Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sabah Fishermen’s Festival at Weston starting 8 March

KOTA KINABALU: Weston in Sabah’s south west is set to play host to a grand fishermen's tamu festival or Pesta Tamu Besar Nelayan next month.

The four-day event, which starts on March 8, will see an attempt by fishermen and their families trying to weave their way into the Malaysia Book of Records by making the country's largest nipah mat measuring 60m in breadth and 80m in length.

It is the second time that fishermen in the sleepy tiny town, about 140km from Kota Kinabalu, are making a bid to get into the national record book.

Last year, they got themselves in the record book by making the biggest bubu, a bamboo fish trap.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman will launch the event on March 10.

Other highlights at the festival are a concert, a parachute demonstration by the Royal Malaysian Air Force, sea sports, fishermen pastime games, remote control boat demonstration and karaoke contest.

Source: The Star

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pedalling across Borneo

SANDAKAN: Englishman Cliff Sore is set to complete a 1,700km cycling journey across Borneo.

The 59-year-old Sore from Newcastle arrived in this east coast Sabah town for his final leg of his journey to Tawau, that saw him cycle all the way from Kuching in Sarawak to Brunei and to Labuan and Sabah over the past three weeks.

“I just love to cycle. I picked Borneo because it was a good challenge to cover the island,” said Sore.

Starting off in Kuching on February 1, Sore cycled to Sibu then to Brunei, Labuan, Menumbok, Beaufort, Tenom, Tambunan, Ranau and arrived here on Feb 21 where he spent time visiting the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.

He will end his journey today.

For Sore, who served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) at the Labuan Air Base in 1966, it was his first visit back to Borneo after 40 years.

“My stopover in Labuan is sort of a trip down memory lane.

“It is remarkable. It has changed incredibly due to the development that has taken place over the years,” he said.

Sore said he cycled around a spot on the island where it used to be a sandy track in 1966 but now it is a dual carriageway.

He said the scene of the beautiful Mount Kinabalu was simply breathtaking.

His only disappointment during the journey was losing his bag that contained three rolls of films and spare parts for his bicycle.

“The bag fell off from my bicycle along a stretch of the collapsed Tambunan - Ranau Road without me being aware of it.

“By the time I found out, I cycled back for nearly 16 KM but couldn’t find it,” Sore said.

Asked if he had problems communicating with the locals in countries that he has been to, Sore said he was amazed to find that most people he met while cycling from Sarawak to Sabah spoke English.

“This is unlike certain places in Eastern Europe, the Himalayas and Thailand where communicating with the local people is sometimes done using sign language because they don’t speak English,” Cliff said.

The retired father of two children, passes time taking up long cycling trips, photographs and camping.

Sore retired from the RAF in 1969 and joined a US based company before retiring in 2002.

He now works part time with a bicycle shop in his hometown.

Sore, who owns five bicycles, said that he covers about 1,600kms a year in trips to various countries, with his next trip to the Himalayas.

Source: The Star

Empire promotes Brunei as golfing destination

The Empire Hotel & Country Club welcomed a group comprising Senior Management from seven golf operators in Indonesia recently. The group was on a familiarisation trip to Brunei to have a first-hand experience of the Sultanate in order to promote it as an exciting golfing destination, a press release from The Empire Hotel & Country Club stated.

The group was headed by Mr Balachandran C, Country Manager from Royal Brunei Airlines based in Indonesia with representatives from Shilla Tour, Rotama Tour, Monas Tours and Travel, Aerogolf, Birdi Tour and Graha Wisata.

The visitors were welcomed on arrival at The Empire Hotel by the hotel's Sales Manager, Olivia Teo.

They later enjoyed a tour of the hotel and had the opportunity to experience a round of golf at the hotel's stunning floodlit 18-hole championship Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

While in Brunei, they also visited key tourist attractions as well as Royal Brunei Golf & Country Club in order to learn more about Brunei and golf in Brunei to effectively promote the country as an ideal golfing destination to the Indonesian market.

"The Empire Hotel & Country Club's golf course is a truly outstanding course. We will definitely promote it to our clients especially as an ideal course for golf tournaments," said Danny Limarga of Shilla Tour.

The Empire Hotel & Country Club recognises the importance and potential of leisure tourism from the Indonesian market and with Royal Brunei Airlines direct flights to Indonesia five times a week, it is hoped that through efforts such as this familiarisation trip, more from Indonesia will venture to Brunei for holidays.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sabah on bird flu alert

KOTA KINABALU - All veterinary officers in Sabah have been told to carry out inspections on farms breeding chickens and other birds statewide following a report that seven chickens were found dead in Kampung Bukit Permai, Menggatal, yesterday.

State Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail said the immediate measure was crucial in ensuring Sabah remains free of bird flu, Bernama reported.

"We've sent officers to Kampung Bukit Permai to take samples and bring them to a test laboratory in Kepayan.

"Even though the test result is negative, we've to take precautionary measures. I want all veterinary officers to inspect all areas that keep chickens stage by stage," he said.

Besides that, bird controls and inspections at all entry points in Sabah would be tightened, he added.

Abdul Rahim also said Putrajaya yesterday informed the state authority of a report about the death of over 150 chickens in Kuala Penyu.

"Once informed, two special teams comprising veterinary officers, were rushed to Kuala Penyu but they have not been able to locate the farm. Probably it was a hoax," he said.

He advised the public not to worry as the ministry was closely monitoring the situation and would take all efforts to deal with the possible spread of bird flu to Sabah.

He said the ministry planned to organise a simulation session involving various government departments including the customs and immigration in the middle of next month in Tawau to strengthen the cooperation in preventing an outbreak of bird flu.

Meanwhile, migratory birds stopping to feed in the Buntal Peninsula, about 40km from Kuching and near the popular Santubong beaches, were found free of avian flu in a recent census.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Food Tourism - Bliss for food lovers in Brunei

By Jon Tampoi

The word 'tourism' can quite often be misjudged, misinterpreted and even mislead. Tourism is a word which means the theory and practice of touring or travelling for pleasure as well as a business of attracting and providing services to tourists.

Brunei Darussalam, despite it being small, can truly offer such a place and more to visitors and locals. With the attraction of tourism it can help generate the local economy to develop and support the country and its people as a whole.

The most unnoticed tourism hot-spot is the food industry, especially the local eateries which continues to grow dramatically. One of the country's most popular social activities is eating. Believe it or not, Bruneians generally love good food and there are numerous selections of eateries from western to eastern styled food to suit everyone's taste. Most of the food available in the country is halal unless mentioned.

One of the new eatery establishments that is highly recommended for locals and visitors is 'Charcoal'. The restaurant specialises in grilled and barbeque food as well as baked cuisines. The cosy ambience of the restaurant is great for families and patrons of all ages. The food prepared are moderately priced. They even have a signature dish which is recommended for patrons to try.

The restaurant is child-friendly as the place is decked with 'cushioned furniture' that are placed strategically. Even the beverages have a personal twist to them. It is a place for anyone who appreciates the art of food.

If such ambience does not suit your taste but open space is much preferred without the need of etiquette, the open-air market located across the Terrace Hotel in the Capital is the place to go. Open from 6pm to 2am. The food, priced from cheap to moderate, is prepared daily to customers' requests using various styles of cooking which are prepared and cooked with care in terms of hygiene and cleanliness.

However, if one is a weight-watcher, refrain from eating at the market, as the choices of food are immense as well as sinfully delicious. There is an endless selection of fast food, western food and Asian food.

The open-air market promises not to burn a hole in your pocket and you can also enjoy the beautiful night sky while eating.

Another regular spot for family dinning is Pizza Hut. As a healthy fast food outlet, Pizza Hut can offer a variety of starters, meals, pizza flavours and desserts.

Yet, if one prefers Asian cuisine with a western twist, Nyonya is the best place to go. The salmon steak accompanied with garlic rice is excellent and fried to taste.

Only a few mentioned, the great variety of food available in the country is great enough to start the attraction of food tourism.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Aussie city keen to learn from KK’s tourism success

KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu’s tourism success has caught the attention of an Australian city official.

Rockingham mayor Barry Sammels is keen to learn from Kota Kinabalu City administrators on their secrets in making the city a successful tourist destination.

“We want to learn from Kota Kinabalu on its success and gain from its expertise in tourism marketing and infrastructure development,” said Sammels.

Rokingham is about 47km southwest of Perth.

Rockingham and Kota Kinabalu were geographically similar with beaches and natural assets, he said, but the 87-year-old city remained relatively “new” in development of tourism.

Sammels, who led an eight-member delegation to Sabah where he met Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Illiyas Ibrahim, said he was impressed by approaches taken by City Hall in developing Sabah’s capital into a major tourism hub.

“It is a beautiful city, the weather is good, the hotels are beautiful and there are so many things for tourists to do here. This is exactly how we intend to promote tourism in Rockingham,” he added.

Both Sammels and Iliyas, in their discussions earlier this week, exchanged information on social impact, business development, infrastructure planning, service delivery, health and waste management and re-cycling.

Source: The Star

Friday, February 24, 2006

Clearing negative image of Malaysia for Chinese tourists

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - A group of some 100 Chinese media personnel and 20 representatives from Southern Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines were invited to the country to "rebuild the tourism image of Malaysia, after a series of negative publicity" last year.

The group, divided into splinter groups, were then flown to every states nationwide and 25 flew to Sarawak on Monday for a two-day stay here. They arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 17 and would be flying back to China on Feb 26.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) executive marketing officer Catherine Lau said that the tourism industry's aim - apart from the prompt public relations taken to remedy the bad press that arose from the alleged police ill treatment given to a Chinese woman who later turned out to be a Malaysian - was also to lure the Chinese airlines to fly direct to Sarawak.

"Our aim is very importantly to have, at least, one direct flight (from China) coming to Sarawak. We want to showcase to them that Malaysia, and in particular, Sarawak, is a harmonious place with plenty of tourist attractions," she said.

Lau, who is in charge of STB's marketing in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Middle East and Taiwan, said according to statistics, the tourist arrivals from China has also increased with 7,000 more Chinese visiting Sarawak last year compared to 2004.

The 25-media group, meanwhile, was brought to various place of interests in the city, including a media dinner to meet and mingle with the local press here on Tuesday.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sarawak Tourism wins two top PATA awards

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board bagged two gold awards in the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) 2006 competition.

Its submission, The Rainforest World Music Festival, won the heritage and culture gold medal.

The board also won in the travel poster category for its entry Sarawak Paradise.

State Assistant Minister for Tourism Hamden Ahmad said the award presentation would be held during the 55th PATA annual conference in Pattaya, Thailand, on April 24.

Sarawak’s five entries were among more than 200 submitted to PATA for 31 awards.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tasek Merimbun: a wildlife paradise of Brunei

The tranquil paradise of Tasek Merimbun offers a safe haven for
wildlife and is a most relaxing site for nature enthusiasts. Photo by Samhan

By Meiji & Hj Bahrin HB

Once, Tasek Merimbun was a paradise for wildlife with its waters infested with crocodiles, thousands of flying foxes, water birds and many species, which have become extinct or had migrated due to human intervention.

Archaeological evidence indicated Tasek Merimbun was occupied for the last 500 years.

Now, this outstanding Asean Heritage Park is now on the road to recovery.

Recent observations by the Brunei Museums staff had shown that the shy crocodiles are showing up in numbers around their boat during the night spotlighting survey. Hundreds of egrets, herons and oriental darters are now roosting by the lake.

Tasek Merimbun demonstrates a wholesome ecological processes and it has the capability to regenerate with minimal human intervention.

The site embodies the variety of ecosystems or species representing the typical Asean region. Most part of the park is in natural condition where the formation of the natural processes is still going on. The site is recognised with regional significance for the conservation of important or valuable species, ecosystems or genetic resources. It creates or promotes awareness of the importance of nature, biodiversity and the ecological process; it evokes nature whenever people see it.

This site plays a role in providing nutrients, materials or support for species, especially migratory ones, to the region as a whole. Both ecological processes and natural resources, which contribute to the maintenance of species or ecosystem, are often beyond natural boundaries.

This site possesses special features that could not be seen in any other site. It demonstrates the harmonious relationships between culture and ecology and also as the habitat of important or endangered flora or fauna.

The Maroon Langurs of the species Presbytis rubicunda and the Pied Hornbills of the species Anthrococeros coronatus were locally habituated by a few of the regular Brunei Museums staff at the park.

Rarely in one single conservation area, all eight species of hornbills found in Borneo can be found here indicating that Tasek Merimbun is still maintaining the incorporation of the key species that reflect the best and healthy tropical rainforest ecosystem in this region.

Report & Photo Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Bario: Land Of The Friendly Kelabits

By Harlina Samson

BARIO, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- Bario, which means "wind" in Kelabit, is a remote plateau in Sarawak's northeast that stands at about 1,150m above sea level.

Almost entirely surrounded by densely-forested highlands, some rising to as high as 2,400m above sea level including Sarawak's highest peak Mount Murud, the air over Bario is always cool.

The temperature ranges between 16 and 25 degrees Celsius. However on some occasions it can dip to as low as 11 degrees and it is advisable to wear some warm clothing as it can be very "unpleasant" as the evening approaches.

Bario is about 50 minutes by air from Miri or 40 minutes from Marudi. Malaysia Airlines, via its Rural Air Service, operates nine flights a week to Bario from Miri and Marudi, using the 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft.

Another way to reach this valley of the highlands is a tortuous journey through leech and mosquito-infested jungles from Marudi, Bario's closest town or Ba'Kelalan, which is about 60km away.


The Bario plateau is the home of the highly industrious Kelabits and the source of the highly popular, sweet aroma and high fibre Bario rice apart from the area's "signature" sweet and sugary pineapples.

A brief stay in a longhouse in Pa' Bangar, owned by Muslim convert Mustapha Raja, gave some insight into a Kelabit family's daily routine.

Mustapha's daughter Zaharah or Bulan as she is fondly known among the local community and her elder brother, Abdul Halim or Ben are busy with their daily chores.

This means taking orders and supplying rations for a nearby army camp and school, getting provisions from the airstrip and harvesting pineapples before sending the tropical fruits to Miri and nearby settlements.

"This is our routine. Most of the time I would be around here, carrying out my father's tasks as he is always on the move to Marudi, Ba' Kelalan, Miri and nearby areas," said the 29-year-old mother of two daughters, whose husband is working in Miri as a diver.

Abdul Halim, 30, said despite Bario's remoteness and under development, the Kelabits are happy and contented with the valley's natural beauty and feel that it should not be disturbed.


"It may be a land of hardship as there is no proper roads ... we have an unsurfaced route which is only good enough for light motorised vehicles, enabling the people to reach the schools, shops and airstrip as well as areas as far as Pa' Umor and Pa' Ukat," he said.

However basic amenities are available in this valley. There are two schools, a clinic, an immigration office and a police station manned by skeleton staff as well as 12 shops, wet market and food stalls.

There are three pay phones that can be used to make calls during emergencies -- one at the airstrip and the other two at a shop and the secondary school. There is also a public phone that can only receive calls.

Abdul Halim said as there is no public transport in Bario, pick-up trucks are used to transport goods while motorcycles are the preferred choice of locals to move around.

Most longhouses and the two schools use portable diesel or petrol-powered electric generators for lighting while others use solar panels as there is no power supply in Bario.


For newcomers, they could feel the warmth and friendliness exuding from the Kelabits, as early as when they set foot at the Bario airstrip. And one may have the impression that they are not among strangers after seeing the smiles and greetings from the villagers.

Going around Bario's villages namely Ulung Palang, Pa' Ramapuh, Arur Layun, Arur Dalan and Pa' Umor, everyone met would stop to say hello while those riding motorcycles would raise their hands or nod their heads as a sign of greetings and courtesy.

A hospitable and friendly person is highly respected and valued by the Kelabits, said Zaharah, adding that the locals consider it rude if hospitality is not offered to any longhouse visitor.

"... and members of the community are expected to at least greet one another," she said.

The Kelabits are one of the state's 26 ethnic groups.

Bario community leader Pemanca Ngimat Ayu, 84, said there are more than 6,000 Kelabits in Sarawak and about 1,500 are in Bario. The rest have sought better life in the petroleum-producing town of Miri.

Ngimat said most of those living in Bario are from the older generation, easily recognisable as they bear the traditional Kelabit tattoos, elongated and pierced earlobes as well as heavy brass or hornbill-ivory earrings.

One of them is Maran Ratu, 94. He is still strong and commutes regularly on foot to the town from his Ulung Palang longhouse.


"I can still walk for hours," said Maran Ratu, sporting a wide grin while showing his elongated and pierced earlobes, apart from the heavy brass earrings.

Ngimat said the younger men and women have forsaken the Kelabit tradition of having tattoos and pierced ear lobes. Nowadays they are only noticed as Kelabits when they speak their mother tongue.

The Kelabits live in individual houses or longhouses in 17 villages and most of them plant paddy, pineapples, pumpkins, beans and other tropical fruits. They are also good hunters and fishermen.

They are predominantly Christians, with many of them still leading their traditional way of life in inherited longhouses. There are three Muslim families, including Zaharah's.

Bario's strongpoint, apart from its natural beauty, is the friendliness and hospitality of the Kelabits, making the valley a "must visit" place for tourists in Sarawak.

In a month, there are about 20 to 30 visitors in Bario and this number swells to hundreds during peak seasons.


Bario's remoteness seems to work more to its advantages than the otherwise. It is the site of the "e-Bario" cyberspace programme, Sarawak's pilot Rural Internet Project to link the state's remote areas to the rest of the world.

The e-Bario, launched five-years ago, is a project under the collaboration of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Canadian Government's International Development Research Council (IDRC) and Mimos Berhad.

As part of the Government's e-community initiative, e-Bario is an attempt to get rural settlements connected.

Housed in the Gatuman-Bario telecentre, the effort is a huge success but is continously plagued by power problems due to irregular supply of diesel.

Last year's price hike of gasoline had brought more misery to Bario folks as petrol, diesel and kerosene are sold at RM32 a gallon or RM8 a litre. To further compound the hardship, the fuel is always in short supply.

The cost of living in Bario is very high as all the necessities have to be flown in and this made their prices to "triple".

Sugar is sold at RM4.50 a kg, while a 14kg cylinder of cooking gas is priced at a "whopping" RM120 to RM180 (inclusive of the cylinder). Hence, the traditional way of cooking is still very much alive in Bario.


The hardship aside, Bario offers a different kind of living experience to outsiders and tourists.

Owner of De Plateu Lodge, Douglas Munney Bala said Bario is fast gaining a reputation as a tourist destination.

Munney said tourism provide a good source of income for the locals who are hired as guides for tourists who wished to venture to Bario's exotic spots such as the Pa' Umur salt springs, Pulung Tau, Batu Lawi and Mount Murud.

Tourists can experience activities such as jungle trekking, sports fishing and hunting, sight-seeing, longhouse visits, longboat trips and traditional farming.

"It is a great retreat for those from the urban areas who seek a serene atmosphere apart from tranquility and relaxation," he said.

There are several lodging houses adopting the Kelabit longhouse homestay style namely the Bariew Backpacker Lodge, Labang Homestay, De Plateu Lodge and several others.

For tourists and adventure-seekers, Bario is an eco-tourism haven not to be missed.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sabah zoo taking shape

By Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: After nearly a decade in the making, Sabah’s first zoo has taken shape with a collection of unique animals including the Borneo pygmy elephant and proboscis monkey.

Sabah Zoological and Botany Park at Lok Kawi, 15km from the state capital, is likely to be opened by the middle of this year.

“There are some more things to be done but work on preparing the zoo and its exhibits have turned out very well,” State Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Karim Bujang said.

Located on an 113ha site, the zoo features viewing platforms for elephants, orang utan, wild buffalo, proboscis monkeys, tigers and binturong or local wild cats.

The zoo to be operated by Sabah Wildlife Department is also equipped with an aviary featuring dozens of local bird species including the colourful hornbill.

Among those who toured the zoo recently were Putatan MP Datuk Marcus Mojigoh who suggested that the facility be opened on a trial basis to get public feedback.

After spending more than two hours walking around the zoo with department director Mahedi Andau and his deputy Laurentius Ambu, Marcus suggested a children’s park to make it more attractive for families.

“This will encourage more families to visit the zoo,” he said, adding that the department should provide adequate information on the animals.

Source: The Star

Monday, February 20, 2006

Encouraging response to MAS fair in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu: An encouraging number of enquiries and bookings were recorded within the first two days of the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Travel Fair in Sabah.

MAS' Government Sales/ Corporate Communication Co-ordinator for Sabah, Elizabeth Chong, said their ticketing office in Kota Kinabalu alone received over 100 enquiries and bookings as of noon Saturday.

Besides regulars and walk-in customers, foreign students of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) preparing to go home for their holidays after completing their upcoming exams are also taking advantage of the value-for-money offers.

With "Great Deals, So Easy To Book" as tagline, this year's travel fair being held simultaneously nationwide from Feb 17 to 26 offers a total of five million seats for travel between March 1 and June 30.

This works out to an average of 41,000 seats (on offer) per day for the four-month travel duration. These seats are for single journeys and can be combined for return trips, payable at attractive fare levels. The seats are also available as special Golden Holiday packages offered during the travel fair period.

The promotional offers range from 20 per cent to 70 per cent lower than the current market rates in the country.

A UMS student, Tian Yang, from Shanxi Province in northern China, described the travel fair as timely for foreign students who are going back home for a two-month holiday after exams between March and April.

Tian, who is in his first year accounting studies, was among a group of 11 Chinese students of UMS at the MAS ticketing office in Karamunsing, here, Saturday.

He said he and his friends would only be paying about RM1,000 (excluding tax) per person for return air tickets between Kota Kinabalu and Shanghai during the travel fair period, which is cheaper by about RM500 compared to the normal fare rate.

One MAS regular customer, Darno Manggal, meanwhile, hoped such travel fairs could be organised more often.

The manager of Angkatan Hebat Motor Sdn Bhd often brings his wife, Evelyn @ Azizah Abdullah and their two children for holidays overseas.

Darno said he spent about RM2,800 for return airfare between Kota Kinabalu and Cebu, Philippines for four persons under the travel fair packages, which is lesser by about 45 per cent compared to about RM4,800 under the normal fare rate.

This year's travel fair is an extension of the 'Going Beyond Expectations' campaign to demonstrate MAS' commitment towards seeking new avenues to deliver the MAS brand experience to customers.

The MAS' inaugural travel fair was held on Feb 14-15, 2004 at Mid-valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur. It attracted more than 120,000 visitors who purchased products and services worth almost RM70 million from MAS, its code share partners, other airlines and travel agents.

Last year, it was held at four locations - Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu - garnering a staggering total sales volume of RM115 million, exceeding the national carrier's earlier target of RM100 million.

Those in the country wanting to make bookings can contact MAS' 24-hour Call Centre at 1-300-88-3000, while customers worldwide can purchase these value-for-money deals through MAS' website www.malaysiaairlines.com

Source: Daily Express

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sabah's CM to US envoy: 2 million tourists can't be wrong

Sabah's Chief Minister Datuk Musa Hj. Aman urged the United States to consider lifting the travel advisory cautioning its citizens to refrain from visiting Malaysia, particularly the east coast of Sabah.

"While I understand that the US Government is just fulfilling its obligations to its citizens, I hope they will consider lifting this advisory," he said during a courtesy call by US Ambassador to Malaysia, Christopher La Fleur, at the Chief Minister's official residence in Sri Gaya, Friday.

He said Sabah consistently received tourists from all over the world including those from Western Europe, Australia, China, Japan, and Korea as well as the US.

"When they visit us, they are quite surprised. The situation here does not reflect what is being implicated in the advisory. They find Sabah to be very safe."

He said if Sabah has a real security problem, the tourists would not come and return for subsequent visits.

"Last year alone, some two million visitors came here and we expect the numbers keep on increasing.

The CM added that the State was actually experiencing a problem of not having enough hotel rooms to accommodate the rising number of tourists.

He said the country's vigilant security forces are constantly patrolling Sabah waters and its surrounding islands and hence the security situation was well under control.

Sabah has a multiracial society whereby at least 32 ethnic groups coexist in peace and harmony.

"I think the United States need to reevaluate the situation and consider lifting the travel advisory."

Musa also took the opportunity to inform Christopher on some of the major projects happening in the State, including the development of the Palm Oil Industrial Clusters and the upgrading of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

He said Sabah offered numerous opportunities to investors due to its abundant natural resources and a strategic plan for economic development by a politically stable government.

"With political stability and unity, it is easier to plan and implement development plans for the benefit of the people."

The Ambassador said he was impressed by the diversity of the environment in Sabah.

"I have seen a little more of Sabah and I am impressed with what I have seen. The range of things to see in Sabah is impressive."

Christopher who is on his first working visit here, said he has met with various government officials and business people as well as members from WWF, Malaysia.

"Personally I want more Americans to come here. We will work on removing the travel advisory."

However, he said the US Government was obligated to caution its citizens from travelling to areas where there were reports of instability.

He also said the United States would like to contribute to the establishment of the proposed transnational park in Borneo.

"Borneo as an island has some of the richest biodiversity in the world. There is potential of greater cooperation not just economically but environmentally too."

Source: Daily Express

Saturday, February 18, 2006

London's ‘Top Afternoon Tea' in Brunei Darusallam

By Huraizfah Ahmad

London's renowned Top Afternoon Tea venue has arrived at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.

The authentic 'Dorchester Afternoon Tea' will be available at the Lobby Lounge on February 17 to 26, from 3pm to 6pm.

The Dorchester in London, well known for its afternoon tea affairs at its 'Promenade,' has been named London's Top Afternoon Tea venue in 2000 and 2002 by the Tea Council of Great Britain.

Guests in Brunei can share the experience when they dine in at the Empire Hotel, which features some of Dorchester's best delights, while enjoying background music by ISB's live orchestra.

Trays of tempting favourites include warm homemade scones, a selection of French pastries, cakes, finger sandwiches- cucumber and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and smoked salmon and cream cheese and more.

The well known authentic Dorchester tea blends will also be brought in. Guests can choose from a selection of The Dorchester Blend-silvery Ceylon and golden assam, Big Red Sun- blend of full leaf teas from Kenya and Kenilworth, Paris- black tea blend with fruit, bergamot and caramel.

Guests will also have a chance to win a trip to London on board Royal Brunei Airlines and stay for five nights at the Dorchester as well as other prizes.

Members of The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Baiduri Bank cardholders and Royal Skies cardholders will also get a 10 percent discount offer for the promotion.

The Dorchester Afternoon Tea is supported by The Dorchester, Royal Brunei Airlines, Waterford Wedgewood Boutique, Crimson Square and Kristal FM.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Thursday, February 16, 2006

AirAsia flies Airbus to Kuching, Sarawak

KUCHING: AirAsia has launched its Airbus service on the Kuala Lumpur-Kuching route.

The airline flew in a group of journalists and other guests to mark the Red Devils Airbus A320's maiden flight yesterday.

State Assistant Minister for Tourism Hamden Ahmad led a traditional welcome.

Since flying to Sarawak in 2001, AirAsia has flown over three million passengers to the state.

“The airline currently operates 115 weekly flights from KLIA and Senai International Airport in Johor to Kuching, Miri, Sibu and Bintulu,” AirAsia said in a statement.

AirAsia Bhd chairman Datuk Pahamin Rajab said the airline would take delivery of one airbus a month over the next six months.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Captivated by Bajau horsemen of Kota Belud, Sabah

Visitors to this small town had a treat this weekend with the appearance of the Bajau horsemen, usually only spotted during the annual grand tamu.

Dubbed the "cowboys of the east", the Bajau are famed for their horsemanship and colourful costumes — what they wear and what they drape on their ponies.

Visitors to the Kota Belud Cultural Carnival, especially foreign tourists, were enthralled by the colourful parade, traditional dances and display of cultures. Many tried riding Bajau ponies.

The carnival began with a kenduri adat or cultural feast at the town mosque on Friday and continued with other highlights such as a traditional handicraft exhibition, traditional costume fashion show, and cultural performances and games.

The two-day event was organised to strengthen community ties and foster greater appreciation of Sabah’s diverse cultures.

While the Bajau men are famed for their horsemanship, their women are well known for their fine-woven cloth, called dastar.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"Land Below The Wind" translated into Japanese

By Jaswinder Kaur

Kota Kinabalu: It took retiree Mikio Tanaka seven years, but he never gave up the effort to translate Land Below the Wind, a pre-World War Two story on Sabah, into Japanese.

Tanaka first came across the book, originally written in English by American Agnes Newton Keith, when he was posted to Sandakan in 1964 while serving with Mitsui and Company, a trading establishment.

"I was very busy with my work then so I was unable to finish reading it. After my retirement in 1987, I started reading again and one of the books I picked up was Land Below the Wind.

"There was a Japanese edition published in 1940 but I felt that the language needed to be updated so I started translating it from the original English version. I wanted to make it easier to read," Tanaka told the New Straits Times.

Into his sixth year of translation, Tanaka contacted Natural History Publications (Sabah) publisher Datuk C.L. Chan and asked him about the possibility of having the Japanese edition printed in Sabah.

"We had a meeting and today the book is ready. I am not sure if I will ever translate another book into Japanese though. It has been a good experience and I have perhaps learned to become more patient," Tanaka, 76, said.

He expects the translated version, called Kazashimo no Kuni, to receive good response from Japanese travellers who were keen to learn more about Sabah.

Land Below the Wind has been translated into more than 10 different languages since it was written in the late 1930s. Newton Keith was the wife of Harry Keith, who served in several capacities including Conservator of Forests and Game Warden here.

The Keiths left Sabah, then known as North Borneo, in 1952 after 18 years in the State. After moving to several other countries, they settled in Canada where Newton Keith died in 1982 at the age of 81.

Sabah is known to many as the "Land Below the Wind", adapted from the title of Newton Keith’s first book.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat yesterday launched the Japanese version of the 436-page book, which retails at RM40 and will initially be available in local bookstores.

"With each reprint of the book, and now this latest translation in Japanese, the documentary of Sabah’s heritage and history is brought to life, encouraging us to preserve and share knowledge on our traditions," Chong said.

Chan said this was the second publication, printed by his company, which had been translated into Japanese. The first was Discovering Sabah.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Sabah needs 3,000 more hotel rooms

With an estimated shortage of 3,000 hotel rooms, Sabah may not be able to cope with the surge of tourists expected during Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the State’s current 12,500 rooms in 270 hotels were barely enough to accommodate last year’s 1.8 million tourists.

"About 3,000 rooms are needed immediately in Sabah."

He said the demand for rooms was expected to increase by 36 per cent every year.

To help cope with the demand, two first-class international resort chains, Club Mediteranee and Kinderland Hotels, are expected to open in Sabah soon.

"But since building a five-star establishment usually takes about 18 months, we will not be able to make it in time for the Visit Malaysia Year so we will have to look for alternatives," he said.

Speaking at a luncheon with people in the tourism industry here, Ahmad Zahid suggested that homes on the outskirts of major towns and cities offer homestays.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

5-point tourism push for Sabah, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu: The Federal Government has worked out five approaches aimed at giving more exposure to increased arrivals, particularly high-end tourists, that will spur Sabah's tourism industry to a new heights.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi said the Government was committed to developing Sabah's tourism which has more to offer than any other State in the country.

He said he had underlined five points during a discussion earlier with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, State Tourism Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat and Sabah Tourism Board Chairman, Tengku Datuk Adlin.

Speaking after visiting Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park here, Sunday, Zahid said firstly the Government hoped to improve accessibility mainly through creating more direct international flights and special chartered flights to Sabah.

Last year, Sabah received about 1.8 million tourist arrivals and generated about RM2.5 billion revenue from foreign exchange.

In this respect, Zahid said the ideal target would be to get 60 per cent of the visitors from the high-end group who would be coming as designed tourists and another 40 per cent being the back packers or foreign independent travellers.

"We have discussed with several foreign airline companies to create direct flights for target groups, especially high-end tourists," he said, adding among them are special interest group such as foreign experts working in multi-nationals through special package arrangements.

He added Sabah had been chosen as destinations for foreign holiday-makers during the summer and winter holidays as well as Nuruz holiday for Iranian tourists through special chartered flights.

"I've discussed on bringing these (flights) to Sabah with three tour companies," he said.

Secondly, he proposed that at least three international events be organised using the existing tourism products in Sabah annually.

"Including the Kinabalu Park and other products subjected to suitable themes chosen by the STB, Tourism Malaysia and spearheaded by the State Government," he said, adding this would help give more exposure and improve the level of awareness on tourism in Sabah.

The Federal Government also wants new tourism products to be created of which some actually already exist but not promoted or designed for long haul travelers.

At the same time, the existing products and related services need to be improved.

Among the products that can be further promoted to special interest groups is bird watching in Kinabalu Park where half of the 600 species of birds in Borneo can be found.

Another was to organise an international photography on the flora and fauna in Sabah, which would be able to attract more international attention.

Lastly, Zahid said the State Government agreed, in principle, to offer various tourism sites including five-star hotels and resorts, to be developed by foreign investors.

"This is subjected to what the State Government would get in return as well as the ability of the sites to attract international tourists," he said.

Zahid said this was the first of his working visits and he had chosen Sabah as the first being a special and having most diverse tourism products in the country.

He hoped to get first hand information and feedback from the State Government, especially the Chief Minister, Tourism Minister and STB itself on the industry with the view to find ways to develop it further.

"The uniqueness in Sabah is that the people and the Government are really looking forward to reach a new benchmark, especially to bring in long-haul in bound tourists," he said.

"What is important is that the community must give full support to the industry since it is a service industry. So hospitality must be given priorityÆhe income generated not only directly benefit the tourism players but also the community and the State," he said.

Earlier in Pulau Sapi, Zahid together with Tengku Adlin got a first hand experience walking underneath the sea through a tourism product called Sea Walking.

Also on hand were State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang, STB General Manager, Datuk Irene Charuruks and Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board Sabah director, Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof.

Source: Daily Express

Monday, February 13, 2006

New Adventure Vacation at "The Lost World" Maliau Basin tour package

For the adventure vacation, eco / nature tour and wildlife enthusiats, we have just added a new tour package at e-borneo.com that we hope will truly excite you.

This is a 5 days / 4 nights rainforest and wildlife adventure vacation of a lifetime, right in the middle of the aptly named "The Lost World" of Borneo.

Click Here for the tour itinerary, more information, and the Dos and Don'ts of Maliau Basin

So, where and what is Maliau Basin?

The Maliau Basin Conservation Area is situated just above the Equator in south central Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. It is adjacent to the Yayasan Sabah (Sabah Foundation) Concession Area, about 190 km from the town of Tawau on the southeast coast of Sabah and some 40 km north of the Kalimantan (Indonesian) border at between 116º 44' - 117° 3' E and 4° 41' - 4° 56' N.

For more information on Maliau Basin, its rainforest and exotic natural habitat, please visit the Yayasan Sabah web site. You can also watch the Maliau Basin, Sabah's Lost World Video Streaming from the web site.

Please also read an interesting article on Maliau Basin

Tourists expected to throng Miri for International Jazz Festival

By George Francis

MIRI - Miri International Jazz Festival, an upcoming tourism-driven music festival in this region is expected to draw a lot of visitors from neighbouring Sabah, Labuan and Brunei Darussalam to Miri City besides local Sarawakians jazz and music lovers.

Miri also has a substantial number of expatriates and some foreign tourist arrivals, including over 20 press-media and film corps from the region and overseas.

"It is a fun-filled and entertaining experience and at the same time showcasing Miri as a city of cosmopolitanism and relaxing lifestyle," said Gracie Geike, CEO of the Sarawak Tourism Board at the introduction of sponsorship for the inaugural festival - spread over a two-day period - May 12 and 13 this year.

The sponsors, include Heineken, ASTRO, Malaysia Airlines, ParkCity Everly Hotel, Unison System, Asia Eurowines, Water Gensis and Miri Guardian. Gracie said from the 1,000 ticket sale, 60 per cent are for sale outside Miri, adding, there were enthusiasm from among people in the Borneo northern region to come for the festival and enjoy themselves with families in Miri.

Tickets to the festival are priced at RM50 per person for a one-day pass and RM80 per person for a two-day pass.

"We want to give festival goers an enjoyable wholesome experience, as part of Miri City Day celebration." She expected STB team would be on a promotion tour to Bandar Seri Begawan, Seria and Kuala Belait in April.

The promotion include ads and features in international magazines like Malaysia Airline's Going Places, V-Mag, Action Asia, Virtual Malaysia and Asian Divers, Light and Easy Radio (35 spots) and four Astro channels - Astro Ria, Travel and Living, Discovery and CNN.

"The festival is very tourism-driven to present Miri, not just for culture, longhouses, caves or rainforests but music via jazz, and the people can enjoy food and scenery of Miri with their loved ones." Gracie also revealed that Malaysian Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad, who will launch Visit Malaysia Year 2007 in Berlin during the International Tourismo Bourse (ITB) next month, will also announce the Miri International Jazz Festival being included in the calendar event for May 11-12, 2007.

The 2006 festival will have a line-up of musicians from Europe, Australasia and Asia performing jazz funky Latin, oriental jazz, Carribean roots, blues, contemporary fusion, boogie woogie and more.

Four acts will perform each night in the intimacy of the Pavilion of PartyCity Everly Hotel with specially selected merchandising and food and beverage stalls, set against the backdrop of a tropical seaside setting.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A budget Borneo cruise soon

Labuan: A romantic budget cruise along the Borneo coastline and calling at ports in Sarawak, Brunei, here, and Sabah will become reality soon. The cruise designed for the not-so-rich and inspired by the success of budget airlines like Airasia, is a joint venture between Indonesian-based Pelni Lines and Labuan's Farz Services Sdn Bhd.

Operating the services would be a 1982 German-built six-deck vessel with capacity to carry 2,000 passengers and a cruising speed of 20 knots.

Among the facilities are swimming pool, karaoke, spa, fitness room, gift/drug shops, caf? movie theatre, cyber-caf?and conference room.

The ship is now undergoing renovations and expected to be ready in six months.

Speaking at a ceremony to exchange the "Letter of Intent" between the firms, Farz Services Managing Director, Hajjah Fauziah Datuk Haji Mohd Din said:

"We hope the joint venture will not only help boost the tourism industry of Indonesia and Malaysia but also stand out as a flagship of co-operation between companies of BIMP-EAGA."

"Pelni Lines had been in freighter and launch service business since 1952 while we have been in tourism. As such we felt our alliance will be ideal for tourism venture in the maritime industry."

She added that since Labuan was sitting in the centre of the Borneo coast, it be used as the hub for cruise travel. Both firms were confident that cruise travel would be a success as its budget rates would make it affordable.

The Chief Executive Officer of Pelni Lines, Siti Hajar Tumin, said to reflect the co-operation between the Indonesian and Malaysian companies, the name of the cruise vessel would be "Pel-Faz".

She said the cruise would operate on a rotation basis between two sectors - the Borneo coastline and Sulawesi island. The vessel would be based in Sulawesi port to cater to the 30 million population in the area.

She said people would have the opportunity to enjoy cruise to a further region meaning from Sulawesi to Borneo coastline and vice versa.

On the background of the company, she said that it had invested about US$240 million (RM800m) in the public service sector related to marine transportation and had four semi-containers and 28-passenger ferry launches operating in Indonesia.

The joint venture is co-ordinated by Lt Col (RTD) Haji Rosli Bin Mohd Ariff, Chairman of Brunei-based AGRA Sdn Bhd.

Source: Daily Express

Saturday, February 11, 2006

SilkAir adds two more flights from Singapore to KK

Kota Kinabalu: SilkAir will operate two additional flights between Singapore and here next month to bring the frequency to four times a week.

The addition comes just two months after introducing its twice-weekly direct service on Mondays and Fridays.

The additional flights on Wednesdays and Sundays would offer customers in Singapore and Sabah more seats, flexibility in planning their travels and also enhance onward connection possibilities on the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group's global network.

The airline plans to introduce a fifth service from June onwards. The services will be code-shared with SIA and Malaysia Airlines.

SilkAir's inaugural service to Kota Kinabalu was launched with much fanfare on Dec. 12 last year.

"The interest in our flights has been positively overwhelming. We are not surprised, given Sabah's well-deserved reputation as one of the region's most richly exciting destinations," said Mike Barclay, SilkAir's Chief Executive in a statement, Thursday.

"The additional services are reflective of our confidence and commitment to growing demand for travel to Sabah, not just from Singapore but also from points beyond Singapore," he said, referring to potential visitors from the many points in the combined SilkAir-SIA network of 92 international destinations.

Operating schedules for the additional frequencies are pending regulatory approvals and would be announced later.

Meanwhile, for the third quarter ending Dec. 31, last year, SilkAir flew 360,032 customers, its highest record for any quarter, up 18.8 per cent over the same period last year.

December last year was the obvious topper with 134,173 passengers, its highest ever monthly uplift since it took to the skies in 1989.

This represented a growth of 21.4 per cent over December 2004, which was itself a record month last year.

For the nine months to December 2005, passenger numbers increased by 11.7 per cent against the same period in 2004.

"Our growth in passenger numbers this year is in line with our network expansion," said Barclay.

"We launched three new destinations in the October to December quarter and we now serve 26 destinations across ten countries in Asia.

"We are all set to carry more passengers this financial year than ever before."

SilkAir closed the last fiscal year (2004/2005) with an uplift of 1,089,190 customers. Cumulatively, more than 900,000 customers have flown with SilkAir in the first nine months of fiscal year 2005/2006.

SilkAir carried almost 20 per cent more customers in its Business Class from April to December 2005.

"This is another very positive indicator that the investments we have made to further improve on our Business Class product and service delivery is bearing fruit," he said.

"Our dual class offering of a Business Class and a full service Economy Class has helped differentiate and strengthen our brand across the region."

Source: Daily Express

@mosphere - Sabah's newly newly open high-end class restaurant

KOTA KINABALU: With more than two decades experience in promoting and marketing tourism to over 70 countries worldwide, Touchdown World Travel Group sees a crystal clear image of Sabah as a future world-class tourism destination.

“Sabah is diversely blessed with all the natural elements of dramatic beauty for it to qualify in principle for a world-class status,” Touchdown World Travel Group and Asia Extreme Group of Companies which manages the newly open high-end class restaurant called “@mosphere” said.

Speaking at the opening of the outlet here Wednesday night, its managing director Phil Dobson said Sabah’s potential is huge and diverse.

“Our Group believes to become a world-class famous destination, with all sectors of tourism working efficiently and successfully for the state economy, we need a super high-end tourism sector in Sabah,” he said.

Phil said this super high-end sector would attract the rich and famous to Sabah’s shores and as a result would bring fame and awareness for Sabah across the globe.

This in turn, he said would benefit all other sectors of tourism from backpackers through to five-star hotels.

“And this means Sabah will be very much in the driving seat and can control the influx of its visitors and tourism revenues to suit the states desires,” Phil said.

According to him, this control could and should ensure that Sabah’s natural beauty and its pristine environment is protected at all times.

Phil said the @mosphere restaurant in Menara Tun Mustapha is a prime example of a move in this direction and is also a clear indication of international private sector tourism developers working closely and synergistically with the Sabah Government.

“We suggest it is a signal to other international high-end tourism investors that the state government welcomes such high-end development in Sabah, are keen to do business, and that things can move quickly and efficiently in Sabah in this regard,” he said adding that the management also hope it would encourage further development by others in this sector.

Phil said @mosphere is considered a tourism restaurant but also equally it is an affordable restaurant for Sabahans who can enjoy fine dining.

Furthermore, he said the restaurant’s primary goal was to bring a dynamic cutting-edge dining experience to Sabah, providing a new alternative for the community.

“Kota Kinabalu has come a long way in the past few years, and we wanted to follow this direction and bring a fresh face to this landmark restaurant in the most iconic building in Sabah…It has been fulfilling for all of us to work on such a grand project, especially since our community shares so many memories about it and seems to be excited to see it revived in such a manner,” he added.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sabah tourism to soar said Chief Minister

Kota Kinabalu: Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman stressed that the tourism and hospitality industry in Sabah has accelerated growth with all potentials being developed into one of the largest sources of foreign exchange and employment opportunities in the State.

"As such, tourism and hospitality must be recognised in that training is essential towards the improvement of standard of services in order to achieve high productivity," he said.

He noted that the number of tourist arrivals in the State over the last two years reflected a 2.7 per cent increase from 1.77 million in 2004 to 1.82 million in 2005. Musa, who is also Finance Minister, expressed optimism that such encouraging record might help Sabah achieve the target 2.7 million visitors by 2007.

In recognition of this potential, the State Government had, since as early as 1990, formulated and put into places policies and the requisite institutional infrastructure to realise the full potential of the industry.

Musa said this while addressing the 9th convocation ceremony of the Asian Tourism Institute (ATI), at Le Meridien Hotel, near here Thursday.

Present were Minister of Research Development and Information Technology Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, his deputy Melanie Chia, and Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Bobby Suan.

In this respect, the Government spends more than RM10 million annually in promoting Sabah as premier tourist destination through events such as trade shows, he said.

He pointed out that all effort in terms of manpower and funding would go to waste "if our world-class destination is not accompanied by world-class services".

A better trained and skilled workforce would undoubtedly increase productivity and efficiency, thereby improve the overall quality of products and services, he said.

He commended training institutions, such as ATI, for their contributions towards the advancement of the hospitality and tourism industry in Sabah.

More than 500 students received their certificates, ranging from Diploma in Food and Beverage Module, Diploma in Business and Hospitality studies, catering, to Higher National Diploma in Travel and Tourism management.

Source: Daily Express

Mystical Sarawak To Lure Metropolis Singapore Visitors

By Jackson Sawatan

SINGAPORE -- Sarawak, known as the Land of the Hornbills, is out to lure Singaporeans to visit the state, promising travellers exotic destinations, exciting adventures and a chance to peek at what could be Singapore's past.

In a special presentation on Sarawak to a group of Singapore tour operators here on Wednesday, Sarawak Tourism Board marketing manager Mary Wan Mering said that the largest Malaysian state could offer a rich and diverse tropical ecosystem just a stone's throw from the island state.

"Kuching, the Sarawak state capital, is just 1 hour 15 minutes of flight from Singapore and is served by Malaysia Airlines and SilkAir," she said.

From Kuching, tourists would be able to visit nearby attractions such as the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Semanggang. which is just a short drive away from their five-star accommodation in the state capital.

"We are a contrast for Singapore. Kuching is perhaps what Singapore was more than 20 years ago. So visiting the state capital of Sarawak is like going into Singapore's past," she said.

Besides its rich natural heritage, Sarawak is banking on a host of other selling points, including its rich cultural heritage, adventure attractions as well as ample meeting, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) facilities.

"We have 16 national parks, each with its own attractions. So when you visit one, you would need to visit the others to see it all," she said.

Being a huge state, many of Sarawak's attractions were also located in the interior which is accessible by road, air or river transportation.

Travelling in big groups on a chartered flight would not be a problem as there were good airport facilities recently refurbished in Sarawak towns, she said.

During the two-hour presentation organised by STB and the Tourism Malaysia office in Singapore, the tour agents were also treated to Sarawak's songs and dances as well as a video presentation on what the state has to offer.

Present was Tourism Malaysia Singapore director Rafidah Idris.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Growth Of High-End Tourism Crucial To Sabah Tourism

KOTA KINABALU -- The growth of high-end tourism to attract the rich and famous to Sabah shores is critical to ensure the concerted growth of tourism as a whole for the state, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

"High-end tourism has special needs, demanding high-quality products and services, well-trained and efficient service staff, and offers a preferred low-impact high yield approach to tourism growth," he said at the opening of a revolving restaurant, Amosphere on the 18th floor of Menara Tun Mustapha formerly known as Menara Yayasan Sabah, here Wednesday night.

He said Menara Tun Mustapha was an important symbol to the people of Sabah and the revival of the revolving restaurant under Amosphere would definitely boost the image of the one great architecture icon in the state and brought back memories to those who had enjoyed the spectacular 360 degree view that the venue offered while enjoying their meals years ago.

The restaurant, which takes 61 minutes to complete a revolution has a seating capacity of 150 people and will be a perfect venue for sunset drinks and relaxing dining experience as it provides sweeping views of Kota Kinabalu, the Crocker Range and the islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

The renovation of the restaurant was carried out from start to finish in just three and a half months ago.

Musa said tourism related projects like Amosphere provided additional stimulating activities for visitors travelling to Sabah as it was not enough to just offer day trips and overnight excursions to the jungle though eco-tourism was indeed the backbone of the industry.

Nowadays tourists wanted a well-rounded experience with vacation highlights including dining and shopping, he said.

"While we may indeed have some of the best seafood in the world, many people want choice throughout their stay, and this is where establishments such as Amosphere will satisfy this demand," said Musa.

Meanwhile, Managing Director Asia Group of Companies Phil Dobson said the development of a super high end tourism sector in Sabah would lure the rich and famous to the state and would bring fame and awareness for Sabah across the world.

The opening of Amosphere, which was operated by Asia Group of Companies, was a signal to other international high end tourism investors that the state government welcomed such high end development in Sabah, he said.

The revolving restaurant on Menara Tun Mustapha which was the first revolving restaurant in Malaysia, was formerly known as Sri Kayangan and popular among tourists and locals when it opened its doors in late 1970's but it ceased operation after two decades of its inception.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Kota Kinabalu is now a Nature Resort City

Kota Kinabalu: The City has been officially themed "A Nature Resort City", in line with its aspiration to create its own identity and capitalise on its tourism uniqueness.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the theme was approved by the State Cabinet on March 17 last year and hoped it would be used consistently and long lasting.

"What is important is the development of the city is parallel with the theme," he said when launching the theme at the Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort here Tuesday.

His speech was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.

He said the State Government spent more than RM100 million annually, especially to promote Sabah as the Land Below the Wind destination through various events, trade events and other promotions.

Although the country had faced extraordinary challenges due to circumstances beyond control such as the tsunami natural disaster and spread of bird flu, the number of tourist arrivals had increased from 1.773 million in 2004 to 1.821 million in 2005 (2.7 per cent increase).

In this respect, he said the target of 2.7 million arrivals in 2007 is not impossible coupled with the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 campaign.

Every city in the world already had their own tagline such as Kuala Lumpur being the City of Lights, Kuching the Cat City, Penang the Pearl of the Orient and New York as the City That Never Sleeps.

"The effort by City Hall is timely since the theme chosen is apt, realistic, depicting strength and uniqueness while such criterions cannot be found easily in other places."

With the theme, Musa believed it would be able to emboss the city's image and provide better perception and get the confidence as well as loyalty of the residence.

Musa called on the City Hall to draw up a strategy to promote the theme and get the support from all especially the tourism key-players, be it government agencies, private sector or NGOs.

Meanwhile, Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim said the new theme was found to be most suitable. Previous ones have been Tropical Rainforest City and Tropical Garden City.

Source: Daily Express

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sabah Tasmania to be sister states?

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah and the Australian State of Tasmania have a lot in common in terms of tourism and forestry, which may thus pave the way for a sister-state relationship.

Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Tasmania Branch), Paul Harris, said this to Daily Express while visiting the State Legislative Assembly Speaker, Datuk Juhar Mahiruddin, here Monday.

Harris, who was on a three-day visit to Sabah to study its forestry and tourism industries, said there is a great possibility for the two states to enter a mutually beneficial economic relationship.

"Tasmania's main industries are tourism and forestry, which is also the case in Sabah.

"Forestry contributes to 7.5 per cent of Tasmania's gross state product, while Sabah near 10 per cent, so the industry is important to both states," he said.

Citing China's province of Fujian, with which, Tasmania has a sister-state relationship, Harris said he would urge the Tasmanian Government to investigate the possibility of forging a similar relationship with Sabah.

According to him, the southern State of Australia is regarded to have the best practices in forestry.

"From such bilateral arrangement, both states can send their forestry workers to the other side to undergo training," he said, adding both can learn from each other.

On Wednesday, Harris is due to fly to Sibu, Sarawak, to meet with officials of local company, Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, which would inject A$60 million (RM168mil) into the Tasmanian economy to build a timber-processing mill.

Source: Daily Express

'Bobolian' Of Mt Kinabalu Adds Colour To KadazanDusun Tradition

By Emin Madi

KUNDASANG, Feb 7 (Bernama) -- The 80-year old Lunsin Koroh is a special kind of KadazanDusun 'bobolian' or high priest, whose unusual task is not about treating sick people but 'befriending' the spirits of the majestic Mount Kinabalu.

For decades, Lunsin has been entrusted to keep alive this age-old local custom of performing ritual ceremony on the top of Southeast Asia's highest mountain for one particular reason: to 'appease' the mountain spirits to allow a safe passage to the climbers.

In the past, Lunsin used to climb up and performed the ritual at Panar Laban (about 3,353 metre high) but lately and because of old age, Lunsin has chosen the top of a small hill near Timpohon Gate, where climbers start their ascend.

"I am too old to climb the mountain now but since my service is still needed (to appease the spirits) I have decided to do it within the foot of the mountain," said Lunsin who performed the ritual at Timpohon Gate recently.

Watching the old man in action reminded this writer's early experience of covering a similar assignment in the mid eighties, where Lunsin with the help of a group of mountain guides made the 'offering' at Panar Laban, a place where climbers spend a night before making the final ascend to the summit in the wee hours the next day.

Lunsin himself was a former mountain guide but because of his 'bobolian' pedigree, which he inherited from his great-great grandfather, he gradually became the official 'mononolob' or mountain priest.

To perform the ritual, Lunsin was always in the company of his 'komburongoh'or magical charm, a paraphernalia of mystical objects, believed to be a collection of rare species of plants which is said to be guarded by spirits.

The ritual ceremony itself requires seven white chickens, eggs, betel-nut and tobacco.

To complete the ritual, Lunsin, donned in black outfit, first shakes his 'komburungoh' and immediately start murmuring long and strange incantations in Dusun language.

In some instances, the old man was overheard calling the names of the many 'keepers' of the mountain, particularly 'kinomburawan' which according to Lunsin, is the king of the Mount Kinabalu spirits.

Later, Lunsin, with the help of fellow villager, Douni Lajsou, slaughtered all the fowls which would be taken home for consumption.

To mark the completion of the ritual, Lunsin planted a piece of sharp-edge wood at exactly where the white chickens were slaughtered, which according to him, would act as a weapon to punish those who fail to comply with the 'agreement'.

The practice of this local custom can be traced to the early history of mountain guiding among the Dusun community living on the steep mountain slope at Bundu Tuhan, about 10 km from Kinabalu Parks.

One such famous guide in the 1940's was Gunting Lagadan, a Dusun village headman, whose name is engraved on a piece of wooden signs at Low's Peak, the mountain's highest peak. Lagadan was said to have conducted the same ritual during every climb.

It was not ascertained whether the missing climbers had been the victims of the mountain spirits or due to their own negligence, but according to Lunsin the incidents could be due to some 'unbecoming' behaviours of the climbers which 'irritated' the spirits of the mountain.

In 1976, a form five student was reported missing while climbing Mount Kinabalu and in 1989, two other climbers from Sarawak met with the same fate. Their bodies were never recovered.

Their mysterious disappearances occurred at a time when the local custom of holding ceremonies to appease the spirits of the mountain observed from generation to generation were discontinued for unknown reasons from 1970 until it was revived in 1993.

The Kadazan-dusun community, especially among the non-Muslims, still regards Mount Kinabalu as the resting place of the dead souls.

"It's an honour and I hope to keep this tradition (of performing the ritual ceremony) alive as long as my feet can carry me," said Lunsin with a tinge of nostalgia.

With an average of 15,000 visitors to the Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site, each month, Mount Kinabalu has become an increasingly popular destination, thanks to the introduction of the annual International Climbathon competition which has now become a yearly affair.


Call of the Hornbills of Sarawak

By Catharine Goh

The state bird of Sarawak is the Rhinoceros Hornbill.

Also known scientifically as the "buceros hinoceps," it is the largest of the hornbill family and found throughout mainland Southeast Asia, Borneo, Sumatra and Java.

It is noted for the loud "whooshing" sound of its huge wings, which have a span of a metre or more, and its loud harsh call.

The Ibans of Sarawak believed the rhinoceros hornbill was the messenger of the devine and it still enjoys an exalted status as the East Malaysian state's state emblem.

Also known as the kenyalang by the locals, it is an omen bird to the lbans, who think it brings messages from the spirit world.

That is why carved and painted hornbills are part of so many rituals and ceremonies and besides being adopted as Sarawak's State Bird.

Exclusively fruit eaters, hornbills mate for life and their nesting habits are unique.

The incubating female seals herself into her tree hole nest with mud, leaving only a small aperture through which food is passed by the male bird.

When the young hatch the female breaks out, but reseals the nest and helps to feed the young until they are ready to leave the nest.

Black, and the size of a swan, the hornbill is distinguished by the casque, or second beak growing on top of its huge red and yellow beak.

The huge beak is used to crack nuts and fruit seeds in the forest but nobody have worked out what the casque is for.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sabah’s revolving eatery at Sabah Foundation building

By Julie Chan

The State’s only revolving restaurant is making a comeback after a two-decade hiatus.

The restaurant at the Sabah Foundation building, which has been renovated at a cost of RM2 million, will reopen its doors on Wednesday.

Its presence will help promote tourism in the State, especially in uplifting the image of the glass tower, long regarded as an icon of Sabah.

Aptly named "Atmosphere", the restaurant on the 18th floor of the 30-storey tower was set up by former chief minister Tun Mustapha Datu Harun in the early 1970s.

Managed by Atmosphere Restaurant Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Asia Extreme Sdn Bhd, the company took four months to complete the modern-retro concept restaurant which went way beyond the allocated budget.

Asia Extreme marketing and sales director Victoria Hilley said they had earlier intended to relaunch the restaurant at the end of last year.

"We also exceeded our RM1 million budget because we wanted to have the best of everything for the restaurant."

Opened for a sneak preview for the travel industry and media here, the restaurant boasts a modern setting, uncommon in the State, and imported furnishings and utensils.

"We wanted a new cutting-edge dining experience for the city that would help stamp its status as a world-class tourist destination," Hilley said.

For a luxurious touch, guests can choose to arrive at the restaurant by helicopter, luxury yacht or a Daimler Benz vintage car.

"Though the target is high-end tourists, we also want to make it accessible to the local market," she said.

The restaurant makes a 360-degree turn in 61 minutes, giving diners a panoramic view of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the Sabah State Legislative Assembly building and Likas Bay — and also a spectacular sunset.

Asia Extreme has been granted a long-term lease for the restaurant by the Sabah Foundation.

Recently renamed the Tun Mustapha Tower, the building is among the city’s famous landmarks, attracting between 20 and 30 busloads of tourists daily.

Source: New Straits Times

Friday, February 03, 2006

KK officially 'Nature Resort City'

Kota Kinabalu: The city will be officially known as Nature Resort City effective Tuesday.

Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim said the launching Thursday of a week-long "Beauty and Lifestyle of KK City" photography exhibition and blood donation campaign at Palm Square, Centre Point, coincides with the auspicious event.

"The pictures taken by professional photographers show scenic views and lifestyles of the city dwellers that can promote the beauty of our city to tourists especially the foreign ones," he said.

"The art of photography is not only important to record the history of a city but also very significant to attract tourists when they (photos) are used as the main material in promoting tourism."

He was of the view that many foreign tourists visited the city and the State after they saw pictures taken by friends or relatives who were here earlier.

"Some may have seen attractive pictures on the Internet through tourism campaigns and promotions carried out by tourism players."

KK was first declared as Tropical Rainforest City.

On a more serious note, he said the city's future depends on the wisdom and willingness of both its management and dwellers to seek and implement pragmatic steps towards providing the best public service.

"We really need the cooperation and understanding as well as strong support from the Government at the State and Federal level and, equally critical, from the public who are the city stakeholders," he said.

It is not impossible for City Hall to achieve its aspirations to create a city that is prosperous and maintain quality living for its residents if there is a collective awareness to share the heavy responsibility, he said.

"I would like to extend my gratitude for your kindness and appreciation for choosing the consultancy approach in resolving the city's administration problems," he said.

The two-in-one events were jointly organised by City Hall, Sabah Professional Photographers' Society and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in conjunction with the 6th anniversary celebration of Kota Kinabalu as a city.

A total of 86 photographs were accepted to take part in a photography competition themed "The Beauty and Lifestyle of KK City".

All the photos are on display till Feb. 8. The three-day blood donation campaign also commenced Thursday and will continue from Feb 4 to 5 at the same venue.

Among those present were City Hall Director-General Dr Chua Kim Hing, QEH Director Datin Rahimah Mohd Said, Sabah Professional Photographers' Society Honorary President Datuk Clement Yeh and its Chairman Victor Wah.

Source: Daily Express

Measures by Sabah Govt to reverse Orang-utan decline

Kota Kinabalu: The State Government said it has put in place vital realistic strategies that will ensure the sanctity of Sabah's bio-diversity, including its Orang-utans.

Nevertheless, the participation of all concerned is sought to accelerate the implementation of these strategies.

In this regard, Sabah Forestry Director Datuk Sam Mannan said the Government appreciates the efforts of NGOs, communities and scientists such as Dr Benoit Goossens, in increasing awareness on conserving the bio-diversity of Sabah, and to come up with new scientific information.

He said this in response to a Daily Express report quoting Dr Goossens of Cardiff University that the Orang-utans in Sabah and elsewhere in the world faced a catastrophic collapse in numbers.

Goossens based this on the almost 100 per cent decline within a century of the Orang-utan population in Sabah. It was estimated that Sabah had 500,000 Orang-utans 100 years ago but a wildlife survey three years ago found the figure to be down to just about 13,000 now.

The Government of Sabah acknowledges that the Orang-utan is a "flagship" species and the State has benefited immensely by conserving it, Mannan said.

To ensure that the ape population is sustainable and would continue to exist in perpetuity, the following policy, operational and strategic measures have been taken and would continue to be implemented:

* Sabah's Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFM) which is the cornerstone of the State's forest policy;

* The Security of Tenure of Forest Reserves and Other Conservation Areas in Sabah;

* The Natural Forest Management (NFM) which is the cornerstone of the State's forest management; close collaboration with the NGOs, international agencies and research organisations which is a culture for successful environmental management;

* Forest restorations and forest plantations outside reserves in Sabah; and

* The sanctity of totally protected areas rich in Orang-utans.

Sabah's Sustainable Forest Management Policy - This is the cornerstone of the State's forest policy. Based on experience derived over (17) years from Deramakot Forest Reserve, an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified forest, it is proven that Orang-utans, even with logging as a component of the operations, can survive and thrive under SFM.

After 10 years of logging under RIL (Reduced Impact Logging), the Orang-utan population in Deramakot remains stable at around 900-1,000 individuals or 1.64 per square km.

Following the success of Deramakot, the Government allocated more areas to be managed under the same concept including FMU 17 (73,770ha.), FMU 25 (127,625ha.) and FMU 10 (75,000ha.).

This direct management by the Government through the Forestry Department, of these areas, encompassing in excess of RM75 million of funding under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, is over and in excess of the efforts of FMU/SFMLA Licencees, who have another two million hectares to manage under their own long-term licences.

A very important area that would be certified soon under the FSC system is FMUs 15 and 16, covering 190,000ha of natural forests in the central of Sabah, under the management of Yayasan Sabah.

It is the vision of the Government to have not less than 320,000ha of forests certified by the end of the 9MP or six times Deramakot, which would entrench Sabah's leadership in SFM in the region.

Security of Tenure of Forest Reserves and other conservation areas in Sabah - the existing forest reserves, parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the State, covering 3,869,685ha or in excess of 53% of the total land area, cannot be excised unless through legislation, which has been in effect since 1984.

This legal protection ensures that security of tenure is enhanced and excision as a consequence, has been very rare since then, and covering not more than 5,000ha over the last 22 years. Even then, such excisions must be replaced.

Mannan said this security of tenure protects wildlife, including Orang-utans from the loss of habitats.

Natural Forest Management (NFM) - although degraded forests, if approved in the specific forest management plants in a given area in the commercial (Class 2) forest reserves, may be converted into tree plantations, this is restricted to not more than 15-20%.

Even then, this is further restricted by EIA conditions, slope limits, wildlife corridors, riparian reserves etc.

NFM - this is a matter of policy as it is proven that to maintain bio-diversity including Orang-utans, natural forest management is vital.

Further, through years of research and experience, Sabah has now come up with a hybrid strategy called "forest restoration" whereby multiple indigeneous fast growing species are planted in degraded forests more extensively which serves the dual purpose of high production and high bio-diversity.

This reduces the perception of mono-cultures in tree plantations, besides providing a better environment for wildlife.

Close Collaboration with NGOs, international agencies and research oganisations - This has always been the policy of the State Government to be transparent in implementing its forest policies whereby, the participation of multi-stakeholders and NGOs are welcomed.

As a consequence, the formulation of forest policies and strategies have benefited from these inputs including those from WWF, Hutan (French NGO), the Sabah Society, JICA of Japan, UNDP and tour agencies, among others.

As an example, the method of wildlife assessments and surveys in Deramakot was derived with assistance from Hutan, the identification of HCVFS (High Conservation Value Forests) with help from WWF and pre-assessments in FMU 17 & 25 for certification, conducted by a third party auditor and funded by WWF.

This close collaboration has assisted in improving, among others, wildlife conservation, including Orang-utans, in forests already certified or in the process of certification. These efforts shall continue as a matter of policy.

Forest Restorations and Forest Plantations Outside Reserve in Sabah - this is another strategy adopted by the State Government with the co-operation of landowners, especially in vital eco-systems such as the Lower Kinabatangan.

In particular, riparian reserves are being restored with indigenous species endemic to such environments. Such efforts are made in close collaboration with estate owners, communities, NGOs and various government agencies.

The State Government has also allocated lands outside reserves for tree plantations, to increase the stock of forests and standing trees. This pioneering work, which has gained momentum, restores degraded environments which will benefit wildlife especially in re-connecting "forest islands" for gene-pool exchanges among others.

The Sanctity of Totally Protected Areas Rich in Orang-utans - these are Tabin Wildlife Forest Reserve (120,000ha), Maliau Basin Forest Reserve (58,840ha), Danum Valley Forest Reserve (43,000ha) which enjoy inviolate legislative protection.

Apart from the habitats in other forest reserves, these three areas are vital gene pool reserves for Orang-utans, among others. Their buffer zones, especially for Danum and Maliau, are being expanded to ensure better protection.

Source: Daily Express

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tabin Wildlife Conservation Conquest for thrill-seekers

KOTA KINABALU - Slime and mud-splashing games await participants at the annual Tabin Wildlife Conservation Conquest to be held on March 18 and 19 at Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary in Lahad Datu, The Star reported.

There will be two core competitions this year - the Tabin Mud Parade and the Tabin Jungle Race offering non-cash prizes worth RM20,000.

The Tabin Mud Parade will test participants' skills in using traditional weapons before making them run off to gather mud from the Lipad mud volcano.

The Jungle Race involves a 12km run in the rainforest past waterfalls, rivers and hills. A statement from the organisers said that interested participants could opt to join one or both of the events depending on their physical fitness.

Those interested can obtain the application forms from the Sabah Tourism office in Kota Kinabalu or at the Intra Travel Service office at Terminal 2 of Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Due to limited space, participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis. Those interested can contact organisers Intra Travel Service at 088-260 558/261 558 or e-mail enquiry@intratravel.com.my.

The event is held to give participants an opportunity to explore the many facets of Sabah's Tabin Wildlife Reserve and cultivate greater support for conservation of nature and the environment.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin