Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Malaysian Borneo: Meet The Primates

From trekking through the jungle looking for native Proboscis Monkeys, to diving with Reef Sharks, I have loved every minute of Borneo.

Starting four weeks ago in Sarawak’s capital, Kuching, I visited Bako National Park, the first time I have ever been jungle trekking.

The aim was to spot Borneo’s Proboscis Monkey.

I stayed over night with new friend Milena, where we searched in vein for the monkeys for two days, only for them to show up at the headquarters an hour before we were due to leave.

This was typical given my track record with animal spotting – looking for a monitor lizard for two months, from Perhentian Islands to Bangkok’s Lumphini Park and not spotting one.

To add to my luck, within an hour of arriving at the park, a cheeky Macaque stalked us throughout our breakfast before going in for the kill and swiftly stealing our full jar of peanut butter from the table.

From Kuching, I took a ferry along the river to Sibu, then Kapit, and finally on to Belaga, the last town on the Tanjung Sungai.

All the while searching for a less tourist-orientated, traditional long house.

I came to realise my expectations were too high.

With Borneo also moving into the 21st century, the traditional long houses now have wifi and satelite dishes, sure that’s great for their way of life but couldn’t they have preserved the traditions until I’d visited?!

However, visiting the river towns was still a highlight of Sarawak, the locals were lovely and I didn’t pass another tourist all week.

I did nothing but explore the town, eat at night markets and drink Teh Tarik.

From here, I visited Niah National Park, reunited in Miri with Milena, head torches at the ready, we were prepared for adventure.

After a long trek through the huge dark caves, we came to the real highlight… 1200 year old cave drawings.

Sure they were faded, but amongst these caves, was the evidence of the oldest life in Eastern Malaysia.

It was surreal to think about life in the cave 40,000 years ago, waking up in the mout of the cave to the sunrise, whilst we stood with our headtorches, taking photos on our smart phones. Oh, evolution!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo: Meet The Primates

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

French team champion of Borneo International Kite Festival 2015

BINTULU: Cerf Volant Folie (CVF) of France clinched the Borneo Sport Kite Championship title in this year’s Borneo International Kite Festival at Bintulu Old Airport site.

The winning team comprised Jeremie Maton, Lucie Dolbecq, Nicolas Lormean, Christopher Gobin, Xavier Lecluse and Nicolas Hagron.

They received a trophy and medals from Assistant Minister of Public Utilities (Electricity and Telecommunications) Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

The tournament, which kicked of Sept 23 and ended on Sunday, also saw a local team Silat from Bintulu Kite Flyer, which has been representing Malaysia at the international competitions, finishing second.


Monday, September 28, 2015

BORNEO MAHARANI – National Costume of Miss Malaysia Earth 2015

“The Borneo Maharani” is heavily inspired by the rich cultural and traditional elements found in East Malaysia/Malaysia Borneo namely Sabah and Sarawak States.

‘Maharani’ means a queen of a higher degree portrayed as a heroine.

Maharani word also symbolizes the power of a Queen that is transmitted to the world.

All creatures are bowing to the authority of the Queen.

All accessories and materials used posses unique cultural and traditional elements of Malaysia Borneo.

The imposed of traditional elements such as clanging of bells on the attire is a perfect combination of ingenious design and comfort.


Traditional Borneo orchestra in works

WITH its rich and diverse culture, Borneo has a lot to offer, especially in music. In Sabah alone, there are more than 30 recognised ethnic groups and each group has its own unique sound and music instruments.

Plus, local traditional musicians had also made the country proud in international competitions like the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) – which is often dubbed as the 'Olympics of Performing Arts' and held annually in Hollywood, California.

And that notion had driven the Sabah National Department of Culture and Arts (JKKNS) to pursue an initiative of forming a Borneo Traditional Orchestra (OTB), which also includes prominent musicians, among them being Razali Abd Rahman and Jerry Kamit.

"In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Traditional Orchestra has already been formed. And this has inspired the initiation of OTB.

"We wanted to do a branding for Bornean music so that we could stamp out the perception of certain quarters that Bornean traditional music couldn't go far," Rhythms of Kinabalu (ROK) Performance Director Sharip Zainal Sh Shek told Daily Express after a concert, recently.

Sharip disclosed, they are planning to combine 55 traditional musicians from Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan through OTB.

"But for ROK, we only managed to gather 31 musicians from Sabah and Sarawak. For the next project, we will try to combine musicians from all four components of Borneo.

"The orchestra is balanced where we have a group of senior musicians while the rest are youngsters. Whoever that is involved in ROK will be a part of OTB.

"OTB is still in the midst of planning. If possible, we would like to launch it later this year or by first half of next year… it involves a lot of parties to be materialised."

Sharip said, he has high hopes that Bornean music can be further highlighted internationally.

"We have our own unique 'flavour', the feel to the music itself. We could showcase our culture, ethnic groups and history. We could educate outsiders to know our music and our culture," he said.


Kulintangan maestro, Razali said, at the moment, they are still experimenting with the idea of forming OTB. "Should the response is good and if all goes well, we will continue our effort and I'm confident that we can bring the traditional sounds of Borneo to a higher stage.

"As the saying goes, music is an international language as in music there's rhythm and melody which can be easily understood by everyone. As for the lyrics, we can introduce the local ethnic languages to foreigners. "And we should broaden our scope… to encompass the whole of Borneo and not only focus on traditional music in Sabah," Razali said.

Jerry added, Bornean music has high potential as based on his observation, even outsiders had shown their interest.

"People from the peninsula and other countries come here to find and do exploration for materials. So, we as the 'owners' of this treasure should've exploit it more.

"We already have many platforms to do so, in Sarawak, we have the annual Rainforest World Music Festival… that's where we can showcase our talent and works," Jerry said.

Jerry even ditched his guitar for Sape after he started learning the art of playing the traditional instrument nearly 20 years ago as "the opportunity for me to go global is bigger."

"If I stick to guitar, there are many guitarists out there… I used to play the guitar in a band. But after I'd played Sape, I put my focus more on Bornean traditional music instruments.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

The first Hotel Jen announced for Borneo in integrated shopping and lifestyle development

Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd, and Pacific Sanctuary Holdings Sdn Bhd announced the development of the first Hotel Jen in Borneo;

Opening in 2018, Hotel Jen Kota Kinabalu will be strategically positioned in PacifiCity, an integrated shopping, entertainment and lifestyle hub located along the coastal highway in scenic Kota Kinabalu, the gateway city to Sabah and wider Borneo.

The announcement was made at a signing ceremony held at Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu. 

Mr. KP Kuok, Executive Director of Pacific Sanctuary Holdings Sdn Bhd, said: “The Shangri-La Group was one of the pioneer investors in Sabah’s tourism industry and has attained a reputation as a highly regarded brand by Sabahans and visitors to Sabah alike. Hotel Jen Kota Kinabalu will be an extension of this, providing another strong brand to meet the new demand from business visitors and international tourists.”

“Tourism has provided Sabahans from all walks of life opportunities to find fulfilling employment and to develop professional careers. When counting indirect jobs, the industry is one of the biggest employers here. This is a significant reason why we decided to invest in hotels and resorts in Sabah. They bring long-lasting employment and benefits to the community,” Kuok added.

Mr. Greg Dogan, president and CEO of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, said: “The announcement of Hotel Jen Kota Kinabalu is extremely important for our organisation. We’ve built a strong presence in Kota Kinabalu and throughout Malaysia, and are delighted the newest brand in our portfolio reinforces our commitment to Sabah, Borneo and beyond.”

Fresh, friendly and fuss-free. That’s the genre of Hotel Jen, the new brand launched a year ago to cater to a new ‘Jeneration’ of independently minded business and leisure travellers. Launching quickly with the first ten Hotel Jen properties opening in major cities in Asia Pacific in under one year, today’s announcement marks a significant milestone in the growth of the brand that has been recognised by the travel trade as the brand that has revolutionised the hotel industry.

“The Hotel Jen experience delivers what matters most to guests. They appreciate important things done well; demand quality, comfort and value, together with honest, authentic service; and want privacy and efficiency without unnecessary fuss or intrusion. In this highly desirable location for business and leisure travellers, Hotel Jen is well positioned to offer guests to Kota Kinabalu more flexibility, as busy non-traditional work hours tend to blend the boundaries between business and leisure,” Dogan added.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hotel review: Tune Hotel - Kuching, Borneo (Budget)

Our trip to Borneo earlier this year was a bit of test for Emmie and me. In preparation for our year in Asia, I wanted to see if we could manage a different style of accommodation to what we’ve become used to over the past five years, so we ventured out from resortland and dipped our toes into the world of budget accommodation.

I was pretty sure we could do it, I think backpacking is in my DNA after many years of adventures before settling down, but I had become very accustomed to the other end of the scale with our recent trips and my girls weekends at fancy hotels. So the test was on.

In the interests of full disclosure I will admit that we lasted for almost half of the trip before we ditched our budget bookings and ended up at the amazing Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa followed by the kids’ paradise Shangri-La Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu.  The Shangri-La had been pre-booked as a reward for our budget efforts and although we didn’t last all the way I figured we still deserved it. We managed a week and I think that in certain cases (such as being in the middle of the Bornean jungle in 35 degree heat) upgrading accommodation is justified.

However, our budget accommodation in Kuching was totally fabulous and I really want to share this with you cause it goes to show that you can absolutely travel to a new country and be off the beaten track with kids in budget accommodation and have a great time (as many of you already know of course).

We stayed six nights in the Tune Hotel in Kuching, paying $30 per night for a small room with double bed, air-conditioning, attached en-suite, towels and toiletries, wifi, and a breakfast of chicken sambal and tea each morning.

The hotel was a fabulous budget option – the lobby was small but tasteful and comfortable, with lounges and plants and an outdoor balcony breakfast area overlooking local eateries (selling $2.00 beers I later discovered) and the back of buildings.

The clientele was not budget by any means - families, local business people and other travellers so it was a good environment to begin without having to spend much money at all.

The staff on the front desk were incredibly welcoming, polite and helpful, providing excellent information on transport and activities and organising our laundry for only $3 per bag. The desk is manned all through the night and there is onsite security.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Hotel review: Tune Hotel - Kuching, Borneo (Budget)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why Sabah in Malaysian Borneo Should be on Your Travel List

If you have never heard of Sabah before, you are not alone. This Malaysian state is located on the island of Borneo and welcomes just 3 million visitors per year. Sabah occupies an area of 73,631 km2 and shares Borneo with Indonesian Kalimantan, Malaysian Sarawak and the Kingdom of Brunei. Despite its small area, the state is chock-full of attractions and experiences that make it by far the most interesting part of Borneo.

Earlier this month (September 2015) we spent 2 weeks exploring Sabah’s main attractions and off the beaten sights. Here are just a few reasons why we think you should consider adding Sabah to your next vacation plans.

1. Feel the Pulse of Modern Malaysia

When we arrived in Kota Kinabalu, the main city of the Sabah region, it was obvious – this isn’t just another chaotic and impoverished SEA city. Kota Kinabalu’s modern hip vibe, great nightlife, luxurious hotel scene, beautiful harbour, and well developed infrastructure, make it one of the most orderly and enjoyable cities we have ever visited in SEA. Kota Kinabalu or KK, as the locals refer to it, is more like a younger cousin of Singapore than a Kuala Lumpur wanna-be.

There is enough to do in KK and its surroundings to warrant a week long trip to Sabah. You can spend your days hiking, snorkelling, or diving on the nearby islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP), or spend your evenings dining at the seafood restaurants by the waterfront. Shop till you drop at one of KK’s many shopping centres or if you are like us, you might opt for a more local shopping experience by visiting the Handicraft market, the Sunday market, or the night market.

2. Experience World Class Diving at Sipadan

Sipadan Island almost always occupies a spot on the list of top 10 dive sites in the world, and we now understand why. Sipadan Island, located in the South east of Sabah, is teeming with marine life.

Here schools of jack fish don’t just swim by you, they completely surround you, schools of humphead parrotfish get so close you struggle to not run into them. Barracuda, giant trevally, Napoleon Wrasse and pretty much every other kind of fish you could expect to find in the the waters in S.E.A. will likely make its appearance at Sipadan. Even though diving in Sipadan is pricey and Sipadan permits can be tough to come by, this is an absolute must for any avid diver!

But even aside from Sipadan, the waters along Sabah’s coastline offers a number of different regions where divers can enjoy the beauty of Sabah from below.

3. Get Up Close and Personal With the Elusive Orang Utans

Due to the large scale deforestation that has taken place in borneo over the last 30-40 years, population of Orang Utans have been put at risk of extinction. Sabah remains one of the few places left in the world where you can come face to face (or back to face in Max’s case) with wild Orang Utans.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Plan your Borneo Eco Adventure

Few places spell ‘wilderness’ as much as Borneo does. Steamy mountains covered in rainforests, exotic plants, wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else – these were the images of Borneo I had in my mind when I clicked ‘buy’ and got myself a flight to Kota Kinabalu, capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Sabah is the ideal place for a Borneo eco adventure – it’s easy to reach from Malaysia, Singapore and pretty much anywhere else in Southeast Asia. National parks and the main natural sights are easy to access and don’t require expensive flights or lengthy 4×4 transfers.

Not to mention that English is widely spoken, infrastructure is good, the local cuisine is excellent and prices are a bargain for what you get!

So, how do you plan your Borneo eco adventure in Sabah? Follow this step by step guide and get ready to have the time of your life!

When to go, what to take and how much it costs

The rainy season in Sabah is roughly between November and March, with December and January being the wettest months.

If you’re planning to hike to the top of Mount Kinabalu it’s best to avoid the rainy season. Other than that, the weather is hot and humid year round, rarely dipping below 25°.

Don’t forget to bring some cold weather gear if you’re planning to hike Kinabalu – temperatures can be freezing during the early morning push to the summit. If you’re heading to the jungle, don’t forget insect repellent and long-sleeved, loose clothes to keep the mozzies away.

Sabah can be considerably more expensive than the rest of Malaysia and SE Asia, especially when multi-day tours to Kinabalu or the Kinabatangan area are taken into account. However, prices are cheaper in rainy season and you can definitely bargain down the price of tours and hotels.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Plan your Borneo Eco Adventure

Borneo’s Finest: A Review of the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu’s Bloody Mary

Man, it’s been a while…. Hi guys!!! Less than two weeks ago I was in the beautiful country of Malaysia, a land full of variety in terms of nature, culture, and cuisine. I visited a few towns in Peninsular Malaysia, as well as in Malaysian Borneo. And you’ll never guess how many Bloody Marys I had while in Malaysia… You would be surprised.

Because that number is ONE. I only had ONE Bloody Mary for two and a half weeks. Call me crazy, but a lot of the Malaysian population consists of Malay Muslims that do not drink alcohol at all (they aren’t allowed to use any forms of intoxicants!) and the weather is so hot that sometimes all you want is a sweet alcoholic beverage to cool you down.

I enjoy Bloody Marys at most points and at most times, but in Malaysia, it was apparent that I would not be able to find one unless I was in an upscale restaurant or hotel. There were some nice hotels and some swanky restaurants along the way, but I don’t really do Bloody Marys at night time in the hot, humid weather.

Malaysian breakfast places (including most hotels) don’t serve booze. Therefore, I did drink my fair share of fruity cocktails– my favorite being the signature “vodka and watermelon juice on the rocks” that I told a bartender to whip up on the island of Borneo.

If you can find watermelon juice (or you could try to juice one yourself), I recommend this cocktail. It’s super freakin’ good and you’re bound to feel a little more hydrated.

Anyways, the one Bloody Mary I had was on the island of Borneo– a beautiful island abounding with friendly people, wildlife (from pygmy elephants to orangutans), delicious food, the lively jungle, and even the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu.

The Bloody Mary was made seaside in Kota Kinabalu at the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu for which I will call it…. the Kinabalu Bloody Mary. It was a perfect for both a refresher and a heat-inducer (hot spices in the hot weather, man) for me, while I sipped it near the South China Sea under a shady pavilion.

If you’re ever in Kota Kinabalu and want a Bloody Mary like I did, be sure to make your way over to the Hyatt! On a side note, there will be more tales of my travels when I craft my own recipe for a Malaysian Bloody Mary.


Borneo Samariang Resort City to be next premier destination

KUCHING: Sentoria Group Bhd’s (Sentoria) Borneo Samariang Resort City (BSRC) is set to be the next premier destination resort in Kuching.

The project is a 500-acre Integrated Resort City designed for leisure and suburban living in Kuching.

The development located within close proximity to Bandar Samariang and Pasir Pandak, is easily accessable and a mere 25 minutes drive from the city centre or just 35 minutes from Kuching International Airport.

BSRC offers a complete range of family oriented leisure attraction, outdoor and team-building facilities, food and beverage outlets, shopping galleries, MICE facilities and resort accommodations totaling more than 2000 rooms.

In addition, 2,000 quality and value-for-money residential homes as well as supporting retail/ commercial outlets will be made available.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Humans’ closest cousins may be extinct in ten years

CHEEKY Bidu-Bidu has come a long way since his days being kept as a pet and fed on condensed milk and sausages.

The orphaned orangutan now spends his days gleefully guzzling fruit and swinging in trees — but the youngster is still not safe.

One human cough or sneeze could kill him.

The rampant destruction of other jungle areas means it is simply too risky to release them anywhere else.

There are now just 11,000 of Bidu-Bidu’s sub-species, the North-East Bornean orangutan, left in their native Sabah, a state on the tip of the Malaysian island of Borneo.

Their population has plummeted by more than 50 per cent over the past 60 years.

By far the greatest threat is loss of their jungle habitat.

At least 55 per cent of their forest home has been cleared in the past 20 years, mainly to make way for the production of palm oil.

Sue, 69, whom locals have dubbed the Godmother of Orangutans, first became aware of the animals’ plight 14 years ago.

She said: “I went to Sabah on holiday in 2001 and instantly fell head over heels in love with them.

“I knew I needed to help and started planning immediately. That’s when the charity was born.”

Sue, of Effingham, Surrey, set up Orangutan Appeal UK, which helps to fund the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, where orphaned and injured apes are cared for.

She explains: “Our aim is to look after them but ensure the orangutans are left independent enough that they don’t rely on us. We want them to eventually thrive in the wild.”

Devoted Sue talks animatedly as she sets about giving Bidu-Bidu a meal — wearing a surgical mask and gloves to protect him from germs, as everybody who comes into contact with him must do.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mulu, Malaysian Borneo

The next part of our story, concerns the small township of Mulu, still in Malaysian Borneo, but now in Sarawak.

Mulu is situated on the Melinau river, we had seen this river, meandering through the dense jungle for many miles as our small aeroplane had descended through the clouds,it looked the colour of dirty mud, and reminded me of pictures of the Amazon river.

Emerging from the tiny and only airport into the blazing hot sunshine, a few taxis where awaiting us.

We nodded and climbed aboard, before someone changed their minds, as we had not arranged any transport.

We were the only passengers, there was only one road, about 3-4 miles long.

Our hotel was right on the edge of the jungle, at the very end of said road.

We crossed a small wooden bridge and we were there, a whole 5 nights of peace and tranquility, Heaven!

The next morning we were up and exploring the various trails, most of them on boardwalks.

We walked and walked for many hours seeing a variety of wildlife, and gay coloured parakeets singing beautifully, the monkeys trying to outdo them with their screeching calls.

The next morning we had booked to travel by longboat into the jungle, and then to climb to the many caves.

The Cave of the Winds where for millions of years deposits of calcite have formed majestic columns in the Kings chamber.

In the nearby Clearwater Cave, the river roaring beneath our feet, had travelled along its subterranean route for over 180 km!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mulu, Malaysian Borneo

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tusan Beach a stunning open secret in Miri

MIRI: Blue Tears is a stunning sight of glowing ocean waters with luminous special effects said to be found in places like Matsu Islands of Taiwan, Vaadhoo Beach on the island of Maldives as well as sites like the coastal beaches in USA, the Caribbean, Europe and Australia.

But do you know that Mirians can now enjoy the incredible sight at Tusan Beach, just a short drive of half an hour from Miri City.

Located approximately 40 km from the city, Tusan Beach boasts a long white sandy beach with a gentle slope and is a secret paradise for those who love beautiful sunset scenery and of course, the dozens of fossils and seashells lying across the coastal line which shell collectors find hard to resist.

Recently, it has become the latest hotspot among the locals here; after a photographer, Albert Song, captured the breath-taking scene and shared it on the social network.

“Actually the natural phenomenon is easily seen with naked eyes. Many who tried to capture the ‘Blue Tears’ on camera failed to get the desired result due to many reasons and photography skills is one of them,” a photography enthusiast who only wanted to be identified as Wong told The Borneo Post.

“The glowing waters are caused by certain algae called ‘Dinoflagellates’, which produce a glowing light when the water they are living in is disturbed by motion, like waves.

“The so-called blue glow is said to become brighter during warmer weather, thus Miri has all the factors that allow us here to enjoy the beautiful and captivating scene without spending big bucks,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Tusan Beach a stunning open secret in Miri

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Labuan can be like a garden island

LABUAN: Big events like Borneo Arts Festival (BAF) can be organised successfully in Labuan with a big allocation, said Labuan Member of Parliament, Datuk Rozman Isli.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of BAF 2015 yesterday at Dataran Labuan, he said that if the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur could have a big allocation to organize an event, why not Labuan enjoyed the same portion of allocation.

“An allocation around RM1 million to RM2 million is sufficient to turn a normal event into a big one as our future investment for the people to come here to participate in the event.

“In Labuan Corporation Act, Labuan will be developed as a tourism centre, an international island and a garden island with international standard. Labuan is dubbed as a Pearl of Borneo and is a stretgic place for events like BAF.

“A tiny island like Labuan can be developed like a garden to make it an attractive island to compete with other islands such as Bali and others. We have already become a federal territory for 31 years, but the previous blueprint to develop the tourism industry here in this island is yet to bloom despite many efforts done by the government,” he said.

Rozman said further that Labuan might not have its icon as a real attraction for tourists, like Sabah for its Mount Kinabalu, Sipadan Island (undersea park) and others.

“If we talk in terms of culture (to be an icon), in other places, they have greater cultural show. Therefore, we need proper strategy and concerted effort that can make Labuan reach its peak.

“We need strong formula, drastic action and of course a big budget. Actually, Labuan itself is an icon in terms of shipwreck, historical values and others. We must prepare this island for the visitors to have many options to come to Labuan.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Selingan Island

Today we headed off on our first real taste of adventure.

We are jumping on board for a boat trip to Selingan Island - free time to swim and snorkel and in the evening turtle watching activities.

The boat has twin 85hp outboard motors so hooks along nicely.

A nice day to be out on the water - it is like glass, would be perfect for a ski - about an hour to transfer to the island.

On arrival we saw 2 black police vessels and were met on the island by police carrying machine guns and other weapons.

They take border patrol very seriously and also are based on the island to protect this region from poachers of turtles....I wouldn't mess with them!

This place is beautiful and the conservation work is determined and successful.

We had the entire day on the beach - there is only one area safe for swimming and snorkelling - it was beautiful.

I finally got Rob to have a wallow in the water whilst I snorkelled further into deeper water.

After a good while I came back and was surprised to still see him in the water, he waved me over and said "get the life guard I think I have stood on a stonefish - I am in so much pain" after my triage assessment I felt it unnecessary to do a Pamela Anderson, Baywatch style run down the beach!

I rendered assistance from the 2 nice young lifeguards and they said he had stood on a sea urchin - it will hurt for a day or so, but you will be right!!

In the back of my mind I was thinking thank goodness for travel insurance.

Only a short while later - he was able to get back to our lodge.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Selingan Island

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, Sandakan, Borneo

Before I share the photos from our recent holiday I want to share the rest of the highlights from our honeymoon in Borneo and Thailand.

I hope to inspire you to travel to both these amazing countries.

The whole aim of our trip to Borneo was to see animals in the wild, particularly the orangutan’s and the probiscus monkey.

After leaving Kota Kinabalu we took a short flight to Sandakan.

As soon as we stepped off the plane we hopped onto a full day tour with “In Sabah tours”Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, the rainforest discovery centre and Gomatong Cave.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is a rehabilitation centre for orphaned and injured orangutans.

The centre covers 43 sq km and is situated adjacent to Kabali Sepilok Forest Reserve.

There are about 60 – 80 orangutans living at Sepilok, but they are free to roam the whole reserve so you are not guaranteed to see them with your entrance fee.

You watch a short video when you arrive at the facility on how they rehabilitate the animals and how you can help out and donate.

Then it is a short walk to the feeding platform where you wait and hope to see one.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, Sandakan, Borneo

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Opening Kota Kinabalu International Airport Terminal 1 on Malaysia Day a significant event

KOTA KINABALU: The opening of Kota Kinabalu International Airport’s (KKIA) Terminal 1 yesterday will have a significant association with Malaysia Day said Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

Musa said the terminal contributed immensely to integration among the people of Sabah, Sarawak and the Peninsula through interaction that can boost unity, peace and harmony.

“The opening of KKIA’s Terminal 1 proves the progress and success enjoyed by Sabah and the economic development achieved in the economic, air transportation and tourism sectors.

“I therefore, wish to thank the people of Sabah for their support and the federal government for the allocation to build and operate the terminal.

“It is also an initiative to ensure the comfort of passengers who use the terminal for their travel,” he said after Prime Minister Seri Najib Tun Razak officially opened the terminal here yesterday.

He said the terminal built at a cost of RM1.7 billion would become the pride of the people of Sabah because the design reflects local tradition and culture.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Monkeying Around in Malaysian Borneo

Post Singapore, we continued heading east, flying across the South China Sea from Johor Bahru in Peninsular Malaysia to Kota Kinabalu in East Malaysia. Since it’s the north section of the island of Borneo shared with Indonesia (and Brunei), it’s often referred to as Malaysian Borneo (and often what the rest the world is referring to when they talk about “Borneo”).

Malaysian Borneo is split into the states Sarawak, Sabah, and the federal territory of Labuan. We focused on the more tourist-friendly Sabah, with bases in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan.

Renowned for its natural resources, we came to Malaysian Borneo for its wildlife and natural scenery. Mount Kinabalu in Kinabalu Park is the highest peak in Malaysia and normally offers great hiking options. However, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Sabah in June closed trekking up to Mount Kinabalu until early September, not within our time frame.

Sipadan Island has some of the best diving spots in the world, but it was outside of our budget and possibly outside our diving expertise as well. Having said that, we still found plenty else to do in Malaysian Borneo.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

We may have missed the orangutans in Indonesia (northern Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo), but we made up for it here in Malaysian Borneo. An endangered species, wild orangutans have been threatened by poaching and loss of habitat. From Sandakan, we caught the local bus to drive us out to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. For more than 50 years, Sepilok has focused on rehabilitating orphaned young orangutans, teaching them how to survive before releasing them back into the wild.

Visitors are encouraged to come and learn more about orangutans and Sepilok has since become one of Sabah’s biggest tourist attractions. However, the priority is still on the orangutans, so visitors are limited to walkways and what they can bring into the forest.

Our first stop was at a cute outdoor nursery, complete with jungle gym! Sepilok staff soon brought out young orangutans, holding hands and walking them to the jungle gym. All the visitors crowded around the windows for our first glimpses of these hairy primates.

As we watched them swing around on the ropes, one particularly mischievous and smart orangutan attempted an escape. Checking that the park staff had left the area, this orangutan quickly sprinted around the corner of the building and out of sight.

A few seconds later, we all watched as a park staff chased after the runaway orangutan around the same corner. Intrigued by the surprisingly turn of events, we all waited with bated breath, staring where both orangutan and park staff disappeared. In another few seconds, the orangutan rolled back into view, as if reluctantly pushed back. A wave of laughter broke out in the viewing room. What a sneaky little orangutan! It’s unexpectedly joyous moments like these that I will remember forever.

We soon left the nursery behind for the main event of the day: the afternoon feeding. Park staff brought a large basket of food to the feeding platforms, with everything from papaya slices and small bananas, to string beans and sugarcane. Orangutan attendance at feedings is generally lower during summer months than in the winter, as there is more food available in the forests for the orangutans to find themselves. Nonetheless, we had our fair share of orangutans come for the feeding that day.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Monkeying Around in Malaysian Borneo

Spotting Wildlife on The Great Kinabatangan River

We booked a 3d/2n tour on the Kinabatangan River with our hostel in Sandakan, Harborside Backpackers.

Our shuttle picks us up at a nice time in late morning, and we drive for well over an hour before reaching our accommodation for the next few nights, which is an impressive surprise.

Seeing that we booked at a budget hostel, and paid very little, we had low expectations.

The jungle lodge appears to be more of a resort, with a large wood-dining hall overlooking the river and log-cabin-chic dormitories and cottages connected by an elevated wooden walkway. 

Meals come all-you-can-eat buffet-style. Beds are comfy. Bathrooms are nice.

An army of mischievous monkeys immediately greets us as we approach our cabins and settle in.

At one point, a particularly scruffy gang corners us and we decide it’s best to take the long way around and avoid passing the malicious-looking creatures.

For those of you who think monkeys are cute–you’re very wrong.

The little beasts seem to take great joy from dismantling the metal lanterns, placed convienently along the walkway, with their creepy fingers and sharp teeth.

I imagine lighting the path to the cabins must be a constant battle for hotel staff.

We have a cup of tea and a snack of fried plantains before embarking on our first nature spotting river cruise.

These cruises will become my absolute favorite part of our entire Borneo trip.

Jim hires binoculars and we gaze intently into the treetops and forests. It’s peaceful and relaxing and hypnotic.

Though we never spot the famed pygmy elephants who’ve been known to make an appearance in these parts, we did see countless hornbills, scores of cartoonish long-nosed, proboscis monkeys; too many ubiquitous macaques; stunningly colorful kingfishers, Sea Eagles, a crocodile lurking under murky waters, and one orangutan.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Spotting Wildlife on The Great Kinabatangan River

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mount Kinabalu moving slightly every year

Sabah has the highest number of dangerous slopes in Malaysia and the Works Ministry says this is because Mount Kinabalu – its tallest mountain – is moving every year.

“If you’re talking about states, the biggest (in number) will be Sabah because based on the findings of the experts, Kinabalu is still moving,” Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof told reporters at the 4th International Conference on Slopes Malaysia 2015 here.

“It is moving a few centimetres a year,” he said, citing the example of earth movements in Kundansang which had caused buildings there to stand at crooked angles.

Fadillah did not give the total number of dangerous slopes in the country.

He said that there were more than 300 high-risk sloped areas along Malaysia’s federal roads, including Sabah and Sarawak.

He could not speak for other roads, adding that they were not under his jurisdiction.

However, he said his ministry had asked engineering group Kumpulan Ikram to look at “all areas” not handled by the Public Works Department.

On another matter, Fadillah said some RM383.6mil was set aside for the Works Ministry to repair roads and areas damaged by the floods last December.

Continue reading (Incl. Vid) at: Mount Kinabalu moving slightly every year

Sumatran rhinos living on borrowed time in Sabah

Malaysia has three years left to ensure its Sumatran rhino does not become extinct.

A recent survey showed no new sightings of the mammal in the wild. The country received further devastating news that its three Sumatran rhinos in captivity were not fit enough to breed and produce offspring.

Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) executive director Datuk Dr Junaidy Payne is not blaming the possible extinction entirely on poaching, loss of habitat or the lack of commitment, but believes the reasoning was also mainly due to core problems which many refused to admit.

He said one was the “Allee effect’ which is a feature of small populations whereby low density limits population growth, leading to a death rate which is higher than the birth rate.

Secondly, Junaidy blamed the almost non-existent global leadership on the matter.

He said the International Union Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global body entrusted to find pragmatic solutions to the most pressing environment and development challenges, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) had not done enough to ensure the Sumatran rhino population in Malaysia, and Sabah in particular, was not affected.

“Now we are left with three Sumatran rhinos, two females and a male, currently in captivity.

“The Sabah and federal governments could have kept this problem quiet, but we choose to make it public that we are losing our Sumatran rhino, especially in the wild.

“Indonesia still has 15, but then again, that’s based on educated guesses. We do not know the exact number.

“These numbers are not many and it’s important for us to act fast and ensure their survival. Otherwise, quoting Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, ‘we are facing the prospect of our Sumatran rhinos going extinct in our lifetime’,” said Junaidy when met at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Putatan.

He also disclosed that decisions made were not based on facts as many chose to believe that there were still Sumatran rhinos in the wild.

“Today, some are saying there are eight to 10 Sumatran rhinos in the Malaysian wild, but that is only an assumption.

“In reality, we have not seen any new sightings of the mammal in the wild. We only found two five years ago, and then nothing despite all the hard work of setting up cameras in the jungle.”


Monday, September 14, 2015

Travelling to Borneo

Here we go again… My next travelling story. Try to write in english… Sorry about the grammar please.

Last week i went to Natioanl Park Tanjung Puting (Taman Nasional Tanjung Puting).

Its located in Central Kalimantan. How can we get there? Easiest way? Travel agent… Hehehe… Yes, i used Kakaban.

They offer 3 days 2 nights and live on boat… Wohooo… Exciting right?

After arriving in Pangkalan Bun Airport (friday afternoon), we picked up by Pak Hadri.

He is our tour guide from Kakaban. We’re heading to Kumai Port ( Pelabuhan Kumai). Its quit near from the airport. It took about 25min to Kumai Port.

Guess Pangkalan Bun is small city. No sophisticated building. We found Borneo mall. Small building and didnt see the parking cars were full.

Its like desserted town and life goes slowly here. Ahhh… Seems like i can take a deep breathe here. Lots of space and fresh air in here and no traffic jam for sure.

At Kumai Port, its quit crowded. Lots of boats are ready, stand by for the guest. The boat is called Klotok. e boat. Klotok is made by wooden river boat about 12m by 2m with a roof which forms the upper deck where we can view the rain forest as it glides by. En We have nice klotok with friendly staff.

Ups forget to inform. We are in 5 members. Me, Ester, Mbot, Pade and Lia. We are friends since were in college in 2002. Since its 2PM, we are served the lunch directly. Coollllll… They provide us with fresh fish, vegetable (called cap cay) and also provide us with fruits like grape and orange… No diet please.

1st stop will be Tanjung Harapan. We will watch the orang utan’s life in feeding time. We sailed down the river.

Such a relaxing, comfy and lovely environment. The boat sailed slowly and we can enjoy the forest. Sometime the monkey showed up in the trees.

After 1hour sailing, we arrived at Tanjung Harapan. We did short tracking- around 10minutes to feeding places.

Some of orang utans were there, hanging on the trees. But since they are wild orang utan, we are forbidden to get closer.

Minimum 5 meter from them. Need to be silent as well, we cant disturb them. While we talked, we whispered.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Travelling to Borneo

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Food and crafts at Sarawak Regatta – Kuching Waterfront Festival

KUCHING: There will be a food and crafts festival at Kuching Waterfront from Sept 18 to 27 in conjunction with Sarawak Regatta – Kuching Waterfront Festival 2015.

A total of 359 entrepreneurs from all over the state will be involved in the 10-day event.

The festival also features 10 stalls by members of East Asia Inter-regional Tourism Forum (Eatof).

Sales will be from 8pm to 10pm.

The festival is aimed at introducing and promoting local food and crafts, as well as acting as a platform for networking and exchange of ideas and business strategies.


Tribute to Kinabalu quake victims during Rhythms of Kinabalu musical event

KOTA KINABALU: A tribute to victims of the Mount Kinabalu earthquake will be among the highlights of the two-day Rhythms of Kinabalu here this week.

The 18 victims of the June 5 disaster will be remembered during the musical event that will be held at the National Culture and Art Department (JKKN) Complex on Sept 18 and Sept 19.

JKKN Sabah director Mohamad Raizuli Mat Jusoh said the tribute, especially in memory of the four deceased mountain guides, was one of three main segments of the show.

He added that invited artistes and singers would render English songs paired with local and modern instruments.

Organised for the fourth year running, the event will feature local folk songs and traditional instruments such as the bamboo flute, sompoton and gongs.

“Our theme this year, ‘Light, Sound and Style’, will portray the rich diverse cultures of Sabah,” said Mohamad Raizuli yesterday.

He said the songs and tunes that would be played during the gig would not only showcase Sabahan talent, but would also promote traditional music and instruments to the world.

Visitors will get a chance to enjoy unique melodies from instruments such as flutes, saxophone, sompoton and another bamboo flute, bungkau.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan – Borneo

From one end of Borneo to the other and we land in the capital of Sabah – Kota Kinabalu.

The flight takes nearly 1.5 hrs, showing just how big Borneo is.

Kota Kinabalu is very different from Kuching. 

Where Kuching was “elegant, quiet and clean”, Kota Kinabalu is hectic, vibrant and not very clean (and even hotter!)

We stayed in  “Gaya Centre Hotel” – an OK place, in a great location, cheap but just a little noisy and “The Jesselton” – lovely hotel with that old colonial feel and great value for money.

We were in Borneo 12 years ago, Kuching had remained pretty much the same but Kota Kinabalu has changed a lot: Many more hotels and restaurants.  Building is going on everywhere, and it’s mostly shopping malls even though there are already loads of them and they’re nearly always empty. It’s also more expensive here than Sarawak.

For some reason we can’t explain, Kota Kinabalu is not a place we really enjoyed being so, after a few days we decided to fly East to Sandakan and we’re very glad we made that decision. We’re staying at the “Four Points Sheraton“, a brand new hotel with views over the sea and a great price (helped by the falling Malaysian Ringit).

Up until the 2nd World War Sandakan was the capital of North Borneo. It was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and allied prisoners (Australians and British) captured in Singapore were shipped here to build POW camps and a military airfield. 

When the Allies started raiding Sandakan in 1944, the POWs were force marched to Ranau (a distance of 260 Kilometers) – known as the Sandakan Death Marches. Over 2000 prisoners died. Only 6 who had managed to escape, survived.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan – Borneo

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sarawak Regatta different this time

KUCHING: The iconic Sarawak Regatta will be very different this year compared to last year’s, says Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said this year’s regatta would be held for two weeks, from Sept 18 to 27.

“The regatta itself will only be held from Sept 25 to 27, but during the two weeks there will be a lot of activities happening along Kuching Waterfront and the Tourism Complex area, especially from Sept 22 to 24, such as crafts and food festival which will feature food from Myanmar, Korea, Japan and Indonesia. All states in the country will be participating as well.

“For the dragon boat regatta, a total of 550 international participants from countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei, Singapore, Philippines and 318 local participants would be there,” Abang Johari told a press conference at his office in Wisma Sultan Tengah here yesterday.

He added that there would also be a lot of activities happening across the Kuching Waterfront in Kampung Boyan, Kampung Gersik and Kampung Surabaya such as competitions organised by Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) related to food and culture every night until Sept 27.

“Meanwhile, the actual regatta will be held from Sept 25 to 27, and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem is expected to declare it open while Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will close the event.

“Other activities to look out for during those two weeks are the Mooncake Festival at Carpenter Street as well as a lantern procession, Abg Johari said.


Bruneian shoppers coming in droves to Miri, Limbang and Lawas as value of ringgit drops

LAWAS: The favourable foreign exchange rate has driven shoppers and recreation-seekers from Brunei to Miri, Limbang and Lawas which overwhelmed the CIQ even after midnight despite the recent extension of opening hours.

The influx is mostly felt in Miri with the Sungai Tujuh CIQ between Miri and Brunei which could only shut down by 12.30am instead of midnight due to the long queues of returning vehicles which even stretch to the Asean Bridge over the weekend.

The sharp drop in ringgit has resulted in Bruneian shoppers returning in droves to Miri which has shopping malls, entertainment, fruits and plenty of other attractions for local Bruneians and expatriates there.

Visitors from Brunei get RM3 for each Brunei dollar at the money changers, and this fills their wallets considerably as they head to the shopping malls and places of interest in Sarawak.

According to a source from the Immigration Department a record-breaking 20,000 vehicles crossed the border, bringing in the tourist dollars to this town last weekend.

This scenario is likely to continue this weekend as the ringgit has further weakened although the crowd may be smaller as the month progressed.

Limbang, a stone’s throw from Brunei, has also seen a surge in visitor arrivals with eateries filled to the brim during weekends.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Miri Waterfront set to be a landmark soon

MIRI: Most people here anticipate Miri Waterfront to be a landmark after its facelift is completed by the first quarter of next year.

Unique Harvests Sdn Bhd (Interhill Group of Companies) director Albert Hu said the transformation project simultaneously involved the development of three adjacent buildings: the 24-storey five-star Pullman Miri Waterfront Hotel, The Wharf with modern 18-storey skyscraper private strata titled suites and 10-units of three storey luxury supersize shop houses.

“The project is 80 per cent completed with rigorous progress to meet the expected schedule for project completion,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He said the soft opening of the new landmark will likely in April next year.

The hotel, to be one of the tallest buildings in the city and nestled at the very mouth of the Miri River, offers elegance and astonishing panoramic view of the vibrant city and the South China Sea.

The Miri Waterfront Development is set to be one of the largest high rise residential and hospitality developments in Sarawak with total gross development value of RM450 million.

The project commenced in 2013 and is on-track to meet its completion schedule within 36 months, placing it among the fastest development projects involving skyscraper building in the state.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Miri Waterfront set to be a landmark soon

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Exploring the Caves of Borneo’s Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung Mulu National Park in northern Sarawak is one for adventure seekers. The remote melange of karst formations, caves and pinnacles lies in the equatorial rainforest of Malaysian Borneo, bordering Brunei to the north.

Expeditions to Mulu in the late 1970s revealed much about the genesis of the park and its geographical configuration, but even though it is one of the most studied tropical karst areas in the world, it’s believed that only 30 to 40 percent of the park’s cave passages have been surveyed, leaving much still to be discovered.

The park just opened to trekkers in 1984, and until 1991, the UNESCO World Heritage site could only be reached by boat–a 12 hour ride from Miri. Today, visitors travel through Mulu Airport where there are limited flights coming in from Miri, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

Shuttles from the airport take you directly to the park and few local accommodations. Outside of the park, the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, the airport, a small clinic and a couple of guesthouses are the only things to stand other than rainforest.

On my short flight from Kuching to Mulu, fellow travelers and I couldn’t help but remark on how it looked like we were flying over a vast expanse of broccoli heads. In the sky and on the ground, Mulu is tropical rainforest as far as the eye can see.

Stepping off the plane and through the airport, the diversity of Mulu’s flora and fauna became apparent and I made sure to wheel my suitcase carefully, avoiding the enormous stick bugs hiding in plain sight.

The park shelters all different types of exotic insects, animals and plants. On my day trek to the Deer and Lang caves, we spotted lizards, moths, stick bugs, butterflies, frogs and bats, of course. Other inhabitants, ones that I unfortunately wasn’t able to see, include the rhinoceros hornbill (the state bird of Sarawak), bearded pig, moonrat, Bornean tarsier, gibbon, mouse deer and sun bear.

In order to explore a really good chunk of Mulu, most people choose to stay for at least three days. Depending on how active you’re looking to be and whether or not you’re interested in unwinding at a 5-star resort or keeping it low key at a homestay–you have options.

No matter which you choose, be prepared to disconnect during your stay–there is virtually no wifi in Mulu–and embrace a technology-free couple of days. Here are just a few of the highlights of Gunung Mulu National Park, as well as a list of accommodations sure to please all types of travelers.


Borneo International Beads Conference to showcase crafts from around the world

KUCHING: The 4th Borneo International Beads Conference (Bibco) promises to be even more exciting and vibrant this time around.

Taking place from Oct 9 to 11 at one of the city’s most venerable heritage buildings, the Tourism Complex (Old Court House), the three-day event themed ‘Stringing Past to Present’ is set to attract a global community of artisans and craftsmen to the state capital.

According to Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, the event will be run in conjunction with state-level Women’s Day 2015, which falls on Oct 17.

“Bibco will return next month as a significant event that will allow the public and enthusiasts to explore how crafts and arts have shaped and enriched the lives of women, as well as the influence of culture and history on art,” she said during a press conference after receiving a courtesy call from the directors of event organiser Crafthub Sdn Bhd at her office in Bangunan Bailtulmakmur, Petra Jaya here yesterday.

“One of the most exciting events at the conference will be the great beads bazaar called ‘Beads Abuzz’ where both local and international artisans will be showcasing, selling and displaying their works of arts,” she said.

Fatimah pointed out that there would be a space showcasing the art of making Kek Lapis Sarawak, noting that cake-baking was among the skills that required creativity and attention to details.

“Visitors can also see a giant handbag produced by local artisans.”

Visitors can hunt for various beads, jewellery pieces and trinkets from all over the world at the bazaar.

Heidi Munan, who is one of Bibco’s directors, revealed that this year’s conference would feature more hands-on workshops, with 10 speakers having confirmed their participation.

“The speakers will conduct workshops based on their respective expertise and interests, in addition to presenting working papers.

“They come from many parts of the world, including the US, India, Australia and the Philippines, as well as Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.”


Descending Mt Kinabalu

Our tour leader Ronnie gave us a wake up call at 5.45am, so we could see the sunrise.

After rugging up in many layers, we walked to a lookout area just below the hostel.

We didn't see a full sunrise, because of the cloud cover, but the clouds were tinged with many hues of orange and red, and the rocky peak of Mt Kinabalu above us looked very impressive.

I felt a bit nauseous from this brief walk, no doubt a mild case of altitude sickness.

I ate a small breakfast, and was very keen to start the descent today with our first walking group, to allay any further symptoms.

We left the hostel about 7.45am to begin the descent.

I had been a little anxious about the descent, as scrambling down steep rocky paths can be a little scary.

It wasn't as bad as I'd imagined though.

It was hard on your knees, however was only really slippery on occasions, so it was just a matter of negotiating each step, and keeping your balance.

It was no where near as strenuous as the previous day.

We were again blessed with perfect weather.

It was a little overcast, and cool but not wet. Ideal walking conditions.

We had brief stops at each hut again, but kept a slow, but steady pace going between each stop.

At each hut, about 3 or 4 small squirrels would come and run around our feet, looking for food scraps.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Descending Mt Kinabalu