Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sell Sabah, Sarawak through Borneo Harvest Festival

KUCHING: Sabah and Sarawak could sell its culture tourism to the world through a joint harvest festival called Borneo Harvest Festival, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Both states were blessed with strong tourism products and culture is one of them, said Masidi. Both states could put together package tours in Sabah and Sarawak that highlight the harvest festivals in both states as the main attraction for visitors, with May 30-31 for the Tadau Kaamatan and June 1-2 for the Gawai festival.

“These two festivals can help to promote culture tourism where everyone could experience the culture and lifestyle of the indigenous ethnic races,” he said during his visit with Sarawak Minister of Urban Development and Toursim, Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh on Monday. “We should not compete against one another but complement each other. Through this cooperation we would be able to achieve better results (for both states),” Masidi added.

Continue reading at: Sell Sabah, Sarawak through Borneo Harvest Festival

Royal Brunei Airlines mulling extra flights into Kuching

Airlines still waiting for added services to be given final approval

KUCHING: Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA), which recently resumed service to Kuching International Airport after laying off in 2004, will announce more flights soon.

A company spokesman said the increase would be a modest one, most likely by one or two more flights. The flights would utilise its medium-jumbo Airbus fleet, which has a seating capacity of about 120.

Presently, RBA operates flights three times weekly - Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday - from here to Bandar Seri Begawan. In comparison, RBA has daily flights to Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.

Continue reading at: Royal Brunei Airlines mulling extra flights into Kuching

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Air linkages to Brunei expanded

By Za'im Zaini

The government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam has given its consent for airline companies from BIMP-EAGA members such as Cebu Air from the Philippines and Batavia Air from Pontianak, Indonesia to operate in Brunei.

The move is hoped to develop the transport industry as in 2007 members of BIMP-EAGA reached an agreement for the liberation of aviation and also an agreement on developing land and marine transport.

This was revealed yesterday by the Minister of Communications Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Haji Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong during the launching of the strategic plan book for the Ministry of Communications.

We hope to step forward rapidly to realise services of land and marine. It is hoped to open spaces and opportunities for the private sector to explore and assist in generating other sectors that are related with tourism, he added.

Development of communication industry whether marine, land or air to generate economic growth is undeniable. Asia Pacific is a region that at the moment is developing and continues to have potential for growth in the future, the minister said.

Speaking on the aspirations of the government for an information society, the key towards the effort in generating one depends heavily on the ability of society to change. Despite the penetration rate of "fixed line" to homes, which is close to 100% however, the Internet usage rate for every 100 person is only 46.6%.

Efforts by the government through the e-government to provide online services to facilitate as well as to make the administration of government service more efficient can only implement it successfully if all parties involved or manpower in the government and users have the capability or are ICT literate.

Thus in relation to this we are all responsible in implementing efforts to ensure that investments in these projects are worthwhile by preparing manpower that can reap its benefits.

AITI since 2007 has implemented Infocom competency training programme in an effort to assist the ability of ICT local workers in the private or public sector to improve their skills. AITI will bear the cost of training between 50-80% at training agencies which are identified.

This programme is one of the visions of ICT that is dynamic, innovative and vibrant and in line with the nation's needs.

At the same time we appreciate and encourage the involvement of the private sector and other agencies in mutually developing and increasing the capacity of human resource in the ICT field.

We witness among the countries in this region or Asia-Pacific region on the co-relation among the increase of info-communication infrastructure with the economic progress that shows positive trend.

Thus in relation to infrastructure to assist in the development of info-communication which will be enhanced and extended including plans to improve the quality of broadband service as well as the implementation of the Asia America Gateway underwater cable project which is an underwater cable system aside from SEA-ME-WE-3 that is also available at the moment, this will increase the capacity of bandwidth and the ability of traffic flow out of the country.

We hope the available infrastructure and those that will be developed can generate development and economic progress in various SME sectors and private agencies as well as the government to attract Foreign Direct Investment.

On supporting SMEs, the minister said, "To realise the role of some of the departments of the ministry as a facilitator or regulator for certain services, through the strategic plan, efforts are underway to review the possibility of implementing the agenda of corporatisation of a number of services provided by the department under the Ministry of Communications."

This step is hoped to enable the departments to concentrate on the responsibility of its core business while the service can be implemented by the private sector.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, April 28, 2008

Miri - the jewel of Sarawak

MIRI -- Miri, the city with a seahorse as its mascot, inspires visitors with its natural and man made splendour.

Covering almost 1,000 square kilometres, Miri has a population of more than 250,000 with the majority being Chinese followed by Iban and Bidayuh.

I was there recently and was quite impressed with what Miri has to offer visitors.

Miri, the second biggest town in Sarawak after Kuching, boasts a long coastline extending from Bakam in the west to Baram near the Brunei border in the east, covering a distance of 40km. Much of its beaches remain pristine and serve as a focal point for both locals and tourists.

The sandy beach of Luak Bay Esplanade is a good example. During the evenings it's a hive of activities where the locals come to unwind and hawkers peddle their offerings.

It provides a spectacular view of the setting sun and the flares from the offshore oil rigs on the horizon.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Miri - the jewel of Sarawak

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hanging out in Borneo on a family vacation

From Seattle Times Travel section:

When my wife and I thought about bringing our three children closer to nature by taking them deep into the jungles of Borneo, we didn't realize how close we'd actually get.

We were visiting a vast rain forest populated by orangutans, rhinos and other animals when we decided to make a long trek into the sweaty, buggy jungle in search of the magnificent reddish-brown apes. At one point, my 6-year-old daughter, Mara, discovered what appeared to be a small black worm, about an inch long, crawling on her.

"What's that, Daddy?" she asked.

Cindy, my wife, wondered if it was a leech. I examined it closely and confidently announced it seemed to be an inchworm. After all, it moved in cute, inch-long strides as it wandered over Mara's hand.

Two hours later, I looked down to discover that I was bleeding profusely through my shirt and pants. Leeches! Those cute little "inchworms" had crawled under my shirt and into my pants and were swollen with my blood. So much for my expertise with jungle creatures. But in a bit of sweet justice, I was the only member of the family who ever got bitten by leeches. (They actually don't hurt at all.)

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Hanging out in Borneo on a family vacation

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Orangutan in Borneo attempts to hunt fish with spear

A male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish.

It is the first time one has been seen using a tool to hunt.

The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja, where apes are rehabilitated into the wild after being rescued from zoos, private homes or even butchers' shops.

Continue reading (incl. an interesting pic) at: Orangutan in Borneo attempts to hunt fish with spear

Kalimaran Fest to only showcase Murut culture

KOTA KINABALU: Kalimaran Fest 2008, which will be held for two days beginning today in Tenom, will only exhibit original Murut art and culture, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said the decision was made to preserve the originality of Murut art and culture from being mixed with other ethnic entities.

“This is why we decided to minimise the exhibition on other community art and culture,” he said here recently.

He said the approach was aimed at giving an opportunity to the Murut ethnic group, as well as visitors and tourists, to enjoy real Murut culture.

Masidi said the Kalimaran festival, which means art festival in the Murut language, would be held at the Murut Culture Centre in Kampung Polong, Tenom.

Continue reading at: Kalimaran Fest to only showcase Murut culture

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eating Out in Sabah: Little Italy - Authentic Italian Cuisine

“Little Italy” is without doubt Sabah’s most famous, and arguably the only true Italian restaurant. It is now well established, and situated right opposite the Wisma Merdeka it is difficult to overlook.

Though many have tried their hand at Italian cuisine here in Sabah only the “Little Italy” has managed to stand out and become enormously popular with locals, Malaysians, and tourists alike. What is their secret? Taste their food and you’ll know!

Italian food is not all about pasta in heavy sauces, or pineapples with tomato sauce on a thick bread layer (some people call that pizza…). I for my part have never eaten such a succulent, perfectly composed pizza, not even in Italy: a crisp, thin layer of dough, with a balanced topping and finished with real mozzarella, baked to perfection – a dream! All this at very reasonable rates, and you might understand why locals come again and again.

And once you have sampled all their pizzas and feel a bit more adventurous a whole new world of Italian foods awaits you: from tasty seafood and cream soups over crispy appetizers (the “Italian Sandwich”, with chicken or salmon comes with the highest recommendations), to perfectly done lamb chops and other meats in deliciously prepared gravies; from fresh salads over home-made ravioli and other pasta in a variety of mouth-watering sauces to lusciously sinful deserts.

The restaurant is well frequented and offers daily lunch and dinner menus at very reasonable rates, while offering the highest quality. Any meal at the Little Italy is a gastronomic journey to Italy, a discovery of its long history of fine cuisine. The owners of the restaurant, an Italian family, achieve their authentic cooking by importing most ingredients from Italy.

And the chef is nobody else than the mother of the Italian owner! More authentic you cannot get here! Staff at the Little Italy restaurant is well trained and your waiter will be able to explain in detail the preparations of the dishes – but they offer also other services: if you need some information or directions they will be ever so happy to help you out, or refer you to someone who can be of help to you.

For its outstanding cuisine and service the Little Italy has won a tourism award for the best restaurant, so maybe on your extended stay in Sabah you just might want to pop in and see for yourself what has been achieved here! An authentic experience and an enrichment to your holidays guaranteed!

Courtesy of: New Sabah Times 'In' Sites - Sabah Travel and Leisure Guide

MASwings Groovy Online offers to watch jazz festival

KUCHING: MASwings is offering ‘Groovy Online Offers’, a one-way ticket from Bintulu, Sibu, Kota Kinabalu or Labuan to Miri at RM39 each in conjunction with the Miri International Jazz Festival on May 9-10.

Minister of Urban Development and Tourism Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh who announced this yesterday said the offer represented about 80 per cent discount of the normal fare.

“The special fare is available for online purchase at MASwings website. Also, the first 50 customers will be given free entry passes to the Miri International Jazz Festival,” he told a news conference at Baitul Makmur in Petra Jaya yesterday.

Wong, who is also Second Finance Minister, was confident that the close cooperation between MASwings and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) would help better promote the festival among locals and foreigners.

“The jazz festival is becoming popular as this is the third consecutive year it is being held. It brings in both local and international jazz groups to perform here,” he said, adding that the festival would gradually receive overwhelming response like Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

Continue reading at: MASwings Groovy Online offers to watch jazz festival

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Semporna celebrates Regatta Lepa

By Kasha

Semporna, a district in Sabah with residents made up of Bajaus, celebrates a colourful event known as the Regatta Lepa Semporna (water festival) every April. Lepa (boat) in their language represents the unique lifestyle of the Sea Bajaus, who live their lives on boats moving from one place to another, living off the sea and seldom going ashore.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Bidayuh Bisapug to showcase culture

KUCHING: Bidayuhs from the Bisapug tribe will be organising a cultural night cum pre-Gawai dinner on May 23 to promote the tribe’s culture and tradition said to be slightly different from those of the other Bidayuhs.

It will also be the first pre-Gawai event organised by Sarawak Bisapug Association (SBA), formed to promote, preserve, document and exhibit the Bisapug culture as the pride, identity and symbol of the tribe.

According to SBA president Paul Kawin Pipo, the Bisapug tribe came down from Darud Bunggu some 300 years ago. They now number 6,000 and live in four villages, namely Simpok, Mundai, Sarig and Pesa.

“We are different from other Bidayuhs in terms of the colours in our traditional costumes, dressing, food, and even the way we speak the dialect,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Continue reading at: Bidayuh Bisapug to showcase culture

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Miri Marriott committed to 'green' initiatives

An aerial view of the greens surrounding the
Marriott Resort & Spa in Miri. Photo: Marriott

By Norlaila Abdullah

Miri Marriott Resort & Spa is joining hands with more than 150,000 Marriott associates - close to 3000 hotels worldwide - to mark April as the 'Environmental Awareness Month' by engaging in activities to demonstrate their commitment to preserving the environment.

Since the beginning of April, Marriott have launched campaigns to promote the benefits of a healthy environment and to highlight the resort's ongoing green initiatives.

One of the activities lined up was 'Love Our Garden' - an environmental campaign to 'pamper' the resort's 20 acres of award-winning gardens with fresh plants, soil and fertilizers with tender loving care.

'Love Our Garden'was held yesterday, in conjunction with World Earth Day, involving over 100 associates.

Miri Marriott Resort & Spa is also committed to the company-wide "Environmentally Conscious Hospitality Operations" (ECHO) programme, which focuses on four key areas - energy and water conservation, minimising climate change, waste reduction and recycling, and wildlife preservation.

Over the last three years, the resort has constantly employed sustainable environmental practices that help preserve its natural surroundings and resources - from efficient refuse collection, removal and recycling, to conserving energy and water.

"It's the right thing to do, and it's also in our business interest," says Public Relations & Communications Manager Nicholas Leong of the resort's environmental practices.

"We believe that we have a role to play in protecting our environment, and our practices reflect the environmental interests and concerns of our guests, associates, business partners and the local community."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Exciting activities at Mukah Kaul Festival

MUKAH: The opening two days of the on-going 2008 Mukah Kaul Festival which took place last weekend (April 19 & 20) saw two main curtain raiser activities successfully staged as planned.

The Mukah Beach Triathlon and Fishing Safari were hugely popular events for the residents of this Umai Town now celebrating the Kaul Festival.

The festival began with the flag-off of the Mukah Beach Triathlon 2008 at the Mukah Old Town by State Secretary Deputy II, Datu Abdul Ghafur Shariff at 8.00 am on Saturday.

There were three disciplines in the Triathlon event, namely, cycling, running and swimming.

Some 60 participants from throughout the state, including Sarawakians residing in Peninsular Malaysia, took part in the event.

Prizes to the winners of the sporting event, jointly organised by Sarawak Triathlon Association and Ministry of Social Development and Urbanisation, were presented by Jemoreng State Assemblyman, Abu Seman Jahwie.

The total prize money for the Triathlon event, held for the second time in Mukah to coincide with the Mukah Kaul Festival, was RM9,140.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Exciting activities at Mukah Kaul Festival

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hard trek up the Mulu Pinnacles

The spectacular landscape with the soaring Pinnacles
(New Straits Times file picture Copyright © NST)

IT was a beautiful morning. The sun was bright, the greenery looked fresh and the mountain peaks were covered by cotton-white mist.

But somehow this picture perfect landscape didn’t help ease our apprehension about climbing the razor-sharp Pinnacles that stood like needles on the slopes of Gunung Api within the Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak.

Along the 40-minute upstream ride to Kuala Litut, from the national park headquarters, photographer Munira Abdul Ghani and I just couldn’t stop feeling nervous.

We were worried whether we were mentally prepared and had enough stamina to complete the arduous climb up the Pinnacles. The thought that we had not packed enough clothes and snacks for the three-day expedition also bothered us.

Gunung Mulu National Park is Sarawak’s largest park and is known for its vast biodiversity and limestone karsts and caves. The park usually attracts 20,000 visitors every year but the number went up to a record 24,000 last year.

Of this number, only about 250 guests a month check in at Camp 5, the base camp at the foot of Gunung Api. The mountain is located midway of the Kuala Litut-Kuala Terikan trek of Sarawak’s famous Head-Hunter Trail, stretching from the national park to Limbang.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Hard trek up the Mulu Pinnacles

Mukah can be major tourist destination

MUKAH: Mukah has all the criteria to become a major tourist destination in the region because of its unique culture, traditions, food and other appealing products which are not available elsewhere.

The remark came from Deputy Tourism Minister, Dato Sri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abdul Taib at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Mukah Fishing Safari held at Mukah Old Town on Sunday afternoon.

His text of speech was read by Mukah Resident, Haji Abdullah Jamil, who gave away the prizes to the winners of the two-day fishing event organised by Sarawak Marine Fisheries Department (SMFD) from April 19 to 20.

Touching on the Fishing Safari which was held in conjunction with the famous annual Mukah Kaul Festival, Sulaiman said with it (safari), Mukah could be introduced to the world as an attractive fishing destination and also as a great tourism hub that would attract domestic and foreign tourists.

“I learnt that the Fishing Safari used to kick-start the famous Kaul Festival which has been made into a unique tourist product for the state.

Continue reading at: Over 10,000 expected for Kalimaran annual festival in Tenom

Over 10,000 expected for Kalimaran annual festival in Tenom

KOTA KINABALU: More than 10,000 people are expected to attend Pesta Kalimaran, an annual festival that honours and celebrates the Murut people and their tradition, in Tenom from 26 to 27 April.

Visitors can watch and take part in a myriad of traditional dances and games or view the intricate designs on the Murut attire particularly from the largest sub-groups of the Tagol from Nabawan and Timugon from Tenom. These events will take place at the Tenom Murut Cultural Centre and will be declared open by the Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

The highlight of the two-day event will be a popular song Murut chart competition organised by RTM. Those who come between 7am and 10am on April 26 will be given lucky draw tickets for free and stand a chance to win electrical goods at the draw on the same day at 12.30pm.

Continue reading at: Over 10,000 expected for Kalimaran annual festival in Tenom

Brunei Hotel dishes out promotional room rates

Story and photo by Lyna Mohamad

Brunei Hotel, which is the oldest in the capital, in a show of appreciation is currently holding promotions for several rooms, and food and beverages at the hotel.

Effective yesterday, the room rates from Mondays to Fridays for a single is B$55 nett and a double B$66 nett, inclusive of breakfast.

On Saturdays and Sundays, both room rates are offered at B$55 nett, also inclusive of breakfast.

The room rates are applicable for locals and Brunei residents, including those holding green identification cards.

The hotel's food and beverage department is also carrying a promotion at its Mawar Coffee House, beginning this Friday. The coffee house will be offering whole day menu at B$5 each set.

A variety of finger-licking and popular dishes are included in this rice set dish.

The promotion also covers the afternoon tea menu, offering a variety of set dishes for B$1.

Starting this May, the coffee house will be serving buffet lunch at B$8 for adults and B$5 for children every Tuesday.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Prince Albert II of Monaco Launches World’s First Bat Watching System in Borneo

From Borneo Blog:

Prince Albert II of Monaco, who is on a three-day visit to Sarawak, the other Malaysian state on Borneo Island, today launched the world’s first digital remote-controlled bats monitoring system at Deer Cave, one of the many caves within the Mulu national park.

The RM800,000 (US$254,000) system, also known as the Mulu BatCam, utilises five remote controlled television cameras and infra-red lighting inside the cave.

The system will be able to show spectacular details of the bat colonies inside, said the park’s manager, Brian Clark said in a report by Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Prince Albert II of Monaco Launches World’s First Bat Watching System in Borneo

Monday, April 21, 2008

Semporna to have Centre for Arts and Culture

SEMPORNA: Semporna is to have an arts and culture centre for research and reference on the local community’s culture, history and heritage.

Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal said the proposed centre would promote the culture and heritage to both local and foreign tourists.

“Establishment of the centre is important to ensure the existing culture does not whittle just like that. For example, the ‘Lepa’ Regatta has its own history. ‘Lepa’ or in the Bajau language, boat, is a heritage that is slowly disappearing and it has to be nurtured as a treasure.

“Therefore, in appreciating the importance of the ‘lepa’, the Lepa Regatta is included in the National Water Festival. As such, we propose the setting up of the arts and culture centre so that the heritage we have is safeguarded,” Mohd Shafie said at the launch of the 15th Lepa Regatta 2008, here Saturday night.

Continue reading at: Semporna to have Centre for Arts and Culture

Govt to build Seri Malaysia hotel in Semporna to boost tourism

SEMPORNA: The government will build a Seri Malaysia hotel in Semporna to reduce the shortage of hotel rooms here, especially during the festive seasons.

Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal (pictured left) said the site for the hotel had been identified and construction would begin this year.

“We are confident that the hotel would meet the needs of local visitors and foreign tourists, especially during the festive seasons and the Lepa Regatta held each year here,” he said after presenting prizes to the winners of this year’s regatta.

He said there had always been a shortage of hotel rooms here since the regatta was organised in 1994, adding that many of the local and foreign tourists were forced to stay in Tawau or Lahad Datu, about two hours’ journey from Semporna.

Continue reading at: Govt to build Seri Malaysia hotel in Semporna to boost tourism

Growing interest by divers on coral reefs off Miri

MIRI: There is a growing interest among both local and foreign divers to explore the beauty of unspoiled coral reefs and marine lives at pristine dive sites off Miri.

Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, said such response would augur well for Miri which was actually striving to put itself on the world map as one of the preferable sites for the diving industry.

“I’m happy to see there is an increase in the number of divers from Europe, Singapore as well as Japan, coming here. Such interest marks a good sign in the quest of the local authorities to project Miri as a truly Resort City, both for land and underwater tourism-based products,” Dr Chan told an interview after flagging off the Diving and Cleaning of Coral Reefs exercise at Miri Marina’s jetty yesterday.

Besdies the foreign interest, he was also pleased to see the growing enthusiasts among young local divers.

He strongly felt there was a need for the locals to explore the beauty of dive sites off Miri so that they would appreciate the underwater treasures.

Continue reading at: Growing interest by divers on coral reefs off Miri

Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) resorts back under local managements

SEMATAN: Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) resorts, once operated mainly by international franchises, are now reverting back to local managements.

SEDC has surprised many by not renewing its contracts with companies like Holiday Inn in respect of a prominent resort in Miri several years ago, and the latest, Damai Beach Resort at Santubong.

The latter has been under the management of Sara Resort (a SEDC subsidiary) since the first of this month.

Last year, a similar move resulted in the newly re-branded Damai Puri Resort and Spa.

“Sometimes, it’s better to consolidate rather than to expand,” SEDC chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip said yesterday.

He told The Borneo Post that SEDC would not build any more hotels or resorts in the near future, adding that the corporation preferred to ‘watch the market’.

“There will be more competition two or three years down the road with new hotels (coming up) in and around Kuching City,” he explained.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) resorts back under local managements

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Govt will never build road to Sarawak’s crown jewel, Mulu National Park

KUCHING: The Sarawak government will never build a road to Gunung Mulu National Park because of its commitment towards preserving what it considers its tourism industry’s crown jewel that will be there for generations to come.

Addressing a State Banquet held last night in honour of Prince Albert II of Monaco, who is on his first visit to Sarawak, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said efforts to preserve the park as a nature heritage for all generations to come would continue ceaselessly.

On Price Albert’s visit to Mulu today, the chief minister said the latter would see that the national park was well kept and that the rivers were yellow with silt, not chemicals.

“Mulu is doing very well. It was declared a World Heritage Site. We hope that it will be handed down to our younger generation in the same pristine condition,” he said.

“Because of that, the government has taken the decision not to build a road to Mulu in order to maintain its very loud silence and very fresh environment,” he added.

Mulu is now only accessible by plane or boat.

Continue reading at: Govt will never build road to Sarawak’s crown jewel, Mulu National Park

Friday, April 18, 2008

Big plans to promote tourism in Sarawak's central region

SIBU: The Tourism Ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board have big plans in promoting tourism in the central region.

“You may not realise it but we have placed thousands of brochure on Sibu and the central region of Sarawak at 43 STB offices globally, in addition to the billboards,” said Minister of Urban Development and Tourism Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh yesterday.

Wong yesterday unveiled a giant billboard at the incoming-passenger entrance at Sibu Airport. The billboard depicts three important tourism events - Balleh-Kapit Raft Safari, Mukah Kaul Festival and Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) 2008.

Also present to witness the ceremony were acting Sibu Resident Ismail Mohd Hanis and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geike. The giant billboard is put up by STB.

Wong said similar billboards had been placed strategically by STB at three other major airports in Sarawak - Kuching International Airport, Miri International Airport and Bintulu Airport, to promote the three annual events to the locals as well as domestic tourists.

“And also we have commissioned an international Mandarin-language publication, Leisure Travel Magazine (based in KL with international distribution), for 10 to 15 pages of features of Sibu and the central region, covering festivals, places of interest and lifestyles, which is expected to hit newsstand in May,” said Wong.

Balleh-Kapit Raft Safari will be on April 19 - 20, Mukah Kaul Festival from April 25 - 27 and BCF 2008 from June 27 - July 5.

Continue reading at: Big plans to promote tourism in Sarawak's central region

Brunei has sport tourism potential

By Lyna Mohamad

Brunei Darussalam has the potential for sport tourism as the country boasts attractions such as the world famous Ulu Temburong National Park and Selirong Islang in Brunei Bay.

This was said by Commonwealth Tourism Centre (CTC) Director General Abdul Rahman Shaari during a briefing on the first Commonwealth Conference on Sport Tourism at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.

Also present at the briefing were Brunei Tourism stakeholders at the Wawasan Room, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

Among those present at the briefing, held at the Wawasan Room, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, was Tourism Development Director Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed, who noted that the Brunei Tourism Board has been laying a lot of emphasis on sport tourism, especially golf, which has attracted 4,000 Koreans to the country this month alone.

Abdul Rahman Shaari said sport tourism encompasses the hosting of major sporting events, adding that a major component of the itinerary involves watching, organising or participating in physical activities, which has become an increasingly important social, cultural, political and economic phenomenon in recent years.

Other countries, he added, are capitalising on their natural attributes by actively developing jungle trekking, mountain climbing, scuba diving, white water rafting and other sporting activities.

However, he added, while sport tourism can offer many benefits, there can also be negative impacts. Thus, it is essential to understand the key issues of sport tourism so the benefits can be maximised.

The conference will examine three aspects: development; issues, impacts and opportunities; and case studies, said Abdul Rahman Shaari.

He also noted that the main objective of the conference is to provide a platform for participants to discuss key issues in sport tourism, including identifying and creating new approaches to sport tourism development and investment as well as sharing best practices in planning and management.

"This conference will bring together sports and tourism professionals from all over the world... to share their experiences, exchange ideas and discuss ways to enhance sustainable sport tourism development."

Meanwhile, themed "Sport Tourism and Sustainability: Inter-relationships, Impacts and Issues", the event was supported by Malaysian Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, Sabah Tourism Board, UK's Bournemouth University, and Creative Advances Technology of Malaysia.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, April 17, 2008

75 teams to compete in Baleh Kapit Raft Safari

KAPIT: The Baleh Kapit Raft Safari committee reported that the actual number of teams taking part in the competition as 75 after the closing date for the submission of entries.

The competition would be the 13th in its series. Furthermore, the event this year would also mark the state’s 45 years of Independence.

The 75 teams included 13 for the Men’s Open with 4 teams from outside Kapit, namely, Putrajaya Malaysia, Labuan and two from Kuching, 35 teams in the Men’s Closed Inter-Department, the most number of teams recorded so far (including 8 teams from outside Kapit district namely a team from Song, 2 teams from Kanowit and Sibu respectively and 3 teams from Kuching), 18 teams in the Women’s category, 6 teams in the Men’s Free Style event and 3 teams in the Tourist category. The tourist teams comprised one from Sibu and two from Kuching.

The two-day international and annual event on April 19 and 20 is jointly organized by Kapit Division Tourism Task Group, Ministry of Urban Development & Tourism, Ministry of Social Development & Urbanization, Sarawak Tourism Board, and Ministry of Tourism Malaysia in collaboration with the various government agencies here.

The first flag off point for the race (mainly for the Men’s Open category) is from Rumah Gare at Sungai Kain, a tributary of Baleh river about two and a half hours boat ride from here while the flag off point for its second (transit) station is at Rumah Milang, Nanga Sepako, Baleh (about 45 minutes boat ride from Kapit town).

Continue reading at: 75 teams to compete in Baleh Kapit Raft Safari

Pygmy elephants, last survivors of Javan race

KOTA KINABALU - The Borneo pygmy elephant may not be native to Borneo after all. Instead, the population could be the last survivors of the Javan elephant race - accidentally saved from extinction by the Sultan of Sulu centuries ago, a new publication suggests.

The origins of the pygmy elephants, found in a range extending from the northeast into the Heart of Borneo, have long been shrouded in mystery. Their looks and behaviour differ from other Asian elephants and scientists have questioned why they never dispersed to other parts of the island.

But a new paper published yesterday supports a long-held local belief that the elephants were brought to Borneo centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu, now in the Philippines, and later abandoned in the jungle. The Sulu elephants, in turn, are thought to have originated in Java.

Javan elephants became extinct some time in the period after Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia. Elephants on Sulu, never considered native to the island, were hunted out in the 1800s.

"Elephants were shipped from place to place across Asia many hundreds of years ago, usually as gifts between rulers," said Shim Phyau Soon, a retired Malaysian forester whose ideas on the origins of the elephants partly inspired the current research.

"It's exciting to consider that the forest-dwelling Borneo elephants may be the last vestiges of a subspecies that went extinct on its native Java Island, in Indonesia, centuries ago."

If the Borneo pygmy elephants are in fact elephants from Java, an island more than 1,200km south of their current range, it could be the first known elephant translocation in history that has survived to modern times, providing scientists with critical data from a centuries-long experiment.

Scientists solved part of the mystery in 2003, when DNA testing by Columbia University and WWF ruled out the possibility that the Borneo elephants were from Sumatra or mainland Asia, where the other Asian subspecies are found, leaving either Borneo or Java as the most probable source.

The new paper, "Origins of the Elephants Elephas Maximus L of Borneo," published in this month's Sarawak Museum Journal shows that there is no archaeological evidence of a long-term elephant presence on Borneo.

"Just one fertile female and one fertile male elephant, if left undisturbed in enough good habitat, could in theory end up as a population of 2,000 elephants within less than 300 years," said Junaidi Payne of WWF, one of the paper's co-authors. "And that may be what happened in practice here."

There are perhaps just 1,000 of the elephants in the wild, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah. WWF satellite tracking has shown they prefer the same lowland habitat that is being increasingly cleared for timber rubber and palm oil plantations. Their possible origins in Java make them even more a conservation priority.

"If they came from Java, this fascinating story demonstrates the value of efforts to save even small populations of certain species, often thought to be doomed," said Dr Christy Williams, coordinator of WWF's Asian elephant and rhino programme.

"It gives us the courage to propose such undertakings with the small remaining populations of critically endangered Sumatran rhinos and Javan rhinos, by translocating a few to better habitats to increase their numbers. It has worked for Africa's southern white rhinos and Indian rhinos, and now we have seen it may have worked for the Javan elephant, too."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New hotel to boost tourism, business activities in Miri

MIRI: The proposed Four Points Hotel at the foot of Canada Hill here is expected to give a ‘facelift’ to the city centre apart from boosting various business activities particularly tourism.

The construction of the 25-storey hotel, which will include a convention cum exhibition centre, will be undertaken by Global Upline Sdn Bhd.

Global Upline advisor Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing in briefing reporters on the project yesterday said the hotel was part of the efforts to help the government stimulate development and progress here.

“Miri needs this to promote the city as a tourist destination and to stimulate other economic activities.

“More people coming here means more money coming in. It will boost the trust and confidence of investors to come and invest in Miri,” he added.

Ting was confident that the project would help increase visitor arrivals through Miri Airport which is still underutilised.

“The airport, although extended and upgraded, is still underutilised as there are no bigger aircraft landing and no direct international flights.

Continue reading at: New hotel to boost tourism, business activities in Miri

Borneo Conservation Trust undertaking Green Corridor initiative

Kota Kinabalu: The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) is undertaking the Borneo Green Corridor (BGC) initiative in the Kinabatangan and Segama riverine areas of Sabah to re-connect fragmented forest areas and wildlife reserves to help wildlife thrive.

Its Chief Executive Officer Cyril Pinso said these areas had been identified as active wildlife migration routes by BCT, a non-governmental organisation promoted by Sabah's Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

The Kinabatangan and Segama areas had seen an increase in local communities and rapid expansion of oil palm plantations, Pinso said at the close of the two-day International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference, here, Tuesday.

Continue reading at: Borneo Conservation Trust undertaking Green Corridor initiative

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sabah: Monkey Magic

From Real Travel blog:

Sabah is one of two Malaysian provinces in Northern Borneo and one of the few remaining places you can see orangutans in the wild. Being a monkey-lover, this was a good enough reason for Monts to want to visit, and will explain the absence of almost anything else in the photo album for the last two weeks.

We arrived safe and sound in the capital city, Kota Kinabalu (or "KK" as it is known), which after Singapore seemed rather downtrodden and smelly, with an especially rich fragrance of raw sewerage wafting along the newly developed bars and restaurants on the waterfront.

Our "to do" list included a visit the main orangutan sanctuary down at Sepilok some 350km away, arrange to climb a rather large lump of a mountain called Mount Kinabalu and spend some time on a beach getting a bit of colour before we headed for colder climes in New Zealand.

The foolish idea of going up the mountain was hatched by Monts in the comfort of Guildford six months earlier. Her second foolish idea, on arrival in KK, was that it would be easier to rent a car and drive across to Sepilok rather than catch a bus, as we would need to stop on the way back to climb the mountain, two hours out of KK.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sabah: Monkey Magic

Sabah leads way in turtle conservation

SANDAKAN: The Turtle Islands Park (TPPP) located about 40 kilometres from here has been instrumental in turtle conservation since 1966.

TPPP encompasses three islands - Pulau Selingaan, Bakkungan Kechil and Gulisaan - covering an area of 1,740 hectares. The first turtle hatchery in Malaysia was commissioned in Pulau Selingaan in 1966. Two years later the two other islands also started their own hatcheries.

Pulau Gulisaan is the main landing point for the Hawksbill turtle in Southeast Asia. Another species that makes its way to TPPP is the Green Turtle.

Realising how important the marine habitat is, the Sabah state government bought over the three islands and turned it into a marine park in 1977. Since then it has been under the care of the Sabah Parks, an agency under Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry.

Continue reading at: Sabah leads way in turtle conservation

Monday, April 14, 2008

Big names for Miri jazz fest

KUCHING: Eight international jazz artistes and bands will appear along with a local group at the third Miri International Jazz Festival this May.

The line-up includes Habana Sax from Cuba, Charmaine Clamor (Philippines), Rumba Calzada (Canada), Mood Indigo (Britain), Diamond Dave and the Doodaddies (Australia), Oma Sound (Japan), T’Inventielke (Holland), Amar Sundy (Algeria) and Sarawak’s own Borneo Jazz Quartet.

Organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), the 2008 edition of the festival will take place at ParkCity Everly Hotel, Miri, on May 9 and 10.

“This year we hope to attract at least 6,000 people to the festival,” STB said in a statement recently, adding that last year more than 4,000 people attended the festival over two days.

It said that festival goers could expect a broader spectrum of jazz this year, ranging from laidback blues to jazz fusion with Latin, Caribbean and Oriental influences.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Big names for Miri jazz fest

Royal Brunei Airlines online booking closer to departure

By James Kon

Royal Brunei Airlines has introduced online ticket purchase from April 15 at 48 hours before flight departure, according to a press release.

RBA said it continues to work towards further reducing the booking window so passengers will be able to purchase online up to 24 hours in advance.

This is possible through the introduction of the present credit card identification (PCCI) system for online transactions.

This is a secure method of online purchasing that allows for credit card verification at the check-in counter before flying or at an RBA office.

For passengers purchasing tickets online with a credit card that is not their own, the card owner may present the card at their nearest Royal Brunei Airlines Office before the flight date.

RBA provides passengers with the option of bypassing the PCCI system by signing a Letter of Indemnity that may be downloaded from RBA's website.

"Royal Brunei Airlines is dedicated to ensuring convenient and safe options for our passengers who book online. At a time when Internet fraud is on the rise, with these additional measures, RBA passengers can shop comfortably and with peace of mind," said RBA Chief Executive Officer Ray Sayer.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kota Kinabalu to host sports tourism meet

KUCHING: Tourism ministers from nine countries have confirmed their participation in the inaugural Commonwealth Conference on Sports Tourism in Kota Kinabalu next month.

Commonwealth Tourism Centre’s director-general Abdul Rahman Shaari said some 100 participants from 18 nations had registered for the three-day event from May 13 at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was expected to open the event.

“We have secured an impressive line-up of keynote speakers and presenters whose information-packed presentations would be of a great interest and relevance to all sports tourism industry players,” he said during a mini-roadshow on the conference at Sarawak Tourism Complex here.

Continue reading at: Kota Kinabalu to host sports tourism meet

Greater comfort for AirAsia passengers

SEPANG - AirAsia, the leading and largest low cost carrier is setting the benchmark as a universally accessible low cost carrier by announcing that disabled guests traveling with AirAsia will now be able to fly with greater ease with the airline's newly acquired ambulifts.

The airline is placing one ambulift in its LCC Terminal hub (Kuala Lumpur) and another in its Kota Kinabalu hub.

Previously, disabled guests would need the assistance of AirAsia's ground staff to physically carry them onboard the aircraft but taking serious considerations the barriers faced by the disabled community, the low cost carrier proceeded to purchase the ambulifts which will be used to transport the disabled guests directly from the ground to the aircraft and vice-versa.

In addition, the airline also acquired aisle wheelchairs to be used with the ambulifts and onboard the aircraft.

For extra support, AirAsia's in-flight lavatories are already equipped with special built-in handles for disabled guests.

In conjunction with the commencement of the ambulift service, AirAsia also dedicated an aircraft livery for disabled guests, which will see the accessibility logo incorporated onto the both of the airline's engines.

Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) were present to celebrate the occasion, attended by over 40 disabled members.

Disabled guests can now book their flights directly online via AirAsia's website, and take advantage of the low fares, latest promotions, and many other exciting offers. The launch is part of the airline's first steps towards being a disabled friendly airline.

AirAsia is also playing its part as an equal-opportunity employer by recruiting interested and suitable candidates from the disabled persons groups as well as removing the requirement of signing of the indemnity form by disabled guests.

There are, however certain restrictions that apply due to AirAsia's A320 aircraft physical limitations and safety requirements of the aircraft and one of them include only a maximum of four (4) disabled guests are allowed per flight. Out of the four disabled guests, the airline can accommodate up to two (2) seats for quadraplegic guests. The airline endeavours to accommodate and assist its disabled guests where possible including offering pre-boarding service and allocating seats that are most suitable to guests' needs except for seats near emergency exits due to safety regulations.

Disabled guests requiring special assistance must contact AirAsia's Call Centre (+603 8775 4000 or +603 8660 4343) at least 48 hours before the scheduled flight departure date to make prior arrangement with the airline for the type of assistance required.

This is to ensure the availability of the service upon arrival at the airport. Once the disabled guests have pre-booked for assistance online and contacted the Call Centre, they can proceed to the designated airport check-in counters two hours prior to the scheduled departure time to obtain the assistance.

Disabled guests may also be required to travel with a companion if :

- It is essential for safety; or

- The passenger is unable to assist in his own evacuation from the aircraft; or

- The passenger is unable to understand safety instructions.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Friday, April 11, 2008

Executive Lunch at Cafe Majestic, Crowne Plaza Riverside Kuching

Well-known for its wide variety of international and local cuisine as well as its popular Japanese Buffet and High Tea, Cafe Majestic at Crowne Plaza Riverside Kuching is a great place to dine at.

Recently, the restaurant introduced its Executive Lunch menu, featuring fast savoury meals that are ideal for executives who are out on a lunch date with their business associates, colleagues, friends and loved ones.

The menu rotates daily and diners get to choose from a good selection of lunch items. These include, among others, Chicken Gordon Bleu (French-inspired poultry dish with deep fried moon potato and herb gravy), Malaysian style Bawal Hitam Panggang Bersambal with Sayur Campur Ikan Masin and steamed white rice, and Ginger Beef with stir-fried mixed vegetables and steamed white rice.

The Sweet and Sour Fish served with Baby Kailan Belacan and steamed white rice is just tantalising while the Ayam Panggang Percik with Sayur Kangkong Belacan and steamed white rice will surely please diners who are into spicy food.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Executive Lunch at Cafe Majestic, Crowne Plaza Riverside Kuching

Extend open-sky policy to Sarawak, Sabah

KUCHING: The open-sky policy between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur should be extended to cover Sabah and Sarawak, said Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

He said that using Singapore as a gateway to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu would boost the growth of tourism in the two East Malaysian states.

Taib said this while launching budget carrier AirAsia’s Jakarta-Kuching direct flight at Kuching Hilton on Wednesday.

The thrice-weekly flight was kicked off on April 1.

Thanking AirAsia for linking Sarawak via several regional routes, Taib promised that state authorities would help the airline get a special terminal here.

Continue reading at: Extend open-sky policy to Sarawak, Sabah

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Low-cost carrier terminal plan for Kuching

KUCHING: AirAsia Berhad is in talks with the state government to build a local low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) here which imposes lower airport tax and utilises simpler facilities.

Its group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said this was crucial in developing Kuching as its regional hub especially with the introduction of it new international flights.

He also told reporters yesterday that this matter had been brought to the attention of Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and he was hopeful of an encouraging response from the state government.

“The airport tax on the Kuching main terminal is too high, RM51 or RM52. At the Kuala Lumpur low cost carrier terminal, it is only RM25. For (a low-cost carrier) like us, the key is to have low fares. We also need simpler facilities because we’re different from a full service airline,” he said after the official launch of AirAsia’s Jakarta-Kuching route at a leading hotel here yesterday.

He said the low-cost terminal was also crucial as AirAsia estimated that in the next three years, it would handle five million passengers just out of its regional hub here.

At present, the local hub serves seven domestic routes to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and two international flights to Macau and Jakarta.

Continue reading at: Low-cost carrier terminal plan for Kuching

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

AirAsia to impose baggage handling fee

SEPANG: Budget airline AirAsia Bhd will charge a fee for handling checked baggage for flights booked from April 21 onwards.

Group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said the fee was only applicable for bookings made after April 21 and would be implemented across AirAsia’s network.

“One of the major causes is obviously fuel … You use more fuel when the aircraft is heavier. What we are going to do is that every bag that you checked in, we will charge RM5 per bag, but if you buy online on the days before then we will charge RM3 per bag.

AirAsia X has been doing this and has proven quite successful. Hence, we are going to do it at AirAsia from April 21,” he said at a media briefing here yesterday on its plan to impose checked baggage handling fee.

Continue reading at: AirAsia to impose baggage handling fee

Monday, April 07, 2008

New set of challenges for Damai Beach Resort

With a new tag line “Your Spot In Borneo”, Damai Beach Resort, considered by many as one the best holiday destinations in Asia, is currently undergoing a rebranding process.

The current task of the new team is to continue providing the best services to guests whose expectations have grown higher than ever.

Damai Beach Resort is a four-star resort situated about 35 kilometres from Kuching City. It is owned by the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).

Its Director of Talent and Business Development, Caroline Yeo recently spoke to Eastern Times in an exclusive interview. She talked about a new set of challenges she and her team will now have to face and overcome in their bid to bring the resort to greater heights.

The challenge

Caroline said that the main challenge now is for the new team to rebrand and reinvent the resort.

The aim is to make Damai Beach Resort the ultimate holiday retreat for everyone.

“Therefore, we will work closely with the media who can help us to tap into both the local and international markets. We will also work closely with our network of travel agents, foreign media and travel magazines, and embark on familiarisation events to promote our property,” Caroline said, adding that the resort is continuing to improve in terms of its service quality so that customer expectations can be met and exceeded.

She went on to say: “In addition, we have developed high-value, affordable retreats and packages targeting various market segments - great fun need not come with an exorbitant price tag. Yes, so many things are going on right now and many good things are coming soon.”

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: New set of challenges for Damai Beach Resort

Sunday, April 06, 2008

MASwings launches inaugural Kuching-Tanjong Manis flight

TANJONG MANIS (MUKAH): MASwings started its flight operations on October 1 last year at the request of the Federal Government with the intention of providing air connectivity between Sarawak and Sabah as well as connecting the states directly to the world.

MASwings’ Managing Director, Dr Amin Khan stated this at the launching of the airline’s inaugural flight between Kuching and Tanjong Manis here yesterday.

He said the airline took up the request as a challenge and decided to focus more on reliability and interlining or direct connection with other airlines.

“Our reliability has increased to a level of 94% - meaning the chances of getting delayed is only 6%,” Dr Amin said, pointing out that the target on time departure and the industry standard was 86%.

“As such, we are extremely proud of our achievements because we have surpassed the industry standard,” he added.

On interlining, Dr Amin said flights were available for sales worldwide through 60,000 agents.

He explained that passengers going to the interior of Sarawak could buy their tickets from any of the travel agents and travel on board any of the 200 partner airlines of Malaysia Airlines to connect to MASwings.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: MASwings launches inaugural Kuching-Tanjong Manis flight

Brunei in top five of Malaysian Tourism

By Azlan Othman

Some 144,729 Bruneians visited Malaysia from January to February this year, making it the top five tourist generating markets for Malaysia, Bernama reported.

A total of 1,742,468 tourists visited Malaysia in February this year, an increase of 5.5 per cent as compared to the same month last year, the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) said recently.

Cumulatively, tourist arrivals recorded from January to February this year, were recorded at 3,522,602, representing an increase of 4.4 per cent as compared to 3,373,790 for the same period last year, it said in a statement here

According to the statement, Singapore maintained its position as the biggest tourist-generating market for Malaysia, with 877,078 Singaporeans visiting the country in February this year

Tourism Malaysia said the 'Top Ten' tourist-generating markets from January to February this year were Singapore (1,783,093), Indonesia (325,310), Thailand (235,181), China (172,832), Brunei (144,729), India (77,058), Japan (71,641), Australia (67,311), United Kingdom (62,162) and South Korea (52,819).

The favourable currency exchange rate coupled with spots like weekend 'Tamu' in Limbang, seafood restaurants in Kota Kinabalu, shopping and visiting places of interests like hot springs in Kota Kinabalu and Kinabalu park were among the main attractions for Bruneians to cross the border to Malaysia.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Kota Belud comes alive with open market

The open food stalls
The Kota Belud Market

Fantastic hats of the local folks

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to Faadzillah Raheemah Safri and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd.

By Faadzillah Raheemah Safri

Kota Belud, the name evokes a macho male dominated culture of the Bajau, an ethnic of Sabah. I was accompanying my uncle on a research trip on discovering the influences of the Brunei Empire around Borneo but found something else.

The trip to Kota Belud can be done on hired car, bus (at random time that only goes when it is full) or even a shared taxi. Prices are negotiable at times and transports go as early as 4am.

Just mind your persons and stuff. The trip takes pone at a range of two or more hours, depending on the driver. If you are driving, beware of police spot checks. Even so, there are many backpackers staying over night at the Kota Belud town in small hotels just for a night or two. Do wear good shoes as it can be muddy and damp at times.

The Pekan of Kota Belud is just as interesting as any sleepy old town but the difference is that it is more lively and with an added zest of personality. The Kota Belud got its name from the surrounding hills that are referred to as Belud in the local language. In that context there was a fort built in relation with the hills and mound that it became the fort of mounds or small hills.

The town of Kota Belud holds its market every Sunday with the Tamu Basar (main market event), which is held once every year in October or November. The market itself is not only a convenient store but is a shop for all.

Both luxurious and daily household items are on sale. Then there is also the mystical pottery, medicines and so forth. These comes from as far as China and Korea and as near as cottage products of the surrounding villages.

Local products as well as sundry goods are also another feature. The one most interesting thing with the market is the quality and prices of the items on sale are very cheap. How do they make an earning?

The common folks said that the items are bought in extremely large quantity thus the prices can be a lot cheaper than the open market prices.

The handicrafts items are also another thing that impresses any bystander or shopper. They look like things imported from Bali and so forth but were actually copies made by the local craftsmen.

The local craftsmen of Bajau, Rungus, Kadazan and others of Sabah are also handicraft churning factory. Magnificent and mind boggling in some cases, especially in the leaf plaited items.

There is this one type of basket that is a product of the Sabahan. When you pour water in it, it will not leak out at all, to my amazement. The colours are also interesting as most use the natural dyes that are abundant, around and free from any cost apart from the efforts of picking and gathering them.

The local folks are also humorous, welcoming and friendly. They were shocked to see my European looking uncle speaking Malay. But still the folks are merry.

The majority of vendors are above 40 years of age. This is a good sign, as they know the products of their trade. The folks spoke about the items they sell fluently, how to use it, what quality it has, how to handle it and the likes. No one is lost in translation, regardless of them not being able to speak English.

The skill of these folks also shows another side, recycling and environmentally friendly, the majority of the vendors sell their items on large yam leaves.

At the same time, stockpiles of the yam leaves are used for wrapping various foods that are sold. How is it environmentally friendly? It's not made from wood (as paper) so a factory is not required to pollute the Earth and the yam leaves are biodegradable. Plus the trimming of the plants encourages the yam to grow healthy.

The vendor that sells the local 'kuih' is the heart of the Kota Belud Market.

The expression while cooking and the skill while making are reflected on the faces of these folks. The food is of course clean and delicious. Eaten still hot with local coffee of Sabah, it's a kick to a drowsy head.

The Sabah government has built stalls that look like a foyer for the vendors to rest, display and gossip over a thick smoke of tobacco.

It is also meant to be durable and weather friendly. The structure is so sturdy that folks can rest and relax at the open-air structure.

After all that walking around, one should stop at the open café inside the main market complex. They serve food for the daring to the muted flavours.

Enjoy the noise as you can pick 10 different dialects that represent the harmony that Sabahan lives on.

So the next time you are around, try Kota Belud.

It is not what you expect that counts, it's what you would experience.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, April 04, 2008

New Zhang Ziyi TV Special on Borneo Conservation

Zhang Ziyi, the popular Chinese actress with credits that includes movies such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is ready to debut a new one-hour tv special called "Zhang Ziyi: A Conservation Story".

The film to be hosted by Zhang Ziyi, is directed by Paul Mogg and follow Ziyi as she travels to the rainforest of Borneo, Sabah to be specific, to explore the beauty of Borneo, the conservation of the environment and the unique flora and fauna.

Check out the preview below:

Ezo Zone: Kubah National Park's cool!

JESSICA Alba may not know this but she brought sexy back to Kubah National Park with her 2003 film, Sleeping Dictionary.

The story, about a young, idealistic colonial officer posted to Britain’s deep-jungle Sarawak outpost in 1939 and his forbidden love with sexy, local tutor (Alba), was filmed around the area and managed to paint a lush picture of Borneo – the kind that has since lured many tourists to the island.

Naturally one would think that even the locals would make a mad dash to the park, following in the footsteps of the Hollywood celeb. After all, look at what Lord Of The Rings did for New Zealand tourism.

Sadly, that was not to happen with Kubah. Since the film’s release and the gazetting of the park in 1988, Kubah remains Sarawak’s least known national park although it is the most easily accessible from Kuching – just a 20-minute leisurely drive through the town’s many famously huge roundabouts that dot the urban landscape.

Glamorous Camp

But for guests like myself, few tourists only means good news. Like having the waterfall all to yourself – yes, the same one that gave the film that stunning backdrop in its publicity gig. Or getting the park rangers accompany you on the many trails, drinking in the scenery and sharing in the forest knowledge from those that know the area well.

Still, it can be a bit unnerving camping on the park’s 2,230-hectare ground with just you and the photographer... and perhaps a handful of park rangers on night duty.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Ezo Zone: Kubah National Park's cool!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sabah targets to earn RM48.5 bil from tourism by 2025

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah targets to earn RM48.5 billion from tourism by 2025, says Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. In his keynote speech at a seminar on opportunities in the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) organised by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) at Beverly Hotel here yesterday, Masidi said under the SDC, the state will market Sabah as an exclusive destination and attract quality tourists who will spend more and stay longer.

The state will promote eco-tourism and new products while involving the rural people, he said. “In addition, the tourism strategy should also benefit the people of Sabah and enhance their quality of life,” he said in his speech read by his ministry’s permanent secretary, Suzannah Liaw.

Tourism, Masidi pointed out, is one of the main contributors to the state economy besides agriculture and manufacturing, and last year it contributed about RM4.72 billion, or 14.72 per cent of the state’s gross domestic product, benefiting not just the government but also everyone in the state including taxi drivers and businesspeople.

Continue reading at: Sabah targets to earn RM48.5 bil from tourism by 2025

AirAsia to fly new routes in BIMP-EAGA

The 5th BIMP-EAGA Transport, Infrastructure and ICT Development (TIICTD) Cluster meeting ended yesterday with members agreeing to enhance cooperation to further improve and accelerate transport infrastructure development in the region.

On the status of the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Expansion of Air Linkages in BIMP-EAGA, Air Asia is expected to operate the Kuching - Bandar Seri Begawan and Kota Kinabalu - Bandar Seri Begawan routes.

Meanwhile, Batavia Airlines will reportedly serve the Pontianak to Bandar Seri Begawan route while retaining the existing route between Pontianak and Kuching.

In order to promote air transportation in BIMP-EAGA, member countries have also agreed to exchange information on the status of their airports towards the compliance of ICAO safety and security requirements.

The meeting recognised the Brunei International Airport as one of the gateways to BIMP-EAGA. The full implementation of the MoU will support Brunei Darussalam's vision to become a hub in the sub-region.

With regards to the MoU on Cross-Border Movement of Commercial Buses and Coaches, a task force will be set up to facilitate the implementation of the MoU. Scheduled cross-border buses are expected to commence operation from June 2008.

Following the directive of the BIMP-EAGA leaders at the 4th BIMP-EAGA Summit held in Singapore in November 2007, the body has proposed to conclude an MoU to pilot-test the Asean Framework Agreements on goods in transit, interstate and multimodal transport. Further to this, member countries will formulate guidelines for the early implementation of transportation of goods in transit in BIMP-EAGA.

With regards to sea linkages, the car ferry services between Muara and Menumbok and Muara and Labuan are expected to commence service before the end of 2008. In addition, several capacity building programmes in respect to transportation have been planned in 2008.

BIMP-EAGA has recognised transport as one of the key enablers to achieve its objective to increase trade, investment and tourism in the sub-region.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

AirAsia flying to more places from Kuching

KUCHING: AirAsia’s four new regional routes from Sarawak will further improve the state’s connectivity.

Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said the new destinations were Jakarta, Bali, Bandar Seri Begawan and Singapore.

The Kuching-Jakarta flight commenced on Tuesday while Kuching-Bali will begin on May 2 and Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan on June 12. The Kuching-Singapore flight will follow later.

Continue reading at: AirAsia flying to more places from Kuching

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sabah reaped over RM4.7b from tourism last year

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah reaped over RM4.7 billion in tourism receipts last year, accounting for 14.8 per cent of the State's GDP.

Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Chairman Tengku Datuk Dr D.Z. Adlin in his presentation at the first Surveyors' Congress organised by the Institution of Malaysia (ISM) Sabah branch, said the State has already enjoyed above average growth of 22 per cent per annum.

"This is far exceeding that of Malaysia as a whole in the last 10 years."

He said total arrivals of just over 400,000 in 1998 significantly increased five-fold to 2.48 million (60pc domestic, 40pc international) last year, which accounted for the yield surpassing the RM3.2 billion estimated for 2007.

The average per capita tourism receipt for international tourists is RM2,500 (domestic RM1,500) and average length of stay was eight nights, nine days (domestic four nights, five days). Ninety-nine per cent of the tourists came by air while over 40pc were repeat visitors.

Continue reading at: Sabah reaped over RM4.7b from tourism last year

Sarawak Longhouse Adventure

From Travelzon blog:

It is almost a crime to come to without visiting an Iban longhouse. Iban hospitality is legendary, and visitors are guaranteed a good time. A longhouse is basically a terraced street of separate dwellings coveredby one roof, under the authority of a headman, or tuai rumah.

These longhouses may have anywhere between six to nearly a hundred units! Longhouses located in newly opened areas are typically made of bamboo and tree bark, but more established and prosperous longhouses can be made of precious and long-lasting hardwoods.

Primarily a communal group, the Ibans community practices their own brand of democracy, with the elders having an important role in major decisions. Each family lives in its separate apartment, or bilik, and communal activities take place outsideon the verandah, or ruai. This is also where single male visitors spend thenight. Female visitors and couples will be invited to stay inside the bilikwith the family.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Longhouse Adventure

Proboscis monkeys also found in Pulau Gaya

Kota Kinabalu: To many people, the only place to see proboscis monkeys might mean a costly and time-consuming trip to the Kinabatangan on the east coast or the west coast mangrove belt starting from Klias.

Little do they know that there exists a colony of up to 30 proboscis monkeys within 10 minutes by boat from the city's waterfront.

Or to be more precise - in the mangrove swamps of Pulau Gaya, one of the five Tunku Abdul Rahman Park islands.

Sabah Parks Board Director, Paul Basintal, said the park's research unit found that the colony is among the natural wildlife inhabitants in the 15-sq km forested island.

It is probably the same colony where a male proboscis monkey rescued from drowning in waters off nearby Pulau Sapi on Saturday originated from, he said, when asked about the monkey rescue by a dive team during a trip to Sapi that day.

Continue reading at: Proboscis monkeys also found in Pulau Gaya

MASwings launches non-stop flights to Ba’ Kelalan

BA’ KELALAN: MASwings launched its first non-stop flight from Miri to Ba’ Kelalan during the opening of the Appel Fiesta recently.

The flight, which took off from Miri at 8am arrived at Ba’ Kelalan at 8.55am, marked the launching of Maswings non-stop flight.

The inaugural flight was launched by Assistant Minister of Tourism Minister, Haji Hamden Ahmad, at the opening of the three-day long Ba’ Kelalan Apple Fiesta.

Hamden in his speech described the non-stop flight as an encouraging development that would not only help to provide better convenience for local travelling community, but would also help to boost tourism in the area.

He added the challengefor the tourism industry was to expand the products available in the country and no to depend on the existing products.

“We need to identify new products, develop and promote them to the outside world. The industry players will need to be more creative and proactive in terms of monitoring the trends of travel and leisure by tourists so that we can tailor our products to suit their needs in our efforts to attract more tourists to our country,” he said.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: MASwings launches non-stop flights to Ba’ Kelalan

Sabah Museum’s Crafts Exotica program May 2-27

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Museum will be holding its yearly event dubbed Crafts Exotica program from May 2-27 at the Museum’s Heritage Village compound here and the Agnes Keith House compound in Sandakan.

The program is one of the main events listed in the Sabah tourism calendar with the objective to enhance the local cultural heritage and the development of handicraft in Sabah in particular and Malaysia in general. Several activities have been lined up for the program which is also to be held in conjunction with the state level World Museum’s Day and the Sabah Fest celebration.

Among them are demonstration of handicraft making at the museum’s Heritage Village. This year Lunbawang, Lundayeh, Makiang and Kalabuan communities are expected to show their skill in making their traditional handicrafts.

Continue reading at: Sabah Museum’s Crafts Exotica program May 2-27

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

World Harvest Festival to begin in Sarawak on May 24

KUCHING : At a press conference yesterday, it was announced that the World Harvest Festival 2008 (WHF 2008) will take place on May 24 and 25 at the Sarawak Cultural Village here.

“This invigorating cultural extravaganza is organised by the Sarawak Cultural Village and supported by the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism Sarawak for the fourth year,” said Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism Sarawak, Akit Sebli, who is also the Chairman of WHF 2008.

“The highlights will include cultural concerts, interactive workshops from the international cultural groups from Senegal and Indonesia, a play entitled ‘Panglima Kulow’ by the talented SCV artistes, written by Dato Peter Minos, WHF 2008 Iron Man Competition and, of course, the Grand Finals of the Miss Fair and Lovely 2008,” he said.

Guests to the WHF2008, can treat themselves to the ‘ngabang’ sessions which will be held in the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu houses on the night of May 24, he added.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: World Harvest Festival to begin in Sarawak on May 24