Sunday, April 30, 2017

Le Meridien Hotel Kota Kinabalu - A little universe of pleasures

AQUARIUM. Fish. Into the blue. These images swim into my periphery as soon as I step into the spacious lobby area of Le Meridien Hotel Kota Kinabalu, my “home” for the weekend. Sober dark wood are combined with soothing lighting that segue from blue to pink.

With its elevated ceiling, wide open spaces, fancy architectural lighting, it’s certainly an impressive introduction to this hotel that overlooks the South China Sea which is proud to trumpet the many facets of its recent refurbishing exercise.

Glad to have found an air-conditioned refuge from the blistering sun outside, I make my way to the reception counter where I’m meeting my contact, Jacqueline, who’ll be my guide for the duration of my stay in Sabah’s bustling capital.

I’m excited as it’s my first time here and although I’m looking forward to a relaxing sojourn just lazing by the pool here, said to be the longest lap pool in the city centre, with the only exertion coming from my planned food crawl of the hotel’s various eateries.

I also can’t wait to see what lies beyond the walls of this hotel, which is located at the doorstep of Kota Kinabalu’s famous waterfront esplanade, bustling markets, shopping complexes and business districts.

“Miss Intan, right?” I feel a gentle tap on my shoulder. The voice, soft and tentative, belongs to Jacqueline, who smiles widely in welcome. The preliminaries all wrapped up, she invites me to join her for lunch at the hotels’ Azure Pool Bar and Cafe on Level 2.


It’s a beautiful day to be dining al fresco and looking out to the panoramic vista of deep azure waters glimmering under the sultry afternoon sun. Adjacent to the cafe is the swimming pool where sunseekers, in their various guises and comprising mostly foreigners, pay homage to Mr Sun, their already-tanned bodies glistening as they languidly unwind within the urban jungle.

“Mad,” the thought crosses my mind, as I chuckle at the folly, suddenly recalling the phrase from Noel Coward’s song (1931), “. only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”!

Following my gaze, Jacqueline grins and asks whether I’d like to take my food by the pool area. We both laugh as it becomes obvious that neither of us has any plans to venture beyond the air-conditioned comfort of the cafe proper where smiling chefs are waiting to demonstrate their skills.

“Perhaps we can hang out there in the evening and catch the sunset,” I suggest to Jacqueline, suddenly remembering that some of the most magical sunsets can be viewed from up here.

As we enter the contemporary inner sanctum of the poolside cafe, the smell of caramelised onions wafts from the direction of the open kitchen where a chef decked in his toque blanche and stripey blue uniform is swaying a pan, his body moving in synchrony with it like in a dance.

A flurry of action ensues as orders are taken. “Make Your Own Burger” is the pull here where diners are invited to do just that, exercising their creativity at creating their own burger masterpiece.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Borneo International RC Powerboat tourney puts Sibu on tourism map

SIBU: Participants coming from all over the world for the Borneo International RC Powerboat Tournament 2017 here will help put Sibu on the world tourism map.

Speaking at the opening of the event at Permai Lake Garden yesterday, Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh said, like other events and activities held in conjunction with Visit Sibu Year (VSY) 2017, this event would allow more people to get to know Sibu better.

He said Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) under the leadership of Datuk Tiong Thai King and guidance from Sibu Resident Hii Chang Kee and SMC councillors were working hard to promote Sibu through VSY.

“As you know, Sibu is relatively unknown to tourists outside Sarawak and Malaysia.

“VSY is thus oganised to promote Sibu, and make Sibu known to the other parts of Malaysia and the world,” he said.

Apart from Borneo International RC Powerboat Tournament 2017, another significant event in the VSY is the Borneo Cultural Festival.

“With all these events and activities, we hope that people from outside Sibu and Malaysia can get to know Sibu better,” he said.

He thanked Sibu Remote Control Sports Club for their initiative to collaborate with SMC in organising the event.

He hoped that not only their effort could popularise the event, but bring a better relationship among people from different religions and countries.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Sabah Tea Resort's new 'Go Sabah Frame' a hit with visitors

RANAU: A new attraction has popped up in this popular tourist district – the ‘Go Sabah Frame’ (very much like the NatGeo logo), which stands quaintly at the Sabah Tea Resort.

Visitors are now flocking to the attraction, as they can take a picture next to the quirky installation, with the majestic Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop.

The frame installation was officially launched this morning, along with the Tourist Information Centre at the Tea Resort Restaurant.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Kamarlin Ombi said the Resort is an iconic tourism spot for Sabah, where local tea is produced to be sampled by visitors from Malaysia and abroad.

The new additions are expected to create extra buzz for tourist-magnet Ranau.

"If we do a massive campaign for this place, it can become one of the best tourist destinations in Malaysia", Kamarlin said.

Meanwhile, the Resort’s Executive Director, Goh Mung Chwee, said that they have a vision of making Sabah Tea a must-visit destination in the region, and are planning more attractions for the plantation.


Sabah Culture: Living legacy of Murut embroidery

AT 72, Dainsing Darum, a master embroiderer from Sabah, is a picture of contentment.

“I have a lot to thank for,” she says. “Good health is one of them. Others are my eyesight, which has not deteriorated much despite my age, and my hands which remain steady.”

Dainsing, from Kampung Inarad, Tongod – a district located in the deep interior of Sabah – says that having good eyesight and steady hands have allowed her to remain active in pursuing her passion in embroidery, and in imparting the skills to the younger generation.

But underneath her chirpy nature, one cannot help but sense a hint of despair in her voice.

“Embroidery is something that I truly hold dear,” Dainsing told the participants of her embroidery masterclass at Galeri Petronas  in Kuala Lumpur recently. “It’s my soul; and I shudder to think what if someday this art is lost and forgotten. That’s why I’m here; I’m eager to impart this skill to anyone who wishes to learn.”

Her masterclass which consisted of embroidery, beadwork, and rattan weaving, took place from March 24 to 26 at Galeri Petronas  in Suria KLCC as part of the event line-up for the “MANAH: A Living Legacy” exhibition which ran from February 14 to April 16.

Manah is Galeri Petronas’ first exhibition for 2017. Curated by Associate Professor Dr Baharudin Arus from University Malaysia Sabah’s Faculty of Humanities, Art and Heritage, it features the artistic and creative expressions of Malaysia’s indigenous communities and their strong connection to the rainforest.

Manah, which means “ancient” or “old way” in the Temiar language, featured the unique aesthetics of the country’s indigenous people which remain intact despite the influences of modernity, to reflect their identity and origins which are strongly linked to the ecology of the land they inhabit.

Dainsing, who is from the Murut Tangala tribe, says she did not hesitate for a moment when Galeri Petronas invited her to conduct a masterclass during the exhibition.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Snap, Travel and Pop: Borneo - Traditions of the Rungus Tribe

This blog is part of a series of three that focus on the people and culture in the Kudat region of Borneo, particularly the Rungus tribe.

It is based on my limited experience and subject to my creative interpretation…

Read Part 1.

The majority of local people in the Kudat region of Malaysian Borneo descended and still identify themselves from the Rungus tribe.

The original tribe folk settled in Borneo thousands of years ago and were apparently keen head-hunters.

Since then they have developed their culture and way of life to keep up with the world, including ditching the recipes for Strogan-head-off.

What is nice to see is that they are still managing to keep their culture alive and doing some of it with entrepreneurial flare.

The traditional skill of gong making by hand is still going strong at the “Sumangkap Gong Factory” which, rather than being an actual factory, is simply a whole village.

In a show of might, they made the largest gong in South East Asia (I think the Chinese have made a bigger one…typical).


Catch Nisa Addina, Fluoroscent Collective at Borneo Jazz

KUCHING: Sarawak-born award winning violinist Nisa Addina and her band Fluoroscent Collective will share the Borneo Jazz stage with renowned international artistes including Japan’s Osaka Monaurail and Canada’s Laila Biali, this May 12 to 13 at ParkCity Everly, Miri.

Making headlines since the age of 14, Nisa won three gold awards at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Hollywood in 2011 and Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL) 29 in 2015.

She has since gone on to study at Berklee College in the United States, where she joined Fluoroscent Collective—a band of Berklee students founded by Boston-based Malaysian pianist and recording artist, JennHwan Wong who is also known as Jenn-the-Redman—in 2015.

Nisa has been busy performing since 2011, taking the stage at events such as the Johor International Music Festival in 2012, the launch of the Asean International Film Festival and Awards and launch of Malaysia’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2013, as well as the Global Summit of Women in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 and again in France in 2014.

She also performed for the opening and closing of the Sukma 2016 games in Kuching.

Nisa has even played for a president, having performed for the official visit of the President of China to Malaysia at Seri Perdana in 2013 and launched her first album ‘Yakina’ in 2014 at 17 years old, followed by her second album ‘Tan Sri P Ramlee’ in 2015.

While Nisa’s journey has not been easy, it has certainly been rewarding, and she has taken inspiration from different mentors who have taught her along the way, including her piano teacher who inspired her to take up violin at the age of 7, her parents and her peers who are like-minded in their passion for music.

“Since entering college and meeting many more people around my age doing the same thing as me, I find myself discovering different worlds of music that I didn’t delve into in my school days.

“It’s so beautiful. I wish to share that,” she said during an interview with Sarawak Tourism, explaining her passion for music, a passion she wishes to share.

“It’s not just a form of entertainment—for me, it shares peace and love.”

Considering Nisa’s accomplishments before she has even graduated from Berklee, her life story has become an inspiration to local musicians in Sarawak and the rest of Malaysia.


Sabah Tourism needs to up its ante

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah needs to move up its ante to continue its reign in the tourism industry, insisted Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

Although last year we recorded the best year ever but we must continue to innovate and create more products, he called.

“The tourists must find something new every time they come here. This is what exactly creativity and innovation is all about. It must come from us. We are already a very beautiful state,” said Masidi during the official launch of the North Borneo Crusies at a resort here on Tuesday.

He said although Sabah is rich with incomparable natural beauty but the biggest asset are its people especially those in the tourism industry where they need to be trained to ensure the everlasting success of the State’s tourism industry.

The North Borneo Cruise offers guests a sumptuous dinner while enjoying the beautiful sunset during the two-hour ride across the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and along the city’s waterfront during the evening.

North Borneo Cruise co-founder Tyan Wong said the catamaran used for the cruise is 28m long and 10m wide and it has three decks which can seat up to 100 people at any one time.

The cruise is available from 5pm to 7pm (sunset dinner cruise priced at RM295 per person) and 8pm to 10pm (Kota Kinabalu night dinner cruise priced at 199 per person). Sabahans will get a special promotion of RM188 for both sessions, said Tyan who is also the Business Development Director of Amazing Tours Borneo.

He shared that he got the idea to start the business during a cruise experience in Bangkok and so far the response was encouraging after three months in operation.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tusan Beach Miri - Natural attractions draw visitors from near and far

MIRI: Tusan Beach, located 40 kilometres from Miri, offers stunning sunsets and beautiful landscapes, including the cliffs of Tanjung Layang-Layang which has a unique natural formation known as “Horse Stone”, making it one of the top tourist destinations in Bekenu.

It draws foreign tourists, locals and even Bruneians who drive all the way from the sultanate to witness the natural wonders.

Other attractions in Tusan include several small caves and rock formations, a river stream, beachside stalls offering coconuts drinks and barbecued fare and a local music group performing on Sundays.

“More concrete efforts should be taken by the authority concerned to preserve the natural wonders like the rock formations which are the result of erosion or wind along the beach like at Tusan and Peliau beaches, and to provide guide services,” said visitor Awang Sapong Awang Pungut from Gadong, Brunei when met at the beach recently.

Awang Sapong, 30, said he came to know about Tusan Beach through social media where he saw photographs of its rock formations and the beach and eventually was motivated to visit to see the beautiful landscapes in person.

He said Tusan Beach is different from other beaches he has visited in Borneo including in Sabah and Brunei as it has rock sculptures and small caves formed by erosion.

He suggested that students should be brought on study tours to the beach, especially those studying geology to gain firsthand experience.

“Tusan offers stunning natural beauty which is the best in Sarawak so far,” he opined.

A local visitor from Miri, Abu Bakar, said the local music group performing every Sunday presented a variety of songs to entertain tourists enjoying the cool seaside breeze at the stalls there.


Second edition of Baram Regatta set for Aug 25-27 this year

MARUDI: The second edition of Baram Regatta, which is scheduled for Aug 25 to 27 this year, is set to bring excitement to locals and participants.

A meeting for members of the main organising committee was held at Marudi District Office (MDC) yesterday, chaired by Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala who represented Assistant Minister for Local Government Datu Dr Penguang Manggil.

Penguang, who is Marudi assemblyman, is the organising chairman while Gerawat is in charge of the event’s cultural performance sub-committee.

Penguang could not attend the meeting due to an official duty in Kuching.

The session yesterday was meant to discuss and study the reports from various sub-committees handling the technical aspects, welcoming preparations for regatta and cultural performances to be staged during the ‘1Malaysia Night’ on Aug 26.

The technical sub-committee was represented by its secretary Marudi District Officer Mackos Sibong, who came on behalf of the sub-committee head, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.


Up to 20,000 expected at Lun Bawang fest in Lawas

KUCHING: Between 10,000 and 20,000 visitors are expected at the 30th Irau Aco Lun Bawang festival in Lawas this June 1 to 3.

Sarawak Lun Bawang Association president Ipoi Datan said this year’s theme will be ‘Adat Tau Etu Tau’ (Our Culture is Our Identity).

“This festival is also listed in the calendar of events by the Sarawak tourism ministry,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Ipoi said besides the Lun Bawang community in Sarawak, those from Sabah, Brunei and Kalimantan will also be at three-day festival.

He pointed out that the festival would not only showcase the culture of the Lun Bawang community, but also be a platform to further promote tourism in the state.

“There are several historical attractions in the division such as the Batu Narit and the Buaya Tanah,” said Ipoi, who is also Sarawak Museum Department director.

The highlights of the festival will be a beauty pageant, traditional sports events, cultural performances, and an attempt to enter the ‘Malaysia Book of Records’ for the biggest bamboo band performance.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Skaugen Travel: Into the Jungle at Kinabantangen River

Our Jungle trip are about to start, waiting at the cafeteria in Sepilok, looking around to see if we can figure out who our travel companion will be.

As this is in the middle of the feeding time, most of the visitors in the cafeteria is probably there for a similar reason as us.

Mr Aji arrives and we are 8 adults + 1 child that will camp together for the following days.

Looks like a nice group, but there is one obstacle, the weather forecast! For the following 3 days it is mostly promising rain.

Should we cancel and wait for better weather or go and hope for the best???

We are optimistic, and on our way to the village of Sukau the weather is nice.

We arrive to our accommodation, which is simple but we didn’t expect anything else, and are ready for our first river cruise.

And just in case – bringing a raincoat! On this first afternoon river cruise we are heading downstream to look for crocodiles.

None seen, but we are passing close to the first family of Proboscis Monkeys.

Mr Aji, our guide, can mimic their sound, and the monkeys actually answers him.


Backpacker Polish traveller shares her Sarawak travel experiences

MIRI: Going on a vacation without any pre-planned itinerary to South Asia and South East Asia countries turned out to be the best back-packing trip for Polish traveller Aleksandra Nowak.

Embarking on her long trip in October last year after saving for three years, Nowak made her first stop in India and thereafter to Nepal before returning to India for more exploration.

She continued her journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines before reaching Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“What was supposed to be several days in Kuala Lumpur before my last stop in Thailand turned out to be more than a month after I visited the National Museum. I was deeply attracted to the mysterious yet beautiful Sarawak and its people. I made a last minute change of plan, bought a ticket and everything started from there,” Nowak said when sharing her travel story with The Borneo Post recently.

Considering herself more of a traveller than a tourist, Nowak decided to do some deep exploration during her trip.

“When I was at the museum, I read about the old ethnic people, the tattoos, hole in their ears. The picture displayed was so amazing that I like to see them myself.”

Nowak arrived in Kuching, did some sightseeing and hitch-hiked to Sri Aman, Kapit, Belaga and finally to Miri.

Once she arrived in Sarawak, Nowak shared, one of the very first things that amazed her was ‘sape’.

“I was at a gallery and did some reading about ‘sape’. I also happened to cross paths with a talented Kelabit young lady from Bario who plays sape. She invited me to hear her sape performance. I am truly happy that I accepted the invitation, the performance was so beautiful,” Nowak said, describing herself as a happy child enjoying the first sape performance in her life.

Preferring to travel alone to places, either walking or hitching a ride from strangers, Nowak feels that Sarawak is a safe place for a female traveller.

“People say India is a dangerous place. But having been there twice, I really thought that it is not as scary as what people have said. At least, I managed it during the two times I was there.”

Nowak added that in Sarawak, the people are shy but nice. It could be because she was a foreign visitor and they were showing politeness and respect.

Nowak would first consider the availability of transportation before visiting places.

“To be honest, the choice of transportation is not much. There are places such as Mulu and Bario that can only be reached via plane, which is too expensive. While taxi is also out of question due to expensive fare, my only option to get to places would be the public bus. This alone poses a huge problem, thus backpackers hope the government could come up with a good solution,” she said, adding that she was grateful that there were nice local strangers who gave her a ride along the way.

Accommodation is easy for her, as there are cheap hotels everywhere.

“Backpackers would choose a cheaper option because we are travelling on budget, thus so far, I have had no problem deciding on that,” she said.

One of the most memorable moments during her trip here was when she travelled from Kapit to Belaga.


Baram Regatta to regain original ‘flavour’

MARUDI: This year’s Baram Regatta will regain its original ‘flavour’ by holding a race solely for Baram folk.

Regatta committee technical chairman and Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau said this race involving local boats will be in keeping with the original Baram Regatta more than 100 years ago.

“This is a departure from the previous and last Baram Regatta, where all races were open to any team thus making the

Baram Regatta lose its original ‘flavour’,” he said during a technical committee meeting recently.

He said the Baram Closed race would be solely for Baram folk, while the Baram Open race would be open to all including foreign participants.

“Therefore I urge community leaders and village chiefs in Baram to promote and encourage their longhouses to join the Baram Closed races, which will rekindle the Baram Regatta’s original purpose, that is to promote friendly competition among Baram people,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Baram Regatta to regain original ‘flavour’

Monday, April 24, 2017

Snap, Travel and Pop: Borneo - The Rungus Festival

This blog is part of a series of three that focus on the people and culture in the Kudat region of Borneo, particularly the Rungus tribe.

It is based on my limited experience and subject to my creative interpretation…

We did not know what to expect from the Rungus Festival but what an awesome festival it was.

Held in our volunteering village of Tinagol over two days to celebrate traditional sports and the Rungus belief in Spirits.

The Rungus traditional religion is that of nature (although a lot are now Christian) in which they believe that spirits embody the natural world and that some people can possess spirits of animals or natural objects which give them super powers!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Snap, Travel and Pop: Borneo - The Rungus Festival

The many marvels of Miri

MIRI city has what it takes to be the centre of multiculturalism in Sarawak.

With a rich social and economic history that dates back to the 1800s due to petroleum discovery, Miri has emerged as the second biggest urban centre in Sarawak with a population of 350,000 people.

Miri, which attained resort city status in 2005, has a reputation for staging wonderful events that showcase an excellent blend of multiethnic and multireligious composition.

Assistant Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said Miri, with its 30-plus ethnic and racial groups, is indeed a model of unity and harmony for state and country.

“Multiculturalism can be seen at its best in Miri city.

“We have mosques, churches and temples built near each other.

“The Masjid Al-Naim and Anglican Good Shepherd Church in Lutong even share carparks and stage joint gatherings to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Christmas.

“Miri also has the ability to stage cultural and religious festivities on a big scale,” said Lee.

He said Miri city has been acknowledged as the model of religious and racial unity by locals and foreigners, and every year they hold religious fests like the Christmas parade that brings together people from all walks of life.

“This is an excellent chance for us to showcase our unique blend of multiracial and multireligious unity.

“Miri is a city with more than 30 races and ethnic groups living in harmony and they celebrate each other’s festivities without any hindrance,” he said

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The many marvels of Miri

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Borneo House Museum Kuching - Museum with a 3D touch

PEOPLE usually think of a museum as a solemn gallery house where antiques are displayed for visitors to browse through and comment on quietly – usually in whispers – but not touch.

The Borneo House Museum in Kuching is different. It is an interactive fun house for both young and old alike. Visitors can even show off their creativity by immersing in the artworks on display and becoming part of them.

The Borneo House Museum can be described as an interactive three dimensional (3D) and educational museum where visitors are encouraged to have fun while interacting with the artworks, seeing them come to life and experiencing the trick paintings and replicas.

Selected Sarawak artists took months to cover the 12,500 square foot museum with paintings, cleverly designed to trick the eyes into seeing depth.

The museum, opened to the public in November last year, features interactive displays that bring Sarawak’s nature, culture, heritage and food to life. Through clever simulations, visitors can feel as though they are walking through the heart of Sarawak and Borneo.

The museum has four zones – Sarawak Nature, Old Sarawak, Sarawak Today and Sarawak Iconic Food. The Sarawak food replicas took half a year to set up – from planning to completion.

All the art pieces on display are the result of concerted efforts from the selected Sarawak artists. Each piece carries a very informative and educational storyline. In fact, touring the museum allows one to be an actor, director and photographer – all rolled into one.

“We try to add a new dimension to the concept of a museum,” said Chai Mingtze, one of the supervisors.

“Traditional museums seem to be serious places and visitors can only look but not touch. But here, the overall setup is focused on interactions because we believe visitors can have a more meaningful appreciation of the artworks if they can touch and play with them. We have, for example, made the paintings appear incomplete if you’re not in them.”

He added that visitors could look for the camera angle guides on the floor to know where is the best spot to stand to take a picture of the object for the best 3D effect. Staff are on hand to help visitors with suggestions on where and how to pose to have a perfect picture taken.

Encouraging response

The museum has received up to 10,000 visitors since its opening. Besides from Kuching city itself, visitors also came from Betong, Sri Aman, Sibu, Miri, Sabah, Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Kelantan, Perak, Penang and Kedah with some foreign tourists as well. The numbers do not include school educational tours.

“The response we receive is very encouraging. We are planning to add more zones to make touring the museum more interesting,” Chai said.

He said 3D museums are still rare, being new to the tourism industry, especially in Sarawak, adding that the Borneo House Museum should, therefore, be added to the list of places to see and visit for tourists to the Land of the Hornbills.

Chai explained that since the idea was to promote local culture and food, all art works were produced by local artists.

“In this way, we are also promoting local talents to the world. We do receive a lot of positive feedback from visitors – mainly about the enjoyable time they spent here and that it is a perfect venue for a beneficial family outing because everything on display is educational and informative.”

He noted that children were more attracted to the food replicas probably because they could touch and hold the items and also pose for pictures in their own creative ways.

According to him, the reason could be that children have all the while been asked to just look and not touch or play with any of the displays in a museum. But when they come to the Borneo House Museum, they get very different treatment.

Local food replicas

Chai said the displayed Sarawak food replicas were “very realistic looking” and not cheap to produce.

The tomato kueh tiaw, a uniquely Sarawak dish, is included in the top 10 must-show local foods. It is fried rice noodles served in a slightly sweet tomato-based gravy with sliced fish balls, fish, meat and local vegetables.

Among the other food replicas are Sarawak rojak, Sarawak laksa and kolo mee.

“These are among the popular local food sold at eateries or hawker stalls in the city that foreigners must try if they visit Kuching,” Chai suggested.


170 tourism stakeholders expected at Sarawak Tourism Forum in Miri

MIRI: Some 170 participants from various tourism stakeholders here are expected at a Tourism Forum at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club (EVGCC) on April 29.

Chairman of Miri City Council (MCC)’s tourism development standing committee

Councillor Ernest Goh said the participants are involved in tourism-related development such as hoteliers, transportation, travel agents, tour operators and many others.

“The council welcomes these tourism stakeholders to attend the forum.

“Their support is crucial as the council is going to document all feedback and problems faced by tourism stakeholders here.

“These feedbacks and problems will be compiled and forwarded to the chief minister,” he said, telling the media to elaborate on the tourism development agenda highlighted by him during the full council meeting yesterday.

Goh said MCC will look for financial support from the state government to improve the existing tourism efforts including infrastructure for the city and nearby areas.

He revealed that the council is seeking support from tourism stakeholders to make 2018 a Visit Miri Year (VMY).

“During the last full council meeting, we endorsed the commitment to make next year VMY 2018. Let’s work together to make this effort a success,” he said.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

East of E15: Deforestation in Borneo

When people imagine Borneo they conjure up images of endless steaming jungle filled with bugs, monkeys, orangutans and elephants.

However, this image of Borneo presented in most travel guides and blogs is disingenuous.

While there are still sizable areas of jungle in the upland mountainous regions the super rich and diverse lowland diptocarp jungles and now largely gone expect for a few protected pockets which are not big enough to support healthy populations of Borneo’s famous jungle species such as orangutans, hornbills, the Bornean pygmy elephant and the Sumartran rhino

So what happened? And who is responsible for what Gordon Brown called the greatest environmental crime of the 20th century?

In a series of blogs I will answer these questions and lay out what possible solutions there are to saving Borneo’s remaining jungle.

The answer to the first question is massive deforstation on a scale never seen before and monoculture crop plantations such as rubber but mostly palm oil.

As a result there are areas in Borneo’s lowlands where for hundereds of kilometers there is literally only one plant species, the African oil palm.

Now some may claim that this has been a good thing for the people of Borneo making previously unprodictive land productive, providing employment, a route out of poverty and tax recipts to the government.

All of these claims will be examined in the third blog in this series, while in this first blog I will look at the environmental costs deforestation has had on the flora and fauna of Borneo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: East of E15: Deforestation in Borneo

Unique statues of Sabah

Every sculpture at the state’s roundabouts tells a story of the place

KOTA KINABALU: Have you ever taken time to look at roundabouts when driving or travelling on the road?

Of course, one will take some time to look at them if they are beautifully decorated with flowers.

Roundabouts in Sabah, for instance, can really make head turns because these are the spots where many unique and beautiful statues and sculptures are built.

Almost in all of the 23 districts of Sabah have a roundabout decorated with an object that is synonymous with the respective district.

In Penampang, there is a huge sigar or Kadazandusun traditional headgear sited on a big roundabout in the middle of the Donggongon town. The spot is where a centralised commercial centre, shopping malls, schools and the weekly market are located.

The giant sigar, shows that the majority of Donggongon folk are the Kadazandusuns.

In Kota Kinabalu, one can see a huge billfish statue built on top of a roundabout in the city centre. The sculpture, erected seventeen years ago when Kota Kinabalu received its city status, reminds visitors that they are now in the capital of a state famous for its rich marine resources.

In Tuaran, a town in the outskirts, there is one large roundabout with several white horses standing majestically. Tuaran used to be the main place for horse racing activities.

In the westcoast of Sabah, one can see statues of cabbages and a floating teapot in Kundasang and Ranau, respectively.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Unique statues of Sabah

Street Art Festival to spruce up Visit Sibu Year 2017

SIBU: A Street Art Festival and Artistic Gaming Entertainment (AGE) Convention will be held simultaneously in June to spruce up Visit Sibu Year (VSY) 2017.

According to VSY 2017 co-organiser Wong Hie Ping, this will be the first time such events are held in Sarawak.

Sibu Street Art Festival will be held at Chuan Corridor in Sibu Town Square Phase I from June 9 till 17, 11am to 9pm daily.

AGE Convention, on the other hand, is from June 9 till 11 at Sibu Indoor Stadium from 10am till 10pm daily.

“In conjunction with VSY 2017, we would like to welcome visitors not only from other towns in Sarawak but also outside Sarawak to join in these two events,” Wong told a press conference here yesterday.

Also present were SMC chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, acting municipal secretary Jong Thian Puk, Sibu Street Art Committee member Teng Min Min, Sanyan Road Recreational Club president Richard Lee, treasurer Sylvester Ling and Top Event Services Sdn Bhd managing director Edward Mut.

On Sibu Street Art Festival, Teng Min Min said this would take up the whole stretch of Chuan Corridor which will be designated into zones A, B and C.

Zone A will comprise creative bazaar and Kids Fun Park, while zone B is for mini mural/photography and selfies section and zone C, for street art section. The three zones include street gallery, creative bazaar, vintage mini theatre, street busking, murals photo booth and kids fun park.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Sabah to expand protected rainforest coverage to 30% by 2025

KOTA KINABALU: A document has been inked for a landmark project which will increase the size of Sabah’s protected forest coverage to 30 per cent of the state’s total land area by 2025, from the current 26 per cent.

The ceremony, which took place yesterday at Cambridge, in the UK, saw the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) for the initiative.

The Department’s Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Sam Mannan, said the project will involve the protection of an additional one million acres (404,685 hectares) of rainforest in Sabah using world-class science.

The exact locations of the new areas have yet to be identified.

“Over the past 20 years, we have worked to increase the extent of protected forests in Sabah by a factor of five to almost 1.9 million hectares today – equivalent to 26 per cent of the state’s land area, surpassing even the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s Aichi targets.

“The Sabah government is committed to increasing the extent of protected forests from the current 26 per cent to 30 per cent of land area by 2025. This is the work that lies ahead of us,” he said in a statement released here.

The strategic partnership also includes the Carnegie Institution for Science, the PACOS Trust and the BC Initiative, he added.


Opening of new Miri Cultural and Heritage Museum set for this September

MIRI: The proposed Miri Cultural and Heritage Museum – the first museum in Sarawak built in a former office complex of historical value – is scheduled to open to the public by September this year.

Curator of Sarawak Museum’s Natural History and Zoology, Dr Charles Leh, said the design for the project is complete and will be forwarded soonest to the Public Works Department (PWD) to call for tender.

“We have the funds for the project and once a tender had been called by PWD and renovation work begin, we expect the museum to be ready and open to the public by September this year,” he said when contacted recently.

The proposed museum site is at the former Miri Resident and District Office (Rando) complex which also houses the Islamic Religious Department (Jais) built in 1912, soon after the first oil well in the country was sunk atop Canada Hill in 1910.

“The complex has historical value and once artefacts of historical value from all over Miri are displayed there, it will enhance conservation work on the rich heritage in the Division.

“Thus visitors including tourists coming to the museum will have greater understanding on the rich cultural heritage of Miri including interesting places to visit like the world heritage site  Mulu National Park and prehistoric Niah Caves, Loagan Bunut and Piasau Nature Reserve,” he said.

Dr Leh reiterated that they want the museum to be a community-based museum for the community to be involved, as in contributing historical artefacts, like pictures of their longhouses in the past.

Once completed, Miri Division will have four museums. The other three are the Petroleum Science Museum on Canada Hill overlooking the city centre, Fort Hose in Marudi, and Niah Archaeology Museum.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sabah Fest to showcase local legend ‘Supirak’ in May

KOTA KINABALU: “Supirak – The Legendary Stone Ark” a musical theatrical performance based on local legend will be showcased during this year’s Sabah Fest.

“Every May, we take the opportunity to be storytellers for the many Sabah folklores that need to be shared. This year we will showcase the story of Supirak,” said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun during a press conference at his office yesterday.

He said the local folklore known by the Pitas folk, told about a young but poor man who left his home and his mother in search of a better future, and came back years later as the wealthy son-in-law of a king but refused to acknowledge that the old woman named “Supirak” was his mother out of shame and pride.

As a result, his mother cursed him and he was turned into a stone along with his bride and the entire crew members of his vessel (including his ship).

“The story is similar to that of another legend, the story of ‘Si Tanggang’,” said Masidi.

He added anyone wanting to see the legendary stone ark could visit Pitas to see the island rock formation that resembled a ship.

The main actors for the show are Lina Mohamed Lin who plays “Supirak” (the mother), Ebi Kornelius @ Firdaus Yamal who plays “Ragam” (the son), Rubisa Tiasin who plays “Si Indah” and Marlena Jaafar @ James who plays “Putli Sampang Mengayau”.

Tickets for the show are on sale now at Sri Pelancongan at RM50 per person and shows will be held on May 6, which is the premier showcase, and on May 7 at the National Department For Culture And Arts auditorium  near here.


Sabah scraps Sukau bridge project

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has scrapped a controversial plan to build a second bridge across the Kinabatangan River.

The Sabah government's decision to scrap the RM223mil Sukau bridge project was announced in London by Sabah Forest Department chief conservator Datuk Sam Mannan.

Mannan said this during his speech at the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) dinner Thursday held at the Royal Society in London.

"In making this decision, Chief Minister of Sabah Datuk Seri Musa Aman has taken into consideration all the concerns and opinions expressed related to the bridge, including those from Yayasan Sime Darby, Nestle, scientists and NGO groups and also the opinion of someone who knows the territory better than anybody else – Sir David Attenborough," Mannan said.

In March, the Guardian newspaper published an article highlighting Sir David Attenborough's concerns over the proposed bridge that would span 350m across the Kinabatangan River, threatening one of the last sanctuaries of the rare Bornean pygmy elephant.

"If I may say so, that headline broke the camel's back," Mannan said.

"It made us understand that the issue of a proposed bridge across a protected area for wildlife is now the number one environmental concern not just in Sabah, but globally too, because of the extremely precarious situation of the rich wildlife therein."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah scraps Sukau bridge project

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

We Blog the World: What You Need To Know About Malaysia’s Borneo

Travelers seem to like to lump all of Malaysian Borneo together, but I found the states of Sabah and Sarawak—and, in particular, their capitals of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching—to be completely different.

Indeed, it’s because of all that differentiates these two cities that I hesitate to say whether Kota Kinabalu or Kuching was objectively “better.”

But I do think it’s necessary to write this post comparing and contrasting them, if only so that you can have a realistic idea of what to expect on your own trip to Borneo.

Kota Kinabalu vs. Kuching Cityscape

Kota Kinabalu is grungy—there’s no other way to put it.

In some parts of the city this works, such as in the actual city center, which almost evokes what I imagine China would be like if it were more tropical.

On the other hand, Kota Kinabalu’s city beaches, such as famed sunset spot Tanjung Aru, are downright nasty.

I didn’t feel like I was in paradise there, and really never even felt at ease. (To give credit where credit was due, however, the Kota Kinabalu city mosque was stunning.)

Kuching, on the other hand, is not only significantly cleaner and greener than Kota Kinabalu, in terms of its city-proper, but seems to blend more effortlessly into the surrounding jungle and river scenery.

I felt like I was “in” Borneo the moment I arrived in Kuching, if that makes any sense, and I certainly hadn’t felt the way in Kota Kinabalu.


Celebrate CJB’s musical democracy at Borneo Jazz Festival

The Cape Jazz Band will be performing at the Borneo Jazz Festival at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri this May 12 and 13.

Fondly known as ‘The CJB’, the jazz band will be bringing a full brass section to the festival, performing their ‘cape jazz’ from Cape Town, South Africa.

With a special focus on brass and percussion instruments, they will be performing a fast paced, street carnival styled repertoire akin to that of the founders of Cape Jazz back in the early days of post-apartheid South Africa, according to a Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) press statement yesterday.

The CJB, which began in 2013 led by jazz drummer Jack Momple, has contributed to many of the most famous ‘cape jazz’ recordings.

Their album ‘Musical Democracy’ was released that same year and comprised original ‘cape jazz’ compositions by Momple and CJB members.

Their energetic, manic-celebratory style maintains the bottom line of ‘cape jazz’, that is freedom of expression through times of oppression, a message that no hurdle is insurmountable without hope, persistence and a little festivity.


Sabah Parks to empower native communities living in protected rainforests

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks aims to empower native communities living in protected rainforests to manage their natural resources sustainably while protecting the connecting Sabah’s biodiverse landscapes between the Mount Kinabalu World Heritage and the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve.

“This strategy is part of the initiative in forming community-conserved protected zones by integrating biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources throughout the Indigenous Community Conservation Areas (ICCA) under Sabah Park’s Kinabalu Ecolinc project,“ said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

The plan is to establish ecological linkages connecting the two national parks which are currently separated by state land as well as adopting ICCA approach to protect the forested areas while ensuring that local communities retain the rights to their bio-cultural values and enhance their livelihoods.

Speaking at the officiating ceremony of the 2nd Satoyama Initiativen Regional Workshop on Tuesday, Musa underlined the state government places a high emphasis to ensuring socioeconomic activities adhere to sustainable practices in the use of natural resources.

“Advancing the bio-cultural concept in managing natural resources is one of our strategies under the Sabah Biodiversity Strategy 2012-2022,”he said.

Among those who witnessed the officiating ceremony of the Satoyama Initiative Regional Workshop, include programme director Naoya Tsukamoto, IPSI Secretariat at the UNU-IAS, among others.

The workshop, hosted by the United Nations University for Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Secretariat of International Partnership for Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) gathers local and international researchers to discuss strategies on mainstreaming the Satoyama concept of ‘living in harmony with the environment’.

Musa said the theme of the workshop, ”Mainstreaming Concepts and Approaches of Socio Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes in Asia” is an fitting topic and expressed hope expressed hope that participants can exchange views with their international counterparts on applying the Satoyama concepts locally.


Get a taste of Melanau cuisine, culture at Damai

KUCHING: After a series of ‘MakanMakan’ events featuring ethnic cuisine and food culture in conjunction with major festivals like Chinese New Year, Gawai Dayak, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Deepavali, this year’s ‘MakanMakan Sarawak 2017’ will start with the rich Melanau food culture.

Organised by Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak (YPS) and the Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) in collaboration with The Champions, Melanau Association of Kuching (MAK) and Majlis Adat Istiadat (Council for Native Customs and Tradition), the ‘MakanMakan Sarawak: Pesta Makanan Melanau’ event will be held this April 22 at Damai Beach Resort in Santubong from 11am to 5pm.

YPS in a statement yesterday said there will be two segments in the event whereby the first segment will be a ticketed lunch from 11am to 2pm.

Twenty authentic Melanau dishes such as ‘pipuih’, ‘sagok nyiur’, ‘umai’, ‘linut’, ‘ulam’, and ‘bubur sekapur’ will be served during the lunch where guests will also be entertained with dances such as the ‘alu-alu’.

The dishes will be accompanied by detailed explanations by a cultural and food expert from MAK.

Meanwhile, the second segment will be a free exhibition at Damai Beach Resort’s Sunset Hall which is open to the public from 2pm to 5pm.

This will include food demonstrations, explanations of cultural practices and even traditional Melanau games which guests can participate in.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Get a taste of Melanau cuisine, culture at Damai

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Travel Wire Asia: Roving in Borneo - The height of luxury in the depths of nature

BORNEO is one of Southeast Asia’s most prized natural wonders, an overwhelmingly stunning archipelago where some of the region’s most unspoiled rainforests and shorelines reside.

The region is also home to rare wildlife including many that are endemic; a nature trek could see you encounter species such as hornbills, orangutans, sun bears, leopard cats, proboscis monkeys, and pygmy elephants.

While refreshing to be at one with nature, your stay in Borneo doesn’t have to cross out the comfort and luxury you might be used to on a city or beach retreat. Here are four hotels that bring a little bit of decadence to the forest.

This spectacular five-star resort is perched on a hill and surrounded by the best of both worlds – the unspoiled Pantai Dalit Beach and 400 acres of lush tropical forest. While Kota Kinabalu in the east Malaysian state of Sabah has an abundance of stunning natural landscapes, Shangri-La’s outdoes one’s expectations of Borneo by offering both luxury and nature under one roof.

In the Garden Wing, each room features a private balcony with two armchairs and a coffee table overlooking the forest, garden or sea. Whether it’s the Superior Rainforest View, the Deluxe Garden View, or the Deluxe Sea View you opt for, rest assured you’ll rise every morning to a beautiful backdrop.

The 64-acre Nature Reserve is home to many species of flora and fauna that are naturally found in Sabah. While preserving the wonders of nature, the reserve also serves to educate guests of the beauty and uniqueness of the local biodiversity.

Meanwhile, the Canopy Walkway offers miles of picturesque views of the sea on one side and the majestic Mount Kinabalu on the other. Guests can explore the Nature Reserve with the guide of a Resident Naturalist via the six nature trails – herbal, entomology, native, wildlife, canopy walkway and adventure.

Deep within the dense tropical rainforest of Sarawak is Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, a unique five-star operation. Suspended on a walkway set in the forest and designed in the style of a traditional longhouse, this Marriott property is likely to be the first of its kind you’ve set foot in.


Travel Wire Asia: Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu - Luxury in the stunning wilds of Borneo

IMAGINE an emerald-green forest paradise that hums with life, lined by sandy shores and a crystal-blue ocean with waters that sparkle for miles on end.

Well, that paradise is Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu, a spectacular five-star resort perched on a hill and surrounded by the best of both worlds – the unspoiled Pantai Dalit Beach and 400 acres of lush tropical forest.

While Kota Kinabalu in the east Malaysian state of Sabah has an abundance of stunning natural landscapes, Shangri-La’s outdoes one’s expectations of Borneo by offering both luxury and nature under one roof.

The resort’s 499 guestrooms assimilate the natural tranquility of its surrounding with the nature inspired interior d├ęcor. All this to better help you appreciate the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the shore from the comfort of your room.

In the Garden Wing, each room features a private balcony with two armchairs and a coffee table overlooking the forest, garden or sea. Whether it’s the Superior Rainforest View, the Deluxe Garden View, or the Deluxe Sea View you opt for, rest assured you’ll rise every morning to a beautiful backdrop.

Meanwhile, the Ocean Wing – which features all-inclusive suites for both couples and families – face the wind-swept seashore and is equipped with a private oversized outdoor bathtub so you can take in the crisp, salty air even while basking in the bath. The Ocean Wing Premier Rooms have the bonus of a private terrace overlooking the shoreline.


Adventures of a Jackpacker: Borneo - The Jungle Book Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

As evening descended on the Kinabatangan river, we took a detour into a nearby lake which was huge and beautiful, arriving just in time for sunset.

This diversion took us into the “proper” rainforest which forced us to duck under branches and knock back plants as our boat chugged through the low hanging jungle.

On our way back, we spotted more macaques and proboscis monkeys, looking as bizarre as ever with their giant beer bellies and stonking great noses.

As we headed back to Osman’s, we stumbled across our first and only orang-utan of the boat trips, though we had to use the binoculars to see it since it was hiding in a gigantic tree.

It was pretty big and stayed put so we could have a good look. One of the elephants seemed to get jealous that the orang-utan was getting all the attention though and paraded out of the reeds to try and hog the limelight.

I’m not sure what bizarre landscape this where your response to an elephant making itself known is, “Oh look another one”.

After admiring yet another spectacular rainforest sunset and having a bite to eat, we headed out on our most adventurous boat cruise yet – the night time one.

I had no idea what to expect and genuinely thought we’d be unlikely to see very much (hence the lack of pictures as I didn’t take my camera). How wrong I was!


Poser over interesting places in Miri

MIRI: Whenever a friend from out of town comes to visit, the one question they often ask is: What are the interesting places to visit in Miri?

Though it seems like a simple question, shamefully, I can’t answer the question.

The typical places of interest like the Grand Old Lady on top of Canada Hill, Lambir National Park, Tusan Beach, Borneo Tropical Rainforest, etc are, to me, the ‘usual’ tourist attractions. I am sure many would agree with me.

But are they sufficient enough to keep tourists and travellers coming back?

An avid traveller and businessman, Eric Chin, pointed out that tourism products are vital to the industry.

“But, do the relevant authorities realise that the itinerary for tourists is equally important?” Chin asked during an interview recently.

A travel agent whom Chin met recently had told him that there are many attractions that Sarawak Tourism could offer but said the government and industry players may not have realised the importance of itinerary.

“The latest attraction is none other than Tusan Beach where people could enjoy the beautiful blue tears. If it is merely enjoying the scenery after 30 minutes of driving for about 30 km from Miri City, it may not be worth the petrol and the ride,” he said.

Itinerary package

Promotional strategy, he insisted, should be made in a way that it prepares itinerary packages from place to place that keep tourists occupied, making it worth their money and flight tickets.

“On this matter, the government should work hand-in-hand with the private sector to develop these places, to make them interesting,” he said, suggesting that chalets and eateries as well as water sports facilities be built here, as a way to keep visitors coming back.

“From beach sunbathing, volley ball court, snorkelling to observing the natural ‘Blue Tears’ phenomena etc., if these activities are offered to tourists, I am sure that the latter could enjoy themselves very much,” he said.

Offering tax return to the private sector as a way to appreciate their effort in developing the tourism industry is a great way that the government could consider, Chin suggested.

“Private companies want to help develop the industry. The government could provide financial support or planning assistance, either way or both, it is surely a win-win situation for the betterment of our economy and tourism industry.”

Preserve, not Demolish

Chin went on to criticise the government’s bold move in removing and rebuilding the old buildings and structures, making Miri slowly lose its identity and historical heritage.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Poser over interesting places in Miri