Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eternal Travels - Lahad Datu and Semporna, Sabah, Borneo

Lahad Datu and Semporna are only some 40 nautical miles apart in one of the most scenic areas of Sabah, Malaysia. Many villages and spectacular islands and reefs separate the towns.

Lahad Datu is an important Malaysian port in the eastern part of North Borneo.

It has been known for trade with China from the 9th century, then Spanish and Portuguese also discovered Lahad Datu.

The area was divided between the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu since the 15th century.

Predominantly Kadazan population has been joined by many nations when British North Borneo Charted Company started to trade in the 1880s.

It usually is money that starts wars and Lahad Datu is not doing too badly in the trade.

So it could have been one of the reasons that the self proclaimed contemporary Sultan of Sulu invaded Sabah in March 2013.

The Lahad Datu and nearby Sempurna suffered the loss of 56 lives.

Now, 6 months later the area is still fragile as tourism is concerned.

Lahad Datu is a stepping point to Danum Valley Forest Reserve which is home of orangutans and rare Sumatran rhinoceros among many bird species and other wildlife.


Brunei International Airport’s runway to be upgraded

THE Ministry of Communications is fully committed in ensuring that travelling is made safe, secure, well-connected and comfortable.

In this regard, one of the measures that will be undertaken by the end of the year is the rehabilitation of Brunei International Airport’s runway so as to ensure that aircraft continue to land safely in the country.

This was revealed by Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, the Minister of Communications, during the opening of the 10th Abacus Holiday Travel Fair at BRIDEX Hall yesterday.

Elaborating more on the project, the minister said, “In addition to laying a surface of tarmac, we will also look into (improving) drainage and widening (existing) runways, as well as installing more lights to increase the life span of the runways.”

When asked about the possibility of adding more runways, the minister noted that currently there is no free space at the airport.

“If we need additional runways, it will have to be built at a new site,” he said.

The minister reiterated that the Ministry of Communications is fully committed to providing safe air traffic control services so that aircraft can land and travel safely.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Slowly and surely Gaya Island is shedding its garbage dump reputation

DBKK Director-General Datuk Yeo Boon Hai said it is time to banish the negative perceptions of Gaya Island and start focusing on bringing up its great potential to complement Kota Kinabalu as a “Nature Resort City”.

He said this at the Love KK City: Care for Our Environment launching ceremony at Lintasan Deasoka on the 28th of August recently.

“More than three-quarter of Gaya Island is protected under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park,” said Yeo to reporters at the event. “DBKK is aware and acknowledges the importance of its status so we forged a working relationship with Sabah Parks, especially with Director Paul Basintal, for the purpose of environmental preservation and conservation.”

The park, named after the nation’s first Prime Minister, covers an area of about 50 sq km and is located 3 km offshore from Kota Kinabalu City. Comprising five islands, namely Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik Island, the park’s main objective is to protect the islands’ fauna, flora and marine ecosystems. In recent years  two resorts, namely the Gayana Eco Resort and YTL’s Gaya Island Resort , have been developed to enhance Pulau Gaya’s tourism potential.

“Some part of the island is covered by thick forest and can therefore be considered as a virgin forest. The park portions are still relatively untouched and retain their natural beauty,” he added.

“That is the reason why it remains the  habitat of some rare animals like the Proboscis monkeys and we (DBKK) will continue to seek the cooperation of the Gaya Island residents to protect these endangered species.”

In an effort to conserve Pulau Gaya and keep it clean and beautiful, DBKK has since last  year carried out  a quarterly cleanliness campaign called Kasih Sayang with the island’s residents. Formerly known as the Pulau Gaya Community Project, it is supported by the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation of Taiwan along with Sabah Parks, the Environment Action Centre (EAC), Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), the Royal Malaysia Police and the state’s Marine Police.

According to Yeo, owing to a lack of manpower the project is initially implemented in the island’s Kesuapan Village. Nevertheless, DBKK is optimistic that it will be extended to other villages there.

Yeo revealed that since last year 11 tons of recyclable rubbish has been collected from this village alone. The recyclables were collected by the villagers and sold to Tzu Chi. Yeo said although far from being spick and span  the cleanliness level of the village has greatly improved.

“There is better awareness among the villagers now, and they no longer litter as indiscriminately as before,” said the DBKK Director-general.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Discover hidden gems at Santubong

KUCHING: Santubong Nature Festival, to be held at Permai Rainforest Resort on Nov 9 and 10, is an opportunity for the public to learn about famed Santubong peninsula.

“Santubong is an iconic mountain yet there are many things about it we don’t know. Most people only know the popular spots,” commented organising chairman Vincent Wong yesterday.

The peninsula is home to four types of dolphins, various historical and archeological sites.

MNSKC president Anthony Sebastian pointed out that few cities have a mountain nearby.

“Santubong is a mountain with a 2,000-year history. In the old days, seafarers were drawn to it, and there are many archeological sites here – some already dug up.”

The celebration of this famed mountain kicks off this November with the first of five annual festivals.

The organisers are Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) and Permai Rainforest Resort with support from Limkokwing Borneo, Sarawak Museum Department, Sarawak Photo Art Society, Friends of Sarawak Museums and Sarawak Heritage Society.

The event aims for a holistic and integrated approach to development of the area, safeguarding its landscape, biodiversity and historical assets.

There will be activities to highlight the peninsula’s natural, historical and cultural heritage like a multi-sport treasure hunt, heritage and heritage walks, talks and tree planting at Permai Rainforest Resort.

Lead-up activities to Santubong Nature Festival are a photography contest, boat trips, talks and tours related to Santubong and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace to be held in Sarawak Museum between now and November.

In conjunction with the festival, MNSKB and Sarawak Photo Art Society are organising a Santubong Peninsula Landscape Photography Competition running from July to Aug 31.

It is open to the public with submission from Sept 1 to 7. Entry closes at noon on Sept 7.

The area covered in the competition will be any place after Santubong Bridge from the direction of Kuching. To register and for the rules and regulations, logon or

Since its setup in 1996, MNSKB has conducted many activities in the peninsula like bird-watching that resulted in Bako Buntal Bay, part of Santubong peninsula, being inscribed on the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Site Network (EAAF) last year. Bako-Buntal Bay is the first flyway network established in Malaysia and a world important bird area.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Discover hidden gems at Santubong

Sponsors chip in RM95,000 for Sarawak Regatta

KUCHING: A total of RM95,000 in sponsorship money was handed over to Kuching Resident’s Office yesterday by six corporate sponsors of Sarawak Regatta 2013.

Kuching Resident Abang Shamsuddin Abang Seruji said this year’s Regatta met with overwhelming response with a plump reward at the finish line – a cool RM10,000 to the King of the River (Raja Sungai).

“There is an increase of 30 percent of cash prizes, which could be the reason we have nearly 400 teams this year compared to last year’s 315,” he said at the cheque handover in his office yesterday.

He credited their corporate sponsors and the private sector for attracting nearly 7,000 participants this year.

The corporate sponsors present to hand over their sponsorship yesterday were JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration, Miri; Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS) Kuching; Hornbill Skyways, Kuching; Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC); Telekom Malaysia Berhad, Kuching and Samling Strategic Corporation.

The regatta themed ‘The Race for Harmony’ will be held at Kuching Waterfront from Sept 6 to 8 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Sarawak’s independence within Malaysia.

This year the regatta will feature the International Dragon Boat Exhibition Race for the first time.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sponsors chip in RM95,000 for Sarawak Regatta

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sarawak to Welcome Orchid Enthusiasts in 2019

Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) in partnership with the Commission of the City of Kuching North (DBKU) has secured the 13th Asia Pacific Orchid Conference and Show (APOC) to be held in 2019.

The winning bid was a collaborative effort between local hosts: DBKU, Orchidwoods Company, Commercial Orchid Growers Association of Malaysia (COGAM), Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK), the Malaysian Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) and the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB).

The biggest gathering of orchid enthusiasts in the international community, APOC is held every three years with the objective to promote awareness and development of the hybridization, cultivation, science and conservation of orchids and to support research in these fields.

“We are excited to host the 13th APOC in Kuching, Sarawak as it is the ideal venue for it! With at least 300 orchid species in Sarawak, and 127 endemic to Sarawak alone, we hope to create greater awareness and develop orchid research and development for Sarawak and Asia Pacific,” commented YBhg Datuk Abang Wahap Abang Julai, Mayor of the Commission of the City of Kuching North (DBKU).

This week-long conference and show is expected to receive international delegates from around the world, in particular Asia Pacific countries. Among the activities include a lecture programme, the orchid show and social programmes that are specially designed to support the exchange and dissemination of common knowledge, recent practices and trends in orchid development, biotechnology, science, and conservation amongst orchid enthusiasts in the international community. APOC is expected to generate RM 1.3 million in direct delegate expenditure.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak to Welcome Orchid Enthusiasts in 2019

Amphibious aircraft to boost tourism in Sarawak's rural areas

SIBU: The tourism industry in the state’s interior will be boosted by the proposed introduction of amphibious aircraft, which is expected within the next one to two years.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said MASwings was currently looking into the possibility of introducing these aircraft but needed to work out on the load factor and routes.

He said such initiative was timely with Bakun becoming another tourist attraction in the rural areas in the next two years.

“Initially, the identified destinations are Sri Aman and Batang Air, which give access to Lubok Antu.

Both the tourist and the local people will benefit.

Tourism in Bakun will encourage the growth of cottage industry,” Abg Johari said when met here yesterday.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The resurgence of Sabah’s tourism industry

Tourists tend to spook at the first sign of trouble. Thus, when Sabah suffered serious damage to its image as an island paradise in March, there was fear that its key industry of tourism would suffer.

It did. Televised images of Malaysia’s military battling Sulu gunmen who landed on its eastern shores to claim Sabah for the defunct Sulu Sultanate scared off visitors for a few weeks.

But four months later, Sabah is back on its feet. It is seeing record arrivals as its swift action during the crisis defused fears and, as a bonus, the publicity also brought international focus to its natural beauty. In the first five months of the year, arrivals rose 9.6 per cent from 1.1 million to 1.2 million compared to the year before.

This was much to the relief of Sabah’s Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun who worked around the clock to cushion the impact on tourism which is the third largest industry in the state.

Tourism is not just a key part of Sabah’s economy. It also provides plenty of jobs for the local people. It is one of the state’s success stories in helping to raise income levels. Sabah was once Malaysia’s poorest but has reportedly risen out of the last place.

Unlike Sabah’s two biggest industries, agriculture and manufacturing which employ mostly foreigners, eight out of 10 tourism workers are locals.

“Tourism is the future of Sabah,” said Datuk Masidi. “Agriculture is still the number one industry but 80 per cent of its workers are foreigners. It’s the reverse in tourism.”

He said that, when the gunmen landed in Sabah, there was an immediate drop in visitors especially to the famed dive islands of Sipadan and Mabul despite the military zone being a long way away. These islands, famed for their corals, marine life and aquamarine waters, are a key Sabah attraction.

Several countries had also issued travel advisories against travelling to Sabah, causing serious harm as insurance agencies would not provide travel insurance.

Datuk Masidi attributes the swift recovery to Sabah’s quick and transparent response. As soon as the crisis hit, the government and industry formed a task force to take the unprecedented step of providing daily updates to travel agencies at home and abroad. It did not gloss over the incident, with every casualty and injury reported frankly.

“We didn’t hide anything, and it paid off as people trusted our reports. We were hurt by the travel advisories but the impact wore off after a while,” he said.

Over 60 people were killed in the fighting that lasted a few days. All restrictions have now been lifted.

Datuk Masidi said that they had also reached out on social media, and invited bloggers and media from abroad to see the situation for themselves. The resorts and tourists helped by posting photos and updates on social media that gave the side of the story ignored by news reports which focused on the military operations.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The resurgence of Sabah’s tourism industry

Council to supervise Sabah diving industry

KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment plans to set up a council, in a smart public-private partnership move, to facilitate the supervision of the diving industry.

Its minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, said the permanent secretary to the ministry, Datuk Michael Emban, has been tasked with preparing the draft for the setting up of the council to be presented to the cabinet.

“The function of the council is to coordinate various issues that are related to the diving industry, and to ensure closer cooperation between the industry and the government,” he said.

Masidi continued to say that the council will also play an important role to ensure that if and when there was a need for diving operators to employ foreign divers, these foreign divers would comply with the regulatory requirements, professionalism and expertise determined by the council through the associations.

“Eventually, we would like this council to be a one-stop centre for Sabah to recommend any application for new licence on operating a dive centre,” Masidi said.

He said this after a consultative meeting with members of the Semporna Resort Operators Association (SROA) led by its president, Robert Lo, here yesterday.

Masidi said SROA had voiced out several proposals on how to improve the operations of the industry which the ministry had accepted.

Besides agreeing to the setting up of the council, Masidi also reported that a proposal for the industry was to have stringent enforcement for divers, foreign divers and dive masters who may want to work in Sabah.

He said the ministry was considering all diving associations to become members of the council to ensure the smooth running of the industry, in effort to better regulate the industry for its sustainability in the future.

Masidi stressed that it was important for the industry to be well regulated to ensure its sustainability, particularly when the industry is doing well at the moment.

“We believe that we are the destination of choice for diving in this part of the world. To maintain that attraction, the only way forward is to make ourselves better; that’s what the council is for,” he said, adding that the council was not just about supervision, but also to impart tips and advice for improvement.

Masidi pointed out that the SROA had aired on the shortage of Chinese-speaking dive masters which was affecting the operators’ business, and the association had proposed that the government allowed the industry to employ diver masters from China.

The proposed council would then play a role in determining the professionalism and conditions that would allow the employment of foreign dive masters.


Sabah resorts lament shortage of Chinese-speaking dive masters, staff

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s diving industry faces a shortage of Chinese-speaking dive masters and supporting staff to cater to the increasing number of Chinese tourists.

This poses a problem for Chinese tourists, who make up 60 to 80 per cent of the customers in the diving industry, to communicate their need and wants, or their complaints. Industry players said the shortage is caused by the reluctance of local Chinese to go to work on the islands.

Suzette Harris, managing director of Seaventures Dive Rig, who runs a rig on a relatively remote location, said many of her staff complained that it was hard working on a rig because they have no place to go to after work and so they get bored after one or two months there.

She said providing food and accommodation for her employees meant that the workers get to keep their salary, but even this could not entice workers to work on a rig.

Harris said this after a meeting between the Ministry of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment and the Semporna Resort Operators Association (SROA) here yesterday.

SROA has sought the ministry’s assistance, in particular to allow the dive industry to employ workers from China, to fill the void. Harris pointed out that it is not easy to get China workers here because of the procedures involved.

While westerners could stay here for three months on a tourist visa, China workers could only stay for a month in Sabah on a tourist visa, which does not allow employers sufficient time to apply for a work visa for the Chinese workers, Harris said.

Meanwhile, Sophia Sie, a representative from the Reef Dive Resort on Mataking Island, hoped that the government could give the industry some leeway on this matter if foreign Chinese employees were recommended to a specific resort.


Borneo International Marathon - a hattrick!

Personally, I didn’t really welcome the decision to postpone Borneo International Marathon (BIM) from the original timing as all arrangements have been made, and all the trainings have been focused on the marathon (yer rite!). But even if the marathon was held on the original date, I won’t be able to make it as I would have to stay back in Semenanjung to perform my responsibility as a citizen of Malaysia to vote during the GE13.

However, I understand that it was an unpopular decision that even the organizer had to make. As BIM has been one of my favorite running events in Malaysia for its well-organization, the scale of the event (crowd size) as well as the some kind of joy that I found for traveling to Kota Kinabalu (I traveled four times to Sabah last year and will do the same this year) and running with the faces I’ve known from my previous races, I put aside my self interest and was not hesitated to make new arrangements once the new date was announced.

It was quite an anticipating marathon for me especially when the organizer announced a slight change to the route, taking out the bored-to-death stretch to Tanjung Aru and adding a loop within town that goes back to Stadium Likas as well as some 5km loop in Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

That means, a hillier route (I just don’t understand why on earth local public universities have always been built around hilly area?) and the dreaded stretch all the way to the Sepangar which they decided to keep. I was also looking forward for this marathon to see if I could break the 4-hour timing on Kota Kinabalu soil.

Last year, I came so close (I finished in 4:02) without expecting it. It was ‘the’ point in my short marathon career that I realized that I’m capable of running sub 4-hour marathon which I did for the first time in the subsequent marathon in Hatyai. However, I was still worried when Aini, the weatherwoman, told me that it has been very hot for the whole week prior to race day and it will be hot on race day. I secretly hoped that it will rain the night before the race just like last year. It didn’t rain but it was not really hot and the humidity was not too high. I can’t thank enough for the weather.

I had a very good and undisturbed sleep before the race. After a very big lunch in Gayang with Aini (there were six meals, I think!), I felt bloated and sleepy and slept soundly from 5pm to 12am. Woke up fresh, had a cup of Milo and prepped myself with the race necessities. I arrived at the Stadium Likas at around 1.50am, had a cup of coffee and three pieces of roti gula empat segi before making my way to inside the stadium.

The crowd was not as big but from a rough estimation, there could be some 200 participants in the marathon category, which is okay for me except that I have to realize that I would be running all by myself throughout the race. There was a warm-up exercise going on but I decided to do my own on the other side of the field. Camwhoring, well wishes exchanged, and we were flagged off slightly before 3am. The weather was nice but a little high on humidity as I’ve started sweating from my warm-up earlier. However I could still feel cool breeze blowing and that helps me a lot.

My earlier plan was to tag behind Erwan for as long as I can. But he told me that he is taking it easy as he has been nagged by some kind of injury on his foot. I passed him even before we exited the stadium and from there onwards, it was all about running my race all alone.

No fixed target except for sub 4-hour finish, if possible. My race this time can be broken into four parts: Break-away (KM1-12), Maintaining (KM13-20), Heartbreaking and Nursing (KM21-35) and Recovering (KM36-finish)

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo International Marathon - a hattrick!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Expedition Borneo, Kinabatangan River

It was a long holiday period in Singapore with Hari Raya Puasa and National Day. While most people will be in celebration mood and spending time watching the parade and fireworks, my friends and I decided to spend the holiday somewhere exotic and quiet…in the jungles of Borneo. We departed from Singapore and flew to Kuala Lumpur and transfer to a domestic flight to Sandakan, Sabah (ensure you have about 3 hours in between flights).

At Sandakan airport, we hired a taxi for 35RM for a 30mins ride to Uncle Tan Wildlife Adventures Operation Base located at Sepilok. Upon reaching, the friendly staff prepared dinner for us which were really delicious. We spent a night at the Ops base in a very simple accommodation with only a queen size bed and surprisingly with air-conditioning.

Day 1

The next morning, we had breakfast (they do provide food for vegetarian and taste really good) before departing to the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre just about 5mins drive away from the Ops base. The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is a place where wild orphaned baby orang utans are being rescued from poaching, deforestation sites or been kept as pets. They are being placed in 11 acres of mostly virgin rainforest where park rangers monitor their progress and rehabilitation process, so that one day they can be released back into the wild. The centre was packed with tourist eager to see the endangered great ape.

Each morning, there is a feeding session for the orang utans. Fruits were placed on a wooden platform for the apes to come down and feed. However, sightings of orang utans are not guaranteed as they are wild and free ranging. Most orang utans who are able to look after themselves will not come down for the feeding sessions as they are able to find their own food in the forest. The ones that come to feed are usually the younger ones who still depend on the park rangers to look after them. As we approached the feeding area, we waited eagerly for the first glimpse of the great ape. Slowly, the trees started to rustle and a flash of reddish orange can be seen in the thickets.

The first orang utan appears, making its way to the feeding platform, and then followed by the rest. It was a wonderful sight seeing these great apes swinging around the vines and enjoying their meal. A pair of Pig-tailed Macaques also joined in the feeding frenzy, much to the delight of the visitors. After the fruits have all been eaten, the orang utans slowly made their way back into the forest and disappear. During the feeding, we sighted a Rhinoceros Hornbill high up in the tree.

We proceeded along the path to look for more sightings, and spotted a young orang utan resting up on a tree just above our heads looking down at us. I stayed for a little while observing the little one before making my way to leave it in peace. Not long after, I came across a Green-crested Lizard among the green leaves. It looks slightly different from the ones back in Singapore as it has blue spots around the back of its body and yellow eyes compared to the plain green body and reddish eyes of the Singapore species. We later made our way out of the centre and went back to Ops base for lunch before departing for the wildlife camp.

As we boarded the mini bus and proceed to the jetty to take the boat ride to camp, it began to rain heavily. We wrapped ourselves with plastic bags as we board the boat at the jetty. The boat speeds up into the Kinabatangan River, the second longest river in Malaysia, as rain splatter heavily on us. Our first boat ride on the river was not a pleasant one as cold winds blow towards us under the pouring rain, and the trip to the camp was a long journey.

When we finally reached camp, we were being arranged by the staffs to our accommodation. It is very basic in the form of raised wooden huts with no doors or windows, situated in the middle of the swamp. There is electricity only from 6pm to midnight. We were then given briefing by the guide and had our dinner, after which we proceed for the night boat safari.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Expedition Borneo, Kinabatangan River

Sunday, August 25, 2013

So that was Sabah!

This was our last holiday period before the end of our (first) Fellows Project, and we had travelled over most of Malaysia - but not Sabah.

At exactly the same time as we were booking fares and accommodation in Kota Kinabalu, we heard from an Australian friend of more than 20 years that she could be there during that time.

So it was going to be a good time.

Our hotel - The Klagan (not a pretty name!) - is beyond those trees - nice and central, so we could walk to the shops, markets, seashore etc.

The city of Kota Kinabalu is way more upmarket than Kuala Terengganu - they have pavements, and the drains are mostly covered, and there are even several huge shopping centres.

From our hotel window we had a lovely view of the sea, and the islands, fishing boats and island taxi-boats zipping back and forth, and the foreshore where the markets were held.

And if we twisted a little further to the right we could see (through the very dirty glass) the distant Mount Kinabalu - on the days when the weather was fine.

Unfortunately our planned trip to the National Park at the foot of the mountain fell through - it turned out to be awful weather that day, so maybe it was just as well.

It was the Hari Raya (end of Ramadhan) holiday period and school holidays, so things were fairly jumping with markets and celebrations of all kinds.

Our taxi driver told us that on the previous day he'd had a day off and returned to his home village where he had attended ten (10) 'Open House' celebrations (eating events).

Monkeys and Fireflies

Borneo is famous for its wildlife, and so we booked a bus-trip out to the 'wilds' to see the Proboscis monkeys, as well as the fireflies putting on a display.

First there was rather a lo-o-ong bus trip.

Except of course we had to stop at a chocolate factory for everyone to get out and buy lots of chocolates.

Here is a cocoa tree that was growing outside the factory. Actually I'm not at all sure that it was a factory, really just a sales room - but our Chinese fellow-travellers sure bought up big.

So eventually we got to a river village with a jetty.

We were all loaded into boats and went a few minutes down the river. (I think this is the first time I saw the kid in the green shirt sit still since we left KK!)

They took us to this restaurant and gave us a snack - it had been a long time since the chocolate shop (and some of us hadn't eaten anything there!), and much longer since breakfast.

Then we were loaded into boats to go and look for the proboscis monkeys who would hopefully be out in the trees feeding now that the sun was getting low.

Everyone was very excited as we headed off up the river.

Our guide had told us to keep our eyes peeled as these are wild monkeys and you just have to find them in their natural habitat.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: So that was Sabah!

Down Memory Lane - Sabah Railway Train

It was my dream to visit the Sabah railway station in Tanjung Aru to inquire about the travel schedule to all it's destination but instead asked my nephew who is also interested for the travel trip on the train.

A friend was promising me for the trip for awhile but there was no indication of him going for the trip so I decided to suggest it to my family members and they were indeed very eager especially the young ones.

It was therefore suggested that the coming Saturday was chosen as it was also the last of the school holiday.

We chose for the earliest trip that was at 7.40 am and  make sure that all of us must be at the station at 7.00 am.

As we were looking forward to the trip, there was no problem of waking up early.

I was once again a young kid telling all the first timer of the thrill travelling on a train.

There was no problem parking your vehicles there as there were ample parking lots as you are taking the return trip in the afternoon.

When we reached Tg Aru Railway station, there were a lot of people mostly seated with their travelling bag and maybe cookies or Raya delicacies inside the bag and boxes.

As a first timer to the station I went directly to the counter but nobody was manning the counter.

I was surprised as the travelers stood up behind me to make a queue. (Ikut Barisan bogia lol ...)

They thought that I was there for the queue and since they stood behind me why not stay put instead of going at the back of the queue.

While waiting for the counter staff to open I spoke to a lady about the train and the railway route.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Down Memory Lane - Sabah Railway Train

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Malaysian Borneo. Can you top this for adventure?

Orangutans, rainforests, beaches and a cat museum. East Malaysia is pretty much 20 vacations in one

Malaysian Borneo has long evoked visions of adventure in the West.

Many a kid has thumbed through their parents' National Geographic mags, dreaming that one day mom and dad might pass on yet another trip to Yosemite in the station wagon and instead take them to a land where headhunters lurk in ancient rainforests and wild orangutans play.

Today Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia, aka Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan) isn't the unaccessible impossibility it once was -- it's now serviced by a range of airlines and filled with resorts to suit all budgets.

The challenge is pinning down an itinerary. The place is huge.

Malaysia shares the island of Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei. The Malaysian portion is home to two Malaysian states -- Sabah and Sarawak -- and the federal territory of Labuan.

And it's far from perfect.

Logging continues to eat away at Malaysian Borneo's natural resources. Some researchers estimate 80 percent of the rainforests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging.

Meanwhile, officials there continue to battle the illegal wildlife trade. 

But it's still an adventure.

These options give you a taste of what's out there.

Mount Kinabalu

Whether or not you climb to the summit, Kinabalu is worth a visit.

Part of the UNESCO-listed Kinabalu Park, it sits 4,095 meters above sea level.

Despite the altitude it's a relatively easy trek, though guides and permits are required. A variety of overnight trek options range from one- to three-night climbs.

More information on climbing the beautiful beast is available from the Mount Kinabalu Official Climb &Booking Information Centre.


The waters off Malaysian Borneo are legendary, with dozens of dive sites offering pristine views of some of the world's finest coral and sealife.

If you want the best of the best, it's Sipadan. A contender on any dive publication's list of the "world's best dives," Sipadan lies 35 kilometers off the coast of Sabah.

In order to protect Sipadan's fragile ecosystem, in 2004 the Malaysian government ordered all dive resorts off the island, banned night dives and set a limit of 120 divers per day.


The quintessential Malaysian Borneo experience -- playing with primates at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.

This rehabilitation center re-trains displaced animals for life in the jungle.

The sanctuary is reached by bus or taxi, a 23-kilometer ride from Sandakan town.

Rainforests and national parks

Famed naturalist and Darwin rival Alfred Wallace conceived his own theory of natural selection on Malaysian Borneo, following years of observation of the island's rainforests.

One of the best ways to experience the rainforests is to stay in an ecolodge.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo. Can you top this for adventure?

What to do in Kuching, Sarawak

As many travelers may be asking 'What to do in Kuching?', there are actually quite some interesting things you can do in Kuching town or the outskirts. Many who have been here will instantly brand Kuching as a not so active place but if you have been here enough times, there are actually quite a few things to explore here. Anyway, I have created this list for the first times or those who have a few days in Kuching, Sarawak.

Before I go there, Kuching is the capitol of Sarawak and is well known as a gateway to all of Sarawak's nature and wildlife. Kuching is also a great place to try local Sarawakian food for the foodies or food lovers. Another popular thing many locals like to do is go shopping for handicraft and antiques here.

1. Take the Sarawak River Cruise - Only for those who want to see the mighty Sarawak River. Cruises are available from the main Kuching Waterfront area where huge ferries take passengers on a cruise down the river. What can you see here? In the beginning get to see popular monuments, heritage buildings, the old dock traders area and locals taking the common river taxis to get across the other side. As you go further, you will see the simple river life of the locals who have homes by the river and everyday life here.

The common cruise is via the larger ferry-like boat that charges about RM60-RM70 per person for a one and a half hour cruise while there is one more much smaller one that charges about RM20-RM25. I would recommend you take the larger one as it is more comfortable with full facilities with orange juice and local layer cakes served complimentary. The smaller one is is a wooden sampan or traditional boat and only takes you around for about 30 minutes.

2. Visit the Sarawak Museum - And you thought museums were boring? This amazing museum located next to the Merdeka Hotel at Dataran Kuching is noted to be one of the best museums in the world. Established in 1891, this is hands down the oldest museum in Borneo. If you ever wanted to learn about the Sarawakian culture, tattoos and so on, this is the best place to start. And the best part - Admission is Free!
Sarawak Museum Address - Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, 93566, Kuching, Sarawak

3. Explore the Main Bazaar and Carpenter Street - These are one of the oldest trading streets in Kuching where nowadays, you get a myriad of shops selling all sorts of local souvenirs. The Main Bazaar in Kuching is a well known area for buying souvenirs, antiques and the much talked about Sarawak Layer Cakes (Kek Lapis Sarawak). Best time to visit this place is in the mornings till about after lunch. Most of the shops here will close by 5pm. For Malaysians, there are shops that sell the famous Sarawak Mats (Tikar Sarawak) where after purchasing them, they are air-flown to your home, at a cost of course.Some new budget hotels have recently opened along the Kuching Main Street Bazaar while towards one end, you will find numerous goldsmith shops.

At the back of the Main Bazaar is Carpenter Street, a well known road that offers budget hotels, popular coffee shops, restaurants and cafes and also stores selling souvenirs and so on. Many locals like to come here for the food as there are some notable restaurants like Aladdin Chicken Rice and also the Temple Hawker Centre which has a few local Sarawakian dishes. This place is best visited from mornings till about lunch.

4. Visit the Cat Museum - Yes, they have an amazing Cat Museum. If you don't already know, Kuching is Cat in the Malay language so a Cat Museum is appropriate in this case. Located in the north of Kuching town at the city hall building, you can simply grab a taxi here but tell him to wait for you to send you back. The Kuching Cat Museum houses over thousands of cat memorabilia from around the world. Famous cats like Garfield and even Disney popular cats. If you're a cat lover, this is one place you must visit.

5. Go to the Satok Weekend Market - Only if you are here in a weekend, you can pay a visit to the famous Jalan Satok Sunday Market which is vibrant, colorful and interesting open air market. Exceptionally fresh fruits and vegetables are offered while you can also find unique wild ferns and exotic vegetables from the interiors of Sarawak. Besides fresh groceries and raw food sold in the market, there are also handicraft and handmade souvenirs available. Don't forget to try the famous sago worms which can be found here - yes, the worms that can be eaten. Other interesting things at Satok include pets such as rabbit, puppies and fish. Avoid if you dislike crowds and markets.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: What to do in Kuching, Sarawak

Pullman Kuching accorded 2 prestigious awards

KUCHING: Pullman Kuching achieved another feather on its cap after leading worldwide online hotel reservations agency awarded the hotel with two awards.

Pullman Kuching has been named Outstanding Hotel Partner for last year and has being recognised for consistently scoring of 8.6 out of 10 for its services last year.

The hotel has consistently received positive reviews and a high volume of reservations on

The hotel is the only one in the state to have been awarded, demonstrating its consistent and quality service standards and facilities.

Centrally located in the Kuching Golden Triangle, Pullman Kuching enjoys a strategic edge at Jalan Mathies Hill with a panoramic city and river view.

The first of the Pullman branch in this vibrant city, the hotel features 389 spacious and contemporary rooms and offers easy access to Borneo’s renowned national parks.


Friday, August 23, 2013

AirAsia to promote Sarawak

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and AirAsia have struck up a partnership to promote the state.

This partnership was achieved after a delegation from AirAsia Bhd led by its chief executive officer Aireen Omar accompanied by her team of officers paid a courtesy call on STB’s CEO Dato Rashid Khan.

The delegation discussed with STB on destination marketing and promotion as well as other possibilities particularly in the run-up to Visit Malaysia Year and Visit Sarawak Year.

“We welcome AirAsia’s efforts to jointly promote the state and hope by working together, we will be able to increase visitor arrivals to Sarawak,” Rashid said in a press statement yesterday.

He assured that the board would facilitate and assist the airline in whatever way possible to promote visitor arrivals.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: AirAsia to promote Sarawak

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Food and Cultural Fair to promote Sarawak Gambir

KUCHING: Sarawak Gambir is among local products to be showcased at the Food and Cultural Fair to be held at Kuching Waterfront from Sept 6 to 8.

Event organising chairman Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais said the demand for the commodity had been great, especially among visitors from West Malaysia.

“Among the first few things these people (West Malaysians) look for on arriving here is where can they find Gambir Sarawak and, surprisingly, the buyers are not only men but also wives. So this time we are going to put up a Sarawak Gambir booth to promote the product throughout the fair coinciding with Sarawak Regatta,” Naroden disclosed.

The Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Bumiputera Entrepreneurs Development) told reporters this after chairing a committee meeting at Wisma Bapa Malaysia (WBM) in Petra Jaya here yesterday.

He said Sarawak Gambir was just one of the products to be showcased during the three-day food and cultural fair.

“Apart from gambir, various food menus will be showcased by entrepreneurs, including those from other states throughout the country. Each state will showcase its best menu,” he added.

He said most states have confirmed participation at the fair to be held at the waterfront in conjunction with the state’s golden anniversary celebration.

“Other events are handicraft promotion from Aug 30 to Sept 8 and the SDSI (Satu Daerah Satu Industri) showcase from Aug 6 to 8. We anticipate that the fair and exhibition will be an additional pull for people to converge at the waterfront to watch the regatta and other water events,” he said.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Racing against time in Rhino breeding in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The race is on to save the Sumatran rhinoceros, especially the population in Sabah, from extinction.

Realizing just how dire the situation is with the animal, the State Government has given its approval for the target capture of a wild female rhino in Danum Valley for the purpose of producing baby rhinos.

The female rhino which has been identified through camera traps in Danum will be placed in an enclosure there so that she can mate with the existing male rhino in captivity with the hope that they can produce a baby.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said that the approval was given early this year after the Cabinet was briefed on the current situation with regard to the Sumatran Rhinos in Sabah.

Masidi, after a meeting with the Sabah Wildlife Department, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and WWF Malaysia yesterday, said that the long-term aim of the move is to re-establish a fully wild rhino population in the state.

“We think that there are no more than 10 Sumatran Rhinos living in Sabah. Even though some quarters claim that there are about 30, evidence collected via camera trap and other methods show that the number is not many. Probably it is safer to assume that not more than 10 in Sabah now.

“Of the total three are in captivity, including Tam, a male, and Puntung, a female, in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. These two have been together for more than two years for the purpose of captive breeding but there is no indication that they are even interested in mating,” he said.

Masidi added that capturing the female rhino is just one of the steps to be taken towards increasing the number of Sumatran rhinos is Sabah.

“We have given ourselves until July 2014 to see some results failing which we will consider working with the Cincinnati Zoo in United States of America for the rhino breeding purposes. We are looking at collecting Tam’s sperm and sending it to the zoo to be artificially inseminated into their Sumatran Rhino with the hope that it will produce a baby rhino.

“If that too fails, then we may have to send Tam on loan to Cincinnati Zoo as a mate for their sole female Sumatran rhino named Suci. Another option that we are considering is to send Tam’s sperm to our Indonesian counterparts to be artificially inseminated in their female captive rhino,” he said.

Should a baby rhino be born, it will stay at the Cincinnati Zoo because it does not matter where it is kept just as long as the species does not go extinct, he stressed, adding that the state government is pursuing every available option to save the species.

“We do not want to just wait until it’s too late to do something … we must act now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said that the department had consulted with a wide range of local and international expertise, including people managing wild and farmed African rhinos, zoo people, specialist vets, rhino ecologists and people who have been involved in saving other critically endangered birds and mammals, and some who have tried and failed.

According to Dr Laurentius, the only consensus is that the department has to act quickly to boost Sumatran rhino births.

Although a few international people do not agree, governmental and non-governmental professionals in Sabah say that that there is now an urgent need to get as many rhinos into fenced, managed conditions as soon as possible, so that every rhino can be closely monitored and treated as necessary, to get them producing embryos, he said.

“In my opinion, the exact location where the rhinos are kept is not paramount concern for this programme. We can move them between facilities as long as the care is always world class and the intention is to breed rhinos. I do believe that at this case, Sabah can and should take a leadership role,” he stressed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Racing against time in Rhino breeding in Sabah

Dragon Boat Race to feature at Sarawak Regatta

KUCHING: This year’s Sarawak Regatta will feature a Dragon Boat Exhibition Race with participation from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the inaugural race on Sept 7-8 will serve as an introduction of the international sport.

“If there is a good response, we will likely introduce the Dragon Boat Race as part of the Sarawak Regatta next year,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Abg Johari said the iconic Raja Sungai category’s grand prize has been increased to RM10,000.

“Previously, the grand prize was only RM3,000 but we have decided to increase it to RM10,000 to bring the regatta to international standards and to attract more international participants.”

Abg Johari said that an exciting array of programmes and activities have been lined up for the regatta 2013, which will run from Sept 6-8 at the Kuching Waterfront.

“Among the programmes are Malaysia Craft Promotion 2013 where 72 craft entrepreneurs from Sarawak, Melaka, Selangor and Kelantan will be showcasing their handicrafts from Aug 30 to Sept 8 as well as the SDSI (Satu Daerah Satu Industri) Showcase, Food Festival and 1Malaysia Cultural Showcase from Sept 6 to 8.”

The showcase will see participants from all over the country converge on the Kuching Waterfront to showcase food from the respective states.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Dragon Boat Race to feature at Sarawak Regatta

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On Tour In Borneo - Gaya Island Resort

The words “only accessible by boat” can mean only two things for holiday goers; 1. A tropical island paradise the likes of which you’ll not soon forget or 2. A nightmarish freezing cold, sickening, rickety boat ride where you come to believe your last piƱa colada was truly your last. Fortunately for us, the first destination on our Asian tour was the former -though that’s not to say we haven’t (a few times) experienced the latter…

Just off the coast of Sabah in Malaysia lies a group of tiny islands at the foot of Borneo, one being Gaya Island and home to the brand spanking new resort of the same name. As soon as we landed in Malaysia, we knew this was not only a spectacular place but a very special people as well.

Gaya Island Resort had been open around 6 months – enough time for the staff, grounds, monitor lizards and cheeky monkeys to settle in, whilst still feeling new in every sense of the word.

Accessible only by a short boat ride from Sabah, and of course – greeted with fresh aloe face towels and guava juice – the first time you see the resort is from the long pier that leads you from your boat to the reception building. And it’s spectacular.

The resort is backed up into the lush jungles of Borneo and fronts a beautiful white sand beach – palm trees, blue-green water and all. A setting unlike any we’ve experienced. Straight away, the one thing that hits you is silence. No cars, no noise of any kind. Awesome.

Getting to our room upon arrival (even at 11pm) was a trek, but the good kind – I mean, we ARE in the jungle. After a warm reception in the building appropriately named ‘Reception’ we we’re shown through the long pavilion which fronts onto the massive daybeds IN the pool that’s right – in! The swim up bar (Katinka’s favourite), the queen size cabanas with proper beds, fans and curtains – WHAT!!

From there, past the library, fitness centre all with water views of course and through the main restaurant, across a lantern-lit bridge and boardwalk and finally up a winding path to our digs – 4 stories up in the jungle and facing out to what became a spectacular sunrise over the water and Mount Kinabalu – Malaysia’s biggest mountain.

Our days at Gaya were spent lazily. Swims and naps, snorkelling right off the resort’s beach on a fantastic reef, a Malaysian cooking class, a picnic on a private beach – and this is a good place for a handy travel tip: Don’t kick sand in a monkey’s face.

EVEN if he’s advancing slowly toward your picnic basket. EVEN if he bares his rabies ridden fangs and beady little death eyes – as it turns out, sand in the death eyes only makes him stronger!!

At some point someone – I really hope it was Tinka – yelped like a girl and two of the resort staff came running, brandishing rocks and yelling something in monkey which saved our lunch and our lives. Phew.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: On Tour In Borneo - Gaya Island Resort

On #WorldOrangutanDay remember that you are 96.4% Orangutan

It's World Orangutan Day today and it was the perfect opportunity for me to log our rushes from a recent film shoot in Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, where we spent some quality time following a few of our charismatic cousins.

I can't wait for the sequence to be broadcast.

I can't yet reveal too much about what we've filmed but here's one of my favourite photo's of a Sumatran orangutan with her baby, and another of a large male Bornean orangutan that I took at Semenggoh Nature Reserve last year.

It's important to remember that these are different species and efforts need to be made to save both.

I'll let you know when we broadcast, which will be on BBC2 in the UK sometime in 2014.

The Sumatran orangutan is endemic to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia where its population has decreased by 86% over the past 100 years.

The most recent estimate (Wich et al, 2008) is that less than 6624 Sumatran orangutan still survive in the wild - this is decreasing every year.

The loss of forest cover is the main cause of this decline.

Between 1985 and 1997 61% of the forest in Sumatra was lost due to logging, infrastructure development, internal migration, and plantation development.

The Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered and is listed as one of the twenty-five most endangered primates in the world (IUCN, 2006).


A Kinabalu trail named Dusty

Kota Kinabalu: One of the trails leading to Mount Kinabalu will be named Dusty's Trail as a tribute to the mother of Duchenne muscular dystrophy patient, Dusty Brandom's, global effort on battling the fatal disease.

His mother, Catherine Jayasuriya is the founder of Coalition Duchenne - a charity movement that aims to raise awareness and funds in search for a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy - an inherited disorder that involves muscle weakness, which quickly gets worse.

According to Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun on Sunday the Ministry has decided to name a trail after Brandom, as a recognition of his mother's work, which has indirectly promoted Sabah to the world.

"For Sabah, Coalition Duchenne has managed to hit their goals, while they had indirectly made Sabah known to the eyes of the world," he said during an appreciation dinner for the Coalition Duchenne - Mount Kinabalu third expedition.

Jayasuriya, who is a Sabahan and the daughter of former Malaysian High Commissioner to Canada, Tan Sri Thomas Jayasuriya, initiated the expedition to collect funds for researchers who are working on a cure.

However, Masidi said plans to unveil the trail will likely be held during the Coalition's fourth expedition next year, adding that Sabah Parks is in the midst of identifying the trail.

Continue reading at: A Kinabalu trail named Dusty

Sarawak Tourism Board announces volunteer exchange for Asia Music Festival experience

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) yesterday announced the opening of the volunteer programme for its latest music event Asia Music Festival (AMF). to be held in Miri.

With the inaugural event less than two months away, locals and foreigners could have a chance to attend the event, participate and be involved in many aspects of organising the festival in exchange for volunteer service.

“We are currently accepting applications for various management areas of the event such as the liaison officer for performing acts, helpers for handling the musical instrument and gate control area,” said STB in its press statement yesterday.

Volunteering service is also open for the event marketing team who will participate in sales promotion, product development of festival tour packages, management information, media and public relations programme as well as media centre operation.

Event operation management areas will oversee the site readiness, vendor management, admission and gate operation, event secretariat, equipment and materials preparation and transportation.

The volunteer programme by STB is designed to provide an overall understanding of the operational aspects of the festival in order to ensure the success of the musical event. The volunteers would be required to participate and be involved in many areas as planned.

As in other music festivals organised by STB such as the iconic Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) or the Borneo Jazz, the volunteers play a very important part in ensuring the smoothness of the event. The programme also provides a learning platform for them especially the students.

To apply to one of the many areas available, interested individuals may register through the application form available which can be downloaded from

No application fee is applicable and the successful applicants will be notified via email or telephone.

The minimum age requirement to volunteer is 18 years and working shifts can be as long as eight hours per day. Some applicants will be offered either pre-festival or post-festival volunteer positions whichever relevant to the area.


SuperStar Aquarius cruise ship good for Bintulu tourism

BINTULU: SuperStar Aquarius will be homeported in Kota Kinabalu for the first time from Nov 6, 2013 to March 30, 2014, and would be calling on Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and here.

Bintulu Resident cum Divisional Tourism Task Force chairman Muhamad Yakup Kari said he was looking forward to the arrival of the 51,309-ton cruise ship.

It is expected to make its maiden stop at Bintulu Port on November 12 at 10am, and retrace to Kota Kinabalu at 6pm on the same day.

Yakup said the presence of the ship, which belongs to Star Cruises, the leading cruise line in Asia-Pacific, would be good for the tourism sector here.

Star Cruises will be the first international cruise line to be homeported in Kota Kinabalu, continuing Star Cruises’ pioneering and leading position in Asia’s cruise industry.

Genting Hong Kong Limited’s East Malaysia Operations vice president Edward Johann Leong said they envisioned their inaugural deployment to Borneo would help build the cruise tourism industry and boost local tourism.

“The route will be Kota Kinabalu-Brunei-Bintulu-Kota Kinabalu. This is the first in Borneo, and we will be exploring other parts of Borneo later.

“Before we look any further, we must introduce the cruises plying in Borneo. We will definitely be expanding our services,” said Leong to reporters after meeting the relevant authorities at Wisma Kontena in Tanjung Kidurong here yesterday.

He said the departure from Kota Kinabalu would be on November 10, and the response was overwhelming.

“We only launched this one and a half month ago, but our bookings have reach 85 per cent occupancy, which is above our average.”

He added most of the bookings were by government agencies for government functions onboard. For example, lots of ministries from Sabah are onboard, and so are corporate firms for their annual get-togethers.

“That is why when we launch this. It is not only for tourism, but for people to come for conferences, meetings and other events.”

Leong said about 60 to 70 per cent of the passengers onboard would be international passengers. They are seasoned cruise goers, and have been cruising in various parts of the world.

On Bintulu, he said, “To us it is an opportunity to come down to Bintulu. This is also a chance for us to show everyone in the world what Bintulu has to offer. It may be small, but very rich in terms of culture. It would generate income for locals in the tourism sector.”

Meanwhile, Bintulu Port Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Dato Mior Ahmad Baiti Mior Lub Ahmad said for the time being they would provide one temporary area for its berth.

“Bintulu Port is not a dedicated terminal for cruises, but our team had made arrangements to give one area of the general cargo wharf on Tuesdays from 10am till 6pm.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Express Air to ply Kuching-Pontianak-Bandung route next month

KUCHING: Indonesia’s regional airline Express Air will be the latest airliner to fly to Kuching, offering travellers with the option to fly the Kuching-Pontianak-Bandung route starting early next month.

The Indonesian consul-general in Sarawak, Djoko Harjanto, confirmed the Makassar-based Express Air has added Kuching as its latest destination.

“Express Air will connect Kuching, Pontianak and Bandung, and its maiden flight is scheduled sometime in early September. With the entry of this new airline, the people in Sarawak now have another option to travel to Pontianak and direct journey to Bandung,” he said when contacted yesterday.

For a start, he said Express Air will provide flights three times weekly. He also stated that Express Air will fill in the vacuum left by Batavia Air which has ceased operations since February.

Previously, Batavia Air plied three times weekly from here to Pontianak and onwards to Jakarta.