Friday, July 29, 2005

Brunei Tourism Board comes into being

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to the establishment of Brunei Tourism Board with effect from July 11, 2005.

The Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, in a media release, said the board will be chaired by the Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources with the Permanent Secretary at the ministry as the Deputy Chairman, RTB reported.

Its other members comprise the Director of Tourism Development Department as the Secretary; Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance; Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications; the Controller of Immigration and National Registration; the Director of Youth and Sports; Chief Executive Officer of Royal Brunei Airlines; and Presidents of the Brunei Hotels Association, Brunei Tourism Agency and the Brunei International Trade Association.

At the same time, His Majesty has also consented to the upgrade of the administration of the Tourism Development Section of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources as Tourism Development Department.

The establishment of the Brunei Tourism Board and the upgrade of the Tourism Development Section to be the Tourism Development Department is aimed at expediting the development of the tourism industry and ensuring its effectiveness towards enhancing its development, in line with the country's aspiration.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Brunei abuzz with AirAsia news

By Rosli Abidin Yahya

The news that no-frills airline AirAsia may soon commence operation here has caused a buzz in the Sultanate.

Many applauded the decision that may allow AirAsia to operate from the capital as it could save people from making unnecessary journeys to neighbouring towns just to catch their flights.

Some budget travellers from Brunei seeking cheaper ways to travel to Kuala Lumpur take a 45-minute boat ride to Labuan or drive to Miri to catch an AirAsia flight.

"AirAsia caters for the population segment who could not normally afford to fly. It also opens opportunities for budget travellers to fly to other cities instead of their usual retreats in Miri and Limbang," they said.

Some locals may still want to travel by AirAsia which is more affordable to them. They said the budget no-frills airline would provide a healthy competition for the national carrier.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

8 Family Hotel Safety Tips

Here are some safety tips to make you and family feel more secure away from home as follows:
  1. When booking your hotel room, make sure that the room comes equipped with deadbolts and peepholes.

  2. Ask for rooms that open into the interior of the hotel, compared to the outside of hotel. Interior of rooms provides more safety because thieves can not monitor your coming and goings.

  3. Make sure that all windows and doors are securely locked. And if your room has a balcony, make sure there is a net around it so your kids are unable to slip through.

  4. Try to get a hotel that utilizes electronic keys instead of regular keys. Electronic keys are reprogrammed after each stay of a guest.

  5. If your room comes with a safe, lock up your valuables. Don't leave valuables in plane site; more people have access to your room than you think.

  6. Locate the emergency exits in case of a fire.

  7. Teach your children how to call the front desk and 911 (or the country's equivalent) in case of an emergency.

  8. Do not mention your room number in public, you never know who is listening.

Courtesy of Precision Reservations
Asia's premier Hotel Reservation site since 1997,
offering discounts of up to 75% off the regular
rates at hotels throughout Asia and worldwide!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sabah Government in process of re-gazetting Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary


KOTA KINABALU: The state government is in the process of re-gazetting the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary as a protected area under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

Currently, the area is under the State Land Ordinance.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said the Land & Survey Department and Forestry Department were in the process of finalising the matter.

He was commenting on a news report in a national daily that the 26,000ha sanctuary billed as Malaysia’s “Gift to Earth” was facing massive destruction.

The area is presently managed by the Kinabatangan District Office and not the Sabah Wildlife Department.

“We are doing it now for better protection of the area,” Musa said to reporters after receiving dividend payment of RM5.052 million to the state government from Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd and a loan re-

payment amounting to RM4,695,850.16 from Sabah Housing & Town Development Authority (SHTDA) at his office here yesterday.

He also said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had called him to find out more about the matter following the news report.

“I’ve explained to the Prime Minister that the state government is in the process of re-gazetting the area,” he said.

According to Musa who is also Finance Minister, Wildlife officers have every right to go to any area where there was poaching against protected wildlife species.

The Chief Minister also said there were no large scale illegal logging in the Kinabatangan area.

“There are ‘bantalan’ activities (small-scale tree felling) carried out by villagers for their own use,” he said.

Meanwhile, Musa said he would get the Kinabatangan District Office to investigate and monitor development along the Kinabatangan riverbank and indiscriminate land clearing in the area.

“I will also bring up the matter in the next State Cabinet meeting,” he added.

The Star reported on Monday that in the last four years alone, 20 per cent of the 100-million-year-old forest had been estimated to have been cleared, threatening endangered animal species like the Borneo pygmy elephants, orang utans, proboscis monkeys and hornbills.

Besides the danger of losing these animals, the ecotourism industry is also bracing itself for tougher times due to the illegal encroachment into the Lower Kinabatangan, where the sanctuary is sited.

Thousands of tourists, both foreigners and locals visit the sanctuary each year to sample its rich fauna and flora.

Yesterday, Warisan Harta and SHTDA were represented by their chairman, Datuk Dr Pataware Patawe and Datuk Rubin Balang, respectively.

Also present were Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Edward Khoo, state Secretary Datuk KY Mustapha and senior officials of Warisan Harta and SHTDA.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Frequent Travellers Card between Brunei and Malaysia gets encouraging response

By Achong Tanjong

The Frequent Travellers Card (FTC) has received an encouraging response since it was jointly launched by Brunei and Malaysia early this month. To date, some 530 Malaysians and Bruneians have applied for card.

According to a news report, the Miri Immigration Department Office has received 539 applications from Malaysians and Bruneians. Of the number, 243 applications were from Malaysians in Sarawak, while Bruneians from the Sultanate had submitted 296 applications as of July 23.

The FTC system is only applicable to the Sungai Tujoh CIQ for both countries in this pilot project, the first in Asean countries to facilitate travel between both countries.

It is aimed at frequent travellers to cut down the hassle through speedy clearance at the specially allocated FTC lane at the CIQ of both countries. All Malaysians with international passport and 64 K chip in their MyKad are eligible if they make five or more trips monthly in this sector.

However, Malaysians are still required to bring along their passport when entering the Sultanate.

The Immigration Department said bringing along the passport is important during the trial period of six months. Their passport would be stamped by the Immigration Department on the first entry to Brunei and vice-versa, and a receipt stating the duration of permitted stay would be issued to FTC holders.

Speedy clearance is possible through the electronic card and thumb print reader, which verifies the passport data shared by both countries. Clearance receipt, however, must be kept during their stay either in Sarawak or Brunei.

Under the system, travellers could save on the pages for stamping which is now confined to the normal immigration clearance process, whereas the FTC card is valid for two years and is renewable.

Applicants must go to the National Registration Department to key in the passport details in the 64 K electronic chip in MyKad and their applications would be processed by the Miri Immigration Department and forwarded to Brunei Immigration Department for approval and vice-versa.

However, the FTC is applicable to only Sg. Tujoh CIQ for entry and exit. Those intending to exit at Tedungan CIQ and Kuala Lurah would have to use their passport. The pilot project would be extended to other border CIQ if proven feasible.

Thousands of Bruneians and Malaysians working in the Sultanate travel to Miri and Limbang for their shopping and recreational activities every week, especially during weekends and public holidays.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, July 25, 2005

Miss India crowned Miss Tourism 2005, Miri, Sarawak

By George Francis

Miss India, Sonal Singh, 20, was crowned Miss Tourism 2005 International Pageant after the beat 30 other beauties at the World Grand Final Saturday night, in Miri, Sarawak.

First runner up was 18-year-old Miss Russia, Natalya Pervova (R), while Miss Lebanon, Sandra Raymond El-Sayegh, 20, (L) was the second runner up.

The pageant, organised in conjunction with Miri's proclamation as a city, also saw Indonesian Rizka Maqfira Doufri, 23, adjudged as Miss Talent, while Brazilian Caroline Michel, 17, was declared Miss Best Traditional Costume.

Singaporean Foo Choon Lian, 24, was awarded Miss Damai title while Miss Permyjaya title went to Kenyan Rachel Mbuki Marete.

Courtesy: Borneo Bulletin

Mulu walkway is world's longest ever at 480m

MULU: The Mulu National Park has opened the world’s longest canopy skywalk, a 480m walkway suspended 20m above the forest floor.

Experts advised and helped the local communities design and build the structure.

The canopy skywalk is part of the Gunung Mulu world heritage area opened by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yesterday.

Other facilities there include a plants-for-life trail, an 8km non-slip plank walk, radio communication systems, interpretive signage, renovated facilities at Camp 5, new public toilets and upgraded facilities for future on-site research.

Also built were new bridges, new park lighting and sensor-activated lighting in the four caves – the Clearwater, Wind, Deer and Lung Caves.

The Deer Cave boasts the world’s largest cave passage while the 107km Clearwater Cave is the longest in South-East Asia.

Mulu also has the world’s largest natural chamber – Sarawak Chamber – which can accommodate 40 Boeing 747 aircraft with room to spare.

The Mulu National Park has seen a significant increase in tourist numbers after it was made a Unesco world heritage site five years ago.

State national parks and nature reserves controller Datuk Cheong Ek Choon said the new facilities at Mulu Caves were fine examples of the private sector and government working together to promote eco-tourism and biodiversity conservation.

He said it was made possible through the joint efforts of Borsarmulu Park Management and Sarawak Forestry.

Cheong, also Sarawak Forestry managing director, commended the state's commitment to conserve more areas as national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, and its contribution to raise the profile of the Mulu National Park on the world stage.

Courtesy of The Star

Outraged over rape of Kinabatangan rainforest

By Teoh Teik Hoong

KINABATANGAN: The 26,000ha Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, billed as Malaysia’s “Gift to Earth”, is facing massive destruction.

In the last four years alone, 20% of the 100-million-year-old forest has been estimated to have been cleared, threatening endangered animal species like the Borneo pygmy elephants, orang utans, proboscis monkeys and hornbills.

Besides the danger of losing these animals, the ecotourism industry in the “Corridor of Life” is also bracing itself for tougher times due to the illegal encroachment into the Lower Kinabatangan, where the sanctuary is sited.

Thousands of tourists, both foreigners and locals, visit the sanctuary each year to sample its rich fauna and flora.

The sanctuary, which is said to be older than the Amazon forest in South America, was pledged as the country’s “Gift to Earth” by former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Osu Sukam in 1999.

The only indication that the promise to protect the area would be fulfilled was the gazetting of the area as a bird sanctuary under the State Land Ordinance in 2002.

This puts the area under the purview of the district office and not the Sabah Wildlife Department, which can only manage the sanctuary once the government includes it in the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

A visit by The Star to Sukau and Bilit in Lower Kinabatangan revealed illegal logging and indiscriminate land-clearing in the area, with selective illegal extraction of timber species like the Keruing and Kapur.

Tree stumps were sighted along Sungai Menanggul, a tributary of the 560km-long Kinabatangan River.

The timber from the felled trees were believed to have been sawn into planks on site and transported out by river under the guise of fallen timber.

The Star came across herds of elephants by the riverbank every day, signalling that their habitat inland was being depleted.

Tour guide Abdul Karim Abdul Hamid said he had never seen the elephants coming “into our backyards when I was a child.”

“But today, the elephants are coming into our orchards and farms, destroying everything that we own.

“We are the ones who have forced these animals out by clearing the forest they call home,” he added.

“Now, we are sitting by the river, menggigit jari (biting our fingers) waiting for the government to protect our sanctuary.”

Robert Chong, operator of the Kinabatangan Jungle Camp in Kampung Bilit, said tourists had expressed their dismay at some of the areas being cleared right up to the riverbank.

“Tourists pay a lot of money to come and see our wildlife but they end up seeing how we have allowed encroachment right to the water’s edge.

“This will kill tourism if we do not do something fast.”

Courtesy of The Star

Villagers in Kinabatangan plead for PM's help to gazette the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

KINABATANGAN: “Tolonglah Pak Lah (Please help, Pak Lah). Help us gazette the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.”

This is the call of villagers living along the lower Kinabatangan River in Sabah.

Frustrated and anxious with the delay by the state authorities in gazetting the area, several villagers in Sukau and Bilit have asked for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to intervene and help conserve the area.

“We would like to invite Pak Lah to come to Kinabatangan and see the wonders of nature, which we are trying to protect here.

“At the same time, we will show him the threats to the place, which can be stopped if the area is gazetted,” said Satar Pamutar, 53, who hails from Bilit.

Satar, who is the first cousin of Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin, said many of the villagers had benefited from the large number of foreign tourists arriving to see the endangered orang utans, Borneo Pygmy Elephants, proboscis monkeys and hornbills.

Many tourists come to specifically catch a glimpse of the pygmy elephants, which have been listed as the smallest elephants in the world in the 2005 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

“We have homestays, bed-and-breakfast accommodation and all sorts of activities run by locals for tourists.

“All of us have benefited from tourism here and we want this to go on whilst protecting the area,” said Satar.

Sukau village elder Abdul Karim Abdul Hamid said the Kinabatangan River area was important not only to Sabah but also the whole country.

“If Pak Lah accepts our invitation, he will see and hear about what’s happening to our national heritage,” he added.

Abdul Karim said tourists had expressed their disappointment after seeing the areas along the river destroyed by development.

“They put their thumbs upside down and say ‘Down, Down’ and insist on not going on with their itinerary,” he added.

Kampung Sukau security and development committee chairman Pastor Mansor said villagers supported the gazetting of the area and were prepared to work with the authorities and NGOs to protect the wildlife sanctuary.

“Further delay (in gazetting) could result in more earmarked for the sanctuary being developed,” he added.

Courtesy of The Star

Friday, July 22, 2005

Malaysia New Currency Exchange and What it Means to International Visitors

On 22 July 2005, the Malaysia fixed currency exchange (pegged to the USD since September 1998 at US$1 = RM3.8) was replaced with a managed float regime against a basket of currencies.

This exchange rate system was previously practiced before the 1997/1998 Asian Currency Crisis. Hence, it is back to the pre-September 1998 foreign exchange regime.

Click here for a Chronology of Events of the Malaysian Ringgit

Whilst the former fixed exchange rate may give more stability to rates of travel packages and accommodations, the new system means that the value of the exchange rate of the ringgit in a managed float would be determined by economic fundamentals.

Nevertheless, the central bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara, assured that the exchange rate after shifting to this new system is not expected to deviate significantly from the current prevailing level (i.e., around US$1 = RM3.8).

Bank Negara affirmed that it will monitor the exchange rate against a currency basket to ensure that the exchange rate remains close to its fair value. Promoting stability of the exchange rate continues to be a primary objective of the central bank's policy.

What it means to international visitors to Malaysia Borneo is that although the published tour/room rates (i.e., on our website) in Malaysian Ringgit will not likely to be affected, the final rates will be fluctuating based on live market rates after conversion to the currency of your choice.

Please do take note of this matter.

Copyright © 2005

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kota Belud Tamu - Sabah's Most Vibrant Market

The Weekly Tamu or Sunday Market of Kota Belud, near Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo, was originally known as Tamu Darat (Land Market). It was held on neutral ground where the indigenous Dusun meet the other indigenous groups such as Bajau, Irranun and Obian Muslims, as well as the Chinese traders, to barter or purchase goods.

The Tamu offers unrivalled opportunity for discovering some of Sabah's many different ethnic groups as well as exploring an astonishing variety of products such as herbal medicine, mountain-grown vegetables, wild orchids, chilli-laced dried fish, luscious tropical fruits, edible seaweed and much more.

On top of this, you may catch the unforgettable sights of the medicine men hawking their wares, the Irranun ladies enjoying a spur-of-the-moment performance while waiting for people to buy their musical instruments, the colourful Rungus selling their popular hand-made brooms and woven baskets brought all the way from their traditional longhouse in Kudat, or the Bajau women turning out a constant stream of deep-fried cakes.

If you are visiting during October, then you will be right in time for the grand climax of the regular Sunday Tamu. The Annual Kota Belud Tamu Besar (Grand Market) is a special event and a huge tribal gathering normally held in October each year. The Grand Tamu includes a massive market, traditional and cultural ceremonies, displays, handicrafts, dances, and the famous ornately decorated Bajau horsemen.

Click Here for More Tour Info

Copyright © 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bruneians Bound For US Now Face New Regulations

By CT Hj Mahmod

Bandar Seri Begawan - The US Department of Homeland Security on Monday published a timeline detailing passport requirements for visa-free travel to the United States affecting Brunei and another 26 countries in the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

Deadlines for introducing the biometric passport embedded with computer chip by Visa Waiver countries that was initially set for October 2004 have been delayed to November 2006 due to significant technical challenges.

US authorities said the following key deadlines and requirements to ensure continued visa-free travel under the so called VWP are final, Reuters reported.

As of June 26, all visitors in the VWP travelling to US have been required to use machine-readable passport (MRP) in order to enter the country without a visa.

Brunei has already issued MRPs for its citizens.

Such passports contain two lines of text as letters, numbers and chevrons at the bottom of the personal information page along with a photograph.

All new passports issued by VWP countries as of October 26 must include a digital photo or the traveller will be required to obtain a visa.

Those who have valid MRPs issued before the said date do not need to obtain new passports or visas until their existing passports expire.

Effective October 26, 2006, all new passports issued by VWP countries must have an embedded computer chip capable of storing biographic information from the data page, a digital photograph and other biometric information.

Travellers who have valid MRPs on this date do not need new passports until the expiry date of their existing passport if it was issued before October 26, this year, or if they are issued between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006.

The MRP must include a digital photograph. The 27 VWP countries, including Brunei Darussalam are, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, German, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Citizens of the VWP countries are allowed to travel to US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

MAS brings back cheap the fares for Kuching

KUCHING: You can now fly MAS on cheap fares from Kuching to Pontianak, Perth, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Frankfurt.

MAS has relaunched its promotional fares to these destinations.

Some 20,000 seats are available at discounts of up to 40% during the promotion, which runs until Sept 30.

The return fares are RM295 to Pontianak, RM895 to Perth, RM950 to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, and RM2,425 to Frankfurt.

MAS area manager for Sarawak and West Kalimantan Shauqi Ahmad said yesterday that the promotion was aimed at creating greater awareness among the public that the national carrier flies to these cities.

Shauqi also said MAS had reduced flights to Perth to once a week as one of two aircraft used on the route had been reassigned to the Kuala Lumpur-Beirut route.

“The Government is expecting more people to fly from the Middle East to Kuala Lumpur so we decided to take one aircraft from the Kuching-Perth route to serve this sector,” he said.

Shauqi said MAS was willing to work with tour operators, hotels and other tourism players in promoting Sarawak as a tourist destination.

“There is tourism potential in Sarawak and we hope that industry players will be more aggressive and forthcoming in promoting and marketing the state,” he said.

Courtesy of: The Star

Monday, July 18, 2005

Last sanctuaries for jumbos in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Seven areas totalling nearly two million hectares of forests have been identified as the last vestige of elephant ranges in the state.

The Sabah Wildlife Department’s identification of these ranges is crucial to efforts to preserve the elephants, because the ranges serve as buffer zones or corridors for the pachyderms to move about.

“These are protected areas that include forest reserves and zones identified for sustainable forest management programmes,” said Wildlife Department deputy director Laurentius Ambu at a workshop on managing human-elephant conflicts here recently.

He said about 10% of Sabah’s estimated 2,500 elephants were grazing outside these ranges. They had inevitably intruded into plantations and damaged crops.

He said conflicts such as these were unavoidable and the problem could only be reduced, citing certain large oil palm plantation operators who installed electric fences to protect their properties.

Laurentius said such equipment was, however, beyond the reach of most smallholders and this was where non-governmental organisations could assist by providing loans for them to set up such fences.

He said a French NGO had been providing loans to oil palm smallholders at the wildlife-rich area of Sukau in Kinabatangan near the district of Sandakan.

“It is also here that a community-based elephant conservation unit is helping us keep track of the movements of these animals,” Laurentius added.

Courtesy of: The Star

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Tourism beauties charm Sarawak crocs

KUCHING - Participants of the Miss Tourism International beauty pageant hosted by Sarawak turned on the charm as they visited several tourist hotspots here this week.

The famous Jong Crocodile Farm was one of the stops for the 33 contestants, who included beauties from Malaysia, Vietnam, Slovakia, Brazil, USA, South Africa, Russia, Singapore, China, Indonesia, Latvia, Pakistan, Kenya, Cambodia and Australia.

Grabbing the limelight were Miss Slovakia, Judit Karajko; Miss Indonesia, Rizka Maqfira Djufr; Miss USA, Anna Christine Ward; Miss South Africa, Jessica Martha Paulssen and Miss Venezuela, Noda Ponce Jhohanna Sabrina who bravely held a baby crocodile as they posed for photographers at the crocodile farm.

The crocodile is revered in local folklore and the animal is closely associated with the Malaysian state. Even the Sarawak football team is popularly referred to as the "Crocs" by Sarawakians.

The girls also had a closer look at Sarawak traditional attire during a trip to Sarakraf. Miss Pakistan, Uzma Ilyas; Miss Kenya, Rachel Maremarete, Miss Latvia, Kristina Djadenko and Miss Cambodia, Chea Kimny, looked radiant as they donned the traditional dresses of the Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu at Sarakraf.

The beauty contestants also visited the popular seaside Sarawak Cultural Village, a "living museum" where staff dressed in traditional costumes showcase the culture and traditional life of Sarawak's various ethnic groups with the majestic Mount Santubong providing a breathtaking backdrop.

The participants are in the Sarawak capital for two weeks before they head to Miri where the finale will be held on July 23rd at the Miri Indoor Stadium.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sarawak's Rainforest Festival a hit

By Jessica Lim

The cheers of music lovers continued to echo through the rainforest long after the last chord was struck at the 8th Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) last night.

The three-day festival ended with a bang, with performers from participating countries simultaneously combining their instruments, voices and dances for one last display of breathtaking cultural fusion.

From July 8 to 10, some 20,000 people flocked to the Sarawak Cultural Village in the Santubong Mountains to enjoy workshops and concerts by renowned local and international musicians.

Workshops led by different bands were held at three different locations within the village in the afternoons.

Workshops such as the gypsy dance session by Italian group Acquaragia Drom and a leleng and joget session by Sarawakian group Tuku Kame, were a hit among the participants.

TALENTED MUSICIANS: Foghorn Stringband group from the United States getting ready to perform on the final night. Other workshops saw demonstrations of exotic instruments and discussions on the musical history of different countries.

Many were seen spreading their mats out long before the night concerts, held under the open sky, began.

On the first night, Belize band Florencio Mess and the Maya Kek’Chi Strings performed ancient songs that natives believe were composed by the Maya gods.

Mess, one of the few harpists in the world who still make and play the Kek’Chi harp, delighted the audience with a traditional Mayan dance.

The Seven-man Polish group, Shannon, held the crowd spellbound when they appeared in kilts and belted out Celtic tunes.

The crowd could not get enough of the group, the closing act on the first day, and demanded an encore that lasted past midnight.

The local talents were no less captivating.

The crowd was mesmerised by the haunting sound of the nose-flute played by Baun Lenjau, one of the few remaining masters of the instrument.

Father-son duo, Tabuh Pak Ainal, also had the crowd going with their cheeky antics as they played the tubano and rebana.

Other performers included BBC Radio 3 Award nominee Qawalli band Faiz Ali Faiz, 66-year-old Columbian queen of Bullerengue Petrona Martinez, exotic Buryatian band Namgar, Ivory Coast dance percussionists Yelemba D’Abidjan, performers from Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, and Iranian and Kurdestani group Sarawan.

While all three night concerts had good turn-outs, the second night was sold out.

All 8,000 tickets were snapped up by 9.30pm, and officials had to turn away late-comers.

RWMF Chairman Mohd Tuah Jais said they were pleased with the excellent response, but hoped to reduce the audience next year.

RWMF was organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board and sponsored by Heineken, Sunsilk, 1 Utama, Biaramas, Rainforest Tea and fRoots magazine.

Courtesy of: New Straits Times

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New immigration rule for Bruneians travelling to UK

By M K Anwar

Bruneians who wish to stay in the United Kingdom for more than six months will have to obtain entry clearance from the British High Commission.

The British Minister of State at the Home Office, Tony McNulty MP, announced this yesterday.

From November 13, 2005, all nationals from non-European Economic Area including Bruneians who wish to come to the UK for more than six months will need to obtain entry clearance from a British diplomatic mission before travelling, a press release from the British High Commission in Brunei stated.

The new regulation is aimed at countering fraudulent documents, which the EU has been working on for eight years.

A one-off cost of B$272 will enable travellers, once entry clearance has been obtained, to stay for the full period without having to apply for residence permits unless they wish to change or extend their stay.

The new entry clearance arrangements have been introduced in stages over a two-year period. The first stage came into force on November 13, 2003 involving 10 nationalities.

Similar to the first stage, a two-month grace period will be provided until January 13, 2006 during which time any passengers from the non-EEA countries arriving in the UK will still be admitted. After the grace period, those coming to the UK and planning to stay for more than six months will be refused entry.

The entry clearance would be in the form of a sticker containing photograph and other details, which will be attached to the passport. It has a security feature which allows it to be easily recognised by carriers and control authorities.

British nationals (overseas) and other categories of British nationals without the right of abode in the UK will still be able to travel to the UK without entry clearance and apply on arrival.

Information on the new entry clearance can be obtained on the web at or from the British High Commission at 2222231/2226001.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin

Royal Mulu Resort, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia

Designed in the style of ethnic longhouses, this relaxing Resort was built on wooden stilts, three metres above the ground. Linked by a series of wooden walkways, the luxurious Royal Mulu Resort stands on the banks of the Melinau River, in the midst of a beautiful natural environment.

The Royal Mulu Resort is an international class nature destination, offering the best combination of “resort experience”, nature and comfort. The Resort is located near the Gunung Mulu National Park, home of lush rainforest and some of the most amazing cave systems in the world.

The Royal Mulu Resort has 188 tastefully designed rooms consisting of Royal Suite, Crown Suite (with adjoining living and dining room), Executive Suites (with adjoining living room), Deluxe Chalet and Standard Chalet rooms.

All guest rooms have rich parquet floorings with private bath and shower, mini-bar, individually controlled air-conditioning, standard amenities, hot and cold showers.
The Resort has its own water treatment plant, which supplies all guest rooms with clean and safe water. Every room enjoys a spacious verandah, which offers guests a stunning view of either the rich surrounding jungle or the Melinau River.

The Wildflower Coffee House is open from 7:00am until 11:00pm, and combines the best of Local, Chinese, and Western Cuisine. The "Long Bar", inside the Coffee House, is open every afternoon and evening, offering cocktails, fresh coconut juices, local juices and even "tuak", the local rice wine.

You can sit out in the outdoor terrace and enjoy steamboat for two or if you are with a larger group you can have a barbeque party on the open air terrace.

Copyright © 2005

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Colour of Malaysia

The following is another recent article published at our Leisure section:

Colours of Malaysia were splashed at the historic Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur July 2nd 2005, drawing thousands to witness featuring the best in performing arts, culture and tradition by ethnic groups and performers from Asean countries including China, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

All joined in a big feast later at the Citrawarna Food Village, after the spectacular bedazzled the senses.

'Citrawarna Malaysia' was inaugurated in 1999 and, now in its seventh year to become a major tourism annual to woo thousands of visitors. Some 70 cultural activities will be staged throughout the country during the Citrawarna month of July.

Also flocking to cover the gala were some 500 journalists, travel agents and television crew from nearly 30 countries. It was a fusion of East and West Malaysia on that night, where the distinctive communities - Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Dusun and Iban - showcased unique lifestyles and heritage in tradition, architecture and language on the big stage.

Heralding to tourists that there is much to do and see, Citrawarna Malaysia 2005 inaugurates one of the best times to experience it all in July, with the famous slogan 'Malaysia Truly Asia' coming to life before your very eyes.

The 'Colours of Malaysia' includes its scenic beauty at destinations like sun-kissed islands and palm-fringed coastlines with long, sandy beaches and exquisite diving spots in an amazing underwater life filled with fishes, corals, shells and other denizens of the deep sea.

The cool highlands offer green adventure and nature trails, millennia-old rain-forest, jungle-clad lowlands. The neon-lit cities and towns have a thriving nightlife, entertainment and world-class shopping malls.

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Malaysia Ethnic Festivals - Ethnic fashion in the limelight

The following is a recent article published at our Leisure section:

The recent celebration of three festivals - Tadau Kamatan, Gawai and Adau Gayoh - showcased not only the fascinating cultures of the ethnic groups but also their colourful traditional attire.

The menagerie of traditional costumes and clanging of bells on the attire is a perfect combination of ingenious design and comfort. The colours and styles also depict the type of life each ethnic community has evolved into.

The attire combines metals, beads, bones and wood materials to form one gigantic canvas that in turn creates a beautiful persona for the wearer. Some costumes seem to be a clash of colours but strangely enough produce a fantastic but fascinating result.

Traditional attire worn by Iban showcases patience (either in wearing or creating it!). A simple suit is actually several layers piled one on top of the other. Weighing the dress down are heavy jewellery such belts made of silver coins.

The other thing that is reflected in the Iban costume is the fine silversmith work that abounds in the "super" large pieces in each attire. The most important is the Sugu Tinggi (a comb case made entirely of silver).

The Orang Ulu traditional dress on the other hand, is full of beads. The background is fiery red or black. At a glance, the beads appear to be sewn onto the attire but a closer inspection reveals that the costume is "appliqu├ęs" with the beads.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Promenade Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

The 4-star Promenade Hotel at Kota Kinabalu is superbly located on a picturesque sea front and in the Api-Api Centre, the city central business district. With shopping facilities, major offices, and entertainment centers all nearby. The Kota Kinabalu International Airport is also just about 10 mins away from the Promenade Hotel.

The 451-room Promenade Hotel is an excellent location for both business and pleasure. All rooms at the Promenade Hotel Kota Kinabalu come with full amenities and are elegantly furnished. Most rooms are fully equipped with en-suite bathroom, bathroom amenities, wardrobe, satellite TV, in-house movie channels, International Direct Dialling telephone with voice mail, piped in music, minibar, coffee/tea making facilities, and safe deposit box.

In addition to the various Superior and Deluxe rooms, there is also the exclusive Promenade Floor, an exclusive executive floor that offers special privileges with a difference for the discerning business travellers. It is located on the 10th, 11th and 12th Floors of the hotel. Apart from the more personalised services, you will enjoy unparalleled luxury accommodation with all the peace and privacy you desire.

There are also several food and beverages outlets within the hotel such as the Cafe Promenade, which offers International cuisine (ala-carte and buffet) as well as Snacks and Juices, and the Dynasty Chinese Restaurant which specialises in Hong Kong Style Dim Sum Oriental cooking, peking duck, steamboat & set meals.

To unwind, there is also the Le Rendez Vous Wine, Cigar & Karaoke Bar with Live band performance (daily except on Mondays), karaoke, pool table and darts. The bar also provides a wide range of house pouring beverages, wine, cocktails and Fragrant cigar.

Other facilities includes a health centre, sauna, steam and jacuzzi Baths, swimming pool, and a gymnasium, which sets a precedent with its selection of exercise equipment and professional exercise instructors to keep your workouts short, effective and entertaining.

Copyright © 2005

Saturday, July 09, 2005

AirAsia reveals plans to fly to Brunei Darussalam

By Ignatius Stephen

AirAsia, the region's first "ticketless," no frills, low fare airline is poised to operate into Brunei in about a month, reliable civil aviation sources in Kuala Lumpur told the Weekend yesterday.

A senior Brunei Communications Ministry official confirmed that the ministry has written a letter on the matter. He however declined to elaborate.

AirAsia says that it wishes to fly in direct from Kuala Lumpur.

Frequency of the flights is yet to be determined it is understood, but AirAsia sources confirmed that their government received a letter from Brunei authorities.

Under a bilateral air agreement between the sultanate and Malaysia there is room for scheduled flights by a Malaysian airline to operate flights between the two countries, sources said.

Currently Kuala Lumpur bound travellers going by AirAsia cross the border to Miri or Labuan to catch the connection. It is said to be a tedious and time consuming process. RBA meanwhile operates regular flights to Kuala Lumpur out of Brunei.

Kuala Lumpur based AirAsia, which calls itself the 'affordable airline', was established in December 2001 with two planes flying the following month but it rapidly grew into a force to be reckoned with in the region.

It now has a fleet of 18 Boeing 737-300 and operates internationally to a number of destinations in Thailand, China, Singapore and the Philippines and various points in Malaysia carrying five million passengers since operations in January 2002.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Kuching to stage Rainforest World Music Festival again this year

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - The annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) would be staged here once again where some 16 local and international musicians would showcase their music in the interiors of the Borneo jungle.

The three-day festival, which begins on July 8, is held at the tourism award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village which lies at the foothills of Mount Santubong.

Here, the renowned musicians would conduct interactive workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions and mini concerts in the afternoons while at night, they would take centre stage with their unique blend of music.

Amongst the musicians that would enthralled the audience - comprising mostly tourists and local music enthusiasts alike - are the Foghorn Stringband from the United States, The Old Rope String Band from the United Kingdom, Tuku Kame from Sarawak, Petrona Martinez from Colombia, Florencio Mess and the Maya Kek'Chi Strings from Belize and Diamel Laroussi from Algeria.

Many of those who have witnessed the festival for themselves have given thumbs-up to its uniqueness and one of them, Hanitra Rosoanaivo, said "after 14 years touring festivals worldwide, the RWMF is equal to the ones held in Canada."

"The festival ground that boasts a lake, a mountain nearby and loads of green is the best possible setting to experience music," he commented.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sabah picked for Future 2005 documentary

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah has been selected as location for Voyage to the Future 2005 documentary late July.

Twenty three students from Japan, China, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia will star in the 10-day environmental study trip beginning July 23 in the Borneo rainforests.

The itinerary includes Mt Kinabalu, Binusuk/Klias tropical peat swamp forests, Sepilok Orang utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sukau of Lower Kinabatangan and Danum Valley.

Voyage to the Future 2005 is organised by Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

The project picks up from an original expedition initiated by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) in 2003 where students of seven member countries went on an expedition that brought them to the surrounding waters off Japan.

The aim is create greater awareness on the importance of the natural heritage and instilling a culture of caring for the environment. Among the 23 students are five Malaysian students aged 14 to 16, who were selected from 150 applicants.

The students were picked on the basis of the deep interest in the environment, their involvement in environmental organizations and fluency in English.

But the Bornean Biodiversity & Ecosystem Conservation (BBEC) Programme has a lot to do with Sabah being picked as Voyage to the Future 2005 expedition location site.

BBEC brought NHK to Sabah a number of times over the past three years to make nature documentaries involving top Japanese TV celebrities, for broadcast in major stations.

As a result of such exposures, Sabah as a nature destination became much better known in Japan.

Courtesy of: Daily Express

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Only Limited Tourists To Sarawak's Turtle Islands

KUCHING -- Tour agencies, with permits to conduct eco-nature tours on Sarawak's Turtle Islands, off the coast of Sematan, are allowed only limited number of tourists as part of conservation efforts.

Sarawak Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said the state government would not compromise on nature conservation even though "nature and adventure" was one of the themes used to promote Sarawak as a tourist destination.

"As such, tour agents conducting the island-hopping package to Pulau Talang Talang and Pulau Satang must ensure that only discerning tourists (of five people) who strictly adhered to the rules and regulations of the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance are allowed," he said when opening the "Green Turtle Dreaming" exhibition at Sarawak Museum here.

The exhibition, from July 7 to Sept 20, featuring marine turtle conservation and related turtle cultures in the Australia-Southeast Asia context, is organised by the Australian Green Turtle Foundation and the Sarawak Museum Department

Wong said eco-nature tourists could assist the Sarawak Forestry Corporation's park rangers by patrolling and cleaning up the beaches, collecting turtle eggs and releasing young hatchlings into the sea.

Each tourist could also contribute to a trust fund to be set up to help conserve turtles on the islands, located at the Satang Talang Marine National Park, he said.

He said the state government, aware of the need to conserve and protect the environment for future generations, enacted the ordinance in 1998 to protect endangered species, including turtles.

"The people here do not eat turtle eggs or their meat. The turtles are not even used as a tourist icon or attraction in our islands. This shows our seriousness in conserving this rare resource," he said.

A study on turtle conservation on the islands since 1950 by the Sarawak Museum showed only one percent of the hatchlings out of the 100 eggs laid at any one time would survive due to predators like sharks and eagles.

Fifty percent of the matured turtles also returned to the place they were hatched to lay their eggs 30 years later.

He was confident the collaboration would promote goodwill and attract more Australians to come to Sarawak for holidays and visits.

Courtesy of Bernama

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Overwhelming response for Rainforest World Music Fest, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

By Achong Tanjong

The eighth Rainforest World Music Festival is going to be held in Sarawak Cultural Village - at its Auditorium, Iban Long-house, Dewan Lagenda and Melanau House - for two days from July 8, stated a press release.

Sarawak Tourism Board said that it will be divided into two parts; outdoor evening shows and after-noon workshops.

The organisers have planned many different programmes and activities. Over 90 musicians from all over the world are expected to participate.

There will be lectures and recitals on the history and culture of Butyat and Mongolian communities, rise of the Algerian Rai, as well as the roots of Thai music among other arts and traditions to be discussed.

The interactive workshops are usually well received by audiences.

Some of them will be on Gypsy, Malay, Iban and African Malinke dances.

Many different instruments will also be brought in through Kuching airport for the event.

In addition, a mini-fashion show on the different costumes of Sarawak tribes is also going to be presented.

Artistic Director Yeoh Jun Lin said that due to its overwhelming response, the committee has decided to control the sale of tickets.

They are available from Visitors' Information Centres in Kuching, Miri and Sibu as well as the Sarawak Cultural Village and Sarawak Tourism Board.

They can also be obtained by calling Rudy at 082-423600 or e-mailing

The festival this year has the support of Tourism Malaysia, Tourism Sarawak, Malaysia Airlines, Unilever, Roots, Rainforest Tea, Biaramas and Telekom Malaysia.

Last year's event proved to be the most popular so far and attracted the biggest crowd in its history with about 20,000 attendees.

Tourists came from Brunei, Kalimantan, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore as well as Europe and the Western countries.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin

Garden Terrace at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort's Closed for Renovation

Please be informed that the Garden Terrace at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort will be undergoing a sophisticated re-imaging until 15 November 2005.

Nevertheless, guests could continue to enjoy their favourite international buffet spread during breakfast at Peppino, Borneo Lounge, Shang Palace, and dinner at Pulau Bayu and Coco-Joe's.
For authentic Italian cuisine, there is the award-winning Peppino restaurant and for the taste of culture and local specialties Pulau Bayu restaurant ensures an unforgettable experience with the vibrant cultural show every Wednesday and Saturday night.

From November 16, Garden Terrace will open its door for all day dining with Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner buffet and extensive a-la carte menus.
Located on the Garden level, the new coffee house offers the buzz and variety of live open kitchens cooking up sensational authentic global cuisine vibrant and colorful atmosphere.
Guest will experience a modern lifestyle restaurant combined with their classic brand of unparalleled service. Unprecedented use cutting edge and indigenous materials as well as efficient use of space make for a stylish yet comfortable dinning venue.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Excitement builds as Bermuda's 'venturers' get set for the trip of a lifetime to Sabah

Here's an interesting article/insight from The Royal Gazette, Bermuda's only daily newspaper, for your reading pleasure:

BERMUDIANS are famous for travelling far and wide, but few have made as ambitious a journey as some of the young "venturers" off on British Airways to London tomorrow night with Raleigh International Bermuda (RIB).

For the flight to London is only the first leg of a three-flight marathon which will see the party of 12 take three days to get to their very distant destination; after a day to see some of the sights of London, and a chance to meet some of the other volunteers and young members of the expedition, they will board a Royal Brunei Airlines flight to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, then take a one-hour flight to their final destination, Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian province of Sabah.

Four students from the Berkeley Institute and four from CedarBridge Academy will be joined by three representatives of the island's community centres and a staff volunteer to take part in an impressive international and multicultural effort.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Trial card traveller system for Brunei, Malaysia Borneo

KUALA BELAIT (Brunei Darussalam): A Frequent Traveller Card (FTC) system was introduced Thursday as a six-month pilot project for Malaysians and Bruneians who travel often between the two countries via the Sungai Tujuh Control Post here and in Miri, Sarawak.

Malaysians will use their MyKad while Bruneians will use their smart identity card, but they must carry their international passport as the travel document.

The FTC is available to all Malaysians and Bruneians who make at least five entries and exits per month via the check post.

The pilot project was launched jointly by Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry Secretary General Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat and Brunei's Home Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary Datuk Paduka Idris Belaman, here, Thursday.

Aseh told reporters later that the FTC project was a follow-up of the Malaysia-Brunei Joint Commission bilateral meeting in 2003, whereby both countries agreed on the implementation of FTC to facilitate and automate immigration clearance for their citizens.

"This would eventually create a smooth flow of frequent travellers from both countries," he said.