Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tourism board launches diving package launched to showcase Sarawak as potential diving heaven


MIRI Tourism Malaysia has launched the Sarawak Adventure Dive Package that will end in December next year to tap the unexplored potential of the diving industry in the state.

Tourism Malaysia Domestic Marketing Division Director Datuk Musa Yusof said there are six packages being offered at a price of RM748 per person to RM2,400 per person for four days and three nights diving adventure in Kuching and Miri.

“Sarawak has more than 40 dive sites that suit such activities,”he said at the launching of the dive package here today.

Musa said for example Kuching City had Pulau Satang Besar, Pulau Satang Kecil and Pulau Sempadi that can be explored by profesional divers.

He said for Miri City divers can experience natural underwater beauty at Miri Coast and Luconia Shoals.

“Sarawak is blessed by another interesting feature that is a World War II Japanese shipwreck as a historical site for technical diving,”he said.

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MASwings halts Kuching-BSB route effective Oct 26


KUCHING: The community carrier of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), MASwings, will suspend its four-time weekly services between here and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei via Mulu effective Oct 26 this year.

In a press statement yesterday, the commuter airline said the decision was part of its network rationalisation focused on expanding its domestic routes, which remained its core market.

Its chief executive officer Capt Ritzerwan Rashid remarked: “MASwings continuously reviews its network strategy to meet market needs, as well as to support economic growth in Sabah and Sarawak.

“We are committed to being our guests’ first choice to get across the vast states of Sabah and Sarawak. Hence, being able to put these resources to where the market demands them is important.”

With regard to the suspension of the Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan route, MASwings would notify all affected guests via emails, SMS alerts and calls.

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Borneo kite festival brings windfall, flying colours


BINTULU: The five-day 10th Borneo International Kite Festival 2014 has ended with a thundering success for the organisers, and local traders, said Bintulu Resident Muhamad Yakup Kari.

“I think we are getting back the returns from this festival in terms of vibrant business activities for the past five days,” he said during the appreciation dinner for kite flyers at Kemena Plaza Hotel on Sunday night.

He said it was a noteworthy windfall for all coffee shops and restaurants here, which should have generated lucrative income during the five-day extravaganza.

Yakup, who is the co-chairman for the festival, pointed out that the most important and meaningful thing was to see the smiling faces of all participants, foreigners included.

“Please do come back next year and the organiser will assist you in order to ensure you will stay longer here,” he said.

He also hoped all participants will give their feedback on the festival, to ensure smooth sailing with improvements made to the next edition of the kite festival.

Meanwhile, a kite flyers representative Ron Des Pojado of USA said it was a “wonderful five days experience” participating in the festival.

“We all fly with heart and the passion that we all shared in this kite flying event, besides making new friends and strengthening friendship among kite flyers,” he said.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Borneo International Kite Festival sends entry No. 4 into Book of Records


BINTULU: Another feat entered the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) during the last day of the 10th Borneo International Kite Festival 2014 at the Bintulu Old Airport site yesterday for the ‘Longest arch kite’.

The new record was announced and certified by MBR officer Nurul Huda Zakaria in a ceremony witnessed by Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip and Bintulu Resident Muhamad Yakup Kari.

“This is the fourth record achieved in this kite flying festival,” said Datu Mohidin Ishak, the co-organising chairman and Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) general manager.

The first record was achieved in 2008 for the most number of kites flying, totalling 1,655, simultaneously in a span of 20 minutes. The second record was for the most number of train-kites flying simultaneously in a single location in 20 minutes in 2010.

The third entry into the MBR was for the most number of kites flying simultaneously in 20 minutes, when 2,250 kites were flown in the ‘let’s fly together’ event during the Sarawak Gudi Festival 2013.

Yesterday, a total of 2,500 diamond kites were flown, forming the longest arch kite tunnel of 500 metres along the old airport site.

Thousands of people were present to witness the beautiful and record-breaking event during the last day of the festival.

“I am pleased to note that this year’s festival is much better than the previous edition and I want to thank all parties involved in organising the event.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Giant flesh-eating leech filmed for the first time in forests of Borneo


A giant flesh-eating leech that is still a mystery to scientists has been filmed for the first time as it devours a huge earthworm like spaghetti.

The glossy red eyeless creature resembles an alien from a horror film in the footage aired yesterday by the BBC.

Filmed in the forests of Borneo, the yet-to-be-named animal is known by the tribes of Mount Kinabalu simply as the "giant red leech".

It is one of the largest in the world, measuring about 30cm-long and believed to be able to grow larger, UK newspaper The Telegraph reports.

In the footage captured by BBC filmmakers for the Wonders of the Monsoon documentary, the leech is seen creeping along a large earthworm more than double its own size, searching for an end to the worm's 78cm-long body before beginning to speedily suck it down.

The worm puts up a fight but there is no escape from the leech's "crushing" muscular throat.

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Payeh Maga: Lawas’ Garden of Eden


HORNBILLS, leopards and bears, oh my! Just the thought of coming face to face with even one in the wild, is rare enough and will set anyone’s heart racing, but all three?

It’s not impossible if you are trekking through Payeh Maga near the Lun Bawang village of Kampung Long Tuyo in Lawas District.

Up until a few years ago, Payeh Maga was virtually unknown to the outside world, unheard of even to many Sarawakians.

Today, it is fast gaining international attention as a birdwatching hotspot, thanks largely to a chatty, little black bird – the Bornean Black Oriole (Oriolus hosii).

The presence of the Black Oriole at Payeh Maga first came to light following a preliminary survey in October 2010 by naturalist and wildlife photographer Ch’ien Lee.

The survey revealed a number of endemic bird species, including the Black Oriole which some researchers call Sarawak’s most mysterious bird because so little is known about it.

Subsequent expeditions, surveys and field trips have added to the known number of bird species in Payeh Maga. At last count, based on a survey conducted in February this year by Lee and Yeo Siew Teck, there are so far 183 bird species confirmed to be present, of which 27 are endemic.

These 27 species represent over 50 per cent of the known number of Bornean endemic species so far which include the Bare-headed Laughingthrush (Melanocichla calva), Whitehead’s Spiderhunter (Arachnothera juliae), Bornean Frogmouth (Batrachostamus mixtus) and Mountain Serpent-eagle (Spilornis kinabaluensis).

However, there is potential for this number to be much higher given how little is known so far about the area.

Lee and Yeo estimate the avifauna diversity to probably exceed over 250 species in total.

Thus, it’s little wonder that Payeh Maga is generating so much excitement amongst researchers and birdwatching enthusiasts.

Rich biodiversity

Payeh Maga has much to offer nature enthusiasts as thesundaypost found out during a trip there.

Our base camp for the two-day, one night visit was Camp 1 – a simple wooden shelter built by Forest Department of Sarawak (FDS), also known as Black Oriole camp because of frequent sightings of the said bird near the site.

The three-hour walk to base camp from the main road was not difficult as it followed a disused logging trail. Along the way, our porter and guide Dawat Barok from nearby Kampung Long Tuyo pointed out fresh markings of wild boar, deer and musang in the dirt path still muddy from rainfall during the night.

He said he had also seen sun bears and clouded leopards but at higher elevations.

While villagers from Long Tuyo regularly hunt wild boar and deer here, it is also used as a Gunung Doa (prayer mountain) by the local Christian community.

A small site near a massive natural rock formation about 15 minutes off the main trail has been set aside for this purpose. Each village has its own building and is responsible for maintaining it although there is also a two-storey pastor’s house and a large open-air hall which can easily seat 200 people.

However, the path to the prayer mountain is now overgrown due to lack of use. Dawat said the various villages only visited on special occasions about once a year or once every few years.

According to him, the name Payeh is derived from the surrounding environment (Payeh = kerangas and Maga = name of the area)

Having lived here his whole life, he is as familiar with the area and its residents as they come – as evidenced by his copious knowledge about local traditions and practices as well as impressive outdoor skills.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Payeh Maga: Lawas’ Garden of Eden
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Kanowit Fest on track as tourism card


SIBU: The on-going Kanowit Festival has great potential to become the main tourism product for the district, says Assistant Minister of Tourism (Local Events and Products) Datuk Gramong Juna.

He added thus that Kanowit Festival should be organised annually to attract more visitors to Kanowit and enjoy the many exciting activities held throughout the event.

“The last time the Kanowit Festival was held was in 2010. Thus, we hope that the Kanowit District Council will list the Kanowit Festival as one of the annual events for Kanowit District,” he said when speaking at the opening ceremony of Kanowit Regatta 2014 held at the waterfront yesterday.

The Kanowit Regatta 2014 was held as the highlight programme for Kanowit Festival which is held from Sept 19-28, with a beauty queen contest on the final night.

The long boat, speed boat and power boat races were among the exciting events held during the regatta.

Minister for Land Development Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, deputy president of Sarakup Indu Dayak Sarawak (SIDS) Dato Catherine Gramong, Kanowit MP Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang, Ngemah assemblyman Alexander Vincent and wife Susan Clement, Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Maurice Giri, Sibu Resident Sim Kok Kee, Kanowit District Officer Katis Noel Nyabong and the organising chairman for Kanowit Festival, Cr. Benjamin Angki Kaboy, were also present.

Gramong added that in relation to that, the Kanowit District Council already had an allocation to upgrade the Kanowit Waterfront in preparations for next year’s Kanowit Festival.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pancake 80 of Philippines joins Asia Music Festival


KUCHING: Pancake 80 from the Philippines will be performing at the upcoming Asia Music Festival 2014 to be held at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club in Miri on Oct 3-4.

This is a band comprising five musically talented individuals who share the same interest and love for music of different genres, according to Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) in a press release yesterday.

“From reggae, rock, pop alternative and especially new wave music of the 80’s to which they (Pancake 80) add their own flavor when covering songs,” STB stressed.

The band made achievements throughout the course of their career. They have also joined local and international ‘Battle of the Bands’ and have been recognized for their talents as they have won several awards.

Most notable, was as the grand prize winner of the Yamaha Asian Beat Band competition with the song “Flame”.

This earned them the right to represent the Philippines in the Asian Beat Competition in Hongkong, competing with 10 other bands from different countries in February 2009 to place third overall.

They were also third runner-up at the Redamp’s search for Asean’s next best band with the song “Time” held at Kuala Lumpur, in a 2010 and more recently, winner of the first ‘Hard Rock Calling Battle of the Band’ competition in 2011 by Hard Rock Cafe Makati, making them the Philippine representative to the International Hard Rock Calling Battle of the Band competition.

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DJ Roundhead to be featured at Asia Music Festival


KUCHING: Asia Music Festival will be featuring a DJ gig for the first time this year in which Malaysian famous DJ Roundhead will be playing at the post-festival late show on Oct 3 and 4.

Asia Music Festival, now in its second year running, will bring again the very best eclectic mix of live music together for one mind-blowing weekend in Miri.

According to a publicity release yesterday, DJ Roundhead will also be playing a huge array of famous dance music during a break between each band both nights.

Performing as a DJ for at least 20 years, DJ Roundhead was once crowned as the ‘Malaysia DJ Champion’ three years in a row when he entered the Malaysian DJ Championship competition from 1995-1997.

When he was in high school, he would work part-time jobs during the weekend just to blow it all away on CDs and records.

That made him the ‘go-to-guy’ when it came to house parties from high school all the way to college.

DJ Roundhead would bring his own player and set up his own mini console and rock the crowd at the party.

Only after college did he join a company during the 90s called Clubworld Entertainment that supplied DJs to entertainment outlets around the country, where he started his professional career.

Among his best moments was representing the country in the Rotterdam Love Parade in the Netherlands for a strong crowd of 10,000 on a 34-wheel trailer while proudly flying the Malaysian flag in front of his console.

He played as a DJ residence in Melbourne, Australia, for a year before returning to the country and is currently attached to TraxxFM in Kuala Lumpur.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: DJ Roundhead to be featured at Asia Music Festival
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Bintulu kite festival to be national event


BINTULU: Next year will be a ‘Festival Year’ for Malaysia and the Borneo International Kite Festival (BIKF) will be made a national event, disclosed Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said in order to attract more tourists to Sarawak, a special exhibition will be held and BIKF will be an anchor event in the national tourism calendar.

This idea, he said, would be further discussed with federal Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

He announced this when officiating at the opening of the 10th BIKF at the site of Bintulu
Old Airport yesterday.

“This is a very interesting event for our tourism industry and we have been promoting it in websites and overseas and this year looks better than last year,” he said.

He noted that kite making now is different from the old days as it tests the skills of the kite makers.

“Now we have to consider climate change, the wind and the weight of the kite,” he said, adding that what was important was to make sure it could fly.

On the event, he said it should be further promoted as it has a spill-over effect on local economic activities.

“From this event the people are interacting with each other and this can promote greater understanding among the multiracial ethnics,” he pointed out.

On Bintulu, he said apart from being known as an industrial town, it also has an attractive setting.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Bintulu kite festival to be national event
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Best Western in tie-up with Sabanilam Enterprise for a new hotel in Penampang


PENAMPANG: Best Western International Group has formed a partnership with Sabanilam Enterprise Sdn Bhd for the management of a brand new Best Western Plus Hotel and conference facility at the ITCC Penampang complex here.

“ITCC Penampang will be a significant addition to Kota Kinabalu'’s landscape and economy, and I am delighted that Best Western International has the opportunity to be part of this exciting project,” commented Glenn de Souza, Best Western International’s Vice President of International Operations for Asia & Middle East.

“Malaysia is one of Best Western International’s key growth markets. We see strong potential across the country, and with the onset of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, Kota Kinabalu is expected to become an increasingly significant regional center for trade and tourism,” Glen added.

The new Best Western Plus Hotel will include 330 upscale guest rooms, ranging from 27 to 49m² and all including comfortable bedding, spacious bathrooms and such modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi.

The hotel will also offer a wealth of facilities for both business and leisure travellers, including restaurants, a swimming pool, fitness center, business center and meeting rooms.

And the management contract will also see Best Western take control of a major new convention center connected to the hotel. This modern facility will include a large ballroom capable of housing 170 tables, and is set to become a new hub for local and regional conferences, corporate events, product launches and weddings.

For the added convenience of guests, the hotel and convention center will be directly connected to the ITCC’s four-storey retail podium and Grade A office tower and residence.

Best Western Plus at ITCC Penampang is expected to open in 2016.

Sabanilam Enterprise Sdn Bhd Group General Manager Ceasar Mandela Malakun said that ITCC Penampang is a private initiative project listed under the Sabah Development Corridor – for the Southern part of Greater Kota Kinabalu.

It is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, he disclosed, adding that the 10.5 acres fully integrated fibre ready development would consist of a four-storey lifestyle mall, fully furnished residential suites, a 16 storey Grade A Office Tower and now Best Western Plus at the hotel block, ballroom and convention centre.

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Invitation to inaugural Borneo Bird Race 2014


KUCHING: Bird lovers and enthusiasts are invited to join the inaugural Borneo Bird Race 2014 from Sept 28 to 29 at the Borneo Highlands Resort here.

The race allows participants to explore and spot as many bird species as possible within the allocated time period, with the participants spotting the most species claiming the prizes.

And any newly found bird species will be documented, and bird lovers are welcomed to witness the race and enjoy the mini exhibition on birds and other wildlife.

This prestigious event, requiring specialised knowledge in bird species as well as having a high level of passion in the sport, has received participation from Hong Kong, India, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and Malaysia.

The event is a joint collaboration between Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei Darussalam under the tourism jurisdiction and is one of two events sanctioned under the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines – East Asia Growth Areas (BIMP-EAGA).

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Borneo Bird Race to draw more enthusiasts


KOTA KINABALU: Bird enthusiasts from 11 countries will soon converge in Sabah to take part in the second Borneo Bird Race.

Sandakan Bird Club chairman Cede Prudente said the race will cover over 1,000 kilometres of beautiful rainforest, coastal regions, freshwater swamps, lowland forests and the mountain ranges of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei to search for over 600 birds that could be found throughout Borneo.

This year’s Borneo Bird Race 2014 starts from Kinabalu Park and moves on to the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sepilok, Sandakan and then to the Borneo Highlands in Kuching, Sarawak before finally going to Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei.

Each international participating team’s objective is to spot as many birds as they can in each of the legs which begin at dawn, he said.

“At the end of the day, each team will enjoy the beauty of this land as they count the numbers of recorded species, and the longest list shall earn the prestigious ‘Bornean Bristlehead Cup’ trophy,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

In the last Borneo Bird Race 2013, team Wild Bird Club from the Philippines won the race with 148 bird species sighted, while team Nature Society from Singapore emerged as the second prize winner with 144 birds spotted. The third place went to the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand with 136 species spotted.

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Santubong Nature Festival from Nov 8-9


KUCHING: Nature lovers can now look forward to Santubong Nature Festival (SNF) to be held on Nov 8 and 9 in Permai Rainforest Resort near here.

It is jointly organised by Kuching branch of Malaysian Nature Society and Permai Rainforest Resort with the support of Kuching City North Commission (DBKU), Sarawak Museum and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

The festival’s organising chairman Vincent Wong said the organisers had outlined several activities for the two-day festival, including guided nature walk, star-planet gazing and talks.

Cycling enthusiasts are encouraged to take part in a free ride from DBKU to Permai Rainforest Resort on Nov 8 and Survivor Race on Nov 9, he added.

He said among others the festival was aimed at raising public awareness of the rich natural, historical and cultural heritage of Santubong peninsula, to advocate for a holistic and integrated approach to development and management of the area to safeguard its unique landscape, biodiversity and historical assets.

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Masia to perform at Asia Music Festival in Miri


KUCHING: Asia Music Festival is back for the second year running and this edition will present to the people a female rapper from Singapore, Masia One.

Masia is all set to thrill the audience at the event to be held at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club, Miri on Oct 3 and 4.

A press release yesterday revealed that Masia began her own record label known as M1 Group (later renamed The Merdeka Group) in 2003, and subsequently released her debut album, Mississauga.

The album was well received and the music video for the lead single ‘Split Second Time’ was nominated in the best rap video category by the Much Music awards.

Masia’s second studio album, ‘Pulau’ was released in 2009.

The album attained the number one slot on the Canadian College Radio Charts as well as charting on both CBC Radio 3 and South East Asian Radio.

Masia has developed into a well rounded multi-genre artiste. Her sound reflects inspiration drawn from touring North America, Jamaica and Asia and sharing the stage with acts such as The Roots, Floetry, Mos Def, DJ Neil Armstrong, Lady Saw and Ron Sexsmith.

Courted by Grammy Award-winning Aftermath producer Che Vicious (who produced for Lauren Hill, Kanye West and 50 Cent to name a few), Masia began working on what would later become the ‘Bootleg Culture’ album.

Released in September 2012, the album was nominated ‘Urban Recording of the Year’ by the Western Canadian Music Alliance.

In February 2013, Masia won three South East Asian Vima Music Awards for Best Hip Hop Song (Warriors Tongue), Best Collaboration (Errrybody feat, Pharrell, The Game and Isis Salam) and ‘Thank You For Existing Highest Honor Award’.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Masia to perform at Asia Music Festival in Miri
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Into The Jungle – Danum Valley Primary Rainforest, Borneo


Where do I start? I am so reeling from the memories of this place that I am almost overwhelmed.

The Danum Valley is a conservation area of 438 square kilometres of primary rainforest in the state of Sabah in Borneo.

We took a (very early) 45 minute flight from Kota Kinabalu into Lahad Datu, where we met our driver and embarked on the 2.5 hour journey to Borneo Rainforest Lodge; the only place tourists are permitted to stay in the whole area.

77km of this journey was off road, along dirt roads and past check points that let us know when we were entering secondary, and then finally primary rainforest. 

All that we passed along the way were nature research centres and smatterings of houses and small local communities; not longhouses but traditional, wooden houses, built on stilts.

Our driver kept stopping us along the way to point out kingfishers and hornbills, and was so enthusiastic about the forest.

I knew we were in for something really special when we caught a glimpse of the 30 metre high canopy walkway on our way in…

We were greeted on arrival with a lemongrass juice (my new favourite drink!) and a garland made of bamboo leaves, and this set the tone of the hospitality for the entire stay; the staff here really could not do enough for you.

The Lodge itself is an impressive wooden building that leads to individual lodges where the guests stay, along raised wooden paths. 

In the dining and bar area, you look out over a river, right into the rainforest. The first time we sat there it literally took my breath away; I mean wow.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reggae envoy Ras to join stars at Asia Music Fest


KUCHING: Regga ambassador of Indonesia Ras Muhamad will join the star line-up at the upcoming 2nd Asia Music Festival (AMF) at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club in Miri from Oct 3 to 4.

The reggae musician, whose musical influences also range from hip-hop, Indonesian traditional and pop music, jazz, metal to world music, lyrically draws many of his inspirations from hip-hop icons such as Rakim, KRS-One, Nas and Wu-Tang, said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) in a press statement.

He had collaborated and recorded music with Indonesian pop icons such as Glen Fredly, Tompi and Element while Indonesian jazz legend Indra Lesmana has also worked with Ras.

The award-winning Ras has also received many awards for his musical talents such as the 2013 Best Reggae Song for ‘Prosa Tinju Lima Jari’, 2012 Best Reggae for Indonesia Cutting-Edge Music Awards and 2013 Nominated Best Reggae Composition for ‘Negeri Pelangi’.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Reggae envoy Ras to join stars at Asia Music Fest
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Monday, September 22, 2014

KKIA upgrading work due for completion by January 2015


KOTA KINABALU: The overall upgrading works involving facilities and runway extension of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) are expected to be completed by January-end next year, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

He said earlier, the contractor had agreed to complete 95 per cent of the works, including extending the runway by 600 metres, a taxiway, lighting and other paths by March.

“However, the new contractor has the skills and is committed to complete the works, two months early. Now, it is back on track and there are no more delays. In fact, it will be completed by January,” he told reporters after officiating the MCA convention here on Sunday.

Liow said the airport could accommodate 6.5 million passengers a year, besides meeting the needs of all flight operations, including those of budget airline, AirAsia.

On AirAsia’s willingness to move to KKIA, he said the ministry had discussed with the airline to move from Terminal 2 in Tanjung Aru to allow better connection for passengers.

“We will discuss this with AirAsia soon so that their move to KKIA is smoothly done. AirAsia does not have to worry because KKIA is a large terminal with many gateways and places to park their aircraft,” he said.

At the same time, he said, the ministry would study the request by the state government to upgrade the Sandakan and Lahad Datu airports to meet the needs and security of the area.

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Birdwatch Palawan joins Borneo Bird Race


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A three-member team from Birdwatch Palawan Ornithological Society (Birdwatch-Palawan) is joining the 2nd Borneo Bird Race 2014 that will take participants to five prime birding destinations in Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei Darrusalam.

The Birdwatch-Palawan team is headed by Rommel Cruz who will be assisted by fellow members William Cabanillas and Ariel dela Torre.

The race will be participated-in by a three-member team from the same birdwatching club. Birdwatch-Palawan is the country's only participant to the race.

The 2014 Borneo Bird Race, tagged as "the great Borneo birding experience", begins on Sept. 24 with 24 participants coming from eight birdwatching clubs in Hongkong, India, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The teams will race for 10 days in over 1,000 kilometers route in search of more than 200 species of birds in a wide range of habitats from coastal regions, freshwater swapms, lowland forests to the hills and mountain ranges in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Niah Caves


WE begin with a new perspective and new dating of the Niah Cave complex. Imagine, if you will, the caves facing an arm of the seaside that worked its way inward 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. 

This time period is known as the Holocene and dates from 11,000 years ago to the present. It is the end of the last glacier advance, or the ice age. Sediment cores outside the cave confirm this.

The peoples of the region were going through a change in that they had started to bury their dead. Death was a major tragedy for them and brought about many hardships. 

The demise also negotiated the crossover between the natural and supernatural world. The burials began in Niah about 6,000 years ago, during the early Holocene period.

The people of the area had two sources of food. The first was the closed tropical rainforest, which provided bearded pigs and monkeys. There were occasional cattle, tapir and deer. 

The second source was brackish seawater. The riverine-estuary environment brought turtles and clams. Edible plants such as yams, taro and sedges were also present and vines probably helped the people make baskets. There was also evidence of basic stone working.

One of the major problems in excavating the remains and determining the dates was that Tom Harrison and his wife Barbra attempted to crudely dig up the graves and date them. 

They scattered the bones and left the place in a mess. Scientists are now trying to piece together what is left. (see ‘The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrison and his Remarkable Life’ by Judith Heinmann.)

One of these people is Dr Lindsay Lloyd-Smith, who is attempting to make some sense out of the erroneous conclusions offered by the Harrison clan. She offers a reclassification and re-dating of the scene.

There are three distinct burial clusters in Niah Caves. The first, and oldest, was located in the back of the west cave, while the second one was several metres south at the cave entrance. The most common type of interment was the body in the flexed position.

The flexed position was where the body was placed in the grave with its arm and legs bent. The positions were that the “arms were tightly bent at the elbows with the forearms bent upwards”. A second category is where the arms were only loosely flexed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Niah Caves
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Hidden gems of Long Tanid, Lawas


THE monotony of long-distance travel was beginning to numb our minds and weigh heavy on our eyelids as our Isuzu pickup stoically rumbled along the rough gravel and dirt road that wound its way up the undulating landscape of Long Semadoh in rural Lawas District.

We were about three hours drive from Lawas town, on our way to the Lun Bawang village of Kampung Long Tanid, one of 11 villages situated in Long Semadoh just before Ba Kelalan.

As our trusty ride crested the hilltop, the sparse wall of shrubbery that lined the road parted to reveal emerald green rice fields, bordered by mist-crowned mountain forests that marked a beautiful contrast to the crystal blue skies overhead. Sitting serenely in the centre of the patchwork of fields was our destination.

“This view is what Long Tanid is known for. Many people stop at this spot to take photos of the rice fields and mountains,” said our driver, local resident and homestay coordinator Balan Berauk, as he slowed the Isuzu down to allow us to soak up the postcard-perfect landscape.

Compared with Bario and Ba Kelalan, the highlands of Lawas tend to not feature as much in the travel plans of tourists and visitors passing through the northern regions of Sarawak — which is a shame as they have much to offer.

Life here harks back to simplier and kinder times where everyone seems to know everyone else on a first name basis. Being a good neighbour is a way of life.

Hospitality is not just reserved for blood relations as the local Lun Bawangs tend to pride themselves on being warm and generous hosts. It’s not uncommon for anyone who drops by for a visit to be invited to stay for a meal.

The landscape is still scarcely touched by the visceral scars of logging and oil palm plantations, in turn, supporting a wide range of wildlife and biodiversity and acting as water catchment areas for the many clear rivers and streams that cascade down the hills.

“What’s so special?” some may ask.

After all, it could be argued these things can easily be found elsewhere in the state without having to travel as far inland as Long Semadoh, where modern conveniences like mobile telephone and Internet communications are practically non-existent and most locals still rely on generators and micro-hydro dams for electricity.

But take a closer look, and you might be very surprised at what you may discover hiding in plain sight.

Local ingenuity

First-time visitors to Long Tanid may find themselves doing double takes when they see the European-style houses dotted throughout the village. In fact, a few of those houses would not look out of place on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.

Amidst the green grass fields, grazing buffaloes and wooden houses with the traditional roofs in the shape of a wooden mortar used to separate rice grains from their husks, one can find brick houses with French-style windows, plastered ceilings and solid hardwood doors.

According to Balan, this unique situation came about when one of the village’s sons – a lawyer who lived in Lawas – built a house there that incorporated a European style design.

It didn’t take long for the idea to catch on in Long Tanid and other residents began following suit. This was also helped by the fact that a number of the locals are skilled carpenters and construction workers.

Many of the designs were inspired by pictures, published in a particular home magazine and those found on the Internet. However, the westernization is limited mostly to outside appearances, Balan shared, adding that the insides of houses tend to follow local conventions.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Hidden gems of Long Tanid, Lawas
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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Miri to host three upcoming international events


MIRI: The resort city will be hosting three upcoming international events next month after the success of the national level Malaysia Day celebration at Miri City Fan last week.

Miri Mayor Lawrence Lai said the two international events are Asia Music Festival, Sarawak Information Communication Technology (ICT) Expo and 16th Sarawak International Triathlon 2014.

“Miri needs more events to make the city a truly resort city. Thus, these events are able to make the city vibrant,” he stated to the media in a press conference at the council yesterday.

Lai pointed out the month of October will kick off with the Sarawak ICT Expo and the second edition of the Asia Music Festival which is scheduled for Oct 3 to 4 at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club.

The inaugural Asia Music Festival event last year was a success with over 3,000 people attending.

This event is set to become another iconic music festival for the state after the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Kuching and Borneo Jazz here.

Several key musicians from India, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore as well as Malaysia will be performing for this year’s event.

He said further the event promises an extraordinary weekend of fun, music and more, against the stunning backdrop of the venue, Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club.

A mixture of live music will be featured throughout the two-day events and will include a mixed-genre of music from regional, national and local talents.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

WWF engages with Kudat islanders to sustain Tun Mustapha Park


World Wildlife Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) is promoting the implementation of conservation with the Kudat community in support of the government’s initiative to gazette the proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP).

TMP holds a high biodiversity and rich natural resources that provides livelihood and food sources for more than 80,000 people within and beyond the Coral Triangle boundary.

The programme targets to build capacity and empower local communities and stakeholders to conduct patrol and collaborative enforcement, promote environmental stewardship, and develop conservation enterprise linked to resource management.

With funding from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), the project will focus on key pilot sites to demonstrate the benefits of Marine Protected Areas (MPA), ultimately build support for TMP and the capacity of the communities to co-manage their resources.

“The funds from the GEF SGP will be in support of three key sites under WWF-Malaysia’s project in Tigabu Island in Kudat, Kampung Batu Siri on Balambangan Island, and Kampung Taritipan in Kota Marudu,” said WWF-Malaysia executive director cum chief executive officer Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma in a press statement issued in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.

“The three demo sites and existing areas such as Maliangin Island and Berungus can potentially form a network for information sharing among community groups in TMP; which in turn can be a model for community co-management in TMP,” Sharma added.

Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia organised an Inception Workshop to share objectives, expected outcomes, strategic approaches, and develop detailed activities and a work plan for the GEF SGP funded conservation programme recently.

This full-day workshop was held in Kudat for representatives from WWF-Malaysia, government agencies such as Sabah Parks, Department of Fisheries (DOF), and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), community based organisations and NGOs, and community members of the identified demonstration sites from Tigabu, Taritipan, and Batu Siri.

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‘Pesta Kopitiam’, another signature festival for Sarikei


SARIKEI: The town is set to embark on another festival to complement the Pineapple Fest which had been the division’s annual signature event for the past eleven years.

If the disclosure by Sarikei Resident, Dahim Nadot, during a recent press conference on this year’s Pineapple Fest do was anything to go by, the new festival for the town in the offing was ‘Pesta Kopitiam.’

The idea was conceptualized to reflect the big number of coffee shops and eateries scattered in every nook and corner of the town.

“ Sarikei could be the only town in the world where we can find at least a coffee shop or eatery on every commercial block,” he said.

“Sarikei District Council (SDC) which mooted idea must have many interesting and exciting programmes to make the event a presentable one,” he asserted during a press conference which was also attended by SDC chairman, Chan Phan Chan.

One of the objectives of the proposed festival was to complement the Pineapple Fest in promoting Sarikei as the fruit producer and the state’s `food basket’ as well as a tourism destination, Chan said.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cardiff scientist is protecting Borneo's endangered orangutans from being exposed to hunters and losing their habitat


Researchers from Cardiff University are finding new ways to protect Borneo’s endangered orangutans from being exposed to hunters and losing their precious forest habitat.

More than 80% of the orangutan’s natural habitat has been destroyed over the last 20 years due to agricultural conversion.

The main threat to orangutans is habitat loss. Land clearing exposes wild orangutans – who can be considered pests by locals – and some are shot.

If infant orangutans survive the death of their mothers they either end up as orphans in one of the rehabilitation centres or they enter the pet trade.

Their preferred habitat is low-lying peat-swamp forest and they are rarely found in habitats above an altitude of 800 metres.

Scientists said forest fragmentation is a major threat to their survival.

So pioneering research by a global team, including Cardiff academics, has found opportunities to improve wildlife corridors in their rapidly-changing environment in a bid to help them to move with ease under cover and to thrive once again.

Dr Benoit Goossens, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, is director of the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on Borneo.

He said orangutans depend on the forest for both food and shelter.

Dr Goossens said: “Small, isolated and exposed territories of the forest present increasing threats to the orangutan population. Those threats are likely to be worsened by environmental changes such as climate change.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Searching for the Perfect Beat in Borneo


If you want to hear live music in the city of Kuching —located in the state of Sarawak, in the country of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo — your best bet is to take a nocturnal stroll along the city’s undulating waterfront promenade — aka “The People Place” — alongside the Sarawak River.

Amid hawkers of cat-themed souvenirs (the Malay word kucing means cat), glowing plastic toys and tasty street food (but no alcohol, Malaysia being a relatively liberal Islamic nation), you’ll find buskers aplenty.

Some play the sapeh lutes indigenous to the Sarawak region’s Orang Ulu people. Others strum acoustic guitars while singing original American-sounding indie-rock in Malay. And if you’re fortunate enough, as I was, you’ll stumble across a plucky and charismatic little girl, accompanied by her beaming father on electric guitar, belting out what sounded to my severely jetlagged ears like old American show tunes.

Your second best bet would be to attend the Borneo World Music Expo (BWME), which took place mid-June in the Kuching Hilton as a sort of industry appetizer prior to the Rainforest World Music Festival a few days and a hundred kilometers later.

The BWME showcased nine mostly regional artists while negotiating a path around the complicated issues of music and tourism in this still-developing nation. Where the Rainforest festival offered a romantic vision of how local acts might be integrated into the existing “world music” industry, the BWME was a nuts-and-bolts affair that featured remarkably intimate performances that should have attracted a larger local audience.

The two and a half million residents of Sarawak comprise a cultural melting pot of some 40 ethnic groups, each with its own language and way of life. These include Malays, Melanaus, Chinese, Indians, Ibans and Bidayuhs.

Sarawak regional music is a similar stew of influences. The Gendang Melayu Sri Buana, who provided a musical welcome to the first of three nights of showcases, is a large multigenerational family group. The “Gendang” part of their name means large drum, and Malay music is rooted in drums, gongs, metallophones, and other percussion instruments. And like nearly all these acts, their music is so old that it sounds resolutely new again.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vids) at: Searching for the Perfect Beat in Borneo
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Book on favourite food in Sibu launched


SIBU: ‘A Guide To Sibu’s Most Favourite Food’ was launched at Sibu Base Jump stage, Sibu Town Square on Monday.

The reference book is produced by Sibu Resident’s Office with the collaboration of a former journalist with English daily The Star, Philip Hii; retired English language teacher Arthur Wee, retired English language teacher/lecturer Chang Yi and young model Xiao Jie.

It gives visitors and locals an insight into the best local dishes available in Sibu by bringing the reader on a mini food tour which is friendly, engaging and informative, commented Sibu Resident Sim Kok Kee at the book’s launch.

President of Sibu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hu Yu Siong was among those present.

Sim commented: “This craftily structured book approaches commonplace cuisine in a four or five ingenious ways. It starts with a paragraph on a description of the dish. The next paragraph summarises how the dish is prepared followed by how it is usually served. Last but not least is where each dish could be found or originates.”

Overall, this literature lets you experience the balance of Chinese, Malay, Melanau, Iban and mix-cultural dishes available.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Book on favourite food in Sibu launched
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sabah tourism to be promoted in San Francisco


KOTA KINABALU: San Francisco is the next marketing target for the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry in its effort to promote Sabah.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, said that he would be visiting San Francisco on September 25 and will be meeting with tourism players there.

He said that this would be the State’s first effort to promote Sabah to the Americans.

Masidi also expressed his optimism on the venture as air-connectivity that would link San Francisco and Sabah (Kota Kinabalu) is already in place.

“There are direct flights from Hong Kong and Seoul to San Francisco as well as to Kota Kinabalu. The air-connectivity is available. It is important to promote Sabah to places that have these access/facilities in place because it will not be difficult (for those keen) to come to Sabah,” he said at the launching of the Region Specific Tourist Guide (RSTG) licence here yesterday.

He added that without direct air-connectivity, it would be difficult for the people to come to Sabah.

“And we want the people to keep coming here.”

While in the US, Masidi will also be visiting Portland, Oregon which will become Kota Kinabalu’s first sister-city in the country.

In his speech, Masidi also mentioned that although his ministry may seem to have scaled down its effort to market Sabah to the Chinese market, in reality this was not so.

“We have not stopped … but they (Chinese tourists) are coming to terms with the MH370 and the kidnapping incidents. We just have to modify our (marketing) strategies. We will continue to market, but in a quiet and subtle way. We don’t want to be looked at as aggressive marketeers,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah tourism to be promoted in San Francisco
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Reminiscing the old Bintulu


BINTULU: In the 1960s, the Bintulu town was merely a fishing village with a population of 5,000.

On the 16th of Sept 1963, Sarawak joined Sabah (then North Borneo), Singapore, and Malaya to form the new Federation of Malaysia.

Today, the coastal town with one of the world’s largest natural gas reserves is booming with activity, and has a population of over 200,000.

Three friends who grew up during the time share with Bernama their experiences during the transition.

Travelling outside by land was a difficult affair in those days, said Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Abdul Majid, who grew up in Bintulu.

“There were no roads at all connecting nearby towns. All travelling had to be done by boats. It was only in late 60s that road construction was started to Miri,” said the 66-year-old when met here, recently.

He said the first buses introduced in Bintulu were owned by the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara).

The buses plied the untarred road from Batu 18 (of the Bintulu-Miri road) to the town in 1969.

“Most of the passengers coming from Batu 18 were Iban villagers who did not have money to pay for the bus fare. Instead, they would pay the bus driver, known as Abdul Jabbar, in the form of vegetables, chickens, bamboo shoots and other items,” the former Science Faculty Dean of Universiti Malaya told Bernama in an interview.

He said the local Ibans used to refer to the bus as “bas Jabbar” as some of them would assume that it was owned by him.

“Udah datai bas Jabbar?” (Has Jabbar’s bus arrived?) would be an oft-repeated question.

Bintulu historian Mahmud Yussop, who is also Mohamed’s childhood friend, in his blog “Images of Bintulu Before and Now,” said the buses provided a much-needed public transportation for Bintulu to Miri, some 200 kilometers away.

Mahmud explained that Miri back then was the capital of the Fourth Division.

Sarawak, under the British, was divided into five Divisions and each Division was headed by a Resident. Each Residency had a number of districts.

In the early 1970’s, Bintulu was a sub-district in the Miri division and all government affairs were headquartered at Miri for the final decision making.

This arrangement made progress very slow for Bintulu.

“In the 60’s, Bintulu was in the backwaters of development. Not many people were able to buy cars in the 60’s and 70’s, so the bus service was a real boon for the general public of Bintulu,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kiprawi Aman, the supervisor of Kenderaan Bas MARA Service then, said the bus service was not so much for profit than an obligation by the federal government to provide public transportation for the rakyat.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Reminiscing the old Bintulu
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Miri City ready to host national level best Malaysia Day do ever


MIRI: The stage is all set for Miri City, the country’s first non-capital town being elevated to city status in 2005, to welcome thousands of visitors to celebrate the national-level 51st Malaysia Day celebration.

This time around, the celebration to be held at the Miri City Fan – a popular fan-shaped recreational park and tourism spot located in the heart of the city – is expected to be the grandest ever.

It will be grander than before, thanks to the week-long school holidays which began last Friday, as it will see a drastic increase in the volume of visitors, including those from oil-rich Brunei, about three-hours’ drive on the road from the city centre.

For local community leaders here like Dayak Association Miri (DAM) president Serawa Budol, the first-ever national level Malaysia Day celebration here would be the moment that she and others had anxiously been waiting for.

“We are very honoured that Malaysia Day is so special to us, Sarawakians, we have assigned 50 DAM members to take part in Tuesday night’s celebrations. We wish to send more but the organiser has set a maximum of 50 people,” she told Bernama here yesterday.

The soft-spoken Serawa suggested that in future, the main organiser would set aside more financial allocation, including getting sponsors from multinational companies like Shell and Petronas to chip in to ensure that people from all walks of life could appreciate the true meaning of Malaysia formation.

“There is room for improvement, maybe next year. In the run-up to Malaysia Day, the organiser can ask big companies to sponsor big billboards that depict historical pictures that led to the Malaysia Day formation so that the people will understand the history, especially the young generation,” she noted.

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Tourism Malaysia: Santubong Homestay to have cycling tours soon


KUCHING: Santubong Homestay has marked a new programme through the signing of a memorandum with AsiaTourismAlliance.com (ATA), which will see cycling tours around Santubong as part of its offerings.

According to Tourism Malaysia director for domestic marketing Datuk Musa Yusof, the area is a perfect eco-tourism destination with its unique landscape embracing the iconic Mount Santubong.

“This area is also rich in biodiversity and historical assets, all of which will add to the rich tourism and recreational potential of the Santubong peninsula,” Musa said after the inking of the partnership here yesterday.

He said as Tourism Malaysia realised that cycling had become a trend among locals and tourists, it had embarked on promoting cycling nationwide through the ‘Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Bike & Ride Packages’.

“Since the launch, we have developed 202 packages involving 95 agents and to date, Tourism Malaysia has organised 27 events relating to cycling with various partners and organisations.”

Moreover, he disclosed that total sales for these cycling packages was RM844,720 last year, while as at June this year, the figure reached RM306,729

Additionally, Musa hoped that all agents would work hand in hand in marketing these packages and at the same time, strive to leverage on ideas to offer something new to tourists.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Jewel of Bario


MY Foochow friend and I were unable to book rooms in Bario by phone due to a miscommunication. Fortunately, a kind friend suggested a homestay belonging to her sister-in-law’s family.

And during our stay, we met a really special lady of the highlands which left a remarkable indelible imprint in our minds. In just two days she showed us the importance of being a true woman of value.

We arrived in Bario by Twin Otter, and, to our surprise, there were several familiar faces from Miri. Soon, we were whisked off by a mud-caked and tattooed Toyota Hilux, the normal local mode of transport.

We thought it would be a half-hour ride to the homestay – instead it took only three minutes, costing each one of us RM20.

The driver picked up RM120 for that single trip from the airport.

“Transport in Bario is the most expensive in the whole of Borneo. However, if you can and like, you can go almost everywhere on foot,” a Bario school teacher said.

The Ngimat Ayu Homestay is RM100 per night per person. There are five rooms with either a Queen bed or two single beds.

Water is available 24/7 but electricity is on only at night for a short four to five hours. So it’s more convenient to bring along your own power bank.

Bario – although promised electricity by the government – still has to wait. One could see all sorts of development from the sky as we flew in but the mini-hydro project did not seem to be ready even after several years.

Sina Bued Aren is a very small, fair lady. Her skin is thinned by age but her eyes still twinkle, and we knew from our first handshake, we had found a loving Sina or aunt, without her saying much.

Born Martha Padan in Long Pupung from Kerayan, Kalimantan, she was given in marriage to Gerawat Aren @ Ngimat Ayu @ BelaanTauh.

He was to become the paramount chief of the Kelabits from 1998 to 2005. It was a marriage arranged by relatives. Gerawat Aren paid a huge dowry for this “noble woman.”

Kerayan can be reached by walking across the border from Bario, and in 1955, it was quite common for the Kelabits to walk from Sarawak and Kalimantan and back.

But it was uncommon for a Bario man to marry a young “noble woman” from Kalimantan.

To Martha Padan, the marriage at a young age was “law” from her parents. She would have loved to have gone to school to learn to read and write. But she was obedient and considered her marriage to this young handsome man a kind of education. And she was very right about that.

Her strong values enabled her to be a Biblical Proverb 31 wife – obedience was the value which helped her maintain a sustainable and successful marriage.

She learned about home and village hygiene from her husband who was then the first medical assistant with full government training in Bario.

She was by his side many times when he did simple surgery and stitching, including extracting teeth and delivering babies.

She was in total support of her husband who was credited with raising of awareness of cleanliness in their village.

She has always boiled drinking water for the family from the day she got married. And today, we can still enjoy her boiled water in the patio.

When her husband passed away in 2013, she said in her shy and quiet way “a huge part of my life has gone away.”

She has always held her husband’s community at heart.

As a Lady of Bario, she opened her doors and her kitchen was always full of people, coming and going during her husband’s official term, and after he died, she continued to welcome friends to her home.

Today, it’s slightly different because her son operates the homestay. But to her, it’s not at all different. She will still cook her originals for tourists and friends who come to stay while her son does his part of modern cooking like barbequing or stir frying – culinary arts he learned from the “outside world.”

True traditional food from her kuali is just so natural and delicious.

She is a good hostess because since her marriage in 1955, she has to welcome visitors, sometimes even in the middle of the night. Her role has always been to put cooked food on the table and boil water in the early hours of the morning.

She has in a way to keep the hearth warm and make her visitors feel welcome.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Jewel of Bario
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