Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sung Dynasty artefacts on display soon at Sabah Museum

Thousand-year-old artefacts, the oldest ever found at a shipwreck site in Malaysian waters, will soon be on display at the Sabah Museum.

More than 800 ceramic and non-ceramic items salvaged 400 metres from the Tanjung Simpang Mengayau shore at the northern tip of Borneo, close to Kudat in Sabah, are being treated and restored.

The Sung Dynasty artefacts, dating between 960 and 1127, were "officially" discovered on April 15, 2003, although local fishermen are known to have looted the site prior to that date.

Sabah Museum Department director Datuk Joseph Guntavid said once the artefacts were fully "desalinated and stabilised", the pieces would be displayed at the main exhibition gallery of the museum.

The department had given private company Nanhai Marine Archaeology Sdn Bhd a permit to excavate the site.

The company had excavated seven other wrecks off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia prior to the project at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau.

Elaborating on the discovery of the wreck and its cargo, Sabah Museum curator Stella Moo said it indicated that there was a trading route to and from Borneo a thousand years ago.

"Wrecks like this one tell us what went on in the past. Probably the items were on their way from China to Brunei. Most of the other known wrecks are close to Peninsular Malaysia so this wreck can provide us with valuable information.

"Among items discovered in this wreck are non-ceramic pieces such as bronze gongs, copper discs and steel pots, and ceramic pieces comprising plates, bowls and storage jars.

"Some of the items are intact, others are in pieces. They were probably damaged by looters or by climatic conditions such as strong currents," she said, adding that the wreck was 12 metres under the surface of the water

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Friday, January 27, 2006

Gong Xi Fa Cai 2006 from e-borneo.com

Please be informed that our office will be closed for five (5) consecutive days from 28th January to 1st February 2006 in conjunction with the Chinese New Year Celebration as well as the Awal Muharram (Ma`al Hijrah - Muslim New Year) public holidays nationwide.

For travel and related requests, do note that all your e-mails enquiries may be replied during this holiday period (depending on priority and/or importance) but earliest confirmation can only be processed on Thursday, 2nd February 2005 (+0800 GMT MYT).

Any inconvenience caused is very much regretted.

For those who are celebrating the Chinese New Year festival, all of us at e-borneo.com would like to wish you 'Gong Xi Fa Cai' and may you have a healthy and wealthy year of the Dog ahead. And to all Muslims, a Happy New Year.

Best wishes,

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The 2006 Borneo International Yachting Challenge - Labuan to Miri

By George Francis

MIRI - The Borneo International Yachting Challenge (BIYC) - from Labuan to Miri, will be held from April 27 to May 1, 2006.

This will be the third year that this event is held to put it on the world yachting map held for Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan.

The organisers, meanwhile, would like to invite Brunei to join as venue host-participant in this South China Sea event, bringing in renowned international yachters and water event tourists.

Sarawak Assistant Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications, Lee Kim Shin, who chaired the joint-committee meeting here, hoped to bring a delegation to meet with the Brunei authority for discussion on this proposal to invite the Sultanate in this new sporting development.

He said the Labuan-Miri challenge has been in the international yachting map whereby Brunei should not be left out.

"Hopefully, by the second week of February we can make a courtesy call on our neighbours - the local yachting fraternity and relevant authority there to bring up our proposal for discussion," said Lee, who is also a member of the Sarawak Tourism Board.

Meanwhile, Sarawak organising co-chairman, Troy Yaw, said the event had been organised twice consecutively, adding, "Nobody doubts our ability to organise this international event which had been well publicised, and now it's getting momentum both regionally and internationally."

As of today, 11 boats from from Hong Kong, Holland, Phuket, Miri-Sarawak, Royal Malaysian Navy have confirmed participation while a number of Langkawi-based yachters are expected to join in the event along with three boats from Brunei.

The six-day event will start in Labuan on April 27, followed by a regatta which Labuan also plays host to the closing ceremony of "Pesta Air Nasional". The boats will be back on track to Miri waters by April 29 straight to the newly built Balinese-designed Miri Marina Boat Club, followed by the Miri Race the next day and ending with the Miri Bay Regatta on May 1.

However, if Brunei accepts the invitation as a joint venue-participant, the boats will be on track for the first night stop-celebration in Bandar Seri Begawan from Labuan before heading for Miri the next day.

The last two events were inaugurated in 2004, called Borneo Cup Yachting Challenge before being renamed now as the Borneo International Yachting Challenge to make it a more lucrative event in this part of the world.

The BIYC is a Category 3 event, featuring five classes of boats, namely racing, cruising, sports, classic and ocean multi-hull.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Malaysian Air Travellers To Pay Extra Starting Feb 1

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (Bernama) -- Travellers purchasing air tickets from local ticketing agents will have to fork out an extra RM30 for international destinations and RM10 for domestic destinations effective Feb 1.

This agency collection fee is imposed by Matta to defray the cost incurred in collecting insurance surcharges, fuel surcharges and airport taxes of which they are not paid any commissions by the airlines or airport authorities.

Rural air service sectors, however, are excluded from this fee while flights to Singapore and Brunei follow the domestic destination's rate.

Matta president Ngiam Foon told reporters here today that agents only received commissions of up to nine percent from the airlines for selling air tickets excluding the surcharges which are considered as non-revenue items (NRI).

However, he said collecting the NRI has caused the agents to incur additional costs like credit risk, interest charges and guarantee costs which have become significant due to the rising oil prices.

Citing an example, he said a return ticket to Sydney today cost about RM2,800 of which RM630 or 23 percent is the NRI.

"These NRI have become a very significant part of the total ticket process, averaging between 15 percent and 33 percent of the total ticket price and yet agents' revenues still calculated based only on the airfare portion.

"With decreasing revenues from thinning margins, collecting these NRI now becomes a financial burden for the agents," he said.

The fee is necessary to ensure Matta members can continue to provide an acceptable level of service to the travelling public.

They include giving advice on flight and fare options, plan complicated itineraries, useful destination tips, visa application assistance, hotel bookings and travel insurance.

"Considering the service we are providing to our customers, the fee is very reasonable," he said.

He added such fee had already been implemented in Hong Kong where a fixed amount is collected from the customers for all the work and service done in the collection of NRI.


Five new tourism packages launched in Sarawak

KUCHING: The Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) recently launched five new packages under its tourism and leisure division to attract domestic and foreign visitors.

The packages are the Sarawak MICE Escapade, Sarawak Family Adventure, a one-day cultural package at Sarawak Cultural Village, a stay-and-play golf package, and the Matang Family Park customised-event package.

The packages were launched by SEDC chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip at a get-together for tourism players organised by the corporation at Matang Family Park near here recently.

The Sarawak MICE Escapade package is targeted at the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector, while the Sarawak Family Adventure is aimed at companies planning incentive activities for their staff.

Both packages include a traditional welcome at the Sarakraf Pavilion, a jungle breakfast or dinner at the Sarawak Cultural Village or on a Sarawak River cruise.

The one-day package at Sarawak Cultural Village, priced at RM73, includes a village tour, cultural show and lessons in traditional dances, music and handicrafts.

Visitors will also get to play traditional games and dress up in traditional costumes for a photo session.

The Matang Family Park meanwhile can be booked as a venue for government, corporate or individual events at RM450 from 8am to 5pm or RM420 from 6 to 11pm.

“We want to position the park as an alternative outdoor venue for events,” SEDC’s tourism and leisure director Wan Lizozman Wan Omar said.

Finally, the stay-and-play golf package is available at the Holiday Inn Resort Damai Lagoon, comprising one price for accommodation and golf rounds at the Damai Golf and Country Club.

Source: The Star

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Habitat loss wiping out Orang Utans fast

Kota Kinabalu: A three-year international genetic study has detected a "catastrophic collapse" in orang-utan populations along the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah .

The ape is the mascot of Sabah Tourism which sells Sabah to the world as a Premier Nature Destination.

"The study shows a high risk of extinction of the Orang-utan in the close future if this decline goes unabated," said wildlife geneticist Dr Benoit Goossens of Cardiff University, one of a team of researchers from Sabah Wildlife department, UMS, French primatologists Marc Ancrenaz, Isabele Lackman Ancrenaz, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, and funded by the Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, UK. Goossens said 200 orang utans were identified using genetic markers called microsatellites and used the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) information to stimulate population history and detect evidence of a population decline.

"The major threat is linked to forest destruction and oil palm plantation development while illegal killing also contributed to the decline," he said.

The findings are being published online in the international scientific journal entitled "Public Library of Science" (PloS Biology), Dr Goossens said.

"The collapse occurred within the past 100 years and most likely within the past decades - coinciding with massive deforestation which began in the 1890s and accelerated in the 1950s and 1970s," Goossens said.

"This is the first time that a recent and alarming decline of a great ape population - brought about by man - has been demonstrated, dated, and quantified using genetic information," Dr Goossens noted.

Earth has entered what the UN called the "Great Ape Crisis" where all four of the world's great apes, namely orang utans in Asia as well as chimpanzees, gorillas and the bonobos in Africa, considered man's closest relatives, are threatened with extinction.

The scientists collected hair from tree nests 30m above ground and faeces found under nests or near orang utans encountered along the Kinabatangan River.

To no one's surprise, deforestation was singled out as the main culprit for the population collapse but there is a definite time frame to hang on to when all that happened - 100 years since the 1890s, accelerated in the 1950s and 70s.

The grim picture reversed earlier optimism triggered by a wildlife survey carried out by the Department of Wildlife and Danida three years ago which found Sabah still had 11,000 wild Orang-utans - much larger than expected.

A major uncertainty on the future of the Orang-utan, stressed Laurentius Ambu, Deputy Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, is that 60% or about 5,000 individuals in Sabah are living outside of the network of protected areas.

These areas happened to be the lowland dipterocarp commercial forests under the Sabah Foundation concession , which are exploited under natural forest management.

The lure of palm oil revenues and now Bio-diesel seems hard to resist. Comments at public forums suggest senior Yayasan Sabah officials remain ambivalent on committing Orang-utan-rich natural forests for "permanent" protection.

"The Orang-utan cannot survive in industrial tree plantations and this population will disappear forever if these forests are converted to oil palm agriculture.

As such, Dr Ancrenaz said a "priority"of the Orang-utan's future is to "identify mechanisms" that will secure both Sabah's economic development and conserve the Orang-utan habitats at the same time.

He cited the Reduced-Impact Logging practices that are implemented at Deramakot Forest Reserve by the Sabah Forestry Department which proves that sustainable logging practices are compatible with orang-utan long term survival.

"Ideally, all forests should follow the sustainable logging practices that are in place in Deramakot Forest reserve," he said.

"The animals will show enough genetic diversity to stabilise, if immediate steps are taken to reconnect remnant forest patches and halt further deforestation," added Laurentius.

"Otherwise, humans will have relegated the fabled 'man of the forests' to the realm of memory - or a life behind bars in a zoo," Laurentius said.

The Orangutan is still one of Sabah Tourism's strongest trump cards to differentiate Sabah from the rest of the competing nature destinations.

The enduring popularity of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation is proof. More recently, together with the villagers of Sukau, the Sabah Wildlife department created a community-based orang utan eco-tourism project (Red Ape Encounters Sdn Bhd) with Tadun Lias as Director, within the newly-created Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Source: Daily Express

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brunei's newest spa on the block

'Cleanse, Detoxify and Revitalise', is the theme of Brunei's latest spa that opened for business at the Kiulap commercial area last Tuesday.

Shiatzen Spa, which was officially launched by Pehin Dato Hj Ahmad Wally Skinner, boasts a unique concept and design that caters to customer who wish to detoxify and cleanse their bodies.

The newest spa on the block provides an effective detoxification programme that can tremendously help the body system perform detoxification at an optimal level.

During the launch, guests were given the opportunity to tour the facilities and get a better understanding of how a detoxification programme can greatly benefit the mind and body.

The Spa also offers Colonics, Infra-Red Sauna, Hot Stone Massage, Seaweed Wraps as well as combined massages and advanced facial treatments. Its unique approach targets health and beauty from within.

Special introductory packages are on offer during the launching period with discounts of up to 40 per cent on advanced brightening and firming facial treatment.

For further information contact 8980628.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bad roads in Sabah's rural areas are tourist attractions


SANDAKAN: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said he does not view seriously, lack of infrastructure in the rural areas, nor the bad roads connecting these places to the towns as they are tourist attractions.

He said foreign tourists prefer gravel roads to those that are tarred and prefer to spend lot of money to stay in the interior places such as Sukau and the Maliau Basin.

"Tourists from Europe and Japan like to visit places where they can test their physical and mental prowess so as to get great satisfaction from their expedition," he said.

He said there was a growing number of foreign tourists who preferred "going back to nature" and yearned for a holiday just soaking in the diverse flora and fauna in the jungle.

"People in the rural areas should take advantage of the growing eco tourism industry instead," said Chong who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment minister.

He was asked to comment on the pleas of the people living in rural areas who face all kinds of problems because of bad roads, especially during bad weather.

"If all our roads are sealed and the journey is smooth, these tourists might as well stay home as these are the road conditions in their own country," he said.

Chong said the people should look into how they can benefit from eco tourism instead of asking from better infrastructure.

Courtesy of: New Sabah Times

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kuching to get more air linkages with completion of airport

KUCHING - The Transport Ministry will work closely with the Sarawak government to get more air linkages upon the completion of upgrading works on the Kuching International Airport (KIA), which has the capacity to handle five million passengers annually.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said Monday the RM620 million-project, including the new wing of the terminal building and runaway extension, was scheduled for completion by March 2008.

"At present the airport (KIA), which is meant to handle only an annual passenger volume of three million, is already very congested, with 3.4 million using it last year," he told reporters after launching the operational transfer of KIA's new wing, which is expected to be completed by April this year, several months ahead of schedule.

Those present included Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who is also State Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister, Regional and Rural Development Minister Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin and businessman Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing, adviser for Global Upline Sdn Bhd, the turnkey contractor.

Chan said the federal government would assist the state's efforts to develop its economy, including the tourism industry, by attracting additional air linkages at the various gateways throughout Sarawak.

At present, he said, SilkAir has been operating in Sarawak since last year with four Kuching-Singapore direct flights weekly, via a Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines code-sharing basis.

He said up to 5.3 million passengers annually were expected to use the upgraded KIA by 2012, making it the third largest in the country, in terms of passenger volume.

Based on statistics, this would see an anticipated increase of seven per cent every year from 3.4 million last year, he said.

He said KIA was a major gateway to Sarawak by tourists and investors by air besides being a "first impression" on the rich ethnic and cultural heritage.

The project, with the capacity to accommodate B-747 aircraft operations, is expected to provide closer link and direct connections with international destinations for the tourism and business industries, he said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Lawas in Sarawak turns into model town


SARAWAK’S northern-most urban centre – Lawas – which is located next to the state’s border with Sabah and Brunei, has always fascinated first-time visitors with its cleanliness and well-planned environment.

Not many people would expect a town so far away from the state capital – Lawas is 1,200km from Kuching – to be well organised and developed.

In the 1970s and even up to the early 1990s, Lawas, together with nearby Limbang (both Lawas and Limbang are in the same Limbang division), had the notorious reputation for being sin capitals of Sarawak.

Lawas town is well structured and clean. Prostitution, sleazy pubs, massage parlours, dirty eateries and rundown motels were a norm in these border towns.

Today, both towns have seen a total transformation following a decade of extensive urban redevelopment and reengineering.

Hundreds of millions of ringgit was invested from 1995 to develop residential estates, agriculture projects, new shops, commercial centres and roads.

There have also been moves to develop hinterland tourism destinations like the Ba’Kelalan and Bario highlands located between six to nine hours by road from Lawas.

The efforts have produced remarkable results. Lawas is now a little model town.

It is clean and free of traffic jams even though it has a population of about 35,000 and a “floating population” of about 10,000 travellers daily who move between Lawas and Brunei as well as Lawas and Sabah.

The rundown and dirty motels have been transformed into nice little inns and tourist-class hotels with decent modern facilities.

Simple and friendly highland folk from the Lun Bawang minority group in Lawas.
Eateries and restaurants, which cater to both Muslims and non-Muslims, are big and clean and there are plenty of shops.

The road system is good, as is the public transport system.

The riverfront has been given a new look with well-maintained public parks and gardens.

Lawas River, which runs by the town, has been cleaned and it serves as a vital river transportation mode linking Lawas with neighbouring towns and villages and deep interior settlements.

The state recently outlined plans to build new housing schemes and open areas for small and medium-scale industries.

It also plans to build a new airport.

Lawas has also been earmarked as the nerve centre for interior settlements like Long Semadoh and those in the Ulu Trusan region.

The state has drawn up plans to develop the settlements into rural growth centres, and Lawas will serve as the supply area for building materials and as a logistics hub.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Flights from KK to be diverted to Miri Airport

By George Francis

MIRI - Sarawak is awaiting clearance from the Federal Ministry of Transport for international flights via Malaysia Airlines diverted from Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Miri Airport.

"This is to ensure Miri can receive the spillage of international flights' load to KK, especially tourists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea,"said Lee Kim Shin, Assistant Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications.

He said Miri Airport has adequate facility and the city is ready to accept the influx of tourists.

He said with the Miri-Kota Kinabalu connection, these tourists or holiday-makers could have an extra excursion in Miri and beyond, such as the world heritage site of Mulu Caves, to the birth place of civilisation at Niah Caves or discover underwater Miri.

On chartered flights from overseas, Lee said the local tour operators were expected to come with feasible-planning and strategy models showing the potential impact and future competition.

Meanwhile, Miri Airport is the third busiest Malaysian airports in term of commercial aircraft movement after KLIA and Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

"The airport handles an average of 230 aircraft movement, including non-schedule flights daily in 2005," said Lee.

Miri Airport recorded 42, 306 commercial aircraft movement in 2004 after KK's 55,313 and 1,6463 in KLIA.

The airport also ranked fifth in passenger movement with 1.588 million recorded last year, an increase of 8.9 per cent compared to 1.513 in 2004.

With the increase in aircraft and passenger movement, the airport will this year have another open parking apron to cater for both MAS and AirAsia, especially for any diverted aircraft to Miri from Kota Kinablau or Kuching.

The rural air service aircraft will also be using a new apron at south wing for flights to Marudi, Mulu, Bario, Limbang, Lawas and Mukah.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sarawak's bid to boost tourism through Australians


KUCHING: Sarawak has come up with repackaged tours that make it attractive for Australian tourists to spend a longer time in the state.

The new packages will lure them to visit more tourist spots, said Sarawak Tourism Board’s chief executive officer Gracie Geikie.

She said an Australian departing from Perth pays A$1,699 (RM4,757) for a five-day tour to the city, and by forking out A$300 (RM840) extra, they could stay three more days and go to the Mulu National Park, a world heritage site in northern Sarawak.

They have other choices, like extending their holidays at the scenic Damai resorts in Santubong near here.

Geikie said Malaysia Airlines, which operates twice weekly Perth-Kuching-Kuala Lumpur flights, had offered special rates to a consortium of Australian tour operators.

The national air carrier has reduced the airfares for the Kuching-Miri-Mulu sector by 40%.

Geikie said the new packages introduced two months ago had received good response as shown by the increasing number of arrivals from Australia.

Sarawak recorded over 11,000 Australian visitors in 2004, and this was estimated to jump to some 14,000 last year.

“We are targeting a 30% increase this year, in both the number of visitors and the length of their stay.

“Australians love longhouses, jungles, beaches and culture. Sarawak have all of those.

“The strong Australian currency is another plus,” Geikie told The Star yesterday.

She said that although MAS enjoyed an average 90% passenger load on the Perth-Kuching-Kuala Lumpur flights, only 9% of Australians came to Sarawak while the rest were taking their holidays in Langkawi, Penang and other places in the peninsula.

She said the board had changed its marketing strategy by meeting Australian tour operators three times a year to update them on the latest tourism products, and find out their needs and problems they faced in selling Sarawak packages.

The board is taking part in Australian consumer fairs to create greater awareness about the “Land of the Hornbill”.

Its officials will be in Perth next month for another roadshow.

Similar promotions have been held in Sydney and Melbourne. MAS operates a weekly direct flight between Sydney and Kuching.

Geikie said Sarawak was also promoting itself in China, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia.

Sarawak has recently re-branded itself from “Sarawak - the hidden paradise of Borneo” to “More than a Paradise” to stay competitive.

Source: The Star

Monday, January 09, 2006

Brunei, M'sia, Indonesia called to preserve rainforest

KOTA KINABALU - The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has proposed to the three governments of countries which share Borneo island to conserve a huge area of rainforest known as the "Heart of Borneo", Bernama reported.

WWF-Malaysia chairman Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin Tengku Mansoor said Saturday that it was important for the three governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei to work together in order to protect the 220,000 sq km rainforest, the second largest in the world after the Amazon in South America.

The forest straddles the transboundary highlands of the three countries, and reaches out from the foothills into the adjacent lowlands.

Tengku Adlin said WWF believed that conservation could be done through international cooperation by the three governments in creating a network of protected areas which were sustainably managed and supported by global efforts.

He said this after launching a WWF-Malaysia book entitled "Kogiu and the Banana Tree - In the Lower Kinabatangan".

WWF said deforestration in Borneo due to intensive logging, conversion to plantations, unsustainable subsistence farming as well as forest fires since 1996 appeared to have increased to an average of two million hectares per year.

If no effective action is taken, a recent WWF report predicted, all lowland rainforests in Kalimantan - the Indonesian part of Borneo - will disappear by 2010.

Asked on the response by the three governments to the Heart of Borneo idea mooted by WWF last year, Tengku Adlin said it was good and the issue was even discussed by delegates at the Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur last month.

On the book, he said it was meant to educate school children about the need to conserve forests and their inhabitants.

Copies of the illustrated bilingual book, in English and Bahasa Malaysia, which was authored by Ruth Lim, have been distributed free to 37 schools in the Kinabatangan district in Sabah. The book is available for sale to the general public at Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary, Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd and Borneo Books.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, January 05, 2006

AirAsia introducing Ipoh-Tawau, Kota Baru-Sandakan flights

Kuala Lumpur: AirAsia Bhd, the low-fare airline, is adding more frequencies and new routes to Ipoh, Tawau, Kota Baru and Sandakan from its hub in Johor Bahru.

In a statement here Wednesday, the airline said starting February 6 this year, it would operate four flights weekly to Ipoh and Tawau and three flights weekly to Kota Baru and Sandakan.

Besides the new routes from Johor, the airline said it would boost frequencies to several of its existing destinations, namely from Johor to Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Penang.

It would operate 10 flights a week to Kuching, 11 flights a week to Kota Kinabalu and 10 flights a week to Penang. All the flights would depart from the Senai International Airport in Johor Baru.

"The expansion of Johor Baru hub is a direct response to the overwhelming demand from the public to boost accessibility between the southern part of Malaysia with that of North and East Malaysia," said the airline's executive vice president of commercial, Kathleen Tan.

Moving forward, she said AirAsia would continue to strengthen its services and operations in Johor. The airline would deploy a second aircraft to Johor to serve the new routes and added frequencies, she added.

Source: Bernama

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Brunei's Empire Hotel voted ‘Best Host Venue' on Asian Golf Tour

Empire Hotel and Country Club has been voted "Best Host Venue" by the region's top golfers on the 2005 Asian Tour, according to a press release.

The resort topped a poll of 28 other venues on its debut as a host of the Asia's premier professional golf tournament.

Key voting criteria for the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course overlooking the South China Sea were the course, facilities, caddies and staff.

Australian Terry Pilkadaris, who won the inaugural Brunei Golf Open, said, "This is the best place, golf course and hotel wise, that we've been too. It's beautiful."

The Asian Tour returns to the Empire Hotel and Country Club in 2006, on August 24-27.

Empire Hotel general manager Anne Busfield said, "We are delighted the Asian Tour players enjoyed their visit and look forward to welcoming them back in 2006."

Another recent sporting celebrity guest, Formula One racing driver Jenson Button, also named the Empire Hotel and Country Club as his favourite hotel in the world in an interview.

Designed by one of the world's golfing greats, Brunei's top golf course is rated among the best in Asia with lush, scenic fairways catering for golfers at every level. The par 71 championship is considered a "thinker's" challenge with tight fairways and fast greens skirted by jungle, cavernous ravines and a lot of water.

The resort has been collecting regional and international awards since it opened and was voted "Best New Resort" by Travel Trade Gazette Asia in 2001. TTG Asia subsequently named Empire Hotel in as "Best Independent Hotel", and in 2004 and 2005 as the region's "Best Resort Hotel".

Competing on the global stage in the prestigious World Travel Awards, the Empire Hotel and Country Club has been named "Asia's Leading Resort", "Brunei's Leading Hotel", "Asia's Leading Golf Resort" and, for three consecutive years, the "World's Leading Presidential Suite" for its breathtaking Emperor Suite, which is one of the world's largest at 666 square metres and has its own private indoor swimming pool and self-contained cinema.

Source: Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sabah expects over two million tourists in 2006


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah expects to receive more than two million tourists this year.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang said the estimate was based on the significant increase in tourist arrivals in 2005.

Some 1.5 million tourists visited Sabah between January and October last year, more than the 1.4 million recorded during the whole of 2004.

Karim said the state government through the ministry have carried out various promotions to attract tourists especially from Australia, China and countries in the Asian region.

He added that more comprehensive promotions would be organised during the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 to attract more tourists to the country, especially Sabah.

Karim also stressed the need for everyone including non-governmental organisations and those in the tourism industry to be courteous and friendly in effort to attract more tourists to the state.

“The people must support the government’s efforts in developing the tourism industry which is contributing towards economic development through the inflow of foreign exchange,” he said.

“And we must help realise the objectives of Visit Malaysia Year 2007,” he added.

Meanwhile, Karim said the Kuala Lumpur-Sandakan and Kuala Lumpur-Tawau flights operated by AirAsia would also help bring more tourists to Sabah.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Tourism plan for Gaya Island


KOTA KINABALU: Plans are afoot to make Pulau Gaya another tourist spot in Sabah.

Putatan MP Datuk Dr Marcus Mojigoh said the federal government was planning to develop the island for tourism under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

Presently, he said the island was not attractive for promotion by tourism operators.

“The island has historical values that might prove attractive to tourists. It was once the hiding place of Mat Salleh, our famous warrior who fought the British in the late 1800s,” he said.

“He burned down the little town built on the island in 1878,” he added.

Dr Marcus visited Pulau Gaya with the Sabah Federal Development director Dato Ismail Haji Wadin and City Hall’s development department director, Alijus Haji Sipil.

They were shown the site where the town once stood.

According to him, a memorial could be built at the site to showcase the historical photographs and artefacts to lure tourists.

“The Mat Salleh historical sites elsewhere in the state had attracted a lot of tourists and I think the one on the island can attract tourists as well,” he added.

Meanwhile, Alijus said City Hall has received RM$1 million from the state government to install a garbage disposal system on the island.

He also said the island’s plan, which included housing lots and a road system (50 kilometres in length) to connect all the villages was already completed.

“But we are still studying the cost to implement the plan,” he said

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Higher fee for foreign visitors to Sabah Museum Complex


FOREIGN visitors to the Sabah Museum Complex are forking out more in entrance fees with effect of Jan 1.

The fee for foreigners is RM15, RM10 more compared to the previous rate of RM5, a museum statement said.

However, the entrance fee of RM2 for Malaysians remains unchanged.

The new fee for foreigners is also being imposed at Agnes Keith House in Sandakan and Batu Tulug Museum in Kinabatangan.

However, entrance is free for the public visiting several historical and archaeological sites under the care of Sabah Museum.

These include Sandakan Heritage Museum and Tun Abdul Razak Memorial both in Sandakan, Bukit Tengkorak in Semporna, Murut Cultural Museum in Kampung Pulong, Tenom, Datu Paduka Mat Salleh Memorial in Kampung Tibabar, Tambunan, and Panoramic Mansion House in Kinarut

The entrance fee for the musuem was introduced in 2001 and the increase was aimed at assisting it in plans to upgrade exhibitions and facilities to make it a key tourist attraction.

The upgrades include restructuring the main entrance to the Science Centre that houses Sabah Art Gallery and galleries on broadcasting technology, railway technology and Shell petroleum.

The museum is holding an exhibition on the Atkinson Clock Tower that features several photographs and write-ups on the history of Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), named after a district officer who served the British Government in North Borneo (Sabah).

The museum complex is open daily from 9am to 5pm, except Fridays.

Source: The Star

Monday, January 02, 2006

Chinese translator services to begin at 4 Malaysian airports including Sabah

By Arman Gunsika

KOTA KINABALU - International airports in four states, including Sabah, will provide Mandarin-fluent translator services beginning January 3.

The service, previously only provided at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport will also be made available at the immigration check-in counters at the international arrival halls in Sarawak, Penang and Johor.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho said efforts are currently underway to ascertain the exact number of translators required to be stationed at the international airport in Langkawi. As for the KLIA, the number of translators will be increased by five to a total of 21 this year.

"Eight local Chinese translators have been hired on six-month contracts to work at each of four international airports.

"They will be working on shift to help arriving Chinese to go through the processing of travel documentation beside introducing them to tourist attractions in the respective states," he told newsmen after presenting appointment letters to new translators here.

Tan said the translators will be plain-clothed but wearing jackets and nametags to make it easy for Chinese tourists to identify and approach them.

He said the ministry will look into including them as staff of government services, so as to make it a permanent job. The extension of professional translator services is very important part of the government's efforts to attract the Chinese tourists.

It followed the controversial ear-squat incident at a police state in the peninsula, which came to surface in November last year and affected the total number of Chinese tourist arrivals in the country, dropping by about 48 per cent or about 300,000 tourists.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin