Friday, March 10, 2017

Monkeys and Mountains: Wildlife Encounters in Malaysian Borneo

Our guide stopped in his tracks. He motioned us closer. We tiptoed through the soft sand and twisting mangroves of the Malaysian rainforest.

A wild bearded pig and half a dozen two week old striped piglets were trudging through the sand a few meters away.

The mother was oblivious to our presence, but her young babies were curious. We froze.

They pattered over on tiny hooves, sniffing the air with their pink snouts.

The wild piglets stood within touching distance for a moment. Then, the breeze changed direction and they scattered into the underbrush.

Our guide, who had lived his entire life in that jungle, said he had never seen anything like it.

Of all the places we have traveled around the world, Malaysian Borneo has given us some of the most unforgettable wildlife experiences.

These adorable wild piglets aren’t the only creatures we saw on our travels there – we also encountered orangutans, proboscis monkeys, enormous monitor lizards, bright green snakes and much more.

If you are looking for a Southeast Asia destination that is still relatively unspoiled by tourism and overflowing with natural beauty, I would highly recommend it.

It was also incredibly affordable and very easy to travel. Malaysian food was delicious too – a mixture of Indian, Chinese and ethnic Malay influences that I still crave to this day.

How to Get to Malaysian Borneo

Via Air

You can fly into Sabah via the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, which is located about 20 minutes from the city. Then, you’ll need to take a taxi into the city as this is the only mode of transport, although some hotels offer shuttle bus pick up which can be arranged in advance.

There are daily flights offered from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. It is also possible to fly into Sabah from China, Hong Kong, Brunei, Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

You could also fly into Kuching International Airport and once you are in Malaysian Borneo you can take flights between many of the cities including Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and Sandakan. Buses also travel between all of the main points in Malaysian Borneo.

Via Sea

You can take a ferry to Sabah from the Philippines, Indonesia and Labuan. You’ll arrive at Kota Kinabalu and go through the immigration checkpoint there.
Passports and Visas

You’ll need to show a valid passport when entering Malaysian Borneo – even if you are travelling between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. Most nationalities can enter without a visa and will be given up to 90 days to stay, including Canadians, British, Americans, Argentinians, French, Germans, Dutch and many others. Click here for a more detailed explanation of visas in Malaysia.

The Best Places to See Wildlife in Malaysian Borneo

Once you have made your way here, where are your best spots for getting up close with the local wildlife? Here are some of the best national parks and outdoor experiences.

Bako National Park

Lee and I celebrated my 26th birthday by hiking around Bako National Park, which is where we had the unforgettable encounter with wild bearded piglets I wrote about in the introduction to this post.

We hiked around Bako National Park with a local guide who had grown up in the village of wooden huts near the river.

Having a local who knew the jungle was so incredibly valuable and it enhanced our experience greatly.


Labels: ,

Sabah’s first railway station proposed as historical heritage site

KOTA KINABALU: Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Kamarlin Ombi yesterday proposed that Bukau in Beaufort be made into a historical heritage site since this was where the first railway station in Sabah was established.

Speaking to reporters after launching Railway Gallery at the Sabah State Museum near here yesterday, Kamarlin said although signs of the rail tracks were no longer there, a small gallery could be erected to show this data so that the facts would become known to the future generation.

He added that this would be an asset and would help promote tourism activities at the area.

He also said the Sabah Museum planned to gazette the Melalap Railway Station into a heritage site sometime this year.

Earlier, Kamarlin said the railway services in Sabah was introduced by the British North Borneo Chartered Company.

He said the construction of the railway track in Sabah, which was then known as North Borneo, started in 1896 and was spurred by the production of tobacco and rubber in the 1880s throughout the early 1890s.

The managing director then, William Clarke Cowie, who was responsible for starting the construction, believed that the construction of the railway tracks would encourage the opening of more commercial plantations.

The work began in 1896, with the construction of the tracks from Beaufort to Weston by English engineer Arthur J. West. This track was completed in 1900, and was followed by the construction of the 90-kilometre track from Beaufort to Jesselton which was handled by a British firm, George Pauling and Company.


Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 09, 2017

World Harvest Festival 2017 set to wow visitors once again

KUCHING: The World Harvest Festival (WHF) will continue its role in presenting the state’s culture and tradition, apart from award-winning performances to everyone.

According to Assistant Minister for Arts and Culture Datuk John Sikie Tayai, the annual event serves as a prelude to the Gawai Dayak celebration on June 1.

This year, the WHF will be running from April 28 to 30 at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV).

“The WHF aims to celebrate the diversity of the different ethnic groups in Sarawak and also to help enhance the understanding of the culture among locals and foreigners alike.

“Thus, it is an ideal place for people of different backgrounds to meet, discuss and compare notes on traditional cultures through the exchange of ideas, as well as the portrayal of the dances, music, crafts and arts. This enables the participants to discover something new and at the same time, appreciate their own cultural heritage,” he said at a press conference cum promotional event for WHF 2017 at a hotel here yesterday.

The WHF 2017 is being organised by SCV with supported from both state and federal ministries of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and Sarawak Tourism Board.

The highlight of the festival will be a special play themed ‘Tra Tra Land – Where Honey Sparkles’. Other exciting programmes at the festival will be the ‘Miss Cultural Harvest Festival 2017’, ‘Ironman Challenge World Harvest Festival 2017’, ‘Sape World Concert and Workshop’ and ‘Sarawak Kitchen’.

On the special play, SCV general manager Jane Lian Labang said it would be based on a Bidayuh legend.

“It relates the story of Jurai, a Bidayuh lad who learned to harvest honey through a special song after his missing grandmother taught him in a dream. With this ability, Jurai managed to get the mystical honey that could only be found deep in the jungle of ‘Tra Tra Land’ and used it to cure Raja Manggeng’s only princess, who was suffering from a mysterious illness.


Labels: , , , , ,

World Harvest Festival Culinary Competition at Sarawak Cultural Village

KUCHING: Professional chefs, amateurs and students from local and abroad are invited to participate in the fourth edition of World Harvest Festival Culinary Competition (WHFCC 2017) to be held at Sarawak Cultural Village from April 28 to 30.

The 4th World Harvest Festival Culinary Competition 2017 is jointly organised by Sarawak Cultural Village and supported by Kuching Chefs Association.

Kuching Chef Association president Petra Abdul Rahim said the competition to be held in conjunction with the upcoming World Harvest Festival (WHF) 2017 aims at showcasing interesting cooking techniques, skills and creativity.

“This prestigious event will promote diverse unique gastronomy from various backgrounds to give mouthwatering cuisine,” Fadil said when met during a press conference at Grand Margherita here yesterday (March 8).

The main highlights of the WHFCC 2017 are the Junior Hot Cooking and Master Hot Cooking competitions, patisserie display, platted food, traditional dish cooking competition and black box cooking.


Labels: ,

Labuan sees increasing tourist arrivals in first two months this year

LABUAN: Labuan’s tourism industry is indicating signs of positive growth in the first two months of this year, with latest figures showing more tourists compared to the same corresponding period of last year.

Labuan Corporation Tourism and Culture Department in a statement to Bernama on Wednesday said visitor arrivals to the duty-free-island in January showed improvement, registering a hike of 13.4 per cent (90,073 visitors) compared to the same period in 2016.

Minister of Federal Territories Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor during the Federal Territory Day last month said improved competitiveness and significant government support have strengthened the island’s claim to be one of the premier tourism destinations.

“The sector continues to perform well, even with the challenges we are having with the harsh (global) economic environment,” he said.

He said efforts are in the pipeline to boost the tourism sector as the island’s engine economy with more tourism products and icons to be promoted and created.

Among the key areas to be promoted are the shipwreck dive sites and international sea sports events. Member of Parliament for Labuan Datuk Rozman Isli said a number of tourism development projects are to be implemented in the future to woo tourists into the island.