Friday, April 29, 2005

KK Times Square for locals, tourists

Kota Kinabalu: The prestigious RM1.2 billion KK Times Square, to be developed in two phases over 23 acres of prime reclaimed land along the Coastal Highway here, is poised to be a shopping paradise, entertainment hub and leisure centre, not just for locals but also for tourists.

For Phase One - KK Times Square Signature Offices - an eight-acre commercial development of 12 blocks of five, six and eight -storey shop offices with a total floor space of 645,238 square feet, earthworks began more than a week ago following approval of the Development Plan, Building Plan and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The mammoth project with a total sales value of RM168 million is expected to be launched next month to mark the start of construction. It is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2007.

Phase Two with an area of 15 acres is earmarked for the development of a shopping complex, a 5-Star hotel, serviced departments and two office towers. Its total sales value is over RM900 million.

Based on a market study conducted by Syarikat Kapasi Sdn Bhd, the landowner and developer, what is lacking in the State capital is a huge shopping centre that can meet the varied needs of tourists. There is also a 'vacuum' in terms of nightlife.

Thus, Asian Pac Holdings Berhad, the parent company of Syarikat Kapasi, came up with a concept and design, similar to that of the Phileo Damansara commercial centre in Petaling Jaya. They coined it KK Times Square dubbed 'The New Excitement Along The Coastal Highway'.

Syarikat Kapasi Senior Manager (Sales & Marketing), Matthew H.S. Ng said Wednesday, tourists are disappointed that nothing much is going on in the shopping centres here, and that the suburban area of Luyang is more active and vibrant than KK City itself.

"That must change..KK has the potential to grow. We understand that the strategy of the Sabah Government is eco-tourism. We are here to complement the efforts of the Sabah Tourism Board in terms of tourism activities, and not to go against that," he told a press conference at the company's KK Office at Plaza Tanjung Aru.

At the Preview Launch of Phase One - KK Times Square Signature Offices -Ng dispelled reporters' doubts over the viability of the project.

"So far, we have generated sales to the tune of RM75 million. Very soon we are going to conclude more deals.

"We have sold 40 per cent of the total units on an en bloc basis. All our five-storey shop offices facing the coastal highway have been snapped up."

However, he said buyers can later dispose of them on a strata basis.

According to him, purchasers comprise prominent KK businessmen, a developer, an architectural firm and politicians.

"We are also making inroads in Sarawak and Brunei. We are going to promote KK Times Square in other major towns like Tawau and Lahad Datu."

Ng said there are excellent prospects for capital appreciation as KK Times Square is the first of its kind in Kota Kinabalu.

"There is excellent value for money as property prices range from only RM590 per square foot for a ground floor shop and from only RM200 per square foot for an office suite unit.

"After completion, the price for the office suit unit may soar up to RM270 per square foot."

Answering a question on current space glut, Ng said the company was not concerned over the increasing number of retail outlets in Kota Kinabalu "because KK Times Square is a different type of property with modernised and specialised shop offices."

Construction of Phase One, he added, does not require bridging loans as it is internally funded by the company.

To another question, he said before we talk about people's purchasing power, we must have suitable businesses for the tourists.

"Big shopping centres must have a good content of retail shops, and food and beverage outlets. Tourist groups come here for eco-tourism and other specific reasons."

On claims of low purchasing power, Ng countered that quality retailers from West Malaysia will be encouraged to expand their businesses here and thereby create job opportunities.

"This will improve the socio-economic status of Sabah people. You need business to come first. There is a market here."

Asked why the shopping centre in Phase Two is not for sale, Ng explained: "We are not selling any of our retail spaces. We are retaining ownership and management of the building.

"We noticed that KK does not have a single big entity that is a market leader. Ownerships of shopping centres here have been transferred to individual owners."

Citing the KLCC and Mid Valley in Kuala Lumpur, he said their owners retain ownership and control over tenancy.

His plan is to get a company that runs a major shopping centre in KL to get their tenants to take up tenancy at KK Times Square through business expansion to Sabah. "We are confident of bringing them over here...the retailers move like a flock or herd."

On why the company is confident of success, Ng listed out the selling-point of KK Times Square as its strategic location (served by the 4-lane Coastal Highway) and close proximity to KK City Centre.

"We are in the heart of the city and overlooking the Sutera Harbour Resort. Every tourist who comes to KK must pass this area.

"With such a big piece of land in such a prime location, it is imperative that we make the first phase successful. That will affect Phase Two commercial development," he added.

"We may be a little bit pricey but success is assured. Our features are far superior."

Earlier, in his presentation of the project, Syarikat Kapasi General Manager, Calvin Low said the developer expects to do well in Sabah "given its good property development track record in Kuala Lumpur, especially in the Klang Valley."

"We have proven formulasÉwe are established and have a strong management team." He said it is the right time as evidenced by increased international tourist arrivals in Sabah, and Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) being the second busiest airport in the region.

Low observed that it is difficult to find good retail shops on the ground floor in Kota Kinabalu.

Asked whether a 'white elephant' would be created, he said: "It is not likely at KK Times Square. We are also mindful of the risk of overbuilding on our own plot of land."

Courtesy of Daily Express

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Proposed Sarawak-China air link a boost to tourism

KUCHING - Sarawak is working with Air China and Xiamen Airline on proposals to operate direct flights between Chinese cities and the state, The Star reported.

State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said such direct air links would be a boost to attract more Chinese tourists to the Land of the Hornbill.

He said the ministry was also discussing with Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Silk Air to come up with competitive airfares or tour packages to draw holidaymakers from mainland China.

Both SIA and Silk Air now have direct air links between Singapore and five Chinese cities while MAS flies to nine destinations in China.

"We hope to bring in more Chinese tourists either through Singapore or Kuala Lumpur," Wong told reporters at his office at Bangunan Masja.

Silk Air had recently started four weekly flights between Singapore and Kuching.

Wong has just returned home after leading a 17-member delegation, comprising tourism officials and tour operators, on a 10-day tourism promotion mission to Xiamen, Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

He said Sarawak received some 10,000 visitors from China every year.

Wong said that unlike Europeans who knew Borneo and Sarawak "quite well", the Chinese nationals had little knowledge about the state.

"We find that the Chinese, especially city-dwellers, are interested in nature, and Sarawak is an ideal destination for them," he added.

Wong said the state would also target the large expatriate population in major Chinese cities (about one million in Shanghai alone) in its tourism promotion.

He said while the state had published a special 32-page colour tourism brochure in Chinese to promote Sarawak in China, advertisements would also be placed in local newspapers there.

The state would also invite travel writers and tour operators from China to visit key destinations in Sarawak.

"We need to make Sarawak better known to the Chinese market," Wong said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tip of Borneo Musical Sunset to be a yearly affair

courtesy of Daily Express

Kudat: Saturday's resounding success of the first Sunset Symphony performance at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau - the Tip of Borneo, about 190km from the State capital - has prompted Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, to make it an annual event.

More than 500 people, including over 200 tourists from Australia, the United States and Europe as well as Sarawak and Brunei, enjoyed the hour-long superb performance by Sabah's home-grown Kota Kinabalu Symphony Orchestra (KKSO).

The show was a joint effort by Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd (wholly-owned subsidiary of Sabah Tourism Board) and KKSO.

"The response from the public was fantastic as well as turnout of music lovers. The enthusiasm displayed by them was great.

"On top of it, the orchestra staged a superb performance. The weather was great too. So, why wouldn't I want to make it an annual affair to showcase Sabah's talents?" said Chong, who was the guest of honour. Chong, who is Kudat Assemblyman, said:

"Even the Czech Ambassador was present. There was a big group from Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide. I was shockedÉthe Japanese and Koreans were there, too. All of them music enthusiasts."

During the launching ceremony for KKSO in March last year, Chong threw a challenge to the orchestra to perform at the Tip of Borneo.

"I am glad that they took up the challenge," he said.

He said he would now consider bringing in foreign artistes, given the overwhelming response.

Tourists also described the show as a stunning performance, saying they had never seen one like it before.

"What is extraordinary about it is the sunset backdrop. The setting sun filled the sky with an orange glow," one of them said.

Remarked a newly-wed couple from Australia on honeymoon in Sabah: "We enjoyed every minute of the performance. Our experience here is one of the most memorable moments in our life."

Though on a business trip, a businessman from the US took time off to witness the event. "It was worth the trip to this spectacular destination."

Also present were Puan Sri Ivy Chong, State Assembly Deputy Speaker Datuk James Vitales, Banggi Assemblyman Datuk Amir Kahar Tun Mustapha and KK C Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim.

Chong, his wife and the guests performed the Sumazau to the accompaniment of KKSO which played a popular Harvest Festival number as an encore.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Friday, April 22, 2005

General Travel Tip 2

  • When packing: There are possibilities that your bag may be open for inspection. Try not to over pack so that it can be easily opened and closed.

  • Before leaving: Confirm your flight status before proceeding to the airport.

  • At the airport: At the security check point, be prepared to empty your pockets. And also be prepared to demonstrate the operation of any electronic devices (cell phones, laptop, etc.).

  • Boarding the aircraft: Try to board the aircraft ahead of time. There may be some special announcements before take off.

    Courtesy of Precision Reservations
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    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Qantas Holidays offers special Sabah deals

    Qantas Holidays has two special deals to Sabah offering return flights and either three or four nights' accommodation for under $700, including surcharges, fees and taxes.

    Head of Qantas Holidays, Simon Bernardi, said the offer provided people with the perfect opportunity to experience a fantastic holiday location at a great price.

    There are two package options available, linked with the final two Australian Airlines services to Sabah on April 22 and 26.

    • Departure 22 April 2005: Four night package includes return airfare with Australian Airlines from Sydney , four nights' accommodation at the Pacific Sutera Hotel, breakfast daily and transfers for $499 plus $167 in surcharges, fees and taxes.

    • Departure 26 April 2005: Three night package includes return airfare with Australian Airlines from Sydney , three nights' accommodation at the Pacific Sutera Hotel, breakfast daily and transfers for $449 plus $167 in surcharges, fees and taxes.

    ‘Sabah offers a tropical destination with crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches, reefs and rainforests, fantastic seafood, eco tourism experiences, top dive sites and golf courses, Mr Bernardi said.

    “If that's not enough Sabah provides the rare opportunity to come face to face with the endangered orang-utan in their natural habitat, which is a truly magical experience.”

    ‘This is a great chance to visit this enchanting destination and take advantage of a really special deal,” Mr Bemardi said.

    Source: Qantas Holidays

    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    The beach behind Mt Santubong, Sarawak

    By Rahmat Bin Haji Abdul Rahman

    It is called Pantai Pasir Pandak, less than an hour's drive from where we stayed at Jalan Sultan Tengah off Jalan Temenggong Haji Gobil 2 in Petrajaya Kuching.

    Facing the South China Sea and backed by the verdant slopes of Mount Santubong, Pantai Pasir Pandak, is one of the beaches fondly visited by the public during public holidays and long term school holidays.

    What most attracted us during our short visit here were the fishermen villages at Kampung Pasir Pandak and Kampung Bantal and Kampung Santubong offering an interesting insight into kampong life.

    Not far away from Pasir Pandak beach are seafood restaurants perched on the stilts.

    Before you are lured only by the seafood offered by the restaurants here, you must take care of the "halal" cuisine.

    When we were in Sibu hotel, its restaurant had a huge "halal" sign pasted on the entrance door's glass panel. It states that the restaurant and the waiters and waitresses abide by the government of Malaysia's regulations on the "halal" businesses. I asked the waiter "Do you sell liquour, too?." to make sure there is no contradiction with the 'halal' notice. He said 'Yes.' I had no choice but to stay away from the restaurant that does not understand what "halal" means.

    Going into further down to the Pasir Pandak Beach, I was shocked to discover the beach was not as beautiful as what I expected in the first place.

    Pasir Pandak's beach should not be neglected by the state government. It has some potential to be developed for its people.

    I discovered the Pasir Pandak beach has equatorial rainforest growing on the surrounding hills.

    However, the kiosk businesses atmosphere was different from the beaches that I had visited on the island of Borneo.

    Here, the food sellers with umbrellas sold their goods under the canopy of a big tree.

    One of the food sellers said his income selling food at Pasir Pandak Beach was as much as RM200 from the morning to evening during weekends and public holidays.

    This activity is not so much encouraging as local authorities prohibit food sellers from carrying businesses at Pasir Pandak Beach.

    This place is beautiful during low-tide, I was told. People could walk across to one of the island from Pasir Pandak beach to collect clams.

    During nighttime, Pasir Pandak Beach is not a safe place for part time fishermen coming from other parts of Sarawak. Some experienced having their vehicles forced open by thieves in the area.

    What had shocked me was the pile of rubbish near to the beach. Whether the rubbish was uncollected or this place was turned into a dumping place, I do not know. The rubbish gave a bad impression to tourists like myself.

    Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

    Lepa Regatta Water Festival captivates tourists at Semporna, Sabah

    Semporna: Twelve years ago, a water festival known as the "lepa" regatta attracted only several hundred spectators, mostly locals.

    On Saturday, over 10,000 people converged on this small town on the east coast of Sabah to witness the events of the 12th edition of the regatta flagged off by Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah.

    The spectators, both locals and foreigners, were captivated by the uniqueness of the lepa - a centuries-old boat used by the sea-faring Bajau tribe.

    Among the foreign visitors was Australian government pensioner Dr Dale Staraughan, 65, who said he came here to enjoy the uniqueness of the water festival.

    "Last year, while visiting Semporna, I saw the lepa for the first time and thought this kind of festival is not held anywhere else. So, I am back here this year," he said.

    He hoped to be able to bring several friends from Australia for the festival next year.

    "Foreign tourists will love the ambience and uniqueness of this festival," he said.

    Roger Yates, 36, of England, said he was elated at being able to learn about the culture of an ethnic group near a part of the world he knew fairly well - Pulau Sipadan, one of the world's best diving havens located offshore Semporna.

    "Before this, I only knew about the islands off Semporna, especially Pulau Sipadan, but today I have a chance to see the lepa culture," he said.

    "This festival is a bonus for foreign tourists who come to Pulau Sipadan to dive. The Sabah Government's effort to introduce a variety of tourism products will be good for the State," he said.

    Susanah Hoplil, 32, who arrived in Semporna two days ago, said she was lucky to be able to witness local culture close-up.

    "The culture of the Semporna people is beautiful and unique. I am in love already," said the Brazilian who had planned only to stop over in this town on her way to Pulau Sipadan.

    "When I was told that a cultural festival was on in town, I decided not to miss it," said the diving enthusiast.

    Hoplil said she had seen different types of cultures in many countries but the lepa regatta was different and very enchanting.

    "I hope events like this will be continued," she said.

    The lepa regatta was first held in 1994 as a district-level event before being upgraded into a state festival. Since 2003, it has been included as an event in the national water festival.

    Courtesy of Bernama

    ‘Kaul’, the Melanau community festival, a fest for all

    MUKAH: The Kaul festival, a traditional thanksgiving and pacification ceremony of the Melanau community, is now a social celebration for all.

    Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the Kaul, as practised today, was a showcase of Melanau culture and a platform for the community to enhance ties with other communities.

    In the old days, he said, it was a religious obligation and involved the worshipping of the ipok or spirits of the land or sea.

    But most of the Melanaus now are either Muslims or Christians and no longer followed the ways or beliefs of their forefathers, he said yesterday when launching the annual Kaul celebration at the Kala Dana beach here.

    People, he said, should be able to differentiate between religion and culture.

    Culture gave each community its distinctive identity and a community without a culture would not be able to move ahead, he added.

    “There are certain positive aspects of our old culture that have helped our ancestors progress which we can still adopt now as a guide when facing life’s many challenges,” he said.

    Taib expressed his gratitude to Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad for his interest in preserving and promoting the Kaul as a cultural practice and in trying to enhance it as a tourism event.

    In his speech earlier, Dr Toyad said the Kaul was now becoming increasingly popular, judging from the growing number of visitors to this town every year.

    “Our aim now is to introduce it to the world at large and we will work hard on this,” he said.

    On foreign tourists arrival to Sarawak, he said 705,042 foreign tourists visited Sarawak last year, compared with 54,450 in 2003.

    Courtesy of Bernama

    Saturday, April 16, 2005

    A jungle night out at Kuala Balai, Brunei Darussalam

    By Christine Coburn

    Kuala Balai ... the 'original', is hardly a place where one would expect to have a great night out. It lies deep in the jungle, a tiny hamlet at the confluence of the river Belait and its tributary.

    The small settlement's larger offspring, the coastal town of Kuala Belait, is a throbbing metropolis by comparison. There would be no bright city lights or discotheques down there we thought. We were wrong. A great night out is exactly what we did have in that remote kampong, deep in the heart of Brunei's rainforest.

    Some friends had suggested the riverside village as the ideal weekend retreat, a barbeque by the river and an overnight stay, and they had booked a night in the traditional longhouse that had been erected as an outdoor recreational centre. A small group of us set off late in the afternoon, down the long track which leads to Kuala Balai.

    The jeep carrying some of our party bit the dust and potholes with relative ease. The sky was blue still, the late afternoon sun delineating the beautiful backdrop of the forest skyline along our route past smallholdings which gradually petered out until we were in almost uninhabited jungle. The forest canopy of Brunei is unique inasmuch as it is varied in character, less dense than most rainforests, interspersed with small stands of huge trees and the home of flying lizards, unique to Borneo. I had never seen one but kept a look out nonetheless. A couple of coucal, large hen like birds, rewarded me, and the incessant drone of cicadas lent a magical atmosphere as we rounded the last bend and came in view of the tiny kampong of Kuala Balai.

    I heard the whoop of monkeys. A couple of cars parked beside the road had disgorged their passengers who were now fishing in the ditches; fishing for a small catfish, which when boiled into a gelatinous soup is reputed to assist post operative recovery. So I'm told!

    We parked our cars and set off on the path along the boardwalk to the longhouse, a short distance from the road, past stands of bamboo, past monkey laden palms into the garden walkways of the longhouse clearing right on the banks of the slow flowing stretch of water. Across the river lies the famous skull-house that we had visited by boat many times. We settled on the landing stage, enjoying the evening sun, and waited for the arrival of our companions and a group of local Balai people, now living in the 'metropolis' who were to act as our hosts for the evening.

    We declined the offer of the grill they had prepared for us at the back of the longhouse and instead hooted as some of our friends erected the strangest tripod barbeque that somewhere between its erection and the char-grilled to perfection fish dish, wobbled on its legs and toppled over, much to the amusement of our hosts and those of us who had eyed the strange affair with apprehension. Steve Shim, our trip co-ordinator, sprang to the rescue, salvaged the wonky barbeque, and worked tirelessly as barb e chef, until the sun dipped below the horizon, and the fairy lights, the generator hum and the cassette recorder all came into play and the peace of the jungle and the quiet reverie we had previously enjoyed were now given over to the sounds of a promising party about to begin.

    Two cultures met that evening like the confluence of two rivers and formed a happy amalgam. It was a night to remember, everyone seemed to have a good time. The cool jungle air sat balmily on our shoulders and the river breathed its night-time scents of living things below its surface. Its inky blackness was illuminated here and there with the stars in the firmament and a beautiful ancient moon shone benignly on our antics.

    I wandered down to the landing stage at the water's edge. As I gazed at the silent hypnotic flow, I was joined by one of the older Balai men who came carrying a torch. The river at night, and its dimensions, had reminded me much of a night I had spent on the Kinabattang river, and the elderly gentleman had read my mind. He shone his torch swiftly across the water and into the night sky. There were no red eyes in the torchlight beam; maybe on this occasion the creatures of the night, and the crocodiles, preferred to be out of earshot of the party music. Although the noise was melodious, not dischordant, its gentle strains drifted on the breeze and I could see that that more than a couple of our party were engaged in the dancing initially performed by the older men.

    I rejoined the group. The graceful movements of the local dance, seemingly simple, proved strenuous to our unaccustomed western styles. There were hoots of laughter as some of our group tried to imitate the seriously graceful movements of the hornbill.

    The calm deliberation of the older men, the anima of the jungle and its rhythms were reflected in the quiet serenity of their eyes. And much mirth was elicited by our clumsy attempts to copy them.

    A good time was had by all, a second supper ensued and the celebration continued 'til well after midnight. I settled into my bed to the strains of gentle music. The older stalwarts seemed to need no sleep.

    The gentle breeze dropped, the night became hot, I tossed on the foam mattress in one of the 'rumah cecil' reserved for the ladies, whilst the older members and some of our group partied on.

    My friend Moira had brought along a mosquito coil, though I never saw a single one! It proved more malodorous than the perfumed tree bark the locals were burning and the modern foam rubber was sticky and cloying compared with the cool touch of the polished rattan floor-covering. I opted for the more comfortable floor. I thought about the items I had bought from one of the ladies, the neatly woven mat, a beautiful polished coconut ladle what a superbly innovative lifestyle jungle peoples live. Tomorrow it was back to the oil fields and the plastic by-products of society as we know it, but for now I drifted into the sweet embrace of the jungle, safe in the longhouse and my dreams. Kuala Belait was a whole world away.

    Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    Sustainability the keyword for Sabah Tourism's future

    Kota Kinabalu: Sustainability is the way to Sabah's future development, including tourism, said Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.

    Launching the Borneo Ecotourism Conference, Tuesday, he said all development must be given "sufficient thought" to avoid or prevent short-sighted and expedient development that wasted resources on costly infrastructures which end in failures.

    "We are aware of the needs and challenges for sustainable growth of tourism, in particular, ecotourism, especialy in a state like Sabah where its touristic resources are largely nature-based," he told the participants from Australia, US, Japan, Brunei and Peninsular Malaysia, among others. He said the State Government realised that Sabah's fundamental touristic asset encompassed nature and culture resources .

    "To generate long term benefits to meet the State's economic and social needs, these resources need to be properly managed and appropriately developed and where necessary, given due protection," he said.

    The "challenges" are more than physical development of appropriate products. It is the development of services and skills of high quality and standards to deliver the products to meet the discerning visitor needs and expectations.

    Thus, the development plan should include care and protection of the environment, provision for regular maintenance of infrastructure and enable delivery of quality services that not only meet safety requirements and other standards but also to beautify the environs, he said.

    "The maintenance culture has to be firmly inculcated so that we do not unduly degrade important nature resources and visitor attractions by carelessness and apathy in littering and undue destruction through simple neglect and ignorance of the negative impacts of our actions such as on coral reefs, wildlife habitats and ecosystems by visitor and provider alike."

    From a bigger perspective, he said it would do well for Sabah, Sarawak , Brunei and Kalimantan to remind themselves that they share a series of "spectacular attractions" that had attracted world renowned naturalists and scientists such Sir David Attenborough and Professor David Bellamy and will continue to attract new generations of ecotourists who are recognised as the largest growth segment in the tourism industry today, Chong said.

    He cited nature is icons like the Orang-utan, the Sumatran rhino, the Proboscis monkey, Sabah's pygmy elephants, the rain forests of Borneo from Gunung Gading of Sarawak to Sabah's Crocker Range and Maliau Basin, where are found four species of the world's largest flower Rafflesia, to world heritage sites such as Mulu Caves and Mt Kinabalu, which houses thousands of species of wild orchids and diverse unique plants.

    Through their sheer richness in biodiversity on land and at sea, Sabah and Sarawak had contributed substantially to the national image of Malaysia as a nature and ecotourism destination.

    And on that basis, Sabah have the last few years embarked on various concerted measures to improve air access and invested in vigorous promotions to raise the State's profile to increase tourist arrivals.

    The results were 1.77 million arrivals in 2004 , which was a 41.7 per cent increase from 2003. Figures from the first two months of 2005 suggest a similar growth trend through the year.

    "The State Government has set a target of 2.7 million visitor arrivals to be achieved for 2007," he said.

    "With the immediate expansion of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport which is being carried out over the next few years at a cost of RM1 billion, we are confident of reaching the target," Chong said.

    Courtesy of Daily Express

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    General Travel Tip 1

    • Your rights as an airline passenger: Before purchasing airline tickets, ask for the airline's "Conditions of Carriage". The Conditions of Carriage cover numerous airline regulations, including limits of liability for loss of luggage, check-in deadlines, responsibility for delays or cancelled flights, compensation for injuries and many others. These regulations vary from airline to airline so it may help you determine which airline you'll choose.
    • When checking in at the hotel's lobby: For a matter of security, ask the hotel desk personnel not to announce your room number, but rather to write it down. There is no need for the entire hotel lobby to know what room you'll be staying in.
    • What to do if you lose your passport: First of all, you must inform the local authorities about the loss. After that, contact your country's consulate or embassy for permission to return to your home country. Normally, a temporary passport will be issued.

      Courtesy of Precision Reservations
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      offering discounts of up to 75% off the regular
      rates at hotels throughout Asia and worldwide!

    Vanishing Borneo Pheasants Look Great but Won't Mate

    Below is an interesting and newly-published article from by John Roach for your reading pleasure:

    In zoos Bulwer's pheasants' stunning looks elicit oohs and ahhs from visitors. But the birds themselves seem to find each other somewhat less than appealing.

    As a result, they're producing no offspring—a concern to conservationists who hope to build up the species's numbers in captivity as they decline in the wild.

    Also called wattled pheasants, Bulwer's pheasants (Lophura bulweri) are elusive, chicken-size birds. Males have bushy white tails and folds of brilliant blue skin on their faces. Females have brown folds of skin. The pheasants are found in the wild only on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.

    Borneo is the world's third largest island (behind Greenland and New Guinea) and is shared by the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In the past two decades, conservationists say, much of the island's tropical rain forest has been logged.

    John Rowden is an ornithologist, or bird zoologist, with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City and the curator of animals at the Central Park Zoo. He has traveled to Borneo since 1999 to study Bulwer's pheasants in the wild to learn how to make the pheasants' zoo habitats more conducive for producing offspring.

    Click here to read the rest of the article

    Sunday, April 10, 2005

    Brunei Tourism Aims Big In 2005

    By Azian Othnan & Laila Rahman

    Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei tourism is embarking on a branding exercise to be done by a Thai firm and is set to produce quality materials, launch a new web site as well. as run an advertisement campaign in print and electronic media.

    It is also looking at two international events to boost tourism in the Sultanate. Brunei will play host to Asean golf tour in June this year. it will also take part in the first ever international luxury travel market in Cannes, France in December.

    Speaking to a group of officials from Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, Sheikh Jamaluddin, Director of Tourism, also said that this year's work programme also includes familiarisation trips for the media and industry, participation in travel and tourism trade shows and appointment of public and marketing representatives.

    `Brunei is positioning itself for a joint tourism vacation with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali or Dubai, to be a gateway to Borneo and East Asia as well as a stopover destination on the Europe, North Asia and Middle East route to and from Australia and New Zealand.

    "The country is also projecting itself as an upmarket exotic ecotourism, cultural and golfing destination, a refreshing and relaxing getaway and be a strong component in the Borneo vacation," he said.

    Sheikh Jamaluddin added, Brunei's marketing goals are to dispel common misconceptions about the country, to present Brunei to the markets as more than a stopover destination and to position it as a unique tourist destination in the international tourism market place.

    The target market segments are discerning, mature, experienced travelers, nature lovers, special interest tourists, honeymooners especially from Korea, tranquility seekers, families with kids, transit passengers as well as for incentive meetings, and Convention and Exhibition (MICE) tourists.

    Besides attending the travel market in Cannes, other trade fairs which Brunei will attend this year include Sunday Mail Escape Expo in Brisbane in April, Arabian Travel Market in Dubai (May), Incentive & Meetings Expo in Frankfurt (May), International Travel Expo in Hong Kong (June), MATTA International Travel Fair in Kuala Lumpur (October), PATA Travel Mart in Bangkok (September) and JATA World Travel Fair in Tokyo (September).

    He said that an estimated 300,000 tourists are coming to Brunei annually. However, tourism's contribution to the country's GDP is still insignificant.

    "The government knows the potential of the tourism industry judging by its global contribution. World tourism contributed to 700 million arrivals in 2003 with receipts of US$514 billion and the market share up from 11% to 30.34%. Arrivals will go up to 1.8 billion by 2020," he added.

    The KPMG five-year masterplan indicates that tourism would contribute to 11,000 new jobs if a country could achieve one million tourists and revenues of around $250 million, taking into account the daily tourist expenditure of $159-$316.

    Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

    Click Here for Brunei Tour Package

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    Music of the Rainforest

    Compiled by JASON CHEAH

    It is time to take a sneak peek at who from the global scene of World Music are coming to this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival, to be staged from July 8 to 10 in Santubong, Sarawak.

    In fact, a significant portion of the line-up to date has been confirmed by the organisers.

    A look at the websites of some of the acts scheduled to grace themselves at the foot of Mount Santubong this year already sees them blocking those significant dates in their tour schedules.

    Early confirmations include the new voice of Qawwali, Faiz Ali Faiz. Highly regarded as the successor of the late and legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, he was a nominee in the just concluded BBC World Music Awards 2005.

    Also from Asia and North Africa, Iranian Kurdish family the Kamkars is also set to please with traditional Persian and Kurdish poignant melodies and uplifting rhythms, while Algerian Djamel Laroussi is expected to offer an exciting and catchy mix of Algerian rai with influences of jazz, blues and reggae.

    On an American note, artistes from all the way North in Canada to South in Bolivia are also confirmed to date, including Juno Award winner Le Vent Du Nord from Canada with its roots from the province of Quebec, Latin Grammy Award nominee Petrona Martinez from Colombia and Belize’s Florencia Mess and the Maya Kek’chi Strings.

    European offerings will most likely include interesting crossovers, including the unlikely Celtic music-Polish band combination of Shannon, Italian gypsy outfit Acquaragia Drom, and quirky comedy and song routines from Britain’s The Old Rope String Band.

    From Africa, Cote d’Ivoire song, dance and musicians collective Yelemba D’Abidjan, who have made a recent appearance at the Womad Festival in Reading, England, is expected to come.

    On the home front, we will get to see the return of sape maestro Jerry Kamit, as well as the increasingly popular Sarawak outfit Tuku Kame, among other Malaysian collectives and cultural groups.

    Of course, these are just the early confirmation and just like any festival, one can expect there will be more to come.

    Nevertheless, diversity looks to be the key in artiste and the reputation of an artiste in the world music circuit range from off the mainstream to some already breaking in.

    Organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), the festival attracted 20,000 people last year, half of whom were Malaysians.

    This year, the STB is expected to sell up to 8,000 entrance tickets for each nightly show to ensure better crowd control and for the comfort and safety of music lovers.

    There will not be three-day passes like in the previous festivals. Instead, daily tickets of RM60 (adults) and RM30 (children aged between three and 12 years) will be on sale. For each show, admission is limited to 7,000 adults and 1,000 children.

    There will also be the usual daytime events (from 2pm to 4.30pm) comprising interactive music workshops, ethno-music lectures, jam sessions and mini-performances.

    Tickets can be obtained from Visitors’ Information Centres in Kuching (082-410944 (city)/082-450944 (Kuching Airport), Sibu (084-340980), Miri (085-434181), at the Sarawak Tourism Board Office, Kuching (082-423600) and the Sarawak Cultural Village ( 082-846411).

    Courtesy of The Star

    Click Here for Sarawak Tour Packages

    Wednesday, April 06, 2005

    Tips: Mulu National Park

    Mulu National Park is accessible by air via direct flights from both Miri (daily) and Kota Kinabalu (thrice weekly).

    For the standard Mulu Caves tours (either 2-day or 3-day), it is advisable for you to arrive at Mulu in the morning (latest just before midday) so that you have enough time to check in the hotel and unpack before starting your tour of 2 standard showcaves (usually Deer and Lang) on the first day, and another two more showcaves (Wind and Clearwater) on the next day.

    For a 3D/2N or longer tour, if you can't make it to Mulu earlier, do ask the travel operator to fit in the visit to the 2 caves on day 3, that is, if your flight is after midday. But since Mulu is a real natural wonder, do make it a point to arrive early on day 1 and leave a bit later on the last day so that you can really enjoy Mulu to its fullest.

    For the more challenging and adventurous excursions such as the Headhunters Trail or the Mt. Api Pinnacles, you need at least 4 to 5 days at Mulu National Park ad you may even contemplate an extra day or two to recuperate or simply just leisure around at one of the most breathtaking World Heritage Sites in this region.

    * Click here for more on Mulu Caves Tour Packages

    Sarawak Mulu Caves Sarawak Mulu Caves

    Tuesday, April 05, 2005

    New Asiana Airlines Seoul-KK Direct Flights

    Kota Kinabalu: About 30 per cent more or about 10,000 more Korean visitors are expected in Sabah through Asiana Airlines, through its direct flights from Seoul, Korea to the State capital.

    For a start, the airline will fly to Sabah from Seoul, Korea, twice weekly departing from Incheon, Seoul to Kota Kinabalu (KK) at 8.40pm on Wednesday and Sunday, and arriving at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) at 1.05am on Thursday and Monday, respectively.

    The airline will depart from KKIA at 8.50am on Monday and Thursday using Airbus A321 with a carrying capacity of 166 passengers and 11 seats for crew.

    In disclosing this, Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Karim Bujang said the airline forecast to bring nearly 9,000 Korean passengers to the State this year.

    "The move by Asiana Airlines has definitely marked another milestone in our tourism history as it will increase the number of Korean tourist arrivals to Sabah.

    "Last year, the Ministry recorded over 30,000 Korean tourist arrivals to the State and if we are able to maintain this figure, then we would have an addition of nearly 10,000 Korean passengers this year," he said.

    Karim said this during a press conference on Monday in conjunction with Asiana Airlines' scheduled charter flights from Seoul to KK that commenced on April 3.

    The airline launched its inaugural flight from Seoul to KK on April 3 departing at 8.40pm on Sunday and arriving at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) at 1.05am on April 4.

    It organised a familiarisation trip for 20 delegates comprising nine reporters and 11 tourism players including top management of the airline and few tour agents to Sabah.

    Also present was Tourism Malaysia Director for Sabah branch, Iskandar Mirza and the Asiana Airlines top management team. Karim said the Ministry is confident this schedule charter flight will bring Sabah one step further to turning it as a hub for international direct scheduled flights.

    "We have 76 direct international flights out of KK and we are positive that the airline will have enough international passengers to make use of this facility depending on how the working relationship will be in the future.

    "Also, the airline has given a positive indication that it will actually consider mounting four flights during peak seasons .

    "For scheduled charter trips, it will consider flights to Sabah in spring next year," he told.

    Karim said the target group for this schedule trips would be honeymooners, families especially on Sunday flights, free independent travellers and incentive groups. He added that other niche markets from Korea would be diving and golfing.

    According to him, the Koreans are quality tourists, as they are known to spend well here among Asian tourists.

    "Also, there are Korean students here who come to the State to take up the English language and golfing courses here as we believe a few hundred Korean parents have realised how important is to to master the language and decide to send their children here," he said.

    Karim said the Koreans also prefer to come here as Sabah is an unspoilt market whereby the traders will not harass or force them to buy their local products.

    So far, he said, the Ministry has yet to receive any complaint regarding rude traders or shop assistants from tourists.

    Referring to two abandoned resort projects along the new Kinarut - Papar route, he said one has been bought over by a Korean company that would be redesigning the resort to suit Korean features and look.

    The other one, he said, is still owned by a local entrepreneur who is planning to resume work in a couple of months.

    Karim also encouraged Korean investors to invest in the tourism sector here and construct hotels or resorts as the State's 10,000 rooms are not enough to cater to the more than 100,000 tourists coming to Sabah.

    He said the State has less 10 tourist guides who can speak the Korean language. To overcome this shortage, he said, they will train the tourist guides to learn to speak Korean and other foreign languages.

    Source: Daily Express

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    That’s the spirit, Nicola

    Below is an interesting Borneo-related article from Hertz24 for your reading pleasure:

    A 19-YEAR-OLD who is terrified of ghosts is spending a night in a haunted dungeon to raise money for a charity TV challenge.

    Nicola Whitehead has six months to get £3,500 for the two-week
    trip to Borneo, which is being filmed by Global Challenge TV.

    A percentage of the money she raises will go to Garden House
    Hospice in Letchworth GC, which is Nicola's special charity.

    Click Here to read the rest of the article.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    Centre to promote Sarawak Tourism launched

    KUALA LUMPUR: To know some of the wonders of Sarawak, head to the heart of Kuala Lumpur and visit the Sarawak – Paradise in Borneo outlet in Jalan Bukit Bintang.

    One can find all things unique to the state, known as the Land of the Hornbill, here.

    And if you want to see the “real thing,” there is also information on tour packages to the state.

    Sarawak’s Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh launched the centre, a joint project between his ministry and the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation, on Saturday.

    “This is the best place to create an impact (for Sarawak) as it will be open 365 days, and foreigners always visit the Bukit Bintang area.

    “The centre will definitely be influential in promoting Sarawak,” he said, adding that the state attracted three million tourists last year.

    At the opening ceremony, Malaysia Airlines launched eight Golden Holidays Discover Sarawak packages.

    Valid from April 1 to March 31 next year, the packages are priced from RM440 including airfare, accommodation with breakfast and hotel transfers. The usual price is RM524.

    Source: The Star

    Friday, April 01, 2005

    Kota Kinabalu Symphony Orchestra to perform at Tip of Borneo on April 23

    KOTA KINABALU: The Kota Kinabalu Symphony Orchestra (KKSO) will be performing at the Tip of Borneo, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau on April 23.

    The inaugural event will feature Sabah’s first and only orchestra serenading an audience against the dramatic sunset backdrop on the northern-most tip of Borneo.

    The Tip of Borneo is one of the recent additions to Sabah’s growing list of attractions, rich in history and natural beauty.

    Tanjung Simpang Mengayau derives from the original Rungus name “Tanjung Sampang Mangazo”.

    During the set symphony, audience will get to enjoy classic favourites such as ‘Waves of Danube’, ‘Fragrance of the Night’, ‘Water Music Suite II’, P Ramlee’s ‘Hamida’ and the light-hearted ‘Burung Kakak Tua’ among many others.

    The orchestra formed less than a year ago, comprises 100 members with its youngest musician being nine.

    Instead of performing in the standard enclosed music hall, the KKSO is out to prove that sometimes performing in the most unconventional of venues will be an unforgettable experience particularly for the audience. The event is by invitation only.

    Source: New Sabah Times