Friday, September 30, 2016

ThePlanetD: Sabah Diving Guide - Beyond Sipadan

If I sum up Sabah diving in one word, it is diversity. Whether you are into muck diving or colorful coral, this region of Malaysian Borneo will leave you speechless.

The uniqueness of Sabah dive sites lie in that you can see both sea fans, large pelagics and say, pygmy seahorses and frogfish, in a single dive. It’s truly one of the most complete diving holidays in the world.

Yet, most travelers have only heard about Sipadan Island and its resident barracuda tornado. While that is reason enough to visit, the state of Sabah has many other gems. In fact, some of my favorites lie outside Sipadan! Read up for a brief guide.

Si Amil Island, Sipadan Barrier Reef

Diving Season: Mar. to Oct. for best visibility

What if I told you there’s an unspoiled island, filled with a resident school of Devil Rays that far of numbers any rays seen at Sipadan Island itself? Not only that, but that it’s also sprinkled with abandoned World War II buildings and a hilly rainforest to marvel at during your surface intervals?

Welcome to Si Amil!

Only an hour away by speedboat from Semporna, Si Amil’s nine dive sites have everything from big pelagics and fantastic variety of sea fans and hard coral to colorful macro and World War II wrecks.

Night dives are quite special here as well, with sightings of bamboo sharks and rainbow runners being a common occurrence. Better yet? With all eyes on Sipadan, Si Amil remains one of the last frontiers of Sabah diving.

Insider tip: make sure you ask for a Si Amil Island boat trip at the time of booking, as many dive resorts only plan trips there upon request. I can confirm this from my experience at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort. Speaking of which, if you still want to dive Sipadan, Borneo Divers is one of the few resorts that offer you not two, but four boat dives on a single Sipadan trip for no extra charge.

Seaventures House Reef

Diving Season: Apr. to Dec.; best in Jul. and Aug.

During my stay at the Seaventures Dive Resort, I was marveled at the incredible marine life and artificial reefs right underneath it. Large schools of yellowtail trevally, tiny cuttlefish, cute juvenile yellow box fish, and giant groupers are some of the daytime residents of this converted oil rig.

You can even see schools of glassfish feeding by the surface from the highest platform of the rig!

At night, a whole new world is unveiled: from elusive red orange/blue spotted flamboyant cuttlefish and schooling pipefish to Chevron barracudas and fat moray eels grace you with their presence. It was fascinating to see such a volume of macro and schooling fish in a single dive.

As I enjoyed unlimited house reef dives during my stay, I can assure you Seaventures is one of the best dive sites in Sabah. Don’t miss it!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: ThePlanetD: Sabah Diving Guide - Beyond Sipadan

Developing tourism in cradle of ethnic and racial diversity in Miri

MIRI: Miri or the northern region is known as the cradle of ethnic and racial diversity in the country.

“We have over 30 tribes and ethnic groups that can easily reach 48 if we include the sub-groups.

“I have been thinking about how to further develop tourism in Miri,” Mayor Adam Yii said during a courtesy call paid by Federation of Orang Ulu Associations Sarawak Malaysia (Forum) recently.

The entourage was led by Forum president Antonio Kahti Galis who is also Miri Resident.

Yii said Miri should start thinking how to promote and showcase local or native cultures, traditions and heritage through dance and music.

“I think showcasing our diversity would be interesting and attractive for tourists and visitors. Forum comprises nine Orang Ulu ethnic groups under one umbrella provide a good platform to work on with the Resident’s Office.”

Saying tourism development would uplift the local economy, Yii urged Forum and the Orang Ulu community to look into how to leverage tourism development.

“Let’s see how to use the beautiful and unique culture, tradition and heritage of the community as part of tourism development.”

Yii invited the Orang Ulu and other communities to work together with Miri City Council.

“Come to us if you have any ideas or suggestion and we will help promote them. We could package them to promote Miri to help our local economy.”


Sabah tourism guide for visitors from China

Kota Kinabalu: A compilation of photos of places around the State to promote places of interest with explanation in Chinese and translation in English is available in view of the rising Chinese tourist arrivals to Sabah.

Its objective is to secure as easy reference for the Chinese tourists they know what Sabah could offer with the explanation given in Chinese language.

According to Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) Chairman Datuk Winston Liaw, the book was first launched in Chongqing city in China on March 3, 2016 and thereafter again launched in Kota Kinabalu on June 18 by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

"We see the need for such a book as the arrival of tourists from China keeps increasing.

"To make it convenient for them, this book is appropriate as guidelines and explanation are given in Chinese characters about interesting places in our beautiful state. It is also added with English translation," said Winston.

He said it took four months to compile the 205-page book and credited photographer Peter Kwan and his team who managed to gather everything within the stint period.

"I must say it has not been easy to gather all the information as we made enquiries and references to many other parties concerned as well as tourism industry players to get the accurate information," said Winston, stressing that Sabah needs tourism to boost its economy.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Adventures of JPE: Borneo 2016 - Brunei Darussalam

I had a great experience in the islands of Kota Kinabalu. I enjoyed the city as well, with its laid-back atmosphere and natural ambiance despite some big establishments. It was my time then to leave the place and head to my next destination, which just lies near Sabah; I was bound for the oil-rich country of Brunei.

Situated at the northwestern coast of Borneo, this tiny nation is divided into two sections by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Its capital is Bandar Seri Begawan, which spans an area of 100 square kilometres. Travel between Kota Kinabalu and Brunei is easy, with a lot of options either by land, water, or air.

Just like Singapore, the city can be explored in a short period of time and the sights here mainly includes mosques, parks, and shopping areas. On my one (and a half) day trip in Bandar, I saw most of its notable landmarks.

Kota Kinabalu to Brunei:

I woke up on my third day in Borneo at the same hostel in Kota Kinabalu. I got up at five in the morning, took a shower, packed up and head to the city park where the long-distance buses were lined up.

At seven I bought my ticket to Brunei and wait for the bus to leave the city in an hour. It was a long journey of nine hours until I arrived in the waterfront of Bandar Seri Begawan at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I alighted from the bus and walked a short distance to Jubilee Hotel and there I checked in. I got the keys in Room 513.

After I unload my backpack, I took a short rest before going out to change money. I asked the hotel receptionist about the location of the nearest money changer and he handed me a photocopied map of the vicinity where I would find them. I stumbled upon a shopping mall, which turned out to be the famous Yayasan Complex and there I found what I was looking for.

After receiving my Brunei Dollars I walked around the mall and found a familiar face. Guess what? It’s the happy and smiling Jollibee, a fastfood chain loved by Filipinos back home. I ordered chicken strips and it really tastes like the local fried chicken.

After dining, I headed to the magnificent Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque, the famous icon of Brunei. Somewhere on its parking area I found the perfect location to take its photo, and after taking too many shots, I went inside and looked around. I really appreciated its beauty and the ambiance of solemnity was present.

There were not so many tourists inside, and I could count them with my fingers. As the dusk approached, I went back to the same spot  where I took pictures and captured a better image of the mosque. Then their prayers began, as I could hear the song through its speakers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Adventures of JPE: Borneo 2016 - Brunei Darussalam

Borneo International Kite Festival 2016: Kite flyers from 21 countries to lift the sky of Bintulu

BINTULU: The sky here will be a collage of colourful kites of all sizes and shapes during the 12th Borneo International Kite Festival 2016 from Sept 28-Oct 2.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem is scheduled to declare open this spectacular event at the old Bintulu airport site.

Yesterday, several kite flyers took their giant and colourful kites for wind test.

This year’s edition has attracted participants from 21 countries: China, England, Japan, Vietnam, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Turkey, India, France, Kuwait, Taiwan, Singapore, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, Brunei, Colombia and Malaysia.

Local participants include those from Johor, Sarawak, Pulau Pinang, Terengganu, Putrajaya, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Perlis and Kedah.

Participating teams include Team Impian and De Junction Kite from Malacca, Kelab Pelayang Pasir Gudang (Johor), and also Windancer, Layang King, and Fly N Smile from Kuala Lumpur.

Planned activities include the 3rd Asia Pacific Sport Kite Championship, modern and traditional kite-flying performances, kite-flying performances by international kite flyers, a kite-making workshop, stunt kite performances, synchronised revolution kite performance, a cooking contest, a drawing and colouring contest for children, karaoke, cultural performances and more.


Sarawak cultural heritage is priceless as it reflects a nation’s civilisation

KUCHING: The role of a museum has shifted from care, conservation and preservation of local treasures to managing an asset and a major tourist attraction.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said cultural heritage was important because the civilisation of a nation could be examined through its arts and culture.

“The uniqueness of our culture and the beauty of our nature is what make Sarawak attractive as a tourist destination,” he said during the official launch of the Sarawak Museum Department’s ‘Urang Sarawak: An exhibition about US’ yesterday.

His text-of-speech was read by Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Lee Kim Shin, and the event was officiated at by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem.

The Sarawak Museum has a lot to offer as a tourism asset, namely the varied collections from all ethnic groups, a large number of collections to design various exhibition concepts, and a good relationship with museums in the country and internationally.

“For now, the construction of the new museum campus is underway with the help of consultants from within and outside the country.”

There are three main phases: construction of an archive to conserve collections, the construction of an exhibition building, and improvement works to the old museum.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tourist arrivals to Sarawak up 30 pct this year

KUCHING: The local tourism sector is showing positive development with an increase of 30 per cent tourist arrivals as of June this year, with 12 per cent of this increase coming from China.

“We believe the numbers will keep on increasing. The moment we have more tourists, business will also flourish and this benefits the traders,” said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He was representing Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem at the dual celebration of the TYT’s 80th Birthday and the Completion of India Street Facelift Project on Monday night.

Abang Johari, who is also Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, said the ministry will continue drawing tourists to Sarawak.

He revealed that his assistant minister (Datuk Lee Kim Shin) just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will bring a charter flight in from China, as an addition to the existing route operated by Hong Kong Airlines.

“With this flight, the number of tourists from China will increase,” he said.

Abang Johari also said that the local medical tourism sector is improving due to arrivals from Indonesia seeking treatment in Kuching.

On the newly-launched India Street Pedestrian Mall, he said that it was the brainchild of the former Chief Minister and that they still needed his advice when it comes to improving Market Street, Gambier Street, Main Bazaar, and Carpenter Street all the way to Padungan.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Tourist arrivals to Sarawak up 30 pct this year

95% of Sabah tourism workforce are Sabahans

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism is the only industry in which Sabahans comprise 95 per cent of the workforce, said Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw.

Liaw said the tourism industry had become the pillar of the State’s economy and tourism-related businesses had benefitted people of all races, including the Chinese, Kadazan, Dusun, Murut and Malay who worked in hotels, restaurants, massage centres, souvenir shops, shopping malls or as taxi drivers.

Furthermore, Liaw said the Sabah Tourist Guide Association and Sabah Bumiputera Tourist Guide Association have a combined membership of 1,300 guides.

He said Sabah had achieved its target of 3.2 million tourist arrivals this year and was aiming to achieve 4 million arrivals next year.

“We believe the target of 4 million tourist arrivals can be achieved provided nothing happens, such as abductions and kidnappings.

“We also urge the Health Department to carry out stringent control on (tourist) arrivals,” Liaw said during the handing-over of Satta Almanac 2016 to the Sabah State Library here yesterday, in accordance with the Sabah State Library Enactment 1988 (Amendment) 2007 to collect and preserve printed and non-print library resources published in Sabah.

Satta has contributed 15 copies to the State Library and five copies to the national library.

The Satta Almanac 2016, launched in Chongqing, China on March 3 this year and later in Kota Kinabalu on June 18, took a mere four months to complete.

Liaw said the Satta took the initiative to publish the almanac as there was no book written in Mandarin to promote the tourist attractions in Sabah despite the increasing arrival of Chinese tourists.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 95% of Sabah tourism workforce are Sabahans

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CuriosTraveller: North Borneo Railway Part 2 - The Experience

It left our beloved civilization, from the concrete jungle into the real green jungle.  It went through some villages, mangroves, jungles and plantations until it reached a small town where the locals were a bit slower in doing things in comparison to those in state capital. They looked pretty happy with what they are doing daily. We both kind of loving that way of life, free from the city’s stress. There’s no massive traffic jam here.

Local kids were excited to see the train coming, waving hands as if they are mates of us. We saw them waved again during the return trip. Did they actually wait? Welcome to North Borneo Railway, Arman said to us and we wish you the same, a great service by Sutera Harbour Resort & Sabah State Railway Department.


That beautiful and sunny morning of September 24, 2016 we found ourselves checking in for the train ride, a return same day trip to Papar from Tanjung Aru Station. Checking in was easy, thanks to Linda who’s also one of the crew serving passengers. We’re excited like kids getting that passports, a mini booklet actually where a crew will stamp the destination names.

Then there was Dg Sarimah standing at the entry point, sincerely smiling all the time. She quickly assigned us to the seats in Tanjung Aru carriage or unit, if we may say that. The experience began even before boarding. The team were readily available to personally escorting each passenger to his or her seat.

At the Boarding area there’s Arman, who continuously smiled, sincerely to each arriving passengers! The passengers couldn’t stop smiling as well, a sign that they were pretty pleased with such great attentiveness given to them. It’s pretty mind blogging how each crew was able to escort each passenger to the designated unit when actually more passengers coming at the entry point. None of them waited long enough, soon after arriving they were whisked away to their seats in respective carriage, in record time!

We’re amazed with the carriages, both the interior and exterior. Inside our Tanjung Aru cariiage, beautiful decorated seats with darker wood panels as the wall pretty much implying the luxury feel, a perfect combination between new and old refurbishing style. The rotating ceiling fans gave cool air to the entire coach. Wall lights cleverly installed at each side of the window panels. The brand’s logo neatly carved on smaller metal pieces, embedded on each seat.

The exterior has the right colors that resembles the olden days train, green and white with the logo on each carriage. Inside, the unit we were in was pretty immaculate, there’s not even one microscopic litter can be seen, looks like the crews did their job perfectly, looking after the train cleanliness inside out. Everyone were here and there, inside and outside the train, capturing moments through the camera lenses. Nevertheless, crews managed to assemble all back into the units so that they can start the service with pre- departure safety presentation followed by serving refreshing lemonade.

Overall, pre-departure service was excellent. Crews were very professional in handling passengers arrival. While crew ensured passengers safety and comfort, they did it soulfully, with all their heart,  in full smile which in return made the passengers smiled. Not a single complaint heard, at least in our carriage.

The Train Master, Mr Jual Husin, went around ticking the boxes in his check list. He ensured each passenger comfort and in full-swing, ready for the journey. Having completed his round in all 5 carriages, he proceeded with the thumbs-up for that harmonious sound of whistle and bells, an indication that the train is ready to leave Tanjung Aru Station.


Alibaba ready to promote Sabah’s tourism attractions

Global online marketing giant Alibaba Group has expressed readiness to help promote Sabah’s tourism attractions through its online travel marketing platform, Alitrip.

Its general manager for Destination Division Tony Duan said the company is open to any discussion for Sabah to leverage on their global online travel marketing, especially targetting the Chinese market.

“We are aware of Sabah’s growing popularity as a tourist destination especially among the Chinese,” he said. Duan made the remark during a briefing for a delegation from the State Legislative Assembly headed by Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang who visited Alibaba Group’s headquarters here.

He was responding to an enquiry from Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is part of the delegation, on the possibility of STB leveraging on Alibaba’s global reach in its online travel marketing.

Duan said Alibaba and STB could explore the possibility of entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on establishing a collaboration to promote Sabah as a destination to the world, focusing on China.

Teo had during the briefing said Chinese visitors accounted for nearly half of Sabah’s international arrivals during the first six months of this year – an indication of the state’s popularity among Chinese travellers.

Teo invited the Group to look into the possibility of making Sabah as a centre for its business operation, considering its strategic location in the region.

Noting that Alibaba has set up a data centre in Singapore, Teo said Sabah could be an ideal operation centre for the Group to tap on the potential vast market within the BIMP-EAGA region covering Brunei, Kalimantan and Sumatera in Indonesia, Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia and Southern Philippines which has a combined population of about 70 million.


Sarawak Tourism Board inks Memorandum of Understanding to woo more Chinese nationals to visit Sarawak

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the First Conference of Hebei Tourism Industry Development that could lead to more tourists from China visiting the state.

Asistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Lee Kim Shin was at Baoding, Hebei Province, to witness Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, chairman of STB, signing the deal on the state’s behalf.

“We must change some of our approaches as their (Chinese) market expectations may differ from ours. But this MOU brings us closer to attracting more Chinese tourists,” said Lee after the signing ceremony.

Immediate results might follow the inking of the agreement as it would facilitate getting charter flights between Sarawak and Hebei Province.

The MoU opens up opportunities for close cooperation, aggressive promotions and establishment of business exchanges in the tourism sector.

There would also be more research to develop tourist attractions as Hebei and Sarawak share similar tourism products such as mountains, geoparks, lakes, and culture.


Monday, September 26, 2016

CuriosTraveller: North Borneo Railway Part 1- About and History

No other experience on other train service is able to beat our experience being on board the North Borneo Railway. The experience will last forever in our thoughts. Yes, this is not the Eastern & Oriental service but this service is in North Borneo, Sabah Malaysia, it’s a ride on a classic train. Not the Shinkansen or bullet train as in Tokyo to all over Japan either but the return trip to Papar from Tanjung Aru station by North Railway Borneo took us to the ‘past’. It made us understand one big thing, the history. It made us ably to appreciate all the elements of a classic train by just being on a single ride! A ride of a lifetime that we strongly recommend to all of you, without any hesitation, not even a second!


We are truly grateful and shall be sharing all our experience so that you will be inspired and hop on the train service by North Borneo Railway soon! If you do, please do contact us and share your experience in this blog! We love guests post anyway! After all, sharing is caring. The ride is not about indulging in luxury, it is about ‘visiting the past’, enjoying that amazing views, making friends with the other passengers, capture all that beautiful landmarks (for photographers), moving at a slower pace as how the older generations did during the British era and perhaps waving hands to all the people outside (they are excited too!).


Credit: Sutera Harbour Resort & Sabah State Railway Department

North Borneo Railway is the oldest running steam train in Sabah and Borneo. The nostalgic romance of an old steam train relives memories of a bygone era. Passing through villages and coastal towns, paddy fields, rainforests and plantations of rubber and coffee, a ride on North Borneo Railway is truly a journey of rediscovery into the heart of Borneo.

The North Borneo Railway is a joint venture project between Sutera Harbour Resort and the Sabah State Railway Department (Jabatan Keretapi Negeri Sabah), signifying a historical collaboration between the private sector and the state government. The primary goals of the project are to enhance existing infrastructure as well as help in efforts to promote Sabah as a destination for domestic and international tourism. The North Borneo Railway was officially launched on 22nd January 2000 in honour of Kota Kinabalu achieving city status on 2nd February 2000.

The North Borneo Railway offers passengers an opportunity to experience the bygone era of British North Borneo while transporting passengers along the lifeline of Sabah. Refurbished to recreate the nostalgic romance of people travelling by steam train in the days of the Chartered Company and the British Colonial Office, both the exterior and interior provide an environment that would have been typical of stepping onto a train in the 1900s.

The exterior utilizes the traditional deep green and cream of the original North Borneo Railway, with carved brass logos showcasing the original design of a tiger holding a rail wheel, standing on the royal crown.

The interior highlights the natural woods of Sabah and unless the train is fully booked, passengers are offered free seating on one of the five colonial-style passenger train carriages.

The Vulcan’s Origin

Credit: The Engine Museum (United Kingdom) & Sutera Harbour Resort

The steam locomotive from the North Borneo Railway was manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry Ltd in Newton-le-willows in Lanchashire, United Kingdom. As quoted from the Engine Museum in the UK:

“Vulcan Foundry received its final order in 1954 from the North Borneo Railway for three locomotives-the result a neat 2-6-2 tender locomotive of 58'-0? length, weighing 85 tons.”

Not only do these steam engines represent the last of a fleet that have piled the tracks through Borneo since the late 1880’s, they are also part of the only few functional wood burners in the world.


Travels679: Ba’kelalan and Lawas to Kota Kinabalu

Ba’kelalan and Lawas to Kota Kinabalu

The small 18 seater plane took only 30min to get to Ba’kelalan, an area of nine small villages. I then made enquiries about getting a lift out to Lawas.

While talking to people I got to meet Kim Hoskin who had been there for three years writing a book called ‘Plain View’ about the Vietnamese war, a really interesting guy but we managed to get around to the three topics you should avoid…religion, money and politics!

I did eventually get a lift with some military guys in a truck, it was a hilarious trip, the banter with them ripping in to each other, along with us hanging on to each other as the potholes attempted to throw us off the back and getting wet through going through the enormous puddles.

There were cars abandoned along the road side that had not made the perilous journey. It took five hours for the road to level out as we reached Lawas.

I spent the following day chilling around the hotel making the most a proper room and bed after so many nights in a tent.

Lawas is ok for a stopover but not much there of interest.

Kota Kinabalu

From there I took a bus to Kota Kinabalu where I was picked up by Catherine, the Mum of my friend, Shaley.

Meeting Catherine and John was really great; they were so nice, helpful and friendly, we chatted about allsorts from traveling to politics and it was good to stay with them and gain a local perspective.

I did some sightseeing on the Heritage Trail from the coast through the markets etc. I took the bus to Mt Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Borneo, to enjoy the views from the foot of the mountain and research the climb.

Unfortunately it started to rain although after a slight improvement I did get to view an amazing sunset over the mountains.

There are frequent warnings about how dangerous the mountain is in rain and mist so disappointingly I had to give the climb a miss.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Travels679: Ba’kelalan and Lawas to Kota Kinabalu

My Wander Lust HQ: Turtle Island - Kota Kinabalu

After a nice chill day and just taking my time to do some laundry and take care of a few things, it was time to repack my bag and get my daypack ready for turtle island.

On the morning of my departure, a dutch girl knocked on my door to ask if she could join.

We quickly went to the tour operator to ask and it was no problem. This meant no single supplement for me, so a 150 ringgit score!

Turtle Island is situated about 40km from Sandakan. It is one of three islands where green and hawksbill turtles come year round to lay their eggs.

All three islands have rangers who then collect the eggs and place them in hatcheries where they are protected from predators like monitor lizards, who just love to feast on these delicious eggs. These hatcheries are the most productive in all of Southeast Asia.

We spent the afternoon on the beach swimming and snorkeling. After dinner we waited for the rangers to take us back to the beach and watch a green turtle lay her eggs, after which we went up to the hatchery to bury them and then finally watched how 53 babies were let to sea.

We were lucky to see an untouched nest of eggs hatch on the beach in the afternoon and watch the little ones make their why to the ocean.

Early the next morning we searched the beach for stranded baby turtles and big females heading back to sea but we had no luck.

After an hour on the speed boat back to Sandakan, I took the long distance bus back to Kota Kinabalu.

On my first day back in the capital I just wandered around and took in the sights. On friday I was supposed to join two New Zealanders on a cooking class but unfortunately the tour company cancelled the night before.

We were not happy! :-( It was too late at night to book something else so I spend another day in the city. I walked up to the big mosque on the outskirts and back.

By then it was lunchtime and time to find a spot with airconditioning!! So hot and humid here!

In the afternoon I walked up Signal Hill to see the city from above. On the way down I stopped at a small jewelry shop where I made my own bracelet. So much more fun then just buying one.

The hostel I am staying at is very good at getting people together and taking us out to the best restaurants. Every night so far has been a feast.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: My Wander Lust HQ: Turtle Island - Kota Kinabalu

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Boost for Miri-Sibuti coral reef

The 12,200ha coral reef complex to get 1,750 artificial ‘ultra’ reef balls over 5 years

MIRI: The RM8 million Petronas Eco-Marine Conservation Project aims to place 1,750 artificial ‘ultra’ reef balls in stages at the 12,200ha Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef Complex over the next five years.

Yesterday, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Petronas placed the first 170 of these artificial modules from this initiative in the area.

“This is a five-year project, which kicked off last year. It is being carried out with financial support from Petronas to the state government through SFC, which provides the technical aspect,” Deputy State Secretary Datu Jaul Samion told reporters.

“It is a good effort in terms of conservation of marine biodiversity: in the long run, it would help increase the fishermen’s harvest.”

Jaul, who is also Petronas-Sarawak Joint Working Committee corporate social responsibility committee chairman, said the project would also help to attract tourists and boost Miri’s eco-tourism products, such as diving and sports fishing.

“This conservation project is vital for us to attract more tourists to enjoy the beauty of all the natural resources that we have, including our diverse marine life.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Boost for Miri-Sibuti coral reef

Brooke Gallery opens at Fort Margherita

KUCHING: The iconic Fort Margherita, which now has been turned into Brooke Gallery, opened its doors to the public yesterday after it was officiated by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

A collaboration between the Sarawak Museum Department, Tourism Cultural and Heritage Sarawak and the Brooke Trust, the gallery showcases belongings from the Brooke family and artefacts during their time as the White Rajah.

With items provided by the Brooke Trust itself and also the Museum Department, the project received volunteer support from the state, United Kingdom and also Australia.

Abang Johari in his speech at the opening said the gallery serves as a reminder to the newer generation of Sarawak’s history, a period where it was ruled by the Brooke family.

“We want to share with our people, and also tourists our story, and the Brooke gallery serves the purpose. Apart from this building which was once among the forts built by Brooke, other iconic and historical buildings include the Astana, the Old Court House, Post Office and Brooke Dockyard,” said Abang Johari who is also the Tourism Minister.

“I leave it to academicians and historians to value the history of our state, but we cannot deny the fact that the Brooke indeed is part of our history and legacy that they left behind played a significant role towards where we are today,” he added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Brooke Gallery opens at Fort Margherita

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Wrinkle in Our Timeline: Monkey Business

By the time we made it to the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, it had been a couple of months since our last opportunity to ogle the world’s wildlife (brown bears in Hokkaido, if you’re tracking that sort of thing…).

Clearly, it was time to donate more blood to the leeches in payment for a few sightings of Borneo’s diverse primates and other storied creatures (spoilers: hornbills! crocs! civets!).

Our foray into the remaining wild habitats of Sabah started with the lowland forests and floodplains along the Kinabatangan River.

The second longest river in Malaysia, this area is an ideal place to spot some of Borneo’s endemic inhabitants, such as the odd-looking proboscis monkey.

Easily identified by their protruding noses, these monkeys live in groups comprising one male and an assortment of females and juveniles.

Like other members of the colobine subfamily, proboscis monkeys subsist primarily on leaves supplemented by fruits and occasional insects.

Staying at a small eco-lodge on the riverbanks, we took early morning and late afternoon boat rides to search for wildlife.

After dark, we donned rubber boots and tramped around muddy forest trails to spot nocturnal animals like the Malay civet, a small carnivore that is widespread throughout Borneo and the surrounding islands.

Portions of the Kinabatangan River have been protected as wildlife sanctuaries, but these areas are currently fragmented and vulnerable to encroachment by palm oil plantations and proposed infrastructure projects in the Lower Kinabatangan.

Balancing the needs of the local economy with the importance of preserving valuable ecosystems is a complicated issue, touched upon delicately by our trekking guide, Mike, who led us on hikes in the Danum Valley in southeastern Sabah.

We found Mike gazing at the canopy one afternoon and musing about whether it would all still exist for future generations.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Wrinkle in Our Timeline: Monkey Business

Semenggoh welcomes new orangutan baby

KUCHING: Semenggoh Nature Reserve (SNR), where the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is located, has welcomed a new baby orangutan.

In a press statement yesterday, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) said an orangutan named Analisa, aged 20, was spotted at the feeding platform last Sunday (Sept 18) with a baby clinging closely to her.

It is believed the baby was born on Malaysia Day (Sept 16) as Analisa was last seen at the feeding platform three days before.

SFC said both mother and baby looked fine, but the gender of the baby could not be determined as it was clutched too closely by its protective mother.

Analisa also gave birth to Anakku and Digital Guro – a male adopted by the Guro District Council of Seoul, South Korea. But Digital Guro died prematurely last November at the age of three due to natural causes.

Analisa herself was also born at Semenggoh to Seduku, 45, the oldest female orangutan at the centre.

With this new birth, Semenggoh has 27 free-ranging orangutans that are a constant delight to visitors.

Both Semenggoh and Matang Wildlife Centre run an orangutan adoption programme, which is open to the public.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Semenggoh welcomes new orangutan baby

Special rate tickets for Miri Country Music Fest 2017 on sale until Sept 30

KUCHING: Tickets for next year’s Miri Country Music Fest (MCMF) are currently on offer until Sept 30.

Dubbed the ‘Big Bang Sale’, tickets are offered at special rates of RM55 per day or RM100 for two days for adults while tickets for children are priced at RM35 per day or RM60 for the two days.

Normal rates for the tickets are RM80 per day or RM150 for two days for adults whereas children tickets are priced at RM40 per day or RM70 for the two days.

Each ticket is inclusive of a free drink.

The fourth edition of MCMF will be held at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri on Feb 25 and 26 next year.

An impressive list of bands has confirmed their participation at the two-day festival. They include Tantowi Yahya and Friends from Indonesia, Raggy Project (Penang), Russell Curtis (Kuala Lumpur), Shane Smith and the Saints (USA), James Thompson and the Strange Pilgrims (Australia), Casual Ceilidh (Brunei), Adi and Maha (Kota Kinabalu) and Miri’s very own Mountain Wind Band and Country Road Band.

Together, the bands will create another exciting show at the festival, presenting a wide genre of country music like classic, bluegrass, rock and contemporary tunes.

Organised by Place Borneo Sdn Bhd, the festival will include activities to enhance and enrich the festival goers’ experience at the event.


Time for aerial tourism to fly high in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: It is high time aerial tourism takes flight in Sabah by attracting a niche market and offering a fresh and new tourism product to the tourists who flock to the city.

Sabah Air Aviation, which is a helicopter and fixed wing charter and leasing company, is at the forefront in exploring the potentials and possibilities this facet of tourism has.

Bell Helicopter (BH), one of the oldest brands in the world which hails from the United States, recently held a demo run at the firm’s airport, introducing the latest Bell 412EPI aircraft. Boasting a twin-engine with a fully-integrated glass cockpit, the chopper hosts a state-of-art navigation system which is completely digital, with an analogue system only for back-up.

A small group had the privilege to be taken on an ‘air tour’ around Kota Kinabalu and nearby islands, and given a taste of the ‘whole new perspective’ of the scenic state.

Choppers are ideal for professional shutterbugs and commercial clients such as filmmakers and advertising companies to immortalise magnificent sceneries and natural terrains from an aerial perspective for promotional materials as well as personal gratification, said Sabah Air CEO Terry Chan.

And Sabah is no stranger to the film industry as the first season of reality TV show The Survivor was filmed at Pulau Tiga here; Sabah Air was roped in for the shooting of the whole programme.

“We were involved in the filming of the Survivor reality TV show. Subsequently they had few more (seasons) and went to Thailand to do shooting which we were involved as well,” said Chan.

He added that the firm was also involved in the shooting of producer Mark Burnett’s Eco-Challenge: The Expedition Race in the state as well as for Camel Trophy Challenge, an off-road championship.

Chan also revealed that a deal had been sealed with Shangri-la's Rasa Ria Resort to provide air tour packages to tourists who stay there.

“We are in the process of ironing out the details,” he added.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Mr and Mrs Romance: Welcome to the jungle – how to experience the Borneo rainforest, Danum Valley, Sabah

Visiting Danum Valley’s pristine rainforests in eastern Sabah, Borneo isn’t easy, but my goodness, is it worth it. Here’s what to expect on this jungle adventure.

Sabah, Borneo has some of the world’s most pristine rainforests with one of the widest ranges of plant, bird and animal life of any ecosystem. Danum Valley is Sabah’s largest protected lowland forest, and has stood unchanged and untouched for over 1 million years.

As we fly into Lahad Datu, the local airport nearest the only entrance to Danum Valley, we can see the horrifying reality of the encroaching palm oil plantations. They stretch out as far as the eye can see – even from up in the air.

Thankfully, the Malaysian and state Sabahan governments have stopped the plantations taking over the remaining 43,800 hectares of Danum Valley, preserving one of the last natural habitats for Asia’s largest primate, the orang-utan and the Borneo pygmy elephant, the world’s smallest elephant.

Because this is such a delicate ecosystem, it’s very hard to gain access to Danum Valley. No unauthorised visitors are allowed through the gates into the national park, which means self-driving and day visits are out of the question.

Borneo Nature Tours are permitted to have a maximum of 60 guests at any one time exploring Danum Valley and staying with them at Borneo Rainforest Lodge. This number is strictly monitored, so this has become quite an exclusive destination.

Because of its uniqueness, the staff at Borneo Nature Tours and the Rainforest Lodge see themselves as caretakers or guardians of the forest. Their love of this beautiful, untouched piece of the planet is clear to see.

How to see Danum Valley, the heart stone of Sabah, Borneo

How do you get there?

Getting to Danum Valley is a challenge. From Australia, you need to fly to Kuala Lumpur then transfer to Lahad Datu. This is the quickest way, however, we’d recommend a stop in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital. Then you fly on to Lahad Datu in the east of Borneo from there.

You can also drive there from other parts of the state.

From Lahad Datu Airport, a representative from Borneo Nature Tours meets you and takes you into the Lahad Datu office to sign in. And then the real fun begins! It’s a 2-hour 4×4 drive on unsealed roads through secondary rainforest until you get to the ‘front door’ to Danum Valley Conservation Area and the start of the primary jungle.

It’s then another half an hour of fording rivers, crossing timber-and-earth bridges and bumpy, unsealed roads before you come to Borneo Rainforest Lodge and home for the next few days.

This is the only way in or out… although Prince William and Kate Middleton flew in by helicopter. They still weren’t allowed to fly all the way though, and had to drive the last half an hour.

Where do you sleep?

Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the only accommodation in the 43,800 hectares of the Danum Valley Conservation Area. It’s actually on the site of an old tribal village that was abandoned many years before.

This doesn’t mean you’re sleeping in huts. Not by a long shot.

Everything has been built with minimum impact in mind. All the buildings are elevated on stilts to reduce forest floor contact. The main building, where you eat, relax and meet up with your guide, is a beautiful wooden hall open on all sides to allow airflow.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Wander Lust HQ: Sandakan Wildlife Adventure

Sandakan - Sepilok - Kinabatangan - Sepilok - Sandakan

On monday morning I got up early to catch the bus to Sandakan. I was told the first bus would pass around nine in the morning so I made sure I was there on time.

After a three hour wait the first bus finally showed up. From there it was a 5h journey to Sandakan.

My plan was to get there earlier so I could make arrangements to go to turtle island after I got back from the jungle but because we arrived so late, that plan did not happen.

The next day I travelled on to Sepilok. After checking in, I went to pay the Sun Bears a visit. The sun bear is the smallest of the bear species but also one of the most threatened.

They are named after the splotch of yellow fur that spreads like a bright V across their chests. These animals are endangered due to habitat loss and Chinese traditional medicine.

In China and Vietnam the bears are strapped in tiny cages and hooked to IV's to pump the bile from their gallbladders.

Also their claws and fur are sold on the black market within these countries.

Wednesday morning was Orang-Utan morning.  I arrived early to the conservation centre to get a good spot at the feeding platform.

Unfortunately not one orang-utan showed up for some yummy fruit.

So after that disappointment it was of to the nursery to see the young ones play around and eat some fruit.

Orphaned, injured or displaced orang-utans are brought to Sepilok to be rehabilitated to return to forest life.

The centre covers about 40sq km of forest where the orang-utans can live.

The rehabilitation process starts as soon as the orang-utan is admitted to the centre with a thorough health examination, followed by a quarantine period to eliminate diseases being transmitted.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: My Wander Lust HQ: Sandakan Wildlife Adventure

Sarawak Tourism ministry wants to make it easier for tourists to visit Sarawak from Brunei

KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is seeking approval from the federal government to introduce Visa On Arrival (VOA) facility in Miri and Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoints.

Its minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also deputy chief minister, said they had sent the application to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the Home Minister, last week.

“We want to designate and gazette Miri and Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoints to issue VOA, especially for Chinese tourists,” he said.

Abang Johari highlighted this at the launching of 101 Holidays in Sarawak by Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) Sarawak and the first Mita Sarawak Business Networking Session at Riverside Majestic Hotel here yesterday.

“We have collaboration with Brunei and their Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) flights are also bringing tourists from China.

So, when the Chinese tourists are in Brunei, they can obtain visa to come into Miri,” he added.

The state, he emphasised, has in recent years been aggressively promoting Sarawak as a tourism destination in China, especially Hong Kong.

On the lack of air connectivity, Abang Johari said Sarawak could not depend on Malaysia Airline (MAS) or MASWings.

“MAS is neither alive nor dead (hidup pun tidak, mati pun tidak), so our tourism ‘pun mati pun tidak, hidup pun tidak’, while MasWings constantly cancelled its flights.

So we cannot rely on people to determine our life,” he said.

“And due to monopoly, they (MASWing) also raised their fares.  Now they cut down their flights between Sarawak.  Hence, we decided to work with other airlines including Singapore Airline and Silk Air besides RBA Brunei,” he said.

Abang Johari believed that tourists holidaying in the region like Brunei would want to maximise their money spent on vacation to see more than one place.

“So they could get VOA to explore Miri that offers so many interesting and unique attractions including Mulu heritage site, the Blue Tears in Tusan Beach and the Lambir National Park, just to name a few,” he said.

“We hope to hear the good news from the federal government on the VOA soon,” he added.

Abang Johari also pointed out the need to upgrade the digital infrastructure across Sarawak especially in rural areas.


Nearly half of Sabah tourists from China

KOTA KINABALU: The China market continues to play a significant role in the tourism sector of Sabah as so far they have contributed the biggest chunk of international arrivals to the state.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun disclosed some 48.2 per cent of the total foreign visitors to Sabah in the first six months of this year came from China.

“In term of tourism, our biggest arrival of foreign tourists is from China and the growth have been tremendous compared to the same period of last year,” revealed Masidi during the opening ceremony of the ‘2016 China Film Festival’ at MBO, Imago shopping mall on Tuesday.

The screening on Sept 20-24 was organised by Consulate General of China in Kota Kinabalu. Its consul general, Chen Peijie was present to welcome invited guests.

Masidi attributed the encouraging number of Chinese holidaying in Sabah to the efforts from Chen who played a proactive role in helping to promote the state.

“On behalf of the State government, I must thank Chen for being a proactive person, she always asks me ‘is there anything I can help?’.

“She even arranged for me to meet up with the Chinese counterpart in China to promote Sabah. And because of her assistance, we will have 60 weekly flights coming from China to Kota Kinabalu which is more than to Kuala Lumpur,” shares Masidi.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

CuriosTraveller: Sandakan @ Sabah, Malaysia - Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center

Our Travel Journal continues here at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC), Sepilok. The center is located next to the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center which is a bonus for visitors as no longer trip is required. If you have never seen a Sun Bear, this is definitely the right place for you. We pretty much listed this place as one of the must-visit location in Sandakan.

In general,  BSBCC is a sun bear rescue and rehabilitation facility being developed in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. It is therefore a great center to learn about sun bears and observe them in their natural habitat.

Depending on the time you come here and of course your luck, you might be able to some Sun Bears either on top the trees or on the ground, doing things as they want to! If you are not so lucky, you will only get a glimpse of them. 

When we came here, it was almost noon and the heat from the Sun probably made them ‘hiding’ somewhere in the bushes or so.

We managed to see about only 2-3 Sun bears walking, playing and later hide, escaping from the heat I guess. Nevertheless, let us show to all of you what this place is about, in case you decide to come here.


Malayan sun bears are the smallest bears in the world and are only found in Southeast Asia. These bears continue to be threatened by forest degradation, illegal hunting for bear parts and poaching to obtain young cubs for pet trade. 

The results of these threats has caused young sun bears found to be living in unnatural captive conditions in Sabah, with no access to outdoor areas.

There are currently 40 rescued ex-captive sun bears residing at the BSBCC. The facility includes large forest enclosures to provide a natural environment suited to the needs and welfare of the sun bears and facilitate their rehabilitation back into the wild.

The team at BSBCC in Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve reintroduce bears into their natural habitat and provide the largest forest enclosures of any sun bear centre. The care they provide is the closest a captive sun bear can come to life in the wild. 

Their expert researchers and rehabilitators work with the bears to develop the skills necessary – foraging, climbing trees, nest building and self-defense – for independence in the forest. For cubs, their experts become surrogate mothers until the bears gain their independence. They constantly develop “enrichment activities” to improve welfare and encourage species specific behavior.


CuriosTraveller: Sandakan @ Sabah, Malaysia - Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Located about 25 Kilometers west of Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is one good spot for the tourists and researches. It is a place where people are given the opportunity to watch the Orangutan up close in their natural habitat.

There is a boardwalk that leads to a viewing gallery and feeding platform where the Orangutan are fed milk and bananas twice a day at 10 am and 3 pm by the rangers. According to the Sabah Wildlife Department official website, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is funded by the Sabah Government.

The reserve is named after the two rivers flowing into the Sandakan Bay. The aim of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is to return orphaned, injured or displaced orangutans back to the wild.

About the Center

The center opened in 1964 as the first official Orangutan rehabilitation project for rescued orphaned baby orangutans from logging sites, plantations, illegal hunting or kept as pets. The orphaned orangutans are trained to survive again in the wild and are released as soon as they are ready.

The sanctuary is located within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve which covers an area of 4,294 ha (10,610 acres), much of which is virgin rainforest. Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve.

It has become one of Sabah’s tourist attractions. In October 2014 the center opened a new section where visitors can view the nursery area where the younger Orangutans first learn to be outside and play on a large climbing frame. This consists of 2 large indoor seating areas (one with air conditioning and one with fans only) with a large window that overlooks the play area. There is no additional charge to enter this part of the center.

The rehabilitation process starts as soon as the orangutan is admitted to the center with a thorough health examination, followed by a quarantine period to eliminate diseases being transmitted. Young orangutans spend their time in the ‘Nursery’ learning skills essential to jungle life, for example finding food, building nest and climbing.

Once ready, they will move to the ‘Outdoor Nursery’ where freedom is increased and dependence on food and emotional support is decreased. Last but not the least, most animals achieve total independence and become integrated into the Sepilok wild orangutan population. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre opens daily from 9 am to 12 pm, 2 pm to 4 pm, 9 am to 11 am and 2 pm to 4 pm on Fridays.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Utilize ICT fully to promote Sabah tourism

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism promotions can no longer confine to billboards and pamphlets to promote attractions and destinations.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said that the tourism industry needs to utilize fully the information and communication technology.

He said: “We need to promote Sabah through ICT at its fullest as this is the era given the vast development of ICT.” According to him, the people are better engaged with social media and if anyone wants to promote an attraction especially to potential tourists overseas, the way to go about it is through ICT.

“Our attractions and destinations will be well covered through the medium,” he said.

Masidi added: “The use of old way like billboard and brochures are more expensive compared to ICT.” He recalled that some 10 years ago, brochures were widely distributed to promote Sabah as a tourist destination before promotional materials were contained in VCD.

“Times have changed as now we only need to give the website and all information is on the website,” he said when speaking at an ICT seminar organized by his ministry.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Marie France Asia: Out and About - 7 Scenic spots in Sabah you must visit

With so many untouched spots of nature in Sabah, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it, and experience natural scenery at its finest.

Mount Kinabalu

It’s said to be heaven for mankind and as for the views from Mount Kinabalu? They are exquisite. It is one of the highest mountains of South East Asia, but the hiking trails enable even unexperienced climbers to climb its magnificent heights. That is if you’re prepared for it.

As you find yourself amongst nature and clouds, you’ll forget all about the struggles of the climb because of the unimaginably striking views that grab your attention. It is one of those places where even your camera won’t depict the beauty and splendid atmosphere when you’re climbing the mountain.

Sipadan National Park

For the most scenic spot in Sabah, you’re going to have to dive a little deeper – literally. Sipadan National Park is known as one of the best diving spots, because when you dive in, you’re going to witness nature unlike you’ve ever seen it before.

Being the only oceanic island in Malaysia, it’s home to many different species populating the waters of the ocean. It’s like the flower bouquet to an already-classy decorated room. It stands out and makes everything look much more beautiful. It’s not easy to get to Sipadan island, but if you do, you’ll be telling the tale your entire lifetime.

Kinabalu Park

Kinabalu Park is officially Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site. Hiking through this gem will enable you to experience nature in its true form. You’ll get to witness wildlife, and more than 90 species of mammals, as well as more than 5000 species of plants.

The view of Mount Kinabalu is so gorgeous, even if you’re not ready to go for the climb, you’ll get a chance to sink in the beauty of this majestic mountain. There are many trails to choose from in order to explore the great outdoors and keep your camera busy all day.

Tawau Hills Park

Enter the Tawau Hills Park forest and it’s like you’ve entered a different dimension. It’s unlike any forest you’ve come across on your journey so far. It’s the host to the highest tropical tree in the world, and the entire grandiose forest will make you feel more than tiny.

It’s really the kind of scenery where you can feel the power of nature. Don’t be surprised if an animal passes your way. The Tawau Hills Park is the home to many iguanas, chameleons and red leaf monkeys. A true treasure of nature, indeed.


CuriosTraveller: Sandakan @ Sabah, Malaysia - Our Travel Journal As we see it

Located on the north-eastern coast of North Borneo (Sabah), Malaysia, Sandakan is the second largest town after Kota Kinabalu city. Dubbed as the ‘Little Hong Kong’ and has great links to the past, this town is easily accessible by air or road, from major towns in Sabah.  

We traveled to this town recently and produced this Travel Journal, presented to you in separate entries. It is about how we see this town according to our own perspective, as travel bloggers. Much has been written about this town, from the history to the food trail and adventurous activities but still many will skip this town when they tour around Sabah. Honestly, we want to change that perception. Being Sabahans, we think that Sandakan has much better offerings for visitors to Sabah.

‘Little Hong Kong’

Our two cents

Historically speaking, the Chinese came to Sandakan in the early part of the 19th century, before William Pryer founded the town in 1882. In the early days, there were mass recruitment of laborers from China for developing the Sandakan area. They came in by tongkang through Hong Kong, the shortest route to Sandakan in those days. Some went back to China through the same route.

Thus Sandakan was well known to the people of Hong Kong in the old days. They were the ones who started calling Sandakan “Little Hong Kong”. In long run, if that ‘Little Hong Kong’ still need to be relevant, we both think that certain feature must be looked into and kept as treasures, like forever. Remember how the Hong Kong movies in 1980’s and 1990’s depicted the common lifestyle in super cramped apartments?

Tamara Thiessen (2008), Wong Dany (2014) and Hutton, Wendy (2004) academically published their thoughts about Sandakan and generally they referred Sandakan as the ‘Little Hong Kong’. It might be due to a strong presence of ethnic Chinese migration from Hong Kong (mainly Cantonese and Hakka), as some people claimed and proven in the records as well. For us, it is about how Sandakan still looks like Hong Kong in the olden days.

We have seen some of the features, right here in Sandakan. In the early 90’s when Hong Kong was still under the British, we actually went around up to the villages and parts of the city in Kowloon, for example. We felt the same thing here in Sandakan. Not only that is obvious that Chinese influences are everywhere, the old buildings resembles older Hong Kong blocks in the early 90’s.

In the olden days (well, parts of Hong Kong still are), there were like many old buildings that housed the people and they were all cramped to smaller apartment units, a fact that is unique for Hong Kong due to its size. Unfortunately, more spaces are being given to developers to build larger commercial buildings or high-end condominiums.

In some parts of Hong Kong, we can still see that especially in Kowloon. There’s no need to re-visit the past as it is being featured here, right here in Sandakan! A haven for photographers. Though it looks a bit run down, we still think that the blocks have sentimental values.

Our hope is to see that these amazing buildings (by the blocks) are kept forever, not being touch by the on-going development of Sandakan Town. Once it’s demolished, it will be quite shameful to use that ‘Little Hong Kong’ name. That feature is the only way to tell people how Sandakan resembles that Hong Kong faces before the hand over by the British to the Chinese Government.

The Sandakan Municipal Coucil must be playing active roles to ensure the longevity of such unique buildings. Though some maintenance and overhaul are needed to beautify the town, do keep the buildings intact to its original position.