Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sabah's culture continues to amaze

PENAMPANG: The beauty of Sabah’s cultures and traditions need to be preserved.

This was the call from Matthie Flegs of France and Jessica Smulders of Holland to the people of Sabah when met at the Monsopiad Cultural Village near here yesterday.

Both of them were visiting the centre for the first time and were impressed with the efforts undertaken by the centre to preserve Kadazan culture.

“The cultures of the people here are very beautiful. I hope they will continue to preserve them,” said Matthie yesterday.

Matthie, who presently works in Bintulu, said that it was the second time he witnessed the dance performance of the people in Borneo, one of which was during dinner at a restaurant.

He hoped that the culture will not disappear as had many other cultures in the world today.

His friend, Jessica, said she enjoyed her stay in Kota Kinabalu.

A maiden visitor to Borneo, Jessica said that she found the people here very friendly. “I truly enjoy my stay here,” she said.

The Monsopiad Cultural Centre is a one-of-a-kind establishment in Sabah, showcasing mainly the heritage of Kadazan folks.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sabah's culture continues to amaze

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grand Borneo offers more privileges to frequent travellers

KOTA KINABALU: Frequent travelers are invited to experience a higher standard of personalized service and facilities with the introduction of Grand Borneo Kota Kinabalu’s Privilege Club Lounge.

The grand treatment at the newly opened 4-star hotel’s Borneo Privilege Club enables guests who opt to stay on the Borneo Privilege Club floors to enjoy privileges such as personalized Club floor check-in and check-out, complimentary buffet breakfast and hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beverages throughout the day (excluding alcoholic beverages), complimentary cocktails from 5pm to 7pm at the Borneo Privilege Club Lounge, complimentary newspaper, tropical fruit basket, private meeting at the board room and much more.

The hotel, which boasts a total of 325 rooms, has allocated 43 rooms and suites located on the 15th and 16th floors for Borneo Privilege Club guests.

Created as an exclusive retreat for frequent travellers to experience a higher standard of personalized service and facilities, guests utilizing the club rooms will also be treated to sheer luxury and comfort with facilities to cater to their every need from the personalized service to the daily gastronomic wonders.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Grand Borneo offers more privileges to frequent travellers

Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities General Assembly

KARAMBUNAI: CHIEF Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman is upbeat on the outcome of the Fourth Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities (TPO) General Assembly.

"It is very timely for Sabah to host the TPO General Assembly, especially in promoting tourism sector growth, since it is a network that connects Asia Pacific cities on tourism," he said at the launching of the biennial TPO General Assembly.

"I am positive that this General Assembly, an important event on the TPO calendar of events, will see positive outcomes from brainstorming sessions among its members on various issues regarding operation of the organisation and joint projects in promoting tourism in their respective cities," he said.

It offered an invaluable opportunity to build networking and partnerships among cities and industry players in the Asia Pacific region, he said, adding it was also in line with the State Government's continuing efforts to position Sabah as a premier and world-class tourism destination and a "must-visit" place.

Musa, who is also State Finance Minister, said like many other industries, tourism too is not spared from global challenges such as economic meltdown or local problems such as unrest and political instability.

"I hope delegates will use this platform to share their experiences and find solutions to common problems," he said, adding the General Assembly also provides an opportunity for the State Government to show the TPO delegates what Sabah and Malaysia, in general, have to offer in terms of tourism.

"We in Sabah are very committed to boosting the tourism potential.

Through the State's Development Agenda launched about six years ago, we listed this sector as one of three engines of growth, the other two being agriculture and manufacturing," he said.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities General Assembly

Monday, September 28, 2009

A shoestring family holiday in Sabah

RANAU: Conducting a family holiday during these financially trying times in Sabah is a breeze when you know where to get the best deals for everything.

Recently, on a mere budget of RM500 and with family members comprising nine children, and five adults, we managed to stay at a comfortable mountain hostel situated close to the Mt. Kinabalu Park, enjoy the cool fresh air, had a barbeque and lavish family dinner, and still had more left for a trip to Poring Hot Springs for a quick dip in the hot pools, and lunch by the rainforest.

Sounds too good to be true? Not when you know where to search for the best deals.

In the past, most Sabahans would probably have no choice but to book at the Mt. Kinabalu National Park’s hostel facility due to the lack of other accommodation facilities at the area.

But with time passing, it is no longer feasible for a family on a shoestring budget to stay at the Mt. Kinabalu National Park’s hostel as each family member has to fork out a minimum RM100 per bunk bed per night. Lodges at the mountain charge between RM365 per night and RM3500 per night.

Those intending to climb the mountain would also have to fork out at least RM290 for one night stay at Panar Laban hut which excludes the other climbing fees incurred. Fortunately, there are other, cheaper places where one would be able to bunk comfortably at a price so much lower.

Continue reading at: A shoestring family holiday in Sabah

Unique red durian making heads turn in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A durian species is turning heads among visitors to Sabah, thanks to its uniquely reddish flesh.

Known among the Kadazandusun community as sukang or tabelak, the fruit is also called “durian hutan”, as it is mainly found growing wild in the jungles of Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjum said he did not know anyone cultivating sukang (its scientific name is Durio gravolens) as there was generally not much enthusiasm among locals for wild durian.

Its flesh is said to be thinner and drier compared with the cultivated fruit which is of thicker and creamier texture.

The taste is about similar with other durians, although some have described it as sweetish sour.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Unique red durian making heads turn in Sabah

Sabah to name 500 islands in its waters

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will undertake a comprehensive programme to give names to some 500 islands, some of them inhabitated, within its territorial waters.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said the programme will be undertaken by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry together with other relevant government departments to ensure that all the islands were a given a name and gazetted.

“We believe that there are about 400 to 500 islands without an official name,” he said after opening the 4th Tourism Promotion Organisation for the Asia-Pacific Cities (TPO) general assembly here on Monday.

Musa said this when asked about fears raised by a University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) study that showed that many islands in Sabah were not named, which could lead to future territorial disputes with neighbouring countries.

Continue reading at: Sabah to name 500 islands in its waters

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sabah: Best Places To...

Looking for great seafood? An adrenaline rush? Some peace and quiet? Whatever you are looking for, here are some of the best places in Sabah to cater to your needs!

... view wildlife

From elusive elephants to the darlings of Borneo, the Orang Utan, you will find them all here in Sabah. For starters, visit the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park for a glimpse of some of Borneo's amazing creatures, including the Sumatran Rhinoceros. For serious wildlife enthusiasts, a trip to the gateway of Borneo's wildlife is a must: Sandakan! From the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Sanctuary to the winding Kinabatangan River, Sandakan is a wildlife haven. Go on a river cruise to see leaping Proboscis Monkeys, crocodiles and reticulated pythons in their natural habitat.

... get away from it all

What's the point in going away if you can't 'get away'. In other words, everyone needs to escape the city madness now and then. In Sabah, take a road trip to Kinabalu Park, Malaysia's first World Heritage Site to get an up close view of Mount Kinabalu. Enjoy the nice change of temperature, surrounded by rolling hills and dipping valleys. How about camping in Kiulu? Pitch a tent by the refreshing Kiulu River and rough it out. Finally, there's no better escape than one that involves sun, sea and plenty of sand! Venture to the East Coast and bask in the serenity of your island paradise, be it Mataking, Pom Pom or Kapalai.

... get that adrenaline rush

Strap on that life vest and head to the rivers of Padas or Kiulu for some white-water rafting action! A great activity if you are travelling in groups - just be sure to pack an extra dose of adrenaline. At Kg. Kironggu, Inanam, you can also give rock climbing a try (contact Adventure Factors Mountaineering Centre, Dr. Basil Lung at 016 8189193 / 019 8508452 or Tham Yau Kong at 019 821 4388). The view from the top makes it worth the climb. Mountain biking is also a great way to travel around Sabah. Opt for the city route or go the extra mile (or two!) and venture into the scenic outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, namely the districts of Papar, Beaufort, Kudat or Kuala Penyu.

... experience Sabah's culture

Sabah is a melting pot of cultures, with more than 30 ethnic groups who speak more than 100 dialects. To experience the multifarious cultures and traditions of Sabah, visit any of the cultural villages around Kota Kinabalu, offering visitors an interactive experience. Monsopiad Cultural Village (, 088-774337) located in Penampang (approximately 15 minutes from the city centre) was the original location where the fearless headhunter, Monsopiad, once resided. Today, the Cultural Village built in his name is run by Monsopiad's descendants. Also worth a visit is the Mari-Mari Cultural Village in Inanam (, 088-260501), Linangkit Cultual Village in Tuaran (, 088-787382) and Sabah Museum's Heritage Village.

... wine and dine

No holiday would be complete without a gastronomic affair. In Kota Kinabalu, start in the famous Gaya Street where coffeeshops galore await you. The best time to visit coffee shops are in the mornings - locals take breakfast seriously here! From kon lau mein (homemade noodles in a special sauce) to nasi lemak, fill your stomachs with local delights. Not sure what to order? Your friendly coffeeshop staff will be more than happy to recommend their specialties. In the evenings, swing by the Waterfront, which offers a fantastic variety of international flavours - from fusion Italian to North Indian. Have a nightcap at any of the bars found here or enjoy a night of clubbing and karaoke. It's all here at the Waterfront! In Sandakan and Tawau, the seafood is a must-try. Served fresh from the sea at hard-to-beat prices, it's every seafood fans' paradise.

Source: Sabah Tourism Newsletter

NOTE: All Photos Copyright to Sabah Tourism

Better to package Borneo as single tourism entity

Kota Kinabalu: Borneo is better packaged as a single tourism entity than promoted individually by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Hence, there is a need for these countries to work hand in hand to attract tourists to spend their holidays in these parts, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

"As I have said many times before, selling Sabah and the rest of the destinations in Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei can only be effective if we package the trip as one whole destination for tourists.

"In other words, we need the Government, in particular that of Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei and Indonesia, to work together and be a single entity to promote the whole of Borneo to the world.

"The reason is simple, because selling Borneo is more saleable - everybody knows where Borneo is located but not so many people know where Sabah is," he said.

Continue reading at: Better to package Borneo as single tourism entity

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hidden treasures of Temburong, Brunei

By Tony Alabastro

Temburong's Heritage Art and Cultural Gallery is housed in one of district's oldest buildings, a government office built in the 1950's.

Brunei's second smallest and least populated district is peopled by Muruts, Kedayan Malays and a handful of foreign overseas workers. With a 9,160 population as of Dec 2008, seven persons live per square kilometre in the 1,303 sq km district.

According to the cultural gallery, the Muruts, who named some of Temburong's hills, rivers and villages, came from the Indonesian tribes that migrated to Borneo a thousand years ago.

The Malay Kedayan helped in the spread of Islam in Temburong when they settled in 1916, after the first world war, in search of better life, worked in the rubber plants and sago industry in Batu Apoi.

Chinese tionghua came in the 1920s to work in Temburong's rubber plantations. More Chinese were imported from China, Malaysia, Singapore until the decline of the rubber plantations forced the sending back of the Chinese labour force. Those who stayed started small business and settled in the capital, Bangar, and in Puni, which now produces salted egg.

The best dishes in Temburong are udang galah (king fresh water prawn whose head is bigger than its body) and also known as Bruneian lobster; Wajid Temburong or pounded Temburong hill rice slowly cooked in palm sugar and coconut cream then tightly wrapped lengthwise in fresh green Nyirik leaves, and cendol Temburong, a dessert of pandan green starch noodles, palm sugar and coconut milk.

Temburong has nine longhouses, where immediate and extended families live together under one roof.

Team Philippines led by Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Alexander B Yano, a retired four-star general, finds these hidden treasures during a one-day-two-nights outreach programme in Brunei's second largest and least populated district, where seven persons live per square kilometre.

During a courtesy call, he tells Temburong District Officer Awang Matusin bin Otrang Kaya Sura Haji Tuba that Philippine technical cooperation to Brunei in rice production can be expanded to Temburong.

Laila padi has been planted in three areas, and 1,000 hectares near the border will be developed, says Awang Matusin. He says he is the first Temburong-born to be named district officer in the district where he was raised.

"For the past 50 to 70 years, the district officers came from Bandar Seri Begawan," says Awang Matusin, a former schoolteacher.

"The Filipinos in Temburong are well behaved and well-educated," the District Officer told the ambassador, and Armed Forces and Defence Attache Emmanuel Cacdac. They are accompanied by May Abrera, senior nurse at the PIHM Hospital, who has been in Brunei for 21 years, and the only remaining Filipino at the Sultan Hassan Secondary School, Elibeth Lamberte-Rombo, who has been teaching maths for 15 years. She is also an active officer of the 26-year-old Filipino Association in Brunei, which is older than the establishment of the Philippine Embassy.

Awang Matusin initiated the Excellence Village Award, which in 2005-2007, was won by the Belais dan Buda-Buda Village Consultative Council. The village has a tourism destination with a recreational park. Mushroom is cultivated and chicken are reared in farms there.

Other winners were the village consultative councils of Amo, known for its handicraft, and Sibut, where tourists go to the red water falls at Tasek Buluh Aie Merah, and dragon fruits are produced.

"Temburong is the only district implementing the one kampong one product concept" in its 17 kampongs, Awang Matusin says.

Juriani Udan, acting nursing officer, PIMM Hospital, member of tourist information centre, member of Persatuan Lun Bawang Murut Brunei, introduces Team Philippines to the homestay programme in Temburong.

Homestays are offered at the Iban longhouse along Jalan Batang Duri in Kg Sibut, Amo. Its facade is made of concrete following a fire that hit the place.

Salmah Ampiri, homestay chief coordinator, translator and emcee, says visitors can have a glimpse of Iban life and culture at the longhouse at along Jalan Batang Duri in Kg Sibut, Amo. The longhouse offers overnight stays, a day visit, cultural night, daily visits, handicrafts, Iban mock wedding, ngajat dance, Iban food like chicken cooked in bamboo, food wrapped in leaves, fishing, and visits around the village.

Visitors sleep on the open veranda on mattresses and pillows. They are served local vegetables like banana shoots and palm shoots. The evening activities include cooking with us, eating on the (ruai) veranda. Fishing on the river infront of the house costs $1 an hour. We use traditional fishing rods, using bread mixed with flour as bait, says Salmah.

In Kg Tanjong Bungar, the top rice producer in Temburong, is a 20-year-old longhouse occupied by 12 Iban families.

Rosalind Anak Jalak, weave pua kumbu, a traditional multicoloured cloth, using a handloom, in the wooden longhouse with satellite dishes and washed clothes hung outside to dry on the veranda in Kg Tanjong Bungar.

Mathews Ak Janlita, the son of ketua kampong Awang Janlita @ Jonlita Anak Mingan, entertains visitors and offers an Iban headdress for Ambassador Yano to wear.

At the end of Jalan Batang Duri waits the temuai, the 10 to 15-foot longboats, powered by 20-30 horsepower outboard motors, glide along the glass-smooth river to the interior at Ulu Temburong, Brunei's first national park.

If the water is shallow, the longboat's flat bottom scrapes the sandy and gravel-strewn river floor. Male passengers have to alight and push the vessel to the deeper part of the crystal-clear river.

Thick, green and undisturbed foliage grow robustly on both sides of the riverbanks. The man-made structures along the way are the Outward Bound Operations Centre, the National Forestry Park buildings, and the Brunei Darussalam Field Studies Centre near Kuala Belalong, where Brunei's lowland tropical forest is studied. A helipad and a concrete bridge are being constructed across the river at the end of the water journey and where the climb to the canopy walk above the trees tops starts.

Kindergarten teachers Ruvie T Lamberte and Lea V Tungala and Joyce, a beader and Alive supporter, and nurse Luisa Balgos make sure Team Philippines feel at home in Beth's Bangar residence, during the upriver river journey across 25 rapids, up the mountain and over the treetops.

From the Temburong riverbank starts the 385-metre wooden canopy walkway that leads to the foot of a 250-metre high aluminium canopy walkway. The ascent is higher than the 110-story Empire State Building in New York, once the tallest building in the world, at 381 metres.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tenyok River - Long Bedian's hidden treasure

Long Bedian is a symbol of proud for the Kayan people.

Not many people are aware that the remote village in the Baram area, about 300 kilometres from Miri City, has a hidden treasure, the Tenyok River.

However, to reach the river, one has to take a ride on a four wheel drive vehicle for 45 minutes on a gravel road from the village.

The 'roar' of the flowing river water can be heard clearly when you arrive at the Tenyok Rimba Community Resort (TRCR) near the river.

Like the other first-time visitors, I was impressed with the beautiful setting of a waterfall at the river which is surrounded by the pristine jungle.

The wonderful scenery was a welcomed relief for me after taking a five-hour ride on bumpy timber roads from Miri City to reach the resort.

I was told that most of the projects at TRCR were fully funded by the local community themselves.

Such commitment reflected the willingness of locals to develop and promote the tourism potentials in their area in order to uplift their living standard.

Every villager has chipped in either financially or via manpower to help transform the area into another tourist product.

The concept of turning the river into a tourist product was first mooted by a villager, Wan Imang Wan who worked with a logging company near Long Bedian.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Tenyok River - Long Bedian's hidden treasure

Mesmerising Korea Fest awaits visitors at 1Borneo

Kota Kinabalu: Invited guests were treated to an eye-opener of what to expect during the two-day Saranghaeyo Korea Festival at the opening ceremony at 1Borneo, here, Thursday night.

Mesmerising Korean dances, unique dishes, cultures and many other interesting experiences await visitors when the inaugural event opens to the public from today (Friday) to Sept. 27 at 1Borneo.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun, Ministry's officers and staff, Sabah tourism players and members of the local media were treated to two traditional dances and performances by award-winning hip-hop group Extreme Dance Comedy and other performances.

He hailed Korean presence, already a fixture in Sabah scenario, as a manifestation of close relations between the State and Korea.

Attributing it to the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Korea bonded since February 1960, he said the confidence Korea has in Sabah is not only aptly displayed through its close geographical distance but also through economic relations.

Continue reading at: Mesmerising Korea Fest awaits visitors at 1Borneo

AirAsia sponsors running vests for Borneo Marathon in KK

KUCHING: Building on its success from last year’s involvement in the inaugural race, AirAsia is offering sponsorship again this year for the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) 2009 running vests.

A press statement from AirAsia yesterday said the directors of Championship Sports Events, Andrew Voon and Simon Amos, who are also organisers of the Borneo International Marathon received the vests from AirAsia station head for Kota Kinabalu, Roger Porferio Soria.

“We are very honoured and happy that AirAsia has given us such strong support not only with the running vests and 50 runners but also with lucky draw tickets for the runners.

“These kinds of positive corporate leadership initiatives are reflective of the dynamic organisation that is AirAsia. We look forward to continued support from AirAsia and to working together to develop Kota Kinabalu and other points in Sabah as major sports tourism destinations,” Voon was quoted as saying in the press statement.

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani said: “We are very excited about supporting the Borneo International Marathon again. It’s fantastic to be involved in an event that can bring people from all over the world to Kota Kinabalu, one of Malaysia’s best destinations.

“AirAsia will continue to promote marathon events held across its network of destinations as part of our commitment towards the development of sports and the promotion of active lifestyles.”

Fifty ‘AirAsians’ from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Thailand and Indonesia will be making up the airline’s team for BIM 2009, and it will be the airline’s biggest team participation in any sports event so far.

Continue reading at: AirAsia sponsors running vests for Borneo Marathon in KK

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Club Med is latest to show interest in Sabah

French-based Club Mediterranee, which operates the Club Med resort chain, is keen on having its second set-up in Sabah.

Club Med Vice-President of Marketing and General Manager of Commercial for Asia-Pacific, Olivier Horps, said having a second resort in Malaysia would help to boost its revenue for Asia-Pacific.

"We may look at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah as a second destination. It could happen soon if there is a proposal from somebody," Horps said.

He said currently, a lot of foreigners are travelling to Malaysia and staying at its sole resort here, the Club Med Cherating in Pahang.

Club Med Cherating, which was set up in 1979, is poised for further development, having last been refurbished at a cost of RM30 million in 2004/2005.

The refurbishment had helped increased its occupancy rates from 50 per cent in 2004 to between 60 per cent and 65 per cent.

The resort, which has about 700 beds, looks at the number of beds instead of rooms to gauge its occupancy.

It now sells each room from RM550 per person per night, inclusive of accommodation, three meals, snacking and free flow of alcohol and non-alcohol beverages and entertainment.

"We review our (room) prices each year. The only time we raised room rates by a higher percentage was recently, when we included the two-day/one-night stay package with free-flow of beverages and dining. But it has improved our sales volume," Horps said.

"We will make investments this year to add environment-friendly activities, instead of increasing rooms. We plan to create a new path in the jungle. We have cliffs looking into the sea and may create new activities there," Horps said.

Club Mediterranee, set up in 1950 by Gerard Blitz, has 80 resorts in its global portfolio with Malaysia being the first country in Asia-Pacific to have a Club Med resort.

Continue reading at: Club Med is latest to show interest in Sabah

The royal male Sumatran rhino stud of Borneo

HEALTHY and well fed, Kertam, an adult male rhino caught in the jungles of Sabah, is the most eligible bachelor in captivity.

The only thing left now is for a partner to be caught and paired with Kertam to reproduce one of the most endangered species in the world.

Until then, the authorities are taking round-the-clock care of the animal in a small plot of jungle within the 120,000ha Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary in Lahad Datu.

The three-hectare area called the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary was set up by the State Wildlife Department in collaboration with the organisation, the Borneo Rhino Alliance.

Herman Stawin of the sanctuary said their task now was to ensure that Kertam remained healthy and once a partner was found, he would be released in a 4,500ha fenced area within Tabin.

"Kertam is like a royal stud just waiting for a partner and we are keeping our fingers crossed for that to happen, the sooner the better," he said of the 638kg Sumatran rhino.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: The royal male Sumatran rhino stud of Borneo

Kertam the Sumatran Rhino

He has the huge responsibility of saving his species

KERTAM, one of two rhinos in captivity in Sabah, is a national treasure, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said.

"It's one of 30 or less left in the state and they are critically endangered, on the brink of extinction, unless we do something about it," he said when met recently.

Poaching and loss of habitat are among key reasons why their numbers have dwindled at an alarming rate, Masidi said, adding that serious conservation efforts were needed.

"Sabah is one of the last bastions for the Sumatran rhino and we are in a position to do something about it. I for one want to leave this world knowing I did something to save the rhinos."

Masidi said because of the threats, rhinos were not able to reproduce.

"As more development comes into the state, land is cleared, and their habitat is fragmented. Because of this, they are not able to see each other to mate.

"Poaching, too, is a problem. Not because they hunt rhinos but because in the attempt to trap other wildlife like wild boar or deer, poachers can hurt rhinos or even kill them with their snares or weapons."

That was one of the reasons why the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme was introduced at the 120,000ha Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary in Lahad Datu.

Eventually, 4,500ha of forest will be fenced up within the sanctuary to place rhinos that are rescued from other parts of the state. Kertam, a healthy male of about 638kg, was the first to be rescued.

Rhinos are solitary animals and only meet during the mating season. Records of surveys in the past showed that they roam in an area that would stretch thousands of hectares.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Kertam the Sumatran Rhino

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sabah tourism needs independent study

Kota Kinabalu: A proper independent study into the state of the Sabah tourism industry seems necessary, judging by 45 specific issues and constraints and 31 suggestions raised at a fairly candid dialogue last Friday.

Tribute should go to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Environment under Datuk Masidi Manjun who believes in being open so that dissatisfactions and anomalies can be aired publicly.

In the absence of Masidi, credit must go to a perceptive and firm dialogue chairperson and Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Datuk Susannah Liau, who handled the contentious moments very well.

If we have read it correctly and don't claim that we are absolutely right in our opinion, the voices of Matta Sabah chapter members sounded somewhat like insecure mortals seeking assurances from the gods.

Since the "gods" analogy depicts authority, the onus is on the authority to find out exactly what's happening, preferably with a good study and after that, make informed decisions.

For example, on the issue of unlicensed tour operator, Matta claimed there are "many unlicensed operators and even backpackers lodges competing directly with genuine licensed operators." It further claimed that "most compounds are slapped on the licensed operators but not the unlicensed ones."

In addition, they alleged that there is a "sizeable number of overseas tour operators' staff found conducting tour for their company, thus bypassing local operators."

They also claimed that these overseas agents have taken advantage of Sabah's current lack of enforcement to conduct tour on the pretext of inadequate foreign language guides.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sabah tourism needs independent study

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hotel review: Grand Borneo, Kota Kinabalu

On the edges of Kota Kinabalu lies the largest hypermall in all of Malaysian Borneo known as 1Borneo built for those who just simply must get some retail therapy in during their Borneo trek.

Attached to this complex are two hotels, one of which is the very modern and very new Grand Borneo Hotel. Recently switching into private ownership from Accor and dropping the Mercure branding, the hotel is still finding its feet in the Kota Kinabalu hospitality industry.

Not quite a city hotel, yet definitely not a resort, this four star property while lovely is decidedly difficult to pin down into a category.

Recently staying at the property, I tried out the lead-in standard room, and at 22 square metres is fine for a short stay, but for those staying longer an upgrade would be recommended as the room does feel quite small with the inclusion of a King-sized bed.

Business travellers will be happy to find the desk is complimented by desk-height international adapter ports for ease of use- no scrounging under the table to find an outlet then discovering you need to call guest services for an adapter. Also the free internet is a nice touch, but travellers will have to bring their own ethernet cables.

Continue reading at: Hotel review: Grand Borneo, Kota Kinabalu

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2009

A Hari Raya Aidilfitri greeting to all our Muslim visitors who will be celebrating the festival of "Aidilfitri" (Celebration Day of Fasting), the Malay term for the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr, which is celebrated after observing a whole month of fasting and abstinence.

There will be ‘open house’ sessions, where friends and family will visit each other to share the merriment. This is the best time to sample delicious Raya delicacies including beef and chicken rendang, nasi himpit and a wonderful array of home-made cookies and cakes. Don't miss the Sabah Chief Minister’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri Open House on the first day of Raya. Members of the public can enjoy the festivities at Likas Sports Complex which begins at 11:00am.

Since Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a public holiday throughout Malaysia, please kindly be informed that our office will be closed on 21st and 22nd September 2009.

For travel and related requests, do note that all your e-mails enquiries may be replied during this holiday period (depending on priority and/or importance) but earliest confirmation can only be processed on Wednesday, 23rd September 2009 (working hours +0800 GMT MYT).

Any inconvenience caused is very much regretted.

Best wishes,

The Team


Level 7A, 7th Floor
Wisma Fook Loi, No.38
Jalan Gaya
88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Tel: +6-088-222822
Fax: +6-088-223823

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Puncak Borneo Resort, Ranau

Puncak Borneo is a new mountain resort located at Tinompok, right at the junction to Bundu Tuhan, near Kinabalu Park HQ (about 9km). The resort has one of the best views of the majestic Mt. Kinabalu, with many parts of the summit trail clearly visible. Puncak Borneo Resort sits on a small hill right in the middle of Kiau and Bundu Tuhan valleys. Hence, it can get rather misty during the day, especially during the end of or early in the year.

There are only 10 rooms at the resort consisting 2 units each of deluxe, executive, single room, single superior and family room. Additionally, there is also a dormitory style bedroom with bunk beds that can accommodate a total of 14 persons. For dining, there is the Panorama Cafe, which has a frontal view of Mt. Kinabalu and the Budun Tuhan valley. Cuisines like Chinese, Thai and Western are on the menu, while on weekends, traditional local foods are served.


Puncak Borneo Resort
Km 86.3, Jalan KK-Ranau,
Simpang Kg. Bundu Tuhan,
Ranau, Sabah.


Please kindly use our Custom Form


SSL urged to relook at 'compulsory' Mt. Kinabalu package

Kota Kinabalu: Eighteen issues or anomalies were raised at an industrial dialogue between the Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (Matta) Sabah Chapter, Sabah Tourism Ministry and Federal Licensing Board at Pacific Sutera Hotel, here, Friday.

The first of these concerned the "perennial problem" over climbing permit, which has been described as a "love-hate relationship" between Sabah Parks and tour operators.

Matta cited cases of guests with secured accommodation at Laban Rata but found all climbing permits have been issued out!

Sabah Parks Director, Paul Basintau, said a standing "instruction" existed since January 2008 that all visitors intending to climb Mt Kinabalu must first obtain a climbing permit from Sabah Parks before booking for accommodation at the mountain.

"But we are still at the mercy of visitors going to book directly and we are not informed. I understand also that Sutera Sanctuary Lodge (SSL) conducts online bookingÉbut once SSL captured that booking they have to inform us immediately so that reservation of permit could be done with name, passport number or even IC," he said.

Basintau, who disclosed that Sabah Parks issues 149 climbing permits a day, said the anomaly can be "improved" if the Ministry of Finance could approve its proposed computerisation system so that even climbing permits can be booked online.

At this point, Charlie Chang took to the floor and asked SSL to "clear the air" on why tour operators have been "forced" to buy their three-day-two- night package when it could be "optional".

While SSL Deputy General Manager, Adrian, explained at length their position, Datuk Susannah Liau, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Environment, asked:

"I think you have to explain why is it that you are forcing people to buy the package two days one night and then three days one night. Can't they (tour operators) book only the accommodation without the package? "

As Adrian delved into the details, patience apparently ran thin as Susannah said the Ministry has been on the receiving end of the issue "which is creating a lot of complaints, you know (which is), wasting our time. I think you have to look into this very seriously."

"As I see it, this problem has nothing to do with the permit. Every time they say it's the climbing permit but climbing permit is actually very simple. This problem is actually SSL's packages that are creating the problem for the climbers, so I think SSL must look into it seriously and resolve it for the industry, please," Sussanah said, to which Adrian said he would.

Continue reading at: SSL urged to relook at 'compulsory' Mt. Kinabalu package

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sabah Tourism Upcoming Event: 4th Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities (TPO) General Assembly 2009

Date: 27–30 September 2009

Nexus Karambunai Resort is the main venue for the bi-annual 4th Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities (TPO) General Assembly which takes place in the final week of September. Some 300 members from 13 countries will be participating in this meeting, which acts as a platform for policy-making, roundtable discussions among mayors from cities around the world and discussions on tourism trends. Delegates will also embark on a cultural experience, which includes batik-painting and a tour of the City.

For more information, please contact Fauziahton Ag. Samad of the Kota Kinabalu City Hall at tel. no 088-521800 or e-mail

Source: Sabah Tourism

NOTE: Photo Copyright to Sabah Tourism

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa voted No. 2 resort in Asia

KOTA KINABALU: Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu was recently voted as the number two resort in the favourite overseas leisure hotel in Asia and the Indian subcontinent by Condé Nast Traveller, the world’s premier travel magazine.

The announcement was made on Sept 3 at the awards dinner and will be published in next month’s edition of magazine.

Consisting of over 1 million readers worldwide, the voting began in the April 2009 edition and simultaneously on its online issue at

In the poll, readers were asked to choose the best that the travel world has to offer – from hotels and spas to airlines and airports.

Choices were rated according to various criteria such as service, culture and value for money.

Separately, the resort was placed among the World’s Top 100, a list that features the “best of the best” in terms of countries, islands, UK cities, overseas cities, UK leisure and business hotels and overseas business hotels.

Overall, the resort scored 99.33 per cent and was noted as having the finest leisure facilities.

Continue reading at: Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa voted No. 2 resort in Asia

From RV 'Orient Pandaw' to enchanting Kuching

I've wanted to visit Sarawak for a very long time. I lived with my parents in Singapore in the late 1950s and I remember vividly my father telling me about his fascinating trip to Sarawak, which was then a small British colony in the vastness of Borneo.

He had met the Dayaks whom he called the Iban people and recalled the embarrassing moment when he had lost his footing and gone through the floor of the longhouse he was visiting - to the consternation of all! The people were so friendly, he said, that their concern was for his safety not for the damage he caused to their home. So Sarawak went on my long list of places I wanted to visit when I retired from my work as an inspector and adviser in London schools.

I love travelling the world! Sometimes, I travel with my step-daughter and her husband, but mostly I explore by myself, something I've had to get used to since my husband died eight years ago. My interest in people, both my fellow travellers and the indigenous population of the country I'm visiting gives me the stimulus and confidence to travel solo.

Imagine my delight when in April this year I opened an email from a British travel company that I'd used a few years ago. Out from the screen of my computer sprang the picture of an imposing-looking river boat... and it was taking passengers on an eight-day cruise up the Rajang River in Sarawak!

The itinerary looked interesting and the description of the boat's luxuries and standard of service were beguiling. I took the plunge and the travel company booked my cabin, as well as took care of everything else from the flights and necessary connections to the few days' extension I was to spend in Kuching at the end of the cruise.

On August 9, I set off from my home in North London, trundling my suitcase behind me as I took first the local bus and then an hour and a quarter underground train to Heathrow airport. Malaysian Airlines staff did all they could to make the twelve-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur as comfortable as possible. No mean undertaking in economy class, or 'cattle class' as it should be renamed! My eyes couldn't take in the modernity of KL International Airport when we touched down. Last time I was in the city, the most impressive building had been the railway station! A two-hour flight to Sibu passed quickly and after 20 hours of non-stop travelling (most of it moving forward in time at an alarming rate), I reached my destination - the River Vessel 'Orient Pandaw', moored at Sibu.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: From RV 'Orient Pandaw' to enchanting Kuching

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Malaysia Day - We’re only 46 today

TODAY, 46 years ago, a country was born.

It was a merger of four independent nations – North Borneo (now Sabah), Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya – forming the Federation of Malaysia.

Each nation gained its independence separately starting with Malaya on August 31, 1957; Sabah on the same date six years later, Sarawak on July 22, 1963 and Singapore on August 9, the same year.

But yet, despite its historical formation, Malaysia’s ‘birthday’ is left redundant. Many grew up with misconceptions that Malaysia was born when the two states – Sabah and Sarawak – joined the country.

“We formed the country. It is a merger. I have raised the matter that we are distorting history. We are not telling the history of Malaysia as it happened. It seems that we are giving the impression that Malaysia started on August 31, 1957,” said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Dompok, who has been very vocal on the issue, stressed that the level of the people’s awareness is mostly confined to Malaya’s history.

“The level of awareness among Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia on the formation of Malaysia is lower than those in the East Malaysia, so much so they believe Malaya is Malaysia.

“We often hear some newscasters on national televisions saying ‘Malaysia, termasuk Sabah dan Sarawak’ (Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak) … why is this happening? Are the two states not included as part of Malaysia that they have to stress it out? Those terms should go,” he said.

The United Pasokmomogun KadazanDusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president said it is also sad that some of the country’s leaders are ignorant of this fact.

Once, Dompok recalled, someone likened the situation in the Malaysian history to that of the United States of America.

“We must understand that the four nations joined together to form a new federation which they all agreed to call Malaysia. As for independent nations like Hawaii, like any other nations after that, they joined USA, which did not involve any changes to the name … so there is a difference,” he explained.

Continue reading at: Malaysia Day - We’re only 46 today

MASwings launches Kuching-Mulu direct service

KUCHING: MASwings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, launched its Kuching-Mulu direct non-stop service yesterday.

The maiden flight took off from Kuching International Airport at 11.20 am ferrying 60 delegates including the Minister of Tourism Datuk Michael Manyin Jawong, travel industry players and members of the media for an official launching ceremony at the Royal Mulu Resort.

"After studying the travel demand for Mulu, we are extremely pleased to revive this direct service in light of Kuching being the gateway to Sarawak, connecting visitors to various destinations within the state," said MASwings Managing Director Mohd Salleh Ahmad Tabrani in his welcoming address.

"We hope that the arrival of this service will open up new avenues of economic development in the state and encourage air travel to Mulu," he added.

He said previously it took visitors three hours to reach Mulu from Kuching via Miri, including transit time. With the direct service, it takes only one hour 35 minutes to arrive in Mulu from Kuching.

As 60% of visitors to Mulu are foreigners with Europeans being the largest numbers, they will benefit from the seamless connectivity provided by MASwings. By reducing the flying and transit times, tourists will have more time to explore Mulu.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: MASwings launches Kuching-Mulu direct service

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MASwings revising Sibu-KK fares

Sibu: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will introduce a direct flight daily from Sibu to Kuala Lumpur beginning Oct 25.

MASwings' Managing Director, Mohd Salleh Ahmad Tabrani, said travellers from here would be able to catch the 7am flight to arrive in Kuala Lumpur by 8.50am.

"They can then return home by the evening flight the same day at 7.30pm to arrive here at 9.25pm. The new flight will allow them ample time to do their business in the city without having to stay overnight," he said at a dialogue session here, Monday.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew, State Environment and Public Health Minister Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh, Sarawak United Chinese Association president Datuk Lau Cheng Kiong and representatives of various Chinese associations in the State and travel agents were among those present.

Continue reading at: MASwings revising Sibu-KK fares

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Breathtakingly beautiful scenery and rare wildlife make Borneo a must for any adventurous traveller

Straddling the Equator, the steep forest-clad mountainsides shrouded in mist epitomise the "Land of the Clouds" – a result of the combination of highland terrain surrounded by sea, and the hot, damp climate. The perpetual warmth and moisture makes Borneo incredibly verdant, with nearly 11,000 species of flowering plants and more than 700 species of trees. Numerous large rivers, most of them chocolate brown in the lower stretches, flow from Borneo's mountains into the sea, many carving mysterious valleys.

The world's third-largest island (after Greenland and New Guinea) lies in the South China Sea south-west of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, south-east of the Philippines and north of the Indonesian island of Java. It straddles the Equator, and has a hot and humid climate.

Three countries claim a share of Borneo. Seven-tenths is taken up by the Indonesian state of Kalimantan. The majority of the north of the island belongs to Malaysia, split between the states of Sarawak (to the west) and Sabah (to the east). Tucked between these two areas is the smallest and richest constituent, the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam – better known simply as Brunei.

A brief history of Borneo?

The island is thought to have been inhabited for over 35,000 years; perhaps 3,000 years ago, foreign traders began to visit, but it was five centuries ago that more significant changes came about.

The first Westerners to arrive were the Portuguese in 1521: the Spanish followed soon after. The Dutch came at the beginning, and the British in the middle, of the 17th century. Islam and Christianity also arrived.

A number of settlements were established along the coast, most notably Brunei. As elsewhere, the European superpowers began to wrest control from the local rulers: coastal Borneo roughly became divided between the British (to the north) and the Dutch (to the west, south and east). But the vast, inaccessible heart of the island was largely unaffected – not least because of a certain reluctance to explore by outsiders wary of headhunters.

In 1840, James Brooke, a British army officer, arrived in Borneo and helped the Sultan repress rebel tribes. The following year, in recognition of his services, he was made Rajah and established Kuching as capital of Sarawak. Known as the "White Rajahs", Brooke's descendants continued to rule Sarawak until the Japanese arrived in 1942 and occupied Borneo until 1945.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Breathtakingly beautiful scenery and rare wildlife make Borneo a must for any adventurous traveller

Saturday, September 12, 2009

23rd Mount Kinabalu Climbathon - 24-25 October 2009

Deemed as “the World’s Toughest Mountain Race”, the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon is the ultimate challenge to take for those game enough to test their endurance by running up and down Mount Kinabalu for a total distance of 21 kilometers. The winners in both the Men and Women categories will each take home US$4,500.

Watch the video below:

How game are you?

Please visit the Official Mount Kinabalu Climbathon site for all the details.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sabah wildlife gets land to expand animal’s habitat

KOTA KINABALU: Borneo pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys surviving in strips of forests along the lower Sungai Kinabatangan area are getting a “helping hand” from the Land of the Rising Sun.

With contributions from Japan and other parties, a group called the Borneo Conservation Trust has begun acquiring privately-owned land along the waterway to expand the habitat for the animals.

Trust chief operating officer Dr Tsubouchi Toshinori said the group had so far acquired a 6ha plot and was considering buying a bigger 8ha area by the year-end.

An American firm had also pledged a donation to enable the group to acquire a 2ha plot where negotiations were ongoing, he said after witnessing the presentation of a boat and four-wheel-drive vehicle by Japan’s Itochu Corp to the Sabah Wildlife Department here.

Continue reading at: Sabah wildlife gets land to expand animal’s habitat

Thursday, September 10, 2009

AirAsia launches Kota Kinabalu to Brunei direct

By James Kon

AirAsia's maiden flight from Kota Kinabalu to Bandar Seri Begawan touched down yesterday afternoon with a big load of passengers, to mark a new direct route introduced by the low-cost Malaysian airlines to boost its East Malaysia connectivity.

The new service will be the airline's 6th international service from Kota Kinabalu and 2nd international service from Brunei (besides flights to Kuala Lumpur).

The daily AirAsia schedule for KK to BSB and vice-versa is taking off from Kota Kinabalu at 4.20pm and arriving at Bandar Seri Begawan at 5pm and then take-off from Bandar Seri Begawan at 5.25pm and touch-down in Kota Kinabalu at 6.05pm.

Yesterday's first AirAsia flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu received more than a hundred passengers.

According to an AirAsia press statement, the daily flight from Kota Kinabalu and Brunei, is open for sale for the booking period from July 3-12, 2009 for the travel period from Sept 9, 2009 to April 30, 2010.

In conjunction with the launch, AirAsia will be offering an all-in-fare from RM29 one way. This offer is made exclusively online via

Kota Kinabalu is AirAsia's second and biggest hub after Kuala Lumpur, serving nine domestic routes that include Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Labuan, Tawau, Sandakan, while the international sectors are Macau, Shenzhen, Clark, Jakarta and Singapore.

The flight for the new sector that commenced yesterday, will cater to the emergent demands from East Malaysia. This new service will not only stimulate travel and enhance connectivity but also tap the existing market from Brunei and feed the traffic to AirAsia's vast route network in the region and beyond, including routes serviced by AirAsia's long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X.

Arriving on flight AK 6212, one of the passengers Mr Joseph Law who is visiting his relative, said, "We had a smooth and safe flight into Brunei Darussalam. There was no problem on the flight."

Another passenger Mr Loi with his family of eight who are in Brunei for five days to visit his sister said, "We had a smooth and safe flight, the plane is very new and was on schedule. We had no problems."

Asked if he would use AirAsia again, he replied, "Yes, it's very convenient and affordable now. We can visit my sister and her husband more frequently with AirAsia."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Towards making Singapore-Miri AirAsia route a success

MIRI: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan yesterday advised players in the local tourism industry to be more creative and innovative in marketing Miri Division.

“They need to attract tourists coming to Miri through direct flight from Singapore to Miri mounted by AirAsia,” said Dr Chan who was at Miri Airport to welcome 103 passengers on board the first flight from the republic to Miri yesterday.

“The flight provides convenience for people in Miri to get to Singapore. Hopefully the number of flights will increase in the future. I’m aware when you start something like this…in the beginning it will be difficult because of lack of publicity. It may take time for people to fully realise (the work involved),” he said.

Continue reading at: Towards making Singapore-Miri AirAsia route a success

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Death March: Last Campsite memorial gets Aussie recognition

Kota Kinabalu: The Office of Australian War Graves has officially recognised the Last Campsite Death March Memorial at scenic Pialungan five miles (8.3km) south of Ranau which was unveiled on 27 August.

"I am very excited and very pleased," Lynette Silver said.

"It is good to know that the Australian Government is publicly supportive," she said.

"With the official recognition we now qualify for a grant. I'll apply for a special grant scheme operated by the Australian Government through the Office of Australian War Graves to enhance and improve whatever we want at the site," said Lynette, who has spent 16 years researching the Death March.

She managed to finally trace the landowners of the Last Camp Site to Dr Othman Minudin and wife Dr Lungkiam in February 2008, through the determined efforts of famed trekker Tham Yau Kong.

"Hopefully, we'll get good funding to put up the Information Pavilion which will house information boards and artifacts dug up at the campsite and a place (accommodation) for a full-time caretaker," she said.

Continue reading at: Death March: Last Campsite memorial gets Aussie recognition

Sabah Homestays: Opening homes for foreign visitors

PENAMPANG: Introducing homestays and welcoming foreign visitors into our own home not only help supplement household income but also help promote the local cultures of Sabahans.

Kivatu Homestay co-owner Francis Mobijon said that it was an opportunity which the local folks could easily embark into, as all they needed was a spare room which they could rent out to visitors.

Unfortunately, aside from Ranau, other districts in Sabah are not active in participating in the homestay programme initiated and currently being promoted by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry.

In Penampang, only few families have decided to incorporate their home into the homestay programme.

Francis and his wife, Jane, decided to open their home to visitors in 2006, and since then, they have never had their house empty of visitors.

“We have visitors coming in all the time, 70 per cent of whom are Asians while the rest comprised Caucasians,” said Francis.

Their house, a three-storey building constructed on the slopes of Kampung Kivatu, and overlooks nearly the whole of the Donggongon township, is still surrounded by greenery and remains cool throughout the whole day and night.

Continue reading at: Sabah Homestays: Opening homes for foreign visitors

MASWings names aircrafts after Sabah, Sarawak towns

Kota Kinabalu: MASwings, which recently took delivery of the fifth ATR 72-500 is confident the new addition to its fleet will further reinforce its commitment to better serve the people in Sabah and Sarawak.

MASwings Managing Director, Mohamad Salleh Ahmad Tabrani said the delivery of the fifth ATR means the company is better geared with the right equipment to bring about a higher level of service, more frequencies and added capacity to the existing MASwings network in both states.

The fifth ATR is one of the 10 ATR MASwings has and will acquire to replace the ageing Fokker-50 aircraft with a modern, fuel-efficient and environment-friendly aircraft.

The fleet replacement plan will transform and redefine the "rural air service" business, which in the past was demarcated, amongst others by ageing aircraft, sub-standard facilities and limited frequencies.

The aircraft departed Toulouse on Aug 28, making several stops in Paphos, Abu Dhabi and Male before arriving at Subang Airport on August 31.

The aircraft was then certified airworthy by the Department of Civil Aviation on Sept 4.

The aircraft will be based in Miri and is expected to commence commercial service from Sept 15.

Continue reading at: MASWings names aircrafts after Sabah, Sarawak towns

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sarawak’s hidden gold mine – budget tourism

MIRI: Sarawak should take a close look at budget tourists as a major source of revenue for the local tourism industry.

In trying to draw tourists to the state, the right steps have been taken to increase flights from Singapore.

“Budget tourism is big here. It has great potential which many people here do not realise, but it’s disorganised. It is also being ignored and neglected,” said 48-year-old former pilot David Bennet from New Zealand who talked to The Borneo Post yesterday.

David described budget tourism, which is associated with the image of backpackers, as the second top earner in his home country New Zealand after its traditional dairy industry.

“Malaysians generally expect big-spending tourists to come in private jets or a typical tour package,” said David who is also helping his wife, Pauline Maran, a Kelabit, in running The Highlands, a modestly furnished budget lodge located on the third floor of the same block of building as the Wheels Cafe in the Water Front commercial centre here.

David is a very experienced pilot who had developed an interest in flying at 14.

He started flying in New Zealand since he was 19, and had flown aircraft as a career for 30 years.

“Sarawak has all the right attractions for the budget tourists who are mostly backpackers from Western countries, and who prefer to wander off on their own to explore the country,” he said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak’s hidden gold mine – budget tourism

Monday, September 07, 2009

Development, a ‘double-edged sword’ for wetlands of Bako-Buntal Bay

KUCHING: Located about 40 km northeast of Kuching City is the Bako-Buntal Bay, an expanse of inter-tidal mudflats fringed by mangrove forest with Gunung Santubong lying to the west and Bako National Park on the east.

Residents in the two Malay villages in the area, Kampung Bako and Kampung Buntal, derived their primary income from fishing with increasing participation in tourism activities.

However the proximity of the Bako-Buntal Bay, one of only two project sites in the country undertaken to support the implementation of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) in four Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, to the capital city is like a double-edged sword.

(The other project site considered of global importance as a wintering site for waterbirds is the north central Selangor coast).

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Kuching branch chairperson Rebecca D’Cruz said the bay has enormous potential for ecotourism, but the human population and infrastructure development in the area applied a constant stress on the site and its natural resources.

“Kampung Bako is the only entry point to the (Bako) National Park and villagers gain significant income from ferrying visitors to and from while several tour companies provide wildlife cruises in the bay area, which offer close-up views of proboscis monkeys, dolphins, crocodiles, fireflies and many bird species.”

She told Bernama this when highlighting the Bako-Buntal Conservation Study, a collaborative effort between the Sarawak State Planning Unit and MNS Kuching.

The cruises covered the nearby Kuching Wetlands National Park, which is Sarawak’s first and only Ramsar Site and the popular sea food destination of Kampung Buntal, with its restaurants lining the sandbar, which is also the high tide roost for shorebirds.

Continue reading at: Development, a ‘double-edged sword’ for wetlands of Bako-Buntal Bay

Sunday, September 06, 2009

English Tea House and Restaurant - Memories of the colonial era

SANDAKAN: Want to get the feel of the 18th century lifestyle? A visit to the English Tea House and Restaurant, perched comfortably on top of Sandakan’s highest hill at Jalan Istana, would provide you with an insight into the colonial era.

As its name suggests, this charming restaurant specialises in colonial English favourites.

However, its chef had incorporated a tantalising selection of local dishes into the main menu so that guests and diners can get a taste of the best of both worlds - the East and the West.

Operations/sales and marketing manager of ETHR Rosemawati Adil said they entertain about 100 guests daily and they are locals and foreigners coming from Australia, England, Germany, Italy and other countries.

Director of Pulford Media Ltd, England, Cedric Pulford and Phyllis Wong of See Hua Marketing Sdn Bhd, Kota Kinabalu, praised the restaurant when they had their afternoon tea on Aug 17.

Sandakan born Tina Wong, an insurance agent and her close friend Irene So said they like to dine at ETHR, enjoying the food and the evening breeze in a quiet environment.

Lahad Datu residents, the Goh family, travelled down here to try the English favourites after their visit to the nearby Agnes Keith house.

A couple from Hertford, England, Charles and Natalie Owen said: “This is a lovely place that is full of history and well-maintained colonial houses and buildings.” George Bethel Mathew and Renuka, Sultanate of Oman said: “This is a quiet, refreshing and a good place for us to refuel and recharge. We will recommend this wonderful place on, a website. We’ll sell Sandakan and tell the whole world.” The Oliver family from Melbourne had a lot to share with thesundaypost.

Their youngest son, Liam said he got the scare of his life when a snake fell just inches in front of him when the family visited the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Continue reading at: English Tea House and Restaurant - Memories of the colonial era

Selling Sabah resorts, hotels through coffee-table book

KOTA KINABALU: Many people are not aware that Sabah has many interesting and beautiful resorts and hotels, all of which possess their own unique style and architectural designs.

An effort has now been made to document and showcase the architecture of Sabah’s guest accommodation facilities, in the form of a beautiful coffee-table book.

Malaysian Institute of Architects or Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM), Sabah Chapter launched its inaugural coffee-table book project entitled ‘Architecture in Sabah: Resorts and Hotels’ during its 34th annual dinner recently.

The book features 15 of Sabah’s selected tourist guest accommodation facilities, ranging from 5-star luxury resorts to budget backpacker lodges.

The book was written by Richard Nelson Sokial, who also shot most of the stunning images of resorts and hotels.

Sokial, a former newspaper columnist and now a freelance architectural writer, earned his degree in architecture from the University of Malaya.

Continue reading at: Selling Sabah resorts, hotels through coffee-table book

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo - Tried & tested

For travellers who like comfort at an affordable price, Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo more than delivers.

Some of us aren’t fans of hotel chains, especially when we’re kicking back during vacations. But when I need to get holed up in a hotel to get some work done or when I’m on business travels, I’m all for a reliable hotel.

My four musts for a decent pad: comfortable but not stuffy; functional with no frills; tasteful (yes, nothing’s worse than gaudy, cluttered spaces) but not lavish; and lastly, high-speed Internet access (all the better if it’s free).

On a business meeting in Kota Kinabalu recently, we checked into the Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo. Part of the Accor Group, Novotel KK threw its doors open last October and has since become popular among tourists flying into Kota Kinabalu (KK), the gateway to Sabah’s holiday destinations.

A mere 20-minute drive from the airport, the hotel sits next to the sprawling 1Borneo Hyper Mall with its mind-boggling 300 shopping, dining and entertainment picks. A retail therapy utopia.

The 263-room hotel has three F&B outlets. Bonjour Café, at the lobby, serves non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks, while the Le Millesime Lounge Bar on the first floor is great for intimate chats over cocktails and snacks. The Square Restaurant on the fifth floor whips up continental and Asian cuisines all day.

The three meeting rooms and one boardroom, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, can fill up to 240 workshop/conference participants. Guests also have free use of the two Mac computers in the lobby.

To my delight, our 59sq m executive suite was more spacious than my studio apartment. It came with standard amenities like a flat panel television with cable channels and a DVD player, tea- and coffee-making facilities, a complimentary fruit basket and a mini-bar stocked with snacks, soft drinks and free mineral water. An arrangement of fresh flowers cosied up the room.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo - Tried & tested

Domestic tourism in Sabah growing despite challenges

Kota Kinabalu: Domestic tourism in Sabah has withstood global economic uncertainties and the Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, said domestic tourism was still growing despite facing two global challenges.

"Our domestic tourism is still striving and grew at a rate of 5.1 per cent for the first six months this year.

"With the coming school holidays and the fact that Ramadan is going to end in the third week of September, I believe the number of people coming to Sabah especially local travellers, is going to increase," he said.

In addition, Masidi said certain hotels like three-star outfits have reported 80 per cent occupancy with some fully booked until December.

The high occupancy rate in Sabah hotels was a good sign that people travel either in good or bad times as it has become a habit in their lives, he told a press conference after launching the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Fair at 1Borneo Hypermall, Friday.

A total of 38 booths have been taken up by tour operators, travel agents, foreign tourism office, airlines, hotels and other related industry players.

Thirty five per cent of the exhibitors are promoting domestic tourism.

Continue reading at: Domestic tourism in Sabah growing despite challenges

Rich heritage under the Malaysian sea

IF the diversity of corals is taken as the currency of richness in the undersea kingdom, Malaysia will certainly be one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

If an imaginable line is drawn linking the richest nations whose diversity of corals is at a maximum — a line connecting the seas with more than 70 genera of corals, it will form a perimeter around the seas of Malaysia, Brunei, Malaysia Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak), Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. The area is now generally known as the ‘Coral Triangle.’

This fact has repeatedly been underlined by recent scientific assertions since it was pointed out by one of the better known coral gurus, Charles Veron, more than 10 years ago.

Diversity in biology is taken as a sign of stability and so it generally stands that a diversified habitat is indicative of its good health.

In the South China Sea alone the total acreage of reefs is more than 10,000 sq km with all the different types of reef habitats being represented.

The coral reefs themselves are home to many living creatures. Some are familiar but many are still waiting to be discovered.

It is generally acknowledged amongst scuba divers that the ‘lifescape’ (as opposed to landscape) changes as you explore the reefs in the day and again at night.

The day scenery is composed of fish and the sedentary marine backdrop such as corals and plants.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Rich heritage under the Malaysian sea

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sipadan diving quota stays

Undated picture of Sipadan Island
(Photo copyright to

KOTA KINABALU: The state government will continue to enforce the diving quota at Sipadan Island despite the surge in interest among divers from all over the world.

“This is part of efforts to conserve the island,” Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun told New Sabah Times yesterday.

He said it would have been an honour for Sabah if Sipadan had qualified for the final of “New 7 Wonders of the World” contest but that would put immense pressure on Sabah Parks to increase the daily diving quota at the island.

‘The number of divers coming to Sabah will surely shoot up. Even now only 50 per cent of the total number of permit applicants can dive as the island’s carrying capacity is only 120 a day,” he said.

Masidi pointed out that increasing the diving quota would compromise efforts to conserve the pristine nature of the island – a diving haven known the world over.

Continue reading at: Sipadan diving quota stays

High Sarawak hotel rates scare tourists off

Government may have to step in to bring down peak season rates

KUCHING: Travellers and participants of the World Inter-Hash 2010 which Sarawak is hosting are being forced to consider cancelling plans to come here because hotels are charging too much for rooms.

Not wanting the peak season rates to be a stumbling block for tourists and Hashers to travel to Sarawak, the state government may intervene to control the situation.

Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin said he had already spoken to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sarawak chapter president Peter Simson on the matter, and instructed his officers to meet Simson for further discussions.

“I am aware of the high rates charged by hotels in the city. Probably, we will have to intervene … the ministry will have to come in (when necessary),” he said after attending a briefing on World Inter-Hash 2010, at his office here yesterday.

Manyin said he was aware of the high rates charged by hotels in the city.

The high rates come to light during the briefing when the event’s organising chairman Joseph Perianayagam told Manyin that many participants, especially from Australia, were planning to skip the event if the rates did not come down.

Some 5,000 hashers have initially indicated their interest to participate in the event next year.

Hornbill Hash House, of which Joseph is the Grandmaster, successfully won the bid to host this event, edging out established destinations such as Bali and Kuala Lumpur during a ceremony in Perth, Australia last year.

Continue reading at: High Sarawak hotel rates scare tourists off

More travel info for MasWings ATR72 passengers

KUCHING: Passengers on MASwings’ ATR72 aircraft can now view more travel information with the launch of the second phase of its in-flight entertainment services.

The enhanced services now in­­clude additional information on destinations and travel-related products in Sabah and Sarawak.

Information on travel agents, convention facilities, hotels, transportation and other tourist services is also available on the flights, the airline said in a statement.

MASwings introduced its in-flight entertainment for the ATR72 aircraft on July 1, this year, by screening videos of tourist attractions in Sabah and Sarawak.

Continue reading at: More travel info for MasWings ATR72 passengers

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sarawak Cultural Village: The Penan People

From JR Hogan's Malaysia Asia blog:

Sarawak Cultural Village is home to many of the ethnic Sarawak tribes and this posting talks about the Penan People. The Penans are a nomadic tribe found mostly in the northern parts of Sarawak namely near Miri, Baram and Limbang. Here at the Sarawak Cultural Village, they have an actual Penan Hut displaying the lifestyle of the Penans who are genuinely a soft spoken and gentle tribe.

A Penan hut in the Sarawak Cultural Village shows how basic these tribe homes can be. As these forest nomads live deep in the virgin jungles of Sarawak, they usually move in small groups living in an area until the resources are fully used up before they move on to another location.

The Penan huts are made from palm leaves and tree barks which lasts only for a few months and are usually situated near wild sago trees as it is the Penan peoples staple food. The Penans also support themselves by hunting, collecting jungle produce like herbs, gathering wild fruits and also barter trading. Besides this, they are also well know for making good quality blowpipes. A blowpipe is usually made from the hardwood Jagang tree and is usually made to a length of 8 feet via a tedious process. The poison for the darts are made from the Upas tree.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Cultural Village: The Penan People