Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hidden Culture Within - Sabah's Harvest Festival - Tadau Ka'amatan

Join Singaporean Ivan Choong as he shares his first Harvest Festival experience in the Land Below the Wind.

The Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo, the third largest island in the world, is commonly associated with the tallest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, Mount Kinabalu – a World Heritage site. Adventure seekers travel down to the ‘Land Beneath the Winds’ to scale ‘Mt. K.’, white water raft, jungle trek, dive in some of the world’s best dive sites, but visitors seldom flock to Sabah to see the rich traditional cultural heritage.

Each year during the month of May, the grand finale of Harvest Festival or Ka'amatan Festival takes place in Kota Kinabalu at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association Sabah (KDCA) and is recommended to those seeking a glimpse of the more than 40 native tribes in the state.

The Ka'amatan Festival is a celebration of the rice harvesting that includes the Unduk Ngadau (Ka'amatan Beauty Queen contest). Legend has it that Kinoingan sacrificed his only begotten daughter, Huminodun, during the time when the fields of their staple food were barren and Kinoingan felt sorry for his people. Hoping to appease the gods, he sacrificed his only beautiful daughter. That year, the people had a more plentiful harvest than ever before and, to this day, the Kadazandusun people have included the beauty pageant as a grand part of their Ka'amatan Festival with a deep sense of respect and admiration for the legendary Huminodun.

With the information in hand, I made my way to the closing ceremony of the Ka'amatan Festival held at the KDCA grounds in Kota Kinabalu. Arriving around ten in the morning, groups of tribal parties had begun to line both sides of the pathway leading to the KDCA grand hall waiting for the arrival of the guest-of-honour to officiate the closing ceremony. With the perfect but hot weather, it was the best time and opportunity to capture the myriad number of tribal groups in their traditional costumes in one place. Mostly clad in black cotton fabrics, sometimes silk or velvet especially for ceremonial occasions, their traditional costumes can be as simple and dignified or elaborate with headdress and accessories.

The bobohizan (Kadazandusun high priestesses) – have ornate headdresses up to one and half feet in height, decorated with pheasant or turkey feathers. Taking portrait images of them was a challenge, to the point where I was nearly lying on the ground trying to capture their headdress within the frame! Other tribes use handwoven kain dastar for their headdress. It is folded and twisted in a number of distinctive ways to the shape of a python or potholder. What really amazed me was the similarity to the long-necked Kayan tribe near the Burma border of the local tribes which practise coiling brass or silver bracelets round their arms, but for ceremonial purposes only. Coiling these bracelets for any special occasion ceremony may take up to a whole day.

The arrival of Sabah's Head of State, Tuan Yang Terutama Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Sabah Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Ahmadshah bin Abdullah was greeted with loud gongs and drums accompanied with singing from each tribal village and they were escorted by priestesses into the Unity Hall for the closing ceremony. Inside, the guest-of-honour performed the traditional magavau to nurse the spirit of the grain back to health in readiness for the next planting season.

Here he will pick seven stalks of rice and tie them to one end of a spliced bamboo stick and plant this stick at the centre of the rice field following the legend and instructions of Huminodun. Thereafter, the harvesting may begin. Once the harvest is complete, this stick with the seven rice stalks is placed in a storage container and brought back. This ceremony is accompanied by the beating of seven gongs and seven priestesses saying prayers to bless the spirits for the coming year's harvest.

Leaving the hall to venture out to the many stalls and the 11 traditional homes of the native tribes, I came to the Rungus longhouse, where a young woman dressed in her traditional costume was sitting by the side watching the many events that were taking place concurrently while others were displaying and selling their wares of beaded necklaces and bracelets inside the longhouse. In the past, these beads were made of glass and were much sort after but have since been replaced by plastic beads.

After having the opportunity to see the warriors dance in other tribal houses and being invited to sit down with the tribes to get a taste of some of their local food and rice wine, only too soon I had to depart from this rich cultural event. But before leaving, a must-try was their local dish, hinava. Made with raw Spanish mackerel, onions, ginger, lime and red chilli this dish has a nice citrusy taste and serves as a good appetiser.

The thought of re-visiting this event next year and perhaps stay at a homestay with one of the local native tribes to gain a better insight into their lifestyle was intriguing. Having had a glimpse of the cultural aspect of Sabah definitely gave me a good reason to return.

Source: Sabah Tourism Newsletter

Sleepy Villages In Sarawak Come Alive For Gawai Dayak

KUCHING -- It's a ritual that is repeated every year. Bookings for the flight home from Kuala Lumpur to Sibu are done well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Then there are the land travel arrangements to be made for the final leg of the trip back to the longhouse in Saratok.

Every year, in the last week of May, Sat Ranggau never fails to make that annual "balik kampung" from Klang, where he works, to his hometown in Roban, about 400km from Kuching to celebrate Gawai Dayak on June 1.

For the 35-year-old entrepreneur, it is much easier and quicker to reach Roban from Sibu than Kuching. It is only an hour's drive to his longhouse, Rumah Ranggau Lichok, from Sibu.

Rumah Ranggau Lichok, like most Iban longhouses in Sarawak, is quiet. A glaring absence is the young people. Those in their teens are in boarding school and those of working age have all migrated to the major towns to work or search for work.

The silence will be broken and things will come alive as those who have gone "berjalai" (in Iban it is literally translated as gone for a walk) return in festive mood.

Gawai, is the festival for the Ibans. It is bigger than Christmas and New Year put together. Its also that time of the year when they get to meet their loved ones, relatives, friends and neighbours.

They, like Sat, are also journeymen trekking back home.

This year, Sat's homecoming is much awaited by his parents, as he did not return last Christmas. Sat said he had a lot of unfinished work that he could not leave unattended.

Continue reading at: Sleepy Villages In Sarawak Come Alive For Gawai Dayak

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Kaamatan and Gawai Festival

Once again, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak are celebrating the colourful Cultural Harvest Festival ("Kaamatan" in Sabah; and "Gawai" in Sarawak) to celebrate the end of the harvesting season.

For your information, both Sabah and Sarawak have numerous indigenous dialectic groups. Inevitably, all the indigenous communities will have different dates for their 'Kaamatan" or "Gawai" due to the varying dates for their harvesting seasons. "Kaamatan" culminates on 30 and 31 May of each year, which are public holidays for the state of Sabah, whereas, the "Gawai" on 01 and 02 June, which are also an official holiday for Sarawak. would like to wish all Kadazans, Dusuns, Muruts, Rungus, etc. as well as the Dayaks a Happy and Safe Harvest Festival.

Our office will be closed for two consecutive working days on 30th May as well as on 1st June 2009.

For travel and related requests, do note that all your e-mails enquiries may be replied to during this holiday period (depending on priority and/or importance) but earliest confirmation can only be processed on Tuesday, 2nd June 2009 (working hours +0800 GMT MYT).

Any inconvenience caused is very much regretted.

Best wishes from the Team

Friday, May 29, 2009

Kaamatan-Gawai festival experience planned for 32 tourists

KUCHING: Tourists from several countries will join in the festivities of the first-ever joint harvest festival in Sabah and Sarawak.

The seven-day joint festival package for 32 tourists from Britain, Australia, South Korea and Russia starts with the Kaamatan Festival of the Kadazans in Kota Kinabalu today.

The group will then fly into Kuching on Sunday to experience the elaborate Gawai Dayak festival celebration in a Bidayuh traditional longhouse in Kampung Mongkos, Serian.

The package, priced at US$608 (RM2,130) per person, was launched jointly by the Sabah and Sarawak Tourism Boards in London early this year. The package is available on websites of the two tourism boards and participating tour operators.

Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said the tourists would take part in the preparations and merry-making festivities of the two harvest festivals.

Continue reading at: Kaamatan-Gawai festival experience planned for 32 tourists

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unduk Ngadau 2009: Beauties all - but one will emerge loveliest

Kota Kinabalu: Contestants for the Unduk Ngadau 2009 checked into the Le Meridien Hotel Wednesday brimming with confidence and hope in their quest to vie for the honour of becoming the Unduk Ngadau.

The third floor of the hotel was a beehive of activity as 41 beauties from various districts, accompanied by family members, came in full traditional attire.

Organising chairperson, Jornah Mozihim, said the event this year, the highlight of a month-long Pesta Kaamatan, would see several surprises.

"The organising committee has invited 10 former Unduk Ngadaus to parade evening gowns from a Kuala Lumpur bridal shop," she said.

Expressing delight with the 100 per cent representation of contestants, she said that during the Sodop Unduk Ngadau dinner at Hongkod Koisaan at 6pm on Thursday, Miss Malaysia-Universe Deborah Henry would be making a special appearance.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Unduk Ngadau 2009: Beauties all - but one will emerge loveliest

Making birds nest harvesting at Gomantong a tourism attraction

Kota Kinabalu: The Gomantong Caves in Kinabatangan have huge potential to be developed as another new tourism product that will also provide economic opportunities to the residents nearby, said Sukau Assemblyman Saddi Abdul Rahman.

Thus, he has proposed an annual celebration of birds nest harvesting at the caves - which have been the natural habitats for the swiftlets for ages - to attract tourists, particularly foreign visitors.

Saddi said he had submitted the proposal to develop Gomantong Caves as a new tourism product to the Sandakan Municipal Council, Kinabatangan District Office and the Wildlife Department in Sandakan last year.

He said he was made to understand that a feasibility study will be carried out on the viability of the proposal.

"If this proposal is approved by the State government, it would be suitable to make the swiftlets' nests the main product of Kinabatangan in tandem with the Government's 'One District, One Product' vision.

Saddi said the Gomantong Caves are situated not far from the Kinabatangan township and that it would take about 30 minutes to drive there.

"The workers would harvest the nests four times a year in February and April. So, we should take advantage of this and develop the caves as an interesting place to visit," he said.

Continue reading at: Making birds nest harvesting at Gomantong a tourism attraction

Special bridge at the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary to help orangutans survive

Kota Kinabalu: Wildlife activists have built a treetop bridge in an orangutan sanctuary to help the endangered apes find new mates and prevent inbreeding.

The 43-metre suspension bridge was completed last month at the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary in the east coast.

"But this is a temporary measure. In the long run, we must create forest corridors for orangutans and other animals to move about," said Nobuo Nakanishi from the Borneo Conservation Trust Japan, which helped fund the project.

Orangutans are unable to swim and thus the bridge idea to help them get across rivers in search of food.

Orangutan habitats in Malaysia and Indonesia have been decimated as their jungle habitats are cleared by logging and to make way for plantations, putting them at risk of inbreeding as they are split into smaller populations.

Continue reading at: Special bridge at the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary to help orangutans survive

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rainforest Kayaking Adventure - Rolling on the river in Sarawak

The Rainforest Kayaking Adventure is friendly enough for the whole family.

VISITORS to Sarawak head for the Semengoh Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Annah Rais Longhouse and Borneo Highlands Resort. The list has grown with the addition of Rainforest Kayaking Adventure.

With this, a trip to Sarawak-Kalimantan border, about an hour’s drive from Kuching, will be a complete culture, nature and adventure experience.

As its name suggests, the kayaking adventure is a wet experience, so it’s best to do this last. The expedition starts at Kampung Bengoh, 20 minutes from the entrance to the Borneo Highlands Resort, and ends at Kampung Semadang after two hours of going downstream along Sungai Sarawak.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Rainforest Kayaking Adventure - Rolling on the river in Sarawak

In the forests, bridges of love for orang utans

KOTA KINABALU: Not bothered by the noon sun streaming through the forest canopy, or the buzz and bite of insects, a team recently spent several days on the humid Kinabatangan floodplain on Sabah's east coast putting up a bridge of a different kind.

A 43-metre suspension bridge, made of fire hoses once used to put out flames in Japan, now stands across Sungai Resang in the hope that orang utans will use it and stem the risk of inbreeding, as the protected primate has been separated into smaller populations due to forest degradation.

Several double rope bridges made of chains wrapped in fabric have already been built, but this is the first made of fire hoses. It is similar to traditional suspension links used by rural communities.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: In the forests, bridges of love for orang utans

Damai Puri Resort: The Borneo Identity

Coastal Relaxation In Sarawak

The open-air lobby is a sign of things to come at Damai Puri Resort, where the openness extends to the staff as well as the walls. Just 30km from Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Damai Puri Resort offers the type of tropical idyll that entices European visitors to spend their entire winter in sunny splendour.

The resort's recent upgrading has made it one of the top choices for accommodation on the coast north of Kuching, which has become a popular place to unwind for those who come to these pristine shores to surround themselves in Nature.

Past Mount Santubong, Damai Puri Resort is also a very short walk from Sarawak Cultural Village, home to a semi-kitsch culture show in the Village theatre as well as a collection of traditional houses presented in an appreciatively unkitsch manner. The Cultural Village is the site of the annual Rainforest World Music Festival that takes place every July.

The Festival has become one of the top musical events in Southeast Asia and attracts big-name performers.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Damai Puri Resort: The Borneo Identity

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Miss World Harvest Festival - Beauties show their talents

FIFTEEN aspiring beauty queens, finalists in the Miss Fair and Lovely World Harvest Festival 2009 pageant, took to the stage recently to compete for the Miss Talent subsidiary title.

Nearly all the contestants chose to showcase their singing talents in the competition organised by Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) at the Sarawak Tourism Complex in Kuching.

The exceptions were Anglia Hendry, 20, and Mylene Costemiano Bautista, 25, who both performed modern dances.

Bautista, a student, was the sole Filipino in the pageant. The rest were Malaysians.

The contestants were judged on their showmanship, presentation, originality, creativity and costume.

In the end, Atiqah Nur Fatma Nor emerged as the most talented with her rendition of Leona Lewi Run.

The 18-year-old part-time salesgirl took home RM1,000, a trophy and a bouquet of flowers.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Miss World Harvest Festival - Beauties show their talents

Tenom by Railcar - It will take more funds, longer time for a smooth trip

TENOM: Minus the beautiful scenery and good company, the two-hour trip by railcar from Beaufort to Tenom was terrible.

The 40 passengers sat on thinly cushioned seats and endured vigorous rattling as the diesel-powered railcar snaked its way up the Sungai Padas route.

The railcar stopped after about an hour on the track. Passengers had to walk past a 30m landslip to a second railcar that came from Tenom to continue their journey.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Rahim Bakri and state Assistant Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Seri Michael Asang led engineers and technicians here recently to find out why a RM334 million federal-funded project that started in 2005 to upgrade the railway service, stretching 134km from Kota Kinabalu to here, had yet to be completed.

The project was divided into two sectors, each to be upgraded by different contractors who have pledged to complete the work by the middle of the year after failing to do so last year.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Tenom by Railcar - It will take more funds, longer time for a smooth trip

Sarawak homestay operators urged to link up with Tourism Ministry

KUCHING: Villagers interested in running a homestay programme should register with the Tourism Ministry to enjoy benefits such as marketing, promotion and upgrading of their facilities.

“They are normally given a certain amount, for instance to improve their toilets, and we will help promote them in our brochures,” said state Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin.

“If they are not registered, we cannot help them. So we encourage them to register,” he told reporters after opening a baruk (traditional Bidayuh community hall) at Kampung Benuk near here yesterday.

There are currently 232 registered homestay operators in 19 villages throughout Sarawak.

The programme is regulated by the Tourism Ministry through the State Tourism Action Council.

Manyin also said Sarawak planned to intensively promote the homestay programme to foreign tourists in the next few years.

“We can offer tourists something different in terms of lifestyle, culture and food available, through our homestay programme,” he said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak homestay operators urged to link up with Tourism Ministry

Ready for the Lun Bawang fest

KUCHING: Lawas, a normally sleepy town located on the very northern tip of Sarawak, comes alive on May 31 every year just as the Lun Bawang festival starts.

While the Gawai Dayak harvest festival, which begins on June 1, is being held all over Sarawak, two other Orang Ulu ethnic groups in the northern region of the state have their very own unique mid-year celebration.

The festival -- Irau Aco Lun Bawang -- has been celebrated without fail for the past 21 years.

Ba'kelalan assemblyman Nelson Balang Rining said the estimated population of Lun Bawang people in Sabah and Sarawak is 15,000 each, while Brunei has about 5,000 and Kalimantan 30,000.

"The Irau Aco Lun Bawang is so popular now that the Ministry of Information, Communications Arts and Culture has seen it fit to include the t festival which runs from June 1 to 3 in its Malaysian Tourism Events calendar," Nelson said at a press conference yesterday.

Nelson said due to the majority of the Lun Bawangs living in Lawas, and it is centralised location, the event has been held there all these years.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Ready for the Lun Bawang fest

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kaamatan festival unites Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU: Kaamatan Festival is an effective medium to promote unity, not just among Sabahans but also among the multi-racial ethnic community at the national level, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

“As it draws people from different ethnics and religions to come together and celebrate, it will contribute directly towards strengthening unity and therefore create a peaceful and prosperous society,” he said in a speech for a Kaamatan celebration in Kinarut near here, yesterday.

He said that the festival has become a celebration for all and no longer celebrated only by the Kadazandusun and Murut (KDM) or other ethnic in Sabah.

The festival to celebrate the bountiful harvest of rice, he said, is gaining more and more recognition among other ethnics in the peninsular following the government’s move to celebrate it at the federal level and to include it as one of the country’s major tourism events.

“This greatly benefit not only the KDM but the all the communities in Sabah and the rest of the country. Recognized at national level and celebrated by all ethnics, the festival has become a platform for uniting the people of diversified background,” he said.

His text was delivered by Industrial Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah.

Musa said the recognition given to Kaamatan Festival shows that the Barisan Nasional government is committed in putting the interests of the people first.

Continue reading at: Kaamatan festival unites Malaysia

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gawai best time to visit Sarawak: Tourism Malaysia

KUCHING: Tourism Malaysia has declared Gawai Dayak the best time to visit Sarawak.

Tourism Malaysia International Marketing Division for North, East and Southeast Asia director Chong Yoke Har said those who visited during the annual harvest festival would have “an experience like no other”, because the festival distinguished Sarawak from other places in the world.

“There are three words to describe Sarawak – magic, adventure and beautiful. It is a land of magic with its spiritual festivals and animistic beliefs, a land of adventure with its mountains and nature, a land of beautiful cultures and people,” she told participants of a mega familiarisation programme here on Friday night.

About 30 travel agents, journalists and television crew members from the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and the United States took part in the programme to coincide with the World Harvest Festival, which will be held on May 23-24 at the Sarawak Cultural Village.

The programme was held with the support of local and foreign airlines, Malaysian hotels and state governments to give participants a personal experience of what the country has to offer tourists.

Continue reading at: Gawai best time to visit Sarawak: Tourism Malaysia

MASwings ups frequency to Ba Kelalan

MIRI: MASwings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, yesterday announced the increase of its weekly flight frequency to Ba Kelalan effective June 18.

MASwings managing director Mohd Salleh Tabrani said in a press statement: “The decision to increase our frequency to Ba Kelalan is to cater to the growing traffic demand in our Ba Kelalan route since MASwings took operations in October 2007.

“The first quarter of 2009 saw the traffic and cargo growing by 25 per cent and 55 per cent over last year,” he added.

The additional frequency to Ba Kelalan is also a route expansion via Lawas from Miri which will operate on Thursdays adding to its weekly frequencies of three flights a week on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday on Twin Otter services.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: MASwings ups frequency to Ba Kelalan

Friday, May 22, 2009

Be creative, Miri tourism players urged

MIRI: Tourism operators here have been urged to be more creative and innovative in selling Miri to the outsiders to boost up the domestic tourism industry.

"The question is how to sell Miri. So the tourism operators must be more creative and innovative to attract tourists to come to Miri", said Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam after officiating at the Miri City Day celebration here Wednesday night.

Chan said Miri had plenty of natural products, such as Mulu and Baram Rivers, which could be tapped to boost the tourism industry.

The matter is just selling because the products are already there and not expensive too, he said.

He pointed out that in the tourism industry, the operators could wait for the tourists to come but instead, they have to be creative to attract them to come

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Be creative, Miri tourism players urged

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gawai Carnival REDEEMS set to attract 50,000

KUCHING: This year's Gawai Carnival REDEEMS (GCR) 2009 is set to attract some 50,000 people, both locals and foreigners, now that the event has become popular after being held for four consecutive years.

Association of Research and Development Movement of Singai Sarawak (REDEEMS) President, Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie, who is the Organising Chairman for the GCR 2009, said that the occasion would be more grand this year with lots of activities being lined up.

Speaking to reporters at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) lobby, during the recess for the DUN proceedings yesterday, he said that the GCR 2009 will be held as one of the closing events of the 45 years of Sarawak?s Progress in Malaysia.

"Last year's carnival opening was officiated by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu. For this year, the opening will be graced by Chief Minister Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud," he said.

He said that the celebration this time will be grander and merrier as compared to previous ones and, therefore, more visitors could be expected. Furthermore, he added, the GCR could be considered to be the prelude to the World Rainforest Music Festival (WRMF) to be held at the Sarawak Cultural Village a week later. The GCR 2009 will be held from July 2 to 5.

Nansian said that the event would certainly be a crowd puller because of its uniqueness where it will witness many interesting events which include authentic Bidayuh culture and tradition, showcasing rituals, food, drinks, crafts, music and sports of the community, as well as modern sports and games involving the various communities from within the state.

Continue reading at: Gawai Carnival REDEEMS set to attract 50,000

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tourism improves lives of Rungus womenfolk

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism has improved the lives of Rungus womenfolk.

According to Yaluk Taanyit, a Rungus craft maker from Kampung Tinangol, Kudat to the New Sabah Times recently, tourists’ arriving to her kampong (village) to see the Rungus longhouse also bought the local handicrafts made by the women who have set up their business presence at the longhouse.

“The tourists have allowed us to capitalize on our craft making skills by buying the crafts we are making,” she said.

She added that items sold at the longhouse are usually bangles, bracelets, necklaces, bags and other accessories, which are handmade by the women.

Aside from making crafts, the women still continue with other activities to sustain their family livelihood.

Continue reading at: Tourism improves lives of Rungus womenfolk

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sarawak and Terengganu to get flights from Singapore

HULU TERENGGANU: Singapore’s low-cost carrier Tiger Airways is plan­ning to fly direct from the city-state to Kuala Terengganu’s Sultan Mahmud Airport.

The airline is now negotiating the flight frequencies with the Department of Civil Aviation here and Malaysia Airports Berhad.

Meanwhile, in Kuching, Sarawak, State Tourism and Urban Develop­ment Minister Datuk Michael Man­yin said the state was in talks with Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia to launch direct flights between Singa­pore and Miri.

Michael Manyin said the proposed direct air links would support the state’s efforts to promote tourism attractions, like the Mulu and Niah National Parks and the Kelabit highlands, in the northern region.

“It will allow us to offer our various packages in culture, adventure and nature to entice the Singaporeans, expatriates and tourists in Singapore to the northern region ,” he added during the Sarawak state assembly yesterday.

Continue reading at: Sarawak and Terengganu to get flights from Singapore

Monday, May 18, 2009

Abundant tourism resources a boon for Sabah's Interior

NABAWAN: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan said that tourism can be the economic backbone of the rural community if the people were committed to venturing into the industry seriously.

He said, there were endless choices of tourism destinations and products with eco-tourism potential especially in the Interior area.

Pairin, who is also the Minister of Infrastructure Development, said that tourism not only gave profit to the stakeholders but also helped to boost the income of the rural communities.

“The presence of foreign tourists will surely stimulate the economy in the rural areas because they have more purchasing power,” he said at the opening of the Nabawan district-level Kaamatan celebration on Saturday.

Therefore, Pairin urged rural communities to venture into the tourism sector because it still had potential to thrive, especially in the rural areas. Pairin said that the tourism industry was very closely linked to the cottage industries because local handicrafts are very popular among tourists who buy them as souvenirs.

“When tourism is fully developed, it makes it easier for handicraft makers to promote and sell their craft to tourists.”

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Abundant tourism resources a boon for Sabah's Interior

Visitor Arrival To Sarawak On The Decline

KUCHING -- Visitor arrival to Sarawak has contracted 8.92 per cent for the first quarter of this year due to uncertainties in the global economy, said Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Micheal Manyin.

Manyin said, in the first quarter of 2009, a total of 737,244 visitors came to Sarawak compared to 809,427 visitors in the same period last year.

"We are happy to inform that despite a negative overall first quarter decline, we recorded a 25 percent growth in arrivals from Singapore and 5 percent from Australia," he said in his winding-up speech for his ministry at the State Legislative Assembly here Monday.

Manyin said the increase of visitors from Singapore and Australia was largely due to a change of strategy that was implemented at the end of last year.

Overall for the past two-years, Manyin said, visitor arrival to Sarawak declined by 5.3 percent from 3.60 million in 2007 to 3.41 million last year.

"Foreign and domestic visitor arrival have declined by 6.04 percent and 3.77 percent respectively," he said.

Continue reading at: Visitor Arrival To Sarawak On The Decline

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Labuan International Sea Challenge - A Sea Challenge like no other

By Aziz Idris in Labuan

Scores of people recently gathered at the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex to catch the highly-competitive Labuan International Sea Challenge (LISC) 2009, which ran from April 28 to May 3.

Since its opening in 2002, the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex has continued to be the venue of choice for every major sea sport and tourist event on the island.

This sprawling six-hectare facility provides an all-weather open stage, exhibition hall, souvenir shops, food stalls and various sea sport and family recreation amenities. It also houses a Marine Museum, and sales offices of local tour operators.

Organised by the Labuan Tourism Action Council, the week-long tournament was Malaysia's biggest sea sport event. This year, over 20 events were lined up, attracting more that 3,000 local and foreign participants who forked out more than RM200,000 in cash prizes - including trophies, medals and certificates.

The challenge brought together the region's best anglers, kayakers, swimmers, oarsmen and water sport enthusiasts to participate in high-level competitions.

The highlight events this year were the Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament, the Sprint Kayak, Labuan Cross Channel Swimming Challenge and Round Island Kayak Challenge.

The International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) regulated by Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament, a six-day fishing expedition around Layang-Layang Island, is considered a prestigious and challenging deep-sea fishing tournament in Asia. It is also part of the IGFA Offshore World Championship qualifying round.

Ariffin bin Hj Zainal once again did Brunei proud in the Round Island Kayak Challenge after he was named champion of the event, clocking in with an impressive time of 5 hours 21 minutes in the Men's Single Open.

The Round Island Kayak Challenge introduced in 2003 - comprising individual and double categories - covered a distance of 54 kilometers. It is one of the longest and toughest kayak races in Malaysia.

The course ran along the perimeter shoreline of Labuan Island and definitely tested the skills and stamina of local and international participants.

In the Double's Men Open category, Abdul Mahmud Hj Muhammad and Saini Hj Hamid emerged in second and third places.

In another section of the Labuan International Sea Sport Complex, impressive catches for the Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament could be seen stacked onto long tables. The fish, ranging from Barracudas and Red Snappers to Giant Groupers, were caught within a six-day duration in a specific fishing destination 16 hours away.

Apart from the main events, a number of other mini-competitions and side activities were also held throughout the duration of the festival.

The well organised event attracted people of all ages from all walks of life. Even the smallest event, the 'Umang Race' or 'Hermit Crab Race' attracted quite a crowd.

The race is also quite popular in certain regions of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, where they are placed in the centre of a ring, and whichever crab reaches the outside first is named the winner.

Other activities such as the children's story telling, fashion show and colouring competition, treasure hunt, beach volleyball, beach rugby, pillow fight, pole climbing challenge, traditional food competition, duck catching and LISC Auto Show 09 were among the activities that roped in scores of people.

The finale of the Sea Challenge was one of the events that was not easily forgotten. Competitors as well as the loyal crowd - who came every day in a show of support - gathered at the stage area of the Sea Complex, where they were entertained by an array of performers that included veteran singer Dato Katijah Ibrahim and Dato' M Daud Kilau, AF3 superstar Mawi, Malaysian female rock star Ella and comedy group 'Senario.'

And what is a closing ceremony without fireworks! It was, all in all, an excellent end to a very splendidly organised event.

Since 1999, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force has assisted the IGFA International Game Fishing Tournament in providing security and rescue for the event.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bidayuh community celebrates Bung Bratak with colourful cultural performances

BAU (Sarawak): MAY 1 is an anticipated date for the Bidayuh community as this is the day they celebrate the Bung Bratak Day.

The annual event, colourful and packed with cultural performances is celebrated at the summit of the 300m Bung Bratak near Kampung Tembawang Sauh here, about 52km from Kuching. Bung Bratak Day advisor Datuk Peter Minos said this year’s event had different activities such as an early-morning jogathon to the summit with villagers taking part.

There was also the sale of traditional Bidayuh food and drinks. Bung Bratak Day 2009 was hosted by five of the 30 Jagoi-Bratak villages in Bau and Lundu districts.

It attracted more than 3,000 visitors who climbed up the Bratak hill (“bung” is Bidayuh for hill) for the festivities.

They were entertained by traditional dances from various Bidayuh villages, a gong-striking competition and a beauty pageant.

The event also honoured outstanding members of the community.

They included Pandelela Rinong, the first Bidayuh Olympian who competed in the diving event at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Bidayuh community celebrates Bung Bratak with colourful cultural performances

Friday, May 15, 2009

Miri International Jazz Festival - Solid reputation

The little oil town of Miri in Sarawak came alive with the sound of roaring jazz again.

IF you wanted one hell of a party, then the action stirred up at the fourth Miri International Jazz Festival was something to write home about. Held last weekend at the Pavillion, ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri, the indoor festival rolled out many different genres of jazz and the entertainment value hardly wavered throughout the two days. There was variety in terms of acts offering their unique takes on jazz music. The intimate duos, songbirds, the virtuoso musicians and the noisy brass brigade ... you had them all at the festival.

For music fans that made the trip to Miri, it was an experience to remember. On the first night, Sabah-raised duo Double Take opened the festival with aplomb. The duo’s performance was charismatic and melancholic at the same time. As one-half of the duo, Roger Wang was a force on the acoustic guitar, nimbly plucking the strings and delivering each note with great clarity and precision.

Wang’s deft instrumentation were capably complemented by Double Take’s vocalist Mia Palencia, who held her own with her vocal strength and control. Her distinct sense of eloquence in song has remained intact through the years. Performing only covers, they effectively entertained the nearly 2,000 people that turned up and clapped enthusiastically to the duo’s tight and melodious reinterpretations of classics from Black Coffee right to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, transformed into a blues tune. That garnered much applause from the crowd.

Another show-stealer that evening was Australia’s six-piece band Alamode, influenced by the likes of Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Jamiroquai and Soulive. Like their inspirations, Alamode’s music had a heavy acid-jazz influence and overall, their performance pushed between the energetic and invigorating gears with ease.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Miri International Jazz Festival - Solid reputation

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mystical Sabah - A Pole's surprise encounter

Kota Kinabalu: Eastern Europeans are taking notice of Sabah, if the presence of Warsaw-based photographer and travel writer, Edyta Buchert, is an indication.

Polish media making the beat in Sabah is rare.

But Edyta was clicking and shooting away the diverse cultural faces and costumes at the Sabah Museum's Heritage Village Sunday afternoon in conjunction with Sabah Fest 2009 events themed "Mystical Sabah - A Cultural Experience."

"Peoples are the essence of a country," said Edyta who writes for the Polish magazine named Shiat Podsoze i Kultura.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Mystical Sabah - A Pole's surprise encounter

Air Fares For Sabah And Sarawak Unlikely To Be Reduced

KUCHING -- Air fares for local destinations in Sabah and Sarawak will not be reduced further because they are already heavily subsidised, the state assembly was told today.

State Assistant Minister for Tourism Hamden Ahmad said that although the Sarawak government welcomed any move to reduce the air fares, particularly those for MasWing, a subsidiary of national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS), it was unlikely to happen.

The companies concerned needed to make profit to continue to be operational, he said in reply to a supplementary question from Andy Chia Chu Fatt (BN-Pujut).

Chia had proposed a review of air fares to encourage domestic tourism, saying that some of the fares, especially those for destinations within Sarawak, were still expensive.

"For example, the return air fare for Kuching-Miri costs about RM600 while that for Sibu-Miri costs about RM400," Chia said.

Continue reading at: Air Fares For Sabah And Sarawak Unlikely To Be Reduced

Sarawak Cultural Village’s band Tuku Kame to represent Malaysia

KUCHING: Sarawak Cultural Village’s band, Tuku Kame, will represent Malaysia at the coming 12th World Championship of Performing Arts (Wcopa), which is recognised internationally as the ‘Talent Olympics’.

The band is made up of Jerry Kamit, Wilbert Kamit, Mohd Fadzli Abdullah, Osaini Razak and Johari Morshidi.

Tuku Kame won the ticket to Wcopa after they emerged victorious at the ‘Worldstars Road to Hollywood’ competition at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.

The band won in the group performance category with their song ‘Puteri Santubong’ while Jerry’s sape virtuosity beat two other finalists who played the violin and trumpet in the solo category.

They are expected to present the traditional music of Sarawak combined with modern rhythms at Wcopa which would be held in Hollywood in the United States of America from July 11 to 19.

Besides Tuku Kame, another Sarawakian artiste, Bob AF, would be joining the 24-member Malaysian contingent at the Wcopa.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Cultural Village’s band Tuku Kame to represent Malaysia

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sabah a satisfying experience to visit

SABAH is a "very satisfying" place to visit, according to pharmacy students of the International Medical University who stormed Sabah Museum's Heritage Village, Monday.

"This is my first visitÉmy first experience to see these unique ethnic tribes and they are so friendly," said Kwan Zuan Ur, after having a whale of a time dancing with the Papar Kadazandusun cultural troupe, including Minister Datuk Masidi himself.

Asked how they got to know the Heritage Village, she said: "Our driver brought us." Apart from culture, the other memorable aspect of Sabah was the seafood.

"We were in Sandakan the last couple of days and practically gorged on lots of seafood because it's so nice, so fresh and yet so cheap compared to KL where it's so hard to get, so expensive and not fresh," she said.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sabah a satisfying experience to visit

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In the mood for jazz despite flu scare

MIRI - It's May and it's that time of the year when jazz lovers from Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia join their Malaysian brethren at Brighton beach.

They've come to party and soak in the music in the two-day Miri International Jazz Festival, which started on Friday.

Nearly 3,000 people packed the Park City Everly Hotel beach front despite the stifling heat.

"We sold 3,500 tickets for Friday but there was a sizable no-show. Just over 2,800 turned up," Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said yesterday.

With the economic downturn and the influenza A (H1N1) scare, it was anticipated that many would stay away. However, Geikie was elated yesterday as their target of 6,000 -- to match last year's sales -- was achieved.

That set her in the mood as she joined the crowd and partied to the jazz riffs emanating from the venue.

Eight groups from Britain, Japan, Australia, France, South Africa, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, were invited to this year's fest.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: In the mood for jazz despite flu scare

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sabah Fest 2009 - Grab last chance at Heritage Village

Kota Kinabalu: Members of the public are invited to grab the last chance to experience the Sabah Fest 2009 (May 9-11) at Heritage Village, Sabah Museum where there will be live displays of authentic age-old rituals and diverse ethnic cultural practices.

"Except for the Labuk Kadazandusun group who have returned to Sandakan, most of the scheduled daily highlights between 10am and 5pm are on," assured Susan Shahira, Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd Event Manager.

"Free weekends this Saturday and Sunday (May 9-10) are probably the best opportunities to make a trip to the Heritage Village," she said.

Regardless of one's conviction and beliefs, the idea of Sabah Fest is to promote understanding and appreciation of the diverse ethnic groups of Sabah - their traditions, world view and belief systems that shaped them.

"Rarely seen rituals include the Tumoron - a healing ceremony by the Rungus people of Pitas and the Kudat Peninsula, session one at 10.30am and second session at 2.30pm, at the Rungus longhouse," she said.

Continue reading at: Sabah Fest 2009 - Grab last chance at Heritage Village

Mega publicity for Labuan attractions

By Aziz Idris in Labuan

Once again Tourism Malaysia has organised a Mega Familiarisation Programme dubbed 'Mega Fam' for 24 participants from seven countries for the Labuan International Sea Challenge (LISC) 2009.

Brunei delegates comprised journalists from Borneo Bulletin, Media Permata and United Daily.

The participants, comprising travel agents, journalist and TV crewmembers from Brunei, Canada, China, Italy, Singapore, South Africa and the Philippines, attended a tourism seminar at the Borneo Room of the Grand Dorsett Labuan Hotel (former Sheraton Labuan Hotel) in Labuan on May 2.

The programme at the tourism seminar included a business presentation by the State Director of Marine Park, Mr Albert Apollo Chan, and presentations by Mr Morris Ong, Local Area Manager of Malaysia Airlines, and Mr Willie Teo, Manager Destination Borneo.

According to Mr Albert, three islands have been introduced as 'Recreational Zones' for visitors or tourists, namely, Pulau Kuraman that is by far the most developed islet in the Marine Park followed by the densely forested island of Pulau Rusukan Besar, ideal for a picnic, swimming and snorkelling and Pulau Rusukan Kecil, a football pitch sized island perfect for camping.

Plans are underway to upgrade the facilities on these islands, according to the State Director of the Marine Park.

Mr Morris Ong covered a presentation on Malaysian Airlines services and products, especially on its newly introduced concept "Malaysian Hospitality", where visitors are treated as guests.

"Malaysian hospitality is a rooted culture among Malaysian ... our philosophy is to treat all of our passengers as our guests at home and we expect all of our staff to have the personality to be pleasantly natural, spontaneous, determined and willing."

According to Mr Morris Ong, Malaysian Airlines serves 14 million passengers with 110,000 flights across the world which include South Africa, China, Europe and America.

Mr Willie Teo gave a presentation on the island's rich history and cultural past which includes the pre-historical era of Labuan, the Brunei Sultanate, British colonial days, World War II, Independence, declaration of Labuan as a federal territory up to the establishment of Labuan Corporation.

After the seminar, participants were feted at a dinner hosted by Mr Wan Zawawi Mohammed, Director of communications and Publicity, Tourism Malaysia.

In his speech during the dinner he said, "Labuan has something for everyone, regardless of your (visitors) interest, be it shopping, dinning, culture or nature.

"And with the convenient and affordable transportation options, as well as the proximity of many of these tourist attractions, it is very easy to get around Malaysia to experience all the different things," he added.

Certificates of participation were given to the participants for taking part in the Mega Fam programme, during the dinner.

The participants also had the chance to attend the annual LISC 2009 and witnessed the official closing ceremony of the Malaysia Water Festival 2009 and the celebration of Labuan's Silver Jubliee at the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex.

The Mega Fam programme was organised with the support of local and foreign airlines, Malaysian hotels and state governments. Its main objective is to offer the participants a personal experience of what Malaysia has to offer to tourist.

The exposure was also to heighten their awareness about tourist destinations, products and services in Malaysia in order to develop tour packages and generate publicity for the country as a preferred leisure and MICE destination.

Since the beginning of this year, the Mega Fam programme has been focusing on promoting niche tourism products such as Homestay, Malaysia My Second Home Programme and Health Tourism which are in line with the Ministry of Tourism's aspiration to promote theses areas.

The publicity and exposure gained, especially through the participantion of foreign media in this programme, have been very high.

A total of 33,890 participants were hosted last year, generating a publicity value of over RM100 million (USD 27.7 million). A total of 26 programmes were organised last year in conjunction with major festivals and tourism events.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sabah Keen On Attracting Mideast Airlines, Tourists

DUBAI -- Sabah hopes major Middle Eastern airlines will include the state in their holiday programmes and eventually, mount direct flights to the state famed for its Mount Kinabalu and natural beauty.

Sabah Tourism Board (STB) senior research manager Allen Chia said, Sabah was already included in Etihad Holidays' programme, following talks between Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun and senior officials from Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates in February.

Etihad Holidays is a division of Etihad Airways. It offers a comprehensive range of holiday packages to the airline's passenger destinations, including its home base, Abu Dhabi.

"The challenge for us is to have direct access (from the Middle East region) to Sabah," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2009 here.

The four-day event ends Friday.

Continue reading at: Sabah Keen On Attracting Mideast Airlines, Tourists

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wild time on the Kinabatangan

IF you love watching wildlife, go on a boat ride along Sungai Kinabatangan in Sabah and you won’t be disappointed.

Almost all tourists who come to the Kinabatangan, the second longest river in Malaysia, are here to see the wildlife.

The forest and mangroves in the lower part of the river in the east coast of Sabah is home to a varied collection of wildlife.

One morning, our group of eight were thrilled to see long-tailed macaques, silver leaf monkeys, oriental pied hornbills, Brahminy kite eagles, serpent eagles and a saltwater crocodile. The highlight of the cruise was catching a glimpse of the rare Proboscis monkey.

Changing Scenes

We had signed up with Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp and guide Ghaffar explained that early morning was when the animals were most actively looking for food. That explained the bounty we just saw.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Wild time on the Kinabatangan

Borneo International Kite Festival is back

INTRODUCED in 2005, the successful Borneo International Kite Festival has put Sarawak on the world map.

Organised by the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA), the event is held annually at the town’s old airport.

Hundreds of participants – locals and foreigners alike, have been showing their skills and talent by flying beautiful kites with the Bintulu skyline as its backdrop.

Apart from the local and international competitions, visitors were also treated to traditional kite making workshops hosted by experts.

Last year, a remarkable feat was achieved by the participants where a total of 1,655 kites were flown simultaneously for 20 minutes.

This spectacular aerial display and performance was an attempt to enter the Malaysia Book Of Records with an initial target set at 1,500 kites.

Held for its fifth consecutive year, the Borneo International Kite Festival will be held from Aug 2-9.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Borneo International Kite Festival is back

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Kaamatan harvest festival: Unduk Ngadau pageant announced

IN LINE with the Kaamatan harvest festival celebrations this month, Sabah’s Kadazandusun community once again puts together its iconic annual pageant, the Unduk Ngadau, a traditional search for the best female paragon of beauty and grace.

Originally held to honour the harvest spirit Huminodun, who selflessly sacrificed herself as an offering to end drought and bring forth great crop harvests to her people, the Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan 2009 adds a new district to its roster of eligible participants.

The addition of Tungku brings the number of the pageant’s representatives to 41 this year, a list that frequently draws on various parts of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu and even the Klang Valley.

The official harvest festival celebrations are expected to finish by May 23, specifically in Tenom and Kunak. Representatives are encouraged to submit their participation details by then as the closing date for submissions is on May 24.

Districts and regions have been requested to send in details as soon as the day after Kaamatan celebrations in their area. The requirements for selection remain similar, with all young Kadazandusun women aged 18 to 25 as of January 1, 2009 being eligible to join.

The initial registration for the 41 participants begins on May 27 from 8am to 10pm at a venue to be announced at a later date, where finalists will be fully clad in traditional attire and prepared for a short photo shoot scheduled during the day.

Continue reading at: Kaamatan harvest festival: Unduk Ngadau pageant announced

Showcasing northern Sarawak as world-class meeting destination

MIRI: Twelve representatives from destination management companies and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) travel agents from Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and Brunei were here yesterday as part of a five-day Borneo Exploration site inspection.

The activity was organised by Sarawak Conventions Bureau (SCB) to showcase the northern part of Sarawak as a world-class meeting destination.

The bureau partnered Transworld Travel Services Sdn Bhd to handle the group’s site programme.

They were welcomed by Miri Mayor Lawrence Lai before they flew to Mulu for a special incentive programme at Mulu National Park.

They are one of the first groups to experience a new ‘Treasures of Mulu’ team building activity showcasing Mulu’s natural wonders such as the Wind and Clearwater caves, Lang and Deer caves and a first night canopy walk.

The highlight of their stay in Mulu will be a ‘Kuman Burah Suneh’ theme dinner showcasing the Berawan culture at the Bat Observatory while viewing the evening bat exodus.

Continue reading at: Showcasing northern Sarawak as world-class meeting destination

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sarawak Tourism targets audience of 8,000 at jazz festival

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is targeting a crowd of 8,000 at the Miri International Jazz Festival (MIJF) this year in considering that more than 6,000 people responded to it last year.

With just a few more days to go, STB is all set to showcase the fourth edition of the festival on May 8 and 9.

The annual jazz festival which will be held at the Pavilion of Parkcity Everly Hotel in Miri will see eight international bands showcasing a wide genre of jazz music that ranges from classic to smooth, blues and contemporary tempo that is laced with Oriental, African and Latino beat.

STB has enlisted bands from all corners of the world. The list include Double Take from Malaysia, Rumba Calzada (Canada), Dites 34 from France, Alamode (Australia), Thomsom Big Band (Singapore), John Kaizan Neptunes and Steps in Time (Japan), Bombay Baja Brass Band (UK) and Jeff Maluleke (South Africa).

Although the concert is held inside the Pavilion, festival goers can also enjoy the show outside at the festival ground.

This is because several wide screens will be erected for guests who watch the concert while enjoying their food and drinks.

For the more adventurous ones, they could just sit on the ground, with or without any mat, to watch the musical fanfare.

To ensure they all have a wonderful experience at the festival, guests are encouraged to come in comfortable apparel with comfy dancing shoes instead of high heels.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Tourism targets audience of 8,000 at jazz festival

Advancing tourism through Pesta Sematan

LUNDU: The District Office here is aiming to boost tourism in Lundu district including the sub-district of Sematan by holding the Pesta Sematan 2009.

The festival, from May 13 to 17, will be held at the Sematan Waterfront which is facing the South China Sea.

Pesta Sematan is held in connection with Sarawak’s 45th Years of Progress Within Malaysia, Santubong MP Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who is also Deputy Parliament Speaker said yesterday.

He said Lundu district had been identified as a tourist destination because it has the beautiful scenery of the South China Sea, fine beaches, the Gunung Gading Natural Park and a wildlife centre, among other things.

“The South China Sea is free from pollution. The beaches are beautiful and fine. I hope people from outside Lundu will come in droves during Pesta Sematan from May 13 to 17,” he told reporters at the District Office here.

He said he hoped Pesta Sematan would be turned into an annual event.

“We have heard of Pesta Benak in Sri Aman, Pesta Perahu in Baram and Lumba Perahu (or Sarawak Regatta) in Kuching. In years to come, people will be talking about Pesta Sematan, too. Pesta Sematan will help introduce Lundu to the world,” he added.

Pesta Sematan will see five things - an expo and food fair; sale of local handicraft; water sports festival; RTM Berambeh and Sarawak FM Live Concert for two nights.

Continue reading at: Advancing tourism through Pesta Sematan

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sabah Fest visitors captivated by cultural performance

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s annual showcase of its colourful and diverse cultures was launched on Saturday night with a special twist – a little known dance of a Kadazandusun tribe from the remote interior was performed for the first time in public.

The crowd that thronged the Sutera Harbour Resort were enthralled when women from the Dusun Gana community in Bingkor, Keningau district, traipsed daintily through clacking wooden staffs fashioned from belian, Borneo’s hardest wood.

They were performing the rare monsilad dance. For cultural aficionados, the thrill of the hour-long performance began with the rarely seen memahui pogun (cleansing the universe) ritual of the Dusun Lotud community from Tuaran district.

Once thought to be on the verge of extinction, the ritual has been revived thanks to efforts of the Sabah Tourism Board and its subsidiary, Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sabah Fest visitors captivated by cultural performance

Canada Hill in Sarawak being preserved for tourism, recreation

MIRI: The state government will ensure that Canada Hill is preserved for locals and tourists to enjoy. It is a significant part of Miri and its history.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan said this before flagging off the 4th anniversary of Miri City Celebration Run organised by Miri Hash House Harriers (M3H) yesterday.

Canada Hill, located in the centre of Miri city has historical value as it is where the first oil well in Malaysia – the Grand Old Lady - stands. The almost century old oil well represents the petroleum history in Miri and the country.

Dr Chan said it is also a place for recreational and sporting activities such as the hash run, jogging, jungle trekking and nature study by students.

“Efforts will be made to preserve the surrounding and environment in their natural state and with limited or controlled development activities in the area,” he revealed.

He assured that the authority will be making some improvement and upgrading of the paths, tracks and other facilities for the use of the people.

Canada Hill is a venue for holding the regular Miri Hash run.

Continue reading at: Canada Hill in Sarawak being preserved for tourism, recreation

Sunday, May 03, 2009

RM1.04m from homestay in Sabah last year

Kota Kinabalu: More than RM1 million was made under the homestay programme in Sabah last year.

Sabah Homestay Association (SHA) Secretary, Rubbin Guribah, said this was the first time the programme achieved such a high turnover since it was introduced in 1996, thanks largely to the support from the State and Federal governments.

He said the income for the homestay programme improved by about 74 per cent, from just over RM600,000 earned in 2007 to RM1.04 million last year.

This was the best answer to those who questioned whether the programme was able to bring in the big bucks, he said. "This is the best response to the views by certain quarters that homestay operators will never become millionaires.

"It is true they will never become millionaires individually but as a community, the programme has successfully given good side income to every operator and, in general, the Government," said Rubbin, who also coordinates the Melangkap Homestay in Kota Belud.

More signed up for the programme in 2008 with 227 registered members against 197 the previous year, he said, in a statement following the SHA's annual meeting last Saturday.

The number of visitors also improved last year, with 3,828 local and 4,924 foreign guests staying at the homestays, he said, adding there were 3,094 local and 2,712 foreign visitors in 2007.

Continue reading at: RM1.04m from homestay in Sabah last year

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Becoming one with nature at Gunung Mulu National Park

A misty morning

A small cave we encountered along the trail

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

By Abdul Aziz Pandin

Mulu National Park in Sarawak is but one of the many national heritage parks found in Borneo. The park offers magnificent views and would be the perfect destination for adventurers seeking the wonders and beauty of a natural rainforest and its majestic caves.

A trip to Gunung Mulu National Park was our next destination for the December holidays. We had planned for quite some time to take on the physically challenging adventure and eventually it was Noy who organised the wonderful getaway.

We departed Bandar Seri Begawan at 8.30 am and because of the heavy traffic at the Sungai Tujuh Immigration Post, we arrived at Miri International Airport some five hours later.

Miri is the main gateway to Gunung Mulu National Park. At the Miri International Airport, we checked in our luggage and got ready for our flight to Mulu Airport on a Maswings Fokker.

The 25-minute flight allowed us to take in an aerial view of Sarawak, which boasted a fascinating view of the meandering rivers as well as an ox-bow lake.

After touching down at Mulu Airport, we hopped into a van for a RM5 per person, 30-minute ride to Mulu Park. We then headed to the park's headquarters for registration purposes. We were handed the key to our chalet as well as a schedule detailing the activities we had lined up for us over the next three days.

The room had four single beds, a shower and a ceiling room, but the icing on the cake was definitely the fact that the room also had an air-conditioner.

Kitchen facilities mean that budget travellers can prepare their own food and save a few dollars. But if you intend to stay out of the kitchen, then take comfort in the fact that nearby, a canteen offers both Asian and Western meals.

The park also boasts souvenir shops as well as the Mulu Discovery Centre, where visitors can learn more about Mulu, particularly its biodiversity, caves and bats.

To say the park was nice would be an understatement. It was top-notch. Quiet and serene, the mornings were extremely refreshing, with mist enveloping the mountains, forest and park.

"This is the perfect place to be pampered," I thought to myself as I took in the fresh breeze and tranquil surroundings.

Walking along the trail gave me the chance to see what nature had to offer. The park is rich in plant and animal species. My eyes kept wandering as I desperately tried not to miss out on anything, while my hands eagerly worked the camera, hoping to capture as much as I could for keepsake.

The sounds of the birds and insects were an orchestra of nature and this only amplified as night fell.

At night, everything around you pulses with life. So I took the opportunity to venture out in the dark (unguided of course!) with only my headlight, camera and brave comrade Jeremy.

As we pushed through the bushes and branches, we discovered various interesting creatures of the slithery kind, such as the pit viper and stripe bronzeback tree snake.

But, if luck is on your side, you might even be able to spot a Bearcat (Binturong) and slow loris.

Guided tours are available for those who are not too keen on exploring the place without expert help.

What we learnt about the park is that it contains eight different types of forests - including peat swamp and mixed dipterocarp, moss forest and stunted upper monane vegetation.

There are about 4,000 species of fungi, 1,500 species of flowering plants, 1,700 species of moses and liverworts and an estimated of 3,500 species of plants.

The wildlife is equally impressive and includes 75 species of mammals, 262 species of birds (including the eight species of hornbill found in Sarawak), 74 species of frogs, 47 species of fish, 281 species of butterflies, 52 species of reptiles, 458 species of ants and 20,000 species of invertebrates.

The park also provides activities such as the pinnacle walk, adventure caving, canopy walk, night walk and bat watching, which really should leave adventure seekers spoilt for choice.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Weekend

A showcase of culture and heritage at the Kaul festival

MUKAH: THE colourful Kaul festival is undoubtedly the best event to showcase the richness of Melanau culture and heritage.

Celebrated annually at the Kala Dana beach here, it is one of the main events on the state’s tourism calendar.

This year’s edition kicked off with a procession led by a contingent comprising 45 Melanau community leaders carrying the “Serahang”, or decorated baskets on poles traditionally used to offer food to the spirits.

The 14 groups participating in the parade were Anak Melanau from Tabika Kemas Mukah, Pencak Silat group from Kampung Judan and Kampung Tutus, Sarawak Dayak National Union Mukah Branch, Dayak Bidayuh National Association, Sri Wangsa group from Sibu, Sri Ritma group from Mukah, Legend of Srimona from Kampung Tanam Dalat, Matu and Daro district contingent, Warismu from Mukah, Kampung Medong, Mukah Melanau Association and Miri Melanau Association.

During the parade every contingent showed their own performances to about 15,000 visitors from all over the state as well as foreign tourists.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: A showcase of culture and heritage at the Kaul festival

Rains bring welcome relief as Sabah kicks off fest

PAPAR: After weeks of scorching heat, Sabah was blessed with pre-dawn showers as the state kicked off the month-long Pesta Kaamatan harvest celebrations.

The rains yesterday were seen by celebrants as a good start to the cultural festival of the indigenous people as they give thanks to God for a bountiful rice harvest.

Pesta Kaamatan was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, who beat the gong seven times together with Kadazandusun Hu­­guan Siou (paramount leader) Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

That set the tone for the celebrations in other districts over the next 30 days.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Rains bring welcome relief as Sabah kicks off fest

Friday, May 01, 2009

Purchase Sabah Fest tickets early

Tickets for the Sabah Fest this May 2-3 are selling fast and the organisers have urged the public to purchase theirs early to avoid disappointment.

Sitti Damsal, general manager of Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd said tickets can be purchased at the Sabah Tourism Board as well as Sri Pelancongan, adding that a limited number of tickets will be sold at the entrance to the venue at Magellan Grand Ballroom, Sutera Harbour Resort.

With the theme "Mystical Sabah", the one-hour show on both nights will highlight the various ethnic groups of Sabah through a presentation of traditional song and dance combined with rarely-seen rituals and scenes.

Among the rituals is the Mamahui Pogun (Cleansing of the Universe) by the Tantagas (High Priestess of the Lotud people of Tuaran).

A special segment on "Tamu Culture of Sabah" will also be presented highlighting the sacrificial offering made in the olden days before a 'tamu' commences.

Continue reading at: Purchase Sabah Fest tickets early

1Borneo joins Vote Sipadan campaign

Kota Kinabalu: The 1Borneo Hypermall has joined the Vote Sipadan campaign, opening a kiosk at its concierge desk for the public to cast their votes.

Wanting to be involved in making Sipadan Island as one of the new seven wonders of nature, the hypermall opened the kiosk to encourage shoppers and tourists to support the campaign by voting online.

"Sipadan is not just our nation's treasure but also the world's and we fully support this campaign," said 1Borneo Hypermall assistant general manager Jefvleon Rengga.

"With an average of 12, 000 mall visitors per day, we are confident this would further boost the island's position to the top 10 ranking."

Continue reading at: 1Borneo joins Vote Sipadan campaign

Free shuttle service to Gayana Eco Resort

Kota Kinabalu: Alu Alu, located at Gayana Eco Resort, announced the launch of its new complimentary shuttle service for restaurant guests between Jesselton Point Wharf and the resort's private dock.

This fully enclosed and air-conditioned 40ft catamaran can accommodate up to 42 passengers during the short 15-minute trip to and from Malohom Bay.

"We are delighted to begin this new luxury service at our resort," said Jonathan Wise, General Manager for both Gayana and their soon-to-be-open sister property, Bunga Raya Island Resort.

Continue reading at: Free shuttle service to Gayana Eco Resort