Monday, July 31, 2017

Grand finale of Borneo Cultural Festival 2017 attracts 50,000 people


SIBU: About 50,000 people from all walks of life from the central region jam-packed Sibu Town Square Phase One to watch the grand finale of Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) 2017 on Saturday night.

They were glued to their seats as they enjoyed the colourful traditional and modern dance performances by the dance troupes.

The perfect weather greatly helped in making the event proceed smoothly as planned.

Among the foreign troupes that performed during the grand finale were the impressive Ngangklung Ceria AABB from Indonesia and Gulou Sanshan Art Troupe from China.

The creative and talented dancers from SMJK Yu Hua Kajang, Selangor entertained the crowd with their Malay traditional dance performance – the ‘Inang Asli’, The Path and Sumirid Dance.

The local troupes included the Borneo Spectrum with their sape and ngajat dance performances, Akar Nading of SMK Pakan, Hornland Dance Theatre, SJK Su Lai, Sri Swangsa Sibu, Sibu Martial Arts (Quan Shu) Association, the One Dance Studio and Danger Crew.

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Forests outside of protected areas critical for orangutan


KOTA KINABALU: The Lower Kinabatangan has lost almost a third of its orangutan population in the last 16 years, following continued loss of forests outside of protected areas and further fragmentation of their habitat that is home to other wildlife, including the Borneo pygmy elephant and the proboscis monkey.

These forests outside protected areas – including privately owned and state lands – are largely composed of swamp areas that are increasingly becoming threatened in Borneo and which have poor or no economic value for oil palm due to daily or seasonal flooding events.

Long-term monitoring has revealed that the decline of orangutans has not stopped in the Lower Kinabatangan, despite this being identified as a high priority area for the primate in Sabah’s Orangutan Action Plan. It is critical to both address the future of these forests outside of protected areas and to recreate contiguous forest corridors.

The future is bleak for the Bornean orangutan, which last year moved to IUCN’s Critically Endangered category with numbers dropping from 4,000 individuals in the 1960s to 1,125 in 2001 to less than 800 today in the Lower Kinabatangan.

A study published this month in Scientific Reports indicates Sabah’s overall orangutan population has dropped by 20 per cent since the last comprehensive survey in the early 2000s, which had placed their number at 11,000 individuals.

Borneo Futures co-founder Dr Marc Ancrenaz said habitat fragmentation in Lower Kinabatangan remains a major issue with 11,000 hectares of forests outside protected areas lost in under a decade up to 2014, and over 20,000 hectares on alienated and state lands at risk of being converted for agriculture, primarily oil palm, further fragmenting the orangutan population and accelerating its decline.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A big bike adventure to Tip of Borneo


ON a misty June 24 morning ahead of the Raya holidays, nine riders from the Free and Furious Bikers’ group in Sibu set out on the quest to reach the much talked about Tip of Borneo within two days.

They are experienced big bikers — some with nine years of cross-country riding under their belts while the most junior among them have been biking with the group for two years.

Led by two skilled expedition managers, Michael Ting and Dr Grammen Low, the group revved along the Bintulu-Miri-Brunei-Limbang-Lawas route with its spectacular landscape before reaching the beautiful western coast of Sabah.

For the bikers, it was a dream ride out in open country. Sibu, being more than 80 miles from the sea, is generally viewed as landlocked. Many of its residents, especially among the younger generation, have dreams to venture out and see the world!

A senior teacher known as Mr Hii told thesundaypost, “It’s no big surprise that a group of motorcycle enthusiasts have come together to form the Free and Furious Bikers of Sibu. Young people are usually adventurous. They like to explore and see things for themselves. For them, nine-to-five jobs can be routine and sometimes, even boring.”

Apart from the two leaders, the bikers were Cheng Hua Ping, Danny Wong and his wife Onna Yii, Ling Tiing Tchin, Robert Kang, Ting Ming Sheng, and Wong Kiung Kui.

Before the outing, they had their bikes thoroughly checked — brakes, lights, oil and fluid levels, tyre pressure and hydraulics — to make sure everything was in order. They also looked into important matters like passports, bike ownership documentation and accommodation arrangements as well as route-planning to avoid travelling on the same road twice while in Sabah.

First Day

The group started early on June 24, riding north out of Sibu on a cheerful note.

Onna Yii, the only woman in the expedition, said even though it was raining most of the first day, the group was in high spirits. To her, “eating, laughing and even riding at night is a memorable experience”. She finds big biking “a kind of fulfilment” and she enjoyed herself throughout the ride.

The group detoured to Bintulu for breakfast, then pushed on to Miri. They had a high-tea rojak break in Limbang before riding on to Kota Kinabalu in the dark and rain. In between, they stopped only for short breaks and small meals.

The long 900km ride had apparently worked up an appetite in the riders. Not surprisingly, they found the seafood in the Sabah capital extra tasty.

Second Day

On June 25, the riders continued their journey in equatorial rain. Undaunted, they pressed on to their final destination, the Tip of Borneo, arriving there in three and half hours from Kota Kinabalu despite the shower.

While many know about this northernmost part of Borneo Island, not many have actually reached it by land or sea. Numerous ships had floundered at this point too. A lighthouse there serves as an ominous reminder that the surrounding seas had been notorious for shipwrecks.

In the past, mystery shrouded this far-lung seaboard of the Land Below the Wind where legends abound. Today, with better roads and publicity, more people have ventured to the Tip, located in the Kudat District.  It is at this awesome promontory, also known as Tanjung Simpang Mengayau?or lingering junction, that the South China Sea meets the Sulu Sea flowing from the east.

Like most first-time visitors, the bikers were mesmerised by the stunning sunset. All the aches and pains from the long ride were soon forgotten as the group spared little time snapping pictures of the setting sun, the beautiful Pantai Kalampunian (the long stretch of beach ending at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau), the bronze Globe and the Rocky Outcrop that forms the famous Tip of Borneo.

“We saw the radiant sunset and the beautiful and changing colours of twilight. What an unforgettable sight! As we stood at this northernmost tip of Borneo, we felt lifted in body and soul. We have travelled over 1,190km from Sibu in the heart of Sarawak to enjoy this wonderful moment. I am speechless,” one of the riders said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A big bike adventure to Tip of Borneo
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Limbang, Lawas — A great tourism draw


LIMBANG: The natural heritage of Limbang and Lawas has the potential to be combined into a top tourism draw if promoted together with Brunei and Sabah.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said even humble mangroves could be attractive tourism products along with the rich cultural heritage, local delicacies and other products indigenous to Lawas and Limbang districts.

“We have the beautiful mountains and beauty of our nature, rivers, mangroves, and the Bay of Brunei, which is the best package for tourism,” he said when launching Pesta Limbang yesterday on behalf of Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“This unique diversity is our strength and despite our location far in the north of Sarawak, we have great nature, culture, unique delicacies and strategic location in BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines- East Asean Growth Area), bordering Brunei, Indonesia and Sabah.”

He said the state government has already carried out several infrastructure development initiatives here for tourism.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Limbang, Lawas — A great tourism draw
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Saturday, July 29, 2017

‘What About Kuching 2017’ promises action-packed events


KUCHING: What About Kuching (WAK) 2017 is promising an action-packed programme from Sept 30 to Oct 29 with the aim to ‘Celebrate Arts, Culture and Lifestyle’.

WAK 2017 will encompass every genre from visual to performing arts, traditional to contemporary arts, and static exhibitions to active outdoor pursuits.

To date, over 20 components have already been committed by various groups.

The first will be the Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival 2017 on Sept 29-30 at The Waterfront, Grand Margherita Hotel.

The sold-out Asia-Link Sketchwalk: Kuching 2017 on Oct 5-8 is expecting around 250 delegates from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam and India.

The Borneo International Beads Conference 2017 will take place from Oct 13-15 at the Old Courthouse, while the Sarawak Adventure Challenge – The Lost Mines will take adventure seekers through a scenic 55km route via mountain biking, trail running, and caving through the rainforests, rivers and caves that surround Bau.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Travel Mood: Discover the best time to visit Borneo to see Orangutans with our travel experts advice


Borneo, the largest island in Asia, has more than dense rainforests, native tribes and spectacular natural beauty.

The island is full of life and is home to some of the most magnificent animal species in the world.

For many visitors to Borneo, their most outstanding moment is glimpsing a wild orangutan swinging through the jungle canopy.

Our Travelmood travel expert Sarah was lucky enough to visit this mesmerising destination.

Here, she shares the best time to visit Borneo to see orangutans.


Visit Borneo during dry season

Located off the eastern coast of Malaysia, Borneo experiences a tropical climate, high humidity, sunshine and some rainfall throughout the year.

The wetter months in Borneo tend to be between November and February, when the Northeast Monsoon hits.

The milder months, known as the dry season fall between March and October.

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Borneo Cultural Festival organisers commended for showcasing Sarawak


SIBU: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has commended organisers of the Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) in showcasing Sarawak as a cultural melting pot to attract tourists.

Uggah, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development said that BCF is an event for the locals and the tourists to witness Sarawak as the cultural melting pot of Malaysia through games and events showcasing various cultural regalia and local food.

“Through this effort, the colourful cultures will not perish or remain submerged in the midst of the globalisation craze.

“The increasing number of visitors to the BCF is a clear sign that the festival has realised its objectives,” he said at the closing of Borneo Dayak Cultural Festival (BDCF) held in conjunction with the BCF here on Wednesday.

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Food writers, bloggers attending Sandakan Food Festival


SANDAKAN: As the final ingredients are put in place for the first Sandakan Food Festival (SFF) 2017, the local food and tourism community are excited about the confirmation of important food writers and bloggers travelling to the town of Sandakan.

According to the festival coordinator, Anton Ngui, considerable effort had been put into organising the first multi-cultural and largest Sandakan food platform by the Sandakan Tourism Association (STAN).

“Two seasoned travel and food bloggers from China who feature strongly on the Sina.com blog platform will be visiting.

“From Shanghai, Newpepsibear is a highly popular travel and food blogger, with a quarter of million followers on his Sina and Weibo accounts. With over 100 million hits on his blog since its inception, Newpepsibear is also a travel column contributor to the United States National Tourism office as well as the Sendai City (Japan) Tourism Office.

“Summerdejia is a social media influencer on Sina blog and Weibo, but she also publishes her own cook book, a true food lover. With nearly 300,000 following on her blog and 80,000 followers on her Weibo account, her blog has garnered more than 35 million hits since its creation. Summerdejia hails from Beijing, China,” Anton said.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

China-Tawau direct charter flights on cards


TAWAU: Direct charter flights from China to Tawau are in the pipelines as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Tawau is in the midst of compiling tour packages to attract Chinese tourists to stay a night in Tawau prior to visiting islands in Semporna; and help boost the local economy here.

Its president, Chia Seong Fatt, said the chamber held a meeting with Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Min recently and according to Pang, the direct flight between China and Tawau is not a problem.

Chia in a press conference yesterday said the only challenges were to get 180 persons locally from Tawau to visit to China and a package for China tourists to stay overnight in Tawau.

He said the chamber would need to work together with tour operators in Semporna and Tawau to come up with tour packages that would attract China tourists to stay a night in Tawau for a direct flight to materialize.

Chia said the chamber would have to negotiate and coordinate with travel agents in Tawau and work out the packages to offer to the tourists in China.

He added Pang suggested the best time to plan the maiden flight would be the coming Chinese New Year holidays, from China to Tawau with the objective to promote local attractions and to test the response from both ends.

Subsequently to maintain and continue such route if it goes well and hopefully such effort will be able to improve the sluggish economy situation of Tawau to a certain extent.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: China-Tawau direct charter flights on cards
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What About Kuching poised to become iconic city festival


KUCHING: The state government and the Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry will provide all the necessary support to ensure that What About Kuching (WAK) 2017 finds success and will become an iconic festival for the city in years to come.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah lauded the effort behind the community-initiated festival that celebrates the arts, culture and lifestyles of the people of Kuching.

“This is not something by the government. They (Kuchingites) came up with the proposal themselves,” he said during the official launch at the Old Courthouse compound yesterday.

Abdul Karim said that his ministry will give the festival its full support, and will try to put aside protocol to help the private sector realise their intentions with WAK 2017.

He acknowledged that Kuching can seem a little quiet during some parts of the year.

“It is the responsibility of Kuchingites to come up with ideas to make Kuching a happening place,” he said, adding that when people are flying in to attend events, the rest of the tourism industry benefits as well.

He also urged all talented Sarawakians to seize the opportunity and send in a proposal if they have something to share with Kuching.

“I have been informed that the organisers will be accepting proposals up to a week before the event.”

Also present were Kuching Resident Shukarmin Chasemon, festival coordinators Donald Tan and Marina Foo-Tan, Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) commissioner Datuk Wee Hong Seng, Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan, Plaza Merdeka Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Steve Ng, and other tourism industry personalities.

What About Kuching (WAK) 2017 celebrates the arts, culture and lifestyles of the people of Kuching by creating a platform to share the abundant talent here, and throughout the state of Sarawak.

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New Marine Aquarium Centre at Manukan Island another tourist draw


KOTA KINABALU: The new Marine Aquarium Centre at Manukan Island will not only serve as a tourist attraction, but will also serve as a platform to educate the public on the importance and functions of marine life, especially sharks, said Sabah Parks director Dr Jamli Nais.

“This aquarium will be the supplier of information and, hopefully, will inspire visitors to learn more about the importance and functions of sharks in the marine ecosystem.

“This is in line with the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park’s declaration, which is to be a shark sanctuary along with the other marine parks in Sabah,” Jamli said at the soft launching of the aquarium yesterday.

Jamli disclosed that among the types of sharks that will be displayed is a blacktip reef shark.

He added that the park will be launched officially on September 1 and the entrance fee for the rest of the year will be free.

“This concept all started from an idea which is to have a marine exhibition centre very close to the city. With this new centre that we have just built, it will be easier for tourists to come and visit, as Manukan Island is only a 15-minute boat journey from the city centre,” Jamli added.

Yesterday’s event also marked the 43rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

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Entry fees for all parks under Sabah Parks up from January 2018


KOTA KINABALU: The conservation rate (or entry fees) for all the parks under Sabah Parks will increase starting from January 1 next year.

Sabah Parks director Dr Jamli Nais disclosed that the rate would increase from RM3 to RM5 for locals and from RM10 to RM20 for foreigners.

He explained that the Board of Trustees of Sabah Parks had agreed to increase the conservation rate due to the issue of overcrowding.

Last year alone, there were a total of 475, 807 tourists who had visited the Taman Tunku Abdul Rahman marine parks.

Furthermore, the first half of 2017 (up till June) had already recorded a total of 285,545 visitors, Jamli said at the 43rd anniversary of the proclamation of Taman Tunku Abdul Rahman.

“This issue of overcrowding is one of the main challenges that Sabah Parks has to face now.

“Last time, the challenge was for us to bring in more visitors. This time around, our challenge is to handle the high number of visitors,” he stressed.

Jamli reiterated that the fee hike was implemented in accordance to the current international rate.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Emma's Travel Journal: Borneo – 12 days in Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan


What better way to conclude my travelling other than in my favourite country with my favourite primates?

I spent 12 days in Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary on a project facilitated by APE which stands for ‘Animal  Projects and Environmental Education’.

They are a Malaysian organisation which endeavor to improve the prospects for endangered animals in Malaysia.

Primarily Orangutans, Sun Bears, Pygmy Elephants and Sea Turtles.

They’re a small organisation which carry out crucial conservation work in the Lower Kinabatangan.

What’s great about the APE project is that its core values centre on grassroots development, involving the local people alongside responsible volunteering at the heart of their conservation strategies, one of the many reasons why I felt that my work had such a big impact on the village and rainforest.


Where is the Kinabatangan?

Borneo is the largest island in Asia, with mainland Malaysia to the west and Indonesia surrounding the island west, south and to the east.

Contrary to popular belief, Borneo is not a country and is actually made up of three countries; Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

I spent my time in the northeast of the island in Sabah in a small village around 3 hours from the main airport called Sukau along the River Kinabatangan’s Corridor of Life.

This area is particularly important as it is an area which was once heavily logged and cleared for palm oil plantations, therefore requires habitat restoration in order to restore the corridor to allow wildlife to move freely and migrate from coastal mangrove areas in  the deeper parts of the rainforest.


What did I do?

Each team that arrives every month has the responsibility of first clearing weeds and grasses from around the bases of saplings planted 3 months before, followed by clearing of a new site which they will then plant new saplings in.

Therefore, slowly reforesting where the rainforest has become fragmented from logging or clearance for palm oil plantations, allowing orangutans and monkeys to move easily through the forest.

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Dinner In The Sky coming to Sabah at Sutera Harbour Resort


KOTA KINABALU: Dinner In The Sky Malaysia is proud to announce that it will be making East Malaysia its next stop for the first time ever beginning 1st August 2017, after enjoying an immensely popular and sold out series of events in  Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor.

This one-of-a-kind dining experience is endorsed by Sabah Tourism Board and will be co-sponsored by Sutera Harbour Resort for a month, with two dinners served daily in the beautiful Kota Kinabalu skies.

Dinner In The Sky is a unique dinner experience that uses a crane to hoist diners, table and waiting staff 150 feet off into the air, giving them an amazing bird’s eye view whilst enjoying exquisite culinary feast.

To complete this experience, diners can expect to not just marvel at the view but take their gastronomically journey to a whole different level with a special-made Italian menu served by chef Danielle Rossetto from Ferdinand’s, which is listed as one of Malaysia’s best restaurants by Malaysia Tatler.

Brought to you by TwoSpicy Entertainment, Dinner In The Sky is currently only available in Malaysia in the South East Asian region. Already a well-known brand of entertainment, this innovative Belgian-based experience has hosted more than 5,000 dinner events in 40 cities around the world.

Iconic locations have included the Kuala Lumpur Tower, the Marina of Dubai, Villa Borghese in Rome, Athens, Copacabana Beach and Cape Town. Forbes magazine has called it as one of the world’s top ten most unusual restaurants.

Some of the more notable Malaysian celebrities that have had this one of a kind experience include Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei, Erra Fazira and Amber Chia.

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Lok Kawi Wildlife Park must be relocated


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun supports the relocation of the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park as it will allow for better management and beneficial for everyone in the long run.

He said that the current location of the park in Lok Kawi was quite congested and not fully utilised due to its hilly terrain.

“If we are looking ahead, then we have to move to bigger and better forests. Wildlife shouldn’t be contained in small enclosures. It is difficult to see them in real natural habitat in small enclosures,” he told reporters at a Hari Raya Aildifitri celebration yesterday.

He was responding to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s proposal that the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Putatan be relocated to Sugud, Penampang.

Its director, Augustine Tuuga, said the department had held talks with Penampang district officials over the proposal and the relocation of the wildlife park was for the government to decide.

According to Augustine, the proposed site in Sugud is well-suited as the forest covers an area of about 1,618.7 hectares compared to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park’s size of 113.3 hectares.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin however has objected to the proposal to shift the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park to Sugud. He claimed that it would be unwise to shift the wildlife park, or commonly referred to as a zoo, as it will cost a lot money and time consuming.

Masidi said the proposal to relocate the park started a few years ago.

“There are a lot of considerations, so it’s not just about whether we want to move, but if the villagers are willing to let go of the land to accommodate the park.

“Personally, I like to plan beyond my lifetime, for future generations. Then yes, I am of the opinion that we need to move,” he said.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Prague Wanderer: Borneo - A land of wild exploration


Borneo is the largest island in the world and is administered by three powers namely Malaysia, Indonesia and sultanate of Brunei.

The island is mainly mountainous with large rainforests which make this place diverse with flora and fauna.

Well, if you are a foster traveller and travelling is your passion then this is a land of wild exploration, so wild that it going on a holiday doesn’t seem to fit in the place, you would rather mention going on an expedition.

Much of the landscape in the island is a jungle, and you will witness orangutans swinging throughout the rainforest.

Situated at 4095 m above the sea level Mt Kinabalu accounts for one of the world’s most prominent peaks and one of the most popular for climbers to trek.

After Hawaii and New Guinea, Borneo is the third highest island which makes it as a responsible tourist destination.

The variations of the soil and diverse climatic zones in this region provision the richest habitat for plants and animals anywhere on the earth.

Walking through the rainforests of such a diverse rainforest makes it an exciting physical challenge as well as a privileged journey for wild explorers out there.

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Miri Cultural and Heritage Museum to open early 2018


MIRI: The Miri Cultural and Heritage Museum —the first community-based museum in the city—is expected to open its doors to visitors by early next year.

Assistant Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the current effort to convert the old Miri Resident Office into a museum is still in progress.

“A total of RM450,000 has been allocated for building renovation works, giving attention to the interior.

“It is because we wanted to ensure all the historic artefacts contributed by the various communities throughout Miri Division will be in good condition while kept in the museum later,” he said when officiating at the Cultural Antique Arts Exhibition at Pustaka Miri yesterday.

Lee, who is Senadin assemblyman, said further renovation works on the building would be conducted in stages.

He said the first part of the museum would be open to members of the public the latest by early next year.

He added he is looking forward to the completion of the renovation works, which he believes will further enhance the tourism value and attraction of the Resort City.

He pointed out the museum will showcase the culture of the people in the state as most of the ethnic groups in the state can be found in Miri Division.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Miri Cultural and Heritage Museum to open early 2018
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

‘A Taste of Sibu’ book launched in conjunction with Visit Sibu Year


SIBU: A book entitled ‘A Taste of Sibu’ was launched Thursday evening at Sibu Town Square where the Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) is currently taking place.

Launched by Sibu Municipal Council in conjunction with Visit Sibu Year (VSY) 2017, the event was coordinated by Sibu United Chinese Association (UCA), Persatuan Melayu-Melanau Bersatu (MMB) and Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) Sibu branch.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah officiated at the launching ceremony.

Editor cum chief coordinator Joseph Chieng told a press conference yesterday that the book showcases almost 100 famous cuisines of the Chinese, the Malay-Melanau and the Iban (Dayak) in Sibu.

“The uniqueness of this book is that it shows the unity among the races in Sibu.  Starting with the effort of producing this book where the three associations came together to make things happen.

“The book itself represents One Malaysia,” said Chieng who is also a councilor of Sibu Municipal Council.

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KK Jazz Festival funds charity programmes


KOTA KINABALU: KK Jazz Festival is a charity festival with proceeds earned are used to fund charity programmes. The annual jazz extravaganza is jointly organized by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK) and the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (SPArKS).

The monies collected will go to deserving community projects of RCKK and for the development of performing arts in Sabah through SPArKS, said organising chairman of the festival, Rtn. Jack Ong.

“Some of the RCKK community projects funded by the Jazz Festival include the provision of clean water projects, literacy programs, avoidable blindness campaign to detect eyes diseases and free medical services for rural communities.

“We also focus on environment protection programs and building of boarding homes for rural children so they do not have to walk for two hours to school daily,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Meanwhile, co-Chairman of the festival and SPArKS President, Roger Wang said this year’s performers’ line-up consists of three international bands and musicians, together with nine award-winning Malaysian talents.

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Local talent in limelight at KK Jazz Festival


KOTA KINABALU: Having experienced his first KK Jazz Festival from the sidelines, Sabahan musician Gordon Chin is excited to be given the chance to share the limelight at the 11th instalment of the highly anticipated annual music extravaganza.

Strumming the guitar since he was only six years old, Gordon has never looked back.

He recalled admiring the festival from afar until he managed to work his way slowly towards it, first as a reporter providing media coverage and then as an artist liaison for the festival in recent years, before landing himself a spot on the coveted stage.

“I’d been keeping myself updated with all the happenings in KK. When the first jazz festival happened 11 years ago, I was a senior in high school and I managed to convince my parents to drive me to the festival, where I watched from the sidelines because I couldn’t afford a ticket.

“Being a musician, I told myself I wanted to be on that stage one day. After high school, I went to college and then became a reporter with a local daily, which was when I covered a good three or four jazz festivals.

“I still held on to that musical dream while doing music on the side, and one day, I decided to pursue music full time.

“That was when I started participating more actively in the festival, by becoming an artist liaison,” he said.

Gordon told The Borneo Post that he had taken care of American-born fingerstyle guitarist, singer and songwriter Shun Ng, as well as Motown legend Bobby Taylor, most noted for discovering and mentoring The Jackson 5.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

25 high value geo-tourism spots in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has many geo-tourism spots that have remained relatively unexplored for promotion as a tourism product.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) geologist Professor Dr Felix Tongkul  said there are over 25 high value geo-tourism spots in Sabah, some of which are located at non-protected areas, and which may soon be gone as no efforts are being undertaken to protect them.

The others, however, are located at protected areas such as within the Mount Kinabalu Park and Maliau Basin as well as at Simpang Mengayau, otherwise known as the Tip of Borneo.

Dr Felix said most people go to Mount Kinabalu merely to conquer the mountain.

“But if you deal with these geo-tourism spots as a tourism product, you could look at the diverse rock trail,” he said.

Geotourists visiting the Maliau Basin, on the other hand, will look at the unique shape of the basin and its numerous waterfalls, while those going to Simpang Mengayau would look at the rock formations and other interesting geo-products.

Even Pulau Tiga has its own geo-story to tell. Did you know that Pulau Tiga was actually formed by three mud volcanoes?

“All this information will give a more meaningful experience,” said Dr Felix.

And there’s more. Sipadan Island is actually a volcanic island.

“These are geo-tourism spots that you can promote as a tourism product,” he reckoned.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sarawak takes step towards virtual tourism


MIRI: The Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports will go global digitally when a virtual tourism project is implemented to promote Sarawak to the outside world.

Assistant Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said it is timely for the ministry to step into the digital world to ensure it will not be left behind in promoting Sarawak tourism through digital means.

“With the Internet virtual reality project introduced at Niah National Park, I suggested to the ministry to explore digital tourism promotions including through websites,” Lee told members of the media yesterday.

According to Lee, the ministry can use Google Street View with virtual reality and three-dimension (3D) technology so that tourists can take a virtual tour of Niah National Park and also of Mulu National Park and its world renowned caves, where a similar project is being implemented.

He said the ministry intends to introduce virtual tourism through its website.

“Nowadays, a lot of people are interested to see short video clips, so we use the opportunity to explore digitally through video clips and to promote tourism in Sarawak,” he said.

Lee who is also Senadin assemblyman is confident that this approach will cultivate interest among tourists to visit Mulu National Park.

“This is how we will entice tourists to come to Sarawak and draw more every year,” he said.

Currently, the Sabah state government also uses Google Street View to introduce tourism spots in the state.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Inaugural ‘Sarawak Adventure Challenge: The Lost Mines’ to be held Oct 14 in Bau


KUCHING: The state government will organise a first-of-its-kind multi-sport adventure event, called the ‘Sarawak Adventure Challenge: The Lost Mines’, in Bau this year.

Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the event will be staged on Oct 14 and will offer cash prizes of over RM33,000.

“Sarawak is renowned for its rainforests, rivers and scenery, and the race route will take competitors through some spectacular landscape. Over the course of the event, competitors will cover more than 40 kilometres of mountain biking, more than 14 kilometres of trail-running, as well as a caving section,” he said during a press conference yesterday.

Set as a one-day team event, teams of two will be required to complete all stages which will see them navigate single track trails, as well as old mining trails through jungle, streams, local roads, villages and plantations.

There will be two entry categories, namely the Men’s Open Team and a Mixed Open Team, with RM6,000 going to the winners of each category.

Cash prizes will also be awarded to the top-14 placing in each category.

According to Abdul Karim, the inaugural event aims to deliver on Sarawak Tourism’s marketing tagline ‘Where Adventure Lives’, and gives participants a chance to live the adventure.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

New study provides wake up call for orangutan preservation in Borneo


A first population trend analysis of Bornean orangutans reveals that despite decades of conservation work, the species is declining rapidly – at a rate of 25 per cent over the past 10 years.

University of Queensland Adjunct Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences Dr Truly Santika, an Indonesian statistician and researcher at the ARC Centre of Centre for Environmental Decisions (CEED) led the study on the Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans.

The analyses show that declines are particularly pronounced in West and Central Kalimantan, but even in relatively well protected areas, such as the Malaysian State of Sabah, the rate of decline is still 21.3 per cent.

Every year some USD$30-40 million is invested by governmental and non-governmental organisations to halt the decline of wild populations. The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent.

Dr Santika said for many threatened species, the rate and drivers of population decline were difficult to assess accurately.

“Our study used advanced modelling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys, and interviews with local communities,” she said.

CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson said: “This new approach facilitated the break-through and for the first time, enable researchers to determine the population trends of the species over time.”

She said the study, conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian, and international researchers, was a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who had committed to saving the species.

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Melanau heritage building to boost Mukah tourism


DALAT: Local tourism and economy in Mukah Division is poised for further development with the construction of the Melanau Heritage Gallery building here.

Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg announced an additional allocation of RM2 million for the building’s construction on top of an allocation of RM1.1 million made earlier.

“This means the Melanau Heritage Gallery building has about RM3.1 million for its construction cost as a whole, “ he said when announcing the allocation at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Melanau

Heritage Gallery building in conjunction with the Dalat District Level Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering at Stadium Perpaduan Dalat yesterday afternoon.

Also present were his wife Datin Amar Datuk Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang, Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, Assistant Minister of Community Well Being Datuk Francis Harden Hollis and Telian assemblyman Yussibnosh Balo.

Abang Johari said the local residents could make use of technology to upload the photos of the building on the Internet to promote it to the world.

“Culture is connected with the economy. That is the state’s wealth, (as we are) endowed with various cultures and unique ethnic groups.

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said if you want to see a truly 1Malaysia culture, Sarawak is the best example.

“Thus, we must strengthen our culture and practise it,” he pointed out.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Melanau heritage building to boost Mukah tourism
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ticket sales up by 8 per cent for this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival


KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival 2017 (RWMF) has recorded an eight per cent increase in ticket sales this year.

According to Kalaka assemblyman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, who is Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman, the number of pre-sale tickets this year is up by 1,440 from the 18,000 sold last year.

“This does not take into account ticket sales at the festival gate yesterday, today and tomorrow – the trend looks encouraging, to say the least,” he told reporters yesterday at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) – the hosting venue for RWMF.

Acting STB chief executive officer (CEO) Mary Wan Mering and its director of events and corporate relations Angelina Bateman were among those present.

Mary disclosed that various promotional campaigns like the #hashtag, those aired on Singapore’s radio stations and the extensive use of social media, had contributed to the increase in visitor’s arrival.

“Our early bird ticket sales, with a good discount of RM88 per ticket, are meant to give back to local community so that they can enjoy the festival too,” she said.

Responding to a report that locals constituted 70 per cent of festival-goers, Mary said air accessibility remained a major challenge that must be overcome, so that more tourists could come not only to this festival, but also to Sarawak.

“We are working with various airlines to enhance air connectivity. Currently, Singapore is the only hub with direct flight to Kuching. I believe once we overcome this issue, it would boost more tourist arrivals to Kuching and Sarawak, definitely,” she said.

It is learnt that the RWMF, which enters its 20th year, is touted among the top 25 world music festivals over the last six years. On this, Mary assured all that the organisers would strive even higher for the festival.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Experience high energy beats at Rainforest World Music Festival 2017


KUCHING: Those going to the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) at Sarawak Cultural Village here this weekend are in for an energetic and heart-thumping treat.

The three-day event, which enters its 20th edition this year, gathers an impressive line of performers in the likes of Achanak (India-UK), Huw Williams (Wales), O Tahiti E (Tahiti), Spiro (UK), Saing Waing Orchestra (Myanmar), Dom Flemons (USA), The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band (Thailand) and Cimarron (Columbia).

Representing Malaysia at the festival are the 1511 O Maliao Maliao and At Adau from Sarawak.

The 1511 O Maliao Maliao, which was established in 2014, is a performing troupe with 21 members consisting of dancers and musicians. They are all passionate in preserving the dancing heritage of the Portuguese community in Malacca including the ‘branyo’ – a product derived from the marriage of the arts and music between the Portuguese and Malaysians.

On the other hand, Sarawak’s own At Adau is bringing the instrumental world of the Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities to the RWMF 2017 visitors.

According to band member Meldrick Andrew, they are going to feature several numbers from their albums ‘Journey’ and ‘Oba’ (‘Love’ in Kenyah language).

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Rainforest World Music Festival Book covers festival’s 20 years of song and rhythm


KUCHING: ‘Rainforest World Music Festival – 20 Years of Song and Rhythm in Sarawak’ covers Sarawak’s internationally acclaimed music festival over the last two decades.

It contains spreads of colour photographs along with information on the logistics and machinery of the festival that few think about.

It would be impossible to capture the true atmosphere and music of the festival between the pages of a book, and the authors did not bother trying.

Instead, they looked into the evolution of the venue, Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV), the complementary events and bazaars, and how other aspects of indigenous culture – crafts, food, tattoos – are being brought forward.

It’s easy to think that the book is about the festival but it is really about the people – those who pushed for it to begin, those who guided its baby steps, those who came as volunteers and stayed as part of the backbone, and those who got word out to the world.

It’s about those who went to earlier festivals, and left dreaming that one day they would be the ones on stage.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sabah to go on air in China


KOTA KINABALU: Over 500 million viewers in China are expected to tune in on their television sets to watch the uniqueness of Sabah when the ‘Youth of China 3-Nanyang Classroom’ goes on air in December.

The children’s reality television show involving 32 kids from different parts of China are coming to Sabah for the location shooting, said Dato’ Seri Winston Liaw.

Liaw who is the Sabah Association of Tour & Travel Agents chairman said this is the third season of the series which consists of eight episodes.

“And four of the episodes will be filmed in Sabah. The places involved are Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Kundasang, Tenom, Ranau and Keningau,” said Liaw during a courtesy call on Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai at his office yesterday.

Yeo has also been invited to write a script on Kota Kinabalu where he will highlight City Hall concept of providing free bicycle rides.

The Mayor will also teach the children the aspect of safety-ride around the city.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah to go on air in China
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

American photographer with local roots capturing Sabah images


KOTA KINABALU: A special exhibition entitled “Faces of Sabah” by Latana will be launched by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun on Saturday (July 15).

Latana Schachenmann, an American with roots in Sabah, specializes in fine arts and is an accomplished photographer.

“I want to show the images of Sabah people the first time I came here 30 years ago,” she said.

Latana also said that the exhibition is her very first project as a photographer after starting her career in arts.

Sabah Museum director Sintiong Gelet said that there are 25 pictures from Latana’s collection.

“All the 25 black and white photographs of Sabah people are chosen by Latana as her best portrait photos about Sabah taken in Penampang and Kudat during 80’s.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Travel Wire Asia: Is Brunei the most misunderstood destination in Southeast Asia?


BRUNEI, a tiny country tucked in a corner of Borneo, may well be one of the most misunderstood places in Southeast Asia.

It starts with its full title, which is actually the “Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace”, but a misunderstood moniker is the least of this country’s PR problems.

Statistics regarding tourist arrivals in Brunei, particularly recent ones, differ widely, although those that exist place it as the least visited country in Southeast Asia.

Figures show around 250,000 visitors to Brunei per year, which is dwarfed by Malaysia, which borders the country and sees a whopping 27 million visitors annually.

It’s strange therefore while millions of tourists make it as far as Malaysia, this doesn’t translate to a brief detour into Brunei, which also has some of the most relaxed tourist visa regulations in Southeast Asia, with many nationalities qualifying for a fee visa on arrival.

One of the first hurdles in selling Brunei to visitors is that it is often thought of as being comparatively expensive.

With that in mind, many travelers to Southeast Asia go for the cheapest picks that offer more bang for their buck, usually Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand.

A quick search on the merits of travelling to Brunei will come up with myriad sites calling Brunei, among other things, a “budget buster”, which is undoubtedly a tourism turn-off for many.

This is, however, both true and untrue, as although some years ago, backpacker accommodation was thin on the ground, more and more budget choices are springing up that allow visitors to stay in Brunei for around US$35 a night.

Local food is also cheap, as is public transport, and many attractions like museums and mosques are either free or cheap to visit.

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iToddIsland: Borneo - Mari Mari Village


I flew in to Kota Kinabalu which is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.

Borneo is occupied by three different countries, Malaysia to the North, Indonesia to the South, and Brunei which is situated right smack in the middle of Sabah on the coast. 

If you look at Borneo, KK (as it's called by the locals) is on the northwest side, right on the South China Sea.

The city itself is quite modern in comparison, with many American fast food options, as well as British pubs to go along with colossal malls and local food markets. 

With so many modern conveniences and city selections I decided to make my first day a step back before the sprawling city was built. 

After scouring the internet and forums I found that a tour of the historic Mari Mari Cultural Village was my best bet.

You can book a tour (which is highly recommended) and you will be picked up right at your hotel or home stay and driven to the entrance.

Once you get to the entrance you will be lead to "registration" which has fresh water, some pet lizards to meet, and a brief waiting period while they assign certain groups to guides.

I was able to secure a discount and tour through the shop I will be working with, but there are numerous tour companies in the city or you can go directly to them at Marimariculturalvillage.com and book a tour which is 180RM ($42 US) per person. It is well worth the price. 

You will be exploring an ancient village that used to house five different tribes and the tour guides are all descendants of these same villagers.

Our guide came here to visit his grandmother as a young child who was still living in their old long house and living off the land.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: iToddIsland: Borneo - Mari Mari Village
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Monday, July 10, 2017

Pen's Travels: Respecting Mount Kinabalu


“If you disrespect the mountain, nature will disrespect you” warns our worried-looking guide, Felix.

The earthquake on Mount Kinabalu that killed 19 people two-years ago, was attributed to the disrespectful actions of hikers two weeks before.

Deeply superstitious, the local people blamed the tourists, who stripped naked for photos at the summit for the subsequent seismic movement.

So, following a lengthy briefing on respecting the mountain, what to do in an earthquake, danger zones (after which I couldn’t get the soundtrack from Top Gun out of my head), slippy rocks and AMS (really?), we set off to climb Mt. Kinabalu.

The trail is just 8km long from the mountain park gate but has 2,000m ascent to the 4095m summit.

We weave our way up through the rainforest passing waterfalls, trees dripping with moss and ferns, clambering over rocks and climbing up steps.

Thousands of steps. It is humid. Really humid. By 1km we are dripping with sweat.

I look at the porters quietly carrying their loads up the mountain. Apparently the regulation weight for porter loads is 10kg and they must be at least 16. They look too young to me.

The Bornean porters bear similar massive loads to the porters on Kilimanjaro but they are much better equipped.

I ask a group of porters if I can try to lift a load. I don’t get it off the ground. It is definitely heavier than 10kg! The porters laugh at my feebleness. I am in awe of them.

We pass a couple of giggling Korean girls on the trail and then spot their bight yellow suitcases on the back of a young lad.

Each member of our team carries everything we need for the two days ourselves. It’s only two days – you don’t need that suitcase!!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Pen's Travels: Respecting Mount Kinabalu
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Tambunan – the Switzerland in our midst


TAMBUNAN: Tambunan these days is synonymous with deputy chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan and the stop-over for motorists plying the old Kota Kinabalu-Keningau Road.

To some, Tambunan is associated with the tales of Mat Salleh, the man who fought the British colonialists. Photographers can never get enough of the rustic panoramic view of paddy fields when viewed from a vantage point as one approaches Tambunan from Kota Kinabalu.

But there are actually 15 good reasons why visitors should make Tambunan their next getaway, according to the Tambunan District Office which has been promoting Visit Tambunan Year 2017. It even dubbed the land-locked district 80 km from Kota Kinabalu as ‘Switzerland of the East’.

In1985, Tambunan was thrust into the political limelight when its famous son and now deputy chief minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan was sacked from the then ruling Berjaya party and the district was ostracized, abrogated and isolated. What happened next has been described as the emergence of Kadazandusun nationalism driven by the so-called ‘Tambunan Spirit’, concluding with the shocking defeat of Berjaya. The rest, as they say, is history.

It’s more than three decades since Tambunan became famous but the district of about 25,000 people retains its easy, rustic village ambience with no major industry to speak of. There have been some attempts at developing industries using the bamboo found widely in Tambunan. But with no commercial planting, an ambitious chopsticks factory quickly ran out of supply. There was also an attempt at producing tapai (a homemade alcoholic brew made from rice) but that too fizzled out though Tambunan remains an important paddy growing district.

It is no surprise therefore that when it comes to attracting visitors, the district covering 134,540 hectares (almost twice the size of Singapore at 71,910 ha) is counting on most things natural.

Under the Visit Tambunan 2017 initiative launched by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Haji Aman in November 2016, the Tambunan District’s tourism action council identified 15 attractions.

Located in a valley west of the Crocker Range and with most economic activities being agricultural, words such as ‘emerald’, ‘green haven’, and ‘sanctuary’ have been used to describe Tambunan. A 90-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu on the old winding road with numerous severe bends is a daunting challenge to faint-hearted drivers, what with the many heavy duty trucks that once plied the route. Many trucks have since chosen the straighter though no less hilly Kimanis Road to transport goods to and from Keningau.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tambunan – the Switzerland in our midst
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Lower air fares to Sabah destinations on MASwing


KOTA KINABALU: The MASwings mid-year sale is back, offering customers a range of great bargain fares from as low as RM103 all-in each way.

This deal is available on all MASwings ATR services routes until July 31, with travel periods starting from July 9 to Aug 31.

MASwings Corporate Communication and Branding Commercial executive Ashilla Sabin urged those who wanted to take some time off their busy work schedule to explore the wonders of Sabah and Sarawak.

“Parents can also take this opportunity to bring their children for a short trip during the coming school holidays,” she said in a statement.

As part of the promotion, passengers travelling from Kota Kinabalu will enjoy a one-way all-in fare to Labuan from RM103 onwards, and from RM113 to Lahad Datu, Miri, Sandakan, Tawau and Mulu respectively.

The offer starts at RM133 to Bintulu and Sibu as well as RM153 to Kuching from Kota Kinabalu.

Those travelling from Kuching are able to enjoy fares from as low as RM103 to Sibu and RM113 to Bintulu.

MASwings is also giving a promotion of airfares starting RM133 to popular destinations such as to Miri and Mulu respectively and to Kota Kinabalu from as low as RM153 one-way from Kuching.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Lower air fares to Sabah destinations on MASwing
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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Culture, nature, music, and fun


AS the festive moods of Gawai Dayak and Hari Raya fizzled out, Kuching city is getting ready for an exciting buzz of recreational festivity that conscientiously promotes elements of environmental awareness and conservation.

It’s none other than the Rainforest World Music Festival’s (RWMF) to be held at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Damai near the city from July 14 to 16, 2017.

This annual event promises to be memorable. Indeed, it has earned a bright spot in the calendar of tourism activities as the most international cultural event in Sarawak.

The name, the venue and the theme of the Festival are very much in line with Sarawak Tourism Board (STB)’s promotional messages of positioning Sarawak as a culture rich destination with caring attitude towards its rainforest.

And the fact that the upcoming Festival is already the 20th RWMF should be a testimony of its increasing success. The carnival atmosphere it creates has been becoming hotter, more spirited and more zestful.

All-day event

The musical component will be an all-day event, beginning with daytime mini-sessions and health and wellness programmes, ending with grand nightly performances.

The Festival’s branding is in presenting music with roots and identity in the traditional and cultural content and the vastness of the world’s cultural and ethnic diversity in the art of music and dance.

The Festival holds evenings of concert performances on two outdoor stages — the Jungle and Tree Stages which will alternate without any breaks with around 20 bands, each distinctly unique from each other, yet playing seamlessly after another like a quilt stitched together, or a string of beads on a line, creating an incredible experience for the audience.

The indoor Theatre Stage is used in the afternoon for smaller chamber-style performers, giving a more intimate and classical feel for a seated audience.

Many dedicated Rainforest Festival fans come back year after year for the mini sessions held throughout the Festival grounds in the traditional houses and halls of the Sarawak tribes.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to the variety of performances at the RWMF, promising to dazzle you with the music and art of the night performances.

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