Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sarawak resorts fully booked for Rainforest Music Festival

MIRI: More than 1,000 hotel rooms and chalets at four beach and country resorts near the pristine shores of Santubong in the southern tip of the state have been snapped up for the annual Sarawak Rainforest Music Festival – nine months before the start of the music extravaganza.

In what is a testimony to the drawing power of this world music showpiece, the four resorts – the Damai Resort, the Damai Lagoon Resort, the Santubong Resort and the Permai Jungle Resort – have been booked solid.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said there was no more accommodation available at the site of the three-day event, which starts on July 13.

Continue reading at: Sarawak resorts fully booked for Rainforest Music Festival

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sandakan the gateway to ecotourism

Entering Sandakan
An arch welcomes visitors to the city
Many of the roundabouts have sculptures of animals native to the area
Pavilions in Sandakan City
Sandakan is the second port city of Sabah
An ariel view of Sandakan
Tall buildings around the city

Copyright © 2006 Brunei Press Sdn Bhd. All right reserved.

By Mohammad Abdullah

The gateway to ecotourism - that is what the city of Sandakan has come to be known as.

It is the second largest city in Sabah and is largely populated by illegal immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia, given its close proximity to these two countries. In Tausug (Sulu), Sandakan translates to 'the place that was pawned.'

Sandakan is only 297 km away from Kota Kinabalu (KK), however, it takes about six hours to reach the place due to the mountainous route.

Travellers will have to drive through the ghat roads from KK to reach the city of Sandakan. The drive there is relatively tame, however, the tough part is negotiating the steep and winding mountainous roads.

Sandakan boasts of many ecotourism destinations such as the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Turtle Island Park, Kinabatangan River, Gomantong Caves, and a mangrove forest reserve which is home to the rare and elusive proboscis monkeys.

Sandakan Town centre is located closer to the ports. Here, the buildings are clustered together in an almost intangible entity. The roads are like a maze - though small, it is easy to take a wrong turn.

The cluster of tall buildings in the town centre gives a sense of closter phobia and the narrow roads between the buildings heighten the effect.

Residents of the city sprawl through the market places and commercial shops in the town centre. This gives the illusion that the city is bigger than it actually is, especially in the heart of the city.

In recent years, more businesses have shifted their operations away from the town centre, moving closer to the suburbs. The presence of illegal immigrants in the town centre deters investors, and new businesses shy away from the so called lawlessness brought about by the illegal immigrants.

One such new commercial district is the Batu Empat area, where businesses thrive away from the town centre. These commercial centres are similar to satellite cities, much like Gadong and Kiulap in Brunei Darussalam.

The commercial of Batu Empat could also be called the new entertainment centre, where there exist many types of pubs, clubs and discotheques.

Karaoke lounges are also abundant at the Batu Empat commercial center. These entertainment centres do not open until 9 pm, and they receive customers until late.

However, do no expect these clubs to be of the same standards as Singapore or Malaysia.

Although Sandakan is considered the second largest city in Sabah, there are some aspects of the city that mirrors it to that of a 'Cowboy Town,' where lawlessness is very much present.

Criminal elements are rampant, and they carry guns.

While on the surface everything may appear peaceful, there are some dangerous elements that traveller must be wary of.

While it is illegal to sell turtle eggs, they can be found in the black market. However, the buyers and sellers will be fined heftily should the authorities learn of such transactions.

Near the port sits a water village known as Kampung Buli Sim Sim, a stilt fishing village on the original site of Sandakan town.

While Kota Kinabalu is considered a metropolitan city, Sandakan still has quite a distance to go before reaching that status.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin

Visit for more Sandakan tours

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sarawak claims Rainforest fest as its own

KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival is unique to Sarawak and should not be held elsewhere.

Clearing the air over reports that the festival would be held in Penang next year, Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said the event would stay in Sarawak as it had put the state on the world tourism calendar with its unique blend of music and rainforest ambience.

In fact, she said, a major celebration was being planned for next year in conjunction with the festival’s 10th anniversary.

"Next year, this unique tourism and art product of Sarawak will be held from July 13 to 15. You can’t hold this event elsewhere and call it the Rainforest World Music Festival. That would be funny.

Continue reading at: Sarawak claims Rainforest fest as its own

Sarawak expects 2,500 delegates for 11 conventions next year

KUCHING: Sarawak expects to draw about 2,500 delegates for the 11 major conventions it will host during Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2007.

State Tourism and Urban Development Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said these conventions included a Biodiversity in tropical plant forests regional conference, the second International Borneo business conference and Crossing Borders Borneo conference.

"These delegates are expected to generate an estimated 10,000 room nights equatting to RM6.8mil in delegate expenditure," he added when replying to points raised by members during the debates on the 2007 State Budget in the state assembly on Tuesday.

Continue reading at: Sarawak expects 2,500 delegates for 11 conventions next year

Monday, November 27, 2006

Borneo Safari off-road challenge shifts into higher gear

KOTA KINABALU:The International Borneo Safari 4x4 Off-Road Challenge is set to go into higher gear as one of Sabah’s tourism products.

Aggressive marketing is being planned by the state’s tourism players to bring more international off-road en-thusiasts to join the safari in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

This seems to be in the minds of the tourism promoters following the successful end to the 16th edition of the Borneo Safari on Nov 5.

Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin said that the popular Borneo Safari had lured many foreign participants in previous editions and hopes to bring in more international off-road enthusiasts during next year’s Visit Malaysia Year campaign

“Off-road challenges are fast gaining popularity and enthusiasts whether foreign or locals are taking up motor sport as their hobby,” he said, adding that Sabah offers one the world’s best off-road venues.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Borneo Safari off-road challenge shifts into higher gear

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Road trip (from Brunei) to Sandakan

Getting passports stamped at Lawas Immigration
Stopping at Ranau town
Smooth road towards Sandakan
Driving along the mountain road
Riding along Kota Kinabalu road

Photos Copyright © 2006 Brunei Press Sdn Bhd. All right reserved.

By Mohammad Abdullah

The journey to Sandakan, the second largest city in Sabah, was more pleasant than expected.

Altogether the total distance of travel was approximately 2,000 kilometres and a total of 24 hours driving time. It took six hours from Kota Kinabalu to Kula Lurah and another six hours to reach Sandakan and back again.

To save fuel costs during the journey, we used diesel engine vehicles. From Brunei to Sandakan and back, we only had to fill the fuel tanks three times.

The cost of diesel in Sabah is relatively higher than in Brunei. It costs RM1.58 per litre, where as in the Sultanate it costs approximately B$0.70, which is more than double. Throughout the whole journey we spent RM150 just for petrol alone.

During our journey, we had to negotiate through the narrow road of Mount Kinabalu to reach our destination. The steep and winding mountain road was probably the toughest part of the trip. Eyes had to be constantly on the road and there little chance to soak in the beauty of the mountain view, which covered almost half of our journey.

Yet, along the way, we were able to stop and smell the roses. To the left and right of us were covered with thousands of acres of oil palm plantations.

A tip for those who are about to travel long distance for the first time, always check your oil pressure as well as car temperature. The radiator water will go down at an alarming rate, especially when the engine is forced to work hard when travelling up and down the mountain road. Water refills for the engine is also very important.

Another tip for travellers who are heading towards Sandakan or Mount Kinabalu is to never travel at night. It is very dangerous. There are no lights along the road and the blind corners are very treacherous. The lights from cars can sometimes be blinding and the road can disappear amidst a flash of lights.

There are several towns along the way to Sandakan where visitors can stop. One of which is the small town of Ranau, just past the Kinabalu resorts. The town is located in one of the many valleys of Mount Kinabalu.

A lot of travellers would rest in this small town for a few minutes to let their engines cool down before continuing their trek through the mountain road.

There are times when the mountain view along the road is so breathtaking that it takes a moment to compose yourself and concentrate on the road ahead.

There are other small towns along the road to Sandakan, much of these towns sprang up due to the surrounding oil plantations.

The Sandakan and Tawau junctions are heavily guarded with armed police personnel. Here the police use machine guns and live ammunitions, a precaution to deter smugglers and illegal immigrants from entering Sabah. The junction links to the only road leading towards Kota Kinabalu.

In the past, a lot of smuggling activities have taken place including illegal immigrants passing through this area. Since then the Sabah government had taken steps to ensure that illegal activities are stopped by utilising a police checkpoint at the junction.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Visit for more Sandakan & Ranau tours

Saturday, November 25, 2006

'Cool' appeal of Crocker's Range

A road winding down Sabah's scenic Crocker's Range
Mushroom entrepreneurs unloading bottles of mushrooms
Workers carrying out a project to prevent further erosion near a road
An area used for shifting cultivation at Crocker's Range

Photos: Rahmat Bin Haji Abdul Rahman ;
Copyright © 2006
Brunei Press Sdn Bhd. All right reserved.

By Rahmat bin Haji Abdul Rahman

Many have called Sabah a tropical paradise. It is an apt description in more ways than one as it has no shortage of good foods, tranquil places to unwind, attractions to see and interesting activities to do. The best part is that it is summer all year round with warm weather, warm seas and warm hospitality.

Travelling from Penampang to Tambunan took this traveller past Crocker's Range, which is teeming with flora and fauna. As you ascend to a higher altitude, you feel the chill. Thin white clouds cover the mountain terrain of Crocker's Range.

Many parts of Crocker's Range are seeing construction works. Road users have to take extra precautions as some of the work sites are located at narrow, sharp bends and steep valleys.

This writer's stopped at the roadside after he was attracted by a group of rural folks on top of Crocker's Range who were unloading metal boxes. Later, he discovered that they were mushrooms producers.

The rural entrepreneurs, however, alleged that one of their "mushrooms huts" had been demolished by an "irresponsible" contractor. They have lodged a report with the police. But they have yet to receive any answers and no one has taken the responsibility of paying damages for the demolished mushroom hut. Each mushroom harvest can be worth as much as RM2,000 to RM3,000.

The mushrooms are mostly handed over to the Rural Development Cooperative of Sabah. Some of the fresh mushrooms are exported and some sold locally.

You can spend a night at one of the hotels at Gunung Emas which charge RM60 to RM80 per night. Hot tea and coffee will get cold less than five minutes after it is served and placed on the table. Halal food is available. Homesick Bruneians can also listen to Brunei radio stations from Gunung Emas as they while away the time.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Visit for more Crocker Range or related tours

Friday, November 24, 2006

Good news for travellers to Sabah and Sarawak

KUCHING: Budget carrier AirAsia and Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) have given assurance to air travellers that they will rectify various problems by next month so as not to affect Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

Sarawak Tourism and Urban Development Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said the two airlines had promised to put everything in order by December.

“We give this benefit of doubt to both airlines.

“I am confident that they are doing their best to resolve the various problems,” he added in the state assembly recently.

Wong said the authorities had received many complaints from tour operators and tourists over the poor services offered by FAX, which took over the rural air services from Malaysia Airlines in August.

Continue reading at: Good news for travellers to Sabah and Sarawak

Sarawak plans chartered flights from Seoul

MIRI: Direct chartered flights from Seoul to Miri in northern Sarawak will start next year, said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie.

She said a planeload of about 180 Korean tourists will be visiting Miri and the Mulu National Park and taking part in the Miri International Jazz Festival 2007 here in May.

“These Korean tourists belong to a major golf club that has more than 8,000 members in Korea. They have confirmed their plans to come to northern Sarawak using a chartered aircraft,” she said.

“We (STB) are trying to arrange with Malaysia Airlines to facilitate this tour package from Korea to Miri, direct without any stops. We are also looking at the possibility of arranging similar direct chartered flights to Miri from other Far East countries and Europe,” she told a press conference here yesterday when launching the Miri international jazz festival logo here.

Continue reading at: Sarawak plans chartered flights from Seoul

Have more combi-flights, FAX urged

MIRI: More 'combi-flights' are needed on a regular basis into rural settlements in Sarawak to deliver important consignments of food, essential household items and medical supplies every week.

These combi-flights - aircrafts that carry a combination of passengers and cargo - are now only being conducted twice a week by Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), the airline operating the rural air service in Sarawak and Sabah.

Community leaders in northern Sarawak have complained that two combi-flights a week are not enough.

State Assemblyman for Ba'Kelalan Nelson Balang Rining said village heads in his constituency want FAX to arrange for more such flights.

Continue reading at: Have more combi-flights, FAX urged

Thursday, November 23, 2006

See Bajau cowboys at Kota Belud Tamu Besar

KOTA BELUD: Popularly known as the "Cowboys of the East", Bajau horsemen will show off their skills at the two-day annual Tamu Besar or Grand Open Market here on Nov 25 and 26.

"The performance by the horsemen will be the highlight of the much anticipated Tamu Besar," said Kota Belud district officer Edris Yahya.

In Bajau tradition, the horses are as resplendent as their riders, complete with jingling collar bells.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: See Bajau cowboys at Kota Belud Tamu Besar

Sabah a very safe place to visit

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman has assured visitors to Sabah that the state is a very safe place to visit.

In his speech at the dinner hosted by the state Government for delegates of the OIC Human Capital Management Conference 2006 at Magellan Sutera here yesterday, Musa said both the federal and state Governments take security issues very seriously to ensure that all local and foreign visitors are safe in Sabah.

Sabah has a diversity of natural and cultural attractions, Musa said, citing Mount Kinabalu, a World Heritage Site; Sipadan, the world-famous diving site; Maliau Basin, dubbed ‘The Lost World’; Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park off the Kota Kinabalu coast, with its pristine beaches and crystal-clear water.

Continue reading at: Sabah a very safe place to visit

MAS airfares from KK to Kuching, Miri may drop soon

KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Ministry yesterday hinted that Malaysia Airlines (MAS) would be lowering its recently-increased airfares for three sectors in East Malaysia from Dec 1.

Its Deputy Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas said the affected sectors were Kota Kinabalu-Labuan, Kota Kinabalu-Miri and Kuching-Bintulu.

“The ministry admits that the airfares increase for these sectors were high but not at 300 per cent as claimed by the representative from Kinabatangan,” he said when winding-up debate on the Supply Bill 2007 at the committee stage for his ministry at the Dewan Rakyat here yesterday.

Continue reading at: MAS airfares from KK to Kuching, Miri may drop soon

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More tourists expected to Sarawak

KUCHING: Sarawak expects to record 3.15 million tourist arrivals during Visit Malaysia Year 2007, an increase of 15% from this year.

State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said the majority would be domestic tourists, followed by those from neighbouring countries and Asia.

The number of long-haul tourists was expected to remain constant at about 150,000.

Continue reading at: More tourists expected to Sarawak

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Jewel of Brunei’s rainforest

TEMBURONG: Brunei Darussalam, a placid nation rich in petroleum resources, also has a wealth of pristine rainforest.

Temburong, the least populated district, separated from the rest of Brunei by the Limbang division in Malaysia’s state of Sarawak, is where the rainforest is.

Considered one of Asia’s best nature reserves, the Ulu Temburong National Park and the Kuala Belalong Field Study Centre right in it offer an exciting array of ecotourism and adventure activities.

Unlike elsewhere in Asia, the rainforest here has survived the onslaught of modernisation as Bruneians are firm believers in protecting god’s creation and also due to the nation’s petroleum wealth there is no need to exploit the rainforest re-sources.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Jewel of Brunei’s rainforest

Borneo Orang Utans - Caged in

FLEEING forest fires, angry farmers, machete-wielding plantation workers and rescued from smugglers, orang utans are trooping in large numbers into rescue centres across Kalimantan.

Mainly operated by two foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) and the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) – these centres are fast turning into refugee camps for the endangered Asian great ape.

However, finding new homes for the over 1,000 orang utans in these centres is a daunting task. Deforestation and expanding oil palm plantations are swallowing up forests faster than these animals can be rehabilitated.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Borneo Orang Utans - Caged in

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pulau Gaya - Protecting the environment

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government will consider allowing more tourism development on Pulau Gaya only if they are environmentally sensitive.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said any proposed development on the 140ha island, one of the five that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off the coast here, must be carefully assessed before any decision can be made.

“We will study any proposal but the overriding principal is that we will not compromise on the environment,” he said after attending the Parti Bersatu Sabah Hari Raya open house here recently.

He was asked about reports of land clearing works at the popular Police Beach on Pulau Gaya for a RM10mil “boutique resort” being undertaken by local company Gloharta (M) Sdn Bhd.

Continue reading at: Pulau Gaya - Protecting the environment

Scrap meals on Sarawak flights to reduce fares

KUCHING: Malaysia Airlines should scrap meals served on flights between the peninsula and Sarawak as one way to reduce its high airfares.

Sarawak Teachers’ Union president William Ghani Bina, who made this call, said passengers could afford not to have meals during the flights.

“Many passengers travelling on the evening flights, for example, have their dinner before boarding. They do not need to have another meal on board,'' he said yesterday.

Continue reading at: Scrap meals on Sarawak flights to reduce fares

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sabah - Rich culture below the wind

A map of Sabah.
Sabahans in native attire reflecting the state's rich cultural heritage.
Natives during the Harvest Festival.
A Murut couple, better known as the 'Hill People'.
Kadazandusun girls.

Photos Copyright © 2006 Brunei Press Sdn Bhd. All right reserved.

By Catharine Goh

With around 32 indigenous groups, Sabah, better known as the "Land Below The Wind", is certainly rich in its unique and colourful cultural heritage.

The Kadazandusun is the largest ethnic group in Sabah and among its prominent community leaders are Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Kitingan.

Predominantly wet rice and hill rice cultivators, their language belongs to the Dusunic family and shares a common animistic belief system with various customs and practices.

Their ancient beliefs on the verity that everything has life - the rocks, trees, and rivers are all living things, which have souls and spirits that must be appeased from time to time through specific rituals.

But in these modern times, some of the rituals are less performed except during certain festivities such as the Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival, regarded as a unique celebration of the Kadazandusun.

As a celebration to honour the Rice Spirit - Bambaazon or Bambarayon and giving thanks for yet another bountiful year, the festival begins on the first of May at many district levels.

The rites and customs of the Pesta Kaamatan is a tribal practice of Kadazandusun and also Murut peoples.

The Bobohizan or Bobolian who are the High Priests or Priestesses will conduct the ritual but in different districts, the priests or priestesses may be addressed to differently, for instance in Tambunan district they are known as Bobolian, in Tuaran as Tantagas and in Penampang as Bobohizan.

It is believed that rice in whatever form embodies Bambaazon that must be protected from harm and as such the homecoming of Babaazon is an integral part of the Harvest Festival, which always ends with food offerings and merry-making for the village folks.

In the old days, this ceremony was often performed in freshly harvested fields during the first full moon after the harvest to invoke the rice spirit.

The highlight of Pesta Kaamatan is the selection of the pageant queen or "Unduk Ngadau" which can be literally translated as "Zenith of the Sun".

Whereas the Murut, which literally means "hill people", are mostly shifting cultivators and hunters with some riverine fishing.

Being one of the largest indigenous groups in Sabah, Murut comprise of subgroups such as Baukan, Gana', Kalabakan, Okolod, Paluan, Sulangai, Serudung, Tagal, Timugon and the Beaufort and Keningau Murut.

They inhibit the interior and southeastern parts of Sabah and the territory straddling the Kalimantan and Sarawak borders besides speaking 15 languages and 21 dialects.

The language commonly used and understood by the large majority is Tanggal apart from being related to the Kadazandusun languages.

Once feared as fearless headhunters and longhouse dwellers, the Murut these days have abandoned much of their age-old traditions especially headhunting.

They are also very skilled in hunting with blowpipe, which can be traced back to the by-gone era when collecting heads of enemies served a very precise function in Murut society.

Back then a man can only get married after he has presented at least one head that he has hunted to the family of the desired girl. Heads also play a very important role in spiritual beliefs.

The essence of Murut tradition of feasts is distinctive and no merrymaking will end at least until sunrise and can last up to seven days later.

This is especially the case with weddings or funerals but fortunately through modernisation, no more heads must be furnished for weddings.

Instead jars along with cloth, beads, gold and ivory bracelets have taken its place, with all these dowry items being proudly displayed at the ceremony.

Jars or "sampa" holds a prominent status in their customs, which are treated with due respect, they are a place of spirits.

Like the culture of certain Borneo tribes, beads play an integral role in Murut life for which wedding beads must be presented in the form of belts, necklaces, headgear and decoration.

The wedding ceremony must be held in the bride's longhouse, tapai or rice wine must be served and all the meat has to be pickled.

The Murut keep the bodies of their deceased in a jar and place them in colourful and elaborately decorated grave-huts along with the deceased's belongings.

The body will be placed in the foetal position inside the jar and a gong will be placed over the mouth of the jar to close it.

However this custom of burial is becoming rare with the availability of wooden coffins.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Sabah's flora and fauna a treasure trove

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s natural resources are a treasure trove waiting for scientists to discover new treatments for major diseases.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said although numerous studies had been carried out, the research had not been exhaustive.

He said tuberculosis and malaria had re-emerged and required stronger vaccines while newer infections such as avian flu had become global diseases.

"Sabah has a remarkable range of flora and fauna which offer potential for scientific research. Such research may lead to the discovery of new drugs and other properties for commercial production of herbal products, medicine and related biological commodities," he said when opening the first Malaysian Scandinavian International Conference on Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Sutera Harbour Resort on Thursday night.

Continue reading at: Sabah's flora and fauna a treasure trove

Friday, November 17, 2006

Frequent Traveller's Card for Brunei visits from Malaysia

Labuan: Deputy Home Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho said the Ministry is discussing with its Brunei counterparts to introduce the system of "Frequent Traveller's Card" (FTC) for passport stamp-free entry into Brunei.

"Under the system there will be no need for the International passport to be stamped by the Immigration.

This means the frequent visitors to Brunei will not run short of passport pages for stamping before the expiry of their passport."

Those who travel frequently usually have their passport pages stamped, necessitating renewal before expiry of the document.

Continue reading at: Frequent Traveller's Card for Brunei visits

Sabah's Crocker Range link a boost to farmers and tourism

KENINGAU: The rural economy will get a boost once the new road connecting the interior here to the west coast is completed. The agriculture sector is expected to benefit most from lower transportation costs.

The 57km stretch between Kimanis, in Papar, and Patikang here, will cut travelling time from the west coast by at least 45 minutes. The road cuts across the Crocker Range to connect the two districts. The highest point is about 2,000m above sea level.

Currently, the only connection to the west coast is via Tambunan and motorists have to traverse the Crocker Range twice.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Crocker Range link a boost to farmers and tourism

On-the-spot visa soon for foreigners entering Sarawak from Brunei via Sungai Tujuh

MIRI: Foreigners entering Sarawak from Brunei via the Sungai Tujuh checkpoint in Miri Division will soon be able to apply for a visa on the spot at the border’s Malaysian Immigration Department complex.

Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat said the checkpoint, located some 35km north of Miri, would become the fourth venue in Malaysia where visa applications could be processed and approved instantly.

Speaking after visiting the area recently, he said at present only KL International Airport, Penang and Johor Baru have facilities to deal with visa applications.

Continue reading at: On-the-spot visa soon at Sungai Tujuh

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lahad Datu Chinese Chamber unhappy with FAX services

Lahad Datu: The Chinese Chamber of Commerce here is not happy over the services provided by Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), following the frequent cancellation of its Kota Kinabalu-Lahad Datu morning flights.

Its committee member, David Chia, said people especially those involved in business have lost confidence in the services provided by the airline as a result.

Continue reading at: Lahad Datu Chinese Chamber unhappy with FAX services

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sarawak Tourism Federation wants MAS to take over from FAX

KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) wants Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to resume operating rural air services instead of Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) to prevent further loss of confidence in the state’s tourism sector.

Its president Wee Hong Seng said Mulu National Park in particular had been hard hit since FAX took over rural air services following the airline rationalisation exercise on Aug 1.

According to him, more than nine overseas agents had withdrawn from selling Sarawak packages, especially Mulu, while local inbound agents were reluctant to sell packages involving rural air services for fear of incurring losses due to flight cancellations.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Tourism Federation wants MAS to take over from FAX

A Bidayuh longhouse worth visiting

Nestled in the foothills of the Penris-sen Range, the Annah Rais Bidayuh village is worth a visit for an authentic longhouse experience.

The village, located deep in the Padawan sub-district near Kuching, is popular among tourists for its traditional architecture and lifestyle.

At its heart is a well-preserved longhouse built of wood and bamboo, which is home to about 120 families.

A spacious communal verandah runs through the length of the longhouse, its split-bamboo floor creaking every time someone walks along.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: A Bidayuh longhouse worth visiting

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cosmopolitan Kota Kinabalu retains cultural charm

Mosque in KK.

Chinese temple with pagoda.
KK lively with commerce.
Kg Ayer in Kota Kinabalu.
Beautiful beach scenery in KK.

Photos: Mohammad Abdullah ; Copyright © 2006 Brunei Press Sdn Bhd. All right reserved.

By Mohammad Abdullah

Kota Kinabalu has grown into a reputable financial, economic and tourism centre in the region. It has certainly moved with the times, and symbols of its advancement include the establishment of numerous deluxe hotels, roads stretching to the west- and east-coast towns, and modern structures such as the imposing Sabah Foundation Building.

Kota Kinabalu's history has been colourful indeed, with the power changing hands from the British to the Japanese, to the British, and back to the people of the land. Yet despite these various influences, and despite its breathtakingly fast progress, the city's rich cultural diversity and continued celebration of traditions and customs have remained intact.

Nowhere is this diversity more visible than in cosmopolitan KK, where the natives, comprising Malays, Chinese and some 32 ethnic groups, have assimilated well with the immigrants who flock to the state in pursuit of better opportunities. This multiculturalism is represented in the wide variety of cuisines available in and around town.

There is also a Kampong Ayer in Kota Kinabalu, much like Brunei. However, it is significantly smaller that the Water Village in Brunei. The diversity of Kota Kinabalu is vast from the Water village, to the vibrant shopping malls, and the ever luxurious resorts scattered throughout Kota Kinabalu.

Those who have been to Kota Kinabalu had only seen the insides of malls and hotels, but never really appreciated the city itself.

A little history on Kota Kinabalu, formerly called Jesselton. It is the state capital of Sabah, East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo; it is also the capital of the West Coast Division of Sabah.

During the late 1800s, the British North Borneo Company became interested in establishing colonies throughout North Borneo (now Sabah). In 1882, the Company created a small settlement on Pulau Gaya, which was already inhabited by a people known as the Bajaus. This first settlement was destroyed by the Bajau hero and rebel Mat Salleh in 1897.

After the effacement, the Company decided to relocate the settlement to the more easily defended mainland. A nearby fishing village named Api-Api which had already been chosen as the terminus for a North Borneo Railway, was expanded and renamed as Jesselton. The name came from Sir Charles Jessel, a director of the Company.

Eventually, Jesselton became a major trading post of North Borneo, dealing in rubber, rattan, honey, and wax. The planned railway was built and used to transport goods to the Jesselton harbour. Bajau uprisings during these times were not uncommon, and the Company worked to quell the long-standing threat of piracy in the region.

Jesselton was razed by the retreating British early in World War II to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Japanese. After the Japanese takeover of Borneo, it was renamed to Api (Malay: Fire). What remained of the town was destroyed again by Allied bombing in late World War II, with only three buildings left standing, as the Japanese were pushed out of Borneo.

After the war, the British North Borneo Company, unable to finance the huge costs of reconstruction, gave control of North Borneo to the British crown. The new colonial government elected to rebuild Jesselton as the capital of North Borneo instead of Sandakan, which had also been razed in the war. The need for speedy rebuilding led to much of Kota Kinabalu being built over with concrete apartment blocks. Since then, land reclamation projects have greatly expanded the flat land available in the city for building, and most of the modern city center is located on landfill.

Jesselton was renamed Kota Kinabalu in 1968 after Mount Kinabalu, about 45 km (28 mi) east-northeast of the city. The meaning of the name "Kinabalu" is uncertain. One theory suggests it means "Chinese widow", where 'Kina' meaning a Chinese person in Kadazan, and 'Balu' meaning widow in Malay. This theory derives from a folk tale about a Chinese prince who came to the Mountain in search of a mythical pearl which is guarded by a dragon at the top of the Mountain. While he was here, he married a local woman but later returned to China and left the woman heartbroken.

Alternatively, it is also argued that "Kinabalu" or "Akinabalu" is the name of the dragon which guards the mythical pearl itself. Another theory suggests that the term is derived from the name "Aki Nabalu" meaning the "revered place of the dead", in which, 'Aki' means ancestors, and 'Nabalu' being a name for the Mountain in the Dusun language.

"Kota" is a Malay word for town or city. It is also used formally in a few other Malaysian towns and cities, for example, Kota Bahru, Kota Tinggi, and Kota Kemuning. It could also be used informally to refer to any towns or cities.

Kota Kinabalu received official city status from the Malaysian government on February 2, 2000.

Today the city's population is a mixture of many different races and ethnicities. The city consists of mainly Kadazans, Chinese and Bajaus. Most of the Chinese people in the city are Hakkas and can mainly be found in Luyang area. The area of Penampang is populated mainly by Kadazans, while the Bajaus mainly reside in Likas and Sembulan. This does not suggest that the people are socially segregated, in fact, the people of the city have lived peacefully side by side for many years.

People mainly speak Bahasa Malaysia, with a distinct Sabahan accent. However many still speak the language or dialect of their mother tongue when speaking with person of the same race or ethnicity. Mandarin and Hakka are still widely spoken by the Chinese. The number of Bahasa Kadazandusun speakers is thought to have dropped significantly, although some efforts can be seen to have been taken by some to revive the usage of the language.

However for those who speak Malay, it is noticeable that some of the Brunei Malay dialects are in their speech. This makes conversion with Sabahans easier for those who live in Brunei.

There are many places to visit in Kota Kinabalu, apart from the ever majestic Mount Kinabalu. The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a national Park consisting of the beautiful islands of Sapi, Mamutik, Manukan, Sulug and Gaya is about 15 to 30 minutes boat ride away from KK jetty. It is a popular spot for snorkeling.

There are other reserves and parks around Kota Kinabalu which are popular with tourists and locals. The resorts and family activities in Kota Kinabalu make the city a good place to spend a vacation with the family.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Friday, November 10, 2006

RM10m resort for Pulau Gaya

Kota Kinabalu: An environment-friendly boutique resort worth over RM10 million will be built at Police Bay in Pulau Gaya by the end of next year.

The resort, being developed by Gloharta (M) Sdn Bhd over 20 acres, is being touted as the first and best environment-conscious tourism attraction in the region.

Peter Loo, a Gloharta representative, said the contract to operate the resort was approved about a year ago and the Environmental Impact Assessment study completed in September.

"The study started in January and the Environmental Protection Department has accepted it," he said, adding the study was needed to ensure the island's bay would not be harmed during and after construction.

Continue reading at: RM10m resort for Pulau Gaya

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kuching secures healthy city awards

KUCHING: Kuching received the Alliance for Healthy Cities (AFHC) awards for pioneers in healthy cities and for progress of healthy cities with good performance at the alliance's second general assembly and conference in Suzhou, China, on Oct 30.

The awards were presented to Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud at his office here on Monday by Kuching South and North mayors Chong Ted Tsiung and Abdul Hamid Mohd Yusoff.

Deputy state secretary Datuk Morshidi Abdul Ghani, who was present at the ceremony, said the awards showed that Kuching had succeeded in sustaining its healthy city programme since adopting it in 1994.

Continue reading at: Kuching secures healthy city awards

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sarawak's Tourism Industry Wants MAS To Resume Rural Air Service

KUCHING -- Saddled with constant flight cancellations and loss of confidence in the local tourism industry, the Sarawak Tourism Federation (SFA) wants Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to resume the rural air service, taking over from Fly Asian Xpress (FAX).

SFA president Wee Hong See said Wednesday it would be submitting a memorandum pertaining to the appeal to State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh Soon soon in an effort to rectify the problems faced by the industry at present.

"The budget low-cost model of FAX is simply not conducive for Sarawak tourism and with the forthcoming Visit Malaysia Year 2007, one of our greatest concerns is to regain the confidence of all tour agencies in Sarawak and overseas," he told a news conference here.

Continue reading at: Sarawak's Tourism Industry Wants MAS To Resume Rural Air Service

Sarawak Counting On FAX's Move To Promote Mulu Attraction

MIRI -- Sarawak is hoping that Fly Asian Xpress (FAX)'s plan to link up with two global travel-based systems can restore the popularity of the Mulu National Park which has been in decline following last August's air link rationalisation exercise in the state.

State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said the impact of FAX's listing with the Abacus global distribution system from Nov 13 and the Amadeus global distribution system from Dec 1 would depend on the response of overseas travel agents.

"I hope by next year all these (problems of air connectivity to Mulu) can be rectified. I know that many overseas travel agents have stopped marketing Mulu because they could not make bookings all the way to Mulu," he told reporters after launching FAX's new aircraft livery, fare structure and services at the airport, here Wednesday.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Counting On FAX's Move To Promote Mulu Attraction

Monday, November 06, 2006

Travellers warned against being 'naughty' in Sabah

By Arman Gunsika

KOTA KINABALU - A warning to travellers - especially males: "Do Not Be Naughty While In Sabah", as the state recorded 520 HIV cases with 172 patients contracted full-blown AIDS so far this year.

During the same period, the country, with a population of 26 million, reported 70,599 HIV cases with 10,663 patients with full-blown AIDS.

In a rare warning, Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Yahya Hussin said the figures reflected a tremendous increase compared to 1,221 AIDS cases in 2005 and 233 cases in 1995.

He said this while launching a fundraising dinner organised by the Sabah Council of Social Services, delivered by his assistant Jornah Mohizim here.

Yahya said despite being a conservation Muslim country with some of the world's toughest anti-drug laws, Malaysia continues to be plagued by rampant increase in HIV cases due to illegal drug use and lack of sex education.

He urged non-government organisations in Sabah involved in combating AIDS to work together with the government towards preventing the spread in HIV.

He said programmes such as the distribution of free condoms and needles have proven successful, although during the initial stage, there were objections from many agencies.

The minister added that sex and HIV education is equally important among youngsters while religious groups should also play their role in promoting traditional values to stop the spread of AIDS.

"Do not be fooled by the sight of beautiful women or handsome men. Take extra precautions if you decide to befriend them," said a senior officer at the Council of Social Services.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Royal Brunei Airlines's fleet expansion meets growing demand

By M K Anwar

The confirmation by the nation's flagship carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, that it is planning to expand its fleet and is set to order several new and bigger planes to service its growing trunk routes and to slowly phase out its ageing B767s have been viewed as an exciting prospect for the company.

The fleet expansion programme was confirmed on Thursday by the Vice President of RBA Corporate Communications Hj Rozman Hj Junaidi. Observers have noted that it is about time RBA embark in such endeavour. Air travel as they say is picking up slowly.

The need for fleet expansion is even more compounded by the fact that RBA's trunk routes, Australia and Europe, have been growing.

"Demand has grown and we have to find ways to accommodate the growth," Hj Rozman said.

Furthermore the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have already reported that the 2006 international passenger traffic for the first half of the year grew 6.7 per cent in this region and is forecasted to grow 6.5 per cent a year until 2009. Undoubtedly RBA will also be gaining a share of this passenger traffic and despite the arrival of the low cost airline into the country.

Established on November 18, 1974, RBA is an independent corporation wholly owned by the government of Brunei Darussalam.

So far its fleet consists of six Boeing 767-300s, two Airbus A319s and two Airbus A320s. All its fleet of Airbus' was delivered in 2003 and 2004.

The exact types of aircraft that will replace the 767 have not been revealed but aircraft manufactured by Boeing or Airbus has the criteria that are been considered by RBA.

Both Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 or A340 for example can carry more than 260 passengers and many believe that these aircraft wil be suitable for the expansion. The decision on which aircraft to be leased will only be announced early next year and currently RBA is said to be evaluating the options carefully to produce the best outcome.

A reader giving her comment yesterday said that RBA should be following other airlines in the region which have gone far beyond expectation.

One such airline they say is Vietnam Airlines. Established in 1989 as a state enterprise, it has now gone from strength to strength with more than 30 aircraft. It revenue in 2005 passed the US$1 billion mark and has plan to order more aircraft.

"This Airline can be one of the models which RBA can follow," they commented.

Acquiring new aircrafts is also seen as another way to save fuel costs. It is understood that most new aircrafts are now more fuel efficient than before. The 777 for example is said to be a fuel-efficient aircraft together with the newer version A330-A340.

Higher fuel cost was also mentioned by the VP of RBA Corporate Communications as the reason why the airline has to consider their options carefully. Other airlines including RBA have to introduce fuel surcharge to recoup the rising fuel costs.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, November 04, 2006

BBC holiday show to feature Brunei attractions

By Ignatius Stephen

The "elephant woman" has come out of Africa to discover Borneo... Brunei, to be exact.

Thirty-six-year-old Saba Douglas-Hamilton, BBC's famous Holiday Programme presenter is said to have had a "whale" of a time while in the Sultanate although she did not find any elephants here. But the Borneo jungle was a place of particular interest.

She is to feature Brunei in BBC's longest running travel holiday programme which is expected to give a big boost in promoting tourism next year.

Brunei Tourism organised the BBC visit here with the support of Royal Brunei Airlines and Sunshine Tours.

The BBC crew also paid respects to His Majesty and members of the Royal Family during the festive season.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton was introduced to her first elephant when she was six weeks old, and thinks of elephants as part of the extended family. She considers her work as a natural history presenter with the BBC a blessing, combined as it is with her role in conservation.

Saba - which means "seven" in Kiswahili - was named by African tribesmen, born in Kenya at 7.00pm on 7 June 1970 as the seventh grandchild. Her father, respected zoologist Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton is founder of charity Save the Elephants and co-author of Among the Elephants and Battle for the Elephants with her mother, Oria, who runs Elephant Watch Safaris.

Growing up surrounded by animals, Saba spent her early years in the African bush. She and her sister, Dudu, would track elephants, climb waterfalls, catch snakes and scale the rooftops of buildings to "learn the art of balance" in the company of their adventurous wildlife expert father.

Saba went to the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales and took an MA degree in Social Anthropology at St Andrews University, Scotland. She wrote her thesis on 'Love and Sexuality amongst the Bajuni of Kiwaiyu Island, Kenya' and gained a first class degree. She lives in Kenya and is passionately dedicated to the wilderness of Africa, its people and wildlife.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, November 03, 2006

FAX on primary reason for flight delays in Borneo

Kota Kinabalu: Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) clarified that the primary reason for the delay of its flights by more than 15 minutes is due to technical problems, weather and poor visibility caused by the haze or a combination of these factors.

As of Oct 31, a total of 37 flights were delayed, of which 17 were delayed by more than 15 minutes, with the longest being an hour.

"With regards to recent reports which highlighted the plight of tourists who were asked to cut short their trip due to flight cancellations on Oct 17, we are currently investigating the matter," said FAX Chief Executive Operator, YM Raja Mohd Azmi Razali, in a statement Thursday.

Continue reading at: FAX on primary reason for flight delays in Borneo

Airport work in Sabah hits tourist arrivals

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism arrivals to Sabah have not been up to mark for the first eight months of this year.

From January to August, tourist arrivals touched the 1.3 million mark compared with 1.2 million recorded for the same period last year.

However, since the target for this year is 2.2 million tourist arrivals, the state is feeling the heat in trying to achieve the target.

Last year, Sabah recorded 1.8 million tourist arrivals.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang said the state government was confident that the last two months would see a surge in tourist arrivals although it was difficult to reach the target.

Continue reading at: Airport work in Sabah hits tourist arrivals

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Matunggong Gong Festival: Bigger gong promo planned

MATUNGGONG: Promotion of the annual Matunggong Gong Festival will be intensified next year, especially among tourists, said Assemblywoman Jornah Mozihim.

The Assistant Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister attributed lack of publicity to the lukewarm response for the two-day festival held in Kampung Sumangkap at the sub-district new township about 42km from Kudat.

Met after launching the festival on Tuesday, Jornah was asked on the small number of people coming to the festival, which was held in commemoration of the full eclipse of the sun that was also the longest in history on Oct. 24, 1995.

It was originally held at the new township field on Oct. 24, 2002 as Matunggong Cultural Festival but a year later was changed to Matunggong Gong Festival, while the venue was moved to the present site.

Continue reading at: Matunggong Gong Festival: Bigger gong promo planned

FAX promises enhanced services to rural areas

By George Francis

MIRI - Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), which has come under fire from Sarawak government for unreliable rural air services including to world heritage site Mulu Nationa Park, promises to enhance its services.

Its chief executive officer Raja Mohd Azmi Raja Razali said the airline is in the process of implementing some changes such as obtaining the relevant global distribution system (GDS) and sourcing interlining opportunities with other airlines.

In a statement, he said, beginning this month, flight frequencies will be increased to Mulu, while from Kota Kinabalu to Mulu from three to seven times a week since last Sunday.

The rural air services (RAS) operator is also offering fixed fares (excluding service charge) of RM84 from Miri to Mulu, and RM179 from Kota Kinabalu to Mulu.

Starting this month, passengers will be able to make direct bookings with Air Asia, subsequently, with other airlines via interlining-code share.

A collaboration with Galileo International for the GDS will enable agents to have access to FAX full range of fares.

The airline is still negotiating with few more GDS providers in Europe and Asia to be available by year end.

Meanwhile, FAX marketing manager Kaarthik Velu revealed the code-sharing this month with AirAsia, enable passengers to enjoy seamless connectivity whilst tapping into AirAsia's ever growing network.

He also said that FAX also introduced concession fares this month for children and senior citizens, in all rural air service routes.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Wong Soon Koh, the latest official taken the carrier to task, saying that the State government would take "very drastic measures" if the problems related to RAS not resolved.

He said the carrier should better brace fast to rectify all its shortcomings.

"We've been told repeatedly by tour operators that they'll not market Mulu and Sarawak if the air services to Mulu not improved."

Wong said it was very serious problem affecting long-haul tourists.

Although he had been reassured by FAX 's CEO on improving the services, the situation was getting from bad to worse, added Wong.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bayu Asiana enjoying brisk business in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Bayu Asiana Sdn Bhd which operates a souvenir shop and a restaurant at Grace Square in Sembulan is optimistic of continued brisk business with the recent introduction of 10 additional direct Seoul-Kota Kinabalu flights.

Despite being only in the local tourism industry for the past 10 months, the company is optimistic that it will benefit from the industry.

“We are happy to note that the majority of the Koreans visiting in the State Capital would normally include Bayu Asiana souvenir shop and Bamboo Palace Restaurant in their itinerary,” said its managing director Thomson Tang who added that same thing goes to the Japanese tourists.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Bayu Asiana enjoying brisk business in Sabah

FAX flies into storm over Mulu

KUCHING: Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) has come under fire from the state authorities for unreliable services to Mulu in northern Sarawak.

In taking the airline to task, state Tourism and Urban Development Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said unless it rectified various shortcomings, the tourism industry in Mulu would be destroyed.

“We have been told repeatedly by tour operators that they will not market Mulu and Sarawak if the air services to Mulu are not improved.

“This is very serious as the problems have affected long-haul tourists in particular,” he told reporters after closing a tour guide course at the Sarawak Tourism Complex here yesterday.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: FAX flies into storm over Mulu