Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Southeast Asia’s highest peak and the world’s biggest flower in Kota Kinabalu


On the northwest coast of Borneo island, Kota Kinabalu has a wide variety of attractions, including Southeast Asia's highest peak. Whether your idea of adventure is exploring the great outdoors or indulging in tasty seafood dishes, you'll be sure to find something in the state of Sabah's capital city.

There are many reasons why Kota Kinabalu should be in your travel list for 2012, according to a press release from South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR), which offers roundtrip flights to the exotic destination from the Clark International Airport.

1. For adrenalin junkies, there’s Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in archipelagic Southeast Asia. Rising 13,435 feet in the middle of a national park, Mount Kinabalu is the first Malaysian UNESCO World Heritage Site. Larger than Singapore, the Kinabalu National Park has around 1,000 species of orchids and over 600 species of ferns, according to the Sabah Tourism Board.

Also found in the park are two species of Rafflesia, the world's largest flower. They can grow up to three feet in diameter and are "usually reddish-brown and stink of rotting flesh," according to the Biological Sciences Department of Western Michigan University.

Encountering such a flower will surely make your trip memorable, especially if it's your first time climbing a mountain. Even couch potatoes can experience Mount Kinabalu, as there are easy trails for beginners.

For something more serious, there's the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon, which will be held this year on October 14. Now on its 26th year, the grueling climb features a 23-km race course, or two kilometers longer than last year's track. Originally, the race followed the mountain summit trail from the park headquarters to the peak and back, but it will now pass through Mesilau Nature Resort and end at Kundasang town.

2. Nature lovers can also explore the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, which was developed by the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Department. It harbors many of the endangered animals of Borneo, and aims to educate the public on the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and conservation.

Borneo Pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Malayan tiger are some of the inhabitants of the family-oriented park. The 70-hectare park also has a “primate zone” which features orangutans and proboscis monkeys, so named for their prominent bulbous noses. The park also has an aviary which houses a variety of endemic bird species, the tourism board said.

For birdwatchers, the 24-hectare Kota Kinabalu Wetlands, located just a mile from the city center, has recorded sightings of more than 80 species of birds. Managed by the local NGO Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, there is a 1.5-km boardwalk that brings nature lovers into a mangrove, where resident birds as well as migratory species have been spotted.

3. Beach lovers can explore the reefs at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. With shallow waters and little current, even novice divers can explore the reefs. Among the marine life spotted in the area are the scorpionfish, blue-spotted rays, cuttlefish, mantis shrimps, green and hawksbill turtles, and even the exotic harlequin ghost pipefish and mandarin fish.

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Sarawak Gaining Prominence As MICE Destination


KUCHING -- Sarawak promises a totally new experience for those attending the 'Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) events.'

Opportunities to socialise at MICE events all over the world are much sought after by business people who want to expand networking and learn of the latest developments in their field.

Aware of such lucrative returns, the Land of the Hornbill through the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) has worked out creative and innovative ideas to woo businessmen to the MICE events.

Established in 2006, SCB plays a big role in promoting Sarawak as a competitive hub for business events at the regional and international level.

MICE has been identified by the government as one of the key sectors under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) for the oil and gas, agriculture and hydro-electric sectors.

WHERE RIVERS AND JUNGLES MEET

During a recent media tour organised by SCB, participants were shown the facilities available at the capital city of Kuching to cater for MICE events.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said, "Though MICE is still viewed as a new sector here, the government has readied all the basic amenities needed for the sector's development."

Among the MICE facilities available in Kuching were the Kuching Borneo Convention Centre and numerous other hotels that could cater to such entrepreneurial events.

"We feel that Kuching has its own advantages as the destination of choice for MICE events due to the city's strategic location," he told Bernama.

The city that straddles across the Sarawak River has maintained much of its natural surroundings and provides an extraordinary advantage of becoming a MICE destination.

"We are now in the midst of maximising the use of water transportation modes that will serve as another attraction for MICE delegates. The delegates can travel from their place of stay to the MICE venues by boats and this is bound to provide a totally new experience unlike those in other major cities surrounded by concrete buildings", he said.

"We promise an exhilarating experience for the delegates as their meeting venues are surrounded by natural jungles instead of concrete jungles", added Amar Abang Johari.

SARAWAK CONVENTION BUREAU

SCB serves as a one-stop centre to assist MICE entrepreneurs in Sarawak to bid for business events at the national, regional and international level.

Last year, SCB managed to bid for up to 56 conventions that attracted 25,555 delegates and brought in revenues worth RM59.26 million to Sarawak, placing the state as the biggest MICE destination in Malaysia.

Sarawak could cater up to 5,000 delegates at any single MICE event with the average duration of conventions here standing at 3.9 days. The money spent for each delegate totals RM3,000 per person, which is three times more than what is spent on visitors during a holiday retreat.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Village synonymous with gongs in Matunggong, Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Kampung Sumangkap Matunggong, Kudat, a small Rungus village just a couple of kilometres from the main road, usually affirms its claim to fame during a festival when it comes to life with the sounds of gongs and feasting.

One such festival is the Gong Festival which is apt for the village because it’s there that the gong-makers are found – a group of about 20 families supplying buyers statewide with this home-made  percussive instrument.

Gong-making in Kampung Sumangkap has been going on for a long time. In fact, the area is now synonymous with the activity. The commercial venture is an tradition passed down from generation to generation.

Seline Ojingan has been making gongs since she came to live in the village in 1994. The petite 34-year-old mother learned how to make gongs from relatives and friends after she got married to a local.

“Life isn’t easy as a housewife, especially when you depend solely on your husband for everything,” she said.

After realising gong-making was a way to make extra income, she decided to learn how to make them.

Nowadays, she makes standard gongs and as well as smaller ones as souvenirs.

“I can make seven gongs between a week and 10 days,” she said, adding that the traditional skill of making gongs should be perpetuated.

Roslina Jomuon from another village but married a gong-maker in Sumangkap, has been helping her husband with his work.

A mother of four children, the 33-year-old said she acquired her skills through hard work.

“I’m proud to say I can make seven standard gongs in a week and several souvenir gongs in a day. It’s hard work but well-worth it when  I see finely-made gongs in my display shelf.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Village synonymous with gongs in Matunggong, Sabah
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Routes Asia heads to Sarawak in 2014


It was announced today that in 2014, Routes Asia will return to Malaysia when the event takes place in Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, jointly hosted by Sarawak Tourism Board and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad.

This will be the fifth time that a Routes event has taken place in Malaysia. In 2003, the first Routes Asia event, also the first ever Routes regional event, was held in Sepang, hosted by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, who went on to host Routes Asia for the following two years and World Routes 2008 in Kuala Lumpur. Since these early days, Routes Asia has gone from strength to strength welcoming 672 delegates in Chengdu earlier this year.

Sarawak, known as the Land of the Hornbills, is the largest of the Malaysian states and is situated on the island of Borneo. Home to the world's oldest tropical rainforests it is abundant in wildlife including rare and endangered species such as the orangutan and the hornbill. The historic capital city of Kuching has a population of around 600,000 and dates back hundreds of years when traders from China and the West would travel there to trade the exotic treasures of the rainforest. Today, Kuching remains the central hub and gateway to Sarawak.

“We are delighted that Routes Asia will be in Sarawak in 2014," said David Stroud, Executive Vice President, UBM Aviation Routes, continuing, “Our regional events began in Malaysia almost 10 years ago, and once again the passion and commitment of the airport and stakeholders impressed our selection team. Sarawak, though, will offer delegates an experience like no other, a real 'once in a lifetime' location unlike any place we have ever held a Routes event; a stunning choice for the 12th Routes Asia event."

Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, Managing Director of Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, commented: “We are delighted and honored that Routes Asia will once again reach the shores of Malaysia in 2014 but this time to the majestic and enthralling city of Kuching, Sarawak. Malaysia Airports looks forward to partner[ing] with the State of Sarawak in ensuring a greatly successful forum, which will be productive and fondly remembered by all delegates."

Minister of Tourism Sarawak, the Honorable Datuk Amar Zohari, said: “Routes coming into Sarawak for the first time will mean a great tourism boost, as it will gives us the opportunity to showcase our unique attractions to the aviation and tourism industry and above all to tell the world that Kuching, Sarawak, is capable and ever-ready of holding any big congress of any nature that otherwise was not known to many."

Continue reading at: Routes Asia heads to Sarawak in 2014
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Parkcity Everly Hotel offers ‘Ramadan at Pavillion’ buffet


MIRI: Mirians wanting to enjoy varieties of mouth-watering dishes when breaking their fast this Ramadan are invited to try out ParkCity Everly Hotel’s ‘Ramadan at Pavillion’ buffet promotion.

Diners can start their fast breaking at the grilled seafood section which features sardines, prawns, stingray and various other fish as well as seafood.

There is also the Mongolian Hot Plate section serving vegetables and other raw food which once selected, will be prepared by the Chef on duty on the hot plate. For Japanese food lovers, they can try out the Teppanyaki corner.

A variety of chicken dishes are also served at the buffet promotion. There are grilled chicken, steamed chicken, Cajun chicken and other chicken menus to tickle your taste buds.

Local favourites at the buffet include lamb bryani, mutton curry, Penang fish head curry, Sarawak laksa, fritters and more.

To complement the food, diners can opt for a selection of drinks such as teh tarik, air bandung, chendol and laici just to name a few.

The buffet is available from Sundays to Thursdays at RM42 per adult and RM2 per child and from Fridays to Saturdays at RM63 per adult and RM30 per child.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Musical extravaganza amidst lush green paradise


By Syafiq Affendy in Kuching, Sarawak




The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), now in its 15th year and held annually in Kuching, Sarawak, has put the East Malaysian state on the world map. It brings dazzling performances from across the globe attracting more than 20,000 international and local festival-goers to the magical land of Borneo for three days of daytime music workshops and action-packed nightly shows.

This year's RWMF, which ran from July 13 to July 15, was held on the grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village nestled against the base of Mount Santubong, about 35 kilometres north of Kuching. The festival runs workshops (mini concerts) in the afternoon followed by evening performances held on the two main stages in the village. Although there are timetables for the workshops and evening performances, visitors can enter and leave any event at will.

The daytime workshops are held inside various traditional houses in the village, where the performers and leaders of the events are often on the same floor-level as the audience, allowing them to get up close to the performers. There are also no restrictions in communicating with the performers, and the musicians themselves sometimes encourage conversation, especially if it is regarding the topic of the workshop they are running or about the traditional instruments they use.

For three days, the audience were treated to world-class music ranging from the traditional plucks of the Sarawakian guitar called 'Sape' to the magical fusion of traditional and modern musical instruments showcased on two separate stages - the main Jungle Stage and the Tree Stage.

This year, 16 performers were invited to share their music at the festival, which was estimated to have attracted as many as 30,000 people.

One of the big names who performed at this year's RWMF was Zee Avi, Malaysian singer-songwriter, guitarist and ukulele player who was born in Miri, Sarawak.

The songstress, who now lives in the United States, was first discovered from a song she had posted up on YouTube for a friend. She has since then released several albums and made a special appearance at the festival, courtesy of the Sarawak State Government. Aside from performing her hit songs, Zee Avi sang some local Sarawakian songs during the festival.

Other performers included The Music of Sarawak (Malaysia), Hata - The One (Malaysia, Korea, Turkey and Taiwan), Rhythm of Borneo (Malaysia), Mamadou Diabate (Mali / Burkina Faso), Le Trio Joubran (Palestine), Samuel Dass & Prakash (Malaysia), Khusugtun (Mongolia), Diplomats Of Drum (Malaysia), Raiz De Cafezal (Brazilian Amazonian Indians), La Zikabilo (France), Oreka Tx (Spain), String Sisters (Celtic music from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and US), Kanda Bongo Man (Congo - UK Based), Cankisou (Czech Republic) and Danyel Waro (Reunion Island).

As with previous festivals, the audience had been warned that rain might occur during the event, and that raincoats or ponchos should be brought along to avoid from getting wet.

However, some have a different idea - they embrace the rain. The stage grounds are left in its natural state - either it is covered in grass or the earth is exposed under their feet.

Some would even dive into the puddles of mud after a good few minutes of rain, and this joyful spirit quickly infects those around and soon you'll see groups of people exiting the festival site, fully covered in mud.

The festival has been mentioned in many international music-related publications, including Songlines from the UK, where it has been listed as one of the top 25 international music festivals.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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Sarawak tops in domestic visitor arrivals


KUCHING: Sarawak recorded the highest number of domestic visitor arrivals compared to other states in the country this year.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the number of visitors from Sabah and the peninsula had been increasing every year.

“Sarawak has the highest number of arrivals in terms of domestic visitors. They came here either for leisure or business,” he said following a courtesy call from Borneo Tourism Alliance (BTA), which kicked start its official e-launching of BTA 1st Anniversary Celebrations here yesterday.

Anticipating that domestic visitor arrivals would continue to increase this year, Abang Johari expressed confidence that his ministry’s target of four million visitors (foreign and domestic) for this year was achievable.

Meanwhile, he also called upon the private sector to help propel the Sarawak tourism industry by organising more tourism activities to attract visitors.

“They can organise their events annually and promote them earlier so as to garner awareness from foreign tourists to participate.”

“BTA, an upcoming non-governmental organisation for the regional tourism industry, will be organising its first event ‘Fun Cycling + Plant A Tree + Ai Dilfitri Get Together’ on Aug 26 in conjunction with its first anniversary,” said BTA president Kho Sze Min.

He pointed out that the strategic partnership event jointly organised with the Santubong Homestay Operators will see a target of around 300 international and 200 locals from the cycling fraternity to cycle some 50km along the scenic environment of Santubong.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak tops in domestic visitor arrivals
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Good vibrations from Santubong


FOR three nights in July over the past 15 years, Mount Santubong reverberated with world music – from the rumble of Brazilian drums to the melodic twangs of the Orang Ulu sape.

These good vibrations came from Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), the annual gathering of folk and ethnic musicians the world over at the Sarawak Cultural Village at the foot of the mountain.

RWMF is arguably the biggest success story of the Sarawak Tourism Board, starting off as a surprise package in 1997 and going on to climb its way to be among the Top 25 Best International Festivals today, according to the rating of the renowned magazine Songlines.

However, the festival is not without its detractors, especially among the locals who could not connect with its genre of music and perhaps put off by the price of the tickets which, at RM110 per day, is steep compared to pop concerts held in the state.

As its name implies though, this festival is not geared for locals, being a celebration of world ethnic music with an intended worldwide audience.

RWMF was conceived as a vehicle to put Sarawak on the world tourism map and on this score, no one can deny the festival had achieved its objective.

The fame of this musical extravaganza spread by word of mouth and the large turnout each year bears testimony to its appeal to world music lovers.

Those who run down the festival are missing the big picture – RMWF is not just a musical concert but a massive tourism product.

To view RWMF merely as a musical festival would be an injustice to the organisers who have developed it into an important venue for cultural interaction of peoples around the world.

The festival attendees are exposed to the traditions and cultures of countries they are unlikely to visit not only through presentations of the musicians during the concerts but also daytime workshops on their music and dances.

I was impressed by Khusugtub of Mongolia with their unique folk music which blended the sound of their traditional stringed instruments with their guttural humming – a combination still humming in my head.

Thanks to RWMF, I do not have to travel to Mongolia to listen to authentic Mongolian music but what makes this festival stand out is the collaboration of musicians across the globe in some of their performances.

The group Hata, for example, comprised two traditional drummers from Taiwan, a flutist and a lute player from Korea, a guitarist from Azerbaijan and sitar, percussion and tabla players from Malaysia.

The fusion they produced from their impromptu interplay of their traditional musical instruments was mind-boggling and for a while, the world was truly borderless as music transcended borders and cultures.

Also noteworthy was the contribution of our local musicians. Their active participation showed we could contribute to this musical extravaganza as much we received from our guest performers.

However, a letdown was the absence of Mathew Ngau, the sape player and the icon of the festival this year.

Although the image of him playing the traditional Orang Ulu string instrument could be seen everywhere at the Cultural Village during the festival, he was nowhere to be seen as he was on a performing tour in the US.

The organisers should have avoided this clash of schedules and hopefully, it would serve as a lesson for future festivals.

Continue reading at: Good vibrations from Santubong
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Sarawak Regatta to allow tourist participation


KUCHING: Tourists will be rowing together with local paddlers in this year’s Sarawak Regatta along Sungai Sarawak, as this 150-year-old event becomes more tourist-oriented with the inclusion of new categories and the sales of corporate seats.

Permanent Secretary to Tourism Ministry, Datu Ik Pahon Joyik said tourists can now participate by paying minimal fees and race in either Perahu Kenyalang or Perahu Tambang categories.

He pointed out that for the Perahu Kenyalang, there will be 20 persons per boat comprising 15 tourists, four locals and one flag bearer, and they will vie for the Minister of Tourism Sarawak Challenge Trophy.

As for the Perahu Tambang, he said each boat will have seven paddlers comprising six tourists and one local and the Minister of Tourism Malaysia Challenge Trophy is up for grabs, and there is also a special prize for best decorated Tambang for the tourist players.

“This time, the Ministry of Tourism gets involved in the organising of this Regatta to try transform the annual community event into a tourism product by engaging tourist players to participate.

“The tourists only come and see previously, but now we want to sell the experience of the Sarawak Regatta to them. The prizes include the challenge trophy and attractive hotel vouchers,” he told a press conference yesterday to announce the plans for this year’s Sarawak Regatta.

The Sarawak Regatta will be held from Sept 14 to 16, offering increased prize money from RM166,000 last year to RM180,000 and longer route from 1.8km previously to 2km.

Ik Pahon also announced there will be 240 corporate seats, which will allow visitors to watch the regatta in comfort at the Kuching Waterfront.

“Previously, there were VIP seats, which were only for VIPs. Now, we have the corporate seats where there will be LED TV for visitors and refreshments will be served,” he said.

He, however, did not disclose the pricing details for the corporate seats, stressing this would be announced soon. There are altogether 15 categories to be contested including the two categories for tourists.

The main category is the Perahu Bidar 30 paddlers (men) where the winners will be crowned Raja Sungai (Kings of the River).

The other categories include The Perahu Bidar 30 paddlers for hotels and tour agencies, VIP, Perahu Kenyalang 20 paddlers for inter-varsity and international open, Perahu Bidar 20 paddlers for inter-division, government and corporate agencies, and men’s open.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Regatta to allow tourist participation
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Escape To Borneo


Recently, after giving a talk at a conference in Hong Kong, I spent some time resting in my room on the 41st floor of the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel gazing at the mountains-in-the-making across the way in Kowloon, and wondered how far away might I find the real thing. An unfurl of the map showed that the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea was Mount Kinabalu, 13,455 feet, in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, just three hours flight to the southeast. Climbing a mountain without an elevator was strictly against doctor's orders, as two weeks earlier I had undergone surgery, an inguinal hernia repair, and was told to lay low. But, researching Mt. Kinabalu I discovered the summit was called Low's Peak, after the European who first climbed the mountain in the middle 19th century. The weekend was nigh, so the following morning I was on an Malaysia Airlines flight to the state capital of Kota Kinabalu, just four degrees north of the equator, for a gut-wrenching, four-day adventure in Borneo.

For more than a century, since explorers and missionaries first ventured into the interior of Borneo, outsiders have been captivated by its half-truths and half-fictions, awed by its headhunting heritage, its tales of giant insects and snakes, of wild men who lived in trees, of prodigious leeches that stood up when sensing a human. Borneo, which dominates millions of acres of tropical rain forests on the world's third largest island, was the stuff of nightmares. Sabah once belonged to an Englishman, the publisher Alfred Dent, who leased it and eventually called it British North Borneo. It was a state administered as a business venture until 1942, when the Japanese invaded and took control. After the Second World War, the British returned and Borneo became a Crown colony. In 1963, Sabah gained independence and joined the Federation of Malaysia. The name Sabah means, "land below the wind," a place where early maritime traders sought refuge beneath the typhoon belt of the Philippines.

From the airport I stepped into the silken air of the Borneo night, saturated and hot, with a slightly sweet odor. Even though it was dark, I could sense the mountain to the east, bending me with its silent mind. It seemed to reel in the minibus I rode 60 miles up into the eponymous park headquarters -- Mt. Kinabalu is the most accessible big mountain in the tropics -- where I had dinner and checked into one of the spacious split-level chalet. This was base camp with style.

As I sipped a port on the back balcony, tiny life in the tangle a few yards away broadcast news of my presence in a steady din of clicks, trills, buzzes and noises ranging from deep fat frying to the shriek of car alarms. But, there was more than wildlife in this backcloth of biodiversity beyond my feet. The 300-square-mile national park's botanically famous flora include more than 1,000 orchid species, 450 ferns, 40 kinds of oak, 27 rhododendrons and a plant that bears platter-size flowers, the Rafflesia. In all, Mount Kinabalu is home to 4,000 to 4,500 vascular plant species, more than a quarter the number of all recorded species in the United States.

The next morning I stepped over a moth the size of a bat and outside into a day tidy and bright. For the first time I could see the striking granite massif that looks like a mad ship riding high rainforest waves, with fantastic masts, tines, spires and aiguilles dotted across its pitched and washed deck of rock at 13,000 feet. Waterfalls spilled down its sides as though a tide had just pulled back from a cliff. The youngest non-volcanic mountain in the world, Mount Kinabalu is still growing, pushed upwards at the rate of a quarter of an inch a year. Borneo was formed as a result of plate movements uniting two separate portions of the island some 50 million years ago. Mount Kinabalu now lies near the site where the two parts joined on the northeastern tip of Borneo.

About 40 million years ago, the region lay under the sea and accumulated thick layers of marine sediments, creating sandstone and shale, later uplifted to form the Crocker Range. Mount Kinabalu started out about 10 million years ago as a huge ball of molten granite called a "pluton" lying beneath the sedimentary rocks of the Crocker Range. This pluton slowly cooled between nine and four million years ago, and about a million years ago, it was thrust from the bowels of the earth and grew to a height probably several thousand feet higher than today. When the Pleistocene Ice Age emerged, rivers of ice covered Kinabalu, eventually wearing down the soft sandstone and shale and shrinking the summit. Low's Peak, the highest point on Kinabalu, and the horned towers of the mountain, were created by the bulldozing of these huge glaciers.

Checking in with Jennifer at the Registration Office at Park Headquarters, I saw the sign that said nobody could climb to the summit without hiring a certified guide. So, I enlisted Eric Ebid, 30, a mild man of Borneo, small, enthusiastic with bad teeth but a ready and real smile; eyes the color of wet coal that could see every forest twitch; little English but a knack for communicating; and a beautiful singing voice. His shoes were made of thin rubber, not much more than sandals, but he walked with a spring that made his limbs appear to be made of some resilient, lightweight wood. When he shook hands, he first touched his hand to his heart, and bowed. Eric was a Dusun, the dominant ethnic group of northern Borneo. The Dusuns have lived on the flanks of Mount Kinabalu for centuries and believe that the spirits of their ancestors reside on the summit, the realm of the dead. They call the mountain Aki Nabula, "Revered Place of the Dead." They were once warlike, and used to carry their captives in bamboo cages up the slopes of the mountain, and spear them to death in the shadow of its jagged summit.

The park bus labored to get to the trailhead, two and a half zigzag miles up the hill at a power station at 6,100 feet that not only supplies electricity to Kota Kinabalu, but has a cable that stretches up the mountain to a rest house two miles above sea level.

Off the bus, we stepped through a gate into a world steaming and flourishing, rife with birdsong. We were in one of the world's oldest dipterocarp rain forests, far older than the arbors of the Amazon Basin, now the last place on earth for many of the world's rarest plants and wildlife.

The ascent began by losing 100 feet of altitude, dropping us into a rainforest as lush and improbable as the canvases of Henri Rousseau. Then, in earnest, we began the unrelenting five-mile rise, switching back and forth over razor backed ridges, through groves of broadleaved oak, laurel and chestnut, draped in mosses, epiphytes and liverworts and thickened with a trumpeting of ferns. The trail was fashioned of tree limbs pinioned to serve as risers and occasionally as posts and handrails, a stairway pulled directly from nature. At much-used and appreciated regular intervals, there were charming gazebos, with toilets and tanked water. I stopped at the first, refilling my water bottle.

For a million years Kinabalu was a place where only imaginations and spirits traveled; no one disturbed the dead there -- until the British arrived. In 1851 Sir Hugh Low, a British Colonial Secretary, bushwhacked to the first recorded ascent, accompanied by local tribal guides and their chief, who purified the trespass by sacrificing a chicken and seven eggs. They also left a cairn of charms, including human teeth. Not to be outdone, Sir Hugh left a bottle with a note recording his feat, which he later characterized as "the most tiresome walk I have ever experienced."

By late morning, we entered the cloud forest, where the higher altitude and thinner soil begin to twist and warp the vegetation. There were constant pockets and scarves of fog. At 7,300 feet we passed through a narrow-leafed forest where Miss Gibbs' Bamboo climbed into the tree trunks, clinging to limbs like a delicate moss. Lillian Gibbs, an English botanist and the first woman known to scale Mount Kinabalu, collected over a thousand botanical specimens for the British Museum in 1910, at a time when there were no rest houses, shelters or corduroyed trails.

By mid-day the weather turned grim; skies opened, the views down mountain were blotted, and the climb was more like an upward wade through a thick orange soup of alkaline mud. I was soaked to the skin, but the rain was warm, as if it was all meant to be humane, even medicinal. For a moment, I forgot my hernia.

Still, when the rain became a deluge, we stopped at the Layang Layang Staff Headquarters (which was locked shut) for a rest and a hope that the downpour might subside. We were at 8,600 feet, better than halfway to our sleeping hut. While there, we munched on cheese sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, sipped bottled water. And while there, I watched as a small parade of tiny women, bent beneath burongs (elongated cane baskets) heaped high above their heads with loads of food, fuel and beer for the overnight hut, marched by on sure feet, trekking to serve the tourists who now flock to this mountain.

The first tourist made the climb in 1910, and, in the same year, so did the first dog, a bull terrier named Wigson. Since the paving of the highway from Kota Kinabalu in 1982, tourist development has been rapid, by Borneo's standards. Over 20,000 people a year now reach Low's Peak -- the highest point -- via the Paka Spur route, and hundreds of Dusuns are employed in getting outsiders up and down and around the mountain trails.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Escape To Borneo
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New attractions doing wonders for Sabah tourism


BIRD watching, rock climbing, hiking, paragliding, homestays, mountain bike rides, jungle trekking, cultural events and seafood, to name a few.

These are probably some of the reasons why the tourism industry has remained vibrant in Sabah.

The Mount Kinabalu National Park, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Sukau, as well as the islands within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in Kota Kinabalu and Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Semporna, in the meantime, continue to play the role as the state’s anchor products.

But it’s the growing popularity of new attractions that is helping Sabah maintain the growth in tourist arrivals each year.

Seasoned tour guide and operator Tham Yau Kong said for years, the tourism mainstay centred around Mount Kinabalu, diving, the orang utans in Sepilok and wildlife safari in Sukau.

“But over the years, new activities are attracting tourists and keeping the industry busy,” he said, noting that most of the new attractions are nature or culture-based activities.

“Eco-tourism is the best bet for Sabah as it is blessed with beautiful natural surroundings,” said Tham, who specialises in mountain bike expeditions, the Sandakan-Ranau Death March and more recently, motorbike excursions.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: New attractions doing wonders for Sabah tourism
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Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to tour Borneo rainforests


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit the rainforests of Borneo and one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands on their second Royal tour as a couple.

They will take in Singapore, Malaysia and the Solomon Islands before staying overnight on the Pacific Island of Tuvalu, which is halfway between Hawaii and Australia and covers an area of just 10 square miles.

They will be the first members of the Royal family to visit the Commonwealth country since the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh sailed there on Britannia in 1982.

Tuvalu, the world’s fourth-smallest country, is home to just 10,000 people and most of it is barely 2ft above sea level, meaning it could cease to exist if sea levels continue to rise because of the melting of the polar ice caps.

Visitors who arrive by sea, including the Queen on her visit, are traditionally carried ashore, shoulder-height, in canoes, but because the Royal couple will be flying to the island’s tiny airport they will instead be garlanded with flowers.

Tuvalu is a circular archipelago of tiny islands with some of the best diving locations in the world, and is barely wider than a six-lane motorway for much of its length. The couple are expected to stay in the island’s only hotel, which has 16 rooms.

St James’s Palace announced that the couple will arrive in Singapore on September 11, moving on to Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysian province of Sabah, Borneo, and flying to Tuvalu via the Solomon Islands, finishing the tour on the Polynesian island on September 19

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to tour Borneo rainforests
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Borneo's different beat


The Rainforest World Music Festival rolls through Sarawak in perfect weather and harmony

Exotic instruments, lush scenery, unpronounceable names _ the annual Rainforest World Music festival rolled out again for the 15th time this month on the Santubong peninsula, in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

And the strong line-up and perfect weather set the tone for the polyglot of rhythms and rhymes from near and far to flow; and they did, with local diva Zee Avi stealing the show.

Even though the weather forecast warned of rain, the Sarawak Cultural Village was treated to perfect, mild weather over the three days (July 13 to 15). The village, perched on a sliver of land between the majestic Mount Santubong and the South China Sea, came to life during the festival. The wooden walkway of the circuit once again teemed with festival punters, who for the first time seemed to be as interested in the daytime activities as the evening shows this year.

As usual, the line-up included a neat mesh of local ethnic offerings and a wide array of global flavours. Opening the musical proceedings on the first night was the Sape and Warrior Dance ensemble, creating a colourful portal for the event anchored by the iconic sape stringed instrument that has become the calling sound of the festival.

The proceedings gathered momentum through the first night with the multi-national String Sisters who hail from five different countries but unify for soaring melodies and smiles on stage, looking genuinely chuffed to be there. After more local flair with Rhythm of Borneo, La Zikabilo brought their hyper-gypsy stampede to the peninsula, flooding the main stage with energy and infectious guitar-driven riffs of jazz, gypsy and rumba.

Then the pint-sized Zee Avi swayed onto the stage and stole the show. The local YouTube-rocker-turned-diva has taken flight from Sarawak to make good in the US, but seemed so at home in front of adoring fans who called for encores and more. She rounded out a complete night, which was appreciated by the 5,000-strong crowd, many of whom had made the trip after a week's work in nearby Kuching.

With so much already down, it should have been difficult to match the musical heights of the opening programme on subsequent nights. But the line-up promised to do so.

Khusugtun of Mongolia opened the international buffet on the second night, with their meditative throat singing and traditional string playing, drawing big cheers for their proud performance.

Danyel Waro from the Reunion Islands delivered his hypnotic, driving vocal Maloya rhythms that resonated through the festival site. Cankisou from the Czech Republic delivered some hyper-drive with an interesting array of instruments played over a rock base. The final night featured Hata, the super-band with members from all over Asia, both east and west, culminating in something of an Eastern orchestral symphony.

Then Oreka TX of the Basque region in Spain took to the stage with their eccentric txalaparta instruments. The two percussionists drew their sound from striking materials such as wood, stone and even plastic drums, in uncanny harmony. They smartly accompanied the show with a multimedia content.

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Rain no damper on Kuching Festival


KUCHING: The light drizzle on Monday evening did not hinder people from all walks of life from visiting the 2012 Kuching Festival which kicked off last Friday.

With more than 190 participants, food lovers were spoilt for choice with the smorgasbord of mouth-watering food available ranging from juicy tender Taiwan sausages to piquant barbecued seafood as well as sweet treats in the likes of homemade Nyonya delicacies and Sabah ‘ice-cream’ potong at the 24-day food festival.

One familiar delicacy that had somewhat become synonymous with the annual food fest was none other than the dragon beard’s candy from Emperor Dragon Whisker Sweet.

Priced at RM3 a box, the handmade traditional delicacy from China consisting of very fine strands of spun sugar resulting in the resemblance of fine whiskers — hence the name — is made by Dennis Lo who has been participating in the fest for more than 10 years.

“We’ve been selling this Chinese sweet treat here at the fest for the past 14 years,” he told The Borneo Post as several passers-by stopped to watch the 22-year-old demonstrate the technique of making the dessert.

Asked how the response has been from the crowd thus far, Lo said it had been good and added that there were more visitors this year.

Sharing the sentiment was Lydia Chai whose deep fried burgers have been providing burger aficionados with a crunchier take on the conventional fast food item.

“This is my fourth year participating in Kuching Festival and there’s more crowd at the fest this year,” she said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rain no damper on Kuching Festival
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Borneo: A Land of Dwarves and Deadly Giants


Borneo is a bit like Alice in Wonderland: a topsy-turvy land where animals have been drinking magic potions that make them grow into giants or shrink into midgets. The kind of place where the world's smallest frog, about the size of a pea, is dwarfed by the world's longest bug -- a stick insect that grows to over two feet.

I love freaks, so when I hear that there are even pygmy elephants, I have to film them for my new National Geographic show, Freaks and Creeps. But this particular adventure almost ends in an intimate encounter with one giant you really don't want to meet close up.

The Danau Girang biological field center is situated on the banks of the mighty Kinabatangan river, which winds its way into the heart of Borneo. When I arrive, director Benoit Goosens welcomes me to his jungle kingdom and informs me there is just one rule: no swimming in the river. Its chocolate-colored waters are home to the world's biggest reptile: the saltwater crocodile. These ancient monsters grow to over 20 feet long and have a taste for human flesh; almost 40 people have been attacked in the area in the last decade. Rarely has swimming seemed less appealing.

Our primary reason for visiting the center is to join Benoit's team on a mission to radio tag a wild proboscis monkey -- a freaky primate with a giant bulbous nose, massive pot-belly and Donald Trump hair. This can only happen under the cover of darkness. So I persuade Benoit to take us up river to see the elephants before sunset.

It's a gorgeous, sunny afternoon and I'm in a great mood. I love biology field stations as they allow me to release my inner geek. Everyone here is as obsessed with nature as me. Nobody thinks you're weird to be totally over excited about an encounter with a pygmy pachyderm. What could possibly go wrong?

The journey itself is pretty exciting. Benoit has to take care to avoid the massive tree trunks, deadly detritus from Borneo's logging industry, hurtling towards us in the swollen waters. An hour and a half of weaving speedily upriver and we spot the elephants, about twenty of them hanging out on the bank. From the safety of the boat we can get quite close, although Benoit doesn't want to get too close and frighten them. They are much less aggressive than their African relatives and only two-thirds the size. They really do look tiny. Especially the baby, which is having a ball learning how to use its trunk by squirting water on its back. I shudder to admit it, but it's really rather cute.

Elephants are not native to Borneo. The origin of these miniature mutant mammoths is shrouded in mystery but the most popular story casts them as royal refugees. Back in the fourteenth century the Raja of the nearby island of Java gave two Javanese elephants to the Sultan of Sulu. Centuries later, the descendants of these two elephants were sent by the Sultan to Borneo to help with the shipbuilding industry but were released into the forest. With Javanese elephants extinct, these exiled specimens are ironically the last of their species. Sadly their population has also shrunk by half thanks to deforestation but Benoit is working hard to establish a conservation plan for them.

On the way back we are all in high spirits when suddenly a storm looms and we're engulfed by a menacing black sky. Then, for no apparent reason, the boat starts taking on water. Phil, my intrepid field producer, asks me to pass him something to start bailing out but all we have is my sun hat. At this stage it doesn't seem very serious and Eric, the cameraman, and I are laughing at Phil doing his best to eject water with a floppy boater whilst Benoit tries to re-start the engine.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo: A Land of Dwarves and Deadly Giants
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River cruise in Sibuti soon


MIRI: Sibuti possesses vast tourism potential, and the government intends to tap it by initiating a river cruise package of sorts for a start.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said such a package would enable tourists to enjoy the natural beauty and, if they are lucky, catch sight of crocodiles basking by the river banks of Sibuti River.

“This new product is one of the government’s efforts to promote the tourism sector in Sibuti, which comprises Lambir, Bekenu and Niah.

“With the great natural beauty and uniqueness of the local cultures here, I have high confidence that this product will help change the landscape of at least Bekenu town,” he said at a function in Bekenu recently to present People Friendly Houses (RMR).

To go with this proposed package, Abang Johari said his ministry was going to build a waterfront project in Bekenu.

However, he did not divulge details of this proposed plan other than saying that it would complement existing tourism promotions to boost Miri’s image as a resort city.

At present, Sibuti’s attractions include Lambir National Park, Niah National Park, Bungai Beach, and Bakam Beach.

Continue reading at: River cruise in Sibuti soon
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Mount Kinabalu - The hard way up


Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest peak, beckons the thrill seekers

Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest at 4,095 metres (13,435 feet), is arguably the easiest mountain to climb.

Eighty-year-old grandmas and very young children have walked up to the granite peak.

Yet it has attracted some of the world’s best runners among the 600 to its toughest mountain race every year.

Now it offers some of the most challenging routes to rock climbers.

Five of the world’s top rock climbers spent two weeks on the Sabah mountain last month to chart 24 routes for rock climbers.

They are graded from 5 to 9A in climbing difficulty with 9A being the most difficult.

And it is the difficulty of the climb that excites rock climbers.

“We would find the hardest possible way to climb,” said Caroline Ciavaldini, 27, who won last year’s world cup at Chamonix in the French Alps. “Mountaineers will seek the easiest way up the mountain.”

That in essence separates the rock climber from the mountaineer.

Ciavaldini of France was joined by three other champions: America’s Daniel Woods, 23, Britain’s James Pearson, 26, and Japan’s Yuji Hirayama, 43.

All of them are bowled over by the granite peak which they say is the dream of every climber.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mount Kinabalu - The hard way up
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More flight connectivity vital to growth of Sarawak tourism industry


KUCHING: The government will continue to find ways to increase flight connectivity to the state if it succeeds in turning some beautiful areas here into global tourist destinations.

This is because connectivity to the outside world remains vital in developing and promoting the local Sarawak tourism industry, opined Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“The Telaga Air-Lundu tourism corridor has vast potential to become the best tourism spot due to its unique and beautiful landscape,” said Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, when officiating at the ‘Bernas-Saberkas Jerayawara Bubur Pedas and Bubur Lambuk 2012’ programme at Masjid As-Salihin at Kampung Telaga Air some 40 kilometres from here.

Recently, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmad announced a 10-year master plan to develop the coastal area of Bau-Lundu into a major tourism and aquaculture spot in the state.

The event was attended by Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi and Bernas Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Mohd Kamaluddin Mohd Effendie.

Abang Johari also suggested that seminars be organised for the public to help identify sectors and areas which can be developed into popular tourist destinations.

Touching on Telaga Air, he suggested that local tourism players develop deep sea fishing as a tourism product, targeting Singaporean tourists.

“Locals can discard used tyres and old boats at the sea. These discards will make good breeding ground for fishes, creating fish coves that would become a fishing haven,” he explained.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Maranjak Rungus Longhouse - Living the past in the present


VISITING Maranjak Longhouse Lodge at Kampung Bavanggazo, Matunggong, 40km from Kudat, Sabah, has always been an eye-opening experience for me because of the people’s lifestyle and culture which are a throwback to the days of yore.

It never ceases to amaze me that in the old days, a village could be made up of a couple of longhouses with hundreds of people living together in harmony.

They planted padi or went hunting together. There were births, deaths and marriages but all the celebrations and mournings were held within the close-knit community.

At that time, one longhouse could be housing more than 70 families with their own space and rooms, much like the modern terrace houses, but with communal halls built on stilts.

According to Jackson Utaray Sogunting, construction of the Longhouse Lodge Maranjak was based on the concept of the traditional Rungus longhouse.

“It is not occupied by any families now because it is solely for visitors but concept is the same. You don’t see many rooms as the design follows the traditional longhouse.

“I’m sure it’s unique to our guests although there are still quite a number of longhouses in the area that are occupied by our people,” said the 47-year-old who is a relative of the Lodge’s owner, Maranjak Malarag.

Jackson said the idea was to show guests the Rungus lifestyle of yesteryear and their ingenuity in building homes with their unique architecture.

The Rungus longhouse is different from the Murut longhouse as the former is lower on shorter stilts, and pudgy, being wider.

Jackson also said the community wanted to ensure the younger generation know about their traditional architecture and preserve it for posterity.

“It’s a heritage worth keeping,” he added.

In the past, building materials were gathered from selected hardwoods in the jungle, bamboo plants and palm fronds. The abode could be added on as new families arrived.

During my first visit to the longhouse several years ago, I saw a contraption outside the building that looked like a bubuh (fish trap).

I later learned the contraption had a more sombre function. It seemed back then that the punishment for incest was a slow agonising death – by drowning.

The perpetrators were placed in the bubuh and thrown into the river or sea. Any offspring from the illicit liaision were also subjected to the same fate.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tourism plan for Sarawak's 'most beautiful district'


LUNDU: SERENE beaches and lush green mountains have always attracted visitors to this district in the  western tip of Borneo.

Aside from its natural surroundings, the district here is also famous for its freshly made fish crackers.

The state government has come up with a master plan, called the Bau/Lundu Coastal Development Plan, to develop the area here into a tourism and aquaculture district in the next 10 years.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the plan would stretch from Bau and all the way to here and Sematan.

"The plan is ready and the district here is its main concentration. However, real work will begin only after further studies next year.

"This will be done in stages," Taib said recently.

The district covers 1,916 sq km, which is larger than Malacca.

However, its population is only 35,000.

The first white Rajah, James Brooke, made a stop here from Singapore in 1839. In his memoirs, Spencer St John mentioned Lundu as the most beautiful district in Sarawak.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

French crusader for gibbons in Borneo jungle


For 15 years Aurelien Brule has lived in the Indonesian jungle, crusading against palm oil multinationals, loggers and corruption in his bid to save endangered gibbons from annihilation.

He admits that his is a losing battle. The primates are being pushed out of their natural habitat by loggers removing the equivalent of six football fields-worth of jungle "every minute" to make way for palm oil plantations.

Around 100,000 gibbons remain in the forests of Borneo, but there will be few left within the next 15-20 years according to Brule with up to 1.5 million hectares of jungle lost every year, despite the efforts of conservationists.

For Brule, who has since changed his name to "Chanee" -- meaning "Gibbon" in Thai -- it is a struggle that he was probably destined for.

As a 12 year-old, he spent so much time observing gibbons at a zoo in his hometown of Frejus in southern France the local press dubbed him "the little strange kid who watches monkeys instead of playing video games."

Four years later the teenager published his own encyclopaedia on the critically endangered primates, whose distinctive faces are framed by a ring of white fur.

In the media, he talked about his dream of moving to Asia and working to help protect endangered gibbons, which brought the attention of French actress and comedian Muriel Robin who one day called him up and gave him the funds to move to Indonesia.

Sometimes called the "French Dian Fossey" -- the American zoologist who dedicated her life to preserving African gorillas until her murder in 1985 -- Brule, 33, has set up a sanctuary, and a radio station that helps listeners report gibbons held in captivity.

'Kalaweit'

Chanee arrived in Indonesia in 1998 at the age of 18, flying to the island of Borneo and spending the next three months climbing through jungle to reach the tribal lands of the Dayak native people, where Borneo's gibbons dwell.

Aiming to build a sanctuary in those tropical forests, he spent the next few months immersed in Jakarta and the intricacies of its Kafkaesque bureaucracy to seek permission to build it.

For nine months he pestered authorities until in September 1999 he got what he went for, and returned to the forest to build the sanctuary named "Kalaweit", which in the Dayak language means "gibbon".

Over the years the Kalaweit sanctuary has grown into what he calls "the largest program for the rehabilitation of gibbons in the world" with more than 250 animals, 50 employees and an annual budget of 400,000 euros ($491,000) from private donations.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: French crusader for gibbons in Borneo jungle
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Rafflesia Eco Park to be developed at upper Padawan


KUCHING: Another eco-tourism destination in upper Padawan has been identified and developed to become Rafflesia Eco-Park.

Located at Kampung Begu, about 60 kilometres from the city, the place besides having Rafflesia also has a cave, making it ideal for eco-tourism destination.

Yesterday, Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos visited the place to see for himself a Rafflesia flower and the nearby cave and promised to set aside RM100,000 to develop the area.

He said the area has at least seven tetrastigma plants that provide the breeding ground for the Rafflesia flower.

“The place (Kampung Begu) will be one of the tourist attractions because it is has Rafflesia flower.

“Besides having the Rafflesia, it also has a cave which will be another tourist attraction,” Dawos said.

Kampung Begu is only about 45 minutes drive from Kuching and to reach the place it takes about three minutes walk.

The Mambong MP said at least RM100,000 was needed to improve the infrastructure, including building public toilets, shelter and the path leading to the cave.

“I will try to get the allocation and I hope the improvement to the area can be carried out this year,” he said, adding that Padawan Municipal Council (PMC) would be given the responsibility to execute the plan.

Dawos also said that developing the Rafflesia Eco- Park would further promote Kampung Annah Rais hot spring, which is located nearby.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rafflesia Eco Park to be developed at upper Padawan
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Guided tour of State Assembly to boost Kota Kinabalu city tourism


KOTA KINABALU: Plans are afoot to enhance city tour with the inclusion of a visit to the State Assembly complex, according to State Assembly Speaker Datuk Seri Panglima Salleh Tun Said.

Visitors will be taken on a guided tour of the premises, and this is part of the State Assembly’s transformation, Salleh said when launching the State Assembly’s official website yesterday.

He said a meeting with the relevant authorities will be held this Friday to discuss about the guided tour within the building, such as the areas allowed for public access.

They will also be looking at setting up a souvenir shop in the building, he said, adding that the tour idea has been brought to the attention of the state Cabinet which has given its approval.

Salleh said the service to be provided to visitors will be similar to that given in the United Nations and Malaysian Parliament.

“We hope more students will make use of this service so that they can learn about the state’s history,” he said.

On the newly launched website, www.sabah.gov.my/dun, Salleh said it is aimed at enabling the public to access the State Assembly proceedings and obtain information about the state’s elected representatives.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival to stay in Kuching but with new approach next year


The excitement from the just-concluded Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is still felt amongst visitors.

Now, it is going to get little bit hotter.

Rumour has it that the next edition of the state’s annual signature event will no longer be held in its birth city, Kuching.

Instead, it is going to be shifted to Miri, specifically to a venue that shares the festival’s namesake.

The Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort (BTRR), nestled deep in the Lambir forest about 33km from the city, is touted to be the next site for the RWMF.

To find out more about this, The Star yesterday contacted BTRR owner, Henry Law Ing Hua, who was quite surprised with the news.

He said: “No, I have not heard about this. However, we did request for RWMF to be brought over to Miri two years ago but it was turned down on the ground that it would be too costly for the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) to hold the festival here.”

Nevertheless, Law said if the news turned out to be true, he would be truly delighted because having the festival here would take Miri tourism to a different height and not to mention, “a great bonus for BTRR”.

“I did have guests who came here recently asking me why I did not get some of the performers from the RWMF to perform at my place. They said our location will be suitable for the event.

“In my opinion, BTTR is surrounded by the forest and is away from the city centre. It has retained certain spiritual charms much like those in a rainforest. But at the same time, the outfit may not be able to accommodate the huge crowd of the RWMF, which has grown from year to year,” he pointed out.

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'Pleasant' Long Pasia Beckons Visitors


KOTA KINABALU -- Long Pasia, which means 'mouth of the red river' in the Lundayeh lingo, is a village situated in the district of Sipitang, Sabah.

This village is located in the south-western part of Sabah, adjacent to the Sarawak and Kalimantan borders. Long Pasia has some 85 houses with about 500 inhabitants.

The only land access to this village, located about 125 km from Sipitang, is via a logging road. From Kota kinabalu, it takes at least two hours by road to Sipitang, and from there at least another four hours in a good 4-wheel-drive to stumble along the timber road to Long Pasia.

This writer was welcomed by fresh, cool air when she reached Long Pasia following a gruelling four-hour journey along the timber road.

The air at this scenic village was reminiscent of the cool mountain air of hill resorts such as Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands.

'LUNDAYEH'

Long Pasia headman for 20 years, 60-year-old Mudin Sia said that this 400 year-plus village was settled by some 2,000 residents.

Later, the villagers created four settlements - Sungai Bunggaya, Sungai Kampung Ruran, Kampung Long Mio and Kampung Long Pasia.

For those who are used to the hustle and bustle of city life, the life in Long Pasia is placid and tranquil.

In the mornings, most villagers are found to either work on their farms or seen simply staying inside their homes. Not many people can be seen on the road.

The cooperative's shop and school appear deserted and quiet at this time.

The villagers earn their living by planting vegetables and paddy. Not many of Long Pasia's children have access to secondary education in Sipitang.

However, the peace and tranquility of this Lundayeh settlement makes it a unique and beautiful destination in Sabah, particularly for those seeking a calm and soothing environment for their tired minds and limbs.

Apart from the cool climate and fresh air, there is no hectic and gruelling regime of city life mirrored in this village, which makes this scenic village appealing to tourists.

The Lundayeh in Long Pasia are a world of its own.

THEN AND NOW

Years ago, the folks of Long Pasia were too poor to own vehicles in order to travel out of the village. They had to walk as well as carry shoulder packs containing provisions such as rice for a journey that took days to complete.

Sleeping in the jungles during these journeys was nothing new.

"Sometimes we came across the wildlife, while getting soaked in the rains and having to move through hilly terrain and rivers was quite normal," said Joseph Lakong Angang, 67, who became the first teacher of this village.

Angang said the first wave of development hit this village in 1996 following the creation of a timber trail and had to pay a toll of RM20-RM30 as transport fare to visit Sipitang.

"It was only after this that the watering facilities and solar power supply were set up," said Angang who retired in 2003.

This father of 10 children said that the life in Long Pasia has changed since the day he first set foot in the village in 1963.

"At that time I was only 19 and became the first teacher here," he told this writer at Long Pasia.

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