Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Brooke ‘returns’ to Sarawak

KUCHING: Jason Brooke has always been fascinated by Sarawak, having grown up hearing stories about the place from his father and grandfather.

Now, the great-great-grandson of Sarawak’s second White Rajah, Charles Brooke, is here to see the place for himself.

“I used to approach my grandfather, Anthony Brooke, for his memories of Sarawak when I was young. I always bothered him for more and more stories,” he said when visiting the Sarakraf Pavilion here yesterday.

“They were mainly old stories about travelling upcountry and meeting people and, on one occasion, how he gave toys to small children.”

He added that his father, who lived in Sarawak as a baby in 1940, also maintained a great interest in the state.

“He told me stories when I was very young, and showed me the old flags and bits and pieces from Sarawak that he still possessed. So, it’s always been a great fascination for me.”

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Brooke ‘returns’ to Sarawak

Borneo needs to protect rich heritage, natural resources

Kota Kinabalu: In welcoming development and change in Borneo, governments and its people must work together to strike a balance between economic growth and the need to protect its rich heritage and abundance of natural resources.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said Borneo, especially Sabah, had become a magnet for large populations of transient and displaced immigrants from neighbouring countries.

In turn, it has created many issues for local communities, as well as governments, he said, adding that in many cities, the move towards industrialisation and 'rural-urban drift' of interior populations had created sprawling urban areas that have adversely affected local societies and the natural environment.

"While we continue to welcome development and change in Borneo, we must work together to strike a balance between economic growth and the need to protect our rich heritage and abundance of natural resources," he said.

He was speaking at the launching of the Borneo Research Council (BRC) Ninth Biennial International Conference at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here, Tuesday.

His text of speech was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister cum Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan.

According to him, the Conference theme, "Borneo on the Move: Continuity and Change" reflected that in recent times, populations in Borneo had experienced many changes in tandem with regional and global developments.

Continue reading at: Borneo needs to protect rich heritage, natural resources

Use culture tourism to fulfil vision of Baram

MIRI: Telang Usan assemblyman Lihan Jok is banking on the unique culture and tradition of the Orang Ulu to fulfil part of the state’s ‘one industry one division’ vision.

He said the huge Baram district has the potential to attract the world’s attention by way of tourism based on the unique culture of its people.

The asset of the people, according to him, is their colourful culture which, if promoted and marketed outside the country, could attract a certain type of tourists.

Consequently, he believed that the people could participate in the industry and benefit from it.

To him this would be a commonsensical alternative to planting oil palm despite the extremely attractive price of the commodity.

The way he looked at it, his people “cannot possibly take part” in opening oil palm plantations because the undertaking required big capital and high expertise.

Continue reading at: Use culture tourism to fulfil vision of Baram

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sarawak Regatta - A Brooke down on the river

KUCHING: His great grandfather's uncle started it 136 years ago in 1872.

Now he is here to see what the longest-running regatta in the country is all about.

Jason Brooke, the 23-year-old great grandson of Sarawak's second white rajah, Charles Brooke who ruled from 1868 to 1917, has been invited as a special guest to this year's three-day regatta beginning on Friday.

Other state guests include the Sultan of Brunei and entourage of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

Somare, arriving today for a three-day working visit, would not be attending the regatta.

The Sarawak Regatta during the rule of the white rajahs was an important social event.

The tradition of holding the annual regatta in the Sarawak River continued through the colonial period and into independence.

This year, the Resident and District Office with about RM700,000 in the kitty, hopes to bring the grandeur back.

There are more races, prize money has been increased and the five top finishers in each race will receive cash prizes.

The regatta has drawn 321 teams and over 6,200 participants for the 15 categories.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sarawak Regatta - A Brooke down on the river

Sarawak Regatta from Aug 1-3

KUCHING: The public are invited to attend the Sarawak Regatta 2008 at Kuching Waterfront here from August 1 to 3.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will officiate at the opening at 11am on August 2 while the Head of State Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Muhammad Salahuddin will close it at 2pm the next day.

A press conference was told yesterday that 19 race categories, four among them new categories, would be competed from 8am to 5pm for three days. The new categories are 20-paddler inter state, 20-paddler inter varsity, 20-paddler government and corporate bodies (men), and 30-paddler VIP special.

Other categories are seven-paddler (men), 10-paddler (women), 15-paddler mixed (eight men and seven women), 15-paddler (men), 20-paddler (men), 30-paddler (men) for the Head of State Trophy, 20-paddler inter division (men), 30-paddler VIP (men), 30-paddler hotels and tour agencies (25 men and five women), 20-paddler international (open), 15-paddler tourist, ‘Perahu Tambang’ (engine and rowing), kayak, jet ski open 800cc and below, and jet ski open unlimited.

The regatta advisor Datuk Mohd Morshidi Abdul Ghani told the press conference that six teams had so far registered for the 20-paddler inter state category - Sarawak (three teams), Terengganu (one team), Federal Territory (one team) and Kuala Lumpur (one team).

Continue reading at: Sarawak Regatta from Aug 1-3

Tourism players in Sabah, Australia to step joint promotions, fam trips

KOTA KINABALU: Joint promotions and familiarisation trips to Sabah put together by Sabah and Australian tourism players will be stepped up.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said such cooperation was imperative as Sabah hopes to get a chunk of the outbound travel business in Australia.

In his five-day working visit to Australia covering Brisbane and Sydney, Masidi held business meetings with airlines and wholesale tourism players.

He met with key outbound wholesale agents that are selling and packaging Sabah to their clients. At the meetings with the agents in Brisbane and Sydney, Masidi expressed his appreciation for the trust and confidence by the Australian agents in promoting Sabah as a choice of holiday destination to their clients.

He also voiced the commitment of the ministry to continue having joint promotions and marketing with the agents through Sabah Tourism Board (STB).

The joint promotions would be mainly in embarking on familiarisation trips to Sabah for the frontliners and product managers of both wholesale and retail agents in Australia.

In Brisbane, the Minister visited the office of Flight Centre, Australia’s major wholesaler and retailer that has more than 1,000 shops/branches around the country.

Continue reading at: Tourism players in Sabah, Australia to step joint promotions, fam trips

Package flights from Taiwan to Sabah and Brunei

By Achong Tanjong

Taiwanese tourists visiting Brunei are expected to increase if Taiwan - Sabah - Brunei air routes could come up with package flights, said Representative of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Brunei Darussalam, Mr Yu Shaw-Wu said.

Mr Yu hosted a dinner at his residence attended by media representatives recently.

Apart from improving the air accessibility, such a move would allow more Taiwanese to visit Sabah and Brunei, he said.

The Taiwanese tourists have three choices if they want to come over to Brunei. They would either fly Taiwan - Hong Kong - Brunei or Taiwan - Singapore - Brunei route. If they used the Taiwan -Singapore - Brunei route, they need to stay one night in Singapore, he said.

Another way he suggested is for charter flights at least twice a week that originate from Taiwan to Brunei.

This is very practical he said, and they can guarantee to bring groups of Taiwanese to Brunei to meet the three-days-two-nights package to stay at The Empire Hotel and Country Club.

He said the Taiwanese like to go on family vacations that normally take them seven to nine days. For Brunei, three days are more than enough.

They like to visit Brunei because it is a Muslim country and they want to see and learn the culture, food and lifestyle of the people, and visit Temburong to see the natural beauty of the rainforest. They can also visit the water village, he said.

The Empire Hotel and Country Club has come up with a three-days-two-nights package that includes golf and breakfast.

It is trying very hard to promote Brunei in Taiwan by inviting Taiwan TV crew and journalists to Brunei so that people in Taiwan will know about Brunei.

He said from March 2006 to March 2007, more than 3,000 Taiwanese have visited Brunei. Brunei tourists to Taiwan recorded 1,000 to 1,200 per year and the peak season is during the school holidays.

The numbers include Bruneians and permanent residents and do not include those without visa who visited Taiwan.

The last direct flight between Brunei and Taiwan stopped its operation in December 2004.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nothing can beat the celebration of world music at the incredible Sarawak Cultural Village

THE 11th Rainforest World Music Festival got off to a wet start but that did not dampen the spirits of thousands of music lovers who converged at Sarawak Cultural Village for the event.

According to the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), a record turnout of more than 7,000 people went through the gates on the first evening.

“In fact, it was the best Friday in 11 years – 7,219 (people),” said STB chief executive Gracie Geikie.

Among the crowd were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, who were making their first visit to the festival.

Altogether, some 22,500 people attended the festival over three days to enjoy music from around the world.

First-time visitor Charles Cadell from England said the festival was “fabulous”.

“It’s got a collection of music from all over the world that I haven’t seen before at any other festival.

“And it’s got great atmosphere, very relaxed and of course very friendly. So it’s brilliant. It’s got everything,” he said, adding that he would be back next year.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Nothing can beat the celebration of world music at the incredible Sarawak Cultural Village

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Semenggoh Nature Reserve in Sarawak booms with tourists

Breathtaking view of the nature reserve

Star of the show, Ritchie

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to Hj Ahmed Shaheeb and
Brunei Press Sdn Bhd

By Hj Ahmed Shaheeb

Six delegates from Brunei Darussalam namely Hj Ahmed Shaheeb from Borneo Bulletin; Rafidah Jumat From Media Permata; Rano Iskandar of, a popular social web site in the Sultanate; Luk Boon Hwa from Century Travel Centre Sdn Bhd; Chia Choi Nyuk Betty from Pan Bright Travel Service; and Efarina Abang Haji Osman Liason Officer from TM Brunei made the trip to the nature reserve to witness first hand what makes this eco tourist attraction a buzz.

The Semenggoh nature reserve recorded over 65,000 visitors last year especially from European countries.

The figure makes it one of the most popular nature reserves in Sarawak, while other close to the state capital like Bako National Park trailed with about 30,000 over the same period.

"We are very satisfied with the statistics (arrivals) in the last three years, which averaged 66,000 visitors," said Jen Sangel, the manager of Semenggoh Wildlife Centre.

I think we have more or less reached the pinnacle (in terms of visitors arrivals) and we do not project significant gains for the near future. European visitors topped the list with more than 19,000 in 2007 (United Kingdom leading with 5,300 people) followed by Australians and New Zealanders with 3,997 visitors.

A total of 5,209 Asian tourist from outside Malaysia also visited the wildlife centre. While more than 37,000 were Malaysians, west Malaysians accounted for 26,000 with only 12,000 from Sarawak.

"It's mostly semenanjung people who visit the park. There are slightly more locals (from Kuching) during the school holidays. Overall its 50-50 between locals and foreign visitors," Jen said.

The park records an annual turnover of more than RM130,000 from tickets sales, of which about RM50,000 is spent on animal feed.

The status of Semenggoh Forest Reserve, Sarawak's oldest forest reserve (constituted in 1920), had been changed in April 2000 to that of Semenggoh Nature Reserve. The Reserve has been an important site for Sarawak Forest Department experimental studies and houses an arboretum, a wildlife rehabilitation centre, a botanical research centre, trial plantation and experimental plots, forest nursery and the former Forest School.

Located 20km south of Kuching and easily accessible by road, this 653ha Nature Reserve is ideal for recreational purposes. The area consists of primary lowland mixed dipterocarp forest and old secondary forests with patches of kerangas forest.

The undisturbed primary forest contains probably the richest flora in the world. The palm Areca ahmadeii is endemic to the reserve.

The Nature Reserve houses various rare flora and fauna. It is known to be inhabited by large variety of birds, of which most are migrants. Birds present include the bulbuls, babblers, barbets, kingfishers, shamas, drongos, pigeons, woodpeckers and tailorbirds.

The Giant Squirrel and Pigmy squirrel are also found here. The presence of gibbons are due to the rehabilitation programmes conducted there.

Semenggoh Nature reserve is one of the five nature reserve, four wildlife sanctuaries and 19 national parks under the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). SFC is in the midst of gathering new areas in the state, while other like the Bako national park are slated for expansion.

The 1613 acres reserve is also home to 23 Orang Utans. It is also home to many other mammals, reptiles and amphibians many of which are protected species.

Orang Utans are totally protected animals under Sarawak's Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998. Any person found hunting, killing, capturing, selling, offer for sale, importing, exporting or be in procession of any trophy or flesh of the Orang Utan shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a term of imprisonment of two years and a fine of RM30,000.

Because of hunting and trapping their very existence is threatened in Sarawak, with each passing year, there are fewer and fewer Orang Utans in our forests; they have been given special protection because they are most severely threatened. It's star attraction at the reserve is "Ritchie" a male Orang Utan popularly referred to as "the boss", others include "Annuar", "Edwin" and "Delima".

For over 20 years, the wardens here trained young Orang Utans, who had been orphaned or rescued from captivity, on how to survive in the wild. The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult Orang Utans, who are now breeding in the wild.

The programme has been transferred to the Matang Wildlife Centre, but Semenggoh is still home to its successful graduates, semi-wild Orang Utans and their babies. They spend most of their time roaming the forest but frequently come back to the centre for a free meal.

During the fruiting season in the forest, some or even all of them may not come back to feed. This itself is a good sign and another step closer to full rehabilitation.

The entrance fee for Semenggoh is RM3 (adult) and RM1.50 (child). The opening hours are from 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 4.15pm. Feeding times are 9am to 9.30am, 3pm to 3.30pm.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Increase in Tourist Arrivals to Sabah from Down Under

KOTA KINABALU: Tourist arrival from Australia increased by 57 per cent in the past five months.

“A further increase is expected by the end of this year,” Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said when contacted in Sydney yesterday.

Masidi who is currently on a two-day working visit to Brisbane and Sydney added that the Australians were generally good spenders and long stayers.

“They like the outdoor and with this in mind I have also broached the idea of direct flight between a city in Australia and Sabah,” he said, adding that he briefed and updated CEOs of various tour firms and airlines.

Continue reading at: Increase in Tourist Arrivals to Sabah from Down Under

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aquatic adventure off Kuraman Island, Brunei

Snorkeling out in the open sea

Holding one of the Caenogastropoda, Cypraea leucodon,
a type of marine snail that can be found around the coral

Coral with fluorescent white colour

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to Abdul Aziz Pandin and
Brunei Press Sdn Bhd

By Abdul Aziz Pandin

I am always amazed at the vivid colours of nature, especially the ones underwater.

Coral is one of them and their colours are usually stimulating and intriguing. Other beautiful, unique aquatic animals residing there never cease to impress me.

One of the many places where we can eyewitness such phenomenon is the Kuraman Island Resort.

We gathered at the Empire Hotel and proceeded to Scuba-Tech where we registered and filled liability release forms. Then the management provided us with snorkeling equipment and a short briefing since all of us were first-timers. Then we were ushered onto the boats which took us to Kuraman Island.

It was 9am and the sun, already brilliant white, was climbing rapidly into the sky. The journey to our destination took about 45 minutes.

Trust me, the high-speed boat ride was my least favourite part of the day. It felt like I was about to jump out of my skin!

Finally, we arrived at the Kuraman Island when suddenly a pleasant, tame dog, named, Joy, ran towards us... with a welcoming gesture! We could tell from its face. Everyone got off the boat with excitement and started to unpack our gear.

The weather was perfectly fine though the day promised a seething cauldron within the hour. The sky was blue and clear. The water was crystal clear and we could even see the seaweed and a few colourful fishes. Water resistant sunblock lotion is a must or you will be toasted by the blazing sun.

This was the perfect moment to take pictures and strike poses amid the blue sky, white tropical sandy beaches and bluish green sea. The scenery was unbelievably spectacular and magnificent. Its tranquility makes it a perfect place to unwind, away from hustle and bustle of the city.

As the excitement built up, the Scuba-Tech staff brought us to another island adjacent to Kuraman Island where we did our snorkelling. Safety precautions were briefed before any snorkeling activity started. So we eagerly set up ourselves, fully geared with snorkelling equipment and took the chance to drop ourselves into the water.

Clinging securely around my neck was an Olympus waterproof camera which can be used as deep as three metres without any worries of a camera malfunction. It enabled me to capture the beauty under water.

As we snorkelled, we could see the coral reefs but we were not really blown away as the visibility of the water, as I put it into scale, was only 80 per cent. The water was a bit greenish with some suspension but we still could see the coral and the fishes. But if you dive deeper and take a closer look, you can actually see that some of the corals in highly saturated colours seem almost pure in their spectral intensity.

Indeed, what fascinates me most about corals is that they are tiny animals, called polyps that are related to and look like sea anemones.

As for me, a coral reef is a tapestry of time and change as its simple structure has thrived since a very long time ago. These reef builders consists of a layer of living tissue overlying a hard skeleton made of aragonite, more commonly known as limestone. Each coral polyp sits in its own skeletal cup called a corallite.

Generation after generation, the coral skeleton builds up and out as the polyps make their daily deposits of limestone. The polyps divide as they grow and form coral colonies. As the colonies build up on top of each other, they gradually form a coral reef. Coral reefs may be many thousands of years old which form slowly over time and they can respond to changes in sea level, salinity of the water, temperature and other environmental conditions. The question is, will they make it against global warming?

In fact, a vast number of species inhabit coral reefs, making them second only to rainforests in species richness. This huge diversity is a result of careful sharing of a reef by all its inhabitants. More species of fish are found on reefs than anywhere else in the sea.

As I took a brief dive, the ambience was so silent. All you could hear was your heart beating and pulsing. It was the most calm and serene ambience I had ever experienced. Sometimes it can be a little bit intimidating when you are out in the open water but it was fun.

Lots of different types of corals can be seen underneath, both soft and hard corals as well as other aquatic animals and we do not even know their names! Other animals that we found were such as the starfish, clown fish and marine snail.

As our energy were drained spending about an hour swimming, snorkelling and diving, we called it a day and headed back to the Kuraman Island to have lunch which consisted of barbequed lamb, chicken, sausages, crabsticks, fried rice and drinks provided by the management.

After touring the island, we were ready to head back to Empire Hotel. Along the way, the Scubatech-Tech staff once again brought us to a different location for a second dive but only for about half an hour. As we arrived at Empire Hotel, we had our Banana Boat Ride since it was included in the package.

The whole trip was amazing and unforgettable, and we really enjoyed our super-fun Sunday vacation!

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

First impressions of a young traveler to Brunei

By Asha Kurien

I said, "Brunei."

The lady looked at me blankly.

Then I repeated, "The Sultanate of Brunei..."

To my surprise, she replied "I am asking you the name of the country".

This time I answered slowly and as clearly as I could, "It's in Southeast Asia. Near Singapore. Next to Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo".

She nodded hesitantly when I showed her my visa documents. I sensed soon enough that she had never heard of this country before.

A phrase I had heard on a Discovery channel programme came to my mind. It said the island of Borneo was "one of Asia's best kept secrets".

While I stood there, amused at the immigration officer's lack of knowledge, I also felt truly blessed to be able to travel to one of the world's least travelled destinations. Soon enough the officer returned from a room and ushered me in, apologising for the delay.

Earlier, passport and boarding pass in hand, travel magazines under my arm, I had approached the Bangalore International Airport wearing a warm smile. Fresh out of school, I was thrilled at the prospect of visiting my parents who had moved from a verdant hill station in India to the Sultanate of Brunei.

Boarding the plane to Singapore, I couldn't help but wonder whether my parents had gone through a similar experience with the airport officials before they left for Brunei.

However, these thoughts were soon replaced by the excitement of travelling to the land of rainforests and palaces and in a few hours, I walked out of the Brunei airport and into the warmth of the tropical sunlight.

Little did I know that travelling on the clean highways teeming with a variety of new cars (which I had previously seen only on the Need for Speed games) was only the beginning of a volley of new experiences that awaited me.

However, to a 17-year-old brimming with wanderlust, the poor connectivity of the public transport was a letdown.

The taxis were too expensive and the purple public buses were a rare sight. As I was determined not to let the geographically small country swell in my mind into a place too large to explore, I tried to hire a bicycle. Upon realising soon that those efforts were futile, I decided to start exploring the country by walking around Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital.

The scarce pedestrian population in the city came as a shock after being used to jostling through heavy traffic to cross roads in India. The friendliness of the local people permeated through their dashboards every time they stopped to let me cross the road accompanied by a grin and a wave.

Also, the roads seemed strangely quiet even during rush hours. Soon I realised that unlike in India where every driver has a finger on the car horn, here, no one was noisily honking their way through the traffic.

Even before I finished exploring Bandar, the women in the country struck me as industrious and independent. After all, I saw them driving cars, working at the airport, the immigration, the post office, the supermarkets, and even on the purple public buses.

Another detail that soon caught my attention was that I never heard raised voices whether I was strolling through the wooden walkways of Kampong Ayer, the numerous picturesque homes on stilts on the Brunei River, or the narrow spaces between the buildings in Bandar. Often the soft tones of the people forced me to ask them to repeat the price of a certain dish or directions to a building.

That's when I thought to myself, the mellow tones of Bruneians match so perfectly with the manner in which they give directions, always using the thumb instead of the index finger to point.

The tranquility one experiences in this country is not disturbed even when one pours over local newspapers. Whether the stories featured international tensions or local car accidents, natural disasters or murder, never did I have to stare at gruesome photographs of blood and gore or read articles that made my insides churn.

Walking through the wooden walkways of the water village (Kampong Ayer) is a truly unique experience. While exploring this close-knit community I learned to my surprise that residents of this sprawling village enjoy all modern amenities. Often I saw air-conditioners and television antennae peeping out of these houses. What appears to be an area of derelict houses when viewed from the Yayasan mall, is in fact interspersed with schools, mosques, shops, health clinics and even a fire station all built on wooden or concrete stilts over the winding Brunei river.

It was during one of those reflective summer evenings that I walked out of the public library (glad that the afternoon rain had stopped) to behold two rainbows shimmering above Jubilee Hotel. This breathtaking sight made me realise that one reason I began looking forward to my daily strolls was the simple joy of seeing the colours of the sky and myriad cloud formations wherever I was. After all, this was the first city that did not make me feel as though I was trapped in a concrete jungle. Bright light and air flooded everywhere as the buildings are not so tall that they cut out the sky.

As the days rolled into the month of July, I began to sense an air or festivity dawning. Soon pasar malams (nightly food stalls) were sprouting on the roads and coloured lights sequenced the highways. The photographs of the face I saw in every office and shop soon emerged, life size, on the streets.

The country was celebrating its ruler the Sultan's birthday. This benevolent monarch is seen leading walkathons, paying surprise visits to his subjects and personally involving himself with the affairs of his land and people.

The men and women who I usually saw retreating to the comfort of their houses every evening, began appearing on the streets in colourful garbs. I witnessed the warm greetings they exchanged by lightly touching each other's hands and bringing the hand back to their chests.

Unfortunately, I was leaving Brunei on the birthday of the much loved and revered monarch. However, I celebrated it by choosing Nasi Lemak over continental cuisine for lunch aboard Silk Air.

Reflecting on the days I spent in Brunei, I realised that it is truly unique that a typical Bruneian's lifestyle is shaped not only by the religion or the tranquility he grew up in.

Being a country with a sizeable migrant population, the residents have grown to be tolerant of different people, their clothes, cultures and cuisines.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kudat Festival Aug 10

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysians are invited to participate in the Kudat Festival 2008, which will be held at Dewan Tun Mustapha and the town padang in Kudat Aug 10.

A variety of programmes and activities have been drawn up for the festival, which is organised by Warisan Amir Entertainment together with the Persatuan Talassemia Kudat, Pemadam and Pewasa Kudat and Safa Zon Utara.

Warisan Amir Entertainment manager Mohamed Faizal Murtaza said the main objective of the event was to raise funds for Persatuan Talassemia Kudat as well as replenishing the Kudat District Hospital’s Blood Bank.

He said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masdid Manjun would be expected to officiate at the event.

The highlight of the festival would be a concert by Hujan, 7 Missing Portraits, Sasuka as well as local artists including Clarice John Matha.

Continue reading at: Kudat Festival Aug 10

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eating Out: Atmosfera cafe Kuching - Relax and enjoy your cuppa

Recognise this? Just as you were about to take the virginal sip of your anticipated latte, a child or a passer-by accidentally bumps into your chair, rudely jerking you from your seat killing “the” moment? It is not their fault, honestly, as coffee joints these days are crammed for space. To them, seating capabilities equals money. Therefore, the more customers they can seat, the more they can make.

Sadly, this business equation often compromises the customers’ comfort, which will slowly but surely taint their overall experience at the store. Nobody wants to have their Italian fashioned coffee, in a congested space.

The solution to these spacial deficiency is Atmosfera cafe.

Located just opposite The Spring shopping mall, Atmosfera cafe offers an ambience like no other. Glass panels which rise from the floor to the ceiling, and spread across the corner of the cafe instantly gives it and its diners a view of the outdoors. Aesthetically speaking, it is beyond beautiful.

On a recent trip to Atmosfera, I have brought along two willing friends to help me sample some of the offerings they have.

Alexandra Vasiliadis aka Alex, 19, and Naomi Craker, 23, from Melbourne, were two eager friends who were there to just get their coffee and chocolate fix while, as Naomi puts it, “escaping the daily grind.”

We were told that the popular smoothies in Atmosfera are the Mango and Pink Guava. We ordered the Mango.

It literally is made from fresh mangoes, blended to a thick milky consistency and topped with mango chunks.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Atmosfera cafe Kuching - Relax and enjoy your cuppa

5,000 to attend Gambus Festival in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The ninth state-level Gambus Festival to be held at the Sipitang Community Hall from tomorrow is expected to be attended by about 5,000 people.

The annual programme, which will gather more than 200 traditional musicians, is organised by the Sabah Brunei Community Association (PMBS) with the cooperation of Sabah Tourism Board (STB).

PMBS publicity committee member Saat Awang Damit, when met yesterday, said the festival would feature four competitions — adult ‘gulintangan’, youth ‘gulintangan’, group ‘gambus’ and solo ‘gambus’.

Seven teams will compete in the competition, including six representing Kota Kinabalu, Papar, Bongawan, Membakut, Beaufort and Sipitang, while Sandakan qualified automatically.

“There will be stiff competition from the Kpg Benoni team representing Papar to retain their Gambus category title and the defending Gulintangan champion team from Kpg Kalansanan (representing Kota Kinabalu),” he said.

Continue reading at: 5,000 to attend Gambus Festival in Sabah

Borneo Highlands Resort's Colours of Nature 2008 - Behold highland wonder ‘Eagle Flower’ in Aug

KUCHING: Flower and nature lovers would not like to miss the Borneo Highlands Resort (BHR) Colours of Nature 2008 that will be held at the resort from Aug1 to 31.

Organised in connection with Sarawak’s 45th independence anniversary and BHR’s eighth anniversary, the event is conceptualised to bring flower and nature enthusiasts together, discuss common interests and cultivate the love for nature among the people of Sarawak.

BHR marketing manager Tay Thing Swee said at a press conference here yesterday the event was aimed at promoting BHR as one of the world’s most popular flower and nature destinations by highlighting Sarawak’s rich flora and fauna and through it complementing the government’s efforts in promoting eco-tourism.

“The pristine plants and spectacular flower gardens form part of the high-altitude nature landscape at BHR and it gives one a truly “feel good” experience in the midst of flower gardens all around,” he said.

He said August was the miracle month for BHR where one can find the “Eagle Flower” blooming in abundance.

Continue reading at: Borneo Highlands Resort's Colours of Nature 2008 - Behold highland wonder ‘Eagle Flower’ in Aug

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sabah - Adventure Awaits

From the rugged granite peaks of Mount Kinabalu, down to the rolling hills that surround it, to the verdant jungles where rare and endangered species roam to the magical blue waters, Sabah is truly blessed with an abundance of treasures from mountain high to ocean deep. It is no secret that The Land Below the Wind is where adventure awaits you..

Conquer the Peak of Borneo

Whether for its splendorous beauty or for the challenge of a climb, Mount Kinabalu is tirelessly and proudly recommended to visitors. This mountain, standing at a towering 4095 meters, is located in Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site and is the highest accessible mountain in Southeast Asia. Daily climbers conquer the mountain in 2 days while hardened athletes who run up and down the mountain in the annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon clock-in at about three hours on the same tourist route. More recently, the Via Ferrata opened routes that used to be accessible only to rock climbers for conquerors hungry for a different experience. While there are many trails already explored by the adventurous, there are many other undiscovered routes waiting to feel the footsteps of explorers upon them.

Trek the Trails

Lace up those hiking boots for a trek through the mystifying jungles of north Borneo. After being identified as a gold mine to some of Mother Nature’s best treasures, vast areas of Sabah’s rainforests are protected for crucial preservation. Among these areas is Danum Valley, situated in the south-easterly region of Sabah, known the world over for containing some of Asia’s last remaining primary rainforests and consequently home to some of the world’s rarest wildlife such as the Borneo Pygmy Elephant and the Sumatran Rhino. A demanding 8-day trek from Danum Valley will take you into Maliau Basin, the “Lost World” of Borneo within the enclosure of mile-high cliffs. As you breathe in the thick green scent of the rainforest on your hike, peer carefully through the trees and listen intently to your surroundings, for you may very well cross paths with some of Borneo’s rare and wonderful wildlife.

Two-wheel Deals

Employ the aid of a mountain bike if you’re looking for a little more speed and a whole lot more challenge through Sabah’s landscapes. 300 to 400 visitors traverse the Land Below the Wind on two wheels annually, taking on a rewarding journey like no other. Various cycling tour packages lasting anything between two and ten days, take cyclists through villages where they can stop and meet the Bajau natives of Kota Belud or the Rungus of Kudat. Some choose to take a journey through the historical Sandakan Death March route, while others search for the up and downhill terrains of Kundasang for a physically testing expedition. Certainly opt for a cycling adventure for a journey close to nature.

Shoot Through the Rapids

Get ready for a thrilling ride through the raging Padas River. Experience the ultimate rush of adrenaline as the fast flowing waters pitch your raft at an exciting speed downriver through rapids with names like the Headhunter, the Adrenaline Flow and the Merry Go Round. To get to this river is an adventure in itself – part of your journey there involves hopping on a train that has been in service for almost a century and riding it through the south-eastern countryside of Sabah. For mild adventure seekers, there is the gentler excitement of the clear-waters of Kiulu with a scenic bonus.

Caving Capers

About 10 kilometres from Sukau are the famous Gomantong Caves. Simud Hitam and Simud Putih are the two pitch-black crevices accommodating an ecosystem of bugs, bat and swiftlets. The swiftlets provide the expensive commodity of birds’ nests – constructed with the saliva of the small birds that make a health delicacy worth thousands of Ringgit by the kilogramme. Brave experts climb up flimsy bamboo and rattan ladders that reach up to the roof of the cave to collect the valuable birds’ nests, risking their lives with every minute spent far from the solid ground below. Make your way past this activity through to a dark maze of tunnels and caverns and find your way to the opening of Simud Putih by evening for a hair-raising show. When the sun begins to set, millions of bats take flight from their dark refuge into the open, blackening the open skies. You may well catch sight of serpent eagles and kites swooping down on these bats to catch their dinner.

Dive the Deep Blue

Beneath the sapphire waters that surround Sabah lie underwater thrills for scuba divers. It’s time to squeeze into your scuba suit and get ready to swim alongside an unbelievable array of sea life. Kapalai, Mabul and Mataking are among the stars of dive sites, as is the north-eastern Lankayan Island and the north-western island of Layang Layang. Then there is Sipadan Island, arguably the best dive site on earth, the home to countless species of sharks, thousands of barracudas, hundreds of green and hawksbill turtles as well as coral reefs rivalling the Great Barrier Reef. It’s no wonder that many have attested that any other dive site in the world pales in comparison to the colourful waters of Sipadan.

Source: Sabah Tourism Newsletter

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Borneo Highlands Resort wins prestigious award

KUCHING: Borneo Highlands Resort (BHR) has gained further recognition when it won a four-star award in the ‘Best Golf Development’ category at the Asia Pacific Property Awards 2008 at Marina Mandarin hotel in Singapore, Sunday.

The win makes BHR the first resort from Sarawak to win the prestigious award.

Last year, the resort’s Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club was awarded the ‘Best Golf Resort’ in Expatriate Lifestyle’s The Best of Malaysia 2006/07.

The Asia Pacific Property Awards is part of the International Property Awards programme, which is the world’s largest and most prestigious property awards, and a symbol of excellence in residential estate, development, interior design, architecture and marketing.

The other components are European Property Awards, Americas Property Awards, UK Property Awards and Arabian Property Awards.

The awards are sponsored and supported by CNBC Telivision, SIMA08, major newspapers and the world’s leading professional bodies in the property industry.

Continue reading at: Borneo Highlands Resort wins prestigious award

More needs to be done for Sarawak tourism

STF lists poor public transportation, lack of direct flights among tourists’ grouses in Sarawak

KUCHING: Poor public transportation services, especially taxi service, are among the main grouses of foreign tourists arriving in Sarawak for a holiday.

Wee Hong Seng, president of the Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF), a body representing private sector key players in the state’s tourism industry, said based on initial feedback to its ‘We Care’ questionnaires, the respondents noted the need to use metered taxis, a clear fare for each destination, and to upgrade taxi drivers’ knowledge on the state’s tourism products.

“Foreign tourists want at least when boarding the taxis here, the drivers inform them about the tourist spots here and not the silent treatment,” he said here yesterday.

Wee said there was also the need to improve knowledge on tourism products among the tourist guides in Sarawak, so that the visitors would have a better understanding of what the state could offer.

Continue reading at: More needs to be done for Sarawak tourism

Monday, July 21, 2008

Potpourri of events at Borneo Cultural Festival impresses the crowds

THE recent Borneo Cultural Festival at the Town Square in Sibu was a cultural potpourri and an eye-opener for first-time visitors.

The nine-day, Sarawak-tourism-calendar event hosted on an elaborate scale by the Sibu Municipal Council impressed many locals.

Besides showcasing Sarawak’s rich cultural heritage, the festival offered lots of entertainment and fun through traditional games, a Dayak beauty queen and warrior pageant, karaoke and singing contests, talent and fashion shows.

The staging of a traditional Malay wedding and a Chinese opera were rare.

Food lovers were pampered with a choice of specialities and delicacies from the Chinese community.

The trade show featuring dozens of booths was a crowd puller.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Potpourri of events at Borneo Cultural Festival impresses the crowds

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - When jungle beat meets folk songs

One of the four local bands which entertained the crowds

A foreign band at the show

Large crowds packed the venue

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to Hj Ahmed Shaheeb and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd

By Hj Ahmed Shaheeb

More than 18,000 tickets to the three nightly concerts of the 11th Rainforest World Music Festival, which kicked off on July 11, 2008 at the Sarawak Cultural Village were snapped up well in advance.

Six delegates from Brunei Darussalam together with the writer, Rafidah Jumat from Media Permata, Rano Iskandar of, a popular social web site in the Sultanate, Luk Boon Hwa from Century Travel Centre Sdn Bhd, Chia Choi Nyuk Betty from Pan Bright Travel Service and Efarina Abang Haji Osman, Liaison Officer from TM Brunei were sent to the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 on July 11-13, 2008 at the Sawarak Cultural Village in Santubong, a 45-minute drive from the state's capital, Kuching.

Organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and presented by Celcom, the award-winning festival is one of Malaysia's best known events. It is a unique festival that brings together on the same stage renowned world musicians from all continents and indigenous musicians from the interiors of Borneo.

Entering its 11th year, the Sarawak Rainforest Music Festival has evolved into a must-attend music festival. With 16 groups of local and foreign musicians performing this year, festival-goers can expect various genres of world beat ranging from celtic fusion, socca, folk, baul, fusion and traditional.

The festival site also had a variety of food and drink stalls, an arts and crafts area as well as a counter for festival memorabilia, Sarawak souvenirs and CDs by the performing artistes, all this contributing to a fun filled, wholesome festival experience.

The event had a country fair atmosphere in the midst of lush greenery.

The performers hailed from all corners of the world such as New Rope String Band (United Kingdom), Yakande (Gambia/Guinea), Pinikpikan (the Phillipines), Adel Salameh (Palestine), Ross Daly Quartet (Greece), Fadomorse (Portugal), Kasai Masai (Congo), Hiroshi Motofuji (Japan), Cholo Valderamma (Columbia), Oikyataan (India), Beltaine (Poland), Sheldon Blackman and the Love Circle (Trinidad and Tobago).

Malaysia was represented by four bands comprising Anak Jati Bisaya Orchestra, Kan'id, Senida and Tuku Kame. Senida and Tuku Kame are the resident bands and performers of the Sarawak Cultural Village.

The festival maintained its formula of afternoon informative workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions and mini concerts, followed by evening perfomances on the main stage.

However, two fringe events - the Rainforest World Craft Bazaar (RWCB) 2008 and Folk Art Forum (FAF) - had been included to add more excitement to the festival.The RWCB was held on July 9-15, while the FAF was on July 9 and10.

Each daily ticket was priced at RM90 for an adult and RM45 for children aged between three and 12 years old. For a three-day pass, tickets were priced at $250 for an adult and RM100 for children aged between three and 12 years old. Tickets were made available online at and at the Visitor Information Centre in Kuching.

The Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival wass supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia and the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism, Sawarak. It is also the winner of the Heritage and Culture PATA Gold Awards 2006. Also attending the opening of the event's 11th edition was Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. His presence created history as he was the first prime minister to attend the festival.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Spice Island - The spice of life

Embark on a culinary adventure that runs the gamut from fine Malay-Indian cuisine to rustic Italian delights in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Many Sutera Harbour Resort guests, especially foreigners are invariably drawn to Spice Island, the resort’s signature Malay restaurant that proudly showcases the Malay Archipelago’s rich culinary heritage.

Staff in traditional apparel welcomed us warmly at the door while soft gamelan music played in the background. Miniature old-fashioned bicycles bearing baskets of local tidbits appeared on our table as we perused the extensive menu.

Chef Jitender Singh Bisht and his team took us on a spice-laden gastronomic adventure of Malay and Indian delicacies. The appetiser of Otak-otak Udang Rangup (RM18-RM42) and Sup Ikan Halia Muda (RM13-RM18) displayed two interesting facets of ginger. In the savoury, lightly spiced custard of minced fish and prawn, the ginger’s pungency and hotness came across stronger and sharper while the tangy fish broth had a bitter aftertaste.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Spice Island - The spice of life

Ferdinand's Restaurant - An Italian affair

Ferdinand’s, Sabah Tourism’s Best Western Restaurant in 2007, is the place to live it up with some fine Italian food and wine.

No welcome was warmer than the basket of country breads that appeared once we were comfortably ensconced in the charming outlet’s warmly-lit ambience. The oven-fresh offerings tasted even better thanks to the three scrumptious dips of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and Grated Parmesan, Brinjal Tapenade (puréed brinjal with olives, capers and olive oil) and Tomato Salsa.

The menu lists a selection of classic Italian delights with the occasional modern accents thrown in.

We found comfort in timeless appetisers such as Smoked Beef Carpaccio with Baby Spinach, Lemon and Garlic Mousseline, and Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese with Pine Nuts but also relished the chef’s newer creation of Smoked Prawn with Salsa. What really captured our imagination was the simple Cream of Wild Mushroom in a Rye Bread Bowl.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Ferdinand's Restaurant - An Italian affair

More arrivals from Philippines to Sabah expected with new low-cost flight

Kota Kinabalu: More arrivals from the Philippines are expected following the inauguration of the twice-weekly direct service from Manila to Kota Kinabalu by Filipino low-cost carrier, Cebu Pacific on Friday.

Cebu Pacific Vice President for Passenger Sales, Edwin Batuista at the launch of the service at Kota Kinabalu International Airport Terminal Two, VIP Lounge in Tanjung Aru said the company was bullish with the prospect of businesses from the new sector.

Speaking to reporters, he said Kota Kinabalu is Cebu Pacific's second destination in Malaysia after launching its direct flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport Low Cost Carrier Terminal two years ago.

"All we need is lots of marketing and promotions both ways," he said.

Continue reading at: More arrivals from Philippines to Sabah expected with new low-cost flight

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 - A study in harmony

The Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 proved once again that if you were looking for good music, this is where you would find it. The learning experience was a bonus.

Grappling with the term “world music” and what it actually means, I headed off to Santubong, Sarawak last weekend for the 11th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF2008) in search of an answer. The festival was to be an eye opener of sorts for me. Expecting what I’ve come to understand as one of Sarawak’s finest attractions – great music, days of fun in the sun, scenic views of the lush rainforest and delectable tuak – I was instead treated to something quite different.

Unfortunately, the RWMF2008 has not retained much of its low-key charm – some years ago, no one even knew where Santubong was – now it is a hub of activity. The Sarawak Cultural Village, which hosts the annual festival, was filled to the brim this year with over 22,500 people turning up over the three-day fiesta. And I don’t use the word “fiesta” lightly: think of corporate sponsor banners splashed indiscriminately, think of a funfair of foodstalls, (faux) tattoo booths, massage tents and hey, you could even get a caricature of yourself drawn for RM30!

In many ways, the lack of state sponsorship (if you hadn’t read about it yet, this year the RWMF2008, which is organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board, had its usual stipend of RM500,000 slashed to RM70,000) has bred a slew of unsightly props to an otherwise rather charming festival.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 - A study in harmony

Baram Regatta 2008 - Sape goes global

MIRI: The Baram Regatta 2008 will take on an international flavour for the first time in its century-old history.

The event will feature sape players from England, Kalimantan in Indonesia, Brunei and local Chinese and Malays who have become experts in playing this Orang Ulu guitar-like musical instrument.

The Baram Regatta, as the name implies, will be held along the mighty Baram River in the interior town of Marudi, 200km inland from Miri, on Aug 16 and 17.

This historical event marks a peace accord reached by warring Orang Ulu tribes in 1899 that ended the ancient practice of head hunting.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Baram Regatta 2008 - Sape goes global

Sabah to conserve 78,000ha of mangrove, wildlife reserves

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is permanently conserving wetlands and forests three times the size of Kuala Lumpur at a wildlife rich region on the state's east coast.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the state cabinet approved the setting aside of some 78,000ha of mangrove and wildlife forest reserves in the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama region.

The cabinet made the move when giving its nod to the suggestion by the Borneon Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation Phase II programme to list the area as part of the global Ramsar Site Network.

Named after a place in Iran, Ramsar is an international convention on wetlands that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It it was first established in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

Continue reading at: Sabah to conserve 78,000ha of mangrove, wildlife reserves

Temple Festival listed on Sarawak tourism calendar

SIBU: Minister of Urban Development and Tourism Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh said the unique Tua Pek Kong Festival that is found only in Sarawak has been included in the state’s tourism calendar starting next year.

The festival, the largest in South East Asia, has been fixed by the temple committees in Sarawak on the 29th day of the third month in the lunar calendar to coincide with the deity’s birthday, beginning this year.

The celebration this year fell on May 4.

With the joint decision, the 58 temples throughout the state will burst into celebrative colours annually on that day.

Wong, who is also Second Minister of Finance said in an interview on Wednesday that the festival was the second event listed on the tourism calendar for Sibu after the Borneo Cultural Festival. He said this was an effort of his ministry to attract tourists who were very much attracted by the unique cultures of Borneo.

He said in the first four months of this year, there had been an increase (29 per cent) in tourist arrival to the state compared to the same period last year.

“There has been a marked increase in the number of tourists from West Malaysia, and we shall commit ourselves to attract even more tourists to witness all the events lined up for them.”

Continue reading at: Temple Festival listed on Sarawak tourism calendar

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Borneo Conservation Trust acts on protecting the Orangutans

KOTA KINABALU: Orang utan (OU) literally translating into English as “People of the Forest”, are “umbrella” species for the conservation of the tropical forests of Sabah.

Recently, Sabah Wildlife Department director Laurentius Nayan Ambu explained that, “because OU requires large areas of good quality habitat…ensuring their conservation in the wild would ultimately mean that the myriad of other species that share the ecosystem – including Proboscis Monkeys, Bornean Elephants, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Malayan Sunbear to name but a few – will also be protected.”

The recent news articles that starkly revealed that the majority of the isolated OU in the Kinabatangan area will go extinct in less than 50 years if nothing is done is indeed true.

For this very reason, the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) a state-mandated tax-exempt NGO established in 2006, and promoted by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Environment was incorporated under the Trustee’s Ordinance 1951 to deal with the pressing needs to preserve the habitat and the migration route of Borneo’s most endangered wildlife along the Kinabatangan and the Segama Rivers.

This migration route referred to as BCT Green Corridor is part and parcel of BCT’s mission. As a first token step, BCT has purchased a 5-acre land in the Kinabatangan area to connect this corridor, supported by funds from Japanese individuals.

Continue reading at: Borneo Conservation Trust acts on protecting the Orangutans

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2008... in pictures

The 11th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival, held over three days from July 11 at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching, was certainly one of the liveliest, most spectacular musical events ever staged in the State. With workshops during the day as well as stalls selling all sorts of merchandise, souvenirs and food, the festival had so much to offer.

And of course, the highlights on all three days were the live sets in the evening, with performances you can’t find anywhere else.

If you missed this year’s festival, these pictures should give you an idea of what went on.

View Pictures at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2008... in pictures

Melodies of culture from the Kelabits

Kan’id is the culmination of hard work and passion from a Kelabit youth outfit that showcases their culture and history.

TUTU’ Udan Nah Pera... the responsorial chant sung by Kan’id – a Kelabit youth outfit bent on preserving and promoting tradition passed down from their forefathers – is a lilting melody that will grab anybody’s attention. And especially if you’re at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 in Kuching, Sarawak.

These youth – dressed in traditional sepa’ ngarang (dance attire) – looked exuberant last Friday at the soft launch of their debut eponymous album, aptly slated right at the start of the festival.

It was a grand culmination of efforts for the youth – a dozen of them – who have honed their skills over many years and have rehearsed intensively for the last two months.

The album features 11 songs which present an overview of the Kelabit culture and history.

Inspired by the ancestral songs of the Kelabit and drawing upon the rich musical traditions of the Orang Ulu tribe along the Baram river, Kan’id hope to keep their history alive and pass it on to future generations.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Melodies of culture from the Kelabits

Muara Beach Festival in Brunei beckons fun seekers

By Achong Tanjong

A variety of fun and exciting activities have been lined up for the daylong Muara Beach Festival 2008 to be held at the Muara Beach on July 27.

The 'Pesta Pantai Strongest Men 2008' will allow the public to demonstrate their strength, while other activities include a bread-eating competition, teh-tarik contest, handball match, beach volleyball, Bicycle Beach Speeding and a tug-of-war.

The beach festival will open with mass aerobics and a 6.30 am big walk that commences and concludes at Muara Beach.

The event is organised by the Mukim Serasa Village Consultative Council in conjunction with the monarch's 62nd birthday celebrations.

The organising committee has announced that attractive prizes are up for grabs.

Every year the event attracts large crowds of people from near and far.

The highlight of the event will be the karaoke competition, in search of the 'Bintang Hari Keputeraan.'

The competition is divided into three categories 'Men and Ladies Open,' '18- to 40-year-olds,' and 'Veterans' (for those over 40).

Members of the public are encouraged to take part in the many activities that promise to be fun for everyone.

The Pesta Pantai Muara - which aims to further enliven the festive atmosphere - is one of the popular events organised by residents of Mukim Serasa as an annual activity in conjunction with His Majesty's birthday celebrations.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The best Friday in 11 years of Rainforest World Music Festival

KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) has once again lived up to its promise of bringing a fantastic line of artistes to perform here.

Although the finale was a wet and muddy affair, it did not dampen the mood of the revelers. The rain, which came on the first and final night of the festival, gave foreigners an added feel to the rainforest with some of them shouting ‘Welcome to Malaysia’ as they danced to the authentic beat on the muddy pitch at the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Co-chairperson of the festival, Gracie Geikie, when asked about the first night at a press conference on Sunday, summed the whole experience as ‘the best Friday in 11 years of RWMF’.

“People were just enjoying and dancing in the rain. It became a mud festival instead,” she said laughing.

Indeed, Sarawak Tourism Board has every reason to smile given the overwhelming response the festival has created.

The first night saw 7,219 visitors. The festival then reached a new peak on the second night with 9,063 visitors, exceeding the 8,000-visitor capacity. There was no loss in momentum on the final night for 6,291 came.

Continue reading at: The best Friday in 11 years of Rainforest World Music Festival

Sabah should use its rich culture to lure tourists

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s rich multi-ethnic cultures should be fully exploited to lure tourists, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said Sabah, with its 32 ethnic races speaking 50 dialects, could draw foreign tourists keen on seeing the traditions and cultures of the people in Borneo.

Noting that Bali first promoted its Balinese culture to lure tourists before selling their beaches, Masidi said Sabah's varied ethnic groups would definitely appeal to tourists.

“For this purpose, we are teaming up with Sarawak to celebrate next year's Kaamatan and Gawai festivals together and we hope to bring in a large group of German tourists,” Masidi said when launching The Mystic of Borneo: Kadayan, a book by Amde Sidek who wrote about his ethnic Kadayan community.

Continue reading at: Sabah should use its rich culture to lure tourists

Sarawak Tourism board to finalise campaign with Brunei airline soon

KUCHING: Sarawak expects to finalise a tourism promotion campaign in several international cities with Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) soon.

Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said it would meet RBA officials on July 17 to finalise details of the campaign in cities, including London, Perth, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

“RBA will support the campaign by offering special fares (from these cities to Sarawak),” she said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Tourism board to finalise campaign with Brunei airline soon

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival venue bursting at its seams

KUCHING: It was great music as thousands danced to the drumbeats at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong near here.

Partying all night long, music fans had a great time as the seven foreign and local musical groups thrilled them during the five-hour concert on Saturday.

However, the same could not be said for several hundred other disappointed music fans who had to be turned away as the venue could not accommodate them.

Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said the organisers had to close the main entrance to the concert at about 9.45pm as the crowd was getting too big.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival venue bursting at its seams

Sarawak Regatta goes national

KUCHING: The popular Sarawak Regatta, which offers a rich purse of RM230,000 to winners, goes national this year.

Event organising chairman Rodziah Morshidi said all the states in the peninsula and Sabah had been invited to compete in the inaugural inter-state 20-paddlers race.

She said two other new categories – inter-varsity, and government and corporate agencies (both 20 paddlers) – had also been introduced in the annual event at the Kuching Waterfront from Aug 1 to 3.

"Entries were received from 283 teams (comprising 5,393 participants) as of July 11,” she told reporters at the Urban Development and Tourism Ministry office at Bangunan Baitulmakmur here on Monday.

She expects more entries in the next few days as nearly 400 teams competed in last year’s event, which offered some RM150,000 in cash prizes.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Regatta goes national

Tourists regard Sibu central market as must-visit place

SIBU: Many locals don’t even glance at Sibu Central Market anymore when they pass by because for them the novelty of the biggest market in Sarawak has worn off.

But tourists regard it as a must-visit place due to its concept and the myriads of goods under one roof.

Located at Jalan Channel opposite the town’s Express Boat Passenger Terminal, the market which is the biggest in Sarawak has separate sections for wet and dry goods.

It even houses hawkers from the former Lembangan native market which some locals have begun to forget ever existed.

There are more than 1,000 vendor stalls selling local delicacies, vegetables, fruits, jungle produce, garments, handicrafts and so on.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Tourists regard Sibu central market as must-visit place

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday morning at the market in Kota Kinabalu

By John Tiong

Don't miss the Sunday morning market in Gaya Street in Kota Kinabalu when you are in the Sabah capital. It is in the busiest part of the city and is fringed by pre-war shophouses and the city's financial centre.

Gaya Street is named after Gaya Island, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a popular eco-tourist destination with a marine research centre, just 20 minutes by boat from the city's jetty.

You may not get all that you want at the Sunday market, but you will find a macro view of Sabah's racial fabric and the enterprising spirit of its people. Even if you don't intend to buy anything, a walk here will be enjoyable as there are so many things to see and learn.

You may find Kadazan-Dusun women helping their Chinese spouses at their fruit and vegetable stalls, or Bajau youths scooping ice-cool fruit juices and herbal teas from huge containers. I chanced upon an indigenous man happily massaging a Chinese trader but when asked to be pictured, he shied away instead.

Brunei Malay, Bajau and Kadazan-Dusun salesmen can be found peddling their sarongs, batik and religious CDs, while a few Chinese stall owners amaze shoppers with their brilliant orchid hybrids from as far as South America.

Pearl lovers will find the place a haven. Cultured pearls from Semporna are sold as necklaces, bracelets and other accessories.

The stall owners all look similar but scrape the surface and you may find that they come from about 30 indigenous groups basically divided into Kadazan-Dusuns, Bajaus, Muruts, Lundayehs (Kelabits) and Brunei Malays. A cacophony of languages can be heard like the thousands of merchandise seen here.

The market offers lots of surprises. Top of these are corals and the large shells for sale. They are beautiful but I have always thought corals were protected. Maybe the authorities should check on this.

Then there are all kinds of traditional medicines -- both local and those from as far as China -- offered here. Whether these work or not, or pass the approval of the health authorities is one big question mark.

Those inquisitive enough may even learn a thing or two about the various local medicines. One woman claimed that a large cactus, when boiled, made a relaxing drink and was also a treatment for cancer. Another who sold whole groundnut plants said they were ideal for making a soup for the well-being of children.

The other staples found here are Tongkat Ali (lot of it), pokok halau nyamuk (mosquito-repelling plant), lingzhi (said to be good for jaundice) mengkudu (for high blood pressure), Rumput Fatimah and Buah Tunjuk Langit (for back ache, among others).

For tourists who believe in the health effects of reflexology, there is a whole row of "reflexologists" eager to offer their services.

Gardening buffs will find the Gaya Sunday market their pot of tea. There are stalls selling bonsai and flowering plants like the common bougainvillea, anthurium and highly priced orchids. The orchids from South America are large, multi-hued and curled with a grace that make them irresistible.

High quality clones of exotic fruit and flowers are also available. One horticulturist even claimed to have cloned a seedless lemon and a variety of Taiwan and Iban temum sweet melons.

Another little surprise is a stall with antiques as well as old and new brass gamelan brass gongs spread out on the floor. Antique porcelain, celadon and ceramic wares are displayed together with new ones. A large ceramic plate with beautiful Quranic verses running over the centre is one of the centre pieces. There are also krises on display.

The celadon bowls were salvaged from shipwrecks, their colours a little faded from the many years underwater. Many had barnacles stuck on them.

Do look out for Sabah homegrown items like coffee from Ranau, Tenom durians, Tuaran pottery, tribal basketry and lovely paintings of Mount Kinabalu, orang utan and women in tribal costumes.

The best part of the Sunday market is that it is sandwiched between two rows of shophouses with coffee shops, jewellery shops and hardware shops. After all the shopping, one can go into a coffee shop and sit down for a drink to relax or people-watch.

At one end of the market is the Jesselton Boutique Hotel, the only boutique hotel in town built in 1954. It was refurbished in the 90s but the doormen here still dress in colonial style.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Brunei new Tourism icon rising

By Jon Tampoi

The new Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Centre will be the latest landmark in Bandar Seri Begawan as it takes shape in the water village, with distinct Malay architectural elements incorporated.

It will house an exhibition set up by the Brunei Museum Department and display contemporary lifestyles, economic activities and handicrafts from different villages.

It will also have an observation tower and basic facilities to cater to foreign and domestic tourists. Attending a blessing ceremony yesterday were guest of honour the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Dr Awg Hj Ahmad bin Hj Jumat, Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah bin Hj Abd Wahab, the Permanent Secretary at MIPR Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid bin Hj Mohd Jaafar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Dato Paduka Awg Hj Jemat bin Hj Ampal, senior officers from MIPR and Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports as well as various government and tourism agencies.

The guest of honour led the blessing ceremony with the scattering of pandan leaves that was followed by other dignitaries.

A doa was recited and this was followed by a briefing and viewing of the plans and illustration of the complex by Architect Ghani.

The complex that is located at Kampong Lurong Si Kuna will proceed with its construction until its official opening in 2009 at a cost of BND3 million. This project is carried out by the Tourism Department.

With construction in progress, the blessing ceremony will enhance safe and successful completion of the project and adding to another of Brunei's attractions.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Bowled over by Bario

A WORLD without Strangers” was something I read on a T-shirt worn by a teenager in Bario.

For those who are not acquainted with the place, Bario is located in Sarawak and the only practical access to it is a 55 minute plane ride from the oil-rich town of Miri. Because it is deep in the heart of Borneo, the only other way to get there is through logging treks which would take about 16-20 hours, if you are lucky to survive the journey.

I went there for a short spell – a work plus pleasure kind of stint – and it was enriching, to say the least. I am ashamed to admit that if not for having had to make that trip, an assignment I could not avoid, I would not have ever made it there.

Why go there, I would have thought, unless, of course, one has nothing better to do than to take time out to “get back to basics”.

But guess what? The trip was a revelation. It was humbling. Bario is one of the most beautiful places on God’s Earth and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have spent three wonderful days there.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Bowled over by Bario

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Amazing Labuan

By Jon Tampoi

The infrastructure of the small but yet exquisite town of Labuan has been given a remarkable facelift with newly constructed modern buildings and a new port. Its strategic location by the sea makes it an instant tourist attraction amongst travellers. The city combines a delicate taste of history through its old shop houses and ancient buildings which signifies and indicates traditions of the past and present as well as events that molded the now present Labuan. Premier Automobile (Brunei) sponsored 14 four-wheel drive vehicles and gave them the opportunity to travel to Labuan to enjoy the breath-taking scenery and to experience the new facilities and unexpected treasures Labuan has to offer.

As the entourage drove around town, the perfectly structured gardens and trees stood out as a symbol of attraction. The beautiful flowers and warm summer breeze created a sense of peace and awe. During the early morning, vendors started assembling their wares and goods to sell along the roadside. A wide range of products can be purchased from the roadside stalls.

A fountain uprooted in the middle of the roundabout near the marina displayed statues of sword fishes which looked so realistic and lively it was if they were leaping from the water. Towards the West, one will be able to find handicraft shops that sells almost everything from herbs to delicate men products, clothes, pearls, fake antiques and even odd gem stones all available at a reasonable and yet bargained price.

Further up West and towards the North is the beautiful and extraordinary Chinese temple dedicated to the sky deity. The majestic and modern shaped mosque provides no room for questioning its uniqueness and extravagant beauty. On the Northern side of the island is the Bird park beautifully constructed to allow visitors to gain a first hand experience and direct contact with the birds. The park features free and airy cages where birds are allowed to roam freely. Visitors are able to hand feed the birds although it is not encouraged.

Next to the Bird Park stands the once busy coal industry. It has now been transformed to an information hub of the now protected and preserved historical area. The entourage was able to obtain a group photo with the background of the 'chimney' standing in the background. The group then proceeded to drive towards the South of Labuan where they passed through ridges and gained an up close view of the beautiful sandy beaches and seaside decked with visible coral reefs. The reflection of the sun over the water enhanced the beauty of the island. Heads will turn to see such a wonderful scenery.

Further South, one will pass through the memorial area for fallen soldiers who gave their lives during World War Two. The beautiful park is lined with a simple epitome marker in proper rows. The bed of flowers gave it an almost garden like experience.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Sarawak Rainforest World Musical Festival gets under way

KUCHING: Over 350 journalists are in town and musicians are jamming day and night, making their presence felt at the Sarawak Cultural Village, where the 11th annual Rainforest World Musical Festival (RWMF2008) kicked off to a promising start yesterday.

Even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made a surprise appearance at the first night of performances last night.

At the official launch on Thursday, State Tourism Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh commended the RWMF2008 team led by Benedict Jimbau for a job well done.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Musical Festival gets under way

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sandakan Attractions

Sandakan was the former capital of British North Borneo from the years 1884-1946. As one of the largest towns in Sabah in the early years, traders from Europe to Africa, Arabia to China, the Indies to Java made Sandakan the hub of Sabah. After WWII the capital was transferred to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu). This month’s feature highlights Sandakan’s many wonderful charms.

Turtle Islands Park

Head out to the Turtle Islands Park, where hawksbill and green turtles go to lay their eggs after dusk. Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan are the three islands that make up the park, but Selingan Island, the largest of the three, is where visitors are welcome to catch sight of the amazing event of turtles nesting. Here is where the complete facility for turtle spies is located: the park’s headquarters, a visitors’ centre and a turtle hatchery makes Selingan the perfect place for you to learn about turtles and witness a turtles conservation effort. Turtles come ashore after the sun sets, so visitors can spend the daytime snorkelling in the pristine waters surrounding the island. Although turtles lay their eggs on the three islands all year round, the occurrence is more common between July and October when the seas are calmer. Arrange your visit to Selingan Island through a tour operator or through the Parks office for this eye-opening and awe-inspiring experience!

Agnes Keith House

On top of the hill along the stretch of Jalan Istana there is a house with a story to tell. This British colonial government quarters called Newland, was once occupied by a famous American writer, Agnes Newton Keith, who wrote Land Below the Wind (1939), Three Came Home (1946) and White Man Returns (1951), written accounts of her life in Sandakan during and after the war. With the exception of the second book, Land Below the Wind and White Man Returns were written in the House on the hill where she had a view of the Sandakan Bay in the front and the Sulu Sea in the back. Destroyed during the war, the house is today restored and turned into a heritage house, providing interesting insights into life during British North Borneo. It is furnished with a reproduction of colonial furniture and antiques. A gallery on the first floor tells the story of this remarkable woman, her books and her family. The Agnes Keith house is open daily from 9.00am to 5.00pm. For further information, please contact The Agnes Keith House at 089 221140.

Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre

Established in 1964 with more than 4,500 hectares of virgin jungle, the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is designated area of forest reserve and sanctuary the Orang Utan (Pongo Pygmaeus). With genes that are 96.4% similar to humans’, it will be easy and fascinating to see that the adorable creatures behave in a human-like way. Get your cameras ready at feeding times (10.00am and 2.00pm) and wait with the keepers, who sit on the feeding platform with bananas and milk, and the Orang Utans should soon make an appearance. More often than not they appear, some of them unfazed and even loving the attention, while others are more wary of their human visitors. The Orang Utans here in Sepilok are rescued from logging sites, plantations and illegal hunting. When they have learnt the necessary skills for survival in the wild, they are then set free into their natural habitats in the Borneon rainforests. When you come to Sandakan, make the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre a definite stop to meet Sabah’s wild sweethearts!

Gomantong Caves

Simud Hitam and Simud Putih are the two caves that make up the intricate cave system inside Gomantong Hill. Simud Hitam is the more accessible of the two, just minutes’ walk away from the entrance to the caves. The ceiling of Simud Hitam 90 metres above ground hold the ‘black saliva’ nests of the swiftles who live in these caves. Simud Putih is a little harder to access and requires special permission for admittance. It is here where the more valuable ‘white saliva’ nests are found, the main entrance of which is a further 90 metres above Simud Hitam. Watching the licensed and expert locals risk their lives climbing up flimsy rattan ladders, ropes and bamboo poles to collect the precious commodity is a vexing experience; nevertheless, drop by the caves for an exceptional adventure! Arrange your visit to the caves with a tour operator.

Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

When you are in the Sandakan vicinity, make sure you head out to the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in the Sukau area. It will be one river safari you will never forget, and have you longing to come back for more. Within the 26, 103 hectares live a great variety of flora and fauna endemic to Borneo and the area itself. A recorded 1000 plant species, 250 bird species, 90 fish species and reptilia and 50 mammal species live in this small area. Be very excited - whether on your day or night safari, you will have the chance of sighting animals like the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Orang Utans, proboscis monkeys, silver leaf languors, macaques, civet cats, snakes, estuarine crocodiles and wild boars. Look above to spot hornbills, Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle, the Violet Cuckoo, the Blue-eared Kingfisher, and the Grey-headed Fish-Eagle to name a few. To visit the Sukau area is not just a feast for the eyes, it is a valuable experience that will open your eyes to the importance of conservation of the ecosystem that is home to precious wildlife.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

In the centre of the mangrove forests of Sumawang is the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, where you can see Borneo's indigenous proboscis monkeys. This privately-owned sanctuary located within an oil palm estate gives you the chance to observe these animals up close and personal. The remarkable males sport big dangling noses, reddish flat-top hairstyles, white tails and markings, and pot bellies. The females on the other hand, are much smaller and have up-turned noses. Check out their website at to take a peek into the world of the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary where you will spot these and other fascinating creatures found there!

Sandakan War Memorial

Officially opened on 15th February 1999, the Sandakan War Memorial is located on the original Prisoners of War camp set up during the Second World War Japanese occupation in 1942-1945. An official Anzac Day Ceremony is held here every year in memory of the Australian, British and New Zealanders who suffered and died in this area. A pavilion dedicated to the prisoners of war who spent their last days at the camp and wall-mounted displays documenting the lives of the prisoners as well as the Sandakan Death March make this memorial a place worth visiting. The park is located at Mile 8 of Jalan Labuk Utara and is open daily from 9.00am to 5.00pm.

Other attractions

Check out the coffins buried in the limestone cliffs by the mystical Orang Sungai at Batu Tulug and explore the three caves located within the limestone formations. 14 dive sites are waiting for you surrounding the Lankayan Islands off the coast of Sandakan where undersea life like ribbon eels, whale sharks and green and hawksbill turtles wander and swim. Get away to a secluded paradise island called Pulau Libaran and walk along its beach and enjoy its stunning sunset come late evening.

After you visit the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, drop in to the nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre where a myriad of the most beautiful plants and flowers can be seen. Why not take in the pleasures of Sandakan town at your own pace and learn of its history and culture on the Sandakan Heritage Trail. Visit one of the oldest buildings in Sandakan, the St. Michael’s and All Angels Church where you will find the exceptional stained glass windows, donated by Australians to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War II.

Source: Sabah Tourism Newsletter

NOTE: All Photos Copyright to Sabah Tourism