Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Ways to Dig Deeper into Borneo

Borneo remains one of the world’s most treasured destinations of natural beauty, a landmass dominated by jungles and home to some of the most rare and incredible species on the planet. Split into two parts—western Sarawak and eastern Sabah—the vast lands of this stunning island retain their ancient traditions, attract those with a sense of adventure and lure those with an eagerness to get off the beaten path. Here are five highlights to get you started on your Borneo journey!

1. Visit an Orangutan Sanctuary

Getting up close to an Orangutan in Borneo is akin to seeing pandas in China—it has to be done. The opportunity to see these incredible creatures in their natural habitat should not be missed.

As Borneo tackles the issue of deforestation and the destruction surrounding the palm oil industry, the best way to see these endangered creatures is in a ‘Rehabilitation Centre’—set up to care for orangutans that have been displaced, or rescued from an inhumane environment. Here they have a vast section of jungle to roam in and are taught to fend for themselves.

Despite many visitors crossing the line when it comes to the rules of interaction, the Orangutans rule the land here—it is their space and you are in it. The most magical moments come as you quietly observe them coming into the main areas for feeding time, when they cross the pathways right in front of you and as they swing from the tress right above you.

There are two sanctuaries in Borneo—the most popular one in Sepilok, in the eastern state of Sabah and the other in Semenggoh, in the western state of Sarawak.

2. Stay Overnight at a Tribal Longhouse

While many Iban tribal longhouses in Sarawak are deliberately set up for tourist groups, many remote ones also welcome visitors to learn about this unique and traditional jungle lifestyle. A preserved way of life, untouched by the face of modernization, the tribal groups are eager to welcome you and share their culture.

The Iban are one of many groups of indigenous people still living in Borneo, who (unlike the Penan migrant hunters) settle in one place in a communal longhouse. This wooden, stilted structure has a row of family rooms on one side and an open social area on the other and is continually extended as more families arrive to join the tribal hold.

To get there you will journey through neighbouring towns (where now some indigenous people have integrated) and embark on a river journey towards the area of Batang Ai, where you will be greeted by the local people, tour the longhouse, dine with all the families and meet the Chief and the elders.

It’s an incredible experience, which can be arranged in advance with your favourite small group adventure company or after your arrival with local travel outlets. For the most authentic experience, your only hope is to wait for a personal invitation from a local.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Five Ways to Dig Deeper into Borneo

What It's Like to Stay in an Iban Longhouse on Borneo

Similar to the Native American reservations here in America, native tribes maintain ownership of certain plots of land on the island of Borneo.

One such tribe, the Iban, inhabits the jungles outside of Kuching in Malaysia, and makes its home in community lodging facilities known as “longhouses.”

The name is a pretty accurate description of their appearance. Picture a long, rectangular "motel" with side-by-side rooms and a common-area patio that runs the entire length.

This is essentially the setup for the longhouse, except the outside common area is enclosed, and beyond that is an outdoor patio.

Each room houses a single family and consists of two rooms, the bedroom and the kitchen.

The bedroom also doubles as a living room when the mattresses are removed from the floor and leaned against the wall.

Through Planet Borneo, you can visit and/or spend the night in a longhouse. This writer chose to do the latter, and it was an incredible experience to see the traditional and communal way in which the tribe lives.

Entering the longhouse is like walking into your grandfather’s toolshed. Hand-made nets and machetes, woven palm baskets, and fermenting rice wine (tuak) are the finished products, but signs of craftsmanship and resourcefulness are around every corner and on every shelf.


Sabah Fest 2014 - Aki Nabalu

In this year’s Sabah Fest – A Cultural Extravaganza, we bring you Aki Nabalu, showcasing six ethnic groups in Sabah Malaysian Borneo that rely on Mount Kinabalu as a central feature in their traditional, cultural and religious beliefs.

Each ethnic group will be highlighted in respective acts during the stage performance of this year’s Sabah Fest production – one of Sabah’s most anticipated annual premier events.

With the local indigenous beliefs and diverse practices of the Kadazandusun and Murut, Mount Kinabalu is more than a geographical landmark.

It is also believed to be the resting place of the departed souls, hence known as the Land of the Sacred Mountain.

The Kadazandusun community opens the curtain with the Pampang, which tells of the origin of Mount Kinabalu and mankind.

They believe that Mount Kinabalu was created by the female supreme deity, Umunsumundu, while the male supreme deity, Kinoingan or Kinahoringan, created the sky.

Imbued with its mythical elements, Mount Kinabalu is featured predominantly in local folklore, still holding sway in both the spiritual and secular life of many indigenous communities.

The show will then feature the Dusun Ranau ritual, the Monolop, appeasing the Spirits of the Mountain.

Continue reading at: Sabah Fest 2014 - Aki Nabalu

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All that jazz for free, Borneo Jazz Fest is sixth year of rewarding work for volunteer

Outside of winning a free ticket to the Borneo Jazz Festival, ‘volunteering’ is an option available to all music fans. For Rose Au Nyat Jun, it’s that swinging time of the year again, as volunteer work is close to her heart.

The 60-year-old shows others it’s not wrong to enjoy free music this way, but when doing something you love, any money would seem less relevant.

For the next two weeks to come, it will be her sixth year as a volunteer. She is not just a familiar face in Miri come Borneo Jazz time but Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching has also become her playground during the Rainforest World Music Festival.

Really feeling glad to be called back to help Borneo Jazz again this year, Rose said she will always make a return every year, for the love of this wonderful jazz event that she has contributed in building from scratch in Miri.

A retired lawyer, but now teaching tour-guides, Rose really enjoys doing something she loves. She finds volunteer work a very interesting to do in life.

“Volunteering is enriching, being given an opportunity to learn new skills, share and train first-time volunteers. Not all paid jobs are necessarily fun jobs, volunteering is unique, (it is) rewarding to be part of Borneo Jazz – our state’s growing festival,” said Rose.

Rose has been freelancing as a DJ with Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) for 20 years and used to present “Just Jazz” with RTM for many years.

She has also been in the tourism-related industry for 13 years and it naturally follows that she loves all things tourism. During Borneo Jazz, she will be assigned as the liaison officer to the performing bands normally of a foreign country.

Very familiar with Sarawak’s tourism product is an added advantage to her task, as she can play the part of ambassador well for state tourism.

“Music lovers should come over to Miri next month. Borneo Jazz offers a very charming ambience, beautiful garden setting, people are ever ready to help and there is good food. Not many places in the region have such a mix,” she added.

Borneo Jazz is organised by Sarawak Tourism Board. STB stated that although ideal attributes will vary from role to role, all volunteers must be able to conduct themselves in line with the Festival’s core values of integrity and teamwork.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Medical tourism industry growing in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The medical tourism industry in Sabah is starting to grow with the opening of the Swiss Wellness Centre located at the ground floor of Le Meridien Hotel here yesterday.

The wellness centre is dedicated for non-invasive and holistic Swiss biological treatments and therapies.

In his opening speech, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun pointed out that Sabah is perfectly positioned to capitalise on medical tourism initiatives due to its unique and prime tourism assets found predominantly within Sabah, coupled with its perfect geographical location and international airport.

He noted that the global medical industry was worth an estimated USD40 to USD60 billion with the total number of healthcare travellers increasing to 594,000 from 392,000 in 2010.

Masidi added that the Malaysia Investment Development Authority (MIDA) had reported that foreign investments in hotel and tourism projects within the state of Sabah had increased from RM11 million to RM70 million from January to August 2012.

“Private sector initiatives such as the opening of the Swiss Wellness Centre augured well for the state as it would create a niche for Sabah in its foray into the medical tourism sector, and the transfer of knowledge to equip local medical practitioners with the Swiss biological therapies was a welcome initiative,” he said.

The founder of Swiss Wellness International, Dato Seri Dr Mike Chan, said that Swiss biological medicine had been practised in Europe for over 100 years and was considered one of the most advanced forms of anti-aging programs in the world.

He added that with the launch of the Swiss Wellness Centre in Le Meridien here, Sabahans, as well as medical tourists alike, will now be able to access world-class health scans, youth restoration and wellness therapies that promise holistic wellness, inside and out.


A ‘floating mosque’ for Kuching

KUCHING: A ‘floating mosque’ will be constructed on the Sarawak River to further enhance the tourism appeal of the city.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said work on the project, which will serve as an ‘extension’ of the historical Indian Muslim mosque located between India Street and Gambier Street, would start next year.

“The mosque will not be very big. It will just be enough to cater to existing requirements,” he told reporters  after officiating at Bintangor Sports Day 2014 at Kampung Bintangor here yesterday.

Abang Johari said the existing Indian Muslim mosque had historical values as many religious teachers received their training there before furthering their studies in Singapore.

“The basic of Islam started there (Indian Muslim mosque) and we will maintain its current location, but we will construct another mosque which is more comfortable.

He said the location of the mosque, Anglican Church and Chinese temples, which are within walking distances from each other, would symbolise the religious harmony enjoyed by city folk.

“Religious harmony is one of the features we have that we want to share with our visitors,” Abang Johari said, adding that details of the proposed mosque would be announced soon.

He said the idea to build the mosque was conceived by Yang di-Pertua Negeri Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to reflect Sarawakians’ high religious tolerance despite practising different religions.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sarawak Street Arts Carnival comes to life at Kuching Waterfront

KUCHING: Sarawak Street Arts Carnival opened yesterday at the Square Tower in Kuching Waterfront where various local, regional and international artistes and acts gathered to promote understanding and appreciation of cultures.

The two-day carnival was one of the four main events organised in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014 that aimed to attract more tourists to the state and give a boost to the tourism industry.

Organised by state Ministry of Tourism and Culture in collaboration with state Culture and Arts Department, the carnival features live music, arts and crafts, food, dance, fashion show, clowns and many interesting programmes and activities.

With hundreds of musicians, crafters, dancers and artistes, the Kuching Waterfront comes alive this weekend.

Speaking at the launching, Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Haji Openg highlighted that art is a universal culture that can transcend boundaries of all kinds.

“Together with our invited guests from other countries, this carnival can showcase our unique culture in the state of Sarawak especially where people of all races and beliefs can live in peace and harmony,” he said.

“It gives us the opportunity to interact with one another especially our foreign guests through arts like music, crafts and dances. Through interaction, they are able to understand the values and morals behind our unique culture,” he added.

With such uniqueness, Abang Johari emphasised the spirit of 1Malaysia is in Sarawak because Sarawakians place great emphasis in upholding and protecting this unity.

“There are no religious or racial problems in Sarawak. Therefore, defend whatever that is good and distance ourselves from bad cultures,” he said.


Melanau Cultural Centre coming up

MUKAH: A Melanau Cultural Centre here is expected to take off as one of the new happenings aside from the construction of the new airport here.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg announced this when he attended the ‘Pesta Kaul Mukah 2014’ here in Taman Kala Dana Mukah yesterday.

The curtain-raiser to the calendar event involved no less than the Chief Minister, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem, who officiated at the festival.

“The construction of the (Melanau) centre was an idea of our Chief Minister, and it has been approved, but it is still in the rolling plan,” Abang Johari said, but did not elaborate further.

He added that the construction of the new airport here would also allow tourists to see and enjoy the unique culture here, and they can then share it for the rest of the world to see.

On the other hand, phase two of the Dalat Waterfront would give a new impact to the Dalat district, according to Abang Johari.

“We are going to develop phase two of the Dalat Waterfront which would be able to give a new impact to the Dalat district, much like in Kuching,” he enthused.

Meanwhile, Adenan opined that the diverse races and culture of Sarawak was a boon for the state, hence the need to preserve the distinctive cultural heritage.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Melanau Cultural Centre coming up

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Chance to enjoy Borneo Jazz Festival at discounted rate

Pre-sale tickets for the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 slated to be held at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri from May 9 to 10 are still available.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) director (Corporate Communication) Angelina P Bateman said the price for Adult’s 1Day Pass is RM50 while that for the 2Days Pass is RM95. For children aged three to 12 years, they are RM25 and RM45 respectively.

“These pre-sale tickets will be available until May 8 and they can be obtained from any STB information centres or selected STB agents. Their addresses are available from our website,” she said during a meeting with media partners here yesterday.

Bateman said on the actual day itself, the ticket price for adults would be RM70 (1Day Pass) and RM130 (2Days Pass) and for children it would be RM30 (1Day Pass) and RM50 (2Days Pass).

On a related matter, Batemen said the organiser expected to see a total of about 9,000 jazz enthusiasts for the two-day spectacle, adding many other activities had also been planned to make the weekend a memorable one.


Friday, April 25, 2014

KK International Film Festival back in June

KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival (KKIFF) 2014 is back, with more local and international films and documentaries that will suit avid mountain climbers, environmentalists, comedy lovers and people from all walks of life.

KKIFF 2014, which will be held at the National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN) from June 1-12, is divided into three components – making films, talking about films and watching films.

KKIFF falls under the umbrella of the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu (SPArKS).

The film festival is co-organized by SPArKS and Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA).

Movie buffs will be pleased to know that DOCS+, an activity under KKIFF, will hold screenings of 12 short and feature length films at JKKN Auditorium on June 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Festival director Jude Day said the 12 films were submitted by filmmakers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Myanmar.

Screenings start at 5pm on the above mentioned dates and admission is free.

The three feature films that will be screened under DOCS+ are Romeo & Juliet (June 6), Cuak (June 10) and A Step In The Right Direction (June 12).

Set in Jakarta, Indonesia, Romeo & Juliet is a love story between two different football club supporters.

Cuak, on the other hand, is a Malaysian movie that was recently released in our country in February. It is about a man having second thoughts as he goes through the events leading up to his marriage, and making tough decisions such as converting to Islam to get married.

“Cuak is unique as it is told by five directors, each director a section in different styles,” she said in a press conference here yesterday.

Also present at the press conference were SEDIA assistant vice president of marketing and corporate communications Jesi Jolumis Majungki, Counsellor from the Consular Office of Japan Hirofumi Morikawa and SPArKS president Roger Wang.

Meanwhile, A Step In The Right Direction is a documentary directed by a Sabahan, who is now based in Tasmania.

The film explores the character Aaron Matthews who killed two people and injured another outside a night club in Hobart, Australia, and the aftermath of that night.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Day I Conquered Mount Kinabalu

I never thought I will be writing this post, 2, 3 4 or 6 months after ascending Mount Fuji. You see, Mount Fuji was standing at 3776m and Mount Kinabalu, aka Mount KK is standing at 4095m, about 300m higher than Mount Fuji.

I still remember the agony of descending from the peak of Mount Fuji back to “planet earth”… or rather, Fifth Station. The thought of that has forbidden or should i say, deter me from ascending yet another mountain. Its really funny because to me, it seems like going up is so much easier than descending.

But when my friends seemed so keen to wanna try Mount KK, for some weird reason, I decided to go with it. Maybe its the company, maybe… I still have that little explorer in me after all these years.

So, my friends and I book a 5 day 4 nights tour to conquer South East Asia’s highest peak. From Singapore, we took a flight from Air Asia to Sabah. After at which, we stayed a night at a local hotel before moving out the next morning to Mount Kinabalu HQ, which again, we stayed another night before our climb.

On the climbing day itself, we woke up at 6am, had our breakfast at 7am before moving to the front office to collect our pass and breakfast. We then started the climb to Laban Rata at about 8.30. The ascend is slightly different from Mount Fuji for there are plenty of steps and rocks. All in all, we need to cover a distance of 6Km to reach Laban Rata.

The first 3km are a breeze, but after that, our body and legs starts to tire (I mean, we didn’t train for this. In fact, we just waited for this day and start the climb without any training, conditioning… luckily, I am still pretty young at 33 lol). Somehow, you just need that motivation to carry on.

One little trick I use is to ascend a few meters, stop and rest my legs for say 5 second and everything goes back to normal. Once we reach laban rata, we need to climb a flight of starts to Pendant Hut (the overnight acomodation for Via Ferrata climbers). That flight of stairs is just one of the “longest” flight.

Seems to take forever lol. We finally reach Pendant Hut at 1330 hrs and have our rest before the brief on the safety instructions for our Via Ferrata activity tomorrow.


Ninth Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 expects 9,000 visitors

MIRI: The ninth edition of the Borneo Jazz Festival (BJ), to be held here next month, is targeting 9,000 visitors with 70 per cent of them, foreigners.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer, Datuk Rashid Khan said the target could be achieved despite the challenging time in the global tourism industry such as the MH370 tragedy.

“It is not impossible to achieve this target,” he told a news conference after the state coordination meeting on BJ 2014 chaired by Sarawak Tourism Ministry’s permanent secretary Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik, here, yesterday.

“We are looking at attracting jazz music lovers from Asia, especially from Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Thailand to BJ 2014 and if possible, from Australia too,” he said.

Rashid said one of the new events this year would be the jamming session with the musicians and those interested could bring along their own musical instruments.

BJ 2014 is scheduled to be held from May 9 to 10 at ParkCity Everly Hotel, Miri.

It is organised by STB and supported by the federal Tourism Ministry and state’s Tourism Ministry.

Meanwhile, STB in a statement distributed to the media today said BJ 2013 attracted 8,500 visitors with an estimated 30 per cent of them, foreigners.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Musical show among Sabah Fest highlights

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Fest will be returning with another spectacular show to highlight Sabah’s diverse people, cultures and traditions in the form of a musical performance, ‘Aki Nabalu’.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, told a press conference held at the Le Meridien Hotel here yesterday, the musical performance will be held at the Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara Sabah complex (JKKNS) auditorium between May 2 and May 4.

The performance will showcase a religious and solemn ceremony through a series of actions performed in accordance with a prescribed order.

The Sabah Fest this year will showcase seven ethnic groups in Sabah that look to Mount Kinabalu as a central feature in their traditional, cultural and religious beliefs, said Masidi.

The Kadazandusun community will open the curtains with the presentation of ‘Pampang’ which tells of the origin of Mount Kinabalu and mankind. The Bajau, Dusun Tindal and Iranun will then gather at the meeting point or Badi, or today known as the Tamu or open air market.

During these social gatherings, Mount Kinabalu would appear tall and majestic as a backdrop as the people go about with their daily lives.

The audience will also be treated to the Mogkodim do hatod, the Rungus ritual performed to call upon the spirit of a sick person.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Borneo Jazz no 9

MIRI, Sarawak, 22 April 2014: The annual Borneo Jazz now in its nineth year, will be hosted in Miri, Sarawak for two days of jazz music, Friday, 9 May and Saturday, 10 May.

Sarawak Tourism Board encourages festival goers to look out for promotional offers and discounts for on its website

Promotions for the festival have been ongoing since January.

Tour agencies are packaging the festival to give their clients added value to their Malaysia holiday.

The line-up this year includes bands that will cover a wide range of jazz influences.

For the first time the festival will feature a band from Georgia. Iriao, an ethno-jazz band. Their repertoire has been recognised by UNESCO as being a masterpiece of oral immaterial heritage.

Brassballett from Germany – the first and only show worldwide where musicians play their instruments and dance at the same time.

Vocal Sampling – salsa band, and all-male a-cappella musical group from Cuba are crowd pleasers. In the last two years, a capella acts have been a show topper at Borneo Jazz.

Their album “Cambio de Tiempo” was nominated for three Latin Grammy Awards. Mario Canonge – a great virtuoso and showman playing creole jazz with West indies rhythms from Martinique/France, also a first Martinique band at the festival.

YK Samarinda from Indonesia who will feature Jazz from Samarinda with hints of Borneo flavours. Anthony Strong – hailed as “England’s new jazz superstar”, beat Gregory Porter, Michael BublĂ© and Harry Connick Jr. to become No. 1 on the iTunes and No.2 on the jazz charts in the USA will entertain jazz enthusiasts.

“The lineup this year is without doubt an exciting one. We will be featuring bands from countries never featured before and also bands having repertoires that are unique. This will no doubt be the best jazz festival we have put together so far” said Dato’ Rashid Khan, CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board, the festival organiser.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo Jazz no 9

Laksa cookbook adds spice to Sarawak tourism

KUCHING: The launch of the MUSC Sarawak Laksa Cookbook augurs well in demonstrating the diversity in food here, with plans this year to popularize Sarawak fare in the Middle East.

Speaking at its launch yesterday, Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said that the cookbook could serve as a guide to chefs here on the various creative ways to use laksa

“This year, we plan on bringing our Sarawak food to Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” he added later.

“One of our attractions is our food,” he said, after announcing that tourist arrivals in Sarawak for January and February was over 700,000, a six per cent increase compared to last year for the same period.

Abang Johari pointed out that February tends to be a ‘lean month’, but the number of conventions in Kuching this year played a role in bumping up the figure.

“We anticipate we may get 4.5 million tourists this year. Last year, we achieved 4.1 million. The reason being because of additional flights, we now have direct Kuching-Penang and Kuching-Kota Bharu flights.”

According to feedback garnered, visitors find Sarawak to be quite safe to visit, he said.

Abang Johari also hinted that he will be launching a diving spot with historical value in May, and which will also attract visitors to the state.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Climbing Mt Kinabalu and more

My girlfriend Kanya and I just came back from our trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia last night after 9 wonderful days on the road. The plan was to escape Sonkgran (Thai new year) and see some other places for a change. I fought the water fight last year for days in a row and girlfriend has had enough of it so it was a great time to plan a getaway. So we were off to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur to take some time off and relax.

The early part of the trip was dedicated to exploring the city of Kota Kinabalu, where about 450,000 people live. The city has plenty of tourists and the locals know the value of tourists but the city is a nice place to visit, locals are not selling anything in your face and you still get the strong feel of local culture since the place is not filled with tourists just yet

The city center is fairly small and takes about 30min to walk through it from one side to another. We took it open ourselves to explore all sides of the local cuisine, which offers a wide variety of Malay, Indian and Chinese food.  I love the local food, although as a European I get fed up with it fairly fast which is funny since I never get tired of Thai food back in Bangkok. The Maleasian food is fairly heavy with the curries so that might be the explanation. My personal favorites are the curry laksa (Malay) and lamb curry (Indian).

The city is not really a shopping paradise, even though the markets offer a very nice selection of local handcraft, some of the art and items were really nice. Kota Kinabalu is a great place to relax and explore outdoor activities. On the 3rd day of the trip we headed out to dive (Kanya is an avid diver) and snorkling (yours truly, need to grow a pair of balls to go 20m under water).

The red tide was disturbing our efforts on one of the islands, at the rest of the diving areas (only a 15-20min boat ride from the city btw) the visibility was good, about 10-15m and we were lucky to see plenty of exciting firh such as Clownfish (think Nemo), Trigger fish (swim away fast) and many others.

After a day’s rest, we got picked up at 6.30am to head to the “base camp” of Mount Kinabalu, also known as headquarters of the Kinabalu park. The ride took about 1hr30min up to 1800m above sea level, the road was actually pretty good all the way up even the driver warned us about the bumpy serpentine roads… I’ve seen much worse roads than that even in Finland. After checking the permits and have our guide assigned to us, we were off with our climb at around 9am!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Climbing Mt Kinabalu and more

Visitors like Malaysian products

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has the potential to become a destination for visitors to purchase affordable quality products, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

“I am of the opinion that Kota Kinabalu can be made into a retail destination for local brands that are in the mid-price range, products which are not too expensive but is something that is not available anywhere else,” Masidi said.

Masidi, when officiating at Suria Sabah shopping mall’s Spring/Summer Fashion Week 2014 yesterday, said the feedback he received from visitors to Sabah revealed that they are interested to buy Malaysian made products which are not too expensive and cannot be found in their own countries.

“They told me that the quality of Malaysian products is good, in fact some say that it is better than international brands which can be found in their own home countries.

“Therefore I think that we must grab the opportunity to value-add the visitors to Sabah’s vacation by offering them quality local products,” he said.

Masidi was of the opinion that Sabah, being a retail destination for local brands which are in the mid-price range, can be an attraction on its own in the long run.

He said he is targeting China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam as the main markets for such a destination in the future.

“All we need to do is to increase Sabah’s connectivity to these places. I am confident that Sabah has the ability to provide products which are not too expensive but at the same time give satisfaction to visitors to Kota Kinabalu,” he stressed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Visitors like Malaysian products

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sibu's Rajang Esplanade ideal for recreational events

SIBU: The Rajang Esplanade in Maju Road here is an ideal place for a host of activities, noted Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) Sibu executive Rudy Anoi who said yesterday that the mighty Rajang River was in itself a wonder to behold from the esplanade.

“I would suggest to the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government agencies and departments to make good use of the esplanade to stage their activities.

“For example, they can hold a cultural show once every two months. By doing so, it will make the recreational area livelier,” he told The Borneo Post.

Rudy said facilities there included a stage and a large area for holding gatherings.

“Tourists may want to party at the esplanade instead of their usual gatherings cordoned off in hotels.

“Schools are also encouraged to stage some of their activities there,” he added.

Rajang Esplanade was completed in 1988, fronting a few blocks of shop houses.

Before the shop houses came into being, the area was infamously known for its Mission Road red-light district where at least 100 ‘ladies of the night’ dwelled in wooden houses built on stilts.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

18 dance troupes to be featured at Sibu International Dance Festival in June

SIBU: The second Sibu International Dance Festival (SIDF) from June 3-7 at Sibu Civic Centre will see at least 18 dance troupes vying for various prizes.

SIDF director Chen Ing Kuan told a press conference yesterday that most of them were professional troupes.

“This year, we have ballet dance groups, Jazz dance groups, African dance groups, modern dance groups, and street dance groups,” he disclosed.

With him at the press conference were Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, secretary Hii Chang Kee, and assistant secretary (public relations) Teng Meng Min.

Hornland Dance Theatre is coordinating SIDR with the support of the council. Chen said he was waiting for two other troupes to confirm participation.

The confirmed troupes are Unlock Dancing Plaza from Hong Kong, PanDance Project from USA, Sasang Fringe from Korea, Modern Table Dance Company from Korea, Contemporary Jazz Dance Theater from Taiwan, Taipei Folk Dance Theatre from Taiwan, EKI Dance Company from Indonesia, Unit Kimiho from Japan, Dance Inspiration from Singapore, Ajay Shangde from India, Nkrabea Dance Ensemblem from Ghana, Aswara Dance Company and GeethaShankaran Dance from Kuala Lumpur, Borneo Dance Company from Sabah, FY Dance Ensemble from Johor, Sri Swangsa, Sibu Martial Art Association, and Hornland Dance Theatre from Sarawak.

The troupes are expected to perform during a welcoming reception at RH Hotel on June 3 at 8pm, followed by another round of performances at Rajang Esplanade on June 4 starting at 7.30pm. There will be conferences and workshops on dancing at RH Hotel, June 4-6.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More needs to be done for Miri to be choice tourist destination

MIRI: While the whole nation is celebrating the biggest and grandest tourism event – the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 – there should be more introduction on Miri City which grew from a quiet fishing village, and known as a hundred-year-old oil town which was elevated to city status and later made popular as a resort city.

Commonly known among nature explorers as a transit to Niah Caves located about an hour’s drive from the city centre, ground checks by The Borneo Post found that local residents seem not to have the best idea on how to introduce the city to visitors.

“Despite working in the hospitality and hotel industry, I personally have a similar problem when approached by tourists and friends who asked on tips to tour around Miri City,” Nicholas Jong, an advertising and promotion executive in a local hotel here shared with The Borneo Post.

Shopping, he insisted, is not the main priority for holidaymakers, particularly those from western countries, Japan, Korea and also China, who would prefer to spend painstaking long hours on the road, just to get to places like Lambir Hills National Park and Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort, not forgetting the nearest sightseeing place – the Crocodile Farm in Kuala Baram.

For Jong, a hotel front desk office plays an important role in introducing the right places of interest to tourists.

“Front desk receptionists need to prepare relevant information to promote Miri, its history and tourist spots. Basically, all the recommended places are available in visitor brochures, unless travellers seek more adventurous experience,” he explained.

He lamented that transportation in Miri is unfortunately a major problem unlike in other cities, as hotels here usually prepare shuttle buses or vans specifically for going to and fro the airport but not for touring around the city.

“Options like public buses meet problems as there are no clear instructions on the bus route and the expensive taxi ride would exhaust the wallet, thus tourists especially backpackers prefer to walk to get to places.”

“Perhaps, expanding the tourism business to bicycle or car rental with affordable prices or offering day tour shuttle buses could be a great idea, which both the government and private sector should seriously consider,” he suggests.

A representative, William (not real name), from the Visitors’ Information Centre here revealed to The Borneo Post that Miri has a consistent flow of visitors.

“On a monthly basis, Miri has an average record of nearly 200 travellers and backpackers coming in seeking for information and advice. During peak season, the number could reach up to 400 travellers in a month,” he said.

Asked on the most popular destination for tourists, he said Mulu was still the top choice, with Niah Caves in Batu Niah in second place while diving sports at Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park has quickly gained popularity among diving enthusiasts.


Mukah to have new airport sooner than later

KUCHING: The dream of Mukah folk to have a bigger and better airport will become a reality sooner than later now that a contract to build a new airport was signed here yesterday.

The RM133-million earthwork will begin tomorrow and will be completed in 20 months’ time.

The contract document was signed between Public Works Department as the project implementer and the contractor – Hock Peng Furniture & General Contractor Sdn Bhd. Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications Dato Sri Michael Manyin and Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda) chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot were also there as witnesses.

Signing on behalf of JKR was its director Zuraimi Sakhi while Hock Peng Furniture & General Contractor Sdn Bhd was represented by its chairman and managing director Datuk Toh Chiew Hock.

Speaking at a news conference later, Manyin said the multi-million ringgit project was another milestone in Mukah and also the entire central region covering urban centres like Mukah, Tanjung Manis, Simalajau, Sibu, Bintulu, Sarikei and Kapit.

“On completion, the new airport, a Code 3C airport catering for ATR72 or F50 aircraft, will help to speed up economic activities at the coastal area and also to sustain the economic development brought about by Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

“The airport will not be able to cater for Boeing B737 or Airbus A320 aircraft but it will be built in such a way that it can be quickly upgraded to Code 4C airport when the need arises in future.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Mukah to have new airport sooner than later

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A maritime museum for Kuching

KUCHING: The old Brooke Dockyard near Kuching Esplanade will soon be transformed into a maritime museum.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said discussions between the Tourism Ministry, Sarawak Museum Department and the owner had been done and the project would be part of the Kuching Waterfront extension programme.

“We are now performing a detailed study on the project and it will involve the construction of facilities and improvements to the site. We are estimating a cost of around RM5 million for the project,” said Abang Johari.

He was met by reporters after visiting the Bintangor Waterfront yesterday.

Abang Johari, who is also the Satok assemblyman, added that two historical items would be retained – the dry dock and the crane, which are the first ever in Sarawak.

“The project will commence under the 11th Malaysia Plan and we will classify it as a heritage site upon completion,” he said.

He also said under the 11th Malaysia Plan, upgrading works to the embankment along the river from Kampung Sungai Bedil up to the jetty of Kampung Tanjung would be carried out.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A maritime museum for Kuching

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kaul festival a showcase of Melanau’s rich culture, arts and heritage

MUKAH: The Mukah Kaul Festival is an iconic event that’s not only for the Melanau community but also visitors from outside Mukah.

Federation of Sarawak Melanau Association (PPMS) deputy president Datuk Aidan Wing, who stated this, also said the annual festival, now in its 13th edition, showcases the rich culture, arts and heritage of the Melanaus.

“In conjunction with Sarawak’s 50 years of independence in Malaysia, this year’s event also focuses on the vast transformation of Mukah for the past 50 years from all aspects,” he said at the launching of the Mukah Kaul Festival official logo and Mukah Kaul Festival 2014 football competition yesterday.

The football competition was launched by Igan member of parliament Datuk Abdul Wahab Dolah, who is also the sponsor of the championship.

Aidan also expressed his hope of seeing more basic infrastructure projects in Mukah.


Friday, April 11, 2014

10th World Harvest Festival may attract over 6,000 visitors

KUCHING: The 10th World Harvest Festival to be held at Sarawak Cultural Village from May 2 to 4 is expected to attract over 6,000 visitors from all over the world.

Previously known as Gawai Tourism Night, the colourful and exciting festival with the theme ‘Sibauk and The Magic Golden Seeds’, is expected to contribute at least RM3 million to the state tourism coffer.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the estimate was based on an average spending of RM200 per day per visitor during the three-day festival.

He said the festival attracted about 5,800 visitors last year and would expect about the same number this year.

“The money will go to all those people participating in the festival. Locals will gain from the money spent by tourists on hotels, taxis, flights and food,” Abang Johari told a press conference to promote the festival at his office here yesterday.

Abang Johari said the festival was an important venue for the state to showcase its ethnic and cultural diversity, especially the cultures of the Dayak people in conjunction with Visit Sarawak Year and Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

He also urged SCV to come up with a Gawai package at this time to enable the visitors to experience the Gawai atmosphere.

“WHF 2014 is a good avenue to promote tourism products in areas that are populated by the Bidayuh people,” he added.

For that, he said he would like to work together with Padawan Municipal Council and other agencies including Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to aggressively promote Borneo Highlands Resort in the heart of the Bidayuh country.

“There are many Bidayuh homestays and other attractions there and these we will link up to what we are going to do during the World Harvest Festival 2014.”

SCV general manager Jane Lian Labang said the theme of the festival based on a Bidayuh legend ‘Sibuak and The Magic Golden Seeds’ was written by Jonas Noeb about the livelihood of the Bidayuh people who are related very much to the earth and stars.


4.5 mln tourist arrivals in Sarawak this year possible

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is optimistic that Sarawak will be able to achieve the 4.5 million tourist arrivals in the state this year.

He said in the first two months of the year over 700,000 tourists had been registered, an increase of 4 per cent from the same period last year.

“We received 4.3 million tourists last year, about 70 per cent of them foreigners. I think after hosting Asean Tourism Forum, Routes Asia and other conventions, there is a good possibility that we may reach 4.5 to 4.6 million tourist arrivals this year,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Abang Johari said his ministry had lined up various events such as World Harvest Festival, Pesta Kaul, Borneo Jazz Festival and Pesta Benak in order to attract tourists to the state.

While acknowledging that the MH370 disaster would have some effect on the Chinese tourist arrivals, he believed that the effect would be minimal, adding that in the first two months of this year about 8,000 Chinese tourist arrivals were already recorded.

“We received many tourists from Europe and Australia. Many Chinese tourists on the other hand prefer Sabah because of the diving facilities there.”

However, Abang Johari said Chinese tourists were starting to look at Sarawak as a potential destination after his discussions with Chinese airline operators during the Routes Asia conference.

“We have to promote (Sarawak) aggressively because they (Chinese tourists) like diving.

“Actually, we have good diving spots which are not aggressively promoted such as the Japanese shipwrecks at Tanjung Sepang near Bako National Park.


Panchor Hot Spring now a popular spot

KUCHING: The Panchor Hot Spring is believed to be a popular spot for people seeking natural healing.

Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister Datuk Sri Dr James Dawos said about 2,500 people visited the hot spring every month last year and the number could be more now.

He said the Panchor Hot Spring, which was upgraded by the Sarawak Tourism Ministry last year at a cost of about RM500,000, is currently managed by the village security and development committee.

“I was told by the committee chairman last year that they can easily collect RM10,000 in entrance fee a month, which means about 2,500 people visited the hot spring a month. Now, the number of visitors going there could be more as electricity has been connected to the facilities.

“I believe people go there not just for recreation, but also to seek natural treatment,” said Dawos, who was formerly tourism deputy minister.

It is said the hot spring in Panchor has the ability to cure some diseases.

Dawos said like most hot springs, the hot water there contains various dissolved minerals, which can cure certain skin diseases and even heart disease.

He said the village headman of Kampung Panchor had related to him that he (the headman) had his heart problem improved after soaking himself in the hot spring everyday for six months.

“I have also been told by some of the women, who I saw putting mud from the hot water on their skin during my visit there last year, that the mud does some wonders to their skin,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Panchor Hot Spring now a popular spot

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Adventure up a River in Borneo

Meandering slowly up a river in Borneo on a local wooden boat, with the jungle passing you by, is easy travelling at its finest.

The idea came out of curiosity and a desire to be somewhat lazy.

The occasional laziness is needed after all when travelling to keep your energy levels up for more strenuous adventures. That was the excuse anyway.

So it began in the supposedly exotic city of Samarinda (it’s not), downstream from the second largest river in Borneo on the Indonesian side.

The passenger boats make the trip upriver everyday, transporting people and goods over the course of 40 odd hours to various small villages on the river, some with traces of old culture, like the Dayak people.

Embarking onto the wooden passenger boat, you set off at a slow pace. The first few hours are made up of mostly modern going ons at the riverbank, but as you head further upriver it becomes more and more quiet.

Enjoying the absolute thrill of having to make almost no decisions, except for maybe wether to be bothered to move from your comfortable position to get up and take a piss, you laze up front watching life go by.

Watching life go by centres around two things. Observing the villages en-route with local life  going ons, and checking out the other boats coming downstream to see if there are any  foreigners coming back, so you can ask what the hell is up there!

You see no-one really speaks english up there, so it’s almost impossible to get any idea when to get off the boat to stay at a village, or just see something.

Anyway the sun soon sets with the sounds of a mosque from a nearby village, and a great display of lightning ahead from a thunderstorm. A thunderstorm you are rather inconveniently moving straight towards.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: An Adventure up a River in Borneo

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari promotes Iban culture

KAPIT: The Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari has helped to promote Iban culture to the outside world.

Hulu Rajang member of parliament Wilson Ugak Kumbong said as such the race is an ideal tourism product for the division.

“Rafting is part of our roots and it was the chief means of transportation in the past prior to the invention of outboard engines.

“Even though the raft is no longer in use today, the introduction of the Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari is most appropriate,” he said during the race over the weekend at Rumah Inguh, Nanga Sepitoh.

“This year is Visit Malaysia Year and the rafting competition is one of the products that can attract tourists to Kapit.

I hope the participants from outside Kapit could help to promote the rafting event so that more teams will participate in the annual raft race next year.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari promotes Iban culture

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Orangutan spotting in Borneo: Shangri La Rasa Ria

If you read my previous article about The Sepilok sanctuary, you may have vague recollections about that centre being the home of the adolescent orangutans in Borneo. Most of the rescued babies, however, are taken to the rehabilitation centre at the Shangri La Rasa Ria in Kota Kinabalu.

For guests heading only to Kota Kinabalu, this is the place to see orangutans and if, like us, you are staying at the sister hotel, Shangri La Tanjung Aru, then there’s a simple shuttle bus to take you across.

Entry is charged and it is best to book this trip in advance but the nature reserve at the Shangri La offers many other activities including jungle and canopy walks, some of which can be combined with opportunities to see the orangutans.

It was fascinating to see the contrast that comes with maturity. The babies are much less confident, more easily scared and unfortunately, the macaques seem to exploit this vulnerability, something they weren’t able to do in Sepilok, where the older orangutans were unfazed by their hovering.

But the littl’uns are undeniably adorable and the longing to hold them (however wrong I know it is) is unquestionable. We were lucky that when we arrived, there was just a drizzle of rain, clearly insufficient to suppress their eager appetites but when the downpours gathered pace, the orangutans (rather like many of the tourists) made a dash for it.

Once you are at the Rasa Ria resort, you are free to wander the grounds or grab a snack. We ended up playing a round of croquet – not a traditional Sumatran pastime as far as I’m aware but a nice way to pass an hour and brought out the competitive side of our marriage! I lost (I usually do when I’m competing with Pumpkin) but it’s more about taking part isn’t it?

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Orangutan spotting in Borneo: Shangri La Rasa Ria

Confiscated turtle recovering at Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre

KOTA KINABALU: A Green Sea Turtle which was confiscated from a fisherman in Papar, is now recovering at Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre.

The Wildlife Rescue Unit coordinated the transfer of the turtle to Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre’s Turtle Rescue Unit where it is being treated.

The 22.5-inch long, 7.7kg juvenile Chelonia Mydas, or Green Sea Turtle, named after the green color of the fat under its shell, was malnourished and covered in barnacles, suggesting it may have been encaged.

Gaya Island Resort’s marine biologist Scott Mayback said they are now collaborating with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Marine Research Foundation to guarantee the best monitoring and treatment for the turtle.

The Marine Centre will keep the turtle under observation and treatment for a month, and if healthy enough, it will eventually be released back into the wild from the resort’s private Tavajun Bay.

With a lifespan of up to 80 years in the wild, this turtle, estimated to seven to ten years old, could live a long life once nursed back to health.

The endangered turtle, identifiable by its single pair of prefrontal scales rather than two pairs as found on other sea turtles, is endemic to the island of Borneo.

The team members of Gaya Island Resort are now able to safeguard it and hopefully release it back into its natural habitat in the near future.


44 yachts for Borneo International Yachting Challenge 2014

MIRI: The organising working committee is going all out to ensure the success of the 11th Borneo International Yachting Challenge (BIYC) this year.

Assistant Sports Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin disclosed that the event will start with registration on June 14 followed by the Miri Bay Race (June 15), Passage Race and Harbour Race in Labuan (June 16-18) and ended with another Passage Race and Harbour Race in Kota Kinabalu (June 19-21).

“The response is very overwhelming and to date, we have received 44 participating yachts,” he revealed at a press conference after chairing a meeting of the working committee at ParkCity Everly Hotel here yesterday.

Lee, who is also the chairman of main organising committee, said Australia has the most number of entries with 15 yachts followed by seven each from United Kingdom and Malaysia as well as six from New Zealand.

For Malaysia, the yachts are Miri’s Ulumulu, Miri Magic 1 and Miri Magic 2, two navy teams Uranus and Utraid as well as Azura and Keris.

Other participating countries are Singapore, South Africa, Germany, Holland, the United States, Hong Kong and the Philippines.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Exploit Kapit’s tourism potential to the fullest

KAPIT: A suggestion was put up by Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing for Malaysia Tourism Board and Sarawak Tourism Board to fully tap Kapit’s abundant rivers and rugged terrain as tourist attractions.

The Land Development Minister and Baleh assemblyman disclosed that he had in mind to include power boat and mountain bike racing besides the usual rafting events in next year’s edition of the Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari.

“Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari is a yearly tourism programme to attract tourists to Kapit. Apart from rafting, we have the power boat racing organised by the Kapit Division Power Boat Association while waiting for the rafts to arrive. In terms of power boat racing, Kapit is one of the best places in Sarawak. I am looking at mountain bike, rafting and power boat together in next year’s event,” he said when interviewed by The Borneo Post at the Kapit Terminal yesterday.

“We should have mountain bike event because of our rugged terrain, a gift from God, tap the potential, add value to it as a new tourism product to attract more tourists.

“I hope the Malaysia Tourism Board and Sarawak Tourism Board will create the new product while maintaining the old one. The government must create the product and then the private sector will participate,” he added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Exploit Kapit’s tourism potential to the fullest

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Clouded Leopards seen at Mount Santubong

KUCHING: Malaysian Nature Society has called for an immediate evaluation study of Mount Santubong as a home for Sarawak’s largest cat, the Bornean Clouded Leopard.

In February, there was a reported sighting of three Clouded Leopards on Mount Santubong.

The Bornean Clouded Leopard or ‘Neofelis diardi’ is an endemic medium-sized cat found only in Borneo, known locally as Entulu.

It is the smallest of the “large cats”, which is the general term used for the large members of the Felidae, like the tiger, lion and leopard. At over 2 metres in length, and weighing up to 25kg, this highly endangered cat in Sarawak is severely threatened by hunting and loss of its forest habitat.

In a press release issued yesterday, the Malaysia Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) chairman Anthony Sebastian said the sightings of three clouded leopards on Santubong, Sarawak’s newest gazetted National Park, is of great significance.

“MNSKB has been highlighting the biodiversity and historical importance of Gunung Santubong for many years. With more and more attention paid to Kuching’s iconic mountain, new discoveries are being made,” he said.

“Previously thought to have no hornbills, Santubong is now known to have four species of hornbills. Previously thought to have one otter species, we now know there are possibly three species of otters on Santubong,” he added.

This discovery of Clouded Leopards on Santubong, Sebastian pointed out, was yet another addition to Santubong’s increasingly rich wildlife, and not just another wild cat.

“This is Borneo’s top predator, and largest cat,” he emphasised.

The sightings of these Clouded Leopards were made by surveyors up on the mountain, doing preliminary work for the cable car project, revealed Sebastian.

Unlike hornbills, which are flying birds, and will only be affected by the disturbance caused by infrastructure development on the higher parts of the mountain, he said Clouded Leopards will be adversely affected by such projects.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Clouded Leopards seen at Mount Santubong