Friday, May 31, 2013

Tourists move holidays forward to experience Kaamatan

PENAMPANG: Australians Bruce Collinson and wife Geraldine have always been fascinated with Sabah, especially its culture.

In fact, they were more than willing to move their holiday dates a month early just to learn about Sabah’s culture and enjoy the nature here.

“We have been planning our holidays for about a year, so we browsed the Internet on what was available here (in Sabah) and found out about the (Harvest) Festival — so instead of coming here in June, we decided to move the dates a month early because May is just too hard to ignore.

“Since we love to learn more about the culture and meeting nice and friendly Sabahans, which is a bonus. We find this festival just the best place to be — there are just a lot of things going on, seeing people spending time with their families and going back to where they grew up is just beautiful, plus we do not have this sort of thing back home,” said 50-year-old Geraldine.

She said the experience attending the Harvest Festival, or locally known as Kaamatan, was beyond their expectations, adding: “It is just so colourful. We did not expect to see so many people, but I believe this is what celebration is all about.”

Both Bruce and Geraldine started coming to Sabah since three years ago, and in fact, this is the Collinson’s fourth visit here.

“We have always liked Sabah. There was one time when we were in Italy when I told my wife that I miss Sabah. We are going back to Australia soon but will definitely come here again,” said Bruce, 57.

Along with the Collinsons were 55-year-old Ken McMillan and Jenny, 52, who are first-time visitors to the state.

“Everything is new to us, but so far, we are enjoying it,” said Jenny.

Also among the crowds of thousands of people was Yeap Wen Zhuo, who happened to be in the state to attend a cousin’s wedding.

“Since this is my first time here, I decided to stay a little bit longer. Everything about the local culture is new to me, the unity among the multi-racials is so great here,” said the 21-year-old from Terengganu.


Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival receives BrandLaureate Country Branding award

KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) has been awarded the BrandLaureate Country Branding Award 2012-2013.

The BrandLaureate Country Branding Award is the Grammy Awards for branding and the No. 1 branding awards in the Asia Pacific, which is endorsed by the King.

The award was given in the form of a 24-carat gold trophy.

For the fourth consecutive year, RWMF was also voted as one of the Top 25 Best International Festivals for world music.

The Top 25 Best International Festivals was decided by renowned world music magazine Songlines in the United Kingdom and has elevated RWMF’s status in the international music scene.

“The award and recognition has put Kuching on the world map and appealed to shores further than neighbouring countries. We are proud on the success of RWMF because it shows that we are at the same level as other music festivals held around the world,”  Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan told a press conference yesterday.

This year’s festival will feature 21 bands — 13 international and eight Malaysian bands — playing a diverse range of world music genres.

The festival will continue its unique formula of having informative musical workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming session and mini concerts held in the ethnic houses within the Sarawak Cultural Village in the afternoon, followed by evening performances on two main outdoor stages.

More of Sarawak’s local talent will be featured compared to previous years including the rare and dying art of the nose flute.


Music expo to complement Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival

KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) will be held with a difference this year, with a fringe event.

The Borneo World Music Exposition will be held at a hotel on June 24 to 26 with participants from local institutions of higher learning that offers music courses.

A music conference will also be held and some 300 professionals from the music industry which include singers, researchers, music instruments manufacturers and producers are expected to attend, said Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“This exposition is the first to be held in the Asian region, which is important for the development of local music. During the exposition, there will be professional input on how to develop the ethnic music,” said Abang Johari during a press conference yesterday.

“We will be the focus of the world and at the same time, the expo will increase the awareness of local young talents and how we can develop our home-grown talents to be of world class standard,” he said.

Asked on the expected turnout for RWMF this year, he said it is set at 23,000 compared to 22,000 last year.

It will be held from June 28 to 30 at the Sarawak Cultural Village.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Happy Harvest Festival 2013

In conjunction with the cultural Harvest Festival celebrations ("Kaamatan" in Sabah; and "Gawai" in Sarawak), would like to wish all Kadazans, Dusuns, Muruts, Rungus, etc. as well as the Dayaks a Happy and Safe Harvest Festival.

"Kaamatan" culminates on 30 and 31 May of each year, which are public holidays for the state of Sabah, whereas, the "Gawai" or "Gawai Dayak" on 01 and 02 June, which are also an official holiday for Sarawak.

You can follow some of the Kaamatan and Gawai happenings via our Twitter Page

In view of the State-wide celebrations, our office will be closed from Thursday, 30 May 2013 until Sunday, 2nd June 2013.

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 Monday, 3rd June 2013 (working hours +0800 GMT MYT).

Any inconvenience caused is very much regretted.

Warmest Regards,

Management and Staff


[ Travel Company of ]

Lot No. 7, 2nd Floor, Block C
Lintas Jaya Uptownship
88200 Penampang
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Tel: +6-088-722606
Fax: +6-088-727606


Borneo or ... Things that go munch in the night!

And so on to Borneo. The mere mention of that name conjures up images of virgin jungle and exotic wildlife of varying shades of rainbows! How na├»ve! We arrived at KK from KL - I hope you are now ‘up to speed’ with the acronyms, dear reader! - and were surprised to find a fairly modern, compact and business like town - at least on the surface! The transport system is chaotic as we were to find out later. Most travel around Sabah is best done by air as there are precious few roads. Those that there are tend to be pitted with craters or simply run into stretches without any kind of surface whatsoever. There are four wheel drive ‘taxis’ which run between the main towns - KK, Kudat, and Sandakan!

We had sat and contemplated the wisdom of going to Sabah as there had been ‘a little local difficulty’ there in the past few weeks! About 200 Pilipino insurgents had landed on the Eastern coast and proceeded to take on the Borneo Army! There had been about 60 casualties! From what we could gather, it is a kind of Falkland Island situation! A Sheik in one of the southern most islands of the Philippines (which almost touches the Saban coastline) has some kind of historic claim to Sabah. Discoveries of natural mineral wealth (oil and gas) around the coastline have made the ancient claim spring suddenly into life again.

The fighting was intense and, as a result, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a ‘NO GO’ notice around the area. Kota Kinabalu seemed to be a reasonable distance from the affected area - so off we went! However the insurgents had played a blinder! They had effectively cut off the most popular tourist area of the country - and, incidentally quite a few of the places we had wanted to visit!!! Nevertheless, we decided to carry on and see what we would see!

Our hotel, the Gaya Centre, was a large building on the waterfront of KK. Whilst it is a fairly modern and generally well presented hotel, it had something of the waft of an old peoples’ home! The staff were charming as were the locals who again all engaged us in lengthy conversations! Even walking down the road could present a challenge as someone was very likely to walk up to you and enquire, ‘Where you from? ’You could then kiss goodbye to the next hour or so!

We really missed this amazing friendliness when we went off the Thailand - but that’s another story! We decided to visit the KK Zoo (about 30 minutes out of town by taxi). This was one of the poorest excuses for a zoo that we had ever seen! The highpoint of our trip was the ice cream at the end! We did however spot some pygmy elephants and Oranutangs.,

We also spent a day on Manukan Island just off the coast from KK. Getting there by ultra high-speed motor boat was great fun.

And now dear readers, it is time for the Hoggtrotters ‘Question Time!’ This blog will include a photo of an innocuous looking, yellow coloured bun (or roll). Janie purchased this item from the local food market. The question is ‘What kind of roll/bun was it ‘advertised’ as, and what do you think it tasted of? There will be a small prize for the first (lucky!) correct answer! You will certainly need to use your imaginations on this one! Best of luck!

If you take a minibus, or rather a fully loaded jeep, from Kota Kinabalu and head north for about 4 hours you get to Kudat. Getting a place in the jeep is in itself an entertaining experience! As you arrive at the ‘coach station’ (a large area of broken tarmac!) you find yourself swamped by eager locals who pull you in all directions in order to get into their vehicle. At that moment we were approached by a rotund, middle aged man with 5 days of stubble and dishevelled clothes. ‘Good morning, Sir! I am Yousef and I am a pirate from the Philippines !’ I believe him! He smiles with a mouth full of half broken teeth.

Yousef is, it becomes apparent, the man in charge who is supposed to inflict some kind of order into this chaotic situation. 25RM (£5) secures us a place on one of the jeeps. This is, we are told, a far better way to travel than the large coaches which stand idly at the other end of the tarmac. They are slow and stop many times, hence, for the locals, jeep is the preferred option.

These jeeps, however, operate by a peculiar set of Borneo rules which, to the uninitiated, can seem really frustrating! They will only depart for their destination once a full compliment of 7 passengers has been assembled. 7 being the magic number! Having said that, if the existing passengers agree to cover the ‘cost’ of the vacant seats, the taxi will depart sooner. This means that it is possible to hang around for some time waiting for a full compliment of passengers.

After about 20 minutes we stop. One of the passengers gets out of the vehicle and crosses the road. We sit for about 15 minutes waiting for something to happen. Eventually the man returns with another woman (his wife sits patiently in the back seat of the jeep together with her baby) and two small children. They join the woman in the back seat - there are now 5. But the man is not done yet! Oh no! He disappears again only to return with 2 more small children!

There are now 8 passengers in the back seat! For the next 3 hours these toddlers peer over the top of the seats in amazement! Who, they wonder, are these strange looking people? We peer back and pull silly faces!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo or ... Things that go munch in the night!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bako National Park first on list of Key Focus Activity to enhance tourism

The Key Focus Activity (KFA) for the Sarawak tourism ministry is to enhance tourism facilities and services in selected national parks, says its minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

In his winding-up speech, the minister said for a start, they would begin with Bako National Park as it was the most popular.

“The objective is to provide basic comfort and ensure the safety of visitors, and at the same time, leverage on ICT in showcasing the richness of the flora and fauna at the national park.

“A special task force, jointly chaired by the ministry’s permanent secretary and the Ministry of Resource Planning and Environment, has been set up earlier this year to identify the tourism component that needs to be upgraded and improved, namely accommodation, signage and information kiosk,” he said.

Abang Johari said that Culture, Adventure and Nature (CAN) would continue to be the state’s main tourism attraction.

“Our national parks, wildlife centres and nature reserves recorded 431,505 visitors comprising 119,860 foreigners last year.

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre recorded the highest number of visitors with 102,292, followed by Bako National Park (44,469) and Gunung Gading National Park (26,045).

“Semenggoh Wildlife Centre still holds the record for highest number of foreign visitors (41,725),” he said.

He said the ministry was working closely with the Bumiputra Entrepreneur Development Unit in the Chief Minister’s Department to come up with several inbound tourism packages to promote Kuching.


GST will stifle tourism – MATTA Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah has expressed concern over the impact of the proposed Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the country.

Its chairman, KL Tan, said the Sabah tourism industry will be badly affected if GST is implemented without consulting stakeholders in the tourism sector.

GST is a type of broad-based consumption tax that covers all sectors of the economy and it is imposed on a wide range of local and imported goods and services.

The Malaysian government first announced that it intended to introduce GST in 2004. However, it was postponed thereafter due to mixed responses from the public and businesses.

On 16 December 2009, the government introduced the GST Bill 2009 for its first reading in Parliament and had proposed to commence in 2011. However, it was also deferred and expected to commence in the not too distant future.

Tan said it is shocking for Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Idris Jala to guarantee a RM27 billion income if GST is implemented.

“It looks like the all Malaysians, rich and poor, will have to contribute this additional revenue to the government.” he said.

Idris said that the GST should be comparable to Singapore at 7% but Tan pointed out that Singapore is well developed with lower tax rates. Singapore’s corporate tax rate is 8.5% on profits for up to SGD300,000 and 17% on corporate profits above SGD300,000. The Malaysian tax rate is 20% for profits up to RM500,000 and 25% for profits above RM500,000. The Singapore individual tax rates is also lower compared to Malaysia. GST implementation may be considered only if Malaysian corporate and individual tax rates are significantly reduced.

However, Tan agreed that the move to introduce GST is expected to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing tax system, particularly in curbing tax erosion and leakages through transfer pricing and other means.

Perhaps the introductory GST rate should be about 4% on non-essential services and products and increasing slowly over the years to avoid inflation, he suggested.

Tan said that GST will basically make Malaysia more expensive as a destination compared to Thailand, Indonesia and the emerging destinations in Indo-China. It would impact Malaysia’s relative competiveness with other international destinations.

“GST may not deter tourists to come to Malaysia but because of the higher cost of living, tourism receipts may drop as tourists will spend less.

“GST may influence how much tourists spend while here. There is a multiplier effect and this will affect the economy. If GST is implemented in 2014, it will not favor the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to bring in more tourism receipts for the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.

“GST implementation will have considerable negative effects and ruin the highly anticipated campaign,” he said.

Tan is also of the opinion that the VMY2014 target of 28 million foreign tourists arrivals will be stifled and that the realisation of Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan 2020 to achieve 36 million tourist arrival with RM168 billion receipts will be an uphill task,” he said.


Award for best designs in this year’s Unduk Ngadau

Local designers are not spared from playing their part in promoting Sabah’s best through designs in evening wears.

This year’s Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan (Harvest Beauty Pageant) will see the contestants wear beautiful evening wears based on the cultural theme by using the ethnic accessories, motif and designs.

Dubbed the Designed Creative Evening Wear Competition, it will be showcased during the Sodop Unduk Ngadau or Gala Night on May 29 at the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Hall (KDCA) hall in Penampang.

Since this is a competition, a prejudging was done last night where the judges chose only seven best creative designs and beautiful evening wears.

According to organising chairperson, Joanna Datuk Kitingan, the competition will help to enhance and bring out the best of Sabah’s local designers while using our rich ethnic motifs, patterns, accessories and woven materials.


Padawan Raft Safari, anyone?

KUCHING: Padawan Raft Safari 2013 is calling for entries now.

The event organised by Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) will be held along Sarawak Kiri river on July 7 with cash prizes of RM24,000 up for grabs.

Its chairman Lo Khere Khiang said the starting point will be at Kampung Annah Rais for kayaking and rafting (Expert’s category), Kampung Temurang for rafting (Men’s), Kampung Danu for rafting (Women, Government Agencies, Hotels and Tour Agencies).

The finishing point will be at Kampung Git.

The distance along the river is approximately 40km for the Rafting Expert and kayaking categories and 26km for other categories.

Rafting is divided into Expert, Men’s Open, Women’s, Government Departments, and Hotels and Tour Agencies while kayaking is open.

Lo added that for Hotels and Tour Agencies, rafts made from timber and recyclable materials will be provided in next year’s event.

“It will be different from bamboo rafting,” he said at a press conference after the municipal full council meeting here yesterday.

Registration for the competition ends by 5pm on June 28.

The registration fees are RM200 per team for Expert category while RM140 per team for Men, Women, Government Departments and Hotel and Tour Agencies and RM60 per team for kayaking.

Other interesting events lined up for that day are cultural performances, karaoke competition, food and tourism product line.

Another activity to be held in conjunction with the Padawan Events 2013 is a Borneo Highlands Resort Nature Challenge to be held on June 30 (Sunday).

Continue reading at: Padawan Raft Safari, anyone?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sabah beauties to compete for Unduk Ngadau crown May 31

KOTA KINABALU: It is that time again when all the beauties from all over the state gather to vie for the ‘fairest of them all’ title this Friday (May 31).

Forty hopefuls gathered for the registration exercise at Le Meridien Hotel at 8am yesterday clad in their traditional costumes, a sleeved or sleeveless black velvet attire, paired with a matching long or short skirt, which also represents the area they come from.

The young lasses seemed to click almost immediately, exchanging names and biodata, chatting with one another, proud to be representing their districts.

Prior to the event, the contestants had to go through various stages from the village-level Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan (Harvest Beauty Pageant), or UNK, to the district-level before finally competing for the Unduk Ngadau title at the finale to be held at the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Hall.

However, Tungku did not send any representative as the district-level organisers had decided to skip the Kaamatan Festival this year.

The contestants are:

  1. Alvira Teresa Peter (Membakut)
  2. Alwen Tsen Oi Wen (Menumbok)
  3. Angela Siau Yun (Keningau)
  4. Ashley Selvi Ravindran (Tanjung Aru)
  5. Azlina Celestinus (Tamparuli)
  6. Cherlly Marcella Henry (Paitan)
  7. Cherry Woolinskeyy Mudir (Tenom)
  8. Christine Michael (Kunak)
  9. Daphne Fay W Santor (Kota Marudu)
  10. Dedie Phang (Penampang)
  11. Dezerie Karen Catharinus Sham (Beluran)
  12. Diana Gilbert (Putatan)
  13. Elviralynn Ukon (Labuan)
  14. Esther Honorius (Sook)
  15. Hemy Menjadi (Likas)
  16. Imelda Lim Chiew Chen (Kota Belud)
  17. Immaculate Lojuki (Kota Kinabalu)
  18. Iziana Binti Midung (Matunggong)
  19. Jaime Mohamid (Lahad Datu)
  20. Jennifer David (Tawau)
  21. Jovilin Umjin (Kinabatangan)
  22. Ledesma Steven (Klang Valley)
  23. Leslie Vitalis Misin (Kuala Penyu)
  24. Martha Kail (Sandakan)
  25. Marvena Jitol (Kudat)
  26. Muslisah Pengawai (Nabawan)
  27. Natalie Christine Chong (Beaufort)
  28. Nillsey Debbie Sening (Tuaran)
  29. Norhanina Malih (Tongod)
  30. Rayana Raymund (Pagalungan)
  31. Ritchel Andreas (Ranau)
  32. Roseanne Tay (Inanam)
  33. Sarah Cleophas Gorotud (Tambunan)
  34. Shanen Brenda Engelbert Lim (Papar)
  35. Sharon Adrain (Semporna)
  36. Shepherdlyn Julcie M Mikat (Pitas)
  37. Sofeviadick Binti Benedik (Kemabong)
  38. Supang Binti Sulaiman (Sipitang)
  39. Velleire Jane Prisley (Telupid) and
  40. Vycentha Karen Vitalis (Banggi).

Tungku did not send any representative as the district-level organisers had decided to skip the Kaamatan Festival this year.

After two hours of registration, the contestants were brought to attend video shoot and photography sessions before being briefed by the event’s organising chairperson, Joanna Datuk Kitingan on what their role is all about before proceeding to the ice-breaking session supervised by Philomena Engsun.


Kraf Malaysia Sabah Promotion organizers hope to reap RM620,000 in sales

KOTA KINABALU: Expectation is high in this year’s Kraf Malaysia Sabah Promotion following its success last year.

The organizers of the event from May 24-June 3 is eyeing sales of RM620,000 and the target is looking good judging from the first three day of sales.

Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir said since the promotion began, traders have reported sales of RM190,000.

“We have eight more days to go to hit our target and we are confident of achieving it,” he told reporters at the venue held at Dataran Deasoka here yesterday.

He added that last year, Kraftangan Malaysia, Sabah branch and City Hall made RM585,000 from the RM550,000 targeted sales.

This year, the event attracted 94 traders with 77 from Sabah, two from Sarawak and 15 from peninsula.

Seventeen of the retailers are offering textile crafts while 77 are offering crafts made from metals and other materials, he said.

“This will be our yearly event to liven up the city and to give a platform for craft traders and craftsmen to showcase their products and creations,” he said.

Abidin said the event would also be able to attract tourists and foreign buyers to buy Sabah and Malaysian handicrafts.


Central Kalimantan forests prepare for ecotourism

The Central Kalimantan government is preparing the Tanjung Puting and Sabangau National Park as an ecotourism destination with support from sustainability group Rimbawan Bangun Lestari, Jakarta Globe reported news.

Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang said the province is home to a vast natural resources, specifically forests.

He added that 30 years ago, Central Kalimantan was among the most resourceful provinces in terms of its forestry industry. But government policies in the years that followed led to logging being conducted across its forests.

“Logging was conducted under government policies. In the process, reforestation efforts also occurred but failed to match the logging. Today, natural resources remain abundant. This, to us, is valuable,” he said during the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Central Kalimantan government and Rimbawan Bangun Lestari on Monday.

Agustin said that 82 percent of Central Kalimantan consists of forests, with a total area of 15.4 million hectares. He said he hoped that plans to develop the forests as a tourism destination would include conservation efforts.

“Activities that support the development phase of ecotourism were conducted prior to the signing of this agreement, including the protection of endemic flora and fauna, such as the orangutan,” he said.

Central Kalimantan’s forest area comprise 1.6 million hectares of nature sanctuary areas and nature preservation areas, and 11.1 million hectares of protected forest, limited production forest and convertible production forest.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Central Kalimantan forests prepare for ecotourism

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

YTL has long held a reputation for luxurious escapes in lush natural environments around Malaysia. Their latest opening, Gaya Island Resort is no different.

A 15 minute transfer from Kota Kinabalu airport sets you alight at Sutera Harbour. With views of a sapphire sea and envy-invoking ivory yachts, the YTL Lounge is a white bright cool haven from the outside tropical heat. A creamy calamansi sorbet refreshes while you’re seated on couches and the friendly staff organize your check-in. Soon you’re escorted to YTL’s speedboat, and a quick hair tanglingly invigorating ride later you arrive in a Bornean paradise.

Set amongst the lush forest, rather than in place of it, Gaya Island Resort is a model of friendship between the natural and the man-made. Trees protrude through walkways, mangroves encroach on boardwalks and lush gardens frame communal spaces.

While minimum plant life was touched to build the resort, an assertive planting program is in place to regreen the areas that now hold artificial structures. Vines are already making their way across cement walls and up metal supports. Before too long, it will be an extensive expanse of leaves, and villas will resemble floating tree houses ascending the hills.

The core common spaces are at sea level just off the jetty. Open walls entice breezes and, alongside ceiling fans, are the preferred method of cooling. Minimal complexity is evident throughout, freeing the mind from too many details and encouraging appreciation of the island habitat.

The Pool and Bar provide multi layers of refreshment. The upper level sports low tables, lounges and transparent chairs, aside a compact bar with stools and high counters. Dropping down a level are cushioned rectangular platforms protruding just above the water’s surface - perfect for a few hours of lounging and dipping. Descending again is a lap pool complete with swim up bar and, lining the edges are classic white sun umbrellas and deck chairs. It’s as if the designer were planning a tiered theatre, ensuring the whole audience has a clear view of the sea.

Destinations are linked by gardens and guests are enticed to sit in any number of seating configurations along the way. Beginning at the lobby reception, a pillowed lounge stretches from one end of the lobby to the other. Between the pool bar and restaurants, relaxation rooms, fitted with mattresses, cushions and wispy curtains, entice meditation or napping, again with an outlook to the beach. A spiral staircase leads to an open walled library, furnished with low sofa beds, books, fans and more views.

Feast Village, the all day dining location adjoins and is lined with a cage of perpendicular wooden beams softly bent outwards at the middle in a stance of cradling protection. Gentle wind blows through to the international buffet that’s charmingly lit with lanterns made from traditional fishing traps. It’s here that guests linger over breakfast, sipping on freshly brewed coffee and munching on some of the best pastry items in the country.

Up another spiral stairway, Fisherman’s Cove offers fine dining under the stars. Intimate, candlelit tables are separated with gardens and pebbled pathways. Borneo’s sea creatures are deliciously showcased. In efforts towards a more sustainable future, only line caught fish are sourced from local fishermen, reducing the use of nets – which catch all in their way, rather than just the desired species.

Having just over 100 rooms, the food and beverage options are currently limited to these three main restaurants, the Pool Bar and Lounge, Fisherman’s Cove and Feast Village (also a small menu at Tavajun Bay). There has been some discussion however of introducing another restaurant in the future.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Miri Beach Festival 2013 wows big crowd

MIRI: Assistant Minister of Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin was smiling from ear to ear yesterday when he saw that the maiden Miri Beach Festival 2013 managed to lure about 1,000 people to Esplanade Luak.

He immediately blared; “I hope such a festival can be held from time to time so that it becomes another tourist attraction here.”

More tourists would translate to mean a better economy through more business activities, he added.

Lee, who is also Assistant Minister of Sports, said the festival, which is held in conjunction with Miri May Fest, served as a great platform for everyone, including youths and families, to spend time together.

“Such recreational activities are not only good as a healthy lifestyle pursuit but it can also help strengthen the unity of the people,” he said before giving away prizes to the winners of various games.

“It also represents an opportunity for all races, regardless of religion and backgrounds, to socialise and to live in peace and harmony.”

The crowd started converging at the beach as early as 7am and all activities streamed along well up to about 6pm, thanks to the fine weather.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Miri Beach Festival 2013 wows big crowd

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Babagon River a potential tourist attraction

PENAMPANG: Babagon River, which flows through Kampung Babagon here, can be a tourism attraction for the district, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Masidi, when met at a gathering with members of the social media at Kampung Babagon yesterday, pointed out that Babagon River is one of the most beautiful rivers in the state.

“It has its own special attraction and this location can be promoted to tourists from all over the world,” he said.

According to Masidi, he was made to understand that Kampung Babagon, which practises the “tagal” system, is already a popular destination among foreign tourists but is relatively unknown among domestic visitors.

The tagal system is a community-based fisheries resource management system practised by  many riparian communities in Sabah. It is a stakeholder-driven system of rehabilitation, protection and conservation of the river environments and the fisheries resources for its sustainable development.

At the moment, the number of tagal areas established in Sabah has multiplied to more than 200 involving 107 rivers in 11 districts.

Protection of the tagal system rivers’ environment and its enforcement are in the hands of the elected Tagal Committees. At present, the enforcement of the prohibitions is through the imposition of native customary laws that are backed by the Native Court.

Masidi also expressed hope that domestic tourists will choose Kampung Babagon as a location for recreational activities in the future.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Babagon River a potential tourist attraction

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Top 5 things to do in Malaysian Borneo

Adventure, jungle, wildlife and beauty are the first words that spring to mind when I think of my travels in Borneo. This place should definitely be on the list of places to go for the adventure-hungry traveller. It's just waiting to be explored.

The island of Borneo is the third-largest in the world, which includes Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The two provinces of Malaysian Borneo are Sarawak and Sabah, where I spent most of my time travelling.

I'd like to share my top things to do here, guaranteed to give you memories that will last a lifetime.

1. Climb Mount Kinabalu

This mountain in Sabah is the tallest in South East Asia. A fantastic 2 day/1 night hike will lead you up an impressive number of steps, through jungle and nature to a breathtaking (literally) view at a peak of 4095 metres. Although I wouldn't call it easy, most people will be able to climb this mountain without a problem, confirmed by the large amounts of tourists on the trail that I must admit I wasn't expecting. Our guide had climbed it over 1000 times!

After a well earned rest at the only accomodation near the top, a 3am wake up call will start your steep hike to the top. After several hours of a rope-assisted climb by torchlight, you'll emerge at the peak piercing through the sky. Be welcomed by stunning views of a mountain-scattered landscape perfectly lit by sunrise, a view that has been gratefully imprinted in my mind.

Instead of getting back down by foot, we decided to start our descent by attempting the world's highest via ferrata with MountainTorq. Clutching on metal brackets to make our way across a cliff face, being exposed to a mindblowing view, this is a very safe and thrilling adventure to embark on.

2. Dive in Sipidan Island

This legendary island has to be one of the top dive sites in the world. Frequently seen are turtles, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, manta rays and eagle rays to name a few. In fact this island is so popular that only 120 permits are issued each day to get here. Hence plan and book ahead for this one.

3. Meet Wild Orangutans

A visit to Sepilok's Orangutan Rehabilitation centre is a must. Borneo is one of two places in the world where wild orangutans can still be seen. This wonderful centre nurses the injured or orphaned animals. There is a boardwalk winding through the jungle leading you to a large feeding platform, where you can watch these delightful and adorable animals relax and play in their own habitat. This is a big highlight on most people's trip to Borneo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Top 5 things to do in Malaysian Borneo

The Pontoon Borneo Reef World Underwater Experience

When I learned we are going to visit some beaches at our Kota Kinabalu trip, I got so giddy. I am one of those who is so in love with the sun, sea, and sand.  On our second day at Kota Kinabalu, we visited a couple beaches that are popular in the place.

I thought we were gonna settle down into one of the beaches we went to for a swim and do that sea walking thing in our itinerary. Little did I know we were on our way to another adventure that I can now cross out in my bucket list, walk under the sea/ helmet-diving/ sea walking!

This is where this under-the-sea magic happened, the Borneo Reef World, the largest reef activity pontoon in Asia and is equally modern as the ones operated at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

It measures 37.5m Length by 24.5m Width by 11.8m Height and is built with high marine grade rust-proof aluminium

The 2 level pontoon include our unique Underwater Observatory, carpeted walkways, sunbathing deck, freshwater showers, shaded seating areas, children's pool and comfortable dining area. It also houses the 5 sea level platforms to launch the various water activities.

Before doing any activities we had a short briefing first on what to expect while in the pontoon, the do's and don'ts while in the area or doing the activities, and other reminders on safety.

After the briefing, we went to get our things settled in an area and look around the place while waiting for our turn to do some water activities. Applying sunscreen/sunblock is not recommended as it can harm the corals and the fishes.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Pontoon Borneo Reef World Underwater Experience

Promote Sibu to Singaporeans

SIBU: Singapore could be an ideal market for Sibu’s tourism products due to its higher currency.

Travel company managing director Robert Tan said Sibu has many gems to offer to this segment of tourists.

“From traditional longhouses, food to jungle trekking. But for that to happen, it is imperative that the perennial request for a Sibu-Singapore route be made a reality.

“For starters, the flight could be on a weekly basis before progressing to daily. The new airline Malindo perhaps, can seriously consider serving the market,” he suggested.

He pointed out that Kuching has four airlines flying that route while Miri has two.

Tan complained that domestic tourists from the peninsula could be reluctant to travel here if the airfare for the Sibu-Kuala Lumpur route remains high.

He said currently a return ticket for the Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong route was just RM700.

“Ideally, we should target Singapore, which is a gateway for international tourists,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tan said bookings have been heavy in the run-up to Gawai Dayak.

Continue reading at: Promote Sibu to Singaporeans

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sabah Tourism Ministry to exploit international direct flights to attract visitors

SEMPORNA: The Ministry of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment is taking the initiative to exploit international direct flights from overseas like Hong Kong, Singapore, China to Tawau and Sandakan with an eye of boosting up the economic and tourism industry in the state.

Its Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said it would be a long-term plan to encourage more international visitors to visit Sabah easily.

Pang said it was undeniable that the East Coast of Sabah has its potential in developing its eco-based tourism products.

Apart from identifying new products, he said his ministry would make an efforts in improving the quality of services, accommodations, methods of serving the tourists as well as logistics measures.

He said this to the media after officiating at the World Turtle Day 2013 at Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge here yesterday.

“Turtle is a tourism icon for diving industry in Sabah which is always ranked in the top-three. Therefore, the state government would work together with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and other corporations in creating awareness among the kids and youngsters on the importance of conserving the turtle population.

“Our children are the future hope of the country. They should possess a noble value of appreciation and love of the ecosystem of our country.


Act fast on turtle conservation in Sabah

SEMPORNA: Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun has urged marine scientists from Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), to work with the corporate sector to help them perform their corporate social responsibility in marine biodiversity conservation efforts in Sabah.

Masidi said Sabah would emerge as a showcase of cooperation among the various sectors of society in joining hands in the conservation of marine biodiversity.

He said their role in conserving the highly complex marine biodiversity of Sabah should be understood so that a comprehensive management framework could evolve.

“This should happen really fast since climate change is happening in a way that the whole marine ecosystem, of which turtles are a part, is facing increasing stress,” Masidi said in a speech was delivered by Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming during World Turtle Day 2013 at Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge here, yesterday morning.

“Marine turtles are so unique in our ecosystem that they deserve world attention. Although considerable research has been carried out, lifestyles and behavior of these animals are so complex that more investigations are needed to answer some key questions of their natural history.

“Their migration pattern, perception of environmental cues, modes of navigation and even sex differentiation are the aspects of their biology which still need a great deal of research to understand.

“I therefore strongly support the scientific investigations that UMS researchers are carrying out. There has to be a scientific basis for management of natural resources and in this context, studies on turtles assume special importance in their conservation,” Masidi said.

Masidi said such elements of cooperation between UMS academia and the corporate sector would augur well for the conservation of marine living resources of our state.

“This kind of cooperation can deliver a powerful message to all sections of society to develop care for nature and our marine natural heritage.”

He believed that local marine turtle conservation efforts could have a significant impact not only on the resident turtle population but the regional and global stocks of this unique animal.

“Ignoring the importance of local conservation efforts is ignoring the fundamental facts of turtle biology,” he said.

“Sabah is home to a nesting turtle population and a habitat for migrating turtles which spend time here and enrich our marine ecosystem.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Act fast on turtle conservation in Sabah

Sarawak Museum urged to be in sync with changing times

KUCHING: The time has come for Sarawak Museum to broaden its role from just an anthropological museum to a new direction that is in sync with the changes brought by the current pace of development and economic progress, said Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

In line with this, Taib revealed that a taskforce headed by Social Development Minister Tan Sri William Mawan would be set up to guide the re-development of Sarawak Museum to make it more friendly and attractive especially to the younger generation.

He pointed out that even though Sarawak Museum was world-renowned and famous as an anthropological museum since its inception in 1883, long term and strategic planning must be made now to ensure that it could still play a very important role in Malaysia.

“Of course, this is much bigger role than assigned to the Sarawak Museum in the past, and may require very extensive re-thinking of what we ought to do with the extension of the museum.

“As we celebrate our 50 years in Malaysia and the 130th anniversary of the museum, I think something much more long term and very strategic must be thought of to make sure we can still play very important role in the development of museums of Malaysia,” he said when officiating at the launch of national-level Museums Day Celebrations at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak of the Sarawak Museum yesterday.

Taib, who is also Finance Minister, gave his assurance that necessary financing would be in order to effectuate this new approach within the next five to 10 years.

“An immediate five years plan must be charted out so as to have a new approach for the museum to make it very friendly and very attractive to our people especially the young so that patronage from them will enhance the importance of the role of the museum in our society,” he said.

“That’s what I would like to say here. A lot of follow-ups have to be done and I hope you (the ministers, department and agencies involved) will rise to the occasion.”


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Borneo: Jungle classroom encounter

Recently, I had an encounter with one of the world's most charismatic creatures.

Deep in the primary rainforest of Malaysian Borneo, I came face to face with a "man of the forest", as the name orang-utan means in the local language.

My encounter was in the state of Sarawak, at the Matang Wildlife Centre.

Animals uprooted by deforestation or poaching are rehabilitated, then returned to the wild in the surrounding Kubah National Park.

It was there that I helped volunteers stuff hessian sacks with tapioca, jam, nuts and sunflower seeds. Wearing a surgical mask and gloves (orang-utans are susceptible to human diseases), I handed Aman, a 25-year-old male orang-utan, one of the sacks. He carefully shucked each sunflower seed, extracting the contents with his tongue.

Aman regained his sight after a pioneering operation on his cataracts. He is too old to be returned to the wild, but the younger orphans can be taught how to survive on their own.

This includes lessons in the rainforest, and I joined four young orang-utans and six rangers one afternoon.

It was like being with toddlers. The orang-utans had tantrums and lay down, refusing to move. Except for the ginger hair and wrinkled faces, it could have been my son out there. Without parents, these youngsters rely on rangers to teach them to forage and climb. One, terrified of heights, overcame vertigo after watching its foster carer climb a tree.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo: Jungle classroom encounter

Sabah Food and Ethnic Handicraft Carnival launched

TAMPARULI: Sabah Cultural Board chairman Datuk Seri Wences Angang yesterday launched the four-day Sabah Food and Ethnic Handicraft Carnival at Tun Hamdan Hall here.

The carnival which will end on May 25 is aimed at building up, promoting and preserving the cultures of Sabah.

“This year, we are combining the two programmes, which were held separately for the past few years, namely, the Traditional Food Festival and the Handicraft Fest, in this carnival to introduce the uniqueness of our food and handicraft to local and foreign tourists.

“As we all know, Sabah has about 35 ethnic groups with their variety of food and handicrafts. So this carnival will serve to assist all these groups to showcase what they have under one roof,” he explained.

A total of 12 ethnic groups will be participating in the carnival comprising, among others, the Dusun Lotud, Idahan, Irranun and Rungus, and various food exhibition booths have been erected in the community hall to showcase exotic foods like crocodile meat and also traditional food namely, Pinjaram, Kuih Sapit and Jala.

The programme lined up yesterday included cooking demonstration, karaoke, lucky draws, photography and cooking competitions and guessing the scent of spices.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah Food and Ethnic Handicraft Carnival launched

Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards website launched

KUCHING: The Tourism Ministry and Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) jointly launched the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards (SHTA) 2011/2012 website yesterday.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the website will enable tourism industry players to submit their entries for the various awards online.

“The nomination period for Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards 2011/2012 will be from June 1 to July 31 and presentation will be on Oct 26 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) where the chief minister is expected to be the guest-of-honour,” he said at the launch.

He said the awards’ main objectives are to appreciate the efforts and contributions made by individuals and organisations towards the development of the state’s tourism industry.

“There are nine major categories for SHTA 2011/2012, namely Outstanding Hotel and Accommodation Providers, Outstanding Destination Management Company, Outstanding Tour Guides, Outstanding Food Outlets, Outstanding Cottage Industry Contribution to the Tourism Industry, Outstanding Transport Contribution to the Tourism Industry, Outstanding Media Contribution to the Tourism Industry, Outstanding Tourism Attraction and Venue Provider while the most grand one will be the Hornbill’s Special Award.

“The prizes for the winners are trophies and certificates plus trips to selected destinations within the Asia Pacific region to be covered by us,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards website launched

Journey to the Heart of Borneo with WWF

I'm writing in blog in two languages, Bahasa Indonesia and English, because I hope there are more people who read this and are interested in knowing more about the beauty of Indonesia

My adventure to the peatland jungle of Borneo started with an email from WWF, which offered a spot in their Supporter Appreciation Trip to the Heart of Borneo.  It was a tempting offer, but at that time I was also considering another offer of a trip to Macao for more of less the same cost. 

After I checked my schedule, which was conveniently free, and after meditating for one night, I decided to try something that has been part of my bucket list, namely going into peatland jungle in the heart of Kalimantan and seeing orangutan in close quarter at their natural habitat.

I have been interested in orangutan for a long time.  Ever since I interpreted for CARE Indonesia in a workshop conducted at Schmutzer Primate Center in Ragunan, where I bought a stuffed orangutan that I christened as Pierre, I was interested and wanted to know more about orangutan.  This became even more so when I read from the literatures in Schmutzer how orangutan was chased away from their habitat and exploited by humans for attractions, being sold as pets and even used as prostitutes in logging camps in the middle of the jungle. 

This was my chance to go into the jungle and see them in their natural homes, in the heard of Borneo.  Since WWF said that there were only nine slots available, I immediately signed up and paid to ensure a spot.  So, that's done!

After I received confirmation email from WWF, I realized that my gears were outdated.  I had no proper backpacks, no clothing, no wetbag, no field trousers, no poncho and no idea what a peatland jungle look like.  WWF sent a list of things that were needed in the jungle, so I went on a shopping spree to buy the gears.  I bought a backpack at Tandike Shop in Jalan Cipulir Raya, Seskoal, I went to Outdoor Station in Mayestik for wetbag, to Sports Station for football socks, bought some ponchos, some quinine enough for one week dose, and bought Parakito mosquito repellent bracelet at Mothercare. 

Also important was my first aid bag, namely Tolak Angin, Panadols (paracetamol), anti-diarhoea medicine, cajuput oil, ointment and Hansaplats hot plaster.  Also packed was my Olympus Pen 2 camera with its three lenses, which I was not familiar on how to use it. It's better to bring them along and not need them rather than wanting them in the field.  I also brought two 8000 Amh powerbanks since I was told that electricity in the camp was a bit limited.

On the D-Day, May 16, I went early in the morning to the airport, almost missing the flight due to some road construction work on the airport road.  I should have arrived by 4.45 AM, but I arrived at 5.15 AM.  It was a good thing that I could still check in my big pack and only brought the wetbag into the cabin.  On the plane I was sitting next to Mario, a Canisian from class of 99, who happened to be a bit crazy on car adventure travelling.  When we arrived in Palangkaraya, still a bit sleepy since I was talking most of the time and did not sleep at all, we were brought to Soto Banjar Restaurant for breakfast. 

This is where we were introduced to other participants, which now numbered 15 people, since there were three journalist, Mbak Ari from National Geographic Indonesia, Indra from Jakarta Post Travel and Ficky from Femina Group.  There was also a rather elderly couple, Pak Chairil Anwar and Bu Luthfia and the WWF Fundraiser Twins, Irvan and Aswin, whose job was to knock on residential houses offering opportunities to be WWF supporters.  There was also a honeymooner couple whose name I never knew even after the trip was over since they did not mingle much with the rest of us. 

From WWF Jakarta office there were Bang Oi alias Panda Ceria and Jilly, and in Palangkaraya we were picked up by Pepi, who had flown earlier to prepare for out arrival.  The rest of the group I have trouble remembering the names since I have problems in that department.

From Palangkaraya we drove for about three hours to Baun Bango village.  The first two hours, were were still driving on asphalt up to Kasongan area.  At the end of the asphalt road, we entered truck trails one hour away from Baun Bango village.  It felt like driving on Kalimalang road, there were so many huge potholes on the road.  On the roadsides we saw the areas that used to be gold mining. 

It was barren and desolated, covered with white sands and mining pits full of stagnant water.  It was so sad to see an area like this, although in a glance it looked beautiful, white sand contrasting with the green low vegetation and leafless tree stumps.  We also saw areas that were cleared through slash burn method.  Burned tree stumps, charcoal black, stuck out everywhere. 

I saw a lot of name plates staked on these lands, with names and numbers written on them.  Our driver, Bang Agung told me that this was ownership plates.  The amazing thing was that the numbers written there could be 500 x 500, which meant the land owned by such person was 500 m x 500 m, or 2.5 KM square!  Of course, the ownership was not legally valid, there was no legal ownership documents and the borders were overlapping with one another.  Baun Bango was the last village where we could use a car before we had to transferred using a boat towards Sebangau National Reserve.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Journey to the Heart of Borneo with WWF

Promoting Miri through native crafts

MIRI: The Malaysia Craft Exposition 2013 at Miri Handicraft Centre is an opportunity to promote native crafts to increase the income of entrepreneurs besides promoting Malaysia and Miri to tourists.

The 69 craft entrepreneurs (56 from Sarawak, 11 peninsula and two Sabah) sell textiles, woodwork, ceramic, basketry and pewter craft to make the exposition a one-stop craft centre.

Hateni Patty and husband Bujang Manson from Kampung Bakam were pleased that Miri was chosen as the venue for the exposition.

“It is more convenient for us to come to Miri rather than the peninsula for items like pewter and quality batik, plus prices are reasonable,” the couple told The Borneo Post.

Julia Jugak of Miri said: “This expo is an ideal venue to promote our cultures and traditions like Iban basketry.”

Pua kumbu entrepreneur Loretta Nilam said the expos was timely for locals to buy accessories and items for the forthcoming Gawai celebration.

“Our pua kumbu products (made by me) are among the most sought after items from our booths,” she said.

Batik entrepreneur from Kelantan who wanted to be called Kak Yah said coming to Miri was part of her mission to promote fine textiles including batik like ‘kain samping’ produced in her state.

Foreign visitors like Carol Durgy Brooks found the expo timely as she was in Miri for a reunion to celebrate SMK Marudi’s Jubilee.

“This expo is a one-stop centre for visitors like us to find souvenirs to bring home. It is also a place to promote Malaysia and Miri in particular,” said Brooks.

Tony Kong from Sibu, who came with his uncles and cousins from China, said more expos like this should be held in Sarawak.

“My uncles and nephew bought several items including Sarawak made scarf to bring back as souvenirs,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Promoting Miri through native crafts

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DIY for festival goers at upcoming Sarawak Rainforest World Craft Bazaar

KUCHING: The Sarawak Rainforest World Craft Bazaar (RWCB), which will be held from June 28, will not only serve up various interesting arts and craft but also exciting programmes for festival goers.

The three-day bazaar will include DIY (do-it-yourself) programmes to enrich the festival goers’ experience.

These include pottery making, traditional game, craft weaving and carving and beading. Festival goers are welcome to try their hand at all these activities when they visit the bazaar.

Organised by Crafthub Sdn Bhd, the bazaar is held in conjunction with the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) in Kuching.

It offers a wide selection of both local and foreign art and craft which festival goers can bring back as souvenirs.

Twenty-seven vendors have confirmed participation, with each booth measuring three by three metres in size, located at the various ethnic houses around the Sarawak Cultural Village, thus giving festival goers a homely feeling when shopping for souvenirs to take home.

Festival goers will surely be spoilt for choice with art and craft that include jewellery, decorative items, batik and pottery.

Visitors to the bazaar can try their hand at craft-making as there will be demonstrations by the vendors.


Malaysia Borneo, the land of orangutans and the most amazing sky

For us, uninformed and unprepaired, Borneo was one big surprise. The first thing you notice about Borneo is the most amazing sky you have ever seen. It is the most beautiful mixture of all shades of blue with different types of clouds in different layers and everytime you look up you think wow this is really something special. The second thing we realized pretty quickly was that Borneo is much more developed that we would expect and very modern and very very expensive (although the public transport between cities and touristic places is an absolute disaster that would deserve some improvement).

The only two things we have planned for Borneo was to climb the famous Mount Kinabalu in the northern Sabah and to visit the Bako national park in the sourthern Sarawak state of Malaysian Borneo. We didn't do either of that. And honestly the price of the Mount Kinabalu climb was pretty much the only reason to change our minds about the climb. And we actually skipped the Bako park for financial reasons as well but would have probably done that if we haven't seen it all already in the most amazing Kinabatangan jungle. And finally, we had some vague ideas about Borneo having some cool jungles but in reality, the landscape and the wildlife is much more beautiful and more much exciting than we would have ever imagined on one hand and much more alarming and sad on the other.

We arrived to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah state and experienced the hottest and the most humid weather of our travels. Surprisingly only an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu in the Kinabalu national park we got to be really cold for the first time since we started travelling as we were caught in a heavy tropical rain in the middle of a national park and there was just no escape to that (and to the blood sucking leeches either). Now, being in Kuching in the Sarawak state, we got a room with an air-con for the first time and 25 degrees inside temperature feels like it's absolutely freezing in comparison to the crazy hot weather outside (oh yeah dreading to come home to the 25 degree summer :).

I probably wouldn't be the biggest fan of Kota Kinabalu town itself, it felt like a small version of Kuala Lumpur, chinese and touristy and noisy and hot but I think Davy loved it with its cheap t-shirts and sport bars with live football matches. But it has its own charm (mainly in comparison to Kuching which is quite boooring I have to say) and its Sunday market was a great adventure. Staying up late and getting up early and actually living on the main Gaya street, we saw the market being set up as early as at half 2 in the morning and it is a perfect mixture of stalls with anything thinkable to be sold from fresh fruit to gardening tools, fish, the cuttest puppies being locked in tiny cages in the crazy heat to the usual touristy t-shirts and souvenirs.

Being on Borneo, we decided to invest into a proper jungle adventure and considering what everything was included in our 3 days/2nights package it was actually quite cheap and definitely worth of spending money (free pick-up, accommodation in a lovely ensuite jungle hut, 3 meals per day, 4 river cruises, 2 night and 1 day jungle treks all with an experienced local guide for 450 ringgits each which is around 110 euro). The jungle we went to see and where we got to spend the two nights was along the Kinabatangan river and as another surprise apparently next to the Lahad Datu region where a civil war is happening!

Other tourists in our group contacted their embassies before coming to Borneo and were told it is not safe to come here to Borneo at all but by talking to local people and checking the news here, it seems that there is no real danger unless being in the Lahad Datu itself and being very unlucky at the same time! Again, before coming to the Kinabatangan jungle, we didn't really have a clue what animals to expect to see and that's why the reality really surprised us.

We got to see an amazing array of monkeys, including long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques, a wild orangutan in his tree nest and two monkey species living only on Borneo, the cute nocturnal slow Loris and the funny looking Proboscis monkeys with their huge noses and huge pot bellies. Then we got to see crocodiles which were just massive and you loose your desire to jump into the river for a small dip quite quickly. And lots of different birds like kingfishers and hornbills and other bird and bugs and geckos and a small snake and stuff.