Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pitcher Plant Paradise at Kinabalu National Park

N. burbidgeae - Pic courtesy of thestar.com.my
Pictures by CHAN AH LAK (The Star)

TO say that the pitcher plant is a botanical oddity is not far from wrong. After all, how many plants have leaves that look like pitchers? These jug-shaped containers trap insects that are then slowly digested to become nutrients for the plant. Carnivorous, flesh-eating plants? They are indeed that and more.

Kinabalu National Park in Sabah, which includes Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South-East Asia, is thought to be the cradle of the evolution of the Nepenthes pitcher plant because 12 of the 80 species found in the world grow here. This is the highest concentration of species in one place. Three of these are endemic to Mt Kinabalu: the N. rajah, N. burbidgeae and N. villosa.

Kinabalu Park, officially gazetted in 1964, became Malaysia’s first Unesco World Heritage site in 2000. It is no wonder then, that most visitors to Sabah in search of pitcher plants make a bee-line for this park. Besides the trails around the Park HQ and the Mt Kinabalu Summit Trail, two Nepenthes Gardens have been established to enable visitors to view these exotic plants in semi-natural conditions.

The most easily accessible trail is found in Mesilau, which is within the boundaries of Kinabalu Park, just 45km from the park headquarters. The guided tour into the carefully conserved Nepenthes Rajah Natural Site is a two-hour return hike starting at 11.30am daily from the Mesilau Nature Conservation Centre. Visitors have to pay a RM5 entrance/conservation fee.

Our friendly and knowledgeable park guide that day was Ansou Gunasalam, who took us on an interesting 45-minute uphill slog past a scenic suspension bridge and a well-maintained jungle track, most sections of which have helpful banisters. The trail up to the highest point, the site of the Nepenthes Rajah, is quite a manageable climb for the reasonably fit.

Before embarking on the hike the officer reminded us to be careful where we stepped and that we were not to handle the pitchers or use the flash when photographing them. The pictures should not be used for commercial gain, only for scientific research or education, awareness promotion and conservation.

The first species we encountered was the Nepenthes burbidgeae, a rarely seen species because of its 1,700-2,lOOm above sea level (a.s.l.) habitat. It thrives in mossy forests and on serpentine soil. It is an aerial or upper pitcher plant which uses shrubs and trees as support.

Its elongated leaves, like all pitcher plants, end in tendrils that twine around other plants. These tendrils can develop into light green or ivory-white, 20cm, trumpet-like pitchers with maroon markings. It is named after its discoverer, Frederick Burbidge, a naturalist who explored Mt Kinabalu in the 1800s. The lip or peristome of the pitcher is striped green and maroon.

We were urged not to make any photo stops yet but to earmark specimens to photograph on the way down.

We continued our trudge to the top of the trail where we were greeted by the spectacular Nepenthes rajah which produces the largest natural pitchers in the world. This species is known to exhibit 50cm high pitchers. A famous postcard shows a local Sabah boy, Hin Ching, holding a Nepenthes rajah almost half his height. This postcard alone must have prompted many visitors to rush to Kinabalu Park to see the N. rajah.

The N. rajah is the most well-known pitcher plant because of its large size (25cm-60cm), ovoid (globe-like) shape and huge lid. The lids of pitcher plants are designed to shelter the pitchers from rain, which will dilute their digestive juices. In some species though, these lids have lost their original purpose.

The red peristome of the N. rajah is broad and scalloped and the inner edges are lined with short fine teeth designed to prevent insects from crawling up the smooth interior walls to escape. We discovered only partially digested insects inside the pitchers but were told that the highly acidic digestive enzymes (pH 1.90) can decompose frogs and even tree shrews within two weeks. Mosquito larvae also help in the decomposition process.

The Rajah pitcher is usually purplish brown and with its vaulted lid, it has been irreverently compared to a toilet bowl. Its fat, squat shape means it tends to be terrestrial, lying around on the forest floor. We were also shown the male and female flowers, and Ansou taught us how to distinguish between them. We came across several N. Rajah pitchers with closed lids or in the process of opening. The pitchers take a few days to open, and the peristome will then unfurl and expand.

We were also fascinated by a cluster of slow-growing, two-year-old tiny pitchers, three of which hardly covered a five-sen coin. Ansou told us that these had been planted by the Park as a conservation and propagation measure. It is no wonder then that visitors have been advised to tread carefully and not to pick up these precious pitchers with their hands. The lids are especially brittle and prone to breakage by careless handling.

Other species of pitcher plants that can be seen here are the epiphytic aerial N. fusca, terrestrial N. tentaculata and the N. rafflesiana which produces both ovoid-shaped lower pitchers as well as trumpet-shaped higher pitchers when the vines climb to a sufficient height.

The Mesilau Nepenthes Garden Trail has other attractions besides the pitcher plants. Several slipper orchids and necklace orchids (Coelogyne hirtella) are in bloom along the trail, as are pretty montane fungi, berries and mosses. From the top of the trail, there is also a panoramic view of the Mesilau Resort and Conservation Centre.

If you are climbing the Summit Trail of Mt Kinabalu, do inform your guide that you are interested in seeing pitcher plants. These plants usually grow off the main trail and you may need to scramble up high embankments and steep overgrown tracks to see them.

Start your hike as early as possible so that you don’t have to hurry to reach Laban Rata. The Timpohon Gate opens at 7.30am daily. Two of the most fascinating species you will encounter is the N. iowii, with its easily recognisable waisted pitchers and the tan-coloured N. kinabaluensis, a natural hybrid.

Kinabalu Park is the most scientifically- studied area in Malaysia because of its rich biodiversity. Mt Kinabalu, with its stark glaciated peaks soaring above the tree line, is surely the most attractive yet challenging mountain in our country to scale. Every Malaysian should try to climb it at least once in his or her lifetime. And while you are there, do watch out for the exotic pitcher plants.

Courtesy of The Star

Fruit Fest in Miri, Sarawak

By Rosli Abidin Yahya

A fruit Festival is scheduled to take place at the Indoor Stadium in Miri from Sept 9 to 11 meant to promote fruits from Sarawak to the world.

Themed 'Delicious and Nutritious Local Fruits', the three-day event is organised by the Sarawak Agriculture Department in conjunction with the Governor's Birthday Celebration.

The festival will be launched by the Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr George Chan at 9 am on Friday, Sept 9.

The festival is set to feature 30 exhibition booths displaying and selling local indigenous and exotic fruits of Sarawak.

Various agencies such as the Sarawak Agriculture Department, Federal Agriculture Marketing Association (FAMA), Bank Pertanian and Farmers' Organisations as well as other agencies associated with fruits will take part in the festival.

Organisers said fruit businessmen and farmers from Brunei could attend the festival in their efforts to find reliable fruit suppliers from Miri.

There will also be local nurseries exhibiting assorted fruit seedlings.

During the festival, various activities have been planned such as fruit arrangement in baskets, fruit-processed products contest, children colouring contest for the kindergarten and primary schools and fruit-carving demonstrations.

The Sultanate mostly imports its fresh greens and fruits from Sarawak and Sabah.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Aussie tourist flow to Sabah not affected

Kota Kinabalu: Contrary to initial fears, the move by Australia's Qantas Airways to end its direct flights to Sabah in April this year has not affected the flow of Aussie tourists to the State.

Australia Tourism's Regional Manager for South and South East Asia, Maggie White, said this is because of the heavy promotion by Royal Brunei which includes Sabah as part of the package.

Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat had earlier also opined that the Qantas decision would have no bearing on Australian visitors to the State, saying other airlines would act to fill the void.

White also said Sabahans represented about eight to nine per cent of the 166,831 Malaysians who visited Australia last year, adding this was an increase by seven per cent compared to 2003. The growth is expected to maintain over the next 10 years, meaning that Malaysia will continue to be a significant market for Australia, she revealed.

"As the second largest source of arrivals into Australia from South East Asia, Malaysia is an extremely important market for Australia," she said at the presentation of Aussie Specialist status - an award from the country's tourism industry - to two East Malaysian travel agents based in Sabah at Sutera Harbour and Spa Friday.

Tourism Australia's Malaysia Manager, Yeong Yin Cheng, and its Public Relations Manager, Hannah Abisheganaden, were among those present.

"Tourism Australia wants to foster this growth and has increased its marketing spend in this market by 56 per cent this year to help keep Australia in the minds of Malaysians," said White, who is based in Singapore.

The bulk of that investment is being spent on implementing this new brand around the world, she added, part of a global re-branding exercise for Australia.

She said the campaign in Malaysia consists of a number of elements, including television and cinema commercials across Peninsular Malaysia, an online campaign on major Malaysian portals, participation in major travel shows like Matta, Malaysian Airlines Travel Fair as well as the development a reality TV show with a private broadcasting company in Malaysia.

The TV/cinema commercials include a show called "My Australia Challenge" that feature six young Malaysians sent to Australia to team up with young Aussies and compete in a series of exciting challenges and adventures across the Kangaroo country.

It has been well received, said White. "We have also been working with our State Tourism Offices to create a series of packages called 'The Best of Australia'. These are land deals for self drive and family consumers and the package includes the best city and country experiences each state has to offer," she added.

Tourism Australia will continue to work closely with our airline and travel trade partners to market and promote the destination, she assured.

"We will continue to recruit and develop the Aussie Specialist Programme (ASP) where participants are trained online to promote and develop Australia as a holiday destination," she said, adding the Aussie Specialists will provide consultation and value-add to the consumers of Australian holidays.

White said there were 114 front line agency staff enrolled in the ASP in Malaysia in July with 68 fully qualified. Two of the ASP agencies are based at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, including First Choice Travel and Power Tours, while another four in Kuching, Sarawak.

"We will continue to refresh and introduce new products and experiences to suit the diverse needs of travellers to Australia," she said, hoping that the new brand campaign would attract more Malaysians to see Australia in a different light.

White, meanwhile, said Tourism Australia is concentrating on the Malay market. "We are now looking at the Malay market. We are working on the important wants and concerns of the Malay peoples when they travel overseas, of which the two main are restaurants serving Halal food and a place for them to pray in the country they are staying."

They found this from a survey.

Courtesy of Daily Express

On-line KK street map now available

Kota Kinabalu: An on-line street map of the city and surrounding areas is now available, to assist tourists and locals alike to locate places of interests or business premises as well as find out local events.

The website, http://www.kkmap.com/streetmap, developed by a local GIS/IT solution provider, Menggaris IT Sdn Bhd, gives detailed information for every building and road with an easy interface for all to use.

Managing Director, Chris Chung, said by browsing through the website available in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese, surfers could look for information pertaining to streets, business premises or nearest locations.

"For starters, surfers can log in and look for locations and we would gradually update the data to include the local events happening in a particular location so that it is easy for them to find," he said at a press conference here Friday.

The map is based on data approved by the national Mapping and Survey Department.

Chung said the website, the first in the State, provides the opportunity for advertisers to promote their products and services to a wider audience.

"However, we are doing this for public service and we intend to replicate it for other cities and major towns in Sabah," he said, adding that the on-line street map provides more information than the paper map that tourists get at the airport.

More information can be obtained by calling 088-228299 or 228699.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Week-long Kites Festival takes off in Bintulu, Sarawak

BINTULU - The Borneo-Sarawak International Kites Festival took off the ground Tuesday with the official launching by State Minister of Planning and Resource Management Datuk Haji Awang Tengah Ali Hassan at the Old Bintulu Airport.

Brunei is among the 10 foreign countries participating in this week-long festival held till Aug 28 where the general public will see the demonstration of creative and giant kites by international participants.

Other programmes featured during the festival are stunt kites performance, traditional kites making competition and national level kites competition among the various states from the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.

Other foreign participating countries include Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Cambodia, Singapore and the Philippines. The eight-member Brunei contingent was led by the President of Brunei-Muara District Kites Association Haji Maidin bin Haji Ahmad.

Haji Maidin said this was the first time that the association has sent its members to take part in this inaugural event organised by the State of Sarawak.

"We used to take part in Kites Festival which were usually held in Johor and Kelantan besides exposing our members to countries like Beijing and Indonesia," he said, adding that the association would organise an Asean Kites Festival in Brunei Darussalam.

Earlier, in his opening address, Awang Tengah said kite flying and kite making cut across political boundaries, histories and cultural differences. "Kite flying is a very good example of the common and universal culture of mankind which should be used to promote peace and harmony in this troubled world of ours," he added.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tamu – a Colourful Spectacle of Sights, Sounds and Smells

"INI saya bagi sudah murah (I’m giving you a good bargain)," the lady tells me, her baby sleeping soundly in the sarong slung across her body, ablivious to the ruckus around him. I tell her I’ll take the sarong cloth for one ringgit less than what she’s offering me. She finally gives in as she bags the green batik-print sarong I picked out earlier. I feel satisfied and move on to the next stall.

It is always a thrill to visit the weekly tamu. The tamu, the local lingo for open-air market, is an integral part of Sabah’s community. From the north to the south, every district holds a weekly (sometimes twice or thrice weekly) tamu.

Traditionally, the tamu was not only a place to gather and trade, but for people to fraternize. The origin of the tamu dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The British North Borneo Company introduced the tamu as a neutral meeting ground to foster ties among the vastly divergent ethnic groups and growing numbers of immigrants to the state of North Borneo (Sabah, as we now know it). Each ethnic group specialized in certain produce. For example, the Dusun of the interior valleys and hills produced beeswax and herbs while the coastal Irranun people traded salted fish. The Rungus tribe had hill rice, vegetables and livestock.

Today, the tamu is a colourful spectacle of sights, sounds and smells. Traders, both young and old, flock to the tamu with their goods, some calling out enthusiastically to passers-by to purchase their items.

In Sabah, almost every district has its own tamu. They operate from as early as 6am and begin to clear up by 2pm. In the smaller tamu, such as the ones in Kuala Penyu and Semporna, the common goods traded include fresh produce such as leafy vegetables and yams, seafood, bottled pickles and local fruits.

There is a wider variety of goods at larger tamu, such as the one in Donggongon (located some 15 minutes from Kota Kinabalu). Here, not only can you purchase fresh produce, but also fabric, clothes, kitchenware and household items. Stroll around and you will also find a myriad of local handicrafts, from the handwoven waked (basket) to the bamboo musical instrument, the sompoton.

You will be amazed at what else you might come across in a tamu. The sago worm, known locally as butod, is sold as a delicacy. The sight of these writhing and wriggling creatures both fascinates and frightens but, nevertheless, it remains a delicious meal to many.

The tamu is also the best place to buy local beverages and snacks. Rice wine (tapai or lihing) is sold by the bottle.

Although it is usually consumed as a drink, many people use it to add flavour to their regular dishes or to make soup, served with a generous amount of ginger to keep the body warm. You may also come across a variety of local pickles and fermented favourites. Although the mango-like bambangan is worth a try, be warned that the nonsoom karuk (fermented fish) is definitely an acquired taste!

The mother of all tamu is, without a doubt, the annual Tamu Besar (literally translated as Big Market) held in Kota Belud. Not only does the tamu come alive with its lively traders, but alos with a variety of songs, dances and even a beauty pageant for the local girls. In a nearby field, tourists and locals flock to see the ‘Cowboys of the east’ parade on their beautifully adorned horses. The Bajau men proudly don their sigar (a specially-woven cloth headdress) and brightly coloured shirts. The women, not to be outdone, look resplendent in their kain dastar.

Also a highlight is the bareback bull and water-buffalo racing events. The Tamu Besar truly is an event like no other and this is the best time to mingle with the friendly folk of Kota Belud. This year, the Tamu besar will be held on the 24-25 September.

In the heart of Kota Kinabalu city is the famous Gaya Street Fair, held every Sunday. Over the years, it has become a favourite family-outing destination and it’s plain to see why.

Mum loves the variety of potted plants and orchids for sale, whilst dad cannot get enough of the household gadgets and mouth-watering cakes! The kids love the toys and neat little trinkets. As for tourists, many try their luck bargaining for handicrafts or t-shirts. Big or small, near or far, the tamu is very much like the Sabahan experience: never predictable and there’s always something for everyone. (Sabah Tourism Board)

Source: Borneo Post

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Kundasang War Memorial now a wonderland

By Mary Chin

AUSTRALIANS who re-visited the Kudasang War memorial, perched on a hill some 1,200 metres above sea-level, stood and stared unbelievingly at the remarkable change. Given a major facelift, the entire grounds covering an area of six acres have been brought to life with about 500 new plants in four Gardens.

In a nutshell, the badly vandalized, fort-like memorial at the foot of Mount Kinabalu has been transformed into a beautiful tourist attraction.

When illuminated at night, the place appears to be a “Wonderland ‘ in fine weather.

But just a year ago, the first War Memorial Garden in North Borneo (now Sabah), established in 1962, was an unsightly run-down place, according to them.

The man instrumental in carrying out its restoration and transformation is computer analyst-turned entrepreneur Sevee Charuruks, 55.

A Thai Chinese, he has lived in sabah for the last three decades.

It is now open daily to the public form 9:30am to 5pm. Entrance fee is RM2 per person (local) and RM10 per person (visitor). Entrance is free for children and students.

It is popular with students, especially those involved in school projects.

“If there is a demand, we will also open our doors at night,” he says.

Special visitors who came a-calling one night described the memorial garden as exuding soothingness, inspiration and serenity.

While acknowledging the State Government’s efforts in maintaining the war memorial for decades, Charuruks laments that vandals, who lost their sanity, had relegated the place to a sorry state.

According to him, the State Government carried out repair works prior to the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

Subsequently, the memorial was again at the mercy of vandals and its condition gradually deteriorated.

Two years ago, when he visited the memorial, he was shocked at its deplorable condition.

A sea of rubbish and debris greeted him – thousands of empty beer bottles and glue cans, plastic bags, animal droppings and even human faces.

A urine stench emanated from the Australian garden, the English Garden, the Borneo garden and the Contemplation garden and Pool.

He soon discovered that faucets, toilet covers, doors and window-panes had been carted away. Even the flowers were not spared. Other than those stolen, orchids and roses had perished in the tropical heat.

Dozens of stones had been forcibly removed from the stone walls partitioning the Memorial garden.

Some of the 52 Corinthian columns had fallen apart while others were rotting. “Apparently, the vandals were trying to uproot some of the columns but they carry too heavy to be removed from the site.”

Almost immediately, Charuruks wrote to the State Government seeking permission to carry out repairs works.

Following his retirement last year, he embarked on the monumental task to restore the Kundasang War memorial to its old glory after being given the mandate to be the memorial custodian.

It took him and a team of 35 workers one year to create the metamorphosis. The coast is colossal too.

“The project generated employment opportunities for the locals here. It took us three months to clear up the place before we could start renovation works.” Among the first steps taken was to put up temporary fencing to ward off intruders.

The restoration exercise entailed repair works, re-planting in the four gardens, land-scaping, re-painting and re-connection to the power transmission lines. The tower was repaired with its interior being given a fresh coat of paint.

According to Charuruks, stones were procured from Tamparuli to fill the holes in the walls while new plants were sourced from nurseries around Kudasang.

It’s 100 per cent new soil and almost 100 per cent new flowers. Fifteen thousand bags of black soil had been used up.”

Roses dominate the English Garden, being the national flower of Britain.

“I was requested by Lynette and her group to put in more of the wattle (or acacia in Sabah) which is the national flower of Australia.”

The Borneo Garden is home to Sabah’s endemic and rare Borneo orchids and the pitcher plant.

Asked why the tapioca plant is given a place in the garden, he says: “We are giving a special honour to the plant because it was a staple food during the war.

“For three years, the Japanese fed the Australians and British with tapioca.”

Fourteen blue and white ceramic pots now line both sides of the main entrance. There is new turfing for the gardens; likewise, a new lighting system is in place. And there is the brand new visitors’ lounge. In addition, new toilets were fixed and five new water tanks each with a capacity of 400 gallons were also installed. On top of it, round-the-clock security is ensured with two work shifts.

Restorative work was not devoid of problems. At one stage, “insects’ that looked like mosquitoes “invaded” the memorial, seemingly in search of shelter due to the use of pesticides in the surroundings.

“Initially, I had to use more than 10 bottles of pesticides every month to eliminate the unwelcome visitors.”

On other occasions, efforts to provide shedding for the Borneo Garden hit a snag when strong winds blew the covers away, not once but several times.

Summing it up, Charuruks says : “Sometimes it was most frustrating… restoration was a painstaking and time-consuming process,”

Far from expecting any remuneration in return. He says he hopes to be rewarded spiritually.

“It’s a family contribution to society and the State. We want to contribute in appositive manner but we don’t expect anything in return,” says Charuruks, husband of Datuk Irene Benggon who is the Sabah Tourism Board’s (STB) general manager.

“I am a gardener,” he adds in jest.

He is grateful to the State Government for allowing him to start gate collection. “At least, it will help defray the coast of maintaining the memorial in the years to come.’

The project was completed this month just in time for the 60th commemoration of the end of World War Two. In fact, the participants of the reenacted Sandakan-Ranau Death March will converge on the war memorial on August 25 (last day0 for a special gathering in the evening. Members of the KK Symphony Orchestra led by Liaw Lam Thye will be in attendance.

Courtesy of Daily Express

"Operation Borneo" - the untold key US role in liberating Borneo

Kota Kinabalu: The central logistical role that America played in flushing out the Japanese from Borneo during World War Two has been mysteriously sidelined in history books and other written accounts of the war.

This made Korean War naval veteran Gerard R. Case decide to put the record straight in his "Operation Borneo - The last untold story of the war in the Pacific, 1945" which he co-authored with James A. Pounds, a former Lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers, 1942-52.

"I just want to set the record straight," said Case at the book's launch by Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, at the Likas residence of former Chief Minister, Datuk Harris Mohd Salleh.

A group of 23 Australian war veterans, relatives of the 1945 Death March, Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk Masidi Manjun, and some 100 guests attended.

"It's about the Americans who fought alongside the Australians and never got the recognition," Case said. "All Australian publications mentioned the Australians were here (Sabah).

"Yes, the Australians did their part but for some reasons, they just don't recognise that the Americans were here. So I have to come out and say the Americans were here."

"The American soldiers (who were involved) are dying of old age. They are all in the 80s and 90s so they need to get this story out because they want the credit due them and there is no money involved," he said.

Three thousand American soldiers, against a huge a division or two of 75,000 soldiers were involved in the Borneo Operation between May and August,1945 - a comparatively tiny American presence.

"So, they probably say this is inconsequential," Case said.

However, Case noted: "The Australians didn't have boats that could take them up rivers. The Americans had LCM (Landing Craft Mechanised) and the LCM had a ramp, you roll the ramp and the soldiers go ashore," he said.

"In fact, the Americans were seconded to the Australian 7th and 9th Divisions by General Douglas Macarthur. They provided all the ships and American LSTs let off tanks and soldiers of the Australian Army in Balikpapan, helping, aiding and fighting alongside but no credit," Case groused.

Case's book "contains everything, including the Death March from Sandakan to RanauÉ50% is about Australians and 50% about Americans as all the articles are written by the soldiers themselves."

He said he found out the true stories by interviewing 75 Australian and American soldiers and put them in the book.

Datuk Harris said he hosted the event both as a friend of some Australian soldiers and "in memory of the Australian landing, particularly in Labuan in 1945."

In a light vein, Harris quipped: "There is always this problemÉwhen an Australian is writing Borneo, 90% is about Australians and when an American writes I think it's the other way round!"

"I think the Americans gave logistic support to the Australians for us but anyway, we are remembering the sacrifices made by these people which we think are all going to remember in our whole life," Harris said.

On a more serious note, Harris said: "The world must change if we really want peace, progress and prosperity.

"But it seems we are going backwards by a hundred years."

Harris cited UN sanctions, invasions, bombings and the killings of millions of innocent people without a formal declaration of war, the disparity between democratic rhetoric and practice where "superpowers can just ignore the wishes of the majority of nations.

"So long as these things are happening, I think this so-called fight against terrorism will continue because they are weak and can't fight openly and they are going to fight like what they are fighting now."

Touching on tourism, Harris congratulated Chong for promoting mass tourism in Sabah.

"Sabah deserved to be visited by Australians and other people around the world. We have plenty to offer here," he said.

However, he said: "What I worry is what read in the newspaper with headings like 'We thought the British know us' and at the bottom it says Britons visited Thailand - 700,000; Britons visited Malaysia - 200,000." " I think it is the same with Sabah. The Australians know us but how many Australians visit us?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Chong described Operation Borneo as "a very important historical book for Sabah."

"Sixty years ago, thousands of Australians came and did not go home," noted Chong, recalling those who sacrificed their lives.

"I can tell you all, Australians have a special place in Sabah, Australians will always be remembered for the sacrifices of their war veterans."

'While we recognise the sacrifices of the Australians, here we give rightful recognition to the Americans who also served and fought alongside the Australians," Chong said.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Five-day show at Orchid de Villa, Inanam

KOTA KINABALU: Orchid de Villa at Inanam will hold a five-day horticultural show staring on Aug 27 as part of the ongoing Merdeka Month celebration.

Proprietor, Liew Fook Fah said there would be a large collection of exotic wild orchids and a variety of hybird species on display and for sale as well as a profusion of flowers, herbal plants and tropical fruits.

"This is the second time we are organising this grand public event folowing the success of the inaugural show last year," he said.

Deputy Chief Minister , Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan is scheduled to open the show on Aug 27 at 10am.

The 12-acre farm is nestled in the pristine secondary forest of Kawakaan valley off Jalan Kiansom in Inanam.

Besides its mainstay orchid garden, the farm has a large conservatory nursery devetoed to traditional medicinal plants.

More than 400 species of herbal plants have been documented in the area and many are now propagated at the farm.

Liew said the event would also include cultural dances, musical performances, a beauty contest, singing contest and cooking competition.

Visitors also stand a chance to win attractive prizes in a lucky draw.

Admission fee is RM2 per person while children below 12 years enter free.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Monday, August 22, 2005

People of Madagascar have origins in Borneo?

The following article from Mongabay.com present a new study that confirms that the people of Madagascar in Africa (the fourth largest island in the world after Borneo), have origins in both East Africa and get this, also Borneo (most probable from the Kalimantan side of Borneo):

A new study in the American Journal of Human Genetics confirms that the people of Madagascar have origins in both East Africa and also distant Borneo.

Despite the island's proximity to southern Africa, some anthropologists believe it was ethnic Indonesians who first settled Madagascar 1500-2000 years ago.

The language of Madagascar, called Malagasy, can be traced back to Indonesia where it most closely resembles the modern Malayo-Polynesian language of Ma'anyan, which is spoken by people in the Barito Valley of southern Borneo.

Some anthropologists postulate that these Indonesians could have either sailed directly across the Indian ocean -- possible given the sailing prowess of these people -- or gradually made their way along the coast of South Asia eventually finding their way to the island, which is the fourth largest in the world.

On the way, these intrepid explorers could have mixed with mainland Africans or Africans may have arrived at a later date.

Regardless of who set foot first on the island, most experts agree that Madagascar's inhabitants arrived relatively recently.

There is no evidence of a stone age in Madagascar and the island was settled around the time Polynesians reached the planet's most isolated place -- Easter Island.

It is thought that subsequent migrations have brought other groups (Arabs and Indians) into the ethnic and cultural mix.

Click Here For The Rest Of The Article

Malaysia: Visibility Check and API Reading Update

For those in Malaysia or wish to visit Malaysia, you can check visibility (i.e., the horizontal distance an observer can see and identify a prominent object) at the website of the Malaysian Meteorological Service below:

You can also get an update on other meteorological information/warning such as the weather, tsunami, earthquakes, etc. at their main site below:

For a daily update on the Air Pollutant Index (API), you can refer to the official website of the Department of Environment, Malaysia, below:

Haze Watch: Malaysia breathe easy for now

Malaysians breathed easy today as the Air Pollutant Index (API) showed readings between "good" and "moderate".

The Department of Environment (DOE) recorded 13 areas with API of between 51 to 100, which is a "moderate" level, while the rest of the country recorded "good" API readings of below 50.

At 11am, Johor Baru recorded the highest reading at 57 while Limbang, Sarawak, recorded the lowest reading at 16.

Visibility in most areas was between 8km and 10km with the exception of Muadzam Shah, Pahang, where visibility was down to 2.8km.

The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre reported that up to yesterday, there were still 23 hotspots in Sumatra and 39 hotspots in Kalimantan. Locally, there were five hotspots in Pahang and seven in Sarawak.

At 5pm, only four areas recorded API readings of 60 and above. They were Bakar Arang in Kedah, Gombak in Selangor, Country Heights in Kajang and Bukit Rambai in Malacca.

The API for the whole country at 5pm was between 17 and 66 with the lowest reading in Limbang, Sarawak, and the highest in Bakar Arang, Kedah.

All areas except one in Sabah and Sarawak showed readings of "good". The only area to record a "moderate" reading was Tawau, Sabah.

The Klang Valley recorded readings of "moderate" in all areas, except in Kuala Selangor which recorded a "good" API reading of 28. The highest reading was at Kajang and Gombak at 60.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Focus: Fearing the worst for Borneo

There is much still untarnished and beautiful about the island, but in recent years, it has seen massive land conversion, forest loss, destruction of peat land and disturbance of watersheds, Dr Murtedza Mohamed tells ELIZABETH JOHN in a recent New Straits Times publication.

HE will never forget the view when he first saw Borneo, or at least Sabah and Sarawak, which lie on the Malaysian side of the third largest island in the world.

"It was pristine... beautiful," says Dr Murtedza Mohamed, the professor of industrial organics and environmental chemistry from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, with a wistful, faraway look on his usually stern face.

Borneo today is quite a different place laments Murtedza, who heads the university’s Research and Innovation Centre.

In recent years, it has seen massive land conversion, forest loss, destruction of peat land and disturbance of watersheds.

While there is much still untarnished and beautiful about the island, Murtedza worries that logging activities, fires and rapid expansion of plantation estates will eventually leave Borneo with no natural forest cover at all.

This will result in gross depletion of biodiversity, extensive soil loss and serious threat to the sustainability of water resources.

Click here for the rest of the article

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Call to revive Singapore Airlines flights to Sabah

Kota Kinabalu: The direct Singapore Airlines flight from the republic to the State capital needs to be revived to increase tourist flow, said Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Karim Bujang.

It was learnt that the service was discontinued some years back despite good response believed due to pressure from certain quarters. "We hope Singapore Airlines that used to have a weekly direct flight from Singapore to the State capital will consider resuming the service to Sabah.

"I am sure this has tourism potential for both countries and will materialise as it has been discussed," he said after launching a three-day Singapore Tourism Board's Uniquely Singapore Carnival at Centre Point, Friday.

Several travel agents, hotels and private medical centres from Singapore are among those participating in the carnival.

Karim also pointed out that the AirAsia direct flight from the State capital to Senai in Johor held out another great potential that can benefit the State and Singapore in terms of tourism revenue and arrivals.

Karim noted that Silk Air, a subsidiary airline of SIA, now operates direct flights from Singapore to Kuching, Sarawak.

Last year, the Sabah Tourism Board recorded about 15,000 tourists from Singapore while the Singapore Tourism Board records between 7,000 and 8,000 Sabahans travelling to the country, every year.

"Here, you can see that there are many Singaporeans visiting our State but on the contrary, not many Sabahans are taking trips to the Lion City.

In this respect, Karim encouraged locals here to grab the special discounts on accommodations and attractive as well as affordable packages being offered at the carnival.

Singapore has recently been placing special emphasis on tourism in order not to lose out to the ecotourism attractions that are drawing tourists to neighbouring Malaysian states like Sabah and Sarawak.

Sabah last year earned a record RM2 billion revenue from tourism and the sights of caucasians and those from Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Honk Kong are now a familiar sight at the shopping complexes and streets.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Art exhibition captures beautiful scenes of Sabah on canvas

By Ismail Haji Mansor

KOTA KINABALU - The Sabah Art Gallery is currently holding an exhibition on landscape featuring the scenes of untouched environment found in some of the remote areas in Sabah.

A total of 40 paintings, mostly depicting the beauty of the villages which could lure tourists coming to Sabah are on display at the exhibition.

The exhibition is held to promote Sabah sceneries and highlight the beautiful places which still can be found in the rural areas. Most of the paintings were done in acrylic and water colours.

Art pieces on display are mostly done by local artists such as Christine Gooting, Madini Majidin, Mohd. Zulwawi Hashim, Sabating Ev. Baron Kampiau, Mastini Asap, Toney Gondolos, Lily Kugan dan Muslim Matajim.

Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau, Chairman of the Sabah Cultural Board while officiating the exhibition urged local artists to play their role in promoting Sabah to attract tourists by producing more paintings featuring the beauties of many places in Sabah.

The public are welcome to view the exhibition at Sabah Art Gallery which is located at the Sabah Museum Science and Education building. The exhibition is held until Sept 4 and open from 9am to 5pm.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sandakan can be key tourism centre, says Aussie mayor

By James Leong

SANDAKAN: This east coast town is on its way to becoming a key tourism centre in the State once the multi-million Sandakan Harbour Square project is completed.

The Mayor of Burwood Council in New South Wales, Australia, David Weiley, said Sandakan has all the attractions to become a major tourism centre but what it requires is the infrastructures and facilities.

'The Sandakan Harbour Square, when completed, will transform the economy of Sandakan as it will create jobs and business. With its strategic location, it will also be a good investment for local and foreign investors," Weiley said after visiting the site of the joint venture project between Sandakan Municipal Council and Ireka-Charng Sheng Development Sdn Bhd on Tuesday afternoon.

"The Sandakan Harbour Square will serve as a benchmark for other commercial development in Sabah," he said.

Weiley added that urban renewal schemes such as the Sandakan Harbour Square Project are necessary for any town or city to remain competitive.

"We in Burwood too are constantly reinventing our city otherwise we will lose out to other suburbs," he said.

Accompanying Weiley during his visit were deputy municipal council president (II) Thomas Lau, Ireka-Charng Sheng Development Sdn Bhd Executive Director Anthony Tiong, Finance Manager Matthew Leng, Project Manager Kevin Ng and other senior staff.

Courtesy of Borneo Post

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Borneo carnival to lure visitors to Temburong

By Hj Mohd Zaide Hj Damit

The Temburong District will organise the Borneo Carnival 2005 from September 9 to 11 at the Community Field of Pekan Bangar in an effort to attract visitors and foreign tourists to the district.

The event is sponsored by the Tourism Department of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Temburong Tourism of the Temburong District Office and the Temburong Scouts Federation.

According to the chairperson, Awg Metussin bin OKS Tuba, about 500 participants including locals and foreigners will take part in various activities lined up during the carnival.

He said there will be a mini bazaar where an exhibition on traditional food products will be held as well as cultural performances presented by various ethnic groups in the district and a stage show featuring local and foreign artistes.

Also to be held is a marathon which is divided into six categories for ladies and men.

Entry forms can be obtained from all the four district offices in the country. Completed forms must be returned to the organiser before September 15.

Awg Metussin urged the public to turn up in full force during the carnival and to actively participate in all the events to show their support to promote Temburong as one of the tourist destinations in the country.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Kinabatangan River Festival to be held September

By Awang Ahmad

KINABATANGAN: The Kinabatangan River Festival which not only showcases the unique cultures of the Orang Sungai but also the natural wonders of this treasure trove of wildlife will be held on September 24 this year.

Minister of Tourism, Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad, is scheduled to officially launch the event while Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat is also expected to be present.

Set against the 450-km long Kinabatangan River as the background, the festival will be celebrated at Kg. Sukau, Kg Bilit, Kota Kinabatangan town and Batu Tulug which are all popular tourist destinations.

Organising chairman, Datuk Bung Moktar Radin, who is also the Kinabatangan MP said Kg Sukau well-known for its proboscis monkeys and exotic birds will be the venue for traditional water sports while Kg. Danau Bilit will host Orang Sungai cultural shows and beliungan, a sport that involves the villagers catching fish using traditional methods.

A climbathon will be held in Batu Tulug, a place believed to be the ground of ancient Chinese travellers.

There will also be a River Expo at the Kota Kinabatangan bus terminal.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Buffalo racetrack for Sarawak

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - Sarawak's colourful and culturally unique buffalo race held in Lawas, dubbed the "buffalo capital of Sarawak", every year would have a race track soon.

The race, which is also one of Sarawak's unique tourist attraction, is steeped in the culture of the Bisayas, Brunei Malays, Kedayans and Lun Bawang communities in Limbang and Lawas.

Taking this into account, Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said at the Regional Lawas Buffalo Race festival and Top Spinning competition that the race track proposal had been forwarded to the Tourism Minister Datuk Leo Micheal Toyad.

He said it would be built under the Ninth Malaysia Plan as part of the tourism drive and culture conservation of the unique event in northern Sarawak.

"Buffaloes are intricately intertwined in the life of the locals in the economy and agriculture," he said.

Awang Tengah added that the religious and racial racing event with the animals should be promoted together with the cultural and natural attractions as the state's tourism products.

In Sarawak, buffaloes are reared for ploughing the padi fields in the old days, including the irrigated fields of Ba'Kalalan. The animals, however, are mostly reared for their meat.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Stage two of Sandakan Memorial Windows launched

SANDAKAN: Australian author Lynette Silver launched Memorial Windows over the north and south doors of St Michael's Church.

Lynette, who was instrumental in helping to raise money from Australians for the "Remembrance Windows" that were installed at the church's that were installed at the church's main windows in April this year, said stage two would be named "Friendship and Love of Fellow Man Windows".

"Stage two will involve the installation of stained glass windows of the same quality as stage one, at the windows over the north and south doors of the church," she said after the Sandakan Day Memorial yesterday.

"St Michael's Church is the only building left anywhere that links our Prisoners Of War (POWs) where we can go to today.

"So many of our POWs spent the day at the church before marching to the POW camp here (Sandakan Memorial Park) and to their ultimate deaths during the Second World War," she said.

"Because of the events which took place here in 1942 and 1945, Australia and the Britain shared a special bond with the people of Sabah. Our prisoners and the local people in uniting against the common foe, left us a very wonderful legacy," Lynette said.

"It is a legacy that cannot be bought or sold. So valuable that it is beyond price.

"It is a legacy of goodwill and friendship between nations forged by our POWs and the oppressed people of Sabah in a time of very great adversity.

"To celebrate and strengthen this precious inheritance entrusted by our POWs and the local people of Sabah, will be the focus of stage two of the Sandakan Memorial Windows.

"While we expect the bulk of the donations to come from Australians, once you have seen the Remembrance Windows, some of you might like to help us reinforce the friendship forged 60 years ago by becoming part of this.

"If you would like to preserve this precious legacy left to us by the people of Sabah and our POWs.

"If you would like to transform the tragedy and grief of Sandakan into something beautiful and uplifting, a testimony to the triumph for good over evil and a source of all for generations to come, please contact Reverend Moses Chin of St Michael's Church if you are locals or come and see me if you are Australians or British.

"Australia, Britain and Sabah, this will be our legacy for the future and we can do this together," Lynette said.

Courtesy of the Borneo Post

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Quick Guide to Climbing Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

An original "travel tips" article by e-borneo.com

Description: The majestic and awe-inspiring Mount Kinabalu is one of the premier destinations for thousands of visitors to Sabah, Malaysian Borneo each year. Besides being the highest peak in Borneo and the whole of South East Asia, and the youngest non-volcanic mountain in the world, Mount Kinabalu is extremely climber-friendly and compared to other much lower mountains around the world, Mount Kinabalu is an ideal first mountain for novice mountain trekkers to conquer. This article attempts to provide a concise but descriptive guide as well as some useful tips to climbing Mount Kinabalu via the standard route, Kinabalu Summit Trail.

Please kindly click on the link below to read the article in full (including reprint information):

Summer Adventure Vacations Idea: A Quick Guide To Climbing Mount Kinabalu

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sultanate's hazy spell washed away

By Izam S. Ya'akub

The haze condition in the Sultanate saw a slight improvement yesterday due to the rainy conditions which had set in on Friday evening.

A spokesperson from the Brunei Meteorological Service stated that visibility in the Brunei-Muara District had improved to 10km, whilst in Kuala Belait only had a visibility reading of 6km.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

MAS flight operations on schedule despite haze

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia Airlines flight operations especially at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) have been on schedule this week despite the haze occurrence in some areas around the airport and Kuala Lumpur.

At 12 noon yesterday, there has been no cancellation, retiming or diversions of scheduled flights at KLIA.

The national airline company is continuing to work closely with the regulatory authorities and Tourism Malaysia to monitor the haze situation and where necessary, will provide regular updates to customers.

Customers can also call the toll free number 1-300-88-3000 for the latest updates on flight schedules.

Courtesy of: New Sabah Times

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Slight Haze in Malaysia Borneo and Brunei Darussalam

The haze condition in Peninsular Malaysia may be rather alarming in the last couple of days, caused mainly by open burning particularly in Riau, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

While West Malaysia is literally choking as the country was been blanketed with smog over the past few days, across the South China Sea, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the sultanate kingdom of Brunei Darussalam, were somehow spared the full grunt of the scourge, as the island of Borneo is geograhically far away from Sumatra.

However, there were reportedly some open burnings in Kalimantan (the Indonesian portion of Borneo) as well, that had affected the air condition in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei, although not near as critical as in the Peninsula, with the ambient air quality in all three regions has been in the range of good to moderate.

In Sabah, Kudat receives some rain yesterday that improves visibility, and the heavy downpour in Kota Kinabalu last night and early this morning has brought further respite to the residents.

In reality, even with the current haze situation, the air condition in most parts of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei can still be considered as far more healthier than most capital cities of the world, especially in the industrialised nations.

With Malaysia's concerted assistance to assist the Indonesian government to resolve the open burning dilema, it is hopeful that this phenomena will not prolong much longer.

Copyright © 2005 e-borneo.com

Haze situation in Klang Valley improves

The haze has started to move north as the situation improved tremendously in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor – the two areas that have been placed under Haze Emergency.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Klang Valley residents who had fled to places like Penang for a break are beginning to regret their journey as they could see the smog blanketing various part of the island's landmarks.

However, the Air Pollutant Index (API) for Penang remained between good and moderate, although the figures are slightly higher than previously.

In the Klang Valley, all areas recorded tremendous improvement, with none in the hazardous level.

There are no more areas with levels above 400. Port Klang's API was 182 and Kuala Selangor 293. The two areas were above the 500 level 48 hours ago.

However, the two areas remained under the Haze Emergency status and are expected to stay so until Sunday, when a review is expected.

Courtesy of The Star

Moderate condition in Brunei Darussalam

By Azlan Othman

As Indonesia is hoping other Southeast Asian nations will help it fight forest fires which have created a choking haze smothering neighbouring Malaysia, Brunei too is experiencing a hazy situation which the authorities term as "moderate".

With the local PSI level being 61 yesterday, the air quality had not reached hazardous levels although the visibility seems low, and it was not easy for Asthma patients to breathe easily. Brunei recorded slight to moderate haze in the past 24 hours both at Brunei International Airport and Kuala Belait meteorological stations, the Meteorological Service of the Department of Civil Aviation said yesterday.

The lowest visibility recorded yesterday was four kilometres at the airport and six kilometres in Kuala Belait meteorological station.

Latest haze maps at the haze monitoring page of the Meteorological Service of the National Environmental Agency, Singapore revealed that a number of hotspots were detected in Sumatra. The prevailing winds in South-Westerly direction aided in bringing the haze to our country.

The Meteorological Service said the chance of few occasional showers is not sufficient to overcome the problem of fires over these sources and to clear the haze in Brunei. The choking smog has blanketed the Sultanate about a week, reducing the visibility and no longer allows Bruneians to breathe easy.

Malaysia's TV3 meanwhile issued a press statement that they will be postponing their events scheduled for Sunday. "Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Berhad (TV3) wishes to announce the postponement of the two events scheduled on Sunday, August 14, 2005 due to the deteriorating air quality level caused by the haze.

"With the Air Pollution Index (API) at such alarming level, we are not willing to put the public health at risk," TV3 said in a press release.

Meanwhile AFP reported that, Indonesia needed regional cooperation from its fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to improve its ability to tackle the forest fires which have provoked anger among Malaysians, the state news agency Antara said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to take firm action against those responsible for the fires, his spokesman said Friday.

"Firm action will be taken against those responsible," said presidential spokesman Dino Patti Jalal, quoting the president. Environmentalists, however, said corruption and law enforcement problems were frustrating efforts to bring to justice plantation companies accused of causing forest fires.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, August 12, 2005

Haze-prone Sarawak in enviable position now

MIRI: Sarawak is in an unusual but enviable position these hazy days.

The state is usually the worst affected by the haze but not this time.

All 11 divisions registered an Air Pollutant Index of below 100 yesterday.

“We are spared from the severe effects of the haze. Favourable wind directions prevented the haze from enveloping the state,” Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam told The Star yesterday.

Sarawak experienced the worst haze in 1998 when the Federal Government declared a state of environmental emergency for 10 days after the API level recorded a reading of over 900. Three months ago, Miri was badly hit by haze, which lasted about a month.

Sarawakians know exactly what those in some parts of the peninsula are going through now.

Dr Chan, who is also the state Disaster Relief Committee chairman, said 13 minor “hotspots” were detected in Sarawak but none caused severe damage to the air quality.

Nevertheless, the state is not taking any chances.

“The state Cabinet has issued a total ban on all forms of open burning throughout the state,” Dr Chan said.

He said Sarawak was watching with concern the severity of the haze that has enveloped parts of the peninsula.

“What we can do here is to ensure the locals do not make it worse by starting fires,” he added.

Courtesy of The Star

Sabah's situation moderate

By Larry Ralon

Sabah is also experiencing the haze, though to a lesser extent, with the Kota Kinabalu city recording a continued drop in visibility Thursday.

The State Meteorological Services Department said the visibility range here had dropped to 5,000 metres as at 4pm compared to 9,000 metres at 9am.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading provided by the Department of Environment (DOE) for the city showed it was at 52, or slightly moderate. as at 5pm. This is an increase from 51 recorded at 11am.

Tawau registered a visibility range between 7,000-8000 metres and Labuan around 7,000 metres. The visibility in Sandakan has already improved. As for API, the reading for Tawau was recorded at 56 (5pm), while in Sandakan it remained at 44. The API reading for Keningau saw a rise from 56 (11am) to 58 (5pm).

The level of air pollutant in a certain area is considered as still good if its API reading showed 0-50; moderate (51-100); unhealthy (101-200); very unhealthy (201-300); and hazardous (above 301).

The hazy condition experienced in the State was brought about by winds blowing past the Kalimantan region, where hotspots were detected apart from Sumatra, whose fires have been affecting the Peninsula.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Air Pollutant Index (API) - What The Figures Mean

The Air Pollutant Index (API) is curently the most anticipated index in Malaysia. The above chart courtesy of The Star, explains what the figures really mean in terms of the level of pollution and health measures to be taken.

Malaysia Haze Condition

Most of Peninsular Malaysia was clouded with haze as a result of open burning activity in forests and plantations in Riau and northern Sumatra.

This is the worse case of haze in Malaysia since 1997.

Many activities came to a halt because of the deteriorating air quality caused by the fires in Sumatra, where there were 542 hotspots as of yesterday.

Nevertheless, in East Malaysia Borneo, the states of Sabah and Sarawak were not that badly affected by the haze.

The Air Pollution Index (API) released showed that Kota Kinabalu recorded only about 56-57, and Kuching 59-62, compared to the more critical areas in West Malaysia such as Port Klang and Kuala Selangor as at 11 August 2005 (refer chart above).

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

AirAsia may consider raising airfares

Kuala Lumpur: AirAsia Bhd may consider increasing its fares to deal with the current rise in oil price, said chief executive officer, Datuk Tony Fernandes, here Wednesday.

"A RM1 or RM2 rise doesn't change much in elasticity. Our fare is still very low but it (fare hike) will help us very much in covering the extra cost," he told reporters when met at an award presentation to RHB Bank for the RHB AirAsia MasterCard Programme.

The bank received a Gold Award for the Best Chip Card Programme.

Jet fuel represents 43 percent of total operation cost for AsiaAsia.

Oil prices hit an all time high of US$64 (RM242) per barrel on Monday.

"We are pro-active in cutting cost. We want to keep the fares low as that is very important for us. It is getting tougher and tougher to keep the fares down with fuel (prices) where it is now," he said.

"For us a RM5 or RM10 rise will make a big different. We can cover a lot of our cost and I don't think it will affect our demand so much. Even at this high fuel prices, we still can give very attractive fares.. so we have just continued doing it," he said.

Besides increasing the airfare, Fernandes said that there were many other ways of covering fuel surcharges.

"We can sell more seats at low fares. Our load factor is now about 70 percent. If we can go up to 80 to 90 percent, it will cover a lot of the cost even if the fare is low," he said.

Fernandes is confident that the budget carrier could deal with the current higher fuel prices.

"We have to be more aggressive in advertising and promotion. We are spending about two to three percent of our sales but depending on the markets and routes," he said.

Asked on possible margin squeeze, Fernandes said "not necessarily."

"Obviously, if we have a high load-factor, if we can up the prices a little bit, it won't make a huge difference to the consumers but a big difference to us," he said.

Looking forward, Fernandes said there will be a lot of upside in AirAsia. "Most of our routes are brand new routes and the routes take time to develop. We have another 30 percent seats to sell," he said.

As for further acquisition, Fernandes said that if there are such opportunities the company will look at it but "we have our hand pretty full at the moment."

Pertaining to the Valuair deal, he said that AirAsia did not see any value in it "so we did not go for it."

And on new destinations, Fernandes said that AirAsia hoped to fly to Brunei, Cambodia and Vietnam within the next six months.

Fernandes expects the carrier to fly about 8.0 million passengers next year.

Courtesy of Bernama

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fiesta mood in rustic Sipitang, Sabah

Story and Photos by NORMIMIE DIUN

THE ethnic cultures and traditions of the people of Sabah’s south-western Sipitang town came to life over the weekend.

A variety of ethnic dances and music from the Bisaya, Murut, Lundayeh, Kadazandusun and Kedayan communities were showcased at the annual Sipitang Tamu Besar and Pesta Gasing.

Adding flavour to the celebrations was the record-setting feat of the Kedayan community who wrote themselves into the Malay-sia Books of Records by making a 580m kuih jelurut (a traditional Kedayan food).

A top-spinning or gasing competition was the highlight of the festival.

Other highlights included exhibitions of various products by government agencies.

The tamu gave a fiesta mood to this small rustic town bordering neighbouring Sarawak’s Lawas.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, who launched the event, said it provided an opportunity to inculcate a high sense of communal pride to safeguard the people's cultures and traditions.

He said it was important to preserve the unique cultural attributes, particularly the dances, music, handicraft and traditional games and help boost the local tourism industry.

Musa said the Pesta Gasing or top-spinning festival was meaningful as it brought about the revival of the once popular sport that has waned over the years.

Courtesy of The Star

Borneo: Call of the Wild

The following is an article from Christine Davies, winner of the first prize in the UK's Independent Online Edition travel writing competition, where she describes her encounter with an angry ape in a rainforest in Borneo:

Apart from the unforgettable occasion when, trapped by a closed border crossing, I had to spend the night in a Thai brothel, the only time I regretted fleeing work and kin was when threatened by a large, angry ape in Borneo. He was protecting his family and we were in the way. I was forced to consider whether this was the proper place for a middle-aged single mother from south London.

It started with early retirement and an invitation to a party in Singapore. I accepted the invitation and set out three months earlier with a backpack. I loved every single day of my experience, but much of Malaysia and Thailand seemed to make life easy for the backpacker.

Even the National Parks had been tamed by mass tourism. It was in Kelantan, the most northern state of West Malaysia, remote and alcohol free, that, with the clarity of enforced sobriety, it hit me. Once I'd had my fill of the wonderful food in the night market of Kota Baru, and of sharing a hut with brightly coloured frogs in the tropic.

Apart from the unforgettable occasion when, trapped by a closed border crossing, I had to spend the night in a Thai brothel, the only time I regretted fleeing work and kin was when threatened by a large, angry ape in Borneo. He was protecting his family and we were in the way. I was forced to consider whether this was the proper place for a middle-aged single mother from south London.

Click here to read the rest of the article

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Valley of the Apes

An interesting travel article on Sabah from the UK's Independent Online Edition:

Deep in the ancient rainforest of Borneo, Juliet Clough finds that eco-tourism is healing the ravages of decades of logging - and revealing a natural wonderland.

The sound of tortured wood still fractures my dreams. That, and the silence that followed. On a Danum Valley ridge, deep in the Borneo rainforest, I had stopped to admire a particularly fine tree, its buttress roots encrusted with ants' nests. The couple with me took photographs. According to the guide, the tree, a huge dipterocarp, would be some 150 years old.

The sound of tortured wood still fractures my dreams. That, and the silence that followed. On a Danum Valley ridge, deep in the Borneo rainforest, I had stopped to admire a particularly fine tree, its buttress roots encrusted with ants' nests. The couple with me took photographs. According to the guide, the tree, a huge dipterocarp, would be some 150 years old.

Moments later, the world changed; 20m down the path we froze, rooted in our tracks by the prolonged shriek of splitting timber. Some 80m overhead, the forest canopy shifted ominously as, in slow motion, a portion of sky grew wider. Uncertain about which way the tree would fall, none of us moved. The crash, when it came, snapped off trees and shook the ground under our feet. For a few seconds, the whistling, chatter and buzz of birds, monkeys and cicadas ceased.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Family Hotel Safety Tips

Just to be on the safe side, make sure your family has ID on them, especially your kids. Let your children help make their own ID. The essential information that should be on their ID are:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Hotel of where you are staying
  • Phone number of the Hotel
  • Parents Names
  • Allergies of the child (if any)
  • Age/ birth date
  • Emergency Contact (family or friend from home)
  • Recent picture (keep a copy of the recent picture in your wallet just in case you do get separated from your children, the police would like to get the most recent picture for their records).
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!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mulu National Park - Walkway in the Sky

The following is a newly added "Malaysia My Destination" article at our main site's Travel Articles section for your weekend reading pleasure:

MULU, (Miri) - THE Mulu National Park's 480-metre Canopy Skywalk, is the world's longest tree-based canopy walk.

It adds another features to the world heritage site, which also plays home to the world's biggest caves and network systems.

According to the Director of Forest and Controller of National Parks and Nature Reserves, Datuk Cheong Ek Choon, the completion of the project is a fine example of private and government sectors working closely together to promote eco-tourism and biodiversity conversation.

The Canopy Skywalk, suspended 20-metres above the forest floor, was built by local communities with advice from experts on design and structure.

It winds among the lush treetops with a tranquil river running below and the soaring heights of nearby limestone cliffs above.

The Skywalk follows a circular route suspended between 15 trees with a separate exit tower. There are also platforms at each of the 15 trees for visitors to stop and admire the lush surroundings.

Click Here for the rest of the article and more pics

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sabah to gazette Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary by October


KOTA KINABALU: The gazetting of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary – delayed for six years now – is a step closer to becoming a reality with the state government promising that it will be done by October.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said the relevant notices had been issued and the gazetting process was in the final stages.

“As far as we are concerned, everything should be finalised by next month or the latest by October,” said Chong who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister.

Chong was speaking at a press conference held following a state Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

He said Musa wanted him to explain the issues raised in an article in The Star on July 25 concerning delays in gazetting the sanctuary.

The article prompted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to call Musa to enquire about the 100-million-year-old sanctuary that was declared a Gift to the Earth and Corridor of Life in 1999.

Chong, accompanied by senior officials from the forestry, wildlife and natural resources department, said that the process of re-gazetting the sanctuary from a bird sanctuary to a wildlife sanctuary would take time.

“I can tell you that there are a lot of procedures on de-gazetting and re-gazetting, involving departments such as land and survey, office of natural resources, wildlife and the state Attorney-General’s office,” he said.

While admitting that action was taken recently to stop illegal sand dredging in the Kinabatangan river outside the sanctuary, Chong refuted claims that 20% of the sanctuary was under threat from encroachment and logging.

He said an aerial inspection by forestry and wildlife directors on July 27 showed that only 1% of the sanctuary had been encroached on.

“It is clear that of the 26,000ha, only 121ha have been cleared, (and this occurred) a long time ago.

“If you talk of 20% being affected, we are talking about 5,400ha, and that is misleading,” he added.

On the illegal logging issue, Chong said a ground inspection by the officials showed that 31 logs had been removed from the area, of which 16 were recovered by kampung folk who used them for a home-stay project.

“Nine logs were old and only five were fresh logs,” he said, adding that there was no evidence of any “big-, medium- or small-scale logging in the sanctuary.”

Chong said Musa had been clear in his efforts to stop illegal logging and to safeguard the environment.

When the sanctuary is gazetted, he said, the state government would increase the allocation for more wildlife department staff to carry out enforcement in the area.

Courtesy of The Star

Korean honeymooners flocking to Brunei

By Azlan Othman

Korean newlyweds are choosing Brunei as their honeymoon destination.

Assistant Director, Promotion and Marketing for Brunei Tourism, Hj Mohd Tali Hj Abd Rahman, revealed yesterday that last week a chartered flight from Korea brought in over 100 passengers. "Koreans are choosing Brunei as their honeymoon destination," he said.

He said that eight chartered flights from Korea would touch down in Brunei in October.

He said the recent establishment of the Brunei Tourism Board means an enhancement in the manpower, finance and administration that are needed to woo foreign tourists. These include the sales missions, the establishment of overseas representative to look after the tourist market and the setting up of statistics division for carrying out analysis to answer questions such as why tourists visit other countries and not Brunei.

Hj Mohd Tali Hj Abd Rahman in an interview with the Bulletin said, "It's like a department where the scope of work and function expands, organisational structure gets bigger. Output will also be quickly done," he said.

He said that the establishment of the board is "timely when we're just revitalised our branding with the appointment of a Thai-based agency".

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

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.

His Majesty had also directed the upgrading of the administration of the Tourism Development Section of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and the renaming of the section as the Tourism Development Department. The move was aimed at expediting the development of the tourism industry and ensuring its effectiveness in enhancing its development in line with the country's aspiration.

Asked about the upcoming events in the tourism calendar, Hj Mohd Tali said the International Marathon Challenge would be held in December, while Bukit Patoi Challenge and Borneo Ethnic Culture would both be held in September.

On next year's tourism calendar, he said that the department would organise tourism activities in line with the five-year 9th National Development Plan which will commence next year.

"But the tourism calendar for next year will still emphasise on three major aspects, namely, eco-tourism, sports-related activities as well as cultural and heritage aspects," he said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Royal Brunei Airlines launches ‘Fly & Drive' package

Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) recently launched its new "Fly and Drive" package for customers travelling to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, according to a press release.

The package includes one economy class return ticket from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu, two-day car rental usage and personal accident insurance. Rates start from $261.

According to RBA Director of Commercial Haji Hanafiah Haji Jikeria, "RBA has formulated this package specially to meet the preference of some of our Bruneian customers who enjoy the convenience of being able to drive around Kota Kinabalu.

This package provides the flexibility, convenience and peace of mind of a driving holiday without the hassle of driving the long journey to Kota Kinabalu in one's own vehicle."

The package is valid from July 26, 2005 to January 30, 2006.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Proposed Sabah Marine Park expected to be the largest in Malaysia

By Arman Gunsika

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat hopes the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park will materialise in the next three years. The marine park will be established in the northern part of Sabah.

Tan Sri Chong who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said he wanted to preserve the northern part of Sabah, recognising its economic potential and the pressing need to protect its pristine waters from the destructive practices.

Local inhabitants would be incorporated into the management of the proposed park. The proposed park covering 1.03 million hectares is expected to be the largest marine park in Sabah as well as in Malaysia. It comprises fifty islands including Banggi island.

Tan Sri Chong said this to members of WWF Malaysia Board of Trustees, WWF Heads and Chief Executive Officers and Senior officials from USA, Indonesia, Netherlands, Philippines and Malaysia.

They are on their 10th Trustees' Retreat in Kudat to see the potential of the proposed park.

Briefing the visitors, Director of Sabah Parks Datuk Lamri Ali outlined the status and progress of research and surveys undertaken in the area of the proposed park.

Among the proposed projects which required funding were continued inventory of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, developing alternative livelihood opportunities for the local community such as seaweed cultivation and giant clam rearing, survey on migrating species and Educultural and awareness programmes for the proposed park need to be understood and respected by the local people.

WWF Executive Director Dato Dr Mikail Kavangh pledged support for the park and making it a long-term reality. He congratulated Chong for his initiative adding that the realisation of the Park would be 'extraordinary conservation achievement' for present and future generations.

He said there was also a need to raise awareness about the superlatives of Malaysia's biodiversity among the Malaysians.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, August 01, 2005

Malaysia Borneo My Destination: "Rock mementos from Sabah hotspot, Poring Hot Springs"

Another article under the Malaysia Borneo My Destination category, recently added to our main site's Travel Articles section, for your reading pleasure as follows:

Visitors to the Poring Hot Springs in Ranau, Sabah can bring home some unique souvenirs after soaking in the warm but invigorating water.

Outside the gates of the popular tourism destination, tourists will find a stall selling a variety of souvenirs made of rocks collected from the nearby Mount Kinabalu area.

The rocks, which include types such as jade, crystals and marble, have been transformed into various souvenirs such as key chains and pen-holders.

Mrs. Selibit Gompios, 32, and Mrs. Rumihin Kimi, 35, are among the operators who have been running the business about seven years.

They report a brisk business in selling the mementos to visitors to the Poring Hot Springs, especially tourists from West Malaysia and Brunei.

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Malaysia Borneo My Destination: "Miri to become Resort City"

Below is an article recently published at our main site's Travel Articles section under the Malaysia Borneo My Destination category:

Miri is the take-off point for road trips to two of the country's most important national parks - Mulu National Park and Niah National Park.

Mulu is the home of some of the world's most spectacular cave formations while Niah is a world famous archaeological site where evidence of prehistoric inhabitants dating back 40,000 years were found.

Abdul Taib, born in Miri, in October 1993 at the launch of the Miri Boulevard, said he was confident Miri could attain city status by the year 2005.

"You will see a different Miri coming out of the old oil town," he had said, adding there was no reason to be afraid of huge development because Miri's economy was booming.

Abdul Taib said Miri's economy has diversified so much that the oil industry is no longer the most dominant economic lifeline of the town.

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