Friday, July 31, 2009

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Making new waves with old music


A well-known traditional Korean percussions or 'samulnori' group made their debut at the recent Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

With a colourful programme of spectacular percussions performance, haunting shamanic chants and entrancing acrobatic dances, Noreum Machi really took the stage by storm.

This writer had the privilege to make the acquaintance of the group's artistic director Kim Ju-hong and manager Kang Da-hae during the festival and gained some insight into the state of traditional music in South Korea.

The humble beginning

Founded in 1993, Noreum Machi represents Kim�s passion in traditional music, specifically in samulnori.

Samulnori music had its humble origin in the rural areas, strongly based on harvest rituals and shamanism.

"Over the ages, it became a minstrel performance. To us, our music is like a message from Nature. It is spiritual and humanistic at the same time," said Kim.

The group name itself is minstrel jargon, a compound of two words 'nolda' (to play) and 'machida' (to end).

In competitions, noreummachi would refer to the player so skilled that no one else would dare to play after. In other words, the very best. The unwritten rule was that the best player would end any performance with a demonstration of the skill and timing that earned the title noreummachi.

Kim comes from a family of traditional musicians in Jindo, an island located off the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Making new waves with old music
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Kuching to celebrate 21st anniversary as city


KUCHING: Kuching City is gearing up to celebrate its 21st anniversary as a city in August with the annual Kuching Festival and Fair 2009.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will officiate at the fair on Aug 2.

Taib will be accompanied by the Mayor of Kuching City South (MBKS) James Chan, local dignitaries and invited guests.

Chan can’t wait for the people to see what they have in store this year.

“There’s a change in the manner we do the festival,” he said during a press conference at MBKS’ Council Chambers yesterday.

“We have a new stage this year. The rationale is to separate those who are there to watch the entertainment and those going to the food fair.”

A wide variety of entertainment and games will be sponsored by Astro that night at the open air stage by the man made lake behind Dewan Masyarakat.

It will feature winners of the popular Classic Golden Melody 2009, Lee Si Wei and Classic Golden Melody 2008, Fang Ai Ling; Rizal and Candy from Akademi Fantasia, Iban recording artiste Felicia Gek and more.

“Anyone who is here for the entertainment can sit at the man-made lake. It’s a relaxing and cooling environment. Those who want to eat can go to the fair,” added Chan.

The food fair will feature many stalls, about 80 per cent of which are Chinese while the rest sell other local and international cuisine.

There will be a Chinese Homecook Delicacy Corner where stallholders have three days to sell traditional cuisine: Hainanese (Jul 31 - Aug 2), Chawan (Aug 3 - 6), Hin Ann (Aug 7-9), Teochew (Aug 10-12), Hakka (Aug 13-16), Hokkien (Aug 17-20) and Foochow (Aug 21-23).

“This is our way of promoting the community spirit,” Chan said.

Visitors can also go to the Kuching Festival Trade Fair comprising 44 stalls in the air-conditioned Dewan Masyarakat and 113 outdoor stalls.

Continue reading at: Kuching to celebrate 21st anniversary as city
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

New landmark for sleepy Sipitang

View of the Sipitang Esplanade when completed

View of the esplanade construction site and the older part of the town

Sipitang's main street

Fishing is one of the favourite pastimes in Sipitang

Sipitang's busy fishmongers take time off for a photo

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to NYL and
Brunei Press Sdn Bhd


By NYL

Long regarded as just a transit town for visitors from Sarawak and Brunei Darussalam to Sabah, Sipitang, is set to woo visitors to the town with the construction of an esplanade.

Sipitang is the closest town in Sabah to the Sarawak border, located about 44 kilometres south of Beaufort and 144 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, the state capital.

Beside its beautiful beach, weekly 'tamu' and local fruits, Sipitang, does not have much to offer local as well as foreign tourists at the moment. It is envisaged that once the 452-metre long and 75-metre wide esplanade is completed, the town will become a major landmark and tourist attraction for the Sipitang district.

It was a little after midday when I arrived at Sipitang on my way to Kota Kinabalu. Perhaps it was the heat of the day, or because I was tiring, Sipitang look inviting as I came upon it after crossing the border into Sabah.

Sipitang has a kind of hustle and bustle seaside-cum-transit town feel about it. The kind of place to observe the ebb and flow of daily life as others live it.

That afternoon I took a stroll around Sipitang's wet market, an event that was to prove highly entertaining. The little wet market was bustling with activities not only by the noisy fish mongers and their customers but also by the presence of a few middle-aged women selling traditional cakes and biscuits.

The friendly fish mongers greeted me and posed for pictures. According to one of them, most of the fish sold are of the kerisi, katambak and white fish varieties from Kuala Penyu, a quiet fishing village about 120 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu.

Across the street from the market was a row of two-storey shop houses. These buildings enclosed a walkway a block long that opened onto the street through a series of archways. The cool passageway was packed as shoppers bargained with vendors over cooking pots and bicycles, sacks of rice and dried prawns.

Along its main street were banks, supermarkets, provision shops, a dispensary and a number of coffee shops and restaurants.

Satay and fried-chicken sellers who had previously set up stalls along the waterfront before the construction of the esplanade have since relocated to the end of this street.

A stone throw away, a group of local women sat down at the end of the long wooden jetty, fishing. I asked them what they had caught.

"None yet," one of them told me, adding that they like to spend their free time fishing after finishing their chores at home.

I sat down beside them, removed my sandals, breathed in the tangy sea air and forgot my tiredness. Feeling rejuvenated, I left Sipitang in the late afternoon and continued my journey to Kota Kinabalu.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Madai Cave, Kunak


From MySabah blog:

Chinese loves bird nest. Actually the nest is made of saliva from swiftlets. I have plenty of saliva in thick and thin forms for sale, if you are fond of eating saliva. Chinese says the bird nest contains minerals, rare protein and nutrients that keep you young and make your skin shines. There are two kinds of bird nests, i.e., (1) black bird nest, which contains 30% to 70% of feather, and (2) white bird nest, which has less feather and more expensive.

Madai Cave (Gua Madai), which is known as “Swiftlet Mountain” by locals, is one of the important producers of high-quality black bird nest in Sabah. You can see the limestone outcrop, where Madai Cave located, next to the road of Kunak, a small town between Tawau and Lahad Datu. It is the second biggest cave in Sabah.

Idahan people are the traditional owner of Madai Cave. For profit sharing, the cave is divided logically into different sections, which have different owner and can be passed on to their next generation. To visit the cave, you need to get a visitor pass at the security gate before you enter the village in the foothill. A guide will accompany you for a guided tour inside the cave, which is only a 10-minute away from the village.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Madai Cave, Kunak
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Kids' Day Out in Sabah


Travelling with your tots? Sabah is one of the best family destinations, with plenty to see and do for children of all ages. Here are some recommendations to keep them busy:

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

All parents know that you just can’t go wrong with a day at the zoo! The Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is a half-hour drive from the city of Kota Kinabalu. The journey there is an adventure itself as it takes you through winding roads and past kampung-style houses. The Wildlife Park houses some of the most exotic and beautiful animals found in this part of the world. Must-see exhibits include the playful Orang Utan, charming Borneo Pygmy Elephants and the playful otters! The Aviary is also a favourite where you can be part of feeding time. Don’t miss the Animal Shows at the main stage at 11:15 am and 3:30 pm (except on Fridays and during rainy weather) where you can get up close with pythons and enjoy the antics of the Park’s many feathered friends. There is a special section dedicated for children which includes a petting zoo and an elephant ride. Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Entrance fees apply.


A day out at the beaches and islands

Sabah is blessed with beaches aplenty, and this makes for a wonderful playground for kids of all ages. If you are staying at top resorts such as Nexus Karambunai and Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort in Tuaran, then you are in luck as some of the most beautiful beaches are right at your doorstep! Nearer to the city, visit Tanjung Aru Beach or take a boat ride to the nearby islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Mamutik, Manukan and Sapi are popular picks for families. Kids will love the soft sand, shallow waters and myriad of children-friendly water-sports. Older children will enjoy the thrill of tandem parasailing while those aged 8 and above can explore the underwater world through Seawalking at Sapi island. Take a walk along the seabed without getting single strand of hair wet! At the end of the day, nothing beats a day of fun in the sun.


Up close with the monkeys at Labuk Bay

If you happen to be on the east coast, take some time to visit the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in Sandakan. During an oil palm plantation development survey back in 1994, the owner discovered something more valuable than the commercial gain of palm oil - he found proboscis monkeys living in the wild. Fascinated, he took the time to study these intriguing creatures and instead of purchasing the 400-plus acres for oil palm development, he turned it into a sanctuary for the proboscis monkeys. Today, you can get up close with these fascinating creatures, particularly during feeding time. It is an amazing experience to see these usually elusive monkeys 'parading' themselves in front of a human audience! While at Labuk Bay, you might also encounter the cheeky Silver Langur and Oriental Pied Hornbill.


Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort's Nature Interpretation Centre

Let your kids get in touch with nature at the fascinating Nature Interpretation Centre in Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort, Tuaran. Home to a myriad of wildlife, little ones will love exploring the 'wilderness' to discover a furry creature or two! Guided nature walks are available and you can even watch the rangers prepare for feeding time at the animal food preparation kitchen. You can opt to be a Ranger for A Day and learn more about the habits, food preference and temperament of the various animals found here. The newly launched canopy walkway gives you a breathtaking view of the surrounding greenery and a friendly Orang Utan or two might even drop by to say hello! The highlight of the visit is Orang Utan feeding time at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. For more information, contact the resort at 088-792888.


Of Headhunters and more at the Mari Mari Cultural Village

Ever wonder what it's like to live among the Murut headhunters? Curious to see how the Dusun people cook their food? An interactive experience at the Mari Mari Cultural Village will give you a better insight into the many cultures of Sabah. A guided tour brings you through various traditional houses, where you can see the 'natives' go about their daily life. Along the way, there's plenty of fun stuff to do, including a hands-on experience of bamboo-cooking and a blowpipe session with Murut warriors. Before you leave, you can even get a henna tattoo by the Murut headhunters. Sample delicious cakes and cookies and, at the end of your journey, sit down and enjoy a wonderful feast of local cuisine. Tours are conducted at 9:00 am, 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm.


Source: Sabah Tourism Newsletter

NOTE: All Photos Copyright to Sabah Tourism
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Fascinating, affordable Mabul


The removal of all structures, including the dive resorts, on Sipadan Island has greatly benefited the nearby islands of Mabul and Kapalai.

These islands were not affected by the government order to completely move out all man-made structures from Sipadan by the end of 2004. It was a bold move aimed at conserving the fragile ecosystem on the tiny 12ha island which had become congested with tourists after consistently being voted one of the top five dive sites in the world.

I decided to make a brief visit to Mabul Island recently after reading that it had become a popular destination for both divers and photographers from around the world. A catchy slogan — “Now everyone can stay at Mabul Island” — by one locally run “backpacker resort” made me want to go there even more badly.

After two nights in Sandakan, I boarded a long-distance bus to Tawau. The 320km journey took a long and torturous six hours, with just one 20-minute stop in between at a roadside restaurant in Lahad Datu to stretch my legs and have some refreshment.

In Tawau, I made arrangements for accommodation in Semporna, the gateway to Mabul and all the other islands in the Sulawesi Sea. At noon the next day, I was in a rusty van jam-packed with 15 other passengers leaving for Semporna, 105km away. An hour and a half later, the van pulled up at an open space behind some pathetic-looking shophouses and the driver announced, “Semporna, Semporna . . . sudah sampai (we have reached Semporna).”

I asked the driver for directions to Dragon Inn, a hotel built on stilts in the clear and shallow waters of Semporna Bay. It turned out to be a short five-minute walk away at the end of Causeway Bridge. A helpful Filipino reception worker at Dragon Inn recommended Uncle Chang’s Lodge for my tour of Mabul Island next day.

According to her, Uncle Chang is a legendary personality on Semporna, especially among the tourism and diving communities. Having gained experience in his early days working for dive operators in the area, the man ventured out on his own more then 10 years ago and established Borneo Jungle River Island Tour Sdn Bhd, which owns Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Fascinating, affordable Mabul
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chronicles of Kg Ayer, Brunei Water Village

By Norizan Murshid

Kampong Ayer or Brunei Water Village - here the life began hundred years ago. Antonio Pigafetta referred to Kampong Ayer as "Venice of the East".

A fact from researchers listed that Kg Ayer existed since the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah in the year 1363.

In 1523, Pigafetta immortalised the Kg Ayer population at 25,000.

Everytime when we talk about Kg Ayer, the traditional vessel called Padian springs forth where women sell groceries in a small boat.

Padian must be remembered because it is the blood and soul of the Kg Ayer community.

The younger generation may not be able to see Padian activity nowadays. And the Chinese businessmen are the suppliers to grocery shops at Kg Ayer, with most shops owned by Malays.

As a Brunei community, we should view Kg Ayer from diverse angles, one of which is the bond that ties the Malay community which is very strong in "bergotong royong" (helping each other during happy and sad moments). In Brunei, the nuance is called "memucang mucang".

Let us all imagine 'The Kampong Ayer' in 50 years to come. We don't want one of Brunei's landmark to be forgotten by our future generations.

Little do we realise how many Bruneian professionals such as lecturers, lawyers, doctors, engineers and even ministers hail from Kg Ayer in their childhood.

Kg Ayer has not fallen by the wayside of modern living with the use of electrical appliances, electricity and even Astro TV service as seen by the dishes.

His Majesty's Government has taken good care of the citizens living in Kg Ayer.

All the basic needs such as water supply and electricity are met alongside schools, government clinic, police station and fire stations at Kg Ayer.

Water supply and electrical supply had been connected to Kg Ayer since 1960.

Rubbish collection ensures a clean environment.

In 1994, when much housing in Kg Ayer was damaged by fire, the government (Ministry of Development) set up housing projects at Kg Bolkiah A and Kg Bolkiah B.

Kg Ayer is also a big facet of the tourism industry.

Source: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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Getting locals, tourists to value Sarawak’s nature spots

KUCHING: Jangkar and Sebako waterfalls and hundreds of unexplored caves in and around the city may be your next day-trip destination if you are a true nature lover.

Located somewhere between Sematan and Lundu, Jangkar Waterfall is spectacularly high and beautiful — potentially the highest waterfall in the western region of Sarawak.

It is prudent to say that many urbanites are unaware of these gifts of nature, choosing instead to frequent shopping malls during the weekends.

Sarawakians were blessed with natural beauties, including flora and fauna, but they did not seem to treasure them.

They preferred city life, said Danny Voon, a founder of Borneo Outdoor Explorers (BOX).

Registered about a year ago, BOX is a business entity aimed at exposing locals and international tourists to nature spots, which it claims as ‘undiscovered paradise in our own backyard’.

Voon believed that many Kuchingites had no idea where Jangkar and Sebako waterfalls are and what they had to offer.

“Take Usun Apau Waterfall as another example, I don’t think many Mirians know its exact location. Usun Apau is believed to be the tallest waterfall in Miri but not many locals know of its existence.

“It is right to say that our local people are not aware of what nature attractions the state has.

“People around the world fly to Borneo to see our forests but our people choose to become city persons,” he told journalists during a ‘STA Tea Talk’ held at Wisma STA here yesterday.

BOX usually organised trips to nature spots yet-to-be discovered and it offered special rate for the locals, he pointed out.

Continue reading at: Getting locals, tourists to value Sarawak’s nature spots

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sipadan dropped from New Seven Wonders - Sabah finds silver lining

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s international diving haven Pulau Sipadan has been dropped in the running for listing as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, but state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the concerted effort in promoting the island has created more awareness about the state and Malaysia.

Sipadan was initially nominated along with more than a dozen renowned islands, mountains, historical sites and hundreds of other attractions worldwide for listing as one of the seven new wonders, a global exercise conducted online by the new7wonders.com website.

The volcanic island off Sabah’s east coast Semporna district made it to the top four in the island category, by way of an online voting system, thanks to a campaign by the Sabah Tourism Board early this month.

However, Sipadan was absent when the website invited votes for the New Seven Wonders of the World from a list of 14 landmarks including the Statue of Liberty in New York, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

In a statement via SMS late Wednesday, Masidi said the state government accepted the website’s decision but noted that the selection of final 14 contenders was done by a panel of experts and not through global voting.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sipadan dropped from New Seven Wonders - Sabah finds silver lining

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Sarawak's Iconic Symbol Will Impress Upon Tourism

KUCHING -- The new RM300 million Sarawak legislative assembly building in Petra Jaya, scheduled to be officially opened by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin on Monday, is geared to make an impact on the tourism sector.

State public utilities minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, who is also minister-in-charge of the event being held in conjunction with the 218th meeting of the Conference of Rulers here, has described it as an iconic symbol.

He said, it had attracted local and foreign tourists even during its construction due to its magificient architecture and designs.

"I feel it is a product that contributes to the tourism sector that we can promote," he said Friday on the sidelines of a rehearsal for the building's official opening, which was also attended by Yang Dipertua Negeri Sarawak Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng and Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Continue reading at: Sarawak's Iconic Symbol Will Impress Upon Tourism

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sungai Balung's Volcanic Boulders, A Tourism Asset For Tawau


TAWAU -- Viewing the hundreds of 'basalt-type' volcanic boulders or columns that emerged vertically from the surface of Sungai Balung for the first time, this writer found it hard to believe that this was a natural phenomenon.

The volcanic boulders, of pentagonal and hexagonal columns, are not only 'uniformly arranged' but appear to be of about the same size.

To some, that these volcanic boulders appear as if they were machine-made and used as piling rods at the river might not be an overstatement.

The superior surface of each of these columns measures about 60cm x 80cm but it is hard to determine the structure's actual length and how deep it is buried in the riverbed.

The aerial view of these volcanic columns appears like the bricks layed out neatly on a pedestrian walkway. The others, located at the riverbank appears as if they are piling rods used to prevent erosion.

COOLING OF MAGMA

According to the Deputy Director-General of the Mineral and Geoscience Department (Corporate and Mineral Economy), Dr Mustapha Mohd Lip, the boulders were formed due to the cooling of magma (molten rock under the earth's crust) when it 'oozed out' into the earth's surface.

These rocks were classified as extrusive volcanic granites that were formed on older layered rocks that also comprised volcanic mud and sand.

Continue reading at: Sungai Balung's Volcanic Boulders, A Tourism Asset For Tawau
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1,000-step training trail to prepare for Mount Kinabalu Climbathon


KOTA KINABALU: The trail up Pitompuruan hill in Bundu Tuhan can be used as a training track for participants of the annual international Mount Kinabalu Climbathon.

According to Sualim Gopog, who was among the few villagers who created the trail, it has 1,000 steps and is similar to the Mount Kinabalu trail.

“We invite those who are interested to come and train here,” he said at a mini climbathon organised for the staff and students of SMK Bundu Tuhan recently.

Sualim said the distance to the top of the trail which was opened in 2008 is two kilometres and it is regularly used by the villagers and students in the evenings.

The trail, he said, is also the training ground of several Sabah long distance runners, such as Azlan Saunin, Wincenbert Latius, Gary Lo and Belboyez Maisol.

“We hope to be able to extend the trail into a jungle track for tourists as the hill is still covered with a virgin forest.

“There is also a road built and used by the Japanese army during the Second World War here and we hope to attract Japanese tourists who are interested in wartime history to come and visit the place,” he said.

Continue reading at: 1,000-step training trail to prepare for Mount Kinabalu Climbathon
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tourist Arrivals In Sarawak To Drop 5-10 Percent This Year


KUCHING - Tourist arrivals in Sarawak are expected to drop between five and 10 percent due to the Influenza A (H1N1) virus and the global economic downturn, state Urban Development and Tourism Minister, Datuk Michael Manyin, said on Tuesday.

He said the state tourism players were bracing for a drop in tourist arrivals as most countries now were amid global travel slowdown.

"The worldwide recession and fears of the flu will definitely affect the state's tourism industry. If the situation continues, tourist arrivals in the state will drop between five to ten percent.

"We hope the Influenza A (H1N1) situation will improve and the economy situation recovers soon so we can pick up by the end of this year," he told reporters at a news conference here today.

Manyin said Sarawak targeted 3.4 million tourist arrivals this year.

"I doubt we can achieve it if the situation persist," he said.

Continue reading at: Tourist Arrivals In Sarawak To Drop 5-10 Percent This Year
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Malaysia, a popular tourist destination for Bruneians


By Azlan Othman

Bruneians numbering 107,083 visited Malaysia last month, an increase of almost six per cent compared to the same period last year when 101,255 Bruneians visited the neighbouring country.

The figure is the second highest for the first half of 2009 where in March, 114,626 Bruneians made trips, Tourism Malaysia stated.

Malaysia recorded a total of 2,108,328 tourist arrivals for the month of June 2009, which represents an increase of over seven per cent from 1,961,355 for the same month in 2008.

Cumulatively, tourist arrivals recorded from January to June 2009 were 11,346,444, representing an increase of over three per cent compared to 10,963,120 for the same period in 2008.

The top ten tourist generating markets for June 2009 include Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), India, Australia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and Japan.

For the same month, double-digit growth was recorded for tourist arrivals from Iran, the Netherlands, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Cambodia, Russia, Germany, Singapore, Australia, Myanmar, Laos, Norway, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, the Philippines, Sweden and Vietnam.

However, tourist arrivals from Thailand recorded a decline of 25 per cent due to the political unrest in southern Thailand.

Other markets that have also registered a decline in June 2009 were Saudi Arabia, UAE, Japan, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), South Korea and Taiwan. These marked declines are attributable to the global economic crisis, as well as the effect of the Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.

The top ten tourist generating markets from January to June 2009 include Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), India, Australia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Maliau Basin 'Lost world' needs tourists


KOTA KINABALU: Harvard University scientist Dr Campbell Webb has spent years in biodiversity research in Southeast Asia.

But each time he steps into Maliau Basin, the botanist is humbled by the vast biodiversity in the conservation area, also known as the "Lost World".

Webb, who in the last decade has conducted courses and research in the 588-square km area, which comes under the care of the Sabah Foundation, believes the biodiversity there remains almost intact.

For that same reason, the Indonesia-based botanist believes the conservation area would be better protected if it is made more accessible to people like tourists and scientists.

"I am sure many around the world would have heard of the place but not many have visited it.

"In the long run, if people learn more about the place, they will appreciate the place better," he said.

The American also notes it might not be a "Disneyland" but the place, located in the southern part of Sabah, is equipped with ample facilities for leisure and research alike.

The saucer-shaped area, distinguished by its almost circular perimeter, spans 25km in diameter. It is 190km from the east coast district of Tawau and reachable by road in about four hours.

By land from Kota Kinabalu, it takes about six hours via Keningau and Pensiangan, a distance of 260km.

Continue reading at: Maliau Basin 'Lost world' needs tourists
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gomantong Park to boost tourism

Sandakan: The Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is considering a proposal to turn Gomantong Cave into a tourism site as well as develop a proposed Gomantong Park to provide facilities for the visitors.

Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who viewed the proposal as good for long-term tourism development, said the bird's nest collection activity in the area could itself become a tourism product.

Aside from that, he said a centre for doing research on the swiftlet's nest could also be set up.

Responding to a suggestion made by Sukau Assemblyman Saddi Abdul Rahman, Masidi said a homestay programme can also be developed involving the interested villagers there as part of the effort to increase their income.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Gomantong Park to boost tourism

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Borneo Cultural Festival - A showcase of culture

THE splendid cultural showcase in Borneo has come to a close after eight continuous days of songs and dances by individuals and cultural troupes representing the many different races in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak.

In addition, a six-man musical troupe from Malacca, the internationally famed Mohram and a Maori dance troupe from New Zealand were also invited to perform during the closing night. A record breaking 50,000 people attended the grand finale.

Despite the threat of the influenza A(H1N1) and the sluggish economy, the week-long 8th Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) attracted some 150,000 spectators. The free event was held at the town’s 11ha Sibu Town Square. Each night, thousands of Sibu folk and people from surrounding towns flocked to the town square to see the cultural performances, art and photography exhibitions, listen to ethnic music, try myriad types of food, participate in traditional games or just chat with others there.

It was truly a colourful celebration of all the different races.

Themed “Beauty in Ethnic Diversity”, the BCF has been organised annually by the Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) since 2002. It aims to promote racial harmony and unity and at the same time highlight Sibu’s hospitality. It is also a continuous effort by SMC to promote tourism, particularly in the central Sarawak region.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Borneo Cultural Festival - A showcase of culture

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Sarawak Dolphin Project

KUCHING: The habitats of four dolphin species which frequent several coastal areas in Sarawak could be vulnerable to human activities, a year-long study has found.

The Sarawak Dolphin Project, jointly conducted by Sarawak Shell Bhd, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), recorded sightings of the Irrawaddy dolphin, finless porpoise, bottlenose dolphin and humpback dolphin in coastal waters off Kuching, Bintulu and Miri.

It found that the four species preferred nearshore habitats in waters of less than 10m deep, and that these areas close to shore were important for feeding and breeding.

“This makes them vulnerable to human activities near coastal areas.

“The Irrawaddy dolphin especially has leanings towards habitats near the shoreline, making it more susceptible to threats such as being accidentally entangled in fishing nets,” SFC managing director and chief executive Datuk Len Talif Salleh said at the official closing of the project here on Monday.

As such, he said SFC would take appropriate action based on the study’s findings to protect the dolphin habitats and feeding grounds.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Dolphin Project

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Pulse of the globe

The Rainforest World Music Festival has always been, and probably always will be, all about the music.

If There were any doubts that the 12th Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) was going to be about anything other than music, they were dispelled on the very first day, when I walked out of my hotel room to African music in the air, courtesy of the Zawose Family from Tanzania rehearsing by the hotel poolside.

From then on, no matter where I went during those three festival days in Santubong, Sarawak – whether at the hotel corridors, the poolside or the event grounds – I heard music everywhere.

Even the usually boring press conference had performers breaking out into song or demonstrating their instruments with a tune or two.

Even so, the spectre of A(H1N1) hung over the RWMF like a fog – festival goers were subjected to a temperature scan at the gate, and anyone with a fever or cough was turned away. Face masks were the de facto fashion statement of the event, with more than 22,000 masks given out and the organisers going so far as to call it the “first ever Rainforest World Music Masquerade”.

It all made for a slightly sombre event, especially when compared to the wild celebrations of the previous two years. But still, nothing can change the fact that the RWMF is still Malaysia’s only genuine world class music festival, and probably one of the best world music festivals in the world.

The festival has come a long way since its very first show in 1997, when there were only 300 attendees. Unlike festivals in Peninsula Malaysia, the event is a lot more liberal with the sponsorship and the selection of acts; while being a lot more tourist-friendly at the same time.

According to festival organisers Sarawak Tourism Board, it cost RM2.4mil to put this year’s festival together but it was estimated to generate RM44mil in revenue for the state.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Pulse of the globe

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1,000 top spinners coming for the Sipitang Gasing fest

Kota Kinabalu: The 2009 Sipitang Gasing and Tamu Besar Festival (Gata Sipitang 2009) for the first time will attract the participation of 1,000 gasing (top) spinners from Sipitang, the largest number yet for the festival.

Sipitang Member of Parliament Datuk Sapawi Ahmad said they were currently negotiating with the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) to see if the feat could be entered into the book as it had never been attempted before.

"We were informed that we may need more than 1,000 participants (to qualify) but as a trial, we will bring in Sipitang folk, including students and youths, to participate. We hope the feat can make it into the MBR," he told a media conference here, Thursday.

He said Sipitang was known as a district with many top-spinning courts and had won several national-level competitions. It also made into the MBR in 2003 after building the biggest top in Malaysia, which is now showcased at the State Museum.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek is expected to launch the festival on July 31 at the Sipitang town field. The festival will go on until Aug 2.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: 1,000 top spinners coming for the Sipitang Gasing fest

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

SilkAir - Sabah still lures but the demand is lower

SINGAPORE: There has been a steady demand for SilkAir flights to Kota Kinabalu, especially from both Asian and European markets.

Its Manager for Sabah, Jack Lim, said Sabah is a popular destination among tourists largely due to its natural attractions like Mt Kinabalu and Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

"Also for the wide variety of outdoor activities it offers, including diving, trekking and golfing," he said.

However, although the Singapore Airlines regional wing flies six times weekly to Sabah, demand was not quite "at the same levels as when the economy was doing well".

He said like other airlines, SilkAir has not been spared the effects of the recession as well as the recent outbreak of the H1N1 flu.

Lim said SilkAir's other new routes effective last month have been to Penang (now 14 times) and Hyderabad (five times). "This frequency will be stepped up to daily services from October," he added.

SilkAir currently operates 16 aircraft (10 Airbus 320 and six Airbus 319) with 10 more aircraft on firm order and another nine on option.

As a regional airline SilkAir boasts of diverse secondary destinations in Asia, many of which are still relatively untouched by mass tourism.

Accessibility to these destinations is from the Singapore hub.

Continue reading at: SilkAir - Sabah still lures but the demand is lower
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Sarawak cultural village comes alive for annual affair

Kuching: Thousands of ardent music fans had a great time partying all night to the songs of some of the world’s most renowned groups at the Rainforest World Music Festival in the Sarawak cultural village near here.

The weekend party had enthusiastic fans, many of them regulars, dancing along with the international artistes and dancers during the non-stop five-hour performance in splendid weather.

The Maori dancers from the 12-member Moana and the Tribe (New Zealand) delighted the crowd with their dynamic act.

Also featured were Asika (Malaysia), Lan-E Tuyang (Sarawak), Oudaden (Morocco), Jouhiorkesteri (Finland), Jeff and Vida (USA) and Dazkarieh (Portugal).

Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said the concert drew more than 8,500 fans on Saturday, while 5,100 fans turned up the night before.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak cultural village comes alive for annual affair

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Reviving the roots


At the Rainforest World Music Festival last weekend, Dazkarieh had the masses on their feet by updating Portuguese traditional and folk music.

IT was the highlight of the festival. The atmosphere was electric, the 8,000-odd crowd was dancing and headbanging, and onstage, Portuguese band Dazkarieh was bringing the house down with an awesome, frenetic, rock set.

It was just like any great rock festival, down to the almost Glastonbury-like mud at the venue. Except that this wasn’t a rock festival. This was the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Santubong, Sarawak.

Wait a minute, headbanging at a world music festival? What has the RWMF come to?

But take a closer look at Dazkarieh. Their music may sound like modern alternative rock, but there is nary an electric guitar in sight. In fact, out of the four members of the band, the only one who plays a “normal” instrument would be drummer Andre Silva.

When not singing, gorgeous lead singer Joana Negrão (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Bond girl Eva Green) also plays a mean bagpipe solo.

Meanwhile, band founder Vasco Ribeiro Casais plays a strange-looking violin-like instrument called the nyckelharpa, as well as bagpipes and a mandolin like bouzoki. And last, but definitely not least, between playing the mandolin and the bouzouki, Luis Peixoto also plays one of the weirdest instruments I have ever seen – the sanfona, a strange contraption which can only be described as a cross between a violin, an accordion, and one of those music boxes where you have to turn a wheel to get music out of.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Reviving the roots
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AirAsia launches two new routes - Miri and Tawau to Singapore


PETALING JAYA: AirAsia has launched two new flights from Miri and Tawau to Singapore.

AirAsia will be offering all-in fare from Tawau to Singapore from RM79 (S$42); and Miri to Singapore from RM59 (S$32) from July 14 to 19 — for travel period from Sept 9 this year till end of April next year.

Bookings can be made exclusively on line via www.airasia.com and mobile.airasia.com.

AirAsia through its holiday division Goholiday, is also offering guests free rooms when tourists book at the airline’s partner hotels in Singapore. The promotion is only valid via online at goholiday.airasia.com.

Continue reading at: AirAsia launches two new routes - Miri and Tawau to Singapore
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival a success


KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) still drew the crowd and met its target this year despite the economic downturn and the Influenza A (H1N1) scare, Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin said yesterday.

“We expected the worst due to the economic downturn and A (H1N1) scare.

“I had sleepless nights for months thinking about it,” he told a press conference at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) in Santubong near where the RWMF was held.

On Friday, about 5,000 people including tourists registered their attendance.

Come Saturday, the number of attendance was 8,569.

“Thank God we achieved our targets for this year,” Manyin said, while heaving a sigh of relief.

On Sunday night, he said SCV recorded around seven to eight thousand people and therefore at the end of it all, the RWMF had reached its original target for this year.

Last year, the total number of registered attendance was 22,000, he said.

“Ever since the RWMF started in the late 1990s, the number of people coming in here increased from year to year, and then the number remained consistent for the last three years,” the minister said.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival a success
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fans flock to Sarawak Rainforest Fest despite flu, downturn


KUCHING: Initial concerns that the global economic downturn and influenza A (H1N1) pandemic would keep revellers away from the Rainforest World Music Festival proved unfounded as more than 5,000 spectators pou-red through the gates for the opening concert on Friday night.

Organising chairman Benedict Jimbau from the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) said the attendance was better than expected and proved that the festival continued to attract visitors.

“We were initially not optimistic about the turnout, so we’re delighted with the attendance on Friday night,” he said yesterday.

He added that as a precaution against the H1N1 virus, STB had prepared face masks to be distributed to festivalgoers each night while a thermal scanner was set up at the entrance.

Posters on how to prevent the spread of the flu were also put up at the festival grounds in the Sarawak Cultural Village here.

Continue reading at: Fans flock to Sarawak Rainforest Fest despite flu, downturn
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Shopping to increasingly contribute to Sabah’s overall tourism revenue


KOTA KINABALU: The contribution of shopping activities to the state’s overall tourism revenue is still expected to increase, even though marginally, despite the global economic uncertainties and the Influenza A (H1N1) virus scare.

Assistant Tourism, Culture & Environment Minister Bolkiah Ismail said it was one of the main drivers to the state’s tourism receipts, with contribution of 40 per cent or RM956.8 million in domestic tourism receipts and 23 per cent or RM389.4 million in international tourism receipts, last year.

With more direct flights coming in from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Indonesia, he said more international tourists were expected to visit and shop in Sabah.

“Bruneians are our main shoppers during Mega Sales Carnival. Of course we are not only targeting Brunei but also the Philippines and domestic market as well,” he said when officiating at the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival Sabah state-level launch here yesterday.

Last year, Sabah received 65,588 visitors from Brunei who spent about RM161.4 million, contributing 9.5 per cent of the international receipts for Sabah.

Bruneians also contributed about three per cent of the total revenues derived from shopping in tourism activities in Sabah.

Continue reading at: Shopping to increasingly contribute to Sabah’s overall tourism revenue
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Shenzhen-Kota Kinabalu Route To Boost China Tourist Arrivals


KOTA KINABALU -- The new Shenzhen-Kota Kinabalu route by Shenzhen Airlines is expected to bring in more China tourists to Sabah and contribute to achieving the state's target of 1.2 million international tourists this year.

Tourism Malaysia state director Mohd Roslan Abdullah said Sabah had recorded an annual growth in tourist arrivals from China, from 61,567 tourists in 2006 to 77,475 tourist arrivals in 2007 and 87,175 tourist arrivals in 2008.

"This shows that there is a healthy growth in terms of tourist arrivals from that country. With the recent addition of China's carrier Shenzhen Airlines making its way to Sabah, we hope for more tourists from China," he said at the at welcoming dinner after Shenzhen Airlines' inaugural flight to Sabah.

The airline launched the new route last night, with the inaugural flight leaving Shenzhen at 11.50pm with 163 passengers, including invited guests and members of the media, and which arrived here at 2.30am today. A batch of Sabah media members flew out to Shenzhen at 4.30am as part of its familiarisation programme.

Shenzhen Airlines sales department general manager Liu Zhen said it will fly to Kota Kinabalu twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays with a capacity of 164 seats and although it is currently operating chartered flights the airline hoped to operate scheduled flights soon.

Continue reading at: New Shenzhen-Kota Kinabalu Route To Boost China Tourist Arrivals
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Friday, July 10, 2009

A ‘mask’ festival at Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival


KUCHING: The distribution of facemasks at today’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is in a way a tribute to the late Michael Jackson of sorts.

The megastar, who passed away suddenly on June 25, had at one point in his life made surgical mask a trademark of his when he frequently appeared in front of cameras wearing a mask.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said in jest to reporters yesterday that while last year’s festival was a sort of ‘mud’ festival because of the rain this year’s could be a ‘mask’ festival because of the Influenza A (H1N1) scare.

However, whether festival-goers do decide to don the facemask or not, it will not stop STB and health officials from distributing thousands of face masks at the festival entrance as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus.

Yesterday’s press conference, the last before the start of the festival, saw Minister of Urban Development and Tourism Datuk Michael Manyin assuring members of the public that the state government had taken all precautionary measures it possibly could to protect the festival-goers.

He said the precautionary measures even impressed foreigners who are already here for the festival.

“They seem to be surprise about the fuss we are making but admire the efforts the state is taking to inform members of the public about the virus.”

Nevertheless, he said the state Health Department would station 97 medical staff working on three shifts, to provide 24-hour health care services at the festival site.

Continue reading at: A ‘mask’ festival at Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival
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Rainforest gala raining cash for Sarawak’s tourism sector


KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival has now become a big tourism revenue earner for Sarawak.

State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin said the three-day festival, the 12th edition, was expected to generate over RM40mil in revenue to the tourism-related industry, such as hotels and food outlets.

Some 20,000 music fans from throughout the world are expected to party at this popular festival that promises great music, he added at the Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) media briefing for the festival here yesterday.

More than 15,000 tickets have been sold, and sales outlets have run out of tickets for Saturday’s concert.

The nightly concerts kick off today at the scenic foothill of the legendary Mount Santubong in Sarawak Cultural Village near here.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Rainforest gala raining cash for Sarawak’s tourism sector
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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sipadan set to be one of world's new seven wonders of nature


KOTA KINABALU: Sipadan Island, one of the best diving spots in the world, is set to qualify for the final round of the New Seven Wonders of Nature search.

Tourism, Culture & Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said yesterday that based on unofficial result of the search, which ended on Tuesday, Sipadan was said to be in fourth place under the island category.

“I hope we get through and qualify for the next round,” he told reporters after launching orientation week for new students of the Kota Kinabalu Polytechnic near here.

Masidi said the ministry, through the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), has embarked on an all-out “Vote for Sipadan” campaign to promote the island as one of the world’s New Seven Wonders of Nature since December last year.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sipadan set to be one of world's new seven wonders of nature
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Rare showcase of Bidayuh customs at Gawai Festival


KUCHING: A fireworks display and a rare showcase of Bidayuh customs, traditional dances and music attracted thousands of people to the Gawai Carnival Redeems 2009.

A Bidayuh maiden beauty parade and a gong beating demonstration added more colours to the carnival’s opening ceremony at the Redeems Centre in Singai, Bau, about 38km from here, on Saturday night.

The contestants took to the catwalk in traditional Bidayuh costumes amidst soothing ethnic music, including the sape.

The three-day elaborate carnival, with dozens of activities, was hosted by the Association of Research and Development Movement of Singai Sarawak (Redeems), which represents 12 Bidayuh villages in Singai.

Themed ‘’Develop culture to develop people’’, the carnival was one of the major closing events for the year-long celebrations of 45 years of Sarawak’s progress in Malaysia.

Visitors, especially foreign tourists, had the rare opportunity to witness and gain an insight into the ngaruom mogang (first-night Gawai ritual), nyopuh (honey collection ritual) and ngaruom prien (Gawai closing ritual) staged during the annual event.

Continue reading at: Rare showcase of Bidayuh customs at Gawai Festival
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Possibility to increase divers in Sipadan Island

KOTA KINABALU: Discussion is on the way to look into the possibility of increasing the number of divers at Sipadan Island at any one time.

Minister of Tourism, Culture & Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun said the issue had been raised by tour operators many times but there was a need to look into the capacity of the island.

“The island cannot accommodate more than 120 divers at one time. So there is a possibility that we may want to see into limiting the time for each diver.

“Usually, they will want to carry out their activities marvelling underwater marine life for one whole day. Perhaps we may limit the time into two sessions – morning and afternoon – so that more divers will have their chances,” he said when receiving a courtesy call by members of the Semporna Tourism Action Council (STAC) led by its president, who is also Semporna district officer Abd Mohd Ibnu yesterday.

He said it would be discussed further with diving operators.

There is also a need to talk to the federal government about increasing the security level on all the islands in the state.

“Sipadan had recently been gazetted as part of Sabah Park but its security is still under the jurisdiction of the federal government,” he said.

Continue reading at: Possibility to increase divers in Sipadan Island
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The Third Mabul Marine Week

Kota Kinabalu: The Third Mabul Marine Week will be organised by the Semporna Tourism Action Council (STAC), together with the District Environmental Action Committee, on Mabul Island off Semporna from July 18-25.

And this time around, the one-week programme is expected to see more participation from both the local people and tourists, as it coincides with the peak season and will also feature more activities.

Last year, the annual awareness-instilling programme was participated by over 1,000 locals and tourists, besides those from the tourism industry.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun was briefed about the programme by a delegation from the council and committee headed by Semporna District Officer Abdul Mohamad Ibnu, who is also the chairperson of both the council and committee, during their courtesy visit to the Ministry here Monday.

Among the activities lined up for this year are coral transplanting, gotong-royong, underwater clean-up, beach clean-up and children awareness programme.

"Mabul is a very important gateway to Sipadan Island. We are always trying to make sure that Mabul will be well looked after as much as we look after Sipadan, it is like the 'twin island' of Sipadan," said Masidi.

Many tourists going for diving in Sipadan stay at the resorts in Mabul, he said, adding it is therefore important to continuously take care of and upgrade Mabul island.

This year's programme is also important because of a recent website report about Mabul island resorts getting affected by rodents. On this problem, Masidi said the Ministry, together with the Semporna District Office, is still finding apt ways to combat the rodents. "I believe the District Environmental Action Committee will come up with some kind of solutions to the rat problem. Killing a rat is considered cruel by certain people so we need to consider other options," he said.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: The Third Mabul Marine Week
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Monday, July 06, 2009

Borneo discovery

THE word Borneo has somewhat become a rarity in our vocabulary, especially when most Malaysians from the peninsula refer to that part of the country as Sabah and Sarawak.

But for most Westerners, Borneo is still very much alive, and usually romanticised and mentioned in the same breath as untouched virgin tropical forests, men in loin cloth or giant apes.

We had a first-hand excursion into the our two eastern states' interior last month under Isuzu Malaysia's Dura-Mission, and are pleased to inform that the former may ring true but the rest are probably the result of over-imaginative Hollywood movie script writers who have never set foot on the island.

The mission, on a convoy of 10 Isuzu D-Max 4x4s, involved a 700km plus drive from Ba'Kelalan, Sarawak, to Maliau Basin in Sabah and finally to Tawau airport for our flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

Flying over Ba'Kelalan on a 19-seater Twin Otter from Miri, we could see pockets of settlement scattered over the green forest of the Sarawak highlands before the aircraft swung around to land on an airstrip.

The villagers are a closely-knit community of a few thousand and they are bound to give a rousing welcome to outsiders, complete with a musical ensemble.

Ba'Kelalan is a group of nine villages in the Bario Highlands. At 1,000m above sea level, it is cool in the day and can be chilly at night.

Indonesia's Kalimantan border is just 4km away. Don't be surprised that the Malay the locals speak has an Indonesian twang.

With no mobile phone coverage, the latest Nokias and Blackberrys are pretty useless in these parts except for taking pictures.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Borneo discovery
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Sabah hopes for visitors from peninsula, Sarawak to offset drop in tourists


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is banking on visitors from the peninsula and Sarawak to offset an expected further decline in the number of international tourists to the state due to the economic crisis and the A(H1N1) flu.

International arrivals to Sabah had dropped by 3% between January and March compared to the same period in 2008, said state tourism, culture and environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjum.

“We are bracing for a further decline in the second quarter as the full impact of the A (H1N1) flu takes effect,” he said when contacted recently.

According to Sabah Tourism statistics, Sabah received 552,222 tourists between January and March 2008. Of this, 193,981 were international visitors while the remainder were Malaysians.

While there was a drop in international arrivals, Masidi said the number of locals visiting Sabah this year had increased slightly by about 1%.

Continue reading at: Sabah hopes for visitors from peninsula, Sarawak to offset drop in tourists
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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Rain on their parade


The escalating costs of attending the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival are giving fans the blues.

While the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is a major event for many music fans in Malaysia and beyond, the event is currently attracting attention for the wrong reasons: High costs.

Due in part to operators bent on profiteering, the costs of attending the festival have been escalating, causing even regulars to decide that enough is enough, and skip 2009’s event. This is despite the fact that some of these people have already paid several hundred ringgit for the air fare to Kuching (from KL).

There are several hotels in Damai, the festival area about 40km from Kuching, but the rates have been spiking alarmingly. Even the state-owned property, Permai Rainforest Resort, a basic, no-frills property popular with the locals, has doubled its rates this year.

Part of the reasons for this could be because the resort’s management has been leased out to the private sector. A similar issue arose recently at Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, where expensive accommodation is deterring many locals from climbing. Staying at one of Permai’s cabins during the festival used to cost about RM200 a night three years ago. Last year the rates were raised drastically to RM558 a night.

This year, it’s a whopping RM825. Consequently, many who have stayed there have decided either not to stay at Permai (once the cheapest place) or skip this year’s three-night event altogether.

Continue reading (incl. pics) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Rain on their parade
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Sabah International Folklore Festival - 1Malaysia meets 1World


Kota Kinabalu: No culture is better or less than another, only being unique in their own little ways, said State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

"To be honest, competition is secondary, you don't come here to pick up the winners because I believe no culture is better or less than another as each country has a unique culture of its own," Masidi told a dinner for participants of the 4th Sabah International Folklore Festival at Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Thursday.

The true and overriding intent of the Sabah International Folklore Festival is building friendship and bringing nations closer together, Masidi stressed.

"Celebrating friendship in culture and finding new friends is the reason you are all in Sabah from many parts of the world," Masidi told the packed crowd of folklore troupes from Kazakhstan, China, India, Cambodia, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Brunei, Java, Kalimantan and Negri Sembilan.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Sabah International Folklore Festival - 1Malaysia meets 1World
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Sipadan has got everything


Scuba diving could be the best therapy to overcome depression which is on the rise in the country, said Deputy Minister of Tourism, Datuk Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib.

He said the country's seas and shores with its varied flora and fauna could reduce and even overcome a diver's stress.

Sulaiman said among divers' havens were the very popular islands of Sipadan , Perhentian, Layang-layang, Payar and Tioman.

"We have many attractive destinations for scuba diving therefore make good use of God's gift to overcome stress.

"Furthermore the water temperatures here are not seasonal so one could swim, dive or participate in other water sports all year round," he told reporters after officiating the Malaysia International Dive Expo 2009 here.

Sulaiman said the Tourism Ministry was actively promoting Sipadan Island like it was one of seven wonders of the world.

Continue reading at: Sipadan has got everything
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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Orang utan expert amazed at Sabah's conservation


Kota Kinabalu: The world's leading orang utan expert, Dr Birute Mary Galdikas, is full of praise for the Sabah Government's conservation efforts to save the apes, one of the world's most endangered species.

She told Daily Express in an exclusive interview that Sabah is doing progressive work in orang utan conservation by making efforts to eliminate illegal logging and trying to find a permanent home for orang utans such as in the Malua forest reserve.

"I am also impressed to learn that the Government is going to create 'corridors' to protect wildlife. That's wonderful and I am not saying it just because I am in Sabah.

"I would say exactly the same thing in Indonesia or in the United States (where she is often invited to give lectures). We need to do more for the future and I am so glad that you are already doing it. We can all do better."

Last December, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Hj Aman announced that 250,000 hectares of lowland forests in the Ulu Segama-Malua area would be set aside for the orang utans. It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 orang utans in the Malua forest reserve alone.

On Tuesday, State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, said the State Government wants to purchase privately-owned land at zones neighbouring the fragmented Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to ensure the long-term survival of iconic Sabah wildlife such as the orang utan, rhino and elephants.

A committee was set up under his Ministry to prepare the policy that will be known as Kinabatangan Corridor of Life (KCoL).

Dr Galdikas, 63, who is based in Indonesia, has been studying and living with the orang utans at a reserve in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) called Tanjung Puting Reserve (now a national park) since age 25 in 1971.

She has worked ceaselessly to save orang utans, especially orphaned ones, and rainforests, and to bring their plight to world attention.

This was her second visit to Sabah, having been invited by the Sabah Government to attend a conference in 1990. She has been touring places of interest and one of the things that caught her attention was the gated checkpoint put up by the Wildlife Department at the Tabin Wildlife Centre to curb illegal poaching.

Dr Galdikas, who founded the Los Angeles-based Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in 1986 and became its President, noted there are some 5,000 orang utans in the Danum Valley as calculated by scientists.

What fascinated her in the Danum Valley was also the diversity and richness of wildlife there.

"The forest (Danum) is awesome and just takes one's breath away. I am not joking. The only forest that comes close to the forest of Sabah that I saw in Danum are the redwoods in northern California. They are beautiful, breathtaking.

Continue reading at: Orang utan expert amazed at Sabah's conservation
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MASwings and Sabah Tourism Board to boost Sabah’s tourism


KOTA KINABALU: MASwings and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) forged collaboration to promote Sabah as an ultimate tourist destination with the launching of the in-flight entertainment (IFE) channel, beginning yesterday.

This is in line with MASwings objective to revitalise the local economy and tourism industry, and delivering its promise to connect the world to Sabah and Sarawak, MASwings regional head for Sabah, Shauqi Ahmad said.

“This is also in line with our interest and involvement in providing the highest standards of comfort and convenience to our passengers,” he added.

He said since the induction of the ATR 72 into MASwings’ fleet in September last year, their turboprop aircrafts were more comfortable with spacious cabin, fitted with leather seats and equipped with 20-inch LCD coloured screens spread throughout the cabin.

The screens are placed every two-seat rows, along both sides of the cabin. They operate on a drop down mechanism that does not require earphones as the audio comes from the overhead speakers.

Shauqi said the IFE channel would feature Sabah and Sarawak tourism board destinations footage as well as other useful information to travelling public, be they local or international tourists.

Continue reading at: MASwings and Sabah Tourism Board to boost Sabah’s tourism
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

More delights for Sarawak rainforest music fest fans


KUCHING: Ardent fans of the 12th annual Rainforest World Music Festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village near here can expect greater comfort and new experiences.

A brand new main and secondary stage has been added so that fans will have a bigger space to move around to enjoy the music in the main performing area.

The timber walkway has also been replaced for the safety of concert-goers, all part of the RM5.8mil upgrading exercise for the village.

“Although the crowd capacity has been increased to 10,000 a night, we are capping it at 8,000,’’ Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie told reporters at Bangu­nan Baitul­makmur in Petra Jaya yesterday.

She had earlier briefed state Urban Develop­ment and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin on the final preparations for the popular festival, which kicks off on July 10.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: More delights for Sarawak rainforest music fest fans
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Sarawak Pandaw Cruise’s first journey today


Historic launching seen as another milestone for state’s tourism development

SIBU: The first ever river cruise in Borneo, RV Orient Pandaw Cruise, officially starts today.

Minister of Environment and Public Health Datuk Michael Manyin Jawong described the launching of the river cruise as historic and another milestone for the development of tourism in Sarawak.

“As such, the onus now is on the people of Sarawak, particularly those staying in Sibu, Kanowit, Kapit, Sarikei, Song and Tanjong Manis, to be creative and ensure that the cruise will sustain,” he said at the official launching of the river cruise held at Burung Apu Wharf yesterday afternoon.

Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, Paul Strachan, founder of Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, which manages Pandaw Cruise, and Datuk Tiong Thai King, chairman of Sibu Municipal Council Chairman were among those present at the launching.

Manyin went on to describe that it was easy to build or start a tourism product but to sustain it was another totally different story. He said it really needed concert efforts, from the taxi drivers to the shopkeepers, who must play their role to ensure that the cruise would be sustained for generations to come.

“We do not want the cruise to last for just one year only. We want it to last for generations to come, and believe me that is the difficult part.”

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