Monday, March 31, 2014

Borneo to be wild


BORNEO isn’t the sort of place people just go. The world’s third largest island, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is a Serious Destination; usually found on those top five lists that honeymooners browse, vying with African safaris or the Maldives for the ultimate trip-of-a-lifetime status.

It merits a smug Facebook status as you check in at Heathrow; a selfie or 12 of your feet parked on various exotic sunloungers; and a free pass to start all stories with “When I was in Borneo…” for at least six months after you get back.

The island’s exotic status comes partly from the fact that it’s not particularly easy to get to. While all those air miles you’ve been saving up for a special occasion might just cover a business class upgrade to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur (two of the major Asian hubs that serve the island), you’ll still have to spend another three hours in the air before reaching Kota Kinabalu, a popular beachside gateway on the north-west coast of the island.

But once you get there, the options for how to spend your time are overwhelming.

The Malaysian part of the island alone is home to almost 30 national parks, offering the chance to head offshore to dive by nearby Gaya Island, venture inland to trek through the jungle and up to Mount Kinabalu – a 4,000m peak in the middle of one of the parks – or just stick to the beaches for hot, languid sunbathing and sunsets.

For those stretched for time, or less willing to drag themselves away from the honeymoon suite, the “lite” version of most of these activities can be done close to Kota Kinabalu itself, with many of the remote hotel resorts offering easy access versions of the island’s biggest draws.

WHIRLWIND TOURING

A morning spent watching the sunrise over Mount Kinabalu is particularly spectacular, with the misty view across Borneo’s dense forests and winding rivers making the 6am wake-up call and half-hour uphill trek more than worth it. A night-time river cruise to see trees along the bank lit up by fireflies is equally stunning, with only the moon and hundreds of the tiny, bioluminescent insects to illuminate the pitch black river.

The coastline’s mainly flat landscape also makes it perfect for cycling; if you can stand the heat then a short tour around the local area is a great way to see how the locals live, including a glimpse of tradition in the indigenous Bajau (sea gypsy) peoples’ stilt houses, wobbling perilously over the clear South China Sea.

But, as pleasant a distraction as they provide, no one really comes to Borneo for fireflies and history lessons. What makes the 15-hour flight worth it is the one thing that really earns Borneo its status as a nature lover’s paradise and bucket-list destination – the orang-utans.   

Native only to Borneo and neighbouring island Sumatra, the WWF estimates that fewer than 65,000 of these lumbering orange apes still live in the wild, with numbers declining rapidly as their natural rainforest habitat shrinks to make way for logging trucks and agricultural development.

With more than 80 per cent of the surviving orang-utans found on Borneo, it’s the best place in the world to see them in the (semi-)wild, making the island a major destination for so-called eco-tourism, with sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres popping up across the remaining jungle.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo to be wild
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

What a great kayaking adventure in Sarawak


ELEVEN kayaks are rolled out by the riverbank – nine for guests and two for tour guides.

When everything is ready to go, one of the guides calls out: “Welcome to Kuching and our 11 km-kayaking adventure along Sungai Sarawak Kiri.”

Asin Dares, a Borneo Trek & Kayak Adventure tour guide, says the outing – to and fro – will take between three and four hours, depending on the water level along the main river.

“We are providing each of you a life jacket, so please put it on at all times for your safety.

“Also, be reminded that nobody is allowed to overtake the front guide or trail behind the last guide,” he instructs.

Asin then briefs the guests on paddling and balancing the kayak.

Shortly after, the journey begins – in the clear water of Sungai Abang, a small stream flowing past Kampung Bengoh.

The take-off point is about 100 metres from the junction of Sungai Abang and upper Sungai Sarawak Kiri or Sungai Semadang.

From there, the kayakers can paddle leisurely while enjoying the tranquility and the beautiful riverine scenery.

The river is tame during the dry season. The water is crystal clear and shallow – submerged pebbles or sands are clearly visible.

However, kayaking along the river is not recommended, even for adults, when the water is high because the swift current can be dangerous.

This normally happens after incessant heavy downpour during the rainy season. At this time, the water is usually a turbid Milo O.

Sometimes when there is rain in upper Sungai Bengoh, the water may take on a tea-like colour or even black.

The best time for kayaking along Sungai Semadang is during the dry season. Kayakers can row along slowly and gently, making toilet or photo stops any time.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: What a great kayaking adventure in Sarawak
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Gaya island off Sabah is beguiling


FROM the deck of a speeding motor boat scuttling along at 25 knots, I saw Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, growing fainter every second until it finally blended in with the surrounding colours of blue, green and turquoise, like an artist mixing paints – only this time, it’s made by nature’s exquisite “hands”.

I was in this vast expanse that lies between 6°N and 116°E of the equator once before, two Septembers ago.

Lingering in my memory are the trips I had made to the stilt houses of the sea gypsies, and the murky waters of the Kinabatangan river.

Then there were the perilous treks along the war memorial trail that often led to uncharted jungles, and encounters with strange creatures as well as listening to stories about head-hunters and blowpipes.

Although Borneo is mountainous with impenetrable areas of rainforest, just a 15-minute boat ride off the coast of Kota Kinabalu lies Pulau Gaya.

The Sabahan captain, who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, directed our attention to a swarm of bright multi-coloured clown and parrot fish that glistened like jewels under the midday sun as our boat approached the jetty.

Arriving in Pulau Gaya, I found myself surrounded by lush ancient rainforest, and the South China Sea beyond.

On my left, were verdant foliages under a cerulean sky and, just over the horizon, a stunning silhouette of the highest mountain in Malaysia – Gunung Kinabalu.

We had booked a canopy villa in the relatively new Gaya Island Resort. The structure exudes a tribal vibe of the indigenous Kadazan, Dusun and Dayak people.

Perched atop a hill, one can enjoy a view of the rainforest from there.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Gaya island off Sabah is beguiling
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MoU on Heart of Borneo signed


KUCHING: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia, WWF-Indonesia and the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo (Formadat) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to forge a stronger and more formal partnership on community engagement in the Heart of Borneo (HoB).

Sealed last Wednesday, the MoU is part of a new approach to widen coalitions and collaborations with civil society for conservation.

Signing for WWF were WWF-Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma and WWF-Indonesia chief executive officer Dr Efransjah; while Formadat was represented by its chief for Malaysia Penghulu Sigar Sultan, chief for Indonesia Lewi Gala Paru and advisor Ricky Ganang.

“We hope this is the first of several partnerships and formal collaborations with local organisations all along the border between Malaysia and Indonesia in the HoB,” said Sharma on behalf of WWF.

Under the MoU, the organisations will collaborate to encourage conservation and sustainable development in the Kelabit and Maligan Highlands (Sarawak) and Krayan (Kalimantan), and help realise a sustainable future in the HoB, said a media statement yesterday.

Initiatives by Formadat, which are supported by WWF include enhancing sustainable agricultural practices, promotion of local products, and trans-border and community-based ecotourism.

They also include helping to establish fair trading networks across the border to provide the local communities with better market access that promotes sustainability.

With WWF’s support, Formadat will continue to work towards the conservation of water sources, riverbanks and community forests, protection of cultural historical sites, and protection of collective intellectual property rights of the indigenous peoples of the highlands.

The focus of the collaboration is in line with the green economy vision of the HoB Initiative, which aims to transform economic practices by valuing natural capital and enhancing benefits for those whose livelihoods depend on natural resources.

Continue reading at: MoU on Heart of Borneo signed
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa – Finding Luxury in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia


If I were to chronicle my hotel disasters of yesteryear, pen would flow on reams to invoke memories of a blood-stained floor in a Bangkok 2* and the reception staff, who seemed bewildered that I had even raised the issue. I would tell you of the 2* Barcelona hotel that I resided in as a 20 year-old, the one with barely any light and a toilet seat stuck down with sellotape – a place which could have made a prison cell seem inviting.

But today, I put those memories behind me and breathe a sigh of relief because after a decade of hard work and penny pinching, I earned my reward and made it to a Shangri La property in 2013. I confess I may not have forked out unless I had found this bargain so when Travelzoo UK teamed up with Kuoni to put together an irresistible offer, we felt compelled to book.

Permitting it to fall like powdery sand through our wanderlusting fingers would have been our equivalent of losing a winning lottery ticket. My excitement about our impending 9 night stay at the Shangri La Tanjung Aru resort in Malaysian Borneo was beyond explosive and the 5 months between booking and departing couldn’t have gone any slower.

I looked a particularly pasty shade of tired when we arrived at the resort after a 16 hour journey. My make up was smudged, my clothes, well to be honest, they stank. You leave England in January – you are dressed for winter. You arrive in Borneo in 27 degree heat in your winter clothes – you are going to sweat.

The enormous pool stood out first with a huge central island in the middle. I wanted to dive straight in to cool myself down and get this holiday started.

The resort was lined with palm trees, the sun was tickling my skin with strokes of tan and the sky was bright blue. We had finally arrived and we were Shangri-loving every minute. When I wasn’t in the pool, I was spoilt for choice about activities.

I have been to other resorts, which have offered a similar array of activities but mostly with a charge. This is easily the most generous resort I’ve stayed in when it comes to free classes. I dabbled in pilates, yoga and the one I gelled least with – Tai Chi (perhaps because it involved me actually standing up – beach holidays are not for standing.)

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

'K'ruising Kudat, Kundasang and Kota Kinabalu @ Sabah


Sabah is the eastern part of Malaysia and is part of Borneo.

All these years of travelling, I never thought Sabah was a place I would like to visit because I thought its only worth going if you are going to hike Mount Kinabalu.

Plus, I have heard from few friends that there is nothing interesting in Kota Kinabalu at all.

Somehow, by chance I came upong pictures of the Dairy Farm in Kundasang.

They looked so inviting. Instantly, I decided to check Sabah out and look at all the interesting places around there.

So, February 2014, we flew down to Sabah and moved around towns, mainly Kudat, Kundasang and Kota Kinabalu.

We got our pre-booked rental car from Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Our first stop was Kudat, which is the northern most part of Sabah. You will pass by KK town on the way to Kudat.

Actually, you can also fly in to Kudat and start your journey from there - just another option to explore.

As we passed by KK Town, we noticed the sea very rough ang violent. We stopped by for a while and noticed a group of people gathered around an area.

Still assuming it was nothing, we got the info that a car just plunged into the sea a few minutes before.

It seems a Honda Civic with 3 teenager passenger swerved from the road, making all passengers flying out before it hit the sea.

On the way to Kudat, you will pass by many towns like Tuaran, Kota Belud or Kota Marudu.

They are all small towns with nothing special, just a place to find for food in between your journey.

If you leave in the morning, you would be able to have lunch in Kota Belud.

All the way from Kota Belud to Kudat, there are many shops selling grilled corn.

Kudat is at the northern most part of Sabah map. There are not many places of interests to see or activities to be done there.

Many people who take the detour to Kudat is only to visit the Tip of Borneo, which is the northern most tip of Borneo.

If weather and sea tide permits, you would be able to set foot at the furthest tip of Borneo.

To visit Tip of Borneo, can choose to stay at Tg Simpang Mengayau itself, where there are lovely chalets in front of the virgin Kalampunian Beach.

Another choice would be to stay at Kudat town, which is about 30 minutes away from Tip of Borneo.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World's first sun bear sanctuary opens in Borneo


The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre opened to the public in January 2014 and has since been visited by Sir David Attenborough

Founded by researcher and conservationist Siew Te Wong, nicknamed Sun Bear Man by the local press, the centre is the only one of its kind in the world.

It is currently home to 28 rescued bears, a population that includes both adults and juveniles, to be cared for until they can be released back into the wild.

The centre was first established in 2008 next door to the Sepilok Orang Utan sanctuary in the Malaysia state of Sabah but has not been open to the public until now. Among the first visitors was Sir David Attenborough who received a tour on 11 March 2014.

Measuring up to 150cm in length and just 80cm high at the shoulder, the Helarctos malayanus, or sun bear, is the smallest of the planet's bear species. Bears are identifiable by their sleek black fur and by a beige crescent on their chests. Thought to resemble a rising or setting sun, it is this distinctive marking that has given them their name.

Once widespread in the tropical forests of south-east Asia and on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, sun bears are now listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Populations of the bears are thought to have declined by as much as 30% over the last 30 years (IUCN 2007) as a result of habitat destruction and hunting.

Kevin Albin, bronze award winner in the 2011 Wanderlust World Guide Awards, is a long-term supporter of the conservation centre.

“I first came across Sun Bears while working on conservation projects in Borneo,” says Kevin. “Everyone knows about the orang utans in Borneo and that their habitat is being destroyed by deforestation but the sun bears share a similar habitat.” The expansion of palm oil plantations across south-east Asia has had a particularly dramatic effect on bear numbers.

As Kevin explains, further threats to the bears come from the illegal wildlife trade. “Sun bears are being captured when young and sold as pets. The cubs are very cute but they're abandoned when they become unmanageable. Worse still, their paws are used as an expensive delicacy and their gall bladders are sold for the extraction of bile used in traditional Asian medicine.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: World's first sun bear sanctuary opens in Borneo
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Malaysian Borneo! : Monkey Madness!


On my final full day in Sarawak, I got out of the dorm room bed at 6am and tiptoed out to the lobby to pack my things, eat a quick breakfast, and head to the bus stop for Bako National Park. The tourism office said the bus would leave at 7am, but in reality it was closer to 8:00.

I watched the sun rise over the domed spires of Kuching's mosques as I waited. Soon, the bright red bus arrived and I paid my 3 ringgit ($1CAD) and sat back as the city changed slowly into rolling hills and verdant forest near the coast.

There were a lot of people on the bus, so I assumed I'd have no problem getting a boat to the park. During the winter season the boats limit their load to 4 passengers, since the sea swells can be unpredictable. However, it turned out that everyone was already part of a group.

The girl at the counter informed me that I could wait for another group and join them, but if I was under a time limit for return the following morning I'd have to arrange my own boat back, covering the full cost myself. It was my last day, and I was finally doing what I really wanted to do, so I splurged a little and paid the 90 ringgit for the return boat.

Every cloud has a silver lining, they say. Not having a group, and forced to wait, I got the opportunity to speak with one of the local boat pilots, an Iban tribesman. He told me about the huge changes he'd seen in his village over the last 30 years.

They lived in longhouses on high bamboo stilts before, he explained, and their life came from the bamboo forest. They used the spikes of one particular species to make the poison darts for their blowguns, and to painstakingly tap out the tattoos that decorate the older men and woman of his tribe.

Now, their houses are low, modern one-storey bungalows, painted in a rainbow of colours, and many more than there were in the past. Many converted to Islam, he said, "But don't worry miss, you're totally safe here!" and no one knew how to tattoo anymore. In spite of all the changes in his life, he was happy.

He said they all made a living harvesting tiny shrimp from the lagoon to make the local fermented shrimp sauce, called belacan, and taking tourists over to the park in their boats before and after harvesting hours.

At about 10am an older Canadian couple arrived at the dock, with space to spare in their boat. "I think you can get in with them, girl," said the boat pilot, as he went to join the other boatmen at their breakfast table.

The Canadian couple had hired a park guide, so on the way to the park I was treated to some free information about the area's red limestone hills (bands of iron in the stone changed the colour). He also pointed out some wildlife even before we entered the park, a large wild boar snuffling his way along the base of the limestone towers.

The pair only had a few hours in the park, while I had the whole day, so I bid them farewell and went to have my breakfast and register at the gate.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo! : Monkey Madness!
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to get from KK to Kinabalu National Park


Planning on climbing Mount Kinabalu, SE Asia’s tallest mountain?

Some climbing packages include transportation from Kota Kinabalu, but if you are wanting to save some ringgit by doing it yourself, it’s easy and inexpensive to make the journey on your own.

Here’s how to get from Kota Kinabalu (KK), Malaysian Borneo’s capital, to Kinabalu National Park, the location of Mt. Kinabalu.

How to get from KK Airport to the City Centre

Transportation to the Park leaves from the city centre. If you are flying in to KK Airport, the cheapest way to reach the city centre is by the airport shuttle bus. Tickets cost RM5 for adults and RM3 for children. The bus departs from both Terminals 1 & 2. A recent visitor has informed us that the ticket counter at Terminal 1 is located next to Tourism Malaysia’s office right outside the arrivals hall. Shuttle buses stop at Centre Point, Horizon Hotel, and Padang Merdeka. For onward transportation to Kinabalu National Park, you’ll be wanting to get off at Padang Merdeka.

Here is the timetable as of February 2014

Terminal 1 - Terminal 2 - Kota Kinabalu
08:00, 08:45, 10:00, 10:50, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00

Terminal 2 - Kota Kinabalu
08:30, 09:20, 10:20, 11:20, 12:20, 13:20, 14:20, 15:20, 16:20, 17:20, 18:20, 19:20

Terminal 2 - Terminal 1
08:00, 09:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30, 17:30, 18:30, 19:30

Alternatively, pre-paid taxis operate for RM30 to any address in the city centre.


How to get from KK City Centre to Kinabalu National Park

You can catch a mini-bus to Kinabalu National Park from Padang Merdeka.

Just look out for the vehicles bound for Ranau. There is no timetable for such services and they operate on a “when they fill up” basis, which means you may need to wait a while for it to depart.

While the drivers obviously want to leave with a full bus, they too have limits and ours said that he would be leaving at 2pm regardless. Despite there still being a couple of seats left, we did depart at 2pm (an hour and a half wait), as promised.

We paid RM25 each for the two hour journey. Don’t leave your journey until too late in the day as public bus services tend to wind down late afternoon. As a general rule of thumb, departures are usually more frequent until noon so heading there in the morning should decrease waiting time.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: How to get from KK to Kinabalu National Park
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Marvel at orangutans in the rainforests of steamy Borneo


‘Eoowwww!’ Our short and stocky guide Joe is calling out to the dense forest in the steamy island of Borneo. It sounds like a mix between a particularly loud owl and an aggressive wolf howling. Moments later two tiny blinking eyes and a hairy arm emerge from the foliage.

‘Its an orangutan,’ someone yells and everyone rushes over paparazzi-ready with their cameras as he lumbers forward with the cautious grace of a tipsy old man.

There’s a flimsy rope barricading a feeding platform at the Tantung Haraban centre from visitors who have walked the half hour from the port on Sekonyer river. Rather unsurprisingly orangutans appear to have no awareness of public boundaries and soon he walks forward towards the tourists clamoring to take pictures.

Uncomfortably close. ‘Back, back,’ screams another guide. ‘He’s got us cornered,’ someone cries as he fixes us with his beady eyes contemplating where to move next.

Nonchalantly he scratches himself, unaffected by the crowd around him, but is soon distracted by a female orangutan swinging through the trees with a baby clinging onto her, a tiny fuzzy thing gripped like Velcro to its mum. A teen orangutan making its way to the feast rips a branch off and flings it to the ground.

It lands inches from a man snapping away. ‘Was that meant for me?’ he asks as the impish ape scampers down. It certainly looks that way.

We watch as they wolf down a mountain of bananas after the male orangutan backs away, relieved that they’re more interested in food than us.

Along with Sumatra, the rainforests in Borneo are the only place in the world where you can see orangutans. The name ‘orangutan’ means ‘person of the forest’ in Malay and Indonesian. The centre is located in the beautiful Tanjung Putting National Park.

You can take a traditional riverboat called a klotok from the port of Kumai in Pangkalan Bun, which is a short flight from the capital Jakarta. As we take a leisurely cruise along the river we spot colourful butterflies, dragonflies, Rhinoceros Hornbills, Water Monitor lizards, Humpback dolphins and Proboscis monkeys.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pitcher plant – unique and interesting


IF you’re caught out in the jungle without a shelter, building one from natural materials around you can help keep you dry and safe, especially when you have spend the night out in the wilderness.

You can use whatever resources Nature provides, but after getting the necessary raw materials – wood or bamboo — you may be left without nails.

Don’t fret. Just look for pitcher plants (nepenthes) and once you’ve found them, your problem is solved. The plants’ lianas or woody veins are the best alternative for nails to build huts or shelters with in the jungle. The lianas can also be used as ropes to bind wood or bamboo, and if kept dry, can last up to a year or longer.

Moreover, the pitchers can double as pots, commonly used to boil rice or tapioca. Normally, flour from these two staples is filled in the pitcher and pinned with a tiny wood, the size of a toothpick. The pitcher is then boiled together with water in the pot for several minutes until the rice or tapioca is cooked.

Carnivorous plant

The pitcher plant has generated a lot of interests among naturalists because of its uniqueness. It’s a species of plant that eats insects.

Also called carnivorous plant, it is found in nutrient-poor soil but still thrives because it obtains nutrition from insects it catches.

Carnivorous plants are predatory flowering plants that kill animals in order to derive nutrition from their victims. They eat things like insects, spiders, crustaceans and other small soil and water-living invertebrates and protozoans, lizards, mice, rats, and other small vertebrates.

A report in sciencedaily.com says pitcher plants rely on insects as a source of nutrients, enabling them to colonise nutrient-poor habitats where other plants struggle to grow.

Prey is captured in specialised pitcher-shaped leaves with slippery surfaces on the upper rim and inner wall, and drowned in the digestive fluid at the bottom.

If an insect tries to walk on the wet surface, its adhesive pads are prevented from making contact, causing it to slip on the water layer.

New research has found that during heavy rain, the lid of nepenthes, especially the gracilis pitcher, acts like a springboard, catapulting insects, seeking shelter on its underside, directly into the fluid-filled pitcher.

Eve’s cup and others

The pitcher plant is also known by many as Eve’s cup, fly-catcher, flytrap, huntsman’s cup, smallpox plant and water-cup, and is found in abundance in Sarawak.

One need not go to the jungle for a first-hand look at the plant as it can be found at Padawan Pitcher Plant & Orchid Garden at the 10th Mile Bazaar.

The Garden showcases lowland pitcher plants from around Borneo and protected plants in Sarawak. It now has about 30 species — from climbers N albomorginata (Kuching spotted) to non-climbers N ampullaria (Bau green).

Padawan Muncipal Council (MPP) agriculture officer Willie Ngelai, who heads the Landscape Division, said their pitcher plants were collected from the jungles in various parts of the state.

He said N albomorginata are found in the lowland and have narrow felted leaves and stems. This species has large quantities of slender pitchers with a conspicuous chalky-white collar below the peristome. Its colour varies from pale green to deep red, depending on the type. It consumes insects and termites.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Pitcher plant – unique and interesting
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Transfer of female rhino found in Danum to Tabin is a success


A rare Sumatran rhino was successfully translocated late afternoon on Friday 21 from a very remote area in Danum Valley, to join a male (Tam) and a female (Puntung) rhinos at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) Facilities in Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Named Iman, after a small river near where she was caught, her rescue was a result of a year of intense efforts to make every last rhino in Malaysia count towards efforts to prevent the extinction of one of the world’s most critically endangered species.

Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment said “The State Cabinet agreed in March 2013 that the only way we can ensure that every Sumatran rhino in Sabah plays a role to save the species is to bring all of them into a managed, fenced facility, with the necessary local and global expertise and collaboration to breed them”.

“In February this year, the State Cabinet agreed that we should loan our male, Tam, to Cincinnati Zoo for breeding as part of that collaboration. If Iman proves to be fertile, there might be no necessity for Tam to fly to Cincinnati to mate with a ‘foreign bride’.

In fact the State Cabinet approval to send him to the US in the first place was conditional upon our failure to catch a fertile young female rhino at Danum within a reasonable time to mate with Tam,” added Masidi.

“We also hope that with the continued support and expertise on rhino reproductive biology from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife based in Berlin, Germany, we will have baby rhinos very soon,” concluded Masidi.

Sime Darby Foundation’s Chairman, Tun Musa Hitam, who expressed jubilation with Iman’s rescue and successful translocation efforts said “I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved in this effort. All the hard work has paid off and we have another opportunity to help save this magnificent species from extinction”.

Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department said “The Sumatran rhino is on the verge of extinction in Sabah. Bringing them into captive conditions allows us to maximize the chance that each rhino can help save the species”.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon Race VS Mt. Kinabalu Climbing Experience


Hey guys! I just did my Mount Kinabalu climbing trip not long ago and it was awesome! I could barely feel my sole during my descend to Timpohon Gate, Kinabalu Park. Regardless all the ruthless pain during my climb, the view from the top of the summit was worth it! I felt like I was on another planet and I could never look at my hometown the same anymore.

I arrived at the summit around 6am and I stopped hiking up and stand on a slightly steep slope to witness the wonderful daybreak accompanied by the visible clouds movement below me. The view was magnificent, priceless and rewarding. The wind was strong and it surged in and out my ears giving me natural rumbling noise.

I couldn't imagined I have made it so far and I could only hear my strong heart beat with heavy breathing because the oxygen level was low. The temperature of the day was zero degree Celsius and I was shivering even though I wore 3 layers of shirts and jacket and 2 layers of warm pants and tracksuit. I don't mind

Since I have done both normal Mountain Kinabalu Climb and 24km Kinabalu Climbathon Race itself, I'll be sharing my experience here. Perhaps it could help those who wish to participate either one of them. Having said that, both had their own unique challenges and it can be very hard to those unprepared climbers.

Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon Experience

Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon Adventure route (Red dots line) started from Kinabalu Park - Timpohon gate - Layang-Layang hut - Mesilau Nature Resort - Kundasang Town.  There are two routes (summit and adventure) Summit route is only open to elite racer with pre-fulfilled requirement on past race achievement. The adventure route is open for public to join and I think it's one of the toughest race in Sabah.

The Freezing Start at Kinabalu Park to Timpohon Gate (4.5km)

One of the challenges is the cold weather at the starting point of the race at Kinabalu Park. I think the temperature was around 13 - 15 Celsius because I was shivering badly before the race. Fortunately, 30 minutes into the race and my body warmed up and I could run properly again. It took me about 45 minutes to complete the first 4.5km route because of the cold temperature start and stiff tar road.

Tips: Best not to run up the stiff road section but try to take huge steps. It helps.

The Though Ascent Trail from Timpohon Gate to Layang-Layang (4km)

Timpohon trail is famous for it high steps. Their steps can be as high as 3 - 4 feet and there are man made wooden stair in certain part of the trail. It's extremely hard to keep on going during the ascent and you need to practice interval rest before you continue a section of ascent.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Malaysia: The story of a famous, yet invisible Bajau man


The myriad islands off the east coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo are renowned for their outstanding natural beauty, described in tourism literature as ‘pretty as a picture-postcard’ and ‘a chance to escape from reality’ (Tierney and Tierney, 2009: 129).

After an invigorating speedboat ride from the mainland town of Semporna, visitors to Mabul island are greeted by dozens of young children playing on the white sandy beach and in the shallows of the turquoise water.

Mabul is famed for its world-class diving and international standard tourist resorts, several of which are built in a water-village style. However, Mabul is also becoming known for other reasons, in particular the Bajau Laut (or Sea Bajau – an indigenous ethnic group) people, who regard the island and surrounding reefs as their home.

Approximately 3,000 people live on this small island in two distinct villages, one comprised of Suluk people and the other of Bajau people, yet nearly the entire population are undocumented or stateless.

Traditionally, the Bajau Laut lived their lives as migratory boat-dwellers who navigated the islands and waters of the Sulu Sea, an area now overlaid by the current nation-states of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

They rarely touched land, except to collect fresh water, trade their catch and bury their dead. In recent times, escaping the armed conflict in the southern Philippines, large numbers of Bajau Laut have settled on islands, unable to maintain the upkeep of a houseboat.

Behind the fences of the ‘eco-resorts’, many Bajau Laut families live in one-room wooden houses on stilts, beneath which children play in the sand, adults mend their fishing gears and gamble, and animals scratch in the dirt.

All this might resemble other rural Malaysian villages, were it not for the open defecation, lines of jerry cans used to carry well-water for cooking and bathing, and the fact that none of the village children go to school.

Nowhere is the juxtaposition of sun and scuba diving holidays, with destitution and desperation more acute than these islands off the east coast of Sabah.

Sulbin, a Bajau Laut man in his thirties, arrived in Mabul about 25 years ago with his siblings and parents who were fleeing fighting in the southern Philippines. He makes a living in Sabah as a fisherman, although in the past he worked in a palm oil plantation spraying crops with chemicals until he developed respiratory problems.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sarawak Tourism Board introduces ‘Kayo-Kayo Sarawak Packages’


KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) in collaboration with the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Sarawak Chapter has introduced a new travel packages to attract more tourists to this eastern state of Malaysia.

The new packages includes in the latest ‘Kayo-Kayo Sarawak Packages” launched at Sarawak Pavilion of Matta Fair 2014 at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The new packages range from Sarawak Malay Heritage Village tour in Kuching city to the Melanau Heritage Village tour in Sibu town.

While for cyclists, there are new Heritage and Culture Ride and the Classic City Ride package tours for 3-day-2-night.

For those who seek real adventure, Sarawak also introduces the new Tringgus Trail and Big Spaces Cool Streams Caving Expedition, a 3-day-2-night jungle expedition taking tourists to the border of Sarawak/Indonesia.

“The development of Kayo-Kayo Sarawak Packages is a partnership between the Sarawak Tourism Board and Matta Sarawak Chapter in attracting interest from domestic and international tourist during Visit Sarawak Year 2014.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Sabah, China in win-win tourism promotion


KOTA KINABALU: The State Government will work closely with tour operators from China to create a win-win situation for both sides in the tourism industry, said Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming.

At present, he said, Sabah has been working with officials and tour operators from China to boost the tourism industry in both places.

Pang said that when meeting with Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruises Co. Ltd vice general manager She Yangyi, Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruises Co. Ltd sales and marketing manager Steven Wu and China Travel Service Chongqing general manager Zhu Jie on Wednesday evening.

Also present were Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Limited district sales manager Jimmy Liew, Times Holidays Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd managing director Lawrence Wong and Times Holidays Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd sales manager Lily Chong.

Pang said China was blessed with beautiful scenery and historical sites. Pang himself has visited Chongqing and went onboard Yangtze Gold Cruises that sailed along the Three Gorges last July.

“That was a mesmerizing and memorable experience,” he said.

Pang said Chinese tourists in Sabah should visit the Three Gorges because of its scenic views and historical sites.

Meanwhile, She said a total of 136,000 passengers have gone on board the company’s Yangtze Gold Cruises last year, and that passenger traffic from Sabah and Sarawak was on an upward trend in recent years.

She said Yangtze Gold Cruises was in the top 10 list of the best automobile and ships in China, as well as being the leader in the cruise business along the Three Gorges.

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Cycling a new Sarawak tourism product


KUCHING: The state got itself a new tourism product when the Paradesa Borneo ‘Sight, Sound and Taste of Authentic Sarawak’ programme was launched yesterday.

The programme enables tourists to cycle from one Kuching attraction to another, including the city centre and the local Malay villages located nearby.

According to Assistant Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Talip Zulpilip, the package is a healthy alternative for tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the city.

“Cycling is a healthier alternative for tourists to enjoy what Kuching city has to offer while at the same time providing ease for them to interact with the locals around,” said Talip at the launching of the programme yesterday.

He further said that tourism operators should be creative by introducing interesting tourism packages to lure more visitors.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sabah rhinos headed for US zoo on loan


Kota Kinabalu: The State Cabinet decided unanimously Wednesday to allow the transfer of Sabah's Sumatran rhinos such as Tam on loan to the Cincinnati Zoo in the US under a collaborative natural breeding in captivity programme to stave off the imminent extinction of Sabah's last remaining few individuals in Danum Valley.

"This is a step Sabah didn't want to take in the past but it gives us no other option and the State Cabinet has agreed to the recommendations of the Sabah Wildlife Department to go for the ultimate option to work with the Cincinnatti Zoo," State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun told Daily Express in reference to an export ban of rhinos imposed in 1985.

"I want to get it done as soon as possible, because we have been waiting for years and so far, we have not found a solution that we thought we could get it done," Masidi added.

But leveraging on the world's only proven success of Cincinnati Zoo, particularly the like of Dr Terri Roth who had had successfully bred three baby Sumatran rhinos in captivity.

The birth of male Andalas on Sept 13, 2001 marked the first birth of this complex species in a zoo in 112 years, followed by female Suci in July 2004 and subsequently male Harapan born on April 27, 2007 and later helped Indonesia to sire a fourth - Andatu, in 2012, in Way Kambas, Sumatra, using Andalas as the father.

"To me it's simple, if we don't do anything, it's just like watching them die a natural death until the last rhino in Sabah goes extinct," Masidi explained.

"So there is no other option, Tam will take a holiday in Cincinnati and meet his girlfriend Suci (whose original parents came from Sumatra)," Masidi quipped - a request long sought by the Americans who believe mating Tam and Suci which come from two totally different genetic lines will produce genetically robust ancestors for future generations of Sumatran rhinos.

"We don't want the rhino to go extinct during our life time. We are at a crossroad, so we are willing to take any chance although the risks are always there," Masidi said.

However, Masidi said the State Cabinet also gave the Wildlife Department a "reasonable time" of four to six months to capture a female rhino in Danum Valley, since camera traps caught images of a female as recently as Dec 2013.

If the female is indeed captured, it implies Tam will stay on a bit longer to mate locally.

Asked if he would invite Dr Terri Roth to Sabah to help enhance the chances of success of this local breeding if any, Masidi said: "Yes, we should allow anyone with the expertise to help. If Dr Terri had bred three rhinos she must be some body who is well qualified to assist," Masidi said.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Eco-touring Borneo


In 2006, a unkempt college student with embarrassingly long hair studying at the University of Colorado sat down every Sunday with his friends (who also had embarrassingly long hair) to watch BBC’s aesthetically stunning TV series: Planet Earth.  That unkempt college student was me.

The inner science geek came out in all of us while watching that show.  Somehow we put away our bro-egos for that hour-long episode and let our jaws hit the floor while all staring silently at my friend Dan’s oversize big screen TV (there was barely enough room for the rest of us with that behemoth in the room). 

One episode in particular was ecologically startling.  Do you remember the episode “Caves” when the cameraman had to film on giant mounds of Guano (bat shit) to get the shot?  That was filmed here, in Borneo.

Anyway, Borneo is normal nature on steroids.  There are giant plants, great apes, salt-water crocs, behemoth birds, and cheeky monkeys.  So, what did we learn while engulfed in this mecca of eco-tourism?  Yes, finally I’m getting to a point here…

It’s not for everyone.

Through our adventures here on the world’s third largest island (after Greenland and Papua New Guinea) we came across some interesting travelers… some were great, others were not so great.  Groundbreaking news, I know.  Some people kick ass, some people suck. 

The thing is, when you travel in pristine and protected environments there is a certain unspoken efficacy that one must adhere to.  Here is a little story to explain the one of the basics of eco-tourism efficacy.

Kinabatangan River

A region of lowland rainforest in northeast Borneo, the Kinabatangan River is home to dinosauric crocs, man eating spiders (not really, but they looked it), a plethora of monkeys and the “wild man” orangatan. 

It has gained traction in the eco-tourism business over recent years and made it on our Borneo itinerary.  Sounds amazing, eh?

We arrived at our accommodation aptly named “Nature Lodge” and we were psyched to see some orangutans, salt-water crocs, and the possibility of seeing the elusive pygmy elephants.  Upon checking in we all met at the boat dock to be separated into 3 boats (there were about 30 of us total). 

First boat here, second boat here, third boat Brittany, Michael, Dutch couple and six Japanese tourists. Oh snap.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Eco-touring Borneo
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rhino captured in Danum


Kota Kinabalu: A female Sumatran rhino was captured deep inside Danum Valley, Monday, raising a desperate last hope that experts may be able to use it to get some baby rhinos sired in captive breeding to avert a local extinction of the species in Sabah.

That is provided the new "girl" turns out to be cyst-free and reproductively healthy and fertile.

"The rhino fell into a pit trap dug at a site on a known rhino trail deep inside the Danum Valley Conservation Area about six hours' walk from Yayasan Sabah's Borneo Rainforest Lodge," Dr Sen Nathan, Asst Director-cum-Chief Veterinarian of Sabah Wildlife Department told Daily Express.

"It turned out to be quite an agg ressive female and no report of injury on the animal had been received from the field so far," Dr Sen noted.

The Bornean Rhino Alliance (BORA) and Sabah Wildlife Department set up the trap, after camera traps identified the presence of the rhino in the area and intensified this joint effort when the State Cabinet approved the capture of remnants of rhinos in Sabah's forests last year.

All rhinos captured will now be used for all-out captive breeding in Sabah or in proven zoos overseas to save them from dying out from old age or illegally hunted for their horns.

Extinction of the species appears certain because it's world population had plummeted to an all-time low of less than 100 and it is believed that most females, even the wild ones roaming in protected areas, are probably cyst-infested and incapable of reproducing.

Continue reading at: Rhino captured in Danum
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Air-connectivity key to re-image Kuching experience


KUCHING: The re-imaging of Kuching as a destination was part of the 5-Year Tourism Industry Transformation Programme started off in 2010, with one focus in mind – to improve the tourist experience in a very niche market, that is to position Sarawak as a home of ‘Adventure’ with elements of ‘Culture’ and ‘Nature’ (or CAN).

Sarawak, which is situated in the third largest island in the world, makes accessibility a major challenge but “The key challenge is to improve air-connectivity for visitors to experience the well kept secrets of Borneo,” said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) CEO Datuk Rashid Khan in a press release.

The first phase to enhance this was to work with our airline partners operating through hub airports such as KLIA and Changi Airport by increasing air connectivity through them. The very least was to reduce transit and waiting time to connect not only to Kuching airport in Sarawak but also to airports in Sibu, Miri and Bintulu, he said.

“We also collaborate with the airlines to create more ‘city pairs’ to enable travellers to fly direct to Sarawak. On the domestic front, AirAsia is forthcoming and aggressive in developing city pairs such as between Kuching or Miri and Penang, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu and Johor Bahru and Langkawi bypassing Kuala Lumpur altogether. Similarly in terms of regional flights, we have helped bring in Xpress Air and MASWings to Kuching from Pontianak.

“The second phase was to engage airlines like MAS, AirAsia, Silk Air and Malindo to operate more frequencies on existing routes. We are preparing for the eventual Asean Economic Community that will open up opportunities for airlines within Asean countries to capitalize on the implementation of the Asean Open Sky Policy Roadmap by 2015 with more liberal aviation agreement of a single market,” said Rashid.

Outside of Asean, STB has identified Taiwan, Hong Kong and China where there is a demand for outbound and inbound between Sarawak and them. Despite the lack of direct flights, visitor arrival figures see a healthy growth rate.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sarawak Tourism Works on Reimaging Kuching


The current project of reimaging Kuching as a destination is part of a five-year Tourism Industry Transformation Program which began in 2010 with one thought in mind – to improve the visitor experience in a very niche market and to position Sarawak as a home of adventure with elements of culture and nature. Ahead of Routes Asia, The HUB Daily sat down with Dato’ Rashid Khan, chief executive officer, Sarawak Tourism Board to learn more about his vision.

Sarawak is situated on the third largest island in the world and that makes accessibility a major challenge but the Tourism Board are aware they need to make it easy for travellers to get to the region, thus the reason to host Routes Asia. “The key challenge is to improve air-connectivity so that visitors are able to experience the well kept secrets of Borneo,” said Dato’ Rashid Khan.

The first phase of this process has been to enhance the visitor experience and work with airline partners operating through hub airports such as Kuala Lumpur International and Singapore Changi and increase air connectivity through these facilities. “The very least was to make the journey more comfortable through reducing transit and waiting time to connect to not only Kuching airport in Sarawak but also to airports such as Sibu, Miri and Bintulu,” explained Dato’ Rashid Khan.

The Tourism Board has also collaborated with the airlines to create more city pairs to enable travellers to fly direct to Sarawak, a project that has proved fruitful. “On the domestic front, AirAsia is forthcoming and aggressive in developing city pairs such as between Kuching or Miri and Penang, Kota Bahru, Kuala Trengganu and Johore Bahru and Langkawi bypassing Kuala Lumpur altogether. Similarly in terms of regional flights we have helped bring in Xpress Air and MASWings to Kuching from Pontianak,” said Dato’ Rashid Khan.

The second phase of the plan has been to engage with partner airlines like Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Silk Air and Malindo Air to operate more frequencies on their existing routes and Dato’ Rashid Khan believes the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community will help it succeed.

“We are preparing for the eventual ASEAN Economic Community that will open up opportunities for airlines within ASEAN member countries to capitalise on the Visitors the implementation of the ASEAN Open Sky Policy Roadmap by 2015 with more liberal aviation agreement of a single market,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Tourism Works on Reimaging Kuching
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Sarawak Tourism Board moves up value chain with music expo


KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has for 17 years now been organising the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) as a leisure event and the board feels that it is now ready to move up the value chain and come up with a business event – Borneo World Music Expo – which was mooted last year.

“This is also to position Sarawak as a destination for art, culture and music,” STB CEO Datuk Rashid Khan told a press conference here yesterday.

He added that this event will grow the meeting and exhibition segments related to music.

It is the ambition of the board to grow this event into a world recognised annual exposition for the professionals and the trade visitors within the international music scene.

Scheduled to be held a week before the RWMF, the expo will integrate a trade fair, musical showcases, conferences, exhibitions and networking sessions which could promote culture and music.

“It is specially designed to expose Asian and ethnic musicians to the international market,” he said.

According to him, the main objective of the expo is to draw especially foreign tourists to Sarawak a week prior to the RWMF for business and leisure and see for themselves the culture, nature and adventures that are the niche product offerings of Sarawak, Borneo.

“While the rainforest is about entertainment, the Expo is about the trade networking, information dissemination and business behind the entertainment industry,” he said.

He said the expo seeks to be the market place where professionals come to present or to hire their services.

On the other side, programmers need to have a big pool with vast variety to consider and to choose from when it comes to selecting the line-up for their events.

The expo is about bringing two parties together where they will have a chance to show and tell and buy and sell, he said.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Mount Kinabalu


We briefly spent one night in KL in quite possibly the coldest hotel room ever (ducted airconditioning in an old hotel) resulting in us testing out our base layers earlier than expected, flying out to Malaysian Borneo first thing the next morning.

Our first stop of our 3 week Borneo leg was with one aim; climb Mount Kinabalu. Russ booked this hike early in November and has been really looking forward to it the whole trip.

After a couple of days relaxing in Kota Kinabalu (the city two hours drive away from the mountain) the day was finally upon us with a bang, we hadn't slept well and we were up at five to be ready for our collection around six.

We arrived at the lower gate of Kinabalu Park to commence our day one climb to Laban Rata, our accomodation for the evening, roughly 3025 metres above sea level and just over 1000m higher than the lower gate.

Commencing at around 9am we met our mountain guide Fazlie and started our accent.

The first three kilometres up were deceivingly easy, with our guide commenting that we were making good time.

After lunch however we slowed and our last kilometre (of six) was hard fought due to steeper terrain and increasing altitude.

We arrived at Laban Rata, with Tash thinking the worst was over (hahaha), around 2.30pm with an early dinner at 4.30pm.

We headed to bed early as the last leg climb was to start at 2.30am.

Our alarm woke us up at 1.30am ready for supper and at 2.30am we headed out into the dark, freezing morning with headlamps and multiple layers on.

Continue reading at: Mount Kinabalu
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Marina ParkCity set to transform Miri City into a lively cosmopolitan city


MIRI: Spanning 550 acres with a 1.25-mile frontage to the South China Sea, Marina ParkCity master plan envisions a new and exciting business district that will double the size of the existing Miri City Centre.

Streetscape, parks, shady tree-lined walkways and civic anchors will be introduced to create a vibrant, thriving and compelling commercial hub that will redefine Miri’s urbanity.

“Our aspiration is to expand and transform Miri into an atmospheric city that puts people first. It will be a visionary model of liveability, vitality, sustainability and community with an enviable quality of life and flourishing businesses,” said Loh Poh Khim, deputy sales director of Pantai Bayu Indah, the master developer of Marina ParkCity.

In striving for excellence in city planning and design, the developer is collaborating with forward thinking international consultants from the US and Denmark renowned for their understanding and experience in shaping cities. Their collective contributions will shape Marina ParkCity into a humane and safe destination where people can shop, work, live, relax and walk from place to place.

Its tree-lined streets, lively squares and verdant parks will provide the stage for these activities.

“Miri deserves a waterfront so our response is a picturesque, active waterfront along the sea edge, transforming it into a picture-perfect postcard tourist destination,” Loh said.

Conceived as an inviting and charming promenade, the waterfront boasts of a kilometre long boardwalk, a central park and strings of linear parks where people can enjoy a leisurely walk or cycle or dine at restaurants while enjoying the views, the breeze and the sound of the sea.

ARCADIA SQUARE

Arcadia Square, fronting Jalan Kubu, is in the heart of Miri City Centre. It will be an appealing commercial venue with first class shops and offices. It is designed to be the top address for work, shopping, dining and entertainment, delighting visitors with its open-air environment that is safe for walking.

Here, imagination spurs innovation in the design of the first class arcade-fronting high street shops and elevated courtyard shops that connect patrons to public places and spaces.

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Good prospect for Santubong to be tourism hub


KUCHING: Santubong can become a tourism hub with the support of Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem.

Santubong MP Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this confidence stemmed from the fact that Santubong had various tourism attractions.

“Santubong is endowed with natural and beautiful environment and is rich with ecotourism products. Therefore it has the potential to be a tourism hub.

“I am confident that our Chief Minister will develop this area,” he said when launching the distribution of BR1M 3.0 for recipients in Pantai Damai and Demak Laut constituencies at the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) hall here yesterday.

He believed that if tourism is developed in the area, its infrastructure and social economy of the local community would also be improved.

“Since Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan is also a state assemblyman for Tanjong Datu, I am sure he will give his full support to develop Santubong.

“The previous Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud was able to develop Samarahan and Mukah districts and I am sure Santubong will enjoy the same development too,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Good prospect for Santubong to be tourism hub
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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A World War II bunker in Kota Kinabalu?


Kota Kinabalu: Heritage Sabah said it has rediscovered the remnants of a WWII bunker and tunnel that lay hidden in the heart of the city for over two decades.

It said its volunteers uncovered the WWII bunker - believed to be part of an extensive network of secret tunnels used by the Japanese military forces in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) during WWII - while checking on information given by the public.

According to sources, the Japanese troops occupying North Borneo deployed tactical measures such as bunkers and tunnels in the hillsides of Jesselton as part of their strategic defence.

"The rediscovery of this wartime military shelter could shed further light on WWII history in Jesselton as well as be a potential tourist attraction for Kota Kinabalu, just like the Chu Chi tunnels", said Heritage Sabah President Richard Nelson Sokial, referring to the world famous war tunnels of Vietnam, built during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong resistance against the US soldiers.

He said the bunker's passageway into the hill where it was located is currently blocked by soil erosion due to last year's torrential rains.

"What we plan to do for now is to clear the site of unwanted man-made debris and invite war historians and experts who can work with us to see how far this bunker's tunnel goes and how it was used", he said.

"We hope in time that we may be able to share more of our discoveries with the general public."

Heritage Sabah aims to create more public awareness and appreciation among Sabahans for local historical sites and buildings and has been actively retracing old trails and marking paths used by early Jesselton town folk from the pre-war and post-WWII era in an attempt to shed more light on the study of Kota Kinabalu's city history.

Back in the 1980s, the rediscovered bunker was known as a refuge for vagrants and drug addicts, leading it to be sealed off and its location forgotten for almost 26 years.

Heritage Sabah refuted any speculative rumours that the tunnels may yield some hidden WWII treasure, believing it is highly unlikely that there is any hidden treasure in there.

"The most valuable aspect of the WWII bunker rediscovery is that it exists as proof of past historical accounts of wartime events that occurred in Jesselton during WWII. Through the efforts of Heritage Sabah volunteers, we are slowly but surely putting together more pieces of Sabah's untold war history," says Sokial.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: A World War II bunker in Kota Kinabalu?
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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Malaysian Borneo! : Sematan waterfall adventures!


So, with all that shopping, we really didn't see much of Kuching on our first few days there, just China Town and the water front board walk. Saturday morning we caught a city bus for 1.5 ringgit to the Central Bus terminal, then headed to Sematan, about half an hour from Gunung Gading National Park, famous for its “stinking corpse lily”.

Sadly, none of the Rafflesia were in bloom at this time, as they only open up once every seven years and usually after a hot spell.

We were met at the bus station/fish market by Dr Kelvin Chong, a big, happy glasses-sporting Buddha figure of a guy. As we pulled up to the small government-run clinic where he lives and works, we spotted an ambulance and several police officers standing around.

“Uh oh,” he said, “Looks like I need to go to work for a few minutes. You girls make yourselves comfortable! We'll go to the beach when I get back.”

A short time later, he came back up the steps to his big, pink, wooden house-on-stilts. “Suicide,” he said conspiratorially. “Not much I can really do about it, we need to send the body to Kuching. I don't have the right paperwork here. Let's get our stuff in the car and go to the beach!”

So we basically packed up all the items in his kitchen, rice cooker and wok included—everything but the kitchen sink, quite literally!

Kelvin showed us his favourite view and the really good beach resort where we could visit if we stayed longer with him, and then took us over to the beach.

We rented a little hut with electricity service and began to cook dinner after a little wandering on the sand.

The beach was nice but a bit dirty, lots of garbage washed up on shore. I brought my swim suit, but despite having just bought it that morning, Grace forgot hers in her luggage! I stalked off on my own in frustration, and calmed myself beach-combing.

I found a number of interesting shells and a sea fan, and then I found a snake.

Borneo is home to any number of poisonous creepy-crawlies, so when I saw the snake, sticking out of a hole in the high-tide line, my first move was to jump back as quickly as I could. It didn't move at the sound. I had a stone in my hand.

I threw it in front of the snake. It didn't move. I threw another and hit the snake. Nothing. Cautiously, I crept up for a better view. Some wise-ass had found a rubber snake and stuck it in a hole in the sand!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo! : Sematan waterfall adventures!
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