheduled for the event will be held at Agnes Keith House, Sandakan where the visitors will have the opportunity to witness a demo on the handicraft-making by the Tombonuo and Orang Sungai community. The finished product will also be sale to the public

Sabah Museum has also lined up several other programmes in conjunction with the Crafts Exotica such as a workshop on handicraft-making for school children on May 12 and 13. Colouring competition for children and lucky visitors will also be held at the museum Heritage Village compound.

Other activities such as the blow pipe and catapult event and also a fishing competition for the public will be held during the weekend from May 2 to May 27 from to 3pm. Entrance is free only on May 18.

Crafts Exotica programme is co-organised by Sabah Museum, Education Department, Malaysia Handicraft and Brunei Association

For more information, contact Su Chin Sidih at 088-253199, 225033 (Kota Kinabalu) and Juanis Ogak at 089-229793, 222679 (Sandakan).

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, April 28, 2006

New Brunei Tourism Packages


We are pleased to inform you that we have just added two new Brunei tourism packages to our web site as follows:


For more Borneo tour packages, please visit the following URL:

http://www.e-borneo.com/travel/tours/

If you require any assistance from us to plan your vacation to Borneo, please fill in our online custom form, and we will be most honored to be able to serve you.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Turning Sabah's Tambalang racecourse into top tourist attraction


By MICHAEL TEH

TUARAN: Major plans are underway to revive the long-overdue development of the Tambalang racecourse with the ultimate aim of turning it into a major tourist attraction in the State, Tuaran District in particular.

This was contained in a proposal submitted by Diriwan Corporation (Diriwan) Sdn Bhd, the operator of the 147-acre racecourse to the State government.

Disclosing this yesterday was the Minister of Local Government and Housing, Datuk Hajiji Noor during an inspection at the racecourse to evaluate the condition of the place.

Accompanying him during the visit were Tuaran district officer Awang Shamsi Jamih, MLGH engineer Wong Yun Sang, and Tan Kim Beng, chairman of Tuaran Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Also present were several Diriwan’s senior officials including its general manager Joseph Lin and corporate advisor Andrew Chong.

“In their proposal submitted to the State government a few months back, Diriwan has among others proposed that the racecourse be jointly developed by Diriwan and the State government through the Tuaran district council, or they will develop it on their own and later sublease it back to the district council to run.

“I will be tabling the proposals to the Cabinet soon, for it to decide on what would be the best approach to develop the racecourse,” said Hajiji.

The whole revival plan would basically evolve around the concept of transforming the racecourse into a turf club of international standard. Hajiji who is also the Sulaman assemblyman asserted that it was high time for both the State government and Diriwan to make some serious efforts to revive the development of the racecourse.

He was convinced that if properly planned and implemented, the development of the racecourse could become a major tourist attraction.

“If such plan becomes a reality later, it would significantly boost the economy of the district and the State as a whole, besides creating abundance of business and job opportunities to the local folks here.

“As the State assemblyman of this region, I would certainly look forward to its realization,” he said.

To a question, Hajiji assured that the State government would assist Diriwan in the relocation of those horse breeders who are currently occupying a portion of the racecourse, when the company starts to implement its development program.

“We shall assist them (Diriwan) in the relocation of those horse breeders to another place, otherwise it would be difficult for them to develop the place,” he said.

He added that the State government would definitely consider the renewal and extension of the lease agreement entered with Diriwan, if the latter is committed to develop the place.

The State government had in 1988 leased the racecourse to Diriwan for a period of 25 years, with a monthly rental of RM250,000.

The agreement will expire in 2013. When approached later, Diriwan’s general manager, Joseph Lin said he was delighted with the assurance given by Hajiji on the assistance in the relocation of those horse breeders, citing that it was one of the thorny issues that had impeded the development of the place all these while.

“With such an assurance from the Minister (Hajiji) himself, I think we can soon move forward with the development of the racecourse,” he said. To a question, he conceded that a study conducted by the company in the past estimated that it would cost at least RM40 million to revive the racecourse.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

No-ticket flights by MAS within the country


By WATI ANDI SAMSIAR

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia Airlines will go ticket-less for all flights within the country and from Malaysia to Singapore effective May 1.

With its full expansion to ticket-less capabilities, Malaysia Airlines will cease all conventional ticketing at its offices for domestic travel.

The Sabah area manager for Malaysia Airlines, Mohd Nazeri Abd Karim, said customers now have the option of booking and paying via the airline’s corporate web site, its 24-hour call centre, and at airport and ticketing offices throughout Malaysia.

He said customers will no longer need to carry a ticket as proof of purchase for travel.

“Upon check-in, passengers will only need to know their booking reference and produce a valid identification card,” he said.

For Business Class and Enrich members, the airline will provide an exclusive front-end check-in area.

However, he said, customers buying tickets through agents appointed by Malaysia Airlines will be given conventional paper tickets.

“Agents are not into paperless as yet, and they will still have to print out the normal (conventional) tickets for passengers,” Mohd Nazeri told a press conference yesterday.

Mohd Nazeri said that ticket-less check-in will make it easier for passengers, as they do not need to worry about losing their tickets.

“Eventually we hope to expand ticket-less travel to all international and interlining sectors.

“We will then migrate to full implementation of e-ticketing, in line with IATA’s requirement for such readiness, next year,” he added.

Meanwhile, to ensure that their ticket-less capability is fully functional and ready for operation, the airline conducted tests and trials with users, and made the necessary fault rectifications.

Mohd Nazeri said Malaysia Airlines personnel are being trained now to handle the various transaction processes, such as booking, payment and check-in.

Through the extended reach of its ticket-less capability, he said Malaysia Airlines expects an annual estimated 15 per cent savings on its distribution cost.

“Transaction through this facility is also expected to increase from the current annual average of five per cent to 30 per cent over the course of the coming year,” he said.

E-ticketing is a critical component to the success of one of Malaysia Airlines’ five focal aims-’Flying to Win Customers’-as customers increasingly prefer to purchase tickets via the Internet.

Apart from e-ticketing, Malaysia Airlines plans to introduce more service enhancements to its direct distribution channel in the near future to leverage cost benefits whilst engaging greater customer ownership.

He said customers can look forward to better service as Malaysia Airlines continues to provide the improved products and services announced in its business turnaround plan.

Malaysia Airlines first introduced paperless ticketing in 1997 for travel within Malaysia and to and from Singapore through a joint initiative with Malayan Banking Berhad.

The Internet booking facility at www.malaysiaairlines.com is currently available around the clock. Customers successfully completing their transactions using a credit card will be presented printable confirmation pages and e-mail confirmations.

The email confirmation page will constitute the itinerary receipt for customers’ retention and check-in at the airport.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Sarawak nearly HFM-free


MIRI: Sarawak will seek the approval of the Health Ministry to declare the state free of hand, foot and mouth disease.

State Disaster Relief Committee chairman Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the number of new cases detected daily throughout the state was below 50 for the past two weeks and there have been no new serious cases or fatalities for a long time.

“We will check with the Health Ministry whether we can declare the state free from this epidemic.

“There are not many cases around anymore. No serious cases have been reported for quite sometime now and no more schools or kindergartens closed.

“The highest number of cases was on Feb 28 when 330 cases were recorded in a single day,” he said yesterday.

Dr Chan said 36 new cases were detected yesterday, and none were serious.

Throughout Sarawak, only 30 people remain warded but none of them are critical, he said, adding that the number of deaths stood at nine.

From the onset of the epidemic in early January until yesterday, 8,894 confirmed HFM cases were recorded statewide.

The regions worst hit were Sibu Division with 2,324 cases, followed by Miri Division, Kuching Division and Bintulu Division, Dr Chan added.

Source: The Star

Sarawak's Melanau community Kaul festival evolving


By SHARON LING

The Kaul festival, celebrated by Sarawak’s Melanau community, just gets bigger and grander every year.

This year’s edition, which ran for 10 days, saw large crowds thronging the festival ground to participate in sports and singing competitions, to roam around the various stalls and sample Melanau delicacies such as “tebaloi” (sago crackers) or “umai” (marinated raw fish).

Festival attractions included a fishing safari at the Mukah River waterfront, a Karaoke Kaul Idol contest, seafood cooking and “umai” making contest, folk games and a procession of “serahang”, elaborately-decorated offering baskets which were traditionally used to offer food to the spirits.

Of course, there was also “tibou”, the Melanau giant swing, from which daredevil young men would launch themselves into the air while hanging only to a rope.

The festival ended with a “Pesta Berambih” concert with singers such as Zamani of Slam and Ezad of Exist on stage to thrill a 10,000-strong crowd.

The concert also featured traditional dances by the Mukah Warismu Group and a fashion show of Melanau costumes.

Source: The Star

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Month-long showcase of Sabah’s cultural heritage


KOTA KINABALU: A colourful array of multi-ethnic cultures is set to dazzle visitors to Sabah Fest 2006 next month.

A ritual dance or Sumayau by Tuaran’s Lotud Dusun folks will be showcased at the event to be attended by Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah on May 5.

Sumayau is performed during the Rumah, a ceremony to honour the spirit of skulls or the Mangahau rituals for the spirit of sacred jars, said Sabah Tourism Board chairman Tengku Datuk Dr Zainal Adlin.

“This is just one of the fascinating traditional dances to be featured at the launch,” he said, adding that more than 500 musicians, dancers and crews will come together to stage this spectacular cultural extravaganza.

Tengku Adlin said that this year’s festival would see the involvement of ethnic groups from five districts in Sabah – Kota Marudu, Beaufort, Tuaran, Semporna and Lahad Datu.

“It shows a positive response from the public, especially the rural folks, to be involved in such a big event to showcase their cultural dances, music, food and many more,” he said, adding that last year only two districts were involved.

Apart from the colourful performances, visitors will get to sample local delicacies such as the cakes and traditional foods as well as witness live demonstrations by skilled handicraft makers.

“Many ethnic groups will be displaying their crafts such as bead-making, lepa making and traditional woven cloths,” Tengku Adlin added.

Also on show will be the skills of women from Kota Belud and Kudat who will be weaving traditional cloths like the Dastar, Tinohian and Rinangkit.

“This is a perfect opportunity to witness Sabah’s rich cultural heritage through a myriad of song, dance, music and handicraft,” he said, adding that throughout May many activities and programmes have been lined up to celebrate Sabah Fest.

The Sabah Fest is open to the public. For tickets, call Susan Shahira of Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd (088- 232121).

Source: The Star

Monday, April 24, 2006

Divers discover Brunei's first Pygmy Seahorse

Brunei Pygmy Seahorse Pygmy Seahorse discovered at Burn's Patch.
Copyright © 2006 Borneo Bulletin
Brunei Pygmy Seahorse
Pygmy Seahorse is camouflaged in the seafan.
Copyright © 2006 Borneo Bulletin


By Huraizah Ahmad

Scuba Tech International unveiled yet another significant discovery among the wonderful sea habitats recently.

The discovery, one of the most sought after finds by divers, is Brunei's first Pygmy Seahorse discovered around Burn's Patch.

Finding one can be a daunting task since these delicate creatures are normally found among seafans, which are only the size of the tip of our fingernail.

Although these creatures are normally around 15mm in length with their tails curled around a seafan, some may appear even smaller.

The team of divers from Scuba Tech - Amillson, Hermione, Reuben and Yusrin - took almost 25 minutes to spot one using only one Ikelite DS 125 TTL Strobe.

"The lucky discovery two weeks after the largest whale shark discovery this year has been a good sign of more new promising discoveries for this year", said Yusrin from Scuba Tech International in an interview.

The new finding by Scuba Tech International was recorded in 35 shots using the Olympus 7070 Digital.

However, only one shot was only suitable to be exhibited in the recent ADEX Dive Exhibition in Singapore, informed Yusrin.

The Pygmy seahorse is a relative of the common seahorse and can grow up to two centimetres in length.

The well-camouflaged creature has a short snout with rounded knob-like coronet and irregular bulbous tubercles all over its body along with rounded spine above each eye and on each cheek.

There are two known colour morphs for these species including pale grey or purple with pink or red tubercles and yellow with orange tubercles.

These are found camouflaged besides gorgonians (seafans) of the genus Muricella, in depths of 16-40m.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Miri as centre for tourist attraction and educational excellence


By George Francis

MIRI - Sarawak Chief Minister says Miri city will attract a lot of people alongside the 'Greater Miri Master Plan 2020' which focuses on creating an educational centre of excellence and tourism attractions.

Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said Miri has already met the criteria of a city status with all the infrastructure laid out and the structural plan readily to accommodate the expansion. He said the city is already attractive enough with the attainment of city status on May 20 last year and in 'the making' for expansion from every corner, including sea reclamations.

Miri, as being claimed as the gateway to hinterland, should consolidate and enhance its economy and integrate with the development of the region, he said. Taib was closing a seminar "Preparing for the Future: A Greater Miri 2020" organised by Miri City Incorporated.

"It is now more difficult to achieve, not in the form of infrastructure but how to exploit all the development, new ventures and commercial undertakings to be added to Miri and to fine-tune them by all sectors."

He said the city is poised for 2020 with the 'happening team' of elected representatives, headed by Tan Sri Dr George Chan to carry out more development programmes.

The alluring prospects, he said, besides having the standard of housing like in Australia, Miri must be a safe place with friendly people toward tourists and applying the systematic healthy city concept.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Divers discover Brunei's first Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse discovered at Burn's Patch.
Photo Copyright © 2006 Borneo Bulletin

Pygmy Seahorse is camouflaged in the seafan.
Photo Copyright © 2006 Borneo Bulletin


By Huraizah Ahmad

Scuba Tech International unveiled yet another significant discovery among the wonderful sea habitats recently.

The discovery, one of the most sought after finds by divers, is Brunei's first Pygmy Seahorse discovered around Burn's Patch.

Finding one can be a daunting task since these delicate creatures are normally found among seafans, which are only the size of the tip of our fingernail.

Although these creatures are normally around 15mm in length with their tails curled around a seafan, some may appear even smaller.

The team of divers from Scuba Tech - Amillson, Hermione, Reuben and Yusrin - took almost 25 minutes to spot one using only one Ikelite DS 125 TTL Strobe.

"The lucky discovery two weeks after the largest whale shark discovery this year has been a good sign of more new promising discoveries for this year", said Yusrin from Scuba Tech International in an interview.

The new finding by Scuba Tech International was recorded in 35 shots using the Olympus 7070 Digital.

However, only one shot was only suitable to be exhibited in the recent ADEX Dive Exhibition in Singapore, informed Yusrin.

The Pygmy seahorse is a relative of the common seahorse and can grow up to two centimetres in length.

The well-camouflaged creature has a short snout with rounded knob-like coronet and irregular bulbous tubercles all over its body along with rounded spine above each eye and on each cheek.

There are two known colour morphs for these species including pale grey or purple with pink or red tubercles and yellow with orange tubercles.

These are found camouflaged besides gorgonians (seafans) of the genus Muricella, in depths of 16-40m.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Miri as centre for tourist attraction and educational excellence


By George Francis

MIRI - Sarawak Chief Minister says Miri city will attract a lot of people alongside the 'Greater Miri Master Plan 2020' which focuses on creating an educational centre of excellence and tourism attractions.

Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said Miri has already met the criteria of a city status with all the infrastructure laid out and the structural plan readily to accommodate the expansion. He said the city is already attractive enough with the attainment of city status on May 20 last year and in 'the making' for expansion from every corner, including sea reclamations.

Miri, as being claimed as the gateway to hinterland, should consolidate and enhance its economy and integrate with the development of the region, he said. Taib was closing a seminar "Preparing for the Future: A Greater Miri 2020" organised by Miri City Incorporated.

"It is now more difficult to achieve, not in the form of infrastructure but how to exploit all the development, new ventures and commercial undertakings to be added to Miri and to fine-tune them by all sectors."

He said the city is poised for 2020 with the 'happening team' of elected representatives, headed by Tan Sri Dr George Chan to carry out more development programmes.

The alluring prospects, he said, besides having the standard of housing like in Australia, Miri must be a safe place with friendly people toward tourists and applying the systematic healthy city concept.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Brunei launches 'Year of the Turtle'

Borneo Turtles Two turtles moving towards the sea. Photo © Borneo Bulletin.


By Lyna Mohamad

The Year of the Turtle was launched in Brunei yesterday at the Meragang Beach with the release of ten adult turtles and 40 hatchlings. They comprised the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and Green turtles.

Awang Hj Jemat Bin Hj Ampal, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports launching the event observed that through the National Committee on Management and Conservation of Sea Turtle formed since 2000 comprising Fisheries department, Royal Brunei

Police Force, Customs and Excise and Museums, a concrete action plan has been established to strengthen the enforcement and control of harvesting and selling of turtle eggs locally.

"A long term programme to ensure full success in the conservation of turtles has also been implemented in the form of education and awareness aimed at the public at large," he said.

Mentioning that His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has always been keen in ensuring the conservation and sustainability of the fauna and flora of Brunei, the Perm Sec noted the trails of successfully hatching turtle eggs artificially to encourage the expansion of its population.

"Encouraged by each success and being aware of the threat of the reduction of numbers of nestling turtles in Brunei, the Department of Fisheries has embarked on a turtle management and conservation project," he observed.

Such a project was aimed at the maintenance of the biodiversity and to properly manage the turtle population through the protection of their nesting sites.

The release of the sea turtles was led by the Perm Sec followed by the Director of the Council of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre SEAFDEC, who are currently attending the meeting and students from 10 secon-dary and primary schools from the Brunei Muara district.

The coastal waters of Brunei Darussalam, high-lighted the Permanent Secretary, are known to be in the migration path of marine turtles during their migration period.

The offshore oil platforms have also provided excellent substratum for the growth of marine organisms such as soft coral in addition to the natural coral reefs, where divers have also spotted turtles feeding on the organisms afforded by the oil installations.

He disclosed that the Asean Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) at the 19th meeting held in 1997endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Asean Sea Turtle Conservation and Protection.

This MoU, he said, aimed at promoting the protection, conservation, replenishing and recovery of sea turtles and their habitats based on the best available scientific evidence, taking into account the environment, socio-economic and cultural characteristics of individual Asean member countries.

Brunei Darusalam and other Asean Member Countries since then, have been engaging actively in the conservation and management of sea turtles.

The chief guest extended his appreciation to SEAFDEC that has also taken the initiative and played an active role in the sea turtle management and conservation and on behalf of the Brunei government extended appreciation to Japan for the generosity they extended to provide a fund for the project since 1998.

Out of the seven species found in the world, only three are found in the Brunei waters namely Olive Ridley, Green and Hawksbill turtle and an unconfirmed sighting of Leatherback Turtle that have been reported but there has been no record of nesting females of this species.

Sea Turtles, as it is known, are protected under Appendix I of the Convention for international Trade of Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna (CITES) where the sultanate is the signatory of this convention since 1990.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Sarawak's Longhouse Visits - Making it memorable


By KIRSTEN CUNNINGHAM

The hospitality of longhouse people cannot be surpassed. Travellers come from around the world to experience a unique stay in one of Sarawak’s many tribal longhouses, and more and more Malaysians are doing the same.

However, the popularity of the longhouse visits has turned a once unique experience into a highly profitable commercial enterprise, and many longhouse tribes feel forced to ‘perform’. Many travellers also feel the tours are too fabricated and would prefer a more ‘authentic’ experience.

Getting off the beaten track to stay at a less touristy longhouse, as we discovered, has its risks. You are literally at the mercy of your guides, and should they turn out to be like Captain Undies, you are going to be stressed out, not relaxed.

The incompetence of Captain Undies could have had more serious repercussions than leeches and wet passports.

The attitudes of the guides in the Belaga area towards women make it unsafe to travel without a male, and the amount of alcohol consumed can also make you feel very unsafe.

Yet problems with alcohol and attitudes on guided longhouse tours towards women seem to be a problem in the Belaga area only.

The other popular area for longhouse visits is the Kelabit Highlands, where the guides are highly knowledgeable about local flora and fauna.

After Belaga we travelled to Bario and did a combination of jungle trekking, longhouse stays and river safaris in the Kelabit Highlands. The gentle and welcoming nature of the Kelabit people make it much safer for women travellers, and many solo females travel alone with a guide. Alcohol abuse is frowned upon because of religious reasons making a trekking and longhouse tour around Bario a much safer and stress- free option.

TIPS FOR TREKS AND LONGHOUSE VISITS

-You must be invited to a longhouse. Guided tours are the easiest way to do this although you may be lucky enough to meet someone who invites you to stay.

-Guided tour prices are negotiable. So bargain!

-Guides are plentiful in both Belaga and Bario. If you are uncomfortable with one guide then choose, or ask for another.

-Make sure it is absolutely clear what is included in the tour as some of the operators can be deceptive and you may find yourself having to pay for food and lodging at the longhouse when you thought it was included.

-Also make sure you are clear on your itinerary, what are you supposed to be doing and when.

-Alcoholism can be a huge problem with the guides in the Belaga area. If you are uncomfortable with this then refuse to go unless your operator can promise the guides will be sober during the day.

-Women should not travel alone or without a male companion around Belaga, however many women have done so safely in Bario.

- Gifts for the longhouses may not be appropriate. Always check with your guide what you should and shouldn’t bring. As a general rule, biscuits that can be shared with adults and school supplies for children are preferable to candy and cigarettes.

Source: The Star

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sabah Government bodies urged to venture into tourism

STATE Government agencies with strong financial standing have been urged to venture into the hotel and hospitality sector via either equity participation or direct investment to help address the problem of insufficient rooms to meet tourism demand.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said he agreed with Datuk Mohd Lan Allani (Sulabayan) to get government-linked agencies to invest in the sector.

"In this respect, financially-strong State government agencies like Suria Capital, Sabah Credit Corporation, Yayasan Sabah, KKIP and Sedco should seriously consider the business proposal (but) without involving any funds from the Government," he said in his winding up speech.

Chong who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said at the moment Yayasan Sabah and Sedco had successfully ventured into the hotel industry, namely, Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, respectively.

"The Ministry always encourages smart-partnerships between local and foreign investors interested to invest in the hotel sector," he said.

He also said the State Government has, thus far, no plan to develop the former Mamut copper mine in Ranau for tourism, but that his Ministry had submitted an application for funds to rehabilitate the site from the Federal Government under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

In allaying Kundasang Assemblyman, Dr Joachim Gunsalam's fears, Chong said the State Government through Sabah Parks had allocated about RM774,000 to upgrade the sewerage system from Gunting Lagadan to Layang-Layang in Mt Kinabalu, which had already been completed.

Under the second phase of the project, works would be carried out to upgrade the sewerage system from Layang-Layang to Timpohon Gate.

It would commence soon after the new rest house and restaurant in Layang-Layang is completed, he said. Under the second phase, the public toilets along the climb trail would be connected to the main pipe to the environment-friendly sewerage tank down at Timpohon Gate.

He assured that Sabah Parks would continue to monitor and find solutions to any problems relating to the sewerage system in the World Heritage Site to ensure pollution does not seep into the nearby water bodies.

On studies on the Domestic Tourism Development Concept plan for the Interior under the 9MP, he said it would also include areas in Tawau, including Sebatik, which would be included to get funding in the 9MP mid-term review later.

On issues raised by assemblyman from Membakut, Klias and Kuala Penyu regarding the sea sand dredging for use in the construction of the Binsuluk/Palu-Palu road, he said:

"My officers in the Environment Protection Department had inspected the activities and found that it was operating illegally under the Land Ordinance," he said, adding the case had been referred to the Land and Survey Department for further action.

He said sand dredging in beaches was banned since it is deemed to be an environmentally-sensitive area as it acts as the buffer zone, hence there is no question of it requiring the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Source: Daily Express

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kudat Beckons Visitors To "Tip Of Borneo"


By Nasriah Hj Darus

KUALA LUMPUR -- "Breath-taking, awe inspiring" are apt words to describe the feeling when one stands on the majestic cliffs at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, dubbed the "land's end of Borneo".

As the sun sets over the horizon at this northwestern tip of the world's third largest island, visitors are enchanted by the glittering turquoise sea and the sky's tinges of red and gold.

"When one stands on the cliff and looks out to the open sea, it is like standing on the edge of a world, looking at mother nature's greatness and the scene is simply awesome", an adventure seeker once wrote in a travel magazine.

Visitors to Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, located some 170km from the Sabah state capital of Kota Kinabalu, would agree with the writer's comments.

Boredom and exhaustion from the three-hour car ride from Kota Kinabalu easily dissipate after hearing the cacophony of waves splashing against the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs and enjoying the view of miles and miles of the blue-green sea.

MEETING OF TWO SEAS

For visitors to Sabah, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is among the must see spots that exude breath-taking panoramic vistas.

Described by Sabah's Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat as among the state's "jewels in the crown", this headland is 30 minutes drive from Kudat town.

The meeting point of Laut Sulu and South China Sea, it is called Tanjung Sampang Magazo in Rungus dialect, meaning "a junction where a battle took place".

Rungus folklore tells of a story where warriors made a stand against invading pirates, hence the name of this headland.

According to historians, Spanish seafarer Ferdinand Magellan, on his way to circum-navigate the globe, had stopped there for 42 days for repairs to his ships. Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is indeed among Sabah's many world-renowned natural wonders.

BOUNTIFUL TREASURES

With its crystal-clear seas, magnificent beaches, islands, coral reefs as well as its lush forests, wetlands and majestic mountains, Sabah showcases an outstanding array of biodiversity.

A group of journalists recently had the chance to experience some of Sabah's bountiful treasures and what an interesting trip it was.

Organised by Malaysia Airlines and Sabah Tourism Board, the trip brought journalists, albeit briefly, to several towns and villages along Sabah's west coast.

From Kota Kinabalu, Kudat is the first stop followed by a brief sojourn to Tanjung Simpang Mengayau. Kudat district has some of Sabah's finest beaches, offering holiday-goers peace and tranquillity.

While in Kudat the journalists visited three villages, each renowned for its speciality.

Kampung Bavanggazo is known for its Rungus longhouses. Kampung Sumangkap, on the other hand, is a gong-making village while honey bees are synonymous with Kampung Gombizau.

Kudat is home of the Rungus, where many still live in longhouses and observe age-old customs and traditions.

Visitors out to experience a stay in a traditional Rungus longhouse, without sacrificing modern comforts like showers and toilets, would find what they are looking for at Kampung Bavanggazo, located in a valley not far from the main road to Kudat, near Tinangol.

EXCITING EVENTS

Sabah offered a whirlwind of exciting events throughout 2005.

Among them were the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club Tour of Borneo. Participants came from 13 countries, bringing along 67 Rolls-Royces and Bentleys.

Other events are the International CEO Conference, Sunset Symphony Orchestra and Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon.

As Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin told journalists in Kota Kinabalu -- "2005 proved to be an exciting year. There were a few hiccups along the way but the state was able to face challenges such as the Tsunami and adverse travel advisories due to acts of terrorism".

He said Sabah managed to pull through despite all these glitches, recording 1.8 million tourists including 1.0 million Malaysians last year.

Despite some glitches and distractions, Sabah generated an astounding RM2.5 billion from its tourism industry in 2005!

SEAFOOD PARADISE

Kudat is also a seafood paradise as most of its village folks are fishermen.

"You can buy fresh crabs, prawns, fish and shellfish here," said one government official, adding that it is cheap and visitors can savour the delights at Kudat's beachfront stalls and restaurants.

Kudat is Sabah's first state capital and fast turning into a tourism spot.

The town attracts many travellers from China, Taiwan and Australia with some coming back to acquire properties along its beachfront under the "Malaysia, My Second Home" programme.

"When I first came here 10 years ago, there were only a few shops and they were closed at night.

"There was not much activity at that time, but things have now changed. Many shops and restaurants open till midnight to cater for tourists, there are more hotels now," said the official.

Kudat also hosted an open air concert -- the Sunset Symphony Orchestra at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in May last year.

UNDERWATER REALM

Sabah's other leading tourism destinations include its underwater realm at Pulau Tiga, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park as well as the islands of Mantani, Lankayan, Mabul Island and Sipadan Island which draw many snorkelling and scuba-diving enthusiasts.

Mount Kinabalu, at 4,095 metres above sea level is the highest peak in Borneo. It is Malaysia's First World Heritage site while Kota Belud is famous for its weekly "tamu" or bazaar.

Meanwhile Danum Valley is a prime example of lowland rainforest that has an array of flora and fauna. In fact, there are many more attractions in the state which are yet to be explored.

VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR

Tengku Zainal said tourism is a sunrise industry, strong and vibrant. "The market is big with huge potential for growth with Sabah expected to be among the destinations of choice".

The highest number of foreigners who visited Sabah last year were from Taiwan followed by Brunei, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada.

With this encouraging scenario, Tourism Malaysia targets Sabah to receive 24.6 million travellers by 2010, yielding RM59.4 billion in receipts.

"Sabah targets 2.7 million arrivals in 2007, generating RM4 billion," said Tengku Zainal.

Source: BERNAMA

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sarawak seeks more direct air links with foreign cities


KUCHING: Sarawak has called for more direct international links between the state and other cities following the official opening of the upgraded Kuching International Airport.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the airport was renovated at a cost of RM500mil to expand its flight and passenger capacity, which in turn would boost the state’s tourism industry.

“The airport can now handle 2,200 passengers per hour. This increased capacity will help us achieve our target of two million to 2.5 million tourist arrivals this year, especially when Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia have worked out the division of routes to the state,” he said at the opening by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday.

Taib called on the airlines to develop Sarawak’s air links with other cities, such as Perth, so that the state could attract more visitors from overseas.

“As the main gateway into Sarawak, the Kuching International Airport should have more direct links with international destinations.

“This is our aim and we hope the Transport Ministry will support us and help us fill the airport to its full capacity of 5.3 million passengers annually by 2010.”

Taib said the state was willing to work with airlines and other private sector companies to promote Sarawak as a tourist destination.

“We hope the airlines will cooperate with us, perhaps by taking our cultural troupes on promotional trips overseas.”

Source: The Star

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Slow boat to Kampong Ayer, Brunei's Water Village

Brunei Water VillageOn the horizon looms the world's largest Water Village, for centuries
the home for thousands of wooden and concrete houses on stilts,
(photo below) as seen from a vantage view at the
Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex.

Brunei Kampung Ayer Water Taxi

A wooden water taxi rules the waves and gives a wobbly ride.

brunei river cruise Crossing the Brunei river on a pontoon boat.

Brunei river cruise Watching the sunset from a boat cruising the Brunei river.


By Tony Alabastro

Tourists start their cruise on a Kampong Ayer river tour from Bandar Seri Begawan, (bandar, a Persian word, means port or town), the former Brunei Town on land on the left bank of the Brunei river. Over a thousand years ago, the sultanate's three original settlements, Kota Batu, Kampong Ayer and Brunei Town, rose along the banks of the Brunei river.

Wooden, engine-driven water taxis at the jetties at the Yayasan shopping complex or on Jalan Residency provide the cheapest ($1 a person) rides to cross the river and into Kampong Ayer, the world's largest Water Village, which Europeans called "Venice of the East".

Tourists can take a pontoon boat, tour the Water Village and drop in its stilt houses for tea and native cakes.

A 20-minute boat ride from the jetty brings them to the mangrove swamps and riverine forests to see the Proboscis monkeys, birds of prey, kingfishers, mangrove snakes, monitor lizards, otters, flying foxes, and saltwater crocodiles lazing in the sun.

In the late afternoon, tourists can watch the sun set on the horizon, and see egrets flying back to the mangroves for the night.

In the evening, they can join a firefly night tour and watch fireflies flash lights of communication from the nipah palms and mangrove swamps along the river's tributaries.

From every Brunei River cruise it books, a sister company of Sunshine Tours, AA Dolphin Dive and Trading Sdn Bhd, pledges to donate US$1 to Brunei's Environment Fund.

"Our tours create awareness on conservation (of the environment and protection of wildlife along the Brunei river) and donate money to the government," says Peter Chieng, Director of Sales of Sunshine Tours, a 25-year-old inbound travel agency in Brunei.

"We came up with a pontoon boat - which has been used in the United States for a decade. A lot of Brunei tourists were impressed with the 8-1/2 feet wide and 24 feet long pontoon boat.

"The first boat came in November 2005, and two more came before this year's Chinese New Year. Another unit is coming in August to increase the fleet to five pontoon boats for the Brunei river tour.

"It's easy for tourists to look around the boat, stand up, walk to the front and end. The pontoon boat offers an unlimited angle of view. There's no way you can stand on a wooden boat.

"The pontoon boats are driven by licenced local pilots from the Water Village. We have a joint venture with the Water Village people. They open their homes for the tourist visits."

A river cruise at Kampong Ayer, which rose at the confluence of the Kedayan and Brunei rivers from 1661 onwards, passes through several villages.

The tour visits the Mini Museum of Kampong Saba, the capital's oldest ward, village or kampong.

The people of Kg Saba (saba means upstream) were the original followers of the first ruler of Brunei, Awang Alak Betatar, who married a Johor princess.

The Probosis monkey tour is a leisurely, two-hours-and-30-minutes morning or afternoon cruise through the mangrove swamps and riverine forests in search of the endangered species found only in the island of Borneo.

Old malays call the tree-leaping, leaf-eating simians Orang Belanda or Flying Dutchmen, because the monkeys look like the hairy, big-nosed and pot bellied Europeans traders and colonisers of old.

The primates have reddish brown or chestnut backs, orange shoulders, grey limbs, and white tails.

The males have long, pendulous and protruding noses. Because of the monkeys' diet of green fruits, seeds and leaves, their bellies are bloated by gas released by the digestive process. They can't eat ripe fruits.

Tourists taking the firefly sighting and seafood dinner package will be picked up at their hotels.

They will be transferred to Portview Seafood Restaurant overlooking the Water Village and the Brunei river, where they will be served a seafood steamboat dinner.

Their next stop is at the jetty to board a pontoon boat for a cruise to the river's tributaries to observe fireflies. These lightning bugs, which are definitely not flies, light up the summer nights.

They are nocturnal, luminous beetles with special light-emitting organs in their abdomens. The flying males emit courtship flash patterns in search of females, which signal a series of flashes in response. As the males fly closer to the mimicking females, they are captured and eaten.

On the pontoon boat, guests will be provided with rain jackets, binoculars, mineral water, and in the night, search lights for nocturnal animals. An experienced tour guide explains the sights.

At 7 pm the night cruise tour starts and takes the tourists to Kampong Saba and Kampong Burung Pingai on the furthest end of the old capital's villages on the left bank of the Brunei river.

The people of Kampong Burong Pingai are the descendants of the Johor people who came to Brunei when its first sultan married a Johor princess.

The Johor sultan had sent a bird, burong pingai, to look after her daughter. When the bird found her, she was already married to Awang Alak Betatar, who became Brunei's first sultan.

This kampong, named after the princess' pet bird, and cared for by its inhabitants, was famous for its nakhoda (sea captains and traders). It was also the most frequently mentioned Brunei village in British accounts.

Bright lights flicker in the houses on stilts during the night cruise tour. Floodlights illuminate His Majesty's official residence, Istana Nurul Iman, with its distinctive golden dome.

Across the palace, in the middle of the river, is a natural rock formation shaped like an upturned boat.

Old folks say this is the remains of a boat, sunk during a storm, that carried an ungrateful son who had forsaken his mother after he got rich and got married abroad.

As the pontoon boat returns to the jetty, the walkway of the Brunei landmark, Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the country's largest shopping mall, offers an unobstructed view of the lighted-up Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque.

Content Courtesy of and photos copyright to Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Monday, April 17, 2006

Lepa Regatta draws 15,000 to Semporna

Semporna Lepa Regatta
Semporna Lepa Regatta Boat Race

By SANTE VILLIAMON

SEMPORNA: As an annual event, the colourful Semporna Lepa Regatta is still very much a crowd puller, attracting more than 15,000 people to this normally sleepy town over the last weekend.

Already into its 13th year, held on a grand scale, the regatta was held from 14 to 16 April with an official launching by the Head of State Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah on Saturday night.

People thronged the streets of Semporna as early as 5pm coming from all walks of life including the tourists.

They were treated not just to performances from artists like Fauziah Latif, Camelia, Noraniza Idris and Benda but also to a 15-minute rousing display of fireworks to mark the launch of the regatta.

A total of 104 entries took part in the “Most Beautiful Lepa” contest that required them to be paraded before the Semporna Marine Tourism Centre.

Yesterday morning, sunny weather and the burst of colours from the brightly decorated lepas became a visual treat for the thousands who arrived including a delegation of 40 led by the wife of the Menteri Besar of Perlis.

Tun Ahmadshah and wife Toh Puan Dayang Masuyah Awang Japar were also taken on a leisurely cruise on a lepa together with former Head of State Tun Sakaran Dandai, Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Shafie Apdal and Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Labuan getting ready for International Sea Challenge


By Achong Tanjong

The Federal Territory of Labuan - known as the International Garden Island of Borneo, is now ready to welcome international and regional tourists to the island to participate and witness the many activities lined up in conjunction with the Labuan International Sea Challenge 2006, which is scheduled to be held from April 24 to 30, 2006.

The annual event jointly organised by the Tourism Ministry of Malaysia and Labuan Corporation is aimed at encouraging and attracting tourists to the island that combines the benefits of an offshore financial centre with adventure activities, including game fishing and the hunt for the big Merlin.

The island plays a three-pronged role as a duty-free port, international offshore financial centre and a centre for business and commerce. It has also become a shopping paradise for many with a variety of local and imported goods to choose from.

Various sea sports activities will also be held during the upcoming Labuan International Sea Challenge 2006 that also attracts participation from Brunei.

Several individuals and teams from Brunei Darussalam are looking forward to the challenge. Like in the pervious year, Brunei teams are expected to participate in several races that include boat race and kayak.

A group of about 30 youths from the Kg Tanah Jambu Consultative Council is also expected to participate in such events as beach volleyball, beach football, and beach fishing as well as drawing and colouring contest for children and other onshore events.

According to one of the committee members, the group also took part in last year's events.

Other events lined up for the Labuan International Sea Challenge '06 include Rolex IGFA International Fishing Tournament from

April 24 to 30, Labuan International Boat race from April 29 to 30, Cross Channel Swimming Challenge on April 29, Labuan International Extreme Kayak Challenge from April 28 to 29, Round Island Kayak Challenge on April 30, Boat Tug of War on April 28, Exhibition and Sale from April 28 to 30, and other sports activities.

Visitors to the island will also have the opportunity to witness live stage performances from invited Malaysian artistes including Malaysian idol sensation singers Jaclyn Victor, Dato M. Daud Kilau, Saiful Apek, Marsha and many more.

The event will be held during the closing ceremony on April 30 from 8pm at the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex.

There will also be the Battle of the Band, "Bintang 60an" and "Suara Remaja" singing contest.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Saturday, April 15, 2006

MAS going ticket-less for domestic travel


Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will go ticket-less for domestic travel transactions at all its offices in Malaysia effective May 1, 2006, in line with one of the five thrusts of its business turnaround plan.

Through the extended reach of its ticket-less capability, the national airline expects an annual estimated 15 per cent savings of its distribution cost.

In a statement here Friday, Malaysia Airlines said transaction through the facility is also expected to increase from the current annual average of five per cent to 30 per cent over the next one year.

To ensure the ticket-less capability is fully functional and ready for operation, various user-testing and fault rectifications have been conducted, while MAS' staff are currently being trained to handle and process the various transaction processes which include booking, payment and check-in.

Hence, MAS will cease all conventional ticketing at its offices for Malaysian domestic travel, it said.

Customers now have the option of booking and payment via its corporate website, its 24-hours call centre and at both airport and city ticketing offices throughout the country.

Apart from the above e-ticketing modes, MAS plans to introduce further service enhancements to its direct distribution channel in the near future to leverage on cost benefits whilst engaging into greater customer ownership.

The national carrier said customers could now look forward to higher service levels as it continue to provide improved products and services announced in its business turnaround plan.

Source: BERNAMA

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dragon boat race: Sabah Tourism eyes more foreign teams


Kota Kinabalu: Organisers of the 21st Sabah Dragon Boat Race are expecting more teams to take part in the event at Likas Bay on June 16 this year.

A statement from organising secretary Zachary Mobijohn Tuesday said the event last year attracted 52 teams including from Brunei, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Australia.

He said the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) and its subsidiary company Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd, as well as Sabah Chinese Cultural Association (SCCA), will jointly organise the event.

According to him, STB is working hard to attract international teams particularly from Australia.

"The main committee is in the midst of making special arrangement with the Adelaide Survivors Abreast Inc Team from South Australia to participate in the race," he said.

He said Adelaide Survivors won the gold medal in the Breast Cancer Challenge at the 26th Penang International Dragon Boat Festival last year.

Zachary said the team consists of both breast cancer survivors and supporters who are actively promoting breast cancer awareness and early detection of breast cancer in Australia.

It was revealed through a scientific research that regular upper body exercise aided the recovery of breast cancer patients after surgery and that participating in rowing sports such as the dragon boat race is ideal.

"Hence, in support of the good cause, the Sabah Dragon Boat race main organising committee is making arrangement to bring three all-women teams from South Australia," he said.

On the local scene, he said women teams are also welcome to participate in the special category despite the event not offering any cash prize except for a trophy sponsored by the SCCA.

On other developments, Zachary said the committee has also agreed to replace the Kinabalu Dragon trophy for the Junior Boys' Under-21 with the Sabah Tourism trophy for teams from the tourism industry.

He said teams from hotels, tour and travel operators and those with tourism-related business are welcome to take part under the category.

Entry forms are available at the STB's office or Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd or online at www.sabahtourism.com.

For details, call Zachary at 088-232121 or 013-8504007.

Source: Daily Express

Thursday, April 13, 2006

16 events in Sarawak for Visit Malaysia Year


KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board has drawn up a list of 16 events to be included in the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 calendar.

Among them is the Rainforest World Music Festival, which has been classified as a major event, its chief executive Gracie Geikie said.

Other events include the Borneo Cultural Festival, the Miri International Jazz Festival, the Sarawak Regatta and the Kaul Festival.

“We have highlighted major events in various areas of Sarawak to promote the state during Visit Malaysia Year,” she told reporters after attending the launch of the biggest book in Malaysia, Biggest Pictorial Book, Sarawak, here, recently.

“The national target of visitors for Visit Malaysia Year is 20.1million and I think Sabah and Sarawak will contribute a large number to that. So, our events and promotional campaigns will be tied into Visit Malaysia Year,” she said.

Geikie also said the state hoped to attract 3.5 million visitors during Visit Malaysia Year while its target for this year was 2.5million arrivals.

“We have had some setbacks, including cutbacks to our connectivity, and this makes things a little more difficult, but we will do our best to achieve the target,” she said.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Brunei Tourism to hold Second Away Day


By Huraizah Ahmad

The Brunei Tourism Board comprising 12 members representing both the government and private sector and chaired by the Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Dato Paduka Haji Hamdillah bin Haji Abdul Wahab, will be holding its Second Away Day at the Empire Hotel and Country Club, which was voted best venue for the inaugural Brunei Open Golf Tournament 2005.

The objective of the Second Brunei Tourism Board Away Day is to create greater awareness among members and stakeholders of projects being undertaken by various government departments and categorise them according to their economic impact on tourism industry in Brunei.

These projects will then be prioritised enabling the various departments to put more emphasis on those projects which will have immediate impact on tourism.

The invitees for this informal meeting include members of the board, and key members from the various chambers of commerce in Brunei, Brunei-Japan Friendship Association, Brunei-Korea Association for Friendship and the Brunei-China Friendship Association.

The informal and interactive sessions will be facilitated by two members from the Faculty of Business, Economics and Policy Studies (FBEPS) of the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, together with Chris Robles, Tourism Expert of the Tourism Development Department.

Brunei Tourism is the Tourism Development Department in Brunei's Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, acting as secretariat of Brunei Tourism Board, mandate and in charge of the international promotion and marketing of Brunei as a tourism destination of choice.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Saving Sarawak’s orang utan


By JAMES RITCHIE

IN the still of the night, the headhunters sneaked up to the longhouse and prepared to attack.

Suddenly a troop of massive primates came out of the forests and headed towards the invaders.

Instead of standing their ground, the warriors fled, mistaking the lumbering creatures for “bearded soldiers” and the village was saved.

This story has been retold many times by the Iban of Banting who have since been sworn friends of the “Man of the Forest” – Sarawak’s orang utan.

But not all of Borneo has been sympathetic to the orang utan's (Pongo Pygmaeus) cause.

Despite their loyalty to humankind, the orang utan soon found their distant cousins were more a foe than a friend.

Excited by the discovery of the “Ape Man” species, anthropologists and scientists went to study the primates estimated to be several-hundred-thousand strong on the island of Borneo, and in the process, thousands of animals were captured or shot.

In 2002, when Wilfred Landong, a descendant of the people of Banting, was appointed general manager of Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation of Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), he was appalled by the fact that the orang utan population in Sarawak had fallen to about 2,000 animals.

“I was three months on the job and on an assignment to Batang Ai when I came across the carcass of a female orang utan beside a river bank. It was a shock for me.

“Apparently, the helpless animal had been shot by poachers.

“It had managed to get away from its assailant and managed to crawl to the riverbank before it died,” he recalled.

From that day on, Wilfred promised himself he would do everything to protect the orang utan and its habitat.

Thanks to the concern of others in authority such as the Sarawak government, the Batang Ai National Park and its adjoining Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Reserve have been set aside for this fast disappearing anthropoid.

“Fortunately, the orang utan incident in Batang Ai was a rare case of illegal hunting. From our investigations, the locals (Iban) revere the orang utan and would not have been involved in the killing. We suspect the perpetrators had come from the other side of the border,” said Wilfred.

A century ago, Sarawak’s orang utan roamed the forests and foraged in the lowlands. But when man intruded into his territory, the conflict started. For subsistence, the natives cleared large tracts of land by felling the primary forests. The fallen trees were in turn burnt to enable the people to plant padi and other crops.

Over the last 100 years, maybe a quarter of the 12 million hectares of forests in Sarawak had gone under the axe and “slash and burn” farming leaving very little tracts of virgin jungle.

With the destruction of the forests, the orang utan left for other regions where there were other sources of food.

Italian naturalist Odoardo Beccari in the book Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo wrote:

“Usually arboreal, they descend at such times to the ground, and, on reaching the padi fields, collect a big sheaf of rice with heavy ripe ears, and holding it under their arms, they get back up on their trees and enjoy their plunder in peace and comfort.

“They do much injury to fruit trees and are especially fond of durians, committing great ravage to the fruits even when unripe. The Dayaks were, therefore, much delighted when we killed them.”

Beccari’s studies found that even in the late 1800s, the majority of the orang utan were found along the Sadong (Ulu Sebuyau) and Batang Lupar (Sri Aman Division) rivers which flow across their sanctuaries. There were also found along the Sarawak River, Bengoh Hills (in the Penrissen mountains) and even in Limbang.

Over the years, man forced the orang utan out of its habitat, and with illegal wildlife trade reaping millions of dollars, the population of the primates began to shrink. Over the last 50 years, logging, agricultural activities and other forms of development have taken their toll.

However, unlike other states in Malaysia, large-scale oil palm estates were opened in Sarawak only recently. Most of the areas cleared for oil palm were native land (land cleared for agricultural purposes for several generations) devoid of the great apes.

Wilfred said: “As far as we know, there are no reports of orang utan found in oil palm estates. In any case, the plantations have never been the natural habitat of the primates.”

He said that Iban folk from Lanjak Entimau and Batang Ai have become protectors of the orang utan.

“For them, it is taboo to capture or kill the orang utan.”

In fact, orang utan in the protected forests of Batang Ai could be increasing in population with the protection accorded to them.

Sarawak has established a legal framework for wildlife protection with the introduction of the Wildlife and Protection Ordinance of 1998. Highly viable areas of orang utan are totally protected.

There is now a centre of excellence for orang utan research at Nanga Delok (Batang Ai) where local and foreign scientists and experts are working closely and exchanging notes to protect the primate.

Wilfred’s deputy, Dick Cotter, said that SFC was making an inventory of orang utan in the 27,275ha proposed Ulu Sebuyau national park.

He said that together with Lanjak Entimau, Batang Ai and Ulu Sebuyau, the orang utans will have a total area of almost 250,000ha to forage in.

“We don’t know what to expect in Ulu Sebuyau. We could find a few orang utan or a few dozen. But we’d be happy if there were more. After all, they are among Malaysia's important mascots,” he said.

Apart from seeking wild orang utans, the corporation's officials take pride in their wildlife sanctuaries of Semenggok and Matang, not far from Kuching.

Semenggok has been rehabilitating and relocating the primates for many years and its current population stands at 32.

The “star” attraction at Semenggok is Ritchie, a 1.37m tall and 90kg male orang utan named after a reporter who “rescued” the six-month-old from an illegal wildlife trader in Batang Ai in 1989.

The young primate (about 45.72cm tall at that time) had been squeezed into a small square cage and hardly had room to move. Apparently, it was on its way to the home of an animal enthusiast.

The has seven animals, either rescued from captivity or hurt, which are undergoing serious rehabilitation. About a dozen animals from the centre have been released into the adjoining Kubah National Park.

Sundai anak Silang, an Iban Master of Science (Wildlife Management) graduate specialising in research, wildlife survey, monitoring and primate study, said in the early 1900s, there was an estimated 200,000 orang utan in Borneo and Sumatra. Now, there is an estimated 27,000 in Borneo (5,000 of the Pongo Abelii species in Sumatra) with about 2,000 in Sarawak.

“They are very shy, elusive and arboreal and spend most of the time in trees. They build four to five nests a day where they rest and their home range is sometimes 1,000ha for the male or from 50ha to 300ha for the female. They mainly eat fruits, insects and occasionally eggs and small vertebrate.”

The orang utan in Ulu Sebuyau thrive in fresh water and peat swamps while others do well in the hill dipterocarp forests of Batang Ai and Lanjak Entimau.

Sundai, also the corporation’s primate expert from Simunjan, said the quest to locate the odd orang utan roaming the vast forests is a continuing effort. He said that protection was a huge challenge because they were highly mobile animals and have a massive home range.

“The home range for a male orang utan is sometimes up to 10 square km while for the female it is smaller between 0.3 to three square km. In the wild, when fruits are abundant, orang utan will stay at the same site until all the fruits are gone. Sometimes they build nests on the fruit trees,” he said.

Sundai has been involved in orang utan research since 2002 with continuous research done in Batang Aia and Lanjak Entimau. The last expedition was during the International Media and Environment Summit in Kuching in November last year.

He added: “What I hope to achieve for the primate is that they continue to exist in their natrural habitat and are well protected. So, everybody should work together to ensure the orang utan will be there for future generations.”

On Dec 27 last year, the corporation's officials were thrilled when they found a huge male orang utan and its pregnant partner near its nest, barely 30m from the Nanga Delok ranger station.

It was an auspicious omen because of the corporation hope that the primate population will increase over the coming years. Orang utan females produce between four to five babies per lifetime (about 40 years in the wild).

It was timely because Geoff Vincent (an Australian who had accompanied Wilfred and other corporation members on official duty) was able to see for himself that the corporation was gaining ground in the battle to save the primates – at least in Sarawak.

“Vincent’s assignment in Nanga Delok was very important – to determine whether Sarawak’s 190,000ha Batang Ai-Lanjak Entimau and Indonesia’s 800,000ha Betung Karihun National Park could be accorded the status of a “Trans-Boundary World Heritage Site” – the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Wilfred.

Vincent was the lead evaluator of a mission on the final assessment of nomination made in 2002.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed. If Lanjak Entimau (and Batang Ai) and Betung Karihun are recognised as a world heritage site, the orang utan will have a place where they will be safe from harm.”

Hopefully, with Sarawak’s efforts, the orang utan will finally have a permanent Shangrila.

Source: The Star

Monday, April 10, 2006

A taste of Sabah via Lepa-Lepa boats


KOTA KINABALU: The Lepa-Lepa boat, long a symbol of the ethnic Sea Bajaus of Sabah’s east coast, will soon be available for rides by tourists and locals.

Five Lepa-Lepa boats at the Dalit beachfront of Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort were officially launched by the resort’s general manager Alain Borgers recently.

The launch was done not with the smashing of a bottle of champagne but with the sprinkling of rice, flowers petals and rose water over the bows of the boats by Borgers.

The boats were provided by the newly-formed Borneo Traditional Adventure Company which will hold new activities on the nearby Tambalang River.

Source: The Star

Tourists expected to pour in for Brunei's Sultan's 60th birthday


By Achong Tanjong

Tourist arrivals in the country is expected to increase in conjunction with His Majesty's 60th birthday celebration this year. Visitors will have the opportunity to witness many grand events lined up for the occasion.

The celebration will complement initiatives to boost tourist arrivals in the country, which recorded encouraging figures last year compared to previous years.

Tourism players including hotels, restaurants and travel agencies are now busy with their promotional packages to attract foreign tourists into the country.

One of the events expected to be a crowd puller is the Brunei Darussalam International Tattoo 2006 (BIT 2006), which is held not only for the benefit of the local audience but also for the thousands of tourists expected to flock in during the celebration.

BIT 2006 is a colourful extravaganza incorporating music and military performances. Over 1,100 military musicians and performers are expected to participate. The three-day show will be held from July 29 till 31 at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Countries expected to participate in the event are host country Brunei Darussalam, Australia, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, as in previous years, there will also be nightly stalls and stage performances showcasing not only modern songs and dances but also traditional Brunei songs and cultural dances throughout each district.

Each of Brunei's four districts have also come up with their own activities to boost arrivals of both foreign and local visitors.

The nightly stalls are a major attraction during the celebration, where visitors can find various items such as handicrafts, souvenirs, local traditional foods and cakes, clothing, materials and much more.

The occasion allows foreign visitors to get a taste of local festivities while witnessing Brunei's celebration style.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Kuching - A city full of history

This famous city landmark is made up of nine frolicking cats.
Picture by and Copyright to PAMELA PHANG KOOI YOONG/The Star



By Pamela Phang Kooi Yoong

"There are lots of museums.” That is what everyone said when they heard we were going to Kuching, Sarawak. They were not wrong; there are no less than seven museums in the city.

“Kuching” means “cat” in Malay. As the city has adopted the feline as its emblem, you will find giant cat statues decorating roundabouts and even a Cat Museum that is a fount of information on cats.

A cat’s nine lives is explained as a derivative of the Egyptian view of the nine elements of oneself. There are exhibits on the many different cats including the Leopard cat, Marble cat, Clouded leopard, Bay cat and civets.

The role of cats in Malaysian society is also touched on.

The Malays believe that it is lucky to keep cats because cats are fond of soft cushions to lie on and so they indirectly wish for their masters to prosper.

The Chinese deem the coming of a strange cat into one’s house to be unlucky, a harbinger of impending poverty.

All the same, in the old days in China, the silk industry needed cats as guards against rats and mice which ate silkworm larvae and their cocoons.

This is a catty museum, all right. Everything related to cats are broached: the reason for cat fights, cat superstitions, the caring and holding of cats. There are also old movie posters relating to felines.

Did you know that they believe the first cat rhyme known to man is probably The Cat and the Fiddle?

The Sarawak Museum meanwhile is an immense white building of blue window sills atop a green hillock. Built in 1891 by Charles Brooke, the building is a copy of the town hall in Normandy in France. The design dates back to the time of Queen Anne.

The exhibits mostly concern the handicrafts of the people of Sarawak – the Ibans, Bidayuh, Kelabit, Penan etc. Their dances, ceremonies, musical instruments, weapons, bamboo and wood products are displayed with interesting explanations.

I liked the outdoor Garden Museum adjacent to the Sarawak Museum. There are magnificent raintrees and garden benches for one to relax here.

The Memorial Tower, with its broad steps, was built in memory of the constabulary and the Malaysian, Briitish and Commonwealth armed forces, as well as civilians who lost their lives in wars past.

Each side of the tower bears the face of a hero, for example, Liu Shanbang who attacked and chased Raja James Brooke out of Astana.

A collection of ornate Chinese tombstones is scattered at the foot of the tower. It would seem the Chinese played a prominent role in f Kuching’s history.

Charles Vyner Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, was sufficiently satisfied as to wish the Chinese managed their own affairs, from marriages and divorce, to division of properties. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of old has today become the Chinese History Museum.

This small, squarish white building of uncomplicated design is essentially a single large hall with polished wood panel flooring and ceiling.

Turned into a museum in 1993, it aims to preserve the hardships and struggles of the pioneering Chinese more than 150 years ago. Almost all the dialects are represented here.

It was commonly held that it was the ambition of every Chinese emigrant to return to his homeland after seeking his fortune abroad.

But this, as you will learn here, more often than not was merely a dream. A Fujien saying has it that out of every 10 people who went abroad, three died, six remained and only one returned.

The Hakkas were the early gold miners, the Hokkiens traders and shopkeepers, the Cantonese artisans and skilled labourers etc.

The individual stories of the early pioneers are also recounted, among them, Lau Chek ( a Cantonese), Ong Ewe Hai (a Hokkien), Liew Sha Peng (a Hakka) etc. Among the exhibits are old photos, wooden chests and cabinets, old porcelain vases and antique furniture.

The other museums in the city are the Timber Museum, Textile Museum, Islamic Museum, Pua Khumbu Museum (traditional cloth craft of the indigenous people) and Costume Museum. W

Addresses

Cat Museum
Kuching North City Hall
Jalan Semariang
o Opens daily from 9am-5pm, but closed on the first day of major festivals. Free entrance.

Sarawak Museum
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg
o Opens daily from 9am-5.30pm, closed on the first day of major festivals. Free entrance.

Chinese Museum
Main Bazaar Road
(near the Tua Pek Kong’ temple)
o Opens daily, closed on the first day of major festivals. Free entrance.

Sarawak Islamic Museum
o Opens daily, except on Friday, from 9am-5.30pm. Free entrance.

Pua Kumbu Museum
4th Floor, Tun Jugah Tower
o Open Monday to Friday, closed on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. Free entrance.

Timber Museum
Wisma Sumber Alam, Petra Jaya
o Open Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday and public holidays. Free entrance.

Source: The Star, Travel & Adventure

Friday, April 07, 2006

Malaysians can visit Brunei by using MyKad end-2006


TUMPAT (Bernama) - Malaysians may be able to use the MyKad to enter Brunei by the end of the year, said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho.

He said agreement on the matter had been reached between the two parties and Malaysians were now allowed to use the frequent traveller's card to enter Brunei without using the international passport.

"The use of the card poses few problems, and implementation is smooth and when the MyKad scanning machine is installed at the entry point into the country, it will be easier to enter and leave Brunei.

"The ministry has also held several discussions to implement a similar concept with Thailand and Indonesia as many Malaysians frequently travel to these countries," he said at a press conference after declaring open the Gee Hiap Thong Chinese Temple at Wakaf Bharu, here today.

Asked to comment on Singapore's refusal to accept Malaysia's proposal to allow Malaysians to use the MyKad to enter Singapore, Tan said the ministry would continue to discuss with Singapore to find the best solution to the problem.

Source: BERNAMA

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sabah Fest 2006 kicks off May 5


Kota Kinabalu: Sabah's annual spectacular diverse reflection of rich cultural heritage featuring a kaleidoscope of cultural performances and activities will back again in the whole of next month.

According to a statement Wednesday, Sabah Fest 2006 will kick off with a grand launching, to be officiated by Head of State Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah at the Magellan Grand Ballroom, Sutera Harbout Resort & Spa, here, on May 5.

Visitors will also get to sample local delicacies, such as kuih-muih, cakes and traditional foods, as well as witness live demonstrations by skilled handicraft makers from the various ethnic groups.

In conjunction with Sabah Fest 2006, exciting and lively daily cultural shows will be performed at shopping complexes here and the Heritage Village of Sabah Museum, from May 6 to 14.

During the period, hotels including Promenade, Beverly, Le Meridian and Hyatt Regency Kinabalu will feature authentic Kadazandusun specialities on top of their international buffet selections.

Further details are available from Susan Shahira, Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd (tel. 088-232121).

Source: Daily Express

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Floating parade planned for National Day in Sarawak


KUALA LUMPUR: A floating parade on a 5km stretch of Sungai Sarawak will be featured in this year’s 49th National Day celebrations to be held in Kuching.

Culture Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who is the organising committee chairman, said the celebrations would tap the rich cultural and natural heritage of the state.

He told a press conference at the Parliament lobby here yesterday that the theme this year would be Rancangan Malaysia Kesembilan Memakmurkan Rakyat (Ninth Malaysia Plan for the People’s Prosperity).

He said the celebrations would kick off in Terengganu in early August.

“Merdeka teams comprising youth groups as well as veterans from the independence era will travel around the country during the period leading up to the national-level celebrations in Sarawak,” he said.

He added that a special committee had been set up to ensure greater involvement by the private sector this year.

Dr Rais also said his ministry would be giving out at least a million flags, including those to be affixed on cars.

Source: The Star

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Royal Brunei Airlines reduces flights to Darwin


By Azaraimy HH

Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) announced yesterday its flight frequencies to Darwin in Australia are going to be reduced from three to two times weekly.

The temporary suspension on Sunday flights from Brunei will take effect on June 4, 2006 and the returning flight on Monday, June 5, until further notice, an RBA press release said.

Prior to that, some flights in April and May are also going to be cancelled.

The affected flights will be BI 177, leaving Bandar Seri Begawan on the Sundays April 23 and 30, and May 7, 21 and 28. The cancelled flights will affect all the returning flights on the next day as well.

RBA said it will advice on the re-instatement of the flights when it comes into force.

"This suspension is only a temporary measure as Australia as a whole is a significant contributor in our network," said the Acting Head of Corporate Communications, Hj Rozman Junaidi said.

Affected passengers are advised to contact Royal Brunei Airlines ticket offices for alternative arrangement, call 2212222 (BSB) or 3333737-9 (KUB), or visit the airline's website at http://www.bruneiair.com/ and travel agents for other available offers.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, April 03, 2006

More attention to tourism: PM

KUANTAN: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Government will give more attention to the tourism industry to enable it to make a bigger contribution to the economy. He said quality tourism activities and improved facilities would attract more tourists to the country.

Besides this, he said, more programmes would be drawn up to attract visitors in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year next year which coincided with the nation's 50th anniversary of independence. "The Federal Government hopes the states will also line up various activities to showcase our 50 years of independence," he said at the launching of the 2006 National Water Festival Month at Taman Esplanade, Sunday.
The event was launched by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail.

Also present were the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Tengku Abdul Rashid, Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, Sultanah Kalsom, Tengku Mahkota Pahang Tengku Abdullah, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and Tourism Minister Datuk Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.
Abdullah said next year would be an important milestone in the nation's history as it would symbolise Malaysia's progress and success as a nation after the era of colonisation.
Source: Bernama