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


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


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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Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival to bring together melting pot of musical talents

KOTA KINABLU: The 11th edition of the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival will kick off on Friday, July 21, for a two-night show, promising world-class entertainment by local and international acts alike.

Staged against the picturesque backdrop of the city, the festival intends to bring together a melting pot of musical talents from the world over, to an estimated strong crowd of 4,000.

Organising chairperson Rotarian Jack Ong said that this year, the committee aimed to bring something special to the table in terms of performers.

Along with co-organising chairperson and Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (SPArKS) president Roger Wang, Jack came up with the idea to involve artists that began their musical journey on the jazz festival stage.

“Roger and I came up with this idea to mark our achievements and the achievements of these performers.

“We decided to look back on artists who have performed on the jazz festival stage when they were starting out in their careers, most of whom are locals.”

Roger added that the committee rounded up as many jazz festival-bred local artists as they could, while actively searching for new homegrown talent.

“Every year, we conduct a talent search where we scout for performers at local watering holes to give them a chance to perform at the jazz festival.

“We want to give them the thrill of performing for a large crowd and we believe it’s important to do this, as a number of jazz bands started from the talent search,” he said.

Jack added that the committee and the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK) also worked closely with schools to identify new talent, revealing that the winner of this year’s Bakat Interact competition from SM St Francis Convent would open the show on Friday night.

During a media launch, Jack told the press that proceeds from ticket sales would continue to be channelled towards funding community projects led by RCKK.

Some projects funded by the festival through the years include provision of clear water, literacy programmes, avoidable blindness campaigns for early eye disease detection and free medical services for rural communities, environment protection programmes and construction of boarding homes for rural students.

RCKK president Dr Ravi Mandalam said that the club would continue with their efforts in the avoidable blindness campaign, which had been sharpened and gained more focus in the last two years.



Saturday, July 08, 2017

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - This year’s edition different from previous years

KUCHING: The 20th Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is this year different from previous years with the presence of an inaugural Rainforest Fringe Festival (RFF) from July 7 to 16.

During the launching ceremony held at the Old Courthouse here yesterday, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said RFF is a 10-day spectacle of the best that Sarawak has to offer in terms of art, craft, music, fashion, food, film and photography.

“In previous years, RWMF was always confined in Damai, about 20km away from here “With RFF, we are bringing the RWMF vibe to different locations in town showcasing the best of what Sarawak has to offer,” he said, Abdul Karim also said the next 10 days would be beneficial to the local hoteliers, food operators and transport providers.

When asked about the state government’s plan to let the private sector organise the iconic festival (RWMF), Abdul Karim said in a way the RWMF had been partly privatised “because we have been outsourcing some of the activities to event management companies and that we have received many sponsorships from corporate bodies.

“However, the government will always back up RWMF activities to make sure they are in line with our vision to promote our arts and culture.”


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Art exhibition to be held during Rainforest World Music Festival

KUCHING: Sarawak Artists Society (SAS) and Hilton will be holding an art exhibition in conjunction with Rainforest World Music Festival at Hilton’s foyer from July 13 to 16.

Hilton is collaborating with one of Sarawak’s most prestigious Visual Arts Society to showcase both established and upcoming artists right here in Kuching.

“Supporting Sarawakian artists aligns with Hilton’s purpose of celebrating local culture and creating opportunities. We are excited to host the upcoming art exhibition with Sarawak Artists Society,” said Hilton Kuching general manager Hamish Watts at a press conference here yesterday.

The theme of this exhibition is ‘Rimba Sarawak’ where the paintings express the beauty of Sarawak in a myriad of colours and art styles, according to SAS president David Chew.

Participating artists will create pieces that reflect their emotions and reinterpretations of Sarawak’s lushful rainforests, iconic animals and culture that are synonymous with nature.

“Rimba Sarawak hopes to engage viewers, locals and tourists to appreciate Sarawak from another perspective. Smaller pieces will be produced with this in mind, so the artworks will serve as exquisite souvenirs for travellers to bring home,” said Chew.

These heartfelt paintings will be displayed for viewing in Hilton for a few days with most, if not all of them, to be paraded on Hilton’s walls after the art show.



Borneo's orangutans in 'alarming' decline

The orangutan population on the island of Borneo has shrunk by a quarter in the last decade, researchers said Friday, urging a rethink of strategies to protect the critically-endangered great ape.

The first-ever analysis of long-term orangutan population trends revealed a worrying decline, they said.

An international team of researchers used a combination of helicopter and ground surveys, interviews with local communities, and modelling techniques to draw a picture of change over the past ten years.

Previous counts have largely relied on estimations based on ground and aerial surveys of orangutan nests. Some suggested that Bornean orangutan numbers were in fact increasing.

The new findings, the team said in a statement, are "a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who have committed to saving the species."

Every year, some $30-40 million (26-35 million euros) is spent in the region to halt wildlife decline.

"The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent," said the team.

The biggest threat to orangutans, one of only two great ape species found in Asia today, are habitat loss due to farming and climate change, and their killing for food or in conflict with humans.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo's orangutans in 'alarming' decline

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Meritin Hotel Kuching opens its doors to guests

KUCHING: A new kid on the block, Meritin Hotel, offers an upscale 3-star hospitality experience.

Situated in the old Chinatown of Jalan Padungan, Meritin Hotel brings liveliness by creating a vibrant atmosphere in one of the oldest and most historical streets in the heart of Kuching. 

As you step into the elegant modern-classic hotel, pleasant staff extend their warm welcome.

“Our aim is to create the feeling of ‘home away from home’ for all our guests. Most people are not flexible in their travelling dates and they usually plan a long time for a nice holiday.

“Therefore, when they do get the chance, they should be able to enjoy Kuching’s tourism to the fullest without having to sacrifice on comforts,” said its general manager Olivia Ting Mei Tze.

“We want to be a part in creating those wonderful memories for them,” Ting added.

Tour packages are also available for guests.

The hotel’s signature restaurant, Haza Café is backed by a team of professional chefs with over 25 years of experience in renowned 5-star hotels.  The cosy and intimate ambience is an epitome of community as a great social and business gathering venue.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Meritin Hotel Kuching opens its doors to guests

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Support vital in making Rainforest World Music Festival a success

KUCHING: Festival organisers from Korea, Taiwan and Cuba who will join the Rainforest World Music Festival this year are eager to partner with Sarawak tourism ministry to organise future festivals.

“The festival has come a long way from a mere 300 attendants for the inaugural event in 1998, to a crowd of over 18,000 people last year,” said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah at a sponsors’ appreciation dinner here Wednesday.

He said as the festival was continuing to grow in size, the support becomes indispensable and essential in making the festival more successful, providing a benchmark of similar international festivals in the region.

He said the festival this year would feature an inaugural Wellness Programme in the form of workshop sessions which would start at 11am daily.

The programme includes activities like ‘Capoeira’ a Brazilian martial arts-dance, traditional yoga and more.


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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Walkway for Fort Margherita, Kuching

KUCHING: Sarawak government will improve accessibility to Fort Margherita to draw more visitors.

Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said a walkway would be constructed to connect the fort with the up-and-coming Golden Bridge project linking the Kuching Waterfront and the nearby State Legislative Assembly complex.

A staircase will be built from Fort Margherita going downhill to connect with the walkway, which will also lead to nearby villages in Boyan and Gersik.

Fort Margherita was the top 15 tourist attractions in the state but the numbers declined over the years.

However, The Brooke Gallery, which was set up inside the fort, has attracted 21,000 visitors from 66 countries since its opening last September.

“It is great to see this historic building brought back to life with the opening of The Brooke Gallery. With better accessibility, we hope this historical site will continue to draw visitors,” he said at the “Special Ngabang Raya meet and greet” with key tourism associations at the fort.

The event coincided with Fort Margherita’s 137th anniversary celebration and establishment of The Brooke Gallery.

Abdul Karim said the state, looking to improve its air connectivity, was hoping to promote Fort Margherita as one of its top attractions.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Walkway for Fort Margherita, Kuching

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Release of turtle hatchlings attracts tourists to Kudat

KOTA KINABALU: The release of turtle hatchlings can be a very unique tourist attraction for Kudat, said Minister of Special Tasks Datuk Teo Chee Kang.

He said the villagers must realize that protection and conservation of turtles could bring them great economic benefits.

Teo, who is also Tanjong Kapor assemblyman, thanked and congratulated the Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS), WWF Kudat and all volunteers for their good effort in conserving the endangered turtles in Kudat.

“I understand that over the years, they have managed to hatch and release more than 4,500 baby turtles to the seas.

“The release of 100 turtle hatchlings at Kampung Bavang Jamal on July 1 which attracted about 200 local and foreign visitors is another success story.

“If we have the frequency of turtle landings to lay eggs, thus more releases of hatchlings in the future, this can be a very unique tourist attraction for Kudat,” he said.

Teo said the villagers must realise that protection and conservation of this endangered species can bring great economic benefits to the people.

Therefore, he urged the villagers who are living at the seaside to report to KTCS or WWF once they found turtle eggs to ensure that they are hatched and released to the sea.

Meanwhile, KTCS junior project coordinator Norfazilah Rahman said the release of turtle hatchlings had been an exciting moment for the locals and foreign tourists who witnessed the event for the first time.

“About 200 people showed up for the event, including tourists from China, Australia, Germany and Netherlands. Most of them bring their families and children along.”

The society also took the opportunity to educate the participants on turtle conservation through awareness talk and videos before the baby turtles were released.

Norfazilah said illegal poaching of sea turtle eggs remained a serious issue.

“The turtle hatchlings we released back in June were actually rescued from Pulau Malawali and translocated to our hatchery.”

She added that the society used to get around 4,000 turtle eggs in 2012 but the number of sea turtles nesting in the area has reduced in recent years due to human activities.

Hence, Norfazilah said KTCS is working on engaging the local communities to protect and conserve turtles, as well as to educate them on alternative livelihood.

The long-term objective of KTCS is to establish 50 community managed turtle conservation areas within Tun Mustapha Park, and to promote turtle conservation based tourism within this area.


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Tuak competition among activities for Kapit Fest

KAPIT: The Kapit Fest programme will include a tuak competition, ‘ngajat’ competition, and community sports such as blowpipes.

To be held from July 28 to Aug 6, the festival will also see a powerboat competition, cultural presentations, ‘Kapit Idol’, and beauty pageant.

Kapit District Council Walikota Philimon Nuing said the festival would coincide with the Entrepreneurs Showcase, Consumer Carnival, and Anugerah Carta Siapa Juara.

The opening ceremony for the four main events will be on July 29 at the old airport site.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tuak competition among activities for Kapit Fest

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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The Very Hairy Backpackers: Fantastic Beasts of Borneo and Where to Find Them

After the heat and humidity of Indonesia we decided to visit Borneo (Malaysian side), to experience more heat and humidity.

After a quick stopover in the non descript city of Kota Kinabalu, we ventured to the northernmost tip of Borneo, aptly named ‘The Tip of Borneo’ for a few days of peace and quiet.

The place was very much an unspoilt paradise, where one could have the entire 10km long white sand beach and immerse themselves in the tranquil surroundings.

From the tip of Borneo we made a quick flight over to Sepilok on a plane that Stef thinks she could have piloted.

The flight also gave a great aerial view on the spectacular landscapes and also unfortunately the devastations that palm oil plantations have caused to the once jungled terrain.

To get deep into the Borneo jungle we went the Kinabatangan River and spent a few nights cruising and exploring along the river.

After initially battling through the rain we were able to see the main attraction, a herd of ‘Pygmy’ Elephants, the smallest breed on earth.

The name was misconceiving, as they were still Elephants and looked pretty big to us.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Very Hairy Backpackers: Fantastic Beasts of Borneo and Where to Find Them

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Borneo Quad Biking latest tourist attraction in Ulu Kiulu

KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Quad Biking that is being introduced by a local inbound tour company in Kampung Mantob about 60 kilometres from here has become the latest tourism attraction in the Ulu Kiulu area.

Based on the concept of outdoor adventure, quad bike or four-wheeled motorcycle tourism activity enables extreme sports enthusiasts to experience quad bike riding to several interesting locations through hilly roads that posed quite a challenge in Ulu Kiulu.

The company’s marketing manager Nancy Lamau said the activity was designed for all extreme sports enthusiasts who are seeking fun and experience riding a quad bike with their family, friends or co-workers.

“The quad biking, which starts from Kampung Mantob, takes about two to three hours with a distance of 20 kilometres through several villages in Ulu Kiulu area, including Kampung Pinahawon, Mangkaladom, Polod and Kampung Gonipis.

“Apart from enjoying the natural environment such as the beautiful mountainous area and river, participants taking part in the sport also have the opportunity to see for themselves farming activities such as the cultivation of padi, which is the primary product in Ulu Kiulu,” she told Bernama.


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Monday, July 03, 2017

Dandy's Grand Adventure: Semporna, Borneo, Malaysia

The trip to Semporna, Borneo took 39 hours.

We had 4 flights: Christchurch to Auckland, New Zealand, Auckland to Gold Coast, Australia, Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (KK), Borneo Malaysia, and finally KK to Tawau.

Would you believe that the flight cost was around $250?!

After much arguing with the locals trying to scam us (always fun after being awake for almost 2 days), we took a taxi followed by a public mini bus to Semporna, the hub for scuba diving around Sipadan Island.

As the hub for some of the best diving in the world you would think that they would have tourism figured out.

But no, the city was quite possibly the most disgusting place we have been to throughout our travels – it even rivaled parts of India, which is seriously saying something.

At least in India you could always find decent food. In contrast, the edible food scene in Semporna was bleak.

Surrounded by trash and sewage, your food options consisted of rice (or course), oily roti (bread), KFC, or half dead seafood kept alive in dirty tanks where each lived in a plastic bottle until it’s eminent demise via rude Chinese tourist.

Like I said, it was bleak. The accommodation scene was no better.

We stayed in a grungy 8-bed dormitory which provided little to no sleep most nights since our roommates thought it appropriate to stay up talking and drinking in the room until the wee hours of the morning.

Not only is keeping up 5 people ridiculously rude, but Malaysia is a strict Muslim country where drinking is seriously frowned upon (which explains why they were drinking in the room and not in the common area).

One night, Andy allowed his frustration to simmer until eventually exploding at them to shut up in an epic way – I had to keep myself from exploding with laughter.

Ok, so we’ve established that Semporna is a shit hole (which is an understatement), but the diving, the diving was INCREDIBLE!!!!

We did 6 dives in 2 days – 3 inside the protected reserve around Sipadan Island and 3 outside.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Dandy's Grand Adventure: Semporna, Borneo, Malaysia

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Local acts set to thrill Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival stage

WHEN used together, the words ‘rainforest’ and ‘music’ conjure up notions of something natural and enchanting.

The upcoming Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in the middle of this month realises the best of these notions into an unforgettable experience that will see local performers commanding the stage at one of the world’s best international music festivals.

Among them will be sape maestro Mathew Ngau Jau and his band, Lan E Tuyang which will feature three other sape masters from the Kayan and Kenyah community.

A living heritage himself, Mathew will be leading the band together with Salomon Gau, the 2005 Baram Warrior Dance champion from Long Ikang, as well as Jimpau Balan, son of the late Balan Asang, a sape legend from Belaga.

Joining them will be Alena Murang, Mathew’s prodigious student who shot to fame for her performances on the sape and her determination to preserve the traditional songs of the Orang Ulu people.

Young nose-flute player Luyoh Rawing tops off the band’s line-up by playing the less popular but no less significant traditional Sarawakian instrument.

Alena and her five female sape players call themselves ‘Ilu Leto’ which means “We, the Ladies” in the Kenyah language.

The members are from the different ethnicities in Sarawak, including Elizabeth Bungan Peter, Munirih Jebeni, Rosemary Colony Joel Dunstan, Nurul Syafiqah?and Tasneem Bolhassan.

This all-woman band truly bridges the old and new culture of Sarawak by performing music of the Kenyah, Kelabit and Iban tribes on the sape, an instrument that used to be taboo for women to hold.

When At Adau won the Kuching Waterfront Festival Award 2016, the group also earned itself a spot on the festival’s stage despite the band only being around since 2014.

These fresh-faced musicians play experimental traditional Sarawak melodies, using the sape and ‘perutong’ accompanied by electric and bass guitars.


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Climbing trail to peak of Tambunan mountain

TAMBUNAN: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said a climbing trail would be built to the summit of the 2,050-meter Mount Minduk Sirung in the district.

“I was informed that last year, 698 people climbed Mount Minduk Sirung,” he said when launching the third anniversary of the Crocker Range Park as a Human and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) at the Mahua sub-station here, yesterday.

He believed the opening of the Mount Minduk Sirung climbing trail and efforts to promote it could benefit the local community around Mahua.

Pairin, who is also the Infrastructure Development Minister, said the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) recognition of the Crocker Range Park as an MAB Reserve on 12 June 2014 was another step forward taken by Sabah Parks towards the protection of the park and at the same time enhancing the local community’s sustainable use of forest resources.

According to him, the listing of Crocker Range Park and its surrounding areas as an MAB will provide opportunities for international cooperation to enhance the management of natural resources and the environment based on three things as follows:

“Minimizing the loss of biodiversity; increase the level of community awareness on how culture and biological diversity will affect life; and promoting environmental continuity through international relationship network as an MAB Reserve,” he said.

Pairin, who is also the member of parliament for Keningau said for this purpose, Sabah Parks, through the cooperation of the  government departments or agencies, together with the community around the Crocker Range Park  had been carrying out various activities since being listed as an MAB in 2014.


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Saturday, July 01, 2017

AirAsia may resume Sibu-Kota Kinabalu flight

SIBU: AirAsia may resume its Sibu-Kota Kinabalu (KK) flight as the low-cost carrier is said to be keen in servicing the route again.

AirAsia discontinued the route in August 2009 after operating for four months, as MASwings had been given exclusive rights by the government to service the rural air routes.

Following that, there had been numerous calls from tourism players here for the flight to resume with the Sibu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) being the latest to jump into the bandwagon.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said he had been informed that AirAsia was interested in taking up the Sibu-KK route.

“I was also informed that AirAsia had written to the Ministry of Transport and Malaysia Aviation Commission for the greenlight to fly that route and is awaiting their reply,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday.

Abdul Karim, who is Asajaya assemblyman, said this when asked if his ministry would be studying into the call by SCCCI for the Sibu-KK route to be served by jetliner as MASwings’ limited capacity could affect trade and tourist arrivals.

On this, Abdul Karim said: “Yes…My ministry is supportive of any upgrading of airline service which could increase tourist flow into Sarawak.”

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