Friday, May 19, 2017

Sabah's Tun Mustapha Marine Park celebrates 1 year anniversary, aims to be tourism beacon


KUDAT: The Tun Mustapha Marine Park (TMP) here will be a beacon of tourism in the years to come, Sabah Special Task Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang said today.

Launching the park’s first-year anniversary celebration, Teo said that TMP’s appeal lies in its white sandy beaches, mysterious caves and rich marine life, courtesy of its strategic location within the Coral Triangle.

He said he believes it is high time for private companies to start taking advantage of the park's potential.

"As with many industries, the government only facilitates tourism, while it is the private sector that drives it.

"So, I encourage all players to come in and work together to develop the marine park into a premier destination not just in Malaysia, but on an international level," he said.

The anniversary also coincides with the conclusion of a year-long research expedition into the park area by various agencies and universities, including the University of Queensland, Australia.

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Sarawak Tourism Board to digitise all promo materials


SARAWAK Tourism Board (STB) will digitalise all promotional materials to increase its presence in ‘call for action’ booking portals to leapfrog its performance.

This is in line with the state government’s call for the use of digitalisation, said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“STB will still provide a face-to-face interaction marketing as human interaction in tourism business is inevitable and remains relevant although digital marketing is widely used,” he said in his winding-up speech yesterday.

He said his ministry had set up a consultative platform known as Sarawak Tourism Forum to engage and get feedback from tourism players.

Some requests from industry players made through the forum had been implemented while a few others were still at discussion level, he added.

On the Sarawak Museum Campus, he said works were at about 35 per cent progress and the new museum gallery was expected to be open to the public in 2020.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

RM8.98 bln in tourism receipts expected this year for Sarawak


KUCHING: Sarawak is targeting five million tourist arrivals and expecting RM8.98 billion in tourism receipts this year.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the tourist arrival figure stood at 1.67 million as of April this year.

“As of Jan to April this year, visitor arrival figures stood at 1.67 million, indicating an increase of 17.26 per cent as compared to the corresponding period in 2016,” he said in his winding up speech in the august House today.

Last year, Karim said the state received 4.66 million visitors, bringing in an estimated tourist receipt of RM8.37 billion.

Such arrival figures, he added, showed an increase of 3.19 per cent against that of 2015.

The minister said Malaysia received 26.8 million tourists last year, marking an increase of four per cent in arrivals growth and generating an estimated RM82.1 billion in tourist receipts.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

45 ladies to compete in this year’s Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan


KOTA KINABALU: Forty-five Unduk Ngadau participants will be competing for this year’s state-level Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan.

The chairperson of the harvest pageant committee, Joanna Datuk Kitingan said that the increased participation is in addition to the Kiulu representative.

Speaking at a press conference, Joanna said that this time around the pageant will emphasize on the participants’ ability to speak their mother tongue and appreciate their own culture.

She said it was the continuity of last year’s theme ‘Embrace your culture, speak your mother tongue.”

Joanna, who is also the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) women council chairperson, said that the traditional costumes continues to be their pursuits to make sure that each district brings out the different costumes that is seldom worn so that the Unduk Ngadau learn to appreciate the varied cultures and costumes.

“The Unduk Ngadau Pageant has come a long way. It has kept the traditions alive and promote our culture in terms of being proud to wear our traditional costume and promote our culture tourism as well,” said Joanna.

Meanwhile, for the evening Wear Ethnic Concept, which started four years ago, it will continue to be a competition so that the designers will able to showcase their creative creation during the Sodop Pintutunan on May 27.

The top seven creative best designs will be showcased during the Sodop Unduk Ngadau on May 29.

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The Kampung Legacy – A Journal of Sabah’s Traditional Baskets


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s rich basket-weaving heritage is being celebrated in Jennifer P Linggi’s latest book, The Kampung Legacy – A Journal of Sabah’s Traditional Baskets.

Launched here on Tuesday by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, the book serves as a useful guide and reference tool for craft-lovers, academicians, tourists and designers, who are keen to revive the traditional crafts or create new and contemporary designs.

Speaking at the official ceremony at Hilton Kota Kinabalu, Masidi heaped praise to Jennifer for her work and relentless effort to document the art of basket-making which forms an important fabric in Sabahan tradition and culture.

“It seems rather fitting that we are launching this wonderful book just in time for the coming Harvest Festival which is being celebrated in the month May, and it is with deepest hope that this effort will inspire many generations to continue Sabah’s heritage in traditional art and craft,” he added.

During her address, Jennifer said the book puts the spotlight on Sabah’s traditional craft of basket weaving which risks becoming a dying art as it is practiced by older women among traditional folk and slowly being forgotten by the younger generation.

“From 60 traditional baskets featured in the book, 20 of them are already extinct but there’s a possibility that we will lose two thirds of all the baskets as young people are not interested in the tedious process of basket weaving,” she said.

According to Jennifer, basket-weaving involves very specific skills at every stage of its process from harvesting and choosing the suitable rattan and bamboo, to designing and lastly, weaving them into masterfully crafted baskets, which are mainly used to store agricultural produce.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Foreign music lovers praise Borneo Jazz Festival


MIRI: The annual Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board is a great platform for music enthusiasts from all around the world to fall in love with jazz and share their passion for the music genre.

For Bruneian Kim Garcia, a second-time visitor at the festival, BJF is a really fun event and she came back this year after her first visit in 2013 when she started to fall in love with jazz.

“It is really fun to be here as everyone is enjoying what jazz music has to offer. I was not a jazz fan before I went to the Borneo Jazz Festival and since my first trip here in 2013, I started to fall in love with jazz and will continue to attend the festival for years to come,” said the 28-year-old restaurant supervisor.

In this edition of BJF, award-winning pianist, vocalist and composer Laila Biali from Canada was her favourite performer for her smooth voice and unique take on music.

Another Biali fan, Abex Alfira Naftaly from Indonesia, said that BJF 2017 was all very good and she enjoyed the artistic ambience that the performers from all over the world had created.

“This place is so good and overall it was so entertaining. Although I am not a big fan of jazz, I started to fall in love with the music genre after I attended this festival.

“I would like to suggest to the organisers to place more tables and chairs as well as picnic decorations on the festival ground because I can see that people who are here mostly bring their own mattress so that they can relax while enjoying good music,” said the 30-year-old Trek Venture travel agent.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Foreign music lovers praise Borneo Jazz Festival
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No immediate plan for road connectivity to Mulu


THE government has no immediate plan to construct a proper road from Miri to Mulu to enhance accessibility.

Assistant Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said Mulu “is currently accessible by air via MASwings twice daily from Miri and once daily from Kuching.”

“For those who are more adventurous, they can take the two hours four-wheel drive from Miri through Long Bedian to Long Terawan. From there, it takes another two hours longboat ride to reach Mulu,” he said when taking questions from Datuk Sebastian Ting (BN-Piasau) in the State Legislative Assembly sitting yesterday.

Lee said the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports was working closely with other agencies to promote Miri.

These agencies are Divisional Tourism Task Group under Resident Office, Miri City Council, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and Sarawak Tourism Federation.

Lee said the tactical campaign launched last June together with MASwings and Tropical Adventure Tours Sdn Bhd had put Miri as a preferred destination.

“This campaign is still active and to be re-launched with better fare for next year if there is a demand.”

Lee pointed out that Miri had been chosen as the filming venue for a Chinese movie ‘Blue Tears’ which highlighted the unique attractions around Miri.

Through the movie, he said Miri would be seen by millions of audience in China and other parts of the world which would promote Miri as a tourist destination.

“Short video clip on Food Trail of Miri has also been shot and will be shown in local TV channel to target domestic and Brunei market.”

He said more familiarisation trips would be organised to cover Miri and the surrounding attractions while STB would be producing a five-series product brochure featuring Mulu National Park.

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Private hospitals drawing medical tourists to Sarawak


KUCHING: Medical tourism in Sarawak is booming due mainly to the quality of health services in private hospitals coupled with the relatively cheaper charges.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture and Youth Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah told The Borneo Post yesterday there has been an increase in the number of tourists from the neighbouring countries especially from Kalimantan seeking treatment here.

He added that the total number of tourist arrivals in 2015 was 4.5 million and in 2016 it reached 4.67 million.

“And for the first quarter of this year, the total number of tourist arrivals has already reached 1.27 million,” said Karim, adding that the target of tourist arrivals to the state for this year is 5 million.

Meanwhile, according to a spokesperson from Normah Medical Specialist Centre, they have various packages offered to foreigners, charging them as low as RM200 for simple medical screening test to the more sophisticated and complex medical treatment of various ailments.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

A Fat Girl's Food Guide: Hilton Hotel – Kota Kinabalu


If you have been reading this blog regularly and following me on Instagram and YouTube then you’ll be well aware that I have been living it up In Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

While we enjoyed a sumptuous stay at the beautiful Rasa Ria Resort, we also enjoyed a few days in the city.

We were lucky enough to be offered a stay at the brand spanking new Hilton Hotel.

This place is so new you can still smell the paint, it has only been open for just a few short months but is already one of the hottest hotels in town.

The team at the Hilton hooked us up with the most fabulous one bedroom suite.

It was awesome, this place was even bigger than my apartment back in Seoul.

There was a gigantic bed, double sink bathroom with a bath and a shower, dressing room, living room with two TV’s, office, dining room, and a guest bathroom.

Like seriously, it kinda made me wish we had friends to invite over and show off to.

Had there been more of the two of us it would have been a great spot to host a party.

After the most relaxing night sleeping in our incredibly big King sized bed, we headed down to try the breakfast.

Although I do enjoy the elegance of a private breakfast, we decided to have breakfast in the main restaurant Urban Kitchen instead of the club lounge, as my greedy self just couldn’t resist seeing what was on offer at the breakfast buffet.

I have eaten at a hell of a lot of hotel buffets and this one was pretty epic.

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World-class acts close Borneo Jazz Festival


MIRI: The 12th edition of Miri’s most celebrated festival, the Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) 2017 ended successfully with memorable renditions of exciting Latin-Asian rhythms and melodies, Canadian modern pop and contemporary jazz, Nusantara-inspired Indo-jazz and Japanese jazz-funk at the ParkCity Everly Hotel here on Saturday.

The concert started at 7.30pm and the first band to perform that night was Michael Simon’s Asian Connection that brought elements of Asian melodies enveloped in jazz sounds and harmonies.

This group comprised old-school musicians who have become local legends and up-and-coming musicians from the Netherlands, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Award winning pianist, vocalist and composer Laila Biali from Canada brought a unique arsenal of modern pop and contemporary jazz to create an easy-going, feel-good experience.

Her smooth voice caught the attention of the crowd and got the revellers holding hands and dancing around the field to the sounds of her flowing keyboard trills.

Indonesian band Idang Rasjidi Syndicate, performed next on stage. Recognised as one of the greats of Indonesian jazz and renowned for his keyboard skills and vocals, Idang and his band are regulars in the Southeast Asian jazz festival scene.

The band brought its Nusantara-inspired, peace-centred Indo-jazz to the shores of Miri, promoting its message of positivity and peace through music.

Last but not least, to perform at the finale of BJF 2017 was Japanese band Osaka Monaurail.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: World-class acts close Borneo Jazz Festival
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Calling all runners: The Sabah Salt Trail Challenge is back


KOTA KINABALU: Mercy Malaysia's Sabah Chapter is organising the Salt Trail Challenge fundraising event as part of its plans to provide better healthcare to local communities in remote villages.

The run will be held from Aug 12-13 at the Crocker Range Park, where many species of flora and fauna endemic to Borneo can be found.

With this year’s theme ‘Trail of Hope’, Mercy’s event coordinator Jerry Ong said the non-governmental organisation aims to raise RM80,000 to support Mercy’s activities.

“This challenge is unlike any other running event. We encourage nature and running enthusiasts to join in our Salt Trail Challenge for a good cause,” he told a press conference here today.

“Since 20013, we have provided primary health care services for the communities in Sabah. We have conducted more than 100 mobile outreach clinics throughout the state and conducted disaster relief responses.

“The (Salt) trail symbolised hope for the people in the olden days as they used this route to exchange their produce for salt. Today, it is a trail of hope to the communities to seek better healthcare facilities and education,” added Jerry.

He said Sabah Mercy has more than 700 volunteers who are mostly from the medical field, adding that the team will annually trek to isolated villages in far-flung areas to provide basic healthcare and awareness.

The run is being organised for the fourth time this year in collaboration with the state government conservation-based statutory body Sabah Parks and two other local NGOs, Sabah Amateur Radio Society and Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah (Pacos) Trust.

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Borneo Jazz 2017 ends on high note — thanks to volunteers


MIRI: This year’s Borneo Jazz would not have gone smoothly without the hard work of at least 100 volunteers working across various aspects of the annual festival – as liaison officers (LOs) for performing artistes and the manpower to handle musical instruments, up to event marketing, operations and management.

For Regal Marketing and Trading Sdn Bhd senior area executive Goh Teck Lim, his experience as the LO for the Cape Jazz Band, Osaka Monaurail and Miri Orchestra and Choir Society is something that he would cherish forever.

According to him, working with these bands has given him an enjoyable experience in that the band members are very friendly and easy to get along with.

“I had no trouble working with them at all. I have always been excited to meet people and Borneo Jazz provided me a great chance to meet and interact with people from all around the world.

“Apart from that, I also learned many things like the cultures from outside my native home,” said Goh, adding that he would definitely volunteer again for the next editions.

He also hoped that more aggressive strategies would be used to market the festival and attract more visitors from near and far.

In a similar sentiment, Curtin University Sarawak Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Entrepreneurship) student Voon Yu Min treasures the experience.

She signed up as a volunteer under Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) a month ago before Borneo Jazz 2017.

“I became interested to volunteer after a friend introduced me to the festival. I hope to know more about people and enhance my communication skills by interacting with them,” said Voon.

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‘Sayang Lawas’ bags main title in Sabah International Dragon Boat Race


KOTA KINABALU: Sarawak’s Sayang Lawas crossed the finishing line ahead of six other teams to clinch the 4th Sabah Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) International Dragon Boat Race main title at the Likas Bay in Tanjung Lipat, near here, on Sunday.

The neighbouring state’s dragon boat team finished the 800m sprint in a time of 3 minutes and 48.66 seconds to take home the Sabah Head of State Trophy plus the RM10,000 main cash prize.

Brunei representatives, Pasukan Lumba Perahu Mukim Saba Brunei Darussalam (3m 49.8s) and Pasukan Lumba Perahu Lela Cheteria (3m 50.21s) had to settle for second and third places, respectively.

Sayang Lawas also managed to add a second title to their name in the tournament’s fourth edition by successfully defending their Men’s Open 200m Race (12 crews) title earlier in the day after clocking 58.14 seconds.

They edged out closest challenger, Seri Pahlawan Brunei Muara Team (59.03s) by nearly a second while third place went to Ulmala Dragon Boat Team A after it finished 0.17 seconds above the one minute mark.

The Sabah Chief Minister Trophy (Malaysian Men Teams) was won by Rabbana Dragon Boat Team A while Remaja Rukut Rukut Lok Bo Eh Tuaran defended their Kinabalu Dragon Trophy (Local Boys under 20) title won last year.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

VagabondWay: Pygmy Elephants in Borneo being Amazing and Joyfully Cute


“Oh my gosh! There! Can you see them – Pygmy Elephants!”

We’re all trying to be quiet standing on a small floating wooden dock along the Kinabatangan River in Malaysia, Borneo as we peer into the early morning mist.

“I see more! There’s more coming down and oh my gosh, there’s babies!”

Over the next twenty minutes we watched over 30 pygmy elephants swim across the Kinbatangan River.

We later realized just how lucky we were as the guides in the area had not seen elephants for 1.5 months.

Prior to that it had been 3 months since a sighting.

In terms of wildlife viewing, we just had been given a winning lottery ticket.

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A night to remember at Borneo Jazz Festival 2017


MIRI: The first night performance of the Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) 2017 on Saturday began with a fusion of contemporary jazz numbers by Fluorescent Collective – a brilliant group of musicians dabbling in multiple genres.

The band consists of students from the Berklee College of Music and eclectic musicians proficient in everything from rock to R&B and pop to blues, taking unique melodies and melding them with catchy, odd-time grooves.

Visitors didn’t let the heavy downpour put a damper on their enthusiasm as they waited for the show to begin, lifting their umbrellas above their heads and called for the show at ParkCity Everly Hotel’s stage-by-the-sea to commence.

It was a testament to the kindred spirit shared among jazz fans and enthusiasts at the Saturday night event, further emboldening the performing musicians.

Cabocuba Jazz, a band hailing from the Netherlands continued to keep the audience entertained by playing a mix of melancholic Cape Verde melodies and vigorous Cuban dance rhythms.

The audience sang and danced to their melodic, foot-tapping music before being moved by a more Afro-Carribean groove as trio Delgres took the stage, bringing an impressive ensemble of Delta Blues heavily influenced by Guadeloupe, Louisiana Blues and beyond.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: A night to remember at Borneo Jazz Festival 2017
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Over 5,000 expected for Borneo Jazz Festival


MIRI: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is targeting over 5,000 festivalgoers for the 12th Borneo Jazz Festival at ParkCity Everly Hotel.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said ticket sales were strong last week.

“Last year’s attendance reached 4,000 with an average spin-off to the local economy totalling RM8.5 million, which is based on the ratio of 70 per cent Malaysians and 30 per cent non-Malaysians,” he told a press conference yesterday.

He said the outreach programme has been well received with four tutorial music workshops this year.

“Our main objective in organising this musical tutorial is to further encourage especially local musicians to immerse themselves in musical theories with the hope to enhance their understanding and to create deeper interest in music appreciation especially the jazz genre,” said Lee.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Over 5,000 expected for Borneo Jazz Festival
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Friday, May 12, 2017

Sabah tourism ministry drawing up new guideline, policy on salvaging works


KOTA KINABALU: A new guideline and policy for salvaging works especially on historical shipwrecks in Sabah waters is underway, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Masidi assured that a special committee set up under the Ministry following a recent controversy over the removal of three wartime Japanese shipwrecks from Sabah’s northern waters.

The next step now is to complete the work on a set of new standard operating procedures (SOP).

“It is a continuous process and they (the special committee) are updating the current SOP to ensure better guidelines and policies with regards to the protection of shipwrecks are put in place.

“So far we have had very good cooperation with all the relevant quarters,” he told reporters after launching the Sabah Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair at Suria Sabah Shopping Mall, here.

In Feb, Masidi announced the state government under his Ministry would introduce the new guidelines to better preserve the remaining 27 historical shipwrecks in Sabah waters.

The move came after a local company Ugeens Berjaya Enterprise in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sabah carried out salvaging work on three World War 2 Japanese shipwrecks in Usukan – Sabah’s popular wreck dive site off Kota Belud.

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Borneo Jazz Festival starts with beach-cleaning


MIRI: Internationally acclaimed Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) kicked off yesterday with cleaning the beach at Luak Bay Esplanade in collaboration with Miri City Council to conserve the environment and beautify the city.

Media representatives from around the world who had come here for BJF joined in the activity.

“It’s great to see that where there is a pertinent need, this greening project will fill it, as beaches in Miri have begun to get international attention, particularly for its Blue Tears phenomenon.

“This greening project is a great way for us to work together as a community without barriers. We labour to clean this beach today using our two hands, in the process becoming ambassadors of nature. We will do our part to help keep Miri City clean, beautiful and healthy,” Miri Deputy Mayor Julaihi Mohammad said when officiating at the ceremony.

Julaihi who represented Mayor Adam Yii at the event said Miri is the only major town in Sarawak with a long stretch of beautiful beaches right in the city centre.

He commended Sarawak Tourism Board for ensuring the cleanliness of the beach was taken care of.

“We should encourage the local community here, especially the younger generation, to get involved in this outreach programme – not just representatives of the organiser and the local and international media fraternity,” Julaihi said.

He suggested future activities such as ‘gotong-royong’ with villagers nearby, and cleanliness awareness programmes with students and teachers of schools in the surrounding area.

“Through such programmes, we remind the local community on the importance of keeping the environment clean, rather than let other people take care of our environment,” he said.

Sarawak Tourism Board director of events and corporate relations Angelina Bateman was present at the beach cleaning.

Borneo Jazz, organised by STB, is an annual international event that is part of Miri May Fest.

Eight bands from around the world will be performing at the two-day festival: Idang Rasjidi Syndicate (Indonesia), The Cape Jazz Band (South Africa), Michael Simon’s Asian Connection (Netherlands/Taiwan/Malaysia), Osaka Monaurail (Japan), Fluoroscent Collective (Malaysia, USA, India, Italy), Laila Biali (Canada), Delgres (Guadaloupe/France) and Cabocuba Jazz (Netherlands).

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo Jazz Festival starts with beach-cleaning
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Sneak preview of Sarawak Tourism Board’s Borneo Jazz Festival at Ming Café


MIRI: Jazz music fans gathered at Ming Café here for a musical showcase it co-hosted with Sarawak Tourism Board on Wednesday evening.

The event serves as a special sneak preview leading up to the 12th edition of STB’s Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) to be held at ParkCity Everly Hotel here today and tomorrow.

The showcase attracted a jazz-loving audience of over 100 who came to enjoy a live performance by a jazz band that will be making its debut at the annual BJF, CaboCuba Jazz from the Netherlands.

“This is our first time in Borneo and we are excited to entertain our jazz-loving audience, and looking forward to spend a lovely time here,” said a member of the jazz band, Nils Fischer.

Nils said the band’s name describes it all – a fast-paced mash of Cuban and Cape Verde melodies and dance rhythms, seasoned with plenty of on-stage improvisations.

“Jazz music has always been a music which embraces all kinds of influences and our band tries to reflect that by bringing Cuban and African music together with jazz.”

Local bands Finger Basket and Mountain Wind Band joined in to entertain the crowd.

Based in the Netherlands, the group comprises eight musicians from Venezuela, Cape Verde, Colombia, Spain, Puerto Rica and Cuba, led by powerhouse Dina Medina who was Best Female Singer of Cape Verde in 2012.

Their CD ‘Rikeza y Valor’ was nominated in four categories for the Latin Grammy Awards and nominated four times at the Cabo Verde Music Awards in 2012, while the band itself has been touring the world and performing in the Havana Jazz Festival in 2014 and an Israel tour in 2016.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tourist joyrides in the sky by Sabah Air


KOTA KINABALU: Joyrides in the sky look set to become a tourism industry game-changer for Sabah.

The bird’s eye view tour of the state’s capital and its beautiful hinterland takes in a breathtaking snapshot panorama of Sabah’s scenic landscape and islands in once-in-a-lifetime package flight aboard a modern helicopter.

And taking the first one-hour tour was a group of Chinese company executives enjoying an incentive package. No fewer than 3,000 flew in via China Southern Airlines scheduled flight on a five-day company tour starting this week. But only top management executives were lucky enough to enjoy the trip.

The flights aboard a Bell 206L3 Long Ranger (six-seater) and AS355NP twin engine (five-seater) choppers were rolled out by Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd’s dedicated “Kota Kinabalu City and Islands Sightseeing Tour”.

The flights were divided into three groups starting on May 8 and then on Wednesday (May 10) and today (May 11) with up to 10 personnel aboard for each trip.

The New Sabah Times managed to catch up with the VIP tourists and Sabah Air’s senior personnel and pilot at their terminal in Tanjung Aru here before the flight on Wednesday.

“Although I don’t have the opportunity to talk to them (as the tourists don’t speak English), it is really nice to bring them around. I could see they are very excited about it because this is something new for them to see this kind of scenery,” said Captain Jaimie E Ermitanio as she waited for the VIP passengers to arrive.

She was also involved in flying the first batch of visitors on Monday (May 8) and from the feedback, she noted the tourists were very happy with the itinerary that the travel agents and Sabah Air had arranged.

“If I am not mistaken, they have shared the trip with the other groups and it seems that their friends have insisted to us they also want to take the same route,” said Captain Jaimie from the Philippines.

All the journeys began and ended at the Sabah Air terminal. And during the flight, passengers were taken in a bird’s eye visit of five popular tourism spots.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tourist joyrides in the sky by Sabah Air
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Fat Girl's Food Guide: 10 Must Eats in Sabah, Borneo


As you may have seen from my instagram feed, we have been relaxing and enjoying a fabulous vacation on the beautiful island of Borneo.

Borneo is famed for its luscious rain-forests, wildlife, and monkeys, but it also has some incredible food.

While our time was short and we didn’t get to try as many dishes as we would have liked, we were lucky to have more than enough to make a top ten.

1. Satay

Satay is probably one of Malaysia’s most famous dishes, and for very good reason, it’s bloody delicious!

You can find good satay pretty much everywhere but we were lucky enough to have our resort’s head chef prepare some us specially.

The delicious little sticks of meat, usually chicken or beef, are cooked with handful of spices and lemongrass and then barbecued to give them their unique flavour.

They are then served with a scrummy dipping sauce usually made with coconut and peanuts among other things.

2. Butter Tiger Prawns

Tiger prawns are a specialty in Sabah, because they are found locally.

They also grow to a humungous size, thanks to the great conditions of the Mengkabong river. 

We tried them two ways, wet and dry. While the wet sauce was absolutely divine, it did make them very hard to eat if you didn’t want to spit out the shells.

I have no idea what the etiquette of eating them is, but I preferred to get my hands messy and de-shell them before eating them.

3. Soto

At both of our fantastic hotels, they offered Sota for breakfast which was a delicious local noodle dish.

A selection of different noodles were available then we added the different vegetables and meats.

If you are fan of noodle soups then you are sure to want to give this Indonesian classic one a try.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Month-long Kaamatan festival begins


KOTA KINABALU: As Sabah celebrates a month-long Kaamatan, the city‘s harvest festival celebration is set to be a joyous, vibrant and grand affair with numerous exciting cultural events for all to enjoy.

Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai said the Kaamatan festive celebration will be held in the state capital from May 18-May 20, starting at the main venue at the Padang Merdeka which will host a galore of festivities beginning from 6pm until 11pm.

“This year’s city level Kaamatan will be celebrated with the theme ‘Kaamatan: The foundation for unity’, and will culminate with a grand ceremony by Huguon Siou (Paramount Leader) of the Kadazandusunmurut (KDM) community, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan,” he said.

In announcing the Kaamatan celebration at the press conference on Monday, Yeo said the opening ceremony will be followed by the hotly-awaited Lilundus Unduk Ngadau (beauty contest) as well as Sugandoi (singing competition), Magavau ritual and choir.

“There will also be other exciting events in store for everyone to enjoy, including a bicycle decoration gala, Unduk Ngadau Creative Traditional Dress competition, karaoke contests, as well as prize presentation for all the winners,“ said Yeo.

Furthermore, he noted the Kaamatan Cycling Challenge will also be held in conjunction of the Kaamatan which will witness 100 cyclists taking on the 22KM route starting from Padang Merdeka along Jalan Tun Abdul Rahman, Jalan Penampang until KDCA Cultural Village before returning to the starting point.

“The closing ceremony of the Kaamatan on May 20 will be officiated by federal Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Salleh Tun Said Keruak,” said Yeo, adding that the finale of the festival will culminate with the Unduk Ngadau finals for Kota Kinabalu and Likas, and state-level competitions which will be held at the KDCA Cultural Village.

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Snap, Travel and Pop: Borneo - Jungle Reforestation Camp


After a long ass journey which included a 2 hour breakdown we made it to Kinabatangan for the start of our jungle experience!

At Kinabatangan we were volunteering with a NGO called Kopel which supports the Reforestation of Borneo’s ancient jungle.

A lot of jungle has been lost to logging (in the 80s the majority of the world’s wood came from Borneo) and, more recently, Palm oil plantations.

This has left Borneo to be about 60% jungle/forest.

So, we had a week to sort this environmental​ injustice out.

The Government has designated certain areas for the jungle which are protected or need to be reclaimed and replanted.

The aim is to make a jungle corridor so that the wildlife can migrate over a large area, increasing their gene pool.

Before we got stuck into work we needed to get some much needed sleep.

Our accommodation over the majority of the week would be in the form of a homestay.

After my first homestay in Peru many years ago my views on them are fairly tarnished, however, the Amnesa family were very welcoming, clean and could cook so things weren’t so bad.

Thankfully they also had a western toilet but we did have to squat for the shower.

The kids were sweet, the mum was nice and the dad was grumpy/quiet – like a regular family anywhere in the world.

Our first full day started with a jungle trek and river cruise.

Our guide, Jeff, was quite excited about a herd of over 100 elephants in the vicinity.

There was also the potential to see crocodiles, monkeys, sun bears, pythons, wild pigs and Borneo clouded leopards.

We therefore had high hopes when we set off on our trek.

The jungle was hot, moist and noisy. And, despite the promise of exciting wildlife, 30 minutes into the trek we had seen diddly squat. Sad times.

 But suddenly Jeff exclaimed “tracks!”. A hush came over the group, part excitement part fear.

Was it the elephants? Or maybe the leopards? Or even the sun bears?

Danger could be behind the next tree so, like a midget using a urinal, we had to stay on our toes.

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Discovering Labuan and loving it


LABUAN is steeped in history and sadly, the lesser-known of the three Federal Territories.

The Federal Territory of Labuan, unlike its counterparts Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, is an island located off the northwest coast of Borneo and facing the South China Sea.

Its proximity to Sabah and Brunei makes travelling a breeze for those who commute daily via ferry to the island.

Labuan is only 8km or a 20-minute boat ride from Menumbok, a small fishing town in Sabah.

While Labuan is the main attraction, the smaller islands of Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burong are popular among tourists for island-hopping.

Choosing this duty-free port as a holiday destination was frowned upon by some well-meaning colleagues, who suggested I ditch my plans and head to Langkawi instead.

“There is nothing to do there!” an editor exclaimed while another asked, “You can see Labuan in two hours. What are you going to do after that?”

Instead of listening to them, I decided to go down the road less travelled.

With only the Internet to turn to for help with regards to the island’s attractions, I picked out a few must-do things including visiting the Chimney, Layang-Layang Beach, Kampung Bebuloh, Kampung Patau-Patau, World War II Memorial, the market, island hopping and a short hike.

All of that in two hours seemed far-fetched so I turned to some friends, living there, for help.

The fact that I knew people on the island, including my neighbour Dr Ishvinder Singh Parmar, long-time buddy banker Sukhdev Bedi and Dorsett Grand Labuan general manager Susan Carlos, convinced me to head there.

Carlos’ offer to get her concierge team help plan my itinerary was weight off my shoulders.

Visiting Labuan’s water villages, Kampung Bebuloh and Kampung Patau-Patau, was interesting because living in houses on stilts over the sea can be unnerving for some but not for these villagers.

There is no need to experience the village by boat as it is well connected by roads, concrete walkways and wooden rickety bridges.

I met up with local tour guide and self-taught historian Willie Teo who knows everything there is to know about Labuan, past and present.

“The British wanted Labuan for its port and coal.

“The island previously under Brunei, became a British colony on Dec 24, 1846 and the town was named Victoria Town,” said Teo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Discovering Labuan and loving it
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RM80 mln allocated for Sandakan Airport runway extension project


SANDAKAN: Tourism will become Sandakan’s key economic driver with the refurbishment of its airport terminal and the proposed extension of its runway.

“The ground work is being laid for the revival of this Sabah east coast town,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said when launching the Sandakan airport runway extension project on Sunday.

“With larger aircraft accommodated there would be more direct flights from Japan, Korea and China,” he said when launching the runway extension project here on Sunday.

“Sabah has all it takes to draw in the tourists. There’s the beautiful scenery, the wildlife including orang utan. The hotels will be full in time to come,” said Najib.

He said a sum of up to RM80 million had been allocated for the runway extension project that was not among the projects listed under the 11th Malaysia plan.

“In my last visit to Sandakan in March, I met some of the business community who told me how important this project was,” Najib in adding that he immediately called Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to get it approved.

“If something will benefit Sabahans, I will approve it,” said the Prime Minister in adding that he had given the nod for more projects in the state than a predecessor who was in power for 22 years.

Najib also said there must be a continuity of the present government, reminding the people to continue giving their support. “The Barisan Nasional government does not need to incite or mislead the people as we have proven ourselves with initiatives implemented for the people,” the Prime Minister further said.

Najib said contractor for the extension work has been appointed and had received the Letter of Intent (LoI).

“It is the same contractor involved in the upgrading work of the Sandakan airport. At the moment, they are in the negotiation process but I really hope that they can speed up and start mid-year,” Najib added.

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Asean International Film Festival and Award 2017 - Use Sarawak’s natural attractions as movie backdrops


KUCHING: Sarawak is open to filmmakers from all over the world to come and use the natural attractions here as their next backdrop in the movies they are making, said Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the state has abundance of charm and renowned sights which are perfect natural film studios.

“Come over to Mulu Cave, a world heritage site; visit our rainforest, the oldest in the world; experience our city and huge lakes which make spectacular backdrops for your next movie,” he said in a recorded speech during the Asean International Film Festival and Award (Aiffa) 2017 gala night on Saturday.

“Aside from that, everyone has their own scripts in life including in the government called the national or state vision, which wants to make the lives of citizens better,” he added.

As the chief minister, he had to encourage growth in as many strategic areas as possible.

“We have recently set up the Sarawak Multimedia and Commission Authority or SMCA, to move towards the Internet. We understand that the future of Sarawak and that of Malaysia and Asia is dependent upon digital.

“The path of SMCA is formation of the e-commerce transformation plan or EcomY30 plan up to year 2030. This plan targets  empowering youths of Sarawak to catapult them into thinking, learning, working and doing business digitally thus making the world the playing field,” he elaborated.

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

A Fat Girl's Food Guide: Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort – Sabah, Borneo


Sometimes my life is fabulously chic, and these past few days have been one of those occasions.

I was lucky enough to be invited to come and stay at the spectacular Shangri-la's Rasa Ria Resort in Sabah, Borneo earlier this week.

Borneo has always been at the top of my list for places to visit, and when I saw where we would be staying I couldn’t book my plane ticket fast enough.

There are half a dozen airlines that fly directly from Seoul, making it just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

The resort has been open for 20 years, and at this stage has virtually every amenity you could imagine.

Private beach, golf course, two pools, gym, a nature reserve, and a spa just to name a few.

We stayed in the very beautiful Ocean wing, where every room comes with an oversized outdoor bathtub on the balcony.

The room itself was very spacious, with a gigantic bed big enough for four, a twin-sinked bathroom, a walk in wardrobe, and of course the aforementioned tub on the giant balcony.

Guests staying in the Ocean wing are treated to a complimentary fruit/snack platter and minibar, which was stocked with beers and soft drinks for you to enjoy until your heart is content.
Ocean Wing guests also get to enjoy a complimentary cocktail and canape hour down in the courtyard, which we of course partook in too and sampled a very nice tropical cocktail as well as some local snacks.

It’s so nice to be able to unwind with a few drinks without worrying abut the cost, so this was a real plus point for us.

The most luxurious feature of the room is probably the “indulgence” bath on your very own balcony, with a choice of rose petals, bubbles, or bath salts (once for free and 50MYR for additional baths).

We had a very romantic bubble bath at sunset, which was just the thing to refresh us after a long day of sight seeing.

Our day started with breakfast at Oceano restaurant, which offers up the standard hotel buffet fare, along with an a la carte menu with items such as Eggs Benedict, frittatas, and local specialty nasi goreng.

The nasi goreng was especially good, as were the made to order omelettes.

Honestly i don’t think there was anything that you could want that wasn’t available.

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Networking session on music, business to make debut at annual Borneo Jazz


The Borneo Jazz will for the first time conduct a networking session on ‘Jazz and Money – Do They Mix?’ at the Ruai Bar in ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri this May 13, scheduled to commence at 2pm.

This session will be facilitated by international music producer Patrick Lee-Thorp.

According to the organiser, the event provides a platform for aspiring professional jazz musicians to gain input from a seasoned expert on the reality of pursuing music as a career, focusing on the jazz music industry.

Topics to be featured include the ups and downs of making a living out of music and the international jazz scene over the past 20 years.

“The session will give opportunity for the guest jazz musician to share his opinions and experiences with the participants on the challenges faced by professional artistes in the ever-changing business landscape of the music industry,” it said.

Lee-Thorp is currently based in Hamburg, Germany and has over 30 years of experience as a music producer and publisher.

He created a South Africa-based record label Mountain Records in 1980, which has released records by local acts such as David Kramer, Robin Auld and Amampondo.

He also established a sub-label known as Sea Records based in Europe, which has released non-label South African acts such as Brenda Fassie, Philip Tabane and the Soul Brothers, as well as international acts like Tony Bird (USA), Janvier Honfo (Benin) and Celso Fonseca (Brazil).

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MASwings offers Ramadan promo on all ATR services


KUCHING: MASwings is offering a hard-to-resist offer from as low as RM103 all-in one-way on all MASwings ATR services in conjunction with the upcoming Ramadan.

Purchase from now until May 31,  2017, for travel  from May 7 until June 30, 2017.

“With the launch of these special deals, MASwings hopes to give the local community across Sabah and Sarawak more opportunities to travel home and spend time with their loved ones during the Ramadhan month,” said MASwings through a press statement on Thursday

The statement revealed that the MASwings Ramadan Kareem Promotion offers travellers from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan with fares from as low as RM103 all-in one-way, and from RM113 to Lahad Datu, Tawau, Sandakan, Mulu, and Miri respectively.

The all-inclusive offer also starts at RM133 to Bintulu and Sibu; as well as RM153 to Kuching from Kota Kinabalu.

“For those travelling from Kuching, they will also be able to enjoy fares from as low as RM103 to Sibu and RM113 to Bintulu.

Popular destinations such as to Miri and Mulu are also offered at RM133 respectively and to Kota Kinabalu from as low as RM153 one-way from Kuching,” it added.

Passengers from Miri can also travel all-inclusive one-way to Labuan, Mulu, Bintulu and Limbang for RM103; and to Sibu for RM113.

“Offers for other destinations such as from Sandakan to Tawau and from Bintulu to Sibu are also available from as low as RM103.”

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Friday, May 05, 2017

CaboCuba Jazz to perform at the Borneo Jazz Festival


KUCHING: CaboCuba Jazz is coming to the Borneo Jazz Festival at ParkCity Everly, Miri from May 12 to 13.

Based in the Netherlands, the group comprises eight musicians originating from Venezuela, Cape Verde, Colombia, Spain, Puerto Rica and Cuba, led by powerhouse Dina Medina, who won the “Best Female Singer of Cape Verde” in 2012.

“Their CD ‘Rikeza y Valor’ was nominated in four categories for the Latin Grammy Awards and was nominated four times at the Cabo Verde Music Awards in 2012, while the band itself has been touring the world and performed in the Havana Jazz Festival in 2014 and an Israel tour in 2016,” said Sarawak Tourism Board through their press statement yesterday.

According to the statement, their name describes it all – a fast-paced mash of Cuban and Cape Verde melodies and dance rhythms, seasoned with plenty of on-stage improvisations.

CaboCuba Jazz will be joined by bands from Japan, South Africa, Italy, USA, Taiwan and other countries from around the world in performing at the festival.

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Labuan Chimney Run to promote Labuan’s historical chimney


LABUAN: The Labuan Chimney Run 2017 will be held on July 8 targeting thousands of local and international runners.

The objectives of this run are to promote healthy lifestyle and to boost one of the historic tourism spots in Labuan which is a well-known mystery chimney, located a Tanjung Kubong.

The chimney was built in the 80’s with 23,000 pieces of red bricks which were imported all the way from England.

With the height of 106 feet, the structure is similar to that of British and the usage of it is still a mystery up till today.

This Labuan tourism icon has been awarded the International Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development in 2013 in the category of historic building architecture.

The international award by The Green Organisation, the United Kingdom allows Labuan to be selected as The Green Ambassador 2014 for that category.

The route of the run is selected to emphasize the scenic and beautiful natures of Lumuk Temiang, Sungai Miri and Tanjung Aru where runners will experience two running surfaces such as road and hills.

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Sarawak mulls extending Heart of Borneo area


KUCHING: Sarawak is considering extending the area covered by the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative from the current 2.1 million ha.

Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh said while the total area to be extended has not been confirmed, the Forest Department is studying the proposal.

At present Sarawak has set aside 2.1 million ha for the initiative, which is around 15 per cent of the total area under HoB.

“It is about time for us to extend the area of HoB, from Batang Ai to the western part of Sarawak along the border which covers the Kelingkang range, Bengoh range, Gunung Gading National Park and all the way up to Tanjung Datu National Park,” Len said during the HoB Long Banga Scientific Expedition Seminar welcoming dinner on Wednesday.

Len, who is also Kuala Rajang assemblyman, said the proposal will not harm existing land use but instead enhance resource management of the area.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak mulls extending Heart of Borneo area
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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Kabran Gone Wild: Kota Kinabalu - Nothing But Beach in Borneo


Eager to get back underwater and further our scuba diving skills, we looked into PADI’s Advanced Open Water Course.

This would allow us to dive deeper and specialize in wreck diving – what better place than the largest island in Asia?!

We packed our bags, booked our course, and made our way to Kota Kinabalu (I swear this place exists and I did not make up the name).

Certified Deep Divers: With Borneo being one of the cheaper places to dive, we were not expecting much.

However, the first day we were chartered by boat out to Down Below’s private beach resort and could not have been more impressed!

This island oasis was the perfect place to debrief after dives, and refuel on delicious snacks and chicken lunches (fish are our friends)!

Our specialty dives included: underwater navigation, deep dive, boat dive, wreck dive and peak performance buoyancy.

Let’s just say .. we were not peak performers when it came to buoyancy.

A lot of underwater bubbles were blown while laughing at one another bobbing up and down in the water.

Nonetheless, we passed (without flying colors) – after all Sea’s Get Degrees!

Island Hopping: After expending a lot of energy underwater, we rewarded ourselves with a day of ultimate island relaxation.

TAR Marine Park is made up of five islands, and hopping from island to island by boat is KK”s most popular tourist attraction.

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Sabah Fest 2017 opens with special preview of 'Supirak'


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Fest 2017 kickstarted tonight with a special media preview of the festival's highly-anticipated stage musical, Supirak - The Legendary Stone Ark.

The dramatic performance on the legend of Supirak features mesmerising dances of the various ethnicities within the cultural melting pot of Sabah.

Each is unique in its own way - such as the Sumarikayau dance of the Orang Sungei people in Pitas, which mimics the gentle wispy movements of fish alongside the rhythmic sound of gongs. Or the Kuntaw, a dance of Chinese origin, which combines swaying gestures with acrobatic martial arts.

The significance of these dances stem from the myths that accompany them - some innocous, such as the Sumarikayau dance being inspired by the movement of fish and the sound of pounding rice.

Others can be eeriely violent, such as how the Sumanggak dance of the Tombonuo was inspired by the vengeful decapitation of the tribe's enemies.

These dances were being used in tandem with dramatic orchestral music to depict the tale of Supirak and her wayward son, Si Ragam.

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Sarawak shoots for the stars to boost tourism


Sarawak hopes to bolster tourism by creating greater awareness and appeal of the destination through the film industry.

Acting CEO at Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), Mary Wan Mering, said: “(Promotion efforts through) trade fairs, trade missions and consumer billboard marketing will still continue.

But we must think out of the box to capture the market of travellers who are interested in entertainment.”

Citing the success of South Korea leveraging its pop culture and technology in tourism, she added: “They don’t spend on big billboards to create awareness.

They use K-pop and Korean dramas. They get big corporations such as Samsung to promote the destination and their products using K-pop."

Earlier this year, the STB set up a Filming Support Unit to facilitate international film production houses to obtain film permits, and provide them with ground support and hosting during location scouting in Sarawak.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak shoots for the stars to boost tourism
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