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.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Jazzing it up in Borneo
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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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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2014 to incorporate new elements


KUCHING: New elements will be brought into this year’s 17th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) 2014 at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Damai about 40 km from here.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said there would be an additional stage (theatre stage) for two bands to perform daily in the afternoon.

He said the afternoon performances would be held concurrently with the workshops being held in the various houses at the venue.

The festival is being held from 10 am to 12 pm for three consecutive days from June 20-22.

“A total of 23 bands comprising 16 international and seven Malaysian bands are lined up for the festival,” he told reporters after the launch of MyTeksi app here yesterday.

Rashid said its formula of afternoon informative workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions and mini concerts, which precedes the evening performances on the main stage, would continue.

The festival is organised by STB and supported by the Sarawak Tourism Ministry and federal Tourism Ministry besides being endorsed by Tourism Malaysia.

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Over 100 teams for Sabah dragon boat race


KOTA KINABALU: Over 100 local and international teams are expected to participate in the first Sabah FCAS International Dragon Boat Race 2014 at Likas Bay on June 7-8.

Head of State Tun Juhar Mahiruddin will also grace the occasion on June 8 as the guest of honour.

Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) president Dato’ Sri Dr T.C. Goh said 94 teams have confirmed their participation, which exceeded the 75 number of participation in the previous dragon boat race last year.

“We expect seven more teams to register. We are confident that our international dragon boat race will exceed 100 teams,” he said in a press conference here yesterday.

Of the 94 teams, 13 are international participants who come from Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia.

Asked why there was no participation from China, Goh said it was due to time constraint as the federation was only given two months to organize the event upon its appointment as the race organizer by the State Government in March this year.

Nevertheless, he said FCAS would invite dragon boat teams from China to participate in the race next year, which was tentatively set on June 13-14, 2015, subject to confirmation.

He said the lack of participation from China was not due to the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.

In addition, Goh confirmed that the first Sabah FCAS International Dragon Boat Race 2014 scheduled to be held on June 7-8 this year would take place as announced earlier.

He was responding to Sabah Chinese Cultural Association’s (SCCA) statement that the 29th Sabah Dragon Boat Race that was supposed to be held at Likas Bay on June 7-8 this year has been cancelled.

In the statement issued on Monday, SCCA apologized for the cancellation of the 29th Sabah Dragon Boat Race, which the association had initiated and organized for the past 28 years since 1986.

SCCA said the State Government had proposed to co-organize the dragon boat race with the association in 1990 to promote mutual understanding and tolerance among different races, and the State Government had agreed to bear all expenses.

Since then, the event has been co-organized by SCCA, Youth and Sports Ministry and the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry until 2013.

According to media reports, the State Cabinet had accepted the proposal by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry on March 12 this year to appoint FCAS to organize the dragon boat race.

SCCA contended that they had not been consulted when FCAS passed a resolution to apply for the organizing rights of the dragon boat race from the State Government on June 30 last year, nor was SCCA informed when the assets of the race, including dragon boats, were handed to FCAS on March 31 this year.

In response to this, Goh said the organizer had received a number of calls asking if the dragon boat race has been cancelled.

“The first Sabah FCAS International Dragon Boat Race 2014 on June 7-8 has never been cancelled and we are here to confirm that no less than 100 teams will be participating in the race,” he said.

He reiterated that FCAS was appointed by the State Government to organize the dragon boat race and the federation had named the event as the first Sabah FCAS International Dragon Boat Race 2014.

“Those who appointed us also handed us dragon boats, life jackets, paddles as well as gave us full support in terms of financial and manpower,” said Goh.

The assets received from Sabah Tourism Board (STB) included 20 units of dragon boats, 20 units of drums, 400 pieces of life jackets, 400 pieces of paddles, 20 pieces of steerer oars, 20 dragon heads, 20 dragon tails and 20 IDBF licences for the dragon boats, all of which amounted to RM684,000.

Although the assets were purchased by the State Government, SCCA argued that they ‘belonged’ to the Sabah Dragon Boat Race Committee, and thus should not be handed over to a third party at discretion.

To this, Goh said the assets were handed over to the federation by STB but it was not the federation’s responsibility as to where STB obtained the assets.

On the safety aspect, Goh assured that all dragon boats, paddles and life jackets were kept by a contractor with licence for ship building.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Over 100 teams for Sabah dragon boat race
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A gem in the Borneo jungle


Jungle presses in on both sides. A one-metre python dangles from a branch like a lost scarf awaiting its owner's return. We watch for 10 minutes. The snake watches us watching it.

It suddenly uncoils its powerful body, slithering languidly from view, deeper into the dense Borneo jungle. Tropical ferns and vines glisten moistly, reminding me of a deafening downpour ending moments before this boardwalk stroll began. Our destination: Deer Cave, the most visited diversion in Gunung Mulu National Park. A World Heritage site, the park attracts holidaymakers to Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.

There are three ways to reach this remote gem. The easy way in, chosen by almost all tourists, is by air (with several half-hour flights each day from Miri, a modern and mid-sized city).

Two alternatives are undeniably memorable: jungle river ferries - the preference of some backpackers - or a challenging land-and-water route for the fit and intrepid, combining four-wheel-drives along former logging trails with hiking and river boats.

From a treetop-level bird "hide" - for discreet observation of avian life - I gaze upon a stunningly beautiful jungle backdrop. A big-beaked hornbill, a member of one of the park's eight hornbill species, sits on a nearby tree branch. Sarawak terms itself "land of the hornbills", with these strange-looking creatures plentiful in the park.

I wander along a 480m jungle canopy walkway, which park officials call earth's longest tree-based crossing.

The rainforest and its rivers support an array of wildlife: bearded pigs, pangolins, crocodiles, squirrels, sun bears, barking deer (and other antelope types).

Next day, I sample a chunk of Head Hunter's Trail, one of many hiking trails and named for a long-gone custom of beheading enemies. In the evening, a night cruise up the Melinau River has guides identifying insects, frogs and nocturnal birds.

But what attracts most visitors is a collection of caves. This 52,000ha reserve is pockmarked by spectacular cavities - including Sarawak Chamber, the world's largest cave, which boasts an interior so cavernous that 40 jumbo jets could park inside.

But here's the catch. The Sarawak Chamber is one of several hard-to-get-to "wild caves" without lighting or pathways.

Park authorities admit only those proving they're experienced cavers (sometimes with letters from foreign caving clubs) and agreeing to be accompanied by guides. Gruelling hikes often precede visits to "wild caves" with narrow crevices and tunnels.

Four so-called "show caves" are an altogether tamer - and more popular - diversion. Exploring is eased by boardwalks and lighting.

That's why I find myself on one boardwalk, traipsing through the Borneo jungle to Deer Cave, by far the most visited, where I transfer to another and venture inside.

Continue reading at: A gem in the Borneo jungle
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Conservation strong part of Sarawak’s tourism industry


KUCHING: Conservation of Sarawak’s rich biodiversity and culture is a strong part of the state’s tourism industry.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said the state is blessed with a heritage of nature, with many unique places still inaccessible.

“This is the state’s niche tourism and we hope to maintain some of these elements for future generations of tourists, so at the moment, we are not rushing to capitalise on tourism in a mass market way,” he told a press conference after launching the second segment of Aeromeet 2014 yesterday.

He pointed out that programmes such as the Rainforest World Music Festival are part of the state’s efforts to preserve traditional music, especially the Orang Ulu sape.

“We also have the orang-utan conservation programme and turtle conservation programme. For the turtle conservation programme, the release of turtles is an experience and definitely has to be for high-end tourists due to its limited accessibility.

“Sarawak is where adventure becomes a position with the elements of culture and nature so we do not want to claim to be the best shopping paradise but tourists can shop for native handicrafts, which is something a little bit different,” he said.

On Scandinavian tourist arrivals, Rashid said the number has been growing over the last three years by around 25 per cent annually.

“I believe Scandinavian visitors look for something that we have to offer given the growth. We offer nature for those who love the greenery and active outdoor activities.

“I also believe that most Scandinavians, Australians and Americans like active outdoor activities like canoeing in rivers and family activities where their children will learn about nature,” he said.

On Australian tourist arrivals, Rashid said it was “not big in number” at an average of around 5,000, but growing at an average of 5 per cent per annum.

“I think one of the challenges of marketing Sarawak is also about air accessibility. So they can go through two airport hubs to arrive in Sarawak, either through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Changi Airport.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse - Not all lost to modernisation


SOME are related, some are not but they all share a common lifestyle at a countryside longhouse.

The families live side by side at the settlement set up about three centuries ago, and grow crops.

At Annah Rais, there are two traditional longhouses raised on belian posts and are home to about 80 families of the same clan.

One is called Batang Sijo (upstream row), about 150 feet long and 50 feet wide, and the other, Batang Saba (downstream row), about 100 feet long and 50 feet wide.

The floor of the longhouse verandah (or tanju in Bidayuh dialect) is made of about threeinch wide strips split from large bamboo, and belian planks about eight inches wide.

The nearly fl at bamboo strips are tied down firmly with rattan or lianas or woody vines to either the woody or bamboo joists beneath, making the fl oor delightful to walk on – even barefoot.

In fact, the rounded surface of the bamboo, being smooth, is quite agreeable to the feet, at the same time, affording a firm hold.

Putting a rattan mat over the floor can make for an excellent bed as the elasticity of the bamboo and its rounded surface are superior to a flatter and more rigid floor.

The bamboo-strips floor, both in the open and sheltered verandah, could have been at the longhouse for a year or two already.

Constant rubbing of the feet has made some of the bamboo strips and woods dark and polished like walnuts – so much so that the original material sometimes can hardly be recognised.

Bamboo strips kept under the roof may last up to two years.

The longhouse rooms are quite simple – equipped with a kitchen, dining and sleeping areas.

The attic may be used to store handicrafts like the tambok, a basket strapped to a carrier’s back and used to carry produce, and rattan mats.

“Annah Rais longhouse is the oldest Bidayuh longhouse in Sarawak – about 300 years old,” said Edward Kurik, who claimed to be the ninth generation of the longhouse dwellers.

He said centuries ago, the traditional longhouse structures were tied with rattan, woody vines or creeper fibres and roofed with sago leaves.

As time went by, renovations were carried out, resulting in some changes to the materials, especially for the roofs, he added.

Sago leaves can last five to six years.

As they are considered not long-lasting, constant maintenance is necessary after their lifespan.

Nowadays, metal roofing materials – zinc and aluminium – are occasionally used for repairs.

The main pillars, forming the basic structure of the Annah Rais longhouse, are made of belian.

The pillars have withstood the ravages of time, remaining strong till today – and can be expected to last hundreds of years more.

Looking at the belian posts and other wooden structures, which have stood for centuries, one can’t help but marvel at the high level of construction skills involved, considering axes and parang were only the tools used back then.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Borneo Rainforest Lodge


From the Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort in Kota Kinabalu and a stopover at The Crown Hotel near the air­port, we headed via Malaysia Air­lines to Lahad Datu. A 4:30am wake-up call roused us, though we were half-awake already, the whirr of the pathetic air-con keeping us conscious. On the complimentary airport shuttle we shared stories with a rig worker from Louisiana making his way to Miri, he’d been travelling most of his life and his accent was thick; layered with the histories of places I’ll never know.

Lahad Datu is a small town in the east of Sabah. Our flight (the plane had pro­pellers) touched down at 7:30am at what can be described as a small concrete hut, not unlike a backwater railway station. J from Borneo Adventure Tours was there to meet us, six of us in all; Dar­ren and Emma from Guernsey, Jamie and Ed — medics from the UK, and Saman­tha and I.

The journey to Borneo Rainforest Lodge isn’t quick. From Lahad Datu it’s a 2h30 drive into the rainforest on a gravel road that disintegrates a little with every fork. On entering the Danum Valley conservation area a sign reads: “Rainforest Lodge 77km”. From thereon the route is lined with nothing but thick jungle foliage, which we rigorously scanned for signs of life. Months old elephant poo was scattered across the road, and the occasional eagle or oriental dart flew overhead. A wild boar, yellow skinned, did run out in front of us, while a mysterious dark eagle sat in a tree watching, but otherwise the journey was uneventful.

“Selamat datang ke Borneo Rainforest Lodge”, a wooden sign welcomed us. Two women in luminous orange shirts placed pandanus wreaths over our heads and ushered us upstairs (shoes off) for a cool lemon­grass and ginger welcome drink. The lodge is a beautiful high-ceilinged wooden building; dark wood panels on the walls, and spacious wooden floors dotted with comfy sofas. Fans spin in the rooftops and great lamps hang down into the bar.

At the back a veranda opens up to a view of Danum river, lined with tables where we’d dine for break­fast, lunch and dinner (all included). The ground floor is paved, there’s a small shop (where you buy essential bright green leech socks), reception desk and a presentation room. And of course there’s the boot-rack — where all the muddy leech-laden footwear comes to rest after a sweaty trek.

From the lodge we were shown to our room, along a raised wooden walk-way to Deluxe 15, a chalet with a river view and an out­door bath. There’s no air-conditioning, but you don’t need it. Despite the humidity and heat, the eco-friendly design of the building circulates air efficiently, pulling up cool air from beneath, and venting out hot from the roof — we were always comfortable. There’s little glass, instead air is allowed to circulate through the gaps where you’d expect windows, a tight mesh keeps out the bugs.

The room is effectively open to the unrelenting but wonderful smells and sounds of the jungle. At night the chirps of the leafhoppers, squeaks of the geckos, croaks of the frogs and distant howling of gibbons layer to form your midnight lullaby. From our room I watched a deer and her calf carefully cross the river, keep­ing a watchful eye-out for would-be predators.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo Rainforest Lodge
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sarawak's marine ecosystems - Conserving denizens of the deep


SARAWAK boasts some of the most biologically diverse coastal and sea eco-systems in the world.

The largest state in Malaysia, it has a coastline stretching some 1,035km along the northwest coast of Borneo.

Sarawak’s seas and coasts encompass a variety of habitat types, from silt-dominated benthic environments to large areas of coral reefs patches.

These habitats vary from inshore to offshore and from southwest to northeast.

Of these, mangroves, sea grass and coral reefs are the most important marine ecosystems because they provide feeding, breeding and nursery grounds for marine fishes, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates.

Marine life also play their significant ecological roles in the marine ecosystems.

The state’s coasts and seas are also home to whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine flora and fauna but yet, some of the areas are almost entirely unprotected, except for small areas around the national parks.

Aside from that, Sarawak waters are also inhabited by critically endangered painted terrapins and other endangered marine creatures such as the four species of marine turtles, 15 species of marine mammals, sea horses and whale sharks.

Like anywhere else, commercial fishing techniques are wreaking havoc on the state’s delicate and biologically diverse area and its marine inhabitants, and if urgent and drastic actions are not taken immediately, the state will lose this treasure forever.

To protect Sarawak’s seas and coasts, some portions have to be left alone. That’s where marine reserves come into the picture.

A marine reserve is like putting a giant Do Not Disturb sign around an area of the seas and coasts.

These protected areas are very important to the future of our seas and coasts — giving wildlife a safe haven.

Many countries and organisations have been working on marine conservation.

And in an effort to protect some of its endangered marine species, the state government implemented the Wild Life Protection Ordinance in 1998.

The Ordinance stated that all species of marine turtles, marine mammals (whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs) and painted terrapins are listed as totally protected animals while corals (soft and hard corals) and other species listed in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendices are protected.

The state government is also committed to ensuring that some of its marine biodiversity is maintained in a healthy state, and an important tool for this is marine parks.

To ensure the protection and conservation of marine ecosystems and that no species are ever left behind, Sarawak has implemented a broad programme for marine biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

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Miri boasts exotic native cuisine


VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR 2014 is a national multi-million ringgit campaign to woo foreign tourists from near and far to our exotic, culturally rich and beautiful shore.

Tourism is one of the nation’s best industries.With several thousand visitors expected in Miri and also onward to Mulu this year, perhaps it’s time to ponder on Sarawak native cuisine, particularly in Miri.

Magdalene Kong, a frequent west Malaysian visitor to Miri, is happy to note there are now more locally-operated eateries.

“I normally come to Miri to enjoy food like midin cooked with belacan, a good fish like tapah braised in soy sauce and brown beans, seafood and perhaps some authentic native dishes.

“I have eaten some fantastic food cooked in bamboo while visiting longhouses during my two Gawai trips. They were fabulous,” she said.

She thoroughly enjoyed her back-packing journeys into the interior where she ate organic ferns and rare fruits.

This satiated her thirst for knowledge “never before known to the outside world” – like unknown foods of the equatorial rainforest.

She is particularly excited about glutinous rice cooked in pitcher plants which she even packed to take home when she last in Sirikin.

Some travellers have blogged about their journeys in Sarawak and, indeed, exhorted the special delicacies of the jungle like rare mushrooms, fungi, honey and fish.

Questions have arisen even among Sarawakians who have not tasted fish like empurau, semah, tapah or birds like wild Sarawak chicken or pheasants.

And Sarawakian urbanites have also asked: “What are the indigenous staple dishes? Do the natives eat a lot of chillies? How are vegetables cooked in the interior? Can native dishes be found in hotels and restaurants?”

In Sarawak, we use the terms native, indigenous and ethnic rather loosely.

Native and indigenous would be closer in meaning. The two words refer to those originating from Sarawak.

Ethnic would mean sub-tribe or sub-group based on culture, language and other anthropological identities.

First, we need to identify some essential staple foods of Sarawak natives like the Ibans and Orang Ulus.

These would be maize, upland rice, pumpkins and yams planted interdependently. Maize is grown almost at the same time as padi while pumpkins around the tilled rice and maize fields. Yams are also grown on the peripherals of padi farms.

The natives fish in all the rivers and their tributaries. Semah, ikan keli, baong, empuarah, prawns, river turtles are what they can catch.

The jungles yield mushrooms, fruits, meat from deer, wild boars and even bears. Birds can be shot with blowpipes. Guns are not often used because cartridges are beyond the means of many indigenous people.

Originally, the natives were food foragers. Today, many exotic and even native wild fruits are still available. The more common ones are durians, dabai, langsat, rambai, engkili, buah ma, rambutans, isu, lutong, pinang, engkala, pedada, meram (asam paya), illipenut or engkabang and pulor.

Many natives still enjoy going into the jungle during the holidays or fruiting season to forage for these fruits which are all part of their diet. There are many more rare and exotic wild fruits like the angled tampoi or the equatorial figs. The list is really long.

When foraging for food –  both fruits and meat – in the forests since moving to Ulu Limbang in the 1920’s, the late Jiram Pengiran (who lived up to 93) would look for empidan (now listed as an endangered species) and a certain type of tree ants among other wild vegetables and fruits.

He used to say to his children and grandchildren: “Empidan is the best jungle chicken one can get. There were plenty in the 1930’s.”

He caught three or four a few years ago and encouraged his grandson Sebastian Kudi to breed the jungle fowl. It was a successful effort.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Miri boasts exotic native cuisine
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Monkeys and Mountains in Northern Borneo


When people think of Borneo they usually think sprawling rainforest and amazing wildlife, not the highest mountain in South East Asia. For some reason though Danielle, my partner, thought the latter and we booked to climb Mount Kinabalu for what should have been the romantic New Year’s Eve to end them all. We also booked a little bit of the former as well with a three day camp at Uncle Tans wildlife camp.

Borneo, the largest island in Asia (and the third largest in the world), is divided up amongst three counties; Brunei and Malaysia to the North, Indonesia to the South. The country was actually once part of the British empire and you can see the British influence in the three pin plug sockets which were a welcome sight for us and our tangle of iPad, Camera and other assorted chargers and plugs.

We flew in it Kota Kinabalu to start our trip, Kota being the capital of the Northern region of Sabah where we spent all of our time. Although it’s nothing to write home about, it’s still worth a visit for a night on your way through to somewhere else. Check out the cool Sunday Market which closes down one of the main streets for the morning and also go to the Signal Hill Observatory from which you can look out over the whole city and various islands. The night market is a great choice for food, buying a whole fresh fish from a local fisherman and taking it to a food stall to have it cooked with various other delicacies is an experience in itself as well as a delicious meal.

Although information is scarce on this (even on the interwebs), minibuses depart regularly from the central bus station to Kota Kinabalu National Park, the home of Mount Kinabalu, for around $5 each way. Get there early though as once they’re full they’re gone; we were there for 8am and departed with the last minibus by 9am. The luxury buses are slightly more expensive and go from the main terminal a few km out of the town, most hotels will arrange tickets and the tuktuk there.

Mount Kinabalu, not just a walk in the park

Mount Kinabalu stands at just over 4000 meters but for some reason (mainly a lack of any real research) we thought it would be a nice gently sloping climb. As soon as we arrived at the national park to check in to our accommodation we saw what we were up against; gently sloping it was not.

There is a range of accommodation and tour operators with which to book, the secret however is that all accommodation in the national park is provided through Sutera Sanctuary lodges and you can contact them directly for the best rates. Prices range from RM100 to RM1000 per night at the bottom of the mountain, and RM350 to RM3600 per night at the top. We went for the basic packages as we were on a budget but we saw some of the nicer accommodation at the bottom and it certainly had the feel of a luxury resort about it.

Whilst the budget accommodation at the top of the mountain was extremely basic with bunk beds and no hot water (you only really stay for a few hours sleep though before the 2am start) the bottom was actually quite nice for the amount we paid. As part of the package, food is provided via a buffet dinner the evening before the climb, breakfast the morning before, a packed lunch for during the climb, a buffet dinner after day one climb, buffet snacks before day two climb, buffet breakfast after the climb and then another buffet lunch when you get down. Phew! Basically you get fed a lot and although the mountain top food is pretty average (you can see why when the only way to get food up there is on the back of mountain sherpas) the food at the bottom was fantastic with a range of curries and a decent breakfast including fresh cooked omelettes.

Day one starts by paying 80RM for a guide, 30RM climbing permit fee, 14RM insurance fee, 10RM certificate fee, 10RM trail fee to the gate and 10RM storage fee if you need to leave any bags at the bottom (it’s 80RM if you need a porter to bring anything up to 10kg up with you so I’d suggest storing it and bringing a light backpack with a change if warm clothes and any other essentials). It can feel like you’re paying for something every time you turn around, especially as you are shepherded to various windows throughout the process; to be fair most of these fees are pointed out at the time of booking but it’s easy to forget such things when you have to book months in advance to secure a permit.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Monkeys and Mountains in Northern Borneo
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Borneo Jazz 2014: The Magic Continues


Borneo Jazz 2014 rounded off another successful year as the festival came to an end last Saturday night. The festival was held at its distinctive location by the beach at ParkCity Everly Hotel, on May 9-10, 2014.

At a press conference earlier on Friday, artistic director Yeoh Jun Lin mentioned that this year’s flavor was vocals. “With Anthony Strong, contemporary jazz singer-pianist; Vocal Sampling, a Cuban a-cappella group; Diana Liu, vocal pride of Sarawak; Junk o Func featuring vocal powerhouses Elvira Arul and Russell Curtis; and Iriao of Georgia with enchanting folk voices, this edition of Borneo Jazz promises a rich blend of vocals,” she told the press on Friday.

Pre-festival press conferences were held with an air of expectation. Perhaps the smaller scale of the festival, as compared to other jazz festivals in the region such as the Java Jazz and Penang Jazz, lends a little more room for experimentation with performer line-ups.

With the announcing of line-ups every year, the pre-festival season would involve a certain amount of imagination by festival organizers and enthusiasts alike if the line-up would leave a mark worth remembering.

Friday night came to a start with Sarawakian Diana Liu taking centre stage. Backed up by Malaysian drummer giant Lewis Pragasam behind the kit, she delighted the crowd with her flawless vocals. In her set-list were originals from her album, including crowd favorite “Sunny Days.” Following her act was Mario Canonge from Martinique. Accompanied by his band, Canonge played Latin syncopated rhythms on the piano.

Next was Junk o Func, which brought up the mood of the festival another notch. They certainly seized the show for Friday night as front-men Elvira Arul and Russell Curtis entertained the crowd with their punchy, gospel-influenced vocals and playful banter.

Capping off the night was Vocal Sampling, using their voices to imitate musical instruments and Cuban sounds. Their gracing the stage marked the third consecutive year for an a-cappella group to hit Borneo Jazz, ever since the success of Slixs in 2012.

Saturday night saw a crowd number reminiscent of 2010 festival days when the James Cotton Blues Band and Michael Shrieve had hit the shores of Borneo. Perhaps the word got out that UK’s top upcoming retro-contemporary jazz musician was in town.

Anthony Strong arrived with a head-turning portfolio of having played alongside BB King and being compared to Michael Buble and Jamie Cullum. He won over the crowd by his sheer class in performance and classic British wit, and was simply a joy to watch. He performed tunes off his album “Stepping Out,” such as “Too Darn Hot,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “My Ship.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo Jazz 2014: The Magic Continues
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Preserve tourism potential areas in Kudat


KUDAT: Minister of Special Tasks Datuk Teo Chee Kang has impressed on the Kudat local authority to preserve and reserve areas with tourism potentials strictly for tourism, including the turtle nesting grounds such as Bawang Jamal, Pantai Kelambu and Bak-Bak areas.

Teo, who is also Tanjung Kapor assemblyman, has received reports from the Kudat Turtles Conservation Society that turtles have been sighted in the Kudat waters, some were found to have come ashore to lay eggs.

Accordingly, Teo is requesting for the local authority to preserve and reserve the areas strictly for tourism, including the turtle nesting grounds.

In addition, he said the Kudat Tourism Development Council had designated the seas near Kampung Tampakan for aquaculture development.

Teo said this during his visit to Kudat to inspect several sites, including an aquaculture farm, Kampung Bak Bak and Sidek Esplanade jetty last weekend.

Teo said he was also concerned with reports that some villagers have erected huts and fence in the waters near Bak-Bak for sea cucumber farming.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Sea turtle conservation urgently needed in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: With the recent reports of 60 dead turtles found in waters off Kudat as well as the four turtle carcasses found in Semporna and the two dead turtles found off Labuan, sea turtle conservation is urgently needed, now more than ever.

“Sea turtles are Sabah’s icon and we hope we can all work together to conserve this precious protected species,” said Universiti Malaysia Sabah in a statement.

In this regard, UMS is co-organising a follow-up workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation on Mabul Island on May 14, in conjunction with the ‘Mabul World Turtle Day 2014’ celebration from May 12-15 this year.

The organisers said in a statement that UMS commenced research on sea turtles in Sabah in 1998.

The most recent project conducted was the celebration of ‘Mabul Turtle Day 2013’ on May 22-24 last year which was co-organised by UMS together with several Sabah and federal government agencies, the private sector and voluntary organizations.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

East Kalimantan quartet to perform at Borneo Jazz Festival


KUCHING: YK Samarinda is an ethnic jazz band from East Kalimantan who started out as a fusion jazz band and eventually made and combined ethnic songs of Kalimantan in jazz rhythm.

They will be performing at the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 on Saturday, May 10 in Miri.

The YK Band is a quartet from Samarinda whose music is a unique blend of Indonesian Borneo tunes built into western jazz techniques and improvisation.

Yusuf and King formed the band in 2003 when they established some projects of ethnic songs.

In 2005, the keyboardist and studio arranger Yin, joined the group followed by Avant, Thrash Metal’s drummer.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Kuching, Borneo - General Impressions


Kuching is the capital of Sarawak, the other Malaysian province on the island of Borneo besides Sabah.  The country of Brunei lies between the two on the coast, although the two Malaysian federation states border behind the small nation in the back as well as both bordering on Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.  Kuching is the cultural capital of the northern part of the island, and is a delightful city with a lively modern riverwalk and fascinating modern architecture.

It is called the City of Cats and cat sculptures are placed in strategic locations around the downtown area.  While Miri’s waterfront wasn’t developed and Kota Kinabalu’s was a working harbor, Kuching’s is for pure enjoyment.  River taxis and tourist boats ply the waterways taking people from the market area to the park by the multi-leveled round roofed legislative building.  At night the buildings and the river are lit creating a dream-like atmosphere. People come to stroll along the boardwalk to enjoy the local musicians, some singing Elvis Presley songs from the early 60s and others performing on indigenous instruments like the Sabe, to taste some of the dishes from local vendors or to shoot twirly umbrellas up into the star-filled sky and watch the blue spokes float back down to earth. 

Kuching is also home to Chinese temples and the Sarawak Museum.  As it lies in a basin very near to a number of national parks, it makes a perfect base for a variety of activities.  Sarawak has 12 National Parks and 32 Wildlife Sanctuaries. Most of the wildlife sanctuaries are closed to the public, but are available to those who want to do research.  While there were far too many activities to undertake in the region, we concentrated on one national park, Bako, and one wildlife center, Semmengoh in addition to the Cultural Village and Museum.

Kuching has the typical Malaysian cultural mix of ethnic groups with their own sections of town.  The Chinese live in the south of the city, while the Malay are in the north. When one looks at the surface, all seems to be harmonious, as it looked in KL.  The Malaysian government has a massive, and very effective to the uninitiated, P.R. campaign going on promoting the country’s rich religious diversity in the media and on stage.

Behind the scenes, however, it is a distinctly Islamic country.  People in the rural communities who do not belong to any official religious institution, as they are animists, are classified as Muslim on their ID cards. Everyone needs to say what religion they are and that is clearly identified on their IDs.  Sometimes the government makes a mistake, such as with our driver who is actually a Christian but his ID said he was Muslim.  He had to go through all kinds of bureaucratic hoops to get it changed.  His father, who still lives in the Iban longhouse near the Kalimantan border, has an ID that mistakenly classifies him as Muslim and has the wrong birth year on it, but as he is a “villager” it supposedly doesn’t matter that the information (& therefore the census) is incorrect.

We were told there is a distinct advantage to being Muslim, which extends to admission to the university, to obtaining a government (= well-paying) job, to getting loans.

Malaysia has a National Service that is based on a lottery like basis.  When called up they serve for three months during which time the young men (women are not involved) are required to attend mosque or church services and pray.  Those who have no religion are punished and if they refuse to serve in the army they can be imprisoned or, at the very least, heavily fined.

An example of the preference for Islam over other religions in this officially tolerant secular state was what happened to a local hero.  Dakat (sp?) was a title given to a famous Malaysian Muslim seafarer by the government to honor his many global expeditions and service to the country.  The story I heard was that when he was caught in a storm he saw a vision of Jesus.  In some of his normal speaking engagements, he spoke about the experience, which did not sit well with the Islamic oriented government in Kuala Lumpur. He was stripped of his title, and eventually had to move to Singapore.  Singapore is an independent city-state which split from the Malaysian Federation two years after its formation.

Federation of Malaysia is a officially a secular government.  Malaysia gained independence from Britain on Sept. 16,1963. Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore agreed to join the Federation based on a promise that their lands and culture would be preserved.  Even today West Malaysians (those from the mainland peninsula) can only stay in Sarawak or Sabah for 30 days and they aren’t allowed to purchase land unless it is in cooperation with a local, which is the same policy as with all non-Malaysians. 

At airport security non Borneo-Malaysians are treated like foreigners, and the check points function as if Borneo were a separate nation. The two Borneo provinces joined the Malaysian Federation because otherwise Sabah would have been given to the Philippines (which is the reason behind some of the terrorist activity today in the NE part of the territory), and Sarawak was supposed to join Indonesia. They didn’t want this as at that time Sukarno, the dictator, was in power; going with Malaysia seemed by far the better alternative as they weren’t going to be allowed self-rule.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kuching, Borneo - General Impressions
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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Meeting orangutans in Borneo


Orangutans in The rainforest is still, when suddenly, a branch snaps. The crowd gasps. It's 10.12am, and feeding time at Sepilok rehabilitation centre in Borneo. On a wooden platform, a jungle breakfast of banana, papaya and bamboo shoots has been laid out.

And our first auburn-haired visitor, round-bellied Gellison, is about to enter from the forest, stage right.

Aged four, Gellison is still a child. When he first came to the sanctuary, the largest in the world for orphaned orangutans (rescued from plantations, or homes where they were kept as pets), he preferred rolling in the mud to climbing. Now he is discovering how to fend for himself in the 45 sq km reserve, with the fallback of one guaranteed meal a day.

The rangers hope he'll eventually stop coming for food, and will be ready to be released into the wild.

And at this centre in Borneo, one of two remaining natural habitats in the world for orangutans (the other is in Sumatra), there's a guarantee for humans, too: a rare sighting of the little orange man.

With a daily human audience, there's naturally a bit of showmanship (Chiquita, the resident diva, is said to blow kisses at her admirers) but the centre is much more than a glorified zoo. As our guide explains, our three-day wildlife tour of Borneo has started here because this may be the closest encounter we get with an uncaged orangutan.

But I'm hoping it won't be the only one. For the rest of our trip we're staying by the Kinabatangan river, with a 560km floodplain that's estimated to have the largest concentration of wildlife in Malaysia (of which this corner of Borneo is part).

The area is only accessible by boat, a bumpy two-hour trip from Sandakan on Borneo's east coast to the village of Sukau and its Rainforest Lodge – as good an example of rustic luxury as I've seen.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Meeting orangutans in Borneo
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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Ride the waves at the Tip Of Borneo


Kudat is making a name as a surfer’s paradise, writes Olivia Miwil

FOR the last three years, surfers have been making their way to the Tip of Borneo to ride the waves.

By word of mouth, the reputation of Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in Kudat, at the northernmost tip of Borneo, has grown and things are looking up.

Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is already a popular tourist destination because of its location at the top of the Sabah map and its annual Sunset Orchestra which has attracted many visitors over the years.

LESS CROWDED

Tapping into its potential is a band of enthusiasts who foresees the area becoming a surfers’ paradise. Surfer Ivan Tan has set up a company to promote the water sport activity at the beach located 200km from Kota Kinabalu, a three-hour drive or 30-minute flight to Kudat.

“The waves roll from about 1.5m to 2.5m high and that’s good enough for beginners to learn and for the more experienced to enjoy a good surf. The beach here is less crowded compared to those in Tanjung Aru and Likas in Kota Kinabalu and Tuaran which allows more space for surfers to glide around,” he says.

Tan says surfers are willing to travel far and wide to find a good beach to hit the waves. But for the enthusiast from Kota Kinabalu, Simpang Mengayau is his personal pick, the very reason why he decided to set up Deep Borneo Adventures four years ago.

The feedback he gets from those who have surfed at the Tip, which is also the point where South China Sea and Sulu Sea meet, is that the waves and its surrounding are ideal especially during the monsoon.

“The best time is during the south-western monsoon from June to August and north-eastern monsoon from November to February,” Tan adds.

Seasoned surfers often make their own arrangements to get to Simpang Mengayau. However, for the novice, it’s advisable to go through experts and seasoned surfers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Ride the waves at the Tip Of Borneo
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Friday, May 02, 2014

Kaamatan celebration launched


KOTA MARUDU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman has called on the people to make use of the Kaamatan festive month to promote peace and strengthen racial ties.

Officiating at the launch of State level Kaamatan here, he said all Sabahans should take the opportunity to join their brothers and sisters from the Kadazan Dusun Murut (KDM) Community not just to celebrate the one-month long Harvest Festival but also spread cultural harmony.

“Every one must take this event as a platform to better understand each other so that they could better protect the racial harmony that has long been nurtured among different ethnic groups in Sabah.

“Like other cultural events, Kaamatan is relevant and vital to nurture understanding as well as respect for one’s culture and belief,” he said, adding that the State Government would continue to support cultural events for this purpose.

Thousands of people from far and near thronged Kota Marudu yesterday to join their state leaders in welcoming the annual May Harvest Festival.

Among those present included Deputy Chief Minister and Huguan Siou (paramount leader of the KDM community) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister cum Kota Marudu MP Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Maximus Ongkili.

The Chief Minister said the State Government had agreed to rotate the hosting of Kaamatan’s opening between all districts to allow people from across the State to have the highly anticipated event at their home town.

He added this was also to encourage all Sabah leaders to go to the ground and meet the people.

Continue reading at: Kaamatan celebration launched
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Borneo Jazz ready to blast


Malaysia’s well-known DJ Roundhead has been added to the Borneo Jazz main programme performing both nights, 9 and 10 May.

The 9th edition of Borneo Jazz will dedicate a special DJ slot right after the main stage show each night held at the Pavilion, ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak.

Crowned as the ‘Malaysia DJ Champion’ three years in a row when he entered the Malaysian DJ Championship competition from 1995 to 1997, DJ Roundhead has recorded a long history in the Malaysian music industry with accumulation of at least 20 years performing as a DJ.

Among the best moment in his artistic career is representing Malaysia in the Rotterdam Love Parade in the Netherlands for a crowd of 10,000 strong on a 34 wheel trailer, while proudly flying the Malaysian flag in front of his console.

He also has served as a DJ residency in Melbourne, Australia for a year before returning to Malaysia and currently attached fulltime to TraxxFM in Kuala Lumpur.

Roundhead was the producer, composer and the song writer for Malaysia’s very first techno group Asian Tech for Sony Music Malaysia in 1994.

DJ Roundhead is welcoming his fans and festival goers to Miri next weekend to celebrate the Borneo Jazz.

“You have already gotten tickets to a world class event with world class performers supported by world class sound and lights.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo Jazz ready to blast
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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Scaling Mount Kinabalu


So some time last year, a bunch of us thought that it would be a great idea to climb Mount Kinabalu!  (And it was – this year, we’re hopefully gonna be able to climb Mt Rinjani!)

So tickets were booked, leave was taken – and off we went, one Friday evening in June, on what possibly has been the most physically challenging trip I’ve been on in my life.  Brought my backpack to work so I could head to the airport straight after (and I still remember Kox laughing at me when I walked into the office in atrociously high heels with said 25 litre backpack on shoulders).

As we descended into Kota Kinabalu, the clouds looked like they were dancing over sea – super pretty!

So this is when I (momentarily) stopped taking photos – once we got to our hotel, we headed straight for an awesome seafood dinner at Ocean Seafood Village (4 Lorong Api-Api 3, Api-Api Centre) where we had the most delicious and cheap seafood dinner ever, including 2 life-changing plates of the most amazing clams. 

Dinner was a relatively short affair because we had to get enough sleep for our climb up the mountain early next morning.  The wake-up call came at 5ish am (I forget) and we were out of the door by 6 am, whisked into a minivan which took us straight to the base of the mountain where we began our climb!

The first thing we saw, within the first 5 minutes of our climb, was Carson Falls – a very small waterfall really close to the gate where we stopped for a good 10 minutes to take a bunch of photos – and towards the end of our climb down, Carson Falls was only thing that everyone wanted to see , because that meant we would be very near the end!!

So essentially, the first 5 km up the mountain was just loads and loads of rocky terrain - see below.  It was pretty slippery because there were pockets of showers in between (and even though we were in waterproof ponchos and the like, I made the grave mistake of wearing cheapass jeggings from Uniqlo instead of spending good money on waterproof pants), so my legs and I were very miserable indeed when it started raining halfway through our climb up.

After a full day of hiking (around 10 hours?) We finally reached our base camp for the night – Laban Rata.  We were squished into 10-bed bunks with sheets that smelt like they hadn’t been washed in centuries, but we were too tired to care, and after carbo-loading during dinner, we went to bed at 8 pm to get ready for our climb up to the peak (our morning wake-up call was at 2 am (!!!) so that we would make it up in time for the sunrise!)  Bathing was completely out of the question, as there was no hot water, plus the showers spewed out 10 degree water – mad cold!!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Scaling Mount Kinabalu
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Imperial Hotel Kuching to open May 9


KUCHING: Imperial Hotel Kuching will be holding its soft opening on May 9 with a special promotional room rate from RM180 per room per night.

“This promotion is inclusive of breakfast and complimentary in-room Wi-Fi for a limited period only,” said Imperial Hotel general manager Patrick Kuek at a media preview of the hotel yesterday.

Also present were Boulevard Group of Companies chief executive officer Yew Hoon and Imperial Group general manager Su Sii Jiong.

The upcoming four-star business class hotel, which is the latest addition to the fast-expanding Imperial Group of Hotels, features 325 well-appointed guestrooms and suites, including two executive floors, all carefully designed with practicality and comfort in mind.

Each guestroom is tastefully furnished and complete with complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and wired Internet access point.

It also comes equipped with individual control air-conditioning, 42-inch flat screen LED television, laptop-size in-room safe, mini fridge, coffee and tea making facilities, HyppTV channels, bathroom with bath tub and separate shower, iron and ironing board and hair dryer.

“We take pride in being the first hotel in Sarawak to subscribe to the Hospitality Entertainment Solution, the hassle-free offering from Telekom Malaysia (TM) with the latest ICT and entertainment package comprising In-Building Broadband Solution (IBS) and TM’s IPTV service, HyppTV all powered by TM’s high-speed broadband network connectivity,” said Kuek.

In addition to this, there are also a full range of hotel facilities and services provided for the comfort and convenience of hotel guests such as the Business Centre as well as the Fitness Centre featuring a fully equipped gymnasium, sauna and steam room complemented by an outdoor swimming pool.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Imperial Hotel Kuching to open May 9
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