Sunday, December 31, 2017

Seren Hughes: Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu

It was an early start. Up at 5:20 for the transfer to the base of the mountain to start the ascent.

I was joined by a guide and two Australian girls (who were a lot of fun and the best hiking companions).

We climbed innumerable steps up and up and up the mountain in a perpetual fog.

A light rain that was essentially just droplets of moisture kept us cool. Barred from the view of what was below and beyond us, our vision was confined to our direct surroundings, which changed gradually every few kilometres.

First, luscious green rainforest, then more sparse bush-like vegetation with fewer leaves but with pretty pink flowers on the trees, and finally alpine territory before the craggy rocks of the summit.

As we climbed, porters rushed past us, their breathing heavy as they lugged various food or construction items up to the rest huts before the summit.

Their fitness was impressive, as they were extremely speedy despite carrying such heavy loads.

They bore the weight on their back with straps around their shoulders and across their forehead. An interesting, but evidently efficient method.

After an evening in the rest hut, we woke at 2am for the summit. Our aim was to reach the peak and experience the sunrise from there.

We set off wrapped in many layers, as the temperature had dropped from the altitude and the early hour. Our head torches lit the way.

For the first time we had clear skies and could see both the brilliant stars and galaxies above us and the lights of the various villages of Sabah sprawling below us. The clarity was stunning.

Around half way, temperatures were dropping further and rain had started to fall. At first it was light and unnoticeable.

We had reached the sheer rock of the final stretches, and pulled ourselves up the rock with a rope.

It was tough going on the the upper body, but we were making steady progress and were on target to reach the summit early enough to have a break before sunrise.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Seren Hughes: Mount Kinabalu

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Crisp of Life: Woo! Cafe @ Lorong Dewan, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Woo! is a contemporary, simple and modern cafe in Kota Kinabalu and serves well as a good hangout place.

The location might be slightly concealed from the main roads but with the help from Google Maps or Waze, locating it ain't a uphill task now.

Woo! cafe serves primarily western dishes and a range of drinks, including Matcha Latte by using pure Uji matcha powder, cold pressed juices and tea.

The cafe has a minimalist design with white paint on the wall, yielding a comfortable ambiance for a laid back afternoon.

Upon stepped into the cafe, the staff greets everyone equally with a big shout of welcome.

Picking a choice for meal here is not difficult as the menu is filled with a number of appetizing dishes, such as baked pumpkin on toast and mushroom bruschetta for breakfast, a range of unique pasta such as unagi sauce salmon pasta, spicy Korean seafood pasta, steaks, lamb loin and some desserts.

I was surprised to see the 180gm steak here is priced at RM 33 only.


Unique Tun Mustapha Park potential tourism game changer

KOTA KINABALU: With its unique biodiversity, the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) is a potential game changer to help boost tourism sector in Malaysia, particularly Sabah.

The 898,726.26 ha TMP area has more than 50 islands and islets located in the Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts in the northern part of Sabah.

The TMP is also home to Sabah’s third largest volume of fishery products from coral reefs, bays and open waters, and the source of livelihood to 80,000 coastal inhabitants, with great potential for eco-tourism.

The area’s unique biodiversity supports and linked habitats and is home to endangered marine animals, such as green sea turtles and dugongs.

A small community of the distinctive Palauh (pelaut) or sea gypsy people is also found inhabiting the open sea area in TMP.

A team of scientists and researchers from local universities and Non-Governmental Organizational bodies (NGOs) have recently completed a five-week (from April 15 to May 19) scientific expedition in TMP.

The findings of the research works were presented during a two-day seminar, organized by Sabah Parks, at a leading hotel in Kota Kinabalu, last month.

The expedition, organized by the Sabah Parks, was to collate information for the Park management to focus on conservation activities as well as to have better control of the Park.

Participants of the open sea and land expedition were from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), UiTM, University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF), Sabah Environmental Trust (SET), WWF Malaysia, Politeknik Sandakan and Sabah Parks.

The first scientific expedition was launched in the same area in 2012 to gather marine scientific data for the gazettement of the park.

TMP was gazetted on May 19, 2016 under the Parks Enactment 1984 with an area of 898,726.76 ha, covering only the sea area.

According to WWF Malaysia, TMP is the largest marine protected in Malaysia. As a signatory to the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, Malaysia has developed a National Plan of Action to protect its portion of the CT area.

Tun Mustapha Park is one of Malaysia’s CTI Priority Conservation Areas.

The focus of research during the recent scientific expedition include community interrelation with forest eco-system services of the islands in TMP, tourism resources assessment, the role of TMP in the conservation of cultural heritage and conservation of TMP marine resources.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Tourists must carry ID – Sabah Parks

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks has urged the tour operators in the state to ensure that their tourists bring their necessary identification documents when traveling around Sabah.

Board of Trustees Senior Park manager Maipol Spait said tour operators had a tendency for not bringing their respective tourists’ passports when visiting Sabah Parks.

“These tourists usually leave their passports in their hotel rooms…maybe they are afraid that they may damage their passports (when they visit the islands),” he said when met by reporters during an operation at Pulau Manukan on Thursday.

“This is for their (the tourists) own safety. In the event of an emergency or an accident, the identification of victims can be easily obtained if they have their passports with them,” he said, adding that passports would help speed up any identifying process.

When asked whether legal action would be taken against tourists for not bringing their passports along, Immigration Department representative Abdul Matar Abdul Mutalib said that a warning would be issued against them instead.

The three-hour operation was spearheaded by Sabah Parks, Police and the Immigration Department and it covered three islands, namely Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sapi.

A total of 165 individuals, comprising tourists and workers and 48 boats were inspected.

Only one male boat skipper was slapped with a RM20 compound for not possessing a landing permit. None of the said individuals were fined.

“The purpose of this operation is to ensure that the procedures and rules of the Sabah Parks Enactment are complied with.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Captive breeding in wildlife conservation unpopular - Sabah Wildlife

KOTA KINABALU:  Assisted reproduction and captive breeding methods are not fashionable in wildlife conservation circles either in Sabah or globally, said Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Augustine Tuuga.

Tuuga was commenting on two wildlife experts based in Sabah in a recent article of Malay Mail Online published on December 21.

In the article, the experts expressed fears over the status of endangered wildlife species including the Sumatran rhino, banteng, elephant, sun bear, orangutan and pangolin.

“We thank them for their supportive comments and would like to expand on two of the methods that they noted, namely assisted reproduction and captive breeding. These methods are currently not fashionable in wildlife conservation circles either here or globally,” he said in a statement.

“But rare wildlife species will keep on going extinct if we do not grasp the realities and think of new and supportive means to save them.

“One important point is that setting aside protected areas is absolutely necessary, but this is never going to be enough, anywhere in the world, to save every species from eventual extinction.

“The best lands are taken up by the human population, and it is the large animals that are the most at risk.

“Another point is that many wildlife species are actually quite adaptable in terms of their habitat requirements, and we need to make some profound mental adjustments if we are to plan for the future.

“If we had 20 fertile Sumatran rhinos and 20 fertile Bornean banteng available, I would be happy to set up a joint venture with a big oil palm plantation and let the animals live and breed under the oil palms, where they could get most of their food by eating weeds.

“A third and critical point is that when a species gets down to very low numbers, the concern should not only be with reducing deaths but, more importantly, increasing birth rate,” he explained.

He said that in the Sumatran rhino case, poaching had ceased to be the main problem and after the 1960s, the main problem was insufficient births, instead.

Tuuga explained that the Sumatran rhino case also showed that about 80% of more than 20 female rhinos captured in Indonesia and Malaysia since the 1980s had significant reproductive pathology which prevented them from being able to bear a foetus.


Monday, December 25, 2017

The Lite Backpacker: How to Dive in Borneo on a Budget

Heading to Malaysia and want to do something adventurous? I suggest going for a dive in Borneo, in particular the island of Mabul. The diving in Borneo is spectacular, the water is warm and clear, the wildlife is plentiful and the people are friendly.

If you are a dive enthusiast or just a lover of all things in the ocean then I can’t recommend Borneo enough! It was an amazing experience and one of my all time favourite places to dive, but there are a few things I wish I had thought/known to ask before I left. Hopefully this post can help you plan your own Borneo dive adventure.

Where did I dive in Borneo?

I stayed on the island of Mabul which is off the coast of Semporna and is where most people stay when they dive the world famous Sipidan reef. Unfortunately, because I didn’t get my act together quickly enough, I wasn’t able to dive Sipidan, but the dive spots around Mabul were amazing in my opinion (though obviously I cant compare them to Sipidan).

Is it safe to dive in Borneo?

First things first, never take chances with your safety. It isn’t worth it. There is a travel warning on most of the dive areas in Borneo, in particular Sipidan, due to pirates from the Philippines. I strongly suggest doing your own research to work out if you are comfortable traveling and diving in the area.

At first I was concerned about how many people said they weren’t going to go due to the travel warning, but the more I dug, the more I discovered that there was still a large volume of tourists visiting the area with no harm coming to them. Doing the percentages, I would be safer diving in Borneo than I would be walking the streets in London or New York.

While there, I felt nothing but safe. I can’t imagine how a pirate would be able to kidnap you. I stayed on the island of Mabul which is the launch pad for Sipidan and there was always a Malaysian navy boat in sight.

Not to mention that most of the dive sites were within eyesight of the island, which is densely populated, therefore any pirates would be seen approaching from a long way off. I had zero worries for my safety from pirates… hurricanes maybe, pirates none.

You need to make your own judgement by doing some research, but if you were to meet me on the road and ask for my opinion, I would say go for it.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Original Travel: Your Child's First Expedition - Borneo

Once your children have reached the slightly scary 'tweenage' years of 9-12 years old, you can start veering toward the ever more adventurous holidays, for instance, their first expedition. 

We think that Malaysian Borneo provides adventure-a-plenty for little explorers; this is the land of wild orangutans, pygmy elephants, butterflies the size of dinner plates and ancient rainforest that is even older than Dad (yes, THAT old).

We can arrange private nature guides - essential to ensure that any trekking is perfectly suited to little legs - and be sure to build in some beach time to unwind after all that jungle excitement.

Plus, the kids' well-used wildlife checklists will provide some serious braggability at next term's show and tell...

Canopy Capers

Nippers with a head for heights will love exploring the canopy walkway in the heart of the Danum Valley.

The series of (very sturdy) bridges and platforms are suspended 100ft up, at their highest points, and look our over the 130 million year old jungle canopy.


Commemorate the year end with a feast at Sabah Hotel, Sandakan

SANDAKAN: Sabah Hotel has “cooked up” some promotional line ups during this festive season at Plantation CafĂ©.

“What better way to welcome the Yuletide season, bid farewell to 2017 and usher in the New Year than a beautiful feast with loved ones at Sabah Hotel,” Director of Sales Nur Idayu Bujang disclosed to New Sabah Times on Thursday.

“Our promotions includes Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner and Christmas Buffet Dinner which features mouth watering selection of Charcoal Grilled Whole Lamb, Roasted Christmas Turkey, Beef Wellington, Baked Whole Salmon, Smoked Salmon and Stalls,” she added.

This is available on both evenings from 6.30pm to 10pm at RM 108 nett per Adult, special discounts for Senior Citizen (60 years and above) and Child (5- 12 years old) at 25 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. Santa and Santarina will make a special appearance to bring candies and joy.

Christmas goodies including Ginger Bread Cookies, Christmas Cakes, Puddings, an assortment of Pies and Chocolate selections are now available for purchase at lobby lounge until 31 Dec 2017. 

Avoid the hassle of preparing for roast items and place an order of your choice – Roasted Christmas Turkey at RM 498 nett per Bird and Succulent Roast Leg of Lamb at RM 398 nett per Leg, Nur Idayu said.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Critical Wildlife Corridor in Borneo Secures Safe Passage for Pygmy Elephants

Rainforest Trust and its local partner in Borneo, HUTAN, announced a critical land purchase at the juncture of the Kinabatangan River and a tributary that is a major pinch-point for migrating Pygmy Elephants in Sabah.

“This small but strategic property safeguards a major pinch-point for migrating Pygmy Elephants in Sabah,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman.

“This property is one of the most important river crossing points between two protected areas and was at risk of being converted to an oil palm plantation, which would have greatly hindered the passage of over 100 Critically Endangered Bornean Pygmy Elephants.

In fact, in 2016 I had the pleasure of witnessing a family of Pygmy Elephants crossing from this very property that was for sale.”

In an effort to provide a connected landscape for the region’s species, Rainforest Trust’s local partner is working to protect the Kinabatangan Corridor, which links wildlife reserves and provides orangutans and elephants with safe passage in one of Malaysia’s most beautiful tropical rainforests.

This land within the corridor was sought by the oil palm industry, making its protection all the more critical.


Batik Air to fly direct from Jakarta to Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: Batik Air will start flying direct from Jakarta Soekarno – Hatta International Airport (CGK) to Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) twice a week following its successful inaugural flight yestrday.

Kota Kinabalu was chosen as its new destination as part of the plan to expand its international network.

Early this month, Batik Air flew to two new Indonesian destinations, Silangit in North Sumatra and Labuan Bajo on the Island of Flores in East Tenggara.

Managing director of Malaysia Airports, Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, said the new flight route would benefit both countries well.

“We are happy to see yet another airline adding Kota Kinabalu as their destination after the consolidation of operations under one terminal back in 2015.

“Based on our records, total passenger traffic movements in BKI have experienced good growth registering 7.3 million from January to November 2017, increasing by 11.2% over the same period last year.

“In fact, international passenger traffic movements have seen even more robust growth. During the same period, BKI registered 2.3 million international passenger traffic movements, an increase of 22.1% from last year.

“We are glad to see this increase, especially after our pledge in the last two years to further support the development of tourism in Sabah by intensifying efforts to promote Sabah as a destination,” said Badlisham.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Lite Backpacker: How to Dive in Borneo on a Budget

Heading to Malaysia and want to do something adventurous? I suggest going for a dive in Borneo, in particular the island of Mabul. The diving in Borneo is spectacular, the water is warm and clear, the wildlife is plentiful and the people are friendly.

If you are a dive enthusiast or just a lover of all things in the ocean then I can’t recommend Borneo enough! It was an amazing experience and one of my all time favourite places to dive, but there are a few things I wish I had thought/known to ask before I left. Hopefully this post can help you plan your own Borneo dive adventure.

Where did I dive in Borneo?

I stayed on the island of Mabul which is off the coast of Semporna and is where most people stay when they dive the world famous Sipidan reef. Unfortunately, because I didn’t get my act together quickly enough, I wasn’t able to dive Sipidan, but the dive spots around Mabul were amazing in my opinion (though obviously I cant compare them to Sipidan).

Is it safe to dive in Borneo?

First things first, never take chances with your safety. It isn’t worth it. There is a travel warning on most of the dive areas in Borneo, in particular Sipidan, due to pirates from the Philippines. I strongly suggest doing your own research to work out if you are comfortable traveling and diving in the area.

At first I was concerned about how many people said they weren’t going to go due to the travel warning, but the more I dug, the more I discovered that there was still a large volume of tourists visiting the area with no harm coming to them. Doing the percentages, I would be safer diving in Borneo than I would be walking the streets in London or New York.

While there, I felt nothing but safe. I can’t imagine how a pirate would be able to kidnap you. I stayed on the island of Mabul which is the launch pad for Sipidan and there was always a Malaysian navy boat in sight.

Not to mention that most of the dive sites were within eyesight of the island, which is densely populated, therefore any pirates would be seen approaching from a long way off. I had zero worries for my safety from pirates… hurricanes maybe, pirates none.

You need to make your own judgement by doing some research, but if you were to meet me on the road and ask for my opinion, I would say go for it.


Kota Kinabalu International Airport registers 11.2 pct growth in passenger movement this year

KOTA KINABALU: Passenger traffic movement at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) stood at 7.3 million people in November, an 11.2 per cent growth compared to the same period last year.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said the international segment received an even bigger growth, registering 2.3 million people or a 22.1 percent hike compared to the previous year.

“We are glad to see this increase especially after our pledge in the last two years to further support the development of tourism in Sabah by intensifying efforts to promote the state as a destination.

Tourism in Sabah is at its peak right now, with each town offering fabulous local activities combining nature and culture,” he said.

In a statement announcing the new route by Indonesia’s Batik Air, connecting Kota Kinabalu with Jakarta, starting today, Badlisham said the new route is timely as Indonesians can now enjoy Sabah at its best.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Downbelow Adventures: Get Fit Mount Kinabalu Summit Climb

Considering whether to climb Mount Kinabalu whilst traveling Sabah, Borneo?

Wondering how challenging is the Mount Kinabalu Climb and how fit you need to be. You do not need to be super fit to climb Mount Kinabalu but you do need to be in good physical condition.

Mount Kinabalu Summit Climb

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu is a tough physical challenge but not a technical climb as such. The average climber ascends from the starting point of Timpohon Gate within Kinabalu Park to Panalaban (aka Laban Rata), located a.s.l 3,333m in approximatley 4 – 6 hours.

Our good friend Ravi Tharumalingam two time Mt Everest submitter recommends taking your time and aiming for a minimum 6 hour ascent time to reduce the effects of altitude sickness which can effect some people at this elevation.

Unrelenting large, seemingly endless rock steps form the well trodden path. The route is 99% uphill and the secret to a successfully climb is to take it slowly, unless you’re competing in the annual Kinabalu Climbathon, climbing Mt. Kinabalu is not a competition.

Rest huts are located along the route at 1KM intervals, equipped with squat toilets and untreated water they provide a seating area and an opportunity to discuss with other climbers the climbing experience.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Curls Around The World: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

The third country I visited while on board the cruise ship was Malaysia.

We spent a few hours in the Capital Of Kota Kinabalu, in the northern part of the island of Borneo.

I had heard of Borneo many times and always wanted to visit.

An island divided by three countries, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, it is the third largest island in the world!

Kota Kinabalu is referred to as KK, it’s a coastal city partly surrounded by rainforest.

This was a wonderful port to sail into, seeing the beauty of Borneo’s landscape, the mountains.

Kota Kinabalu is known for its markets, which we explored as well as the modern boardwalk, beaches and waterfront Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Curls Around The World: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Wandergraphy: The Crafting of Sape, Borneo’s Traditional Lute

Ever since we were in semester one of our diploma studies, both of us along with a few of our friends had always talked about visiting Sarawak’s very own living museum, The Sarawak Culture Village.

It wasn’t until just recently – mind you, we are now in our fourth semester – that we finally, yes finally, we got to visit Sarawak Culture Village during one of our weekends.

Sarawak Cultural Village is known as Sarawak’s living museum because the place is a blend of history, tradition, culture, and lifestyle of the many ethnic living in Sarawak.

There is a total of seven traditional houses within Sarawak Cultural Village and each house belongs to one of the ethnic in Sarawak.

And so in a group of about 8 people, we went around visiting the traditional houses and even watched the cultural show.

Here’s where it suddenly got interesting, as we were walking towards the Orang Ulu longhouse, our ears suddenly picked up the sound of a beautiful melody that came from a string instrument that definitely sound a lot different than your average guitar.

However after a while, the melody suddenly stopped. We then climbed up the stairs of the Orang Ulu Longhouse to find the source of the music.

Sure enough, we found a man, literally half naked and dressed in a kelambi, a loincloth worn on the bottom by the man of the Orang Ulu tribe, sitting at the far end of the long house while doing some woodworking.

Curious, we went to him and sat down to question him about what he was making.

He introduced himself to us as Francis Kujen, who has been working with Sarawak Cultural Village for a long time now.

And apart from that, he is also a professional sape player who has travelled around the globe, promoting the traditional Orang Ulu musical instrument and its beautiful music to everyone.

He is a local but unlike the musical instrument he plays, which belongs to the Orang Ulu, he is in fact from the Bidayuh tribe in Serian.

We asked him about what he was making even though it was kind of obvious that he was crafting a new sape.

Lining up beside him against the wall were the sapes that were already crafted finish by him and his own bare hands.


Ultra-rich and awareness to save Sabah's pygmy elephants

THE latest warning is Sabah's elephants may go the same way of the Sumatran rhino – destined for extinction.

But the heart is going to need the help of a big purse to prevent that from happening, renowned American animal behaviourist, Katerina Pirelli believes.

So what about getting ultra-rich tourists to Sabah for lecture-style eco-tours and at the same time buy up lands deemed the jumbos' critical migration routes to avert extinction?

Yes, that's precisely the idea Katerina is working on by signing a pact with Borneo Conservation Trust on November 22.

Money and awareness is critical at this juncture, says Katerina, a trainer of animals for 20 years for movies and television on just about any animal, ranging from lions, tigers, bears and kangaroos, reptiles and primates among others.

Daily Express noticed her presence at the Nov 30-31 International Workshop on the Banteng held in Le Meridien Hotel but did not know she was into this bold initiative, until Sabah Nature Club founder, Omar introduced Katerina – founder of Borneo Wildlife Preservation (BWP).

With clear diction, an articulate Katerina expounded her vision and mission.

She said: "Basically, we in Borneo Wildlife Preservation and Borneo Conservation Trust have collaborated with a Memorandum of Understanding to put our efforts together to help progress the Bornean pygmy elephant survival."

Lecture-style eco tours for ultra-rich "We are helping Borneo Conservation Trust to purchase land in fragmented forests to connect fragmented migration routes for the elephants with tree planting projects.

"We are also purchasing land to preserve some lands that are already forests for the migrating elephants along the Kinabatangan river," Katerina said.

To get it off the ground, she said she had been working with one Josephine.

"We have been travelling together throughout Sabah, trying to put together an eco tour – a lecture style eco tour geared towards the ultra-rich to come from Europe and the United States to view some of the rainforests of Borneo."

She noted: "Right now there are luxury cruise coming here on private yachts. They come to Borneo and various parts of the island, including Kota Kinabalu and different parts of Sabah.

"But my idea is to try to bring in more luxury tourists seeking luxury and to help them with conservation efforts with the pygmy elephant, along with the Orangutan and Proboscis monkey, because these three animals are all with the same migration routes."

The big idea – Conservation "The big idea is conservation and protecting these animals because I don't honestly see that poaching is decreasing," she explained her drive to arrest the decline..


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bringing Sabah's rural eco-tourism to the next level

PEKAN NABALU : Kiulu Tourism Association (KTA) and Kadamaian Tourism Association (KATA) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) here yesterday to formalise their cooperation to bring rural eco-tourism to the next level.

Signing the MoA on behalf of KTA and KATA were their respective presidents Dr Edmon Guntis and Walter Kandayon in the presence of Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.

Joniston said the formalisation of the MoA was in response to the State government’s decision about making Kiulu and Kadamaian as rural eco-tourism development pilot projects as announced by Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman in the 2018 State budget.

The purpose of the MOA is for Kiulu and Kadamaian Tourism Associations to become partners in order to capitalise on each other’s strenght and strive for excellence in this industry.

The MOA is valid for two years and extendable for three years thereafter.

There are 41 and 31 members of Kadamaian and Kiulu Tourism Associations respectively. The total number of visitors to both areas in 2017 are around 10,0000, bringing revenue of over RM4.5 million.

“This partnership will enable cooperation in many aspects of the industry particularly in the sharing of knowledge and its application in the field of tourism product development,” said Edmon.

Likewise, it is a  strategy on conservation of the environment, culture and tradition, marketing and training.

Meanwhile, Walter said the close proximity of Kadamaian and Kiulu and the proven track record of both areas adds an impetus to finalise this initiative.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Suchens Crap: Dinner @ Hilton Kota Kinabalu

Located right in the heart of Kota Kinabalu, next to the highly overrated Welcome Seafood Restaurant in Asia City lies Kota Kinabalu’s newest 5-Star hotel … The Hilton Kota Kinabalu. It has not 300… but three hundred and ONE rooms ….. I really dont get the 301 rooms thingy. Must be a superstitious thingy or something, which is pretty common in these parts of the world.

It was a Saturday, the 18th of November. It was a gloomy night with signs of a heavy downpour coming soon. I decided to come and try out the food at Hilton KK and also test out my new Samsung Note8’s camera on some food photography without using the ‘food’ mode.

If you are planing to drive there, turning into the hotel entrance is pretty tricky as you have to either turn into the seafood restaurant area and make a u-turn about 50meters in front and come back and turn just before the main road or go pass the hotel and go around it and come back in…. don’t ask me why but then again, lots of things over here don’t really make sense but I still love Kota Kinabalu.

Having gone through the mini maze and arrived at Hilton for dinner only to realise just like most places, my Kombi cant enter the carpark which can accommodate 500 cars but not one Volkswagen Kombi with a roofrack (my kombi needs a minimum 2.2m height clearance). The good side to this is I usually get to argue with the hotel staff into letting me park in the Valet/VIP parking area in front for free (the usual charges for the valet parking at Hilton is RM20 for the first 2 hours….. RM20!!! thats like the highest parking charges in KK I think at the moment, and then its RM5/hr afters) but unfortunately this time it didn’t work. Damn! Maybe it was the beard..

We were greeted with a huge smile and was shown to the lift which brought us up to the restaurant at the top floor where we were greeted with a big smile by Rickey our waiter (and I think he is the bartender too) who brought us to our table.

They have a pretty good selection of salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas but their mains from their wood fired grill looked pretty impressive. Not forgetting their steaks too, which is also done from their wood fired grill.

After ordering a bottle of wine, we started off with the Lobster Bisque and the Herb Crusted Scallops which was simply amazing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone but be warned, the bisque comes piping hot. The scallops itself were simply to die for but I’m not a big fan of beetroot which comes with the Scallops.. even more so for pickled beetroot but luckily my date enjoyed it.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Suchens Crap: Dinner @ Hilton Kota Kinabalu

Evidence of early humans found in the jungles of Borneo

I recently led a team excavating at one of the most iconic archaeological locations in Southeast Asia, Niah Caves in Malaysia.

Over a period of three weeks, we dug through what we believe to be around 20,000 years of human history. We uncovered several human bones, the remains of large mammals (probably deer and wild cattle) and marine oyster shells indicating a period of seafood meals. Stone tools and charred rocks were also unearthed.

It was exciting and a little bit daunting to be digging at Niah Caves, given its place in both the history of archaeology and more broadly of humankind.

Famous for head hunters

Niah Caves National Park is located in the eastern part of Sarawak, a state of Malaysia that hugs the northern coastal strip of the island of Borneo.

Borneo straddles the equator, and is covered mostly by dense tropical rainforest. It’s home to a remarkable variety of wildlife, including the endangered orangutan.

Sarawak also has a rich cultural heritage with almost 40 indigenous linguistic or cultural groups living there. It is an island that was famous until the 1970s for its head hunters.

It’s also the place where Alfred Wallace, credited by history as the discoverer of evolution by means of natural selection, developed his ideas during the nineteenth century.

Sarawak also has an extraordinary history of human occupation. This stretches back at least 46,000 years ago, soon after the earliest modern humans settled the region after they made their long journey out of Africa.

Borneo is the island where these early people began island hopping across Southeast Asia and eventually settling New Guinea and Australia, making it crucial also to understanding ancient human history across the Australasian region.

Incredible caves

The massive Niah Caves complex sits within a large limestone hill in the centre of the national park. There are 21 caves in the main cave network with six large entrances or cave mouths. The largest cave is the West Mouth (Lobang Kualar) which is more than 60 metres high in parts.

The chambers of Niah Caves reverberate with the sounds of bats and birds known as swiftlets, which seem to fill almost every nook and cranny they have to offer. The swiftlets make highly sought after bird nests, used for traditional Chinese medicine and to make bird’s nest soup.

These nests are collected and traded each day by local Punan men, who scale tens of metres into the highest ceilings of the cave climbing wooden poles without safety harnesses, risking their lives in the process.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vids) at: Evidence of early humans found in the jungles of Borneo

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Miss Filatelista: Bandar Seri Begawan Travel Guide - What to See, Eat, and Do

Brunei is easily the most underrated destination in all of Southeast Asia. The environmentally and culturally rich kingdom has loads to discover and is sure to thrill any traveler.

Yet, less than a quarter of a million tourists visited in 2015. Most visits to the country call for a few days in the capital of the Muslim state, Bandar Seri Begawan, or BSB as locals call it.

Although there are rumors that the streets of BSB are paved in gold, the world's fifth richest country as of 2016, isn't all that different from its ASEAN neighbors.

Here you can expect to explore villages, eat at hawker stands, discover stunning temples, swim in the South China Sea, and incredible wildlife native of the lush jungles.

The royal family is one of the wealthiest in the world, their private streets may very well be paved with gold as they live at Istana Nurul Iman, the world's largest residential palace complete with 1,788 rooms, a helipad, and five swimming pools.

Afterall Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled since 1984,  is reportedly worth $20 billion. We spent nearly a week in the city – here is our guide to where to stay, what to do, see, and eat in BSB.


We were guests of the princess during our trip to BSB. Well, not exactly. We were invited to stay at the Jubilee Hotel which is conveniently located in the city center within walking distance to most of the below sites and restaurants.

In the rather expensive BSB city center, Jubilee Hotel offers guests a comfortable place to stay with moderate prices with full amenities including complimentary buffet breakfast of western and eastern specialties, a small swimming pool, in-house cafe, and concierge service.

Throughout the property are beautiful vibrant paintings of local flowers, such as this stunning iris.

The rooms and furnishing are a bit outdated but it adds to the charm of what must have once been a very glamorous hotel.

Our room was really large with a super cozy bed. We enjoyed having coffee in our small sitting area each morning and taking in the views of the Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque from our room!

The staff is incredibly kind and they even offer complimentary airport transfers for guests. Jubilee Hotel is an ideal place to stay for a quick visit to BSB!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Twice-weekly Miri-Pontianak flight to boost tourism, business

MIRI: The Xpress Air Indonesia inaugural flight to Miri from Pontianak in Indonesia represents a significant milestone in Sarawak’s tourism calender and the cooperation between the state and Kalimantan.

In stating this, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the state was excited to have this twice weekly flight from Pontianak to Miri which he hoped would strengthen the relationship between Sarawak and Kalimantan.

“This will also help in enhancing not only the tourism activities but also business from both places,” he said during a ceremony to welcome the inaugural Pontianak-Miri Express Air flight at Miri Airport yesterday afternoon.

His text-of-speech was read by Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin.

Present were consul-general of Indonesia in Kuching, Jahar Gultom, Xpress Air director HF Filman, Miri mayor Adam Yii, Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik and Miri Resident Sherrina Hussain.

According to Abdul Karim, Indonesia has always been one of Sarawak’s important markets, and arrivals from Indonesia into Sarawak have been steadily growing every year.

He hopes that this connectivity would draw interest of travellers from Indonesia to experience the different cultures and adventures that Miri and Sarawak have to offer besides connecting and expanding the network between Indonesia and Sarawak.

“Xpress Air Indonesia has a wounderful slogan, which is ‘Terbanglah Indonesia’, in anticipation of future endeavours between us and in appreciation or our Indonesian visitors, I would like to say ‘Terbang Indonesia ke Sarawak’,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Twice-weekly Miri-Pontianak flight to boost tourism, business

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sarawak sees good potential in lake, reservoir tourism

SIBU: Ministry of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports is looking into the tourism potential from the reservoirs and lakes.

Stating that these places have much to offer to tourists, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah said apart from the beautiful scenery at the lake resorts, other activities could be developed from watersports, fishing or even boat cruising.

“Lakes can be developed into major tourism attractions of the future,” he said yesterday.

Abdul Karim, who is Asajaya assemblyman, was asked on his ministry’s plan to develop lake tourism, following Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s recent statement that the state had hydro-electricity power dams in Bakun, Batang Ai, Murum and Baleh, which could become tourist attractions if properly developed, besides generating electricity.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Backpacking Around the World: Malaysian Borneo - Mabul and Sipadan

From River Kinabatangan we had a pretty easy journey down to Semporna (where we were heading to Scubadive).

The driver who had collected us from Sepilok, took us from the river to a lay by on one of the main roads where ‘his friend’ one of the local coach drivers picked us up on the local bus which was going to Semporna. This took about 4-5 hours.

When we arrived in Semporna, our main mission was to go and try to find Sipadan diving passes.

If you have researched anything about Sipadan you’ll probably know these are pretty difficult to find, and there are loads of rumours about certain dive shops and whether the passes are legitimate or not.

Also most of the diving passes come with accommodation packages as well, so anyway it was all a bit of a nightmare trying to arrange.

So we set off from the bus, sticky, sweaty, tired….the usual! and now semporna is not exactly the most glamorous of places which surprised us considering its the gateway to one of the most highly regarded dive spots in the world.

There is a lot of poverty and as soon as we started walking through the town young children were clawing at us for anything, even the water I was drinking.


A Kenyah legacy – Naming Ceremony in Miri

A KENYAH naming ceremony or Ti Adet Ngaran Kenyah took place recently in Miri — probably the first by a Kenyah family outside of the enclave of Long San in the Baram.

Relatives and friends all over Sarawak and from other parts of the country and as far as the United Kingdom, gathered to celebrate the auspicious occasion at a hotel in the Resort City.

The naming ceremony was organised by Cecelia Selalang Lian for her grandsons, Joseph and Ethan Kucper, now living in London.

She said she was  happy to do it for them to carry on the legacy of her people.

A beaming elderly man told thesundaypost that to the Kenyahs, child naming or pusau anak is an important social occasion.

The old timer was wearing batik shirt and smart trousers and his Kenyah hat was adorned with feathers, symbolising his status. The more the feathers, the higher the status. In fact most of the guests of Kenyah descent, wore their tribal hats.

“These young children have come back to our motherland to be given Kenyah names. We are very happy we can hold the ceremony in Miri. They will be given names selected from the ancestors’. This ceremony is, therefore, very significant for them and their relatives. We are here to share the joy,” he explained.

The master of ceremony and one of the chief organisers was Jeffrey Ngau Lenjau, a Kenyah Lebo Vo, now a PhD candidate from Universiti Sabah.

For a young Kenyah like him, Ti Adet Ngaran Kenyah is a very significant event.

He translated the Kenyah language for guests and also helped explain some of the stages of the elaborate ceremony, not witnessed by most people in their life time.

In the past, a naming ceremony was only held once in 30 or 40 years due to various constraints — time, financial, social and even political.

A Kenyah friend remarked: “It is not an event to be missed. If I am not present for this occasion, I don’t know whether I will ever have another chance to attend one.

“If the ceremony were to be held in Long San, the cost would be higher. Also, few would be able to make it as transport is difficult to arrange. Even if the ceremony were held once in 10 or 20 years, it would still be difficult to meet all the conditions and many would simply have to miss it. I’m glad my relatives have made the effort to hold the ceremony in Miri.”

The ceremony was an eye opener for first-time guests.

One of them told thesundasypost: “The fact that it’s held in Miri makes it very convenient for relatives and friends who cannot travel to the interior of the Baram. I’m glad I can witness the ceremony in Miri as I will not be able to go to Long San so far away. I work in Miri. Nowadays it’s not easy to get leave.”

A church member was happy to note that the ceremony fused traditional and Christian rites.

“The prayers are said in Kenyah and throughout the ceremony, Kenyah traditional music is played together with Christian hymns. Today, all of us feel spiritually strong when we sing our hymns in Kenyah,” he said.

Another guest added: “This hotel — the Telang Usan — is most suitable as it reflects the cultural ambiance of the Kenyahs of Long San. With many family members present here today, I feel as if I’m in a Long San longhouse with all my friends and relatives.

“I feel good too because many have come in our traditional costumes. The music is superb and the walls of the hall are decorated with many Kenyah paintings. If this ceremony is held outside Long San or Miri, the cultural atmosphere will not be the same. This place definitely exudes a traditional feel.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Kenyah legacy – Naming Ceremony in Miri

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Semporna leads the way in coral reef protection

KOTA KINABALU: Semporna is leading the way in adopting the Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan to protect its rich coral reef ecosystem.

Semporna district officer Dr Chacho Bulah recently launched the plan during the six-day Semporna Marine Eco Week 2017, which ended on Dec 2.

The plan aims to monitor coral bleaching and promote recovery. Assessment will be carried out
by Sabah Parks, Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, Reef Dive Resort, Pom-Pom Island Resort, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia.

Chacho said to sustain Semporna’s tourism industry, the district’s coral ecosystem must be healthy and resilient to face climate change.

“Most foreigners I have spoken to only know Sipadan as one of the top five diving destinations in the world.

“As the gateway to Sipadan, Semporna has not been recognised as a centre of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle region.”

He said there was a need for strong commitment and cooperation between government agencies, tourism players, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local communities to conserve marine life and coral reefs.

“I am pleased to announce that Semporna is the first district in Sabah to launch a Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan,” he said, adding that the Semporna Priority Conservation Area had the largest coral reef coverage in Malaysia.

The conservation area, which is in the Coral Triangle, is the centre of marine biodiversity and provides ecosystem services to people in, and beyond the area.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Semporna leads the way in coral reef protection

WWF Malaysia on mission to save coral reefsoff the coastal shores of northern Borneo

MIRI: WWF Malaysia has started an urgent project to save the coral reefs off the coastal shores of northern Borneo Island from the increasing risks of coral bleaching.

The environmental body found that pollution and climatic change are causing serious coral bleaching offshore Borneo and other states.

As such, WWF Malaysia is deploying volunteers to check on the health of coral reefs offshore Sabah and Sarawak.

WWF Malaysia Marine Diversity project manager Monique Sumampouw said yesterday that the first team of volunteers had gone to offshore Semporna to check on the corals on the seabed there that were experiencing bleaching.

“WWF Malaysia has found evidences of increasing coral bleaching in the sea off the coastal shores in all parts of the country, especially in those areas where there are a lot of environmental impact.

“For example, here in northern Borneo waters, there is an urgent need to activate an early response plan to tackle these bleaching in the coral reefs on the seabed as these areas are important marine parks.

“Bleaching of coral reefs caused by climate changes and sea pollution as well as human activities, if left unchecked, will cause serious decline in population of marine animals.


International Orang Utan Run in Sandakan on March 24, 2018

SANDAKAN: The Sandakan Municipal Council (MPS) is organising the International Orang Utan Run, which is expected to be joined by foreign tourists, on March 24 in conjunction with 2018 World Wildlife Day.

Its president, Datuk James Wong said the run, which is part of the Sandakan Festival, is jointly organised by Habour Mall Sandakan, Fay’s Studio and Sepilok Orang Utan Conservation Centre and the MPS.

“By organising the run, we are showing our support for efforts to provide  better protection for the orang utan,” he told a press conference, here yesterday.

Wong said RM10,000 is allocated from the Sandakan Festival budget for hosting the run with an additional budget of RM30,000 for the provision of attractive prizes and others.


Friday, December 08, 2017

Six new insects found in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s reputation as a biodiversity hotspot has been reinforced with the discovery of six new insect species in the pristine Danum Valley near Lahad Datu.

The discovery was made by a team of “citizen scientists” who visited the 438sq km conservation area, which is about twice the size of Penang island, as part of the inaugural Taxon Expedition recently.

Three of the newly discovered insects, all tiny beetles living in rainforest leaf litter, were published in the Biodiversity Data Journal on Thursday.

The other three, belonging to the family Elmidae (riffle beetles), will be published next year.

Taxon Expeditions is the first organisation in the world to hold field courses for citizen scientists in biodiversity hotspots, with the aim of discovering, describing, naming and publishing new species under the slogan “You can be Darwin too”.

Taxon Expeditions director and biologist Dr Iva Njunji said scientists have estimated that over 80% of the world’s animal and plant species are still undiscovered.

Although the work of taxonomists – whose job is to describe and name these species – is appreciated by the general public, funding for taxonomy is dwindling, she said.

“Moreover, the areas hosting most of the unknown biodiversity are under threat ... time is running out,” Dr Iva said, adding that recruiting citizen scientists as extra hands means that unknown species may be discovered faster.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Six new insects found in Sabah

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Sabah forests can halt climate change

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah could double its carbon stock and play an important role in controlling climate change if previously logged forests are allowed to regenerate.

A study carried out by several agencies, including the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department and other institutions, showed that about 40% of Sabah’s carbon stock exists in forests that are not designated for maximum protection.

Carbon stock refers to the amount of carbon stored in a forest, including biomass and soil. Carbon is a key component of all life, animal and plant alike.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan, who is also the chief conservator of forests, said this finding followed new remote sensing and satellite mapping data by CAO’s Greg Asner and his colleagues that was recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Asner said in a statement that his team found about 40% of Sabah’s carbon stock is contained in forests “that are not protected at the highest designation”.

“We also discovered that Sabah could double its carbon stock by allowing previously logged forests to regenerate, a process that could take about a century,” he added.

In addition to finding 50 of the tallest tropical trees ever measured, the CAO team also pinpointed important targets for conservation efforts.

Asner said a high carbon stock is important because tropical forests like those in Sabah convert large quantities of atmospheric carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) into organic material.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah forests can halt climate change

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

AirAsia adds more flights to Kuching

AirAsia is all set to inaugurate a daily flight from Kuching to Shenzhen, China, over the Christmas holiday.

Special fares are on offer for the flight that starts 26 December, or “Boxing Day”, an official holiday following Christmas celebrations..

The new route marks the third international route from Kuching and the third new route launched from Kuching International Airport, this year, after Pontianak and Langkawi.

AirAsia continues to expand its east Malaysia hub as Kuching popularity increases with regional tourists.

Sarawak is ranked among the most popular investment destinations in Malaysia for Chinese companies  with the largest investment in steel and renewable energy coming from China, AirAsia noted when it announced the route.

The airline plans to make Kuching a regional hub, to support the tourism and business sectors and improve direct flight connectivity to Kuching Sarawak.

Direct flights are the preferred option for regional tourists who take short holiday breaks.

Legacy airlines prefer to shunt passengers through their main hubs forcing them to take two flights to reach a holiday destination that subject passengers to longer travel times and higher costs.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: AirAsia adds more flights to Kuching

Sarawak Museum Campus - Poised to be one of the best in Asean

KUCHING: The RM308 million Sarawak Museum Campus is set to become among the finest museums in Asean upon its completion by 2020.

In stating this, Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan said work on the project is progressing according to schedule.

It is known that the development of this museum campus is fully funded by the state government, with the objective of preserving and showcasing the rich historical, traditional and cultural heritage of Sarawak in a thematic manner.

“It will be a world class, state-of-the-art facility in terms of preservation and conservation of artefacts, which include (utilisation of) lighting and temperature control.

“On top of that, it will become a ‘Borneo Museum’ of sorts in that we have over 500,000 artefacts originating from all over Borneo. It will also include Homo sapiens remains found at Niah Caves and estimated to be more than 40,000 years old.

“Our vision is that it would become a global centre for Bornean heritage by 2030,” Ipoi told The Borneo Post yesterday at his office here, where Sarawak Museum Department’s senior project leader Hans Van De Bunte was also present.

He explained that the RM308-million project would include not just the main complex but also the storage and restoration facilities, administrative centre as well as landscaping works.


All set to welcome arrival of Xpress Air’s Pontianak-Miri flight

KUCHING: A reception ceremony is being arranged for the inaugural arrival of Pontianak-Miri flight on Dec 12.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the flight, operated by an Indonesian airline, Xpress Air, is scheduled to arrive in Miri at 4pm.

A representative from Xpress Air, Indonesian Consul-General in Kuching Jahar Gultom and Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah are expected to attend and also speak at the reception ceremony.

“The inaugural flight will carry passengers, journalists and tour operators from Pontianak,” Lee told a press conference at his office here yesterday.

He said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) had also arranged for a familiarization visits in and around Miri for the tour operators from Indonesia. A welcoming reception has also been arranged for the return flight  to Pontianak later on the same day.

Lee believed the Miri-Pontianak-Miri flight would also cater for passengers from Brunei, including Indonesians who work in that country.

“It will cater for passengers comprising tourists and business travelers. With the availability of such a flight, it will be easier for business people from both countries to travel.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

62 species of dragonflies found in Imbak Canyon, Danum Valley

KOTA KINABALU: Sixty-two species of dragonflies were found in Imbak Canyon and Danum Valley during the recent Yayasan Sabah Batu Timbang Scientific Expidition, where some of it are endemic to Sabah.

One of participants of the expedition, Dr Choong Chee Yen, said one particular species, Telosticta Janeus can only be found in Imbak Canyon and Danum Valley.

“According to the previous research on this area, there are 68 species of dragonflies recorded but during this recent trip I only managed to identify 62.

This is due to limited time, but from my observation the population of dragonflies there are healthy,” he said.