Dec 4, 2006

Gunung Ledang

The lure of the Puteri’s mountain
By Meera Viajayan
Saturday August 12, 2006

Mountain climbing may sound like a sport for extreme adventure enthusiasts, but 56-year-old Singaporean Hoong Ah Sin who has climbed up Gunung Ledang more than 100 times will tell you otherwise.

“Anyone can climb a mountain. You just have to go up like an ant,” said the youthful looking Hoong who has climbed up Gunung Ledang 115 times and also conquered Gunung Tahan twice.

One of the smaller streams from the cascading waterfall.
One of the smaller streams from the cascading waterfall.

“An aspiring mountaineer just has to control and suffer during the first 30 minutes of the climb. If he can keep going for the initial half an hour at a steady pace, he should be able to last for hours after that,” he said.

According to Hoong who takes groups of Singaporean tourists up Gunung Ledang, many of them did not have any experience in mountain climbing.

“Don’t stop for long rests and don’t sit down too often. The maximum you should stop is about three to five minutes at a time,” he said adding that despite taking many mountain novices up, he has not had any complaints from them.

Lest one should imagine that the climb up Gunung Ledang or Mt Ophir is a breeze, the mountain has been rated the sixth toughest mountain to climb in Malaysia, with Sabah’s Gunung Kinabalu trailing far behind as the12th hardest, by Gunung Ledang resort managing director Tey Chee Yan.

At 1,276m above sea level, Gunung Ledang registers some 20,000 climbs a year with more than a million visitors annually.

Standing at 1,276m above sea level, Gunung Ledang registers some 20,000 climbs a year with more than a million visitors annually. Tey revealed that not all visitors to the mountain were interested in scaling the peaks.
Standing at 1,276m above sea level, Gunung Ledang registers some 20,000 climbs a year with more than a million visitors annually.
Tey revealed that not all visitors to the mountain were interested in scaling the peaks.

“Many come here to enjoy the waterfall and have a leisurely picnic with their families and friends,” he said.

According to Tey, a favourite spot for picnickers was the Princess Waterfalls, about a 45-minute trek from the base of the mountain.

For city slickers who balk at the thought of an almost hour long walk, rest assured that the jungle trekking route to the waterfalls is manageable with clearly marked trails and often paved steps.

The route to the waterfall is manageable with clearly marked trails.
The route to the waterfall is manageable with clearly marked trails.

The trail is also pleasant as the shade from the leafy canopy provides a welcome respite from the tropical heat with small gazebos along the way giving tired climbers a chance to rest.

Climbers may also choose to stop at any of the many naturally formed bathing pools shielded by large boulders along the way, but the trek to the Puteri Waterfalls is well worth the effort for a cool and refreshing dip under the rushing waterfall.

The mountain is also richly steeped in history and mystery with its most famous legend being that of Puteri Gunung Ledang, a princess of the Maja-pahit empire who was once wooed by one of the Sultans of Malacca.

A legend goes that the princess insisted she would marry the Sultan only if he built a golden bridge and a silver bridge linking her mountain to his palace, sent her seven trays of mosquito hearts, seven jars of virgin’s tears as well as a bowl containing the blood of the Sultan’s son.

Whether one believes in the superstition that the spirit of the princess roams the mountain to this day or not, a chance to enjoy the waterfalls and get away from the bustle of city life is reason enough to enjoy the experience with nature.

For enquiries, please contact the Gunung Ledang Resort at +60 6 977 2888 or visit for more details.

More info about mountains in Malaysia:
  • Mount Kinabalu Sabah Borneo Malaysia, an outdoor adventure travel
  • Travel the mystic mountains of Malaysia
  • Gunung Brinchang Cameron Highlands adventure travel by car
  • Nov 19, 2006

    Kampung Style Homestay Tourism Houses

    130 kampung houses for tourists

    Sunday November 19, 2006

    BALIK PULAU: A total of 130 houses in traditional villages in Penang will be made available for homestay programmes for Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

    Penang bumiputra tourism chairman Muhamad Farid Saad said the programme would start as soon as the Tourism Ministry gave out licences to homestay operators.

    “The demand from foreign tourists to stay in real kampung surroundings is encouraging,” he said after launching the Kampung Jalan Baru homestay programme and also a recycling campaign yesterday.

    Some 80 foreign tourists, who were invited to the opening ceremony, were treated to a Malay-style kenduri (feast) complete with traditional dance performances.

    PICTURE PERFECT: A foreign tourist posing in front of a typical stilt Malay house in Kampung Jalan Baru in Balik Pulau after the launch of the homestay programme on Saturday. Cooking demonstrations were also held to show the tourists how to prepare rendang, lemang and traditional cakes.
    PICTURE PERFECT: A foreign tourist posing in front of a typical stilt Malay house in Kampung Jalan Baru in Balik Pulau after the launch of the homestay programme on Saturday. Cooking demonstrations were also held to show the tourists how to prepare rendang, lemang and traditional cakes.

    Muhamad Farid, who is also Pulau Betong assemblyman, said there were plans to include villages in Pulau Betong in Balik Pulau, Penang island, as well as Sungai Semilang and Kampung Juru in Juru, Pulau Aman and Mengkuang Titi, all in Seberang Prai, in the programme.

    “We are making arrangements with hotels to include a 2-day/1-nightstay in villages as a package,” he said.

    “We want the tourists to experience living in a kampung for at least one night.”

    Muhamad Farid said the council had adopted Kampung Jalan Baru to promote the programme and had allocated RM60,000 to develop and beautify the village.

    “The Drainage and Irrigation Department, Kemas and the Agriculture Department also contributed RM35,000 to upgrade the infrastructure in Kampung Jalan Baru,” he said.

    He said the Tourism Ministry had allocated RM200,000 to plant 147 varieties of palm trees in the district.

    “We will beautify the 20km tourism belt in Sungai Pinang, Sungai Rusa and Permatang Pasir areas,” he said.
    - The Star

    Nov 18, 2006

    Monsoon Cup, Pulau Duyong, Terengganu

    Monsoon cup is here again! And those crazy sailors will brave the monsoon just to win the coveted prize!

    Veteran sailors set for Monsoon Cup showdown
    18 Nov 2006
    Fay Angela D’Cruz and Zainuddin Muhammad

    KUALA LUMPUR: Visitors to the Monsoon Cup this year can expect experienced match racing sailors competing with young and energetic sailors, bringing about thrilling races.

    Reigning match racing world champion and Monsoon Cup race director Peter Gilmour said veteran sailors such as Peter Holmberg, Ian Williams, Sebastien Col and Paolo Cian will show off match racing skills. Tactics, stamina and the weather are expected to play a major role in determining the winners.

    "The new, young and energetic teams which have qualified are expected to show a fearless attitude as they give it their best shot," Gilmour said.

    The Monsoon Cup, from Nov 29 to Dec 3, in Pulau Duyong, off the Terengganu coast, has gained prominent status on the World Tour. It offers prizes totalling RM1 million.

    "The winner gets RM400,000. One of the goals of the Monsoon Cup is to spread match racing across the region," Gilmour said.

    In September, organisers for the event held the inaugural Malaysian Match Racing Championship and Asian Match Racing Championship.

    The winners were Malaysian Tiffany Koo and Adam Minoprio of New Zealand, who gained entry to the Monsoon Cup.

    "The Selangor Gapurna team has a lot of energy, and they are really into the sport. I believe it will be tough for them, but with energy like theirs, who knows what will happen," Gilmour said.

    Koo will be the first Malaysian woman to compete in an ISAF Grade World Championship match-race regatta.

    "From now on I have to focus on sailing. I will do my best and learn more about the temperament of the weather."

    Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the sailing fraternity throughout the world will be watching Kuala Terengganu for five days.

    Last year, the gross media value was estimated at RM73 million. "We are expecting 40,000 visitors this year."

    Gilmour said the success of the event prompted the signing of Richard Mille Watches as title sponsor, which has helped increase the prizes.

    The Pride Foundation will host the gala dinner on Dec 2, and its chairman, Datin Azrene Abdullah, said the event at the Heritage Bay Club would also play a part in raising breast cancer awareness.

    "We will raise funds through the gala dinner for breast cancer patients," she added.

    In Kuala Terengganu, hotels are expecting higher occupancy rates during the event. Malaysian Association of Hotels (Terengganu Chapter) vice-chairman Rudi W. Herrmann said tourist arrivals have risen during the monsoon months since last year.

    "It will be even better this year as some establishments are expected to enjoy a 100 per cent occupancy rate, while the rest will have between 85 and 95 per cent occupancy. - NST.

    More info about at Monsoon Cup website.

    Nov 16, 2006

    Pahang aims for 7.8 million tourists

    Pahang aims for 7.8 million tourists
    By Roslina Mohamad

    Thursday November 16, 2006

    KUANTAN: Tourism Malaysia Pahang targets tourist arrival for next year to be around 7.8 million with an estimated spending of RM3.2bil while holidaying in the state.

    Its director Jefri Munir said the increase in visitors would be expected as the country would launch Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

    “There will be a lot of spectacular events and festivals at state level and we hope these colourful and interesting activities will be attractive enough to draw in more tourists.

    “Locals and foreigners will be able to experience what the state has to offer throughout the year,” he said during a Hari Raya open house in Cherating recently.

    Jefri said there were five major events listed in the state namely International Monsoon Madness Windsurfing Challenge, Sungai Pahang International Rafting Expedition, International Bird Race, Food and Fruit Festival and Dirt Bike Challenge.

    These events had been scheduled between January and September.

    On the number of tourists arrival targeted for this year, Jefri said it was at five million people.

    “However, we have already recorded 4.9 million up to June and are expecting the number to reach seven million by year end.

    “The amount spent up to June was RM1.5bil and we expect the figure to hit RM3bil,” he added.

    Jefri said the length of stay during the same period was an average of 1.9 days, almost meeting the target of an average of two days.

    With all the promotions already in place to usher in Visit Malaysia 2007, the average length of stay was expected to be 2.5 days, he added.

    Jefri said some RM300,000 had been spent on courses and promotional activities to publicise Pahang.

    “The courses include those catering to hoteliers, operators of chalets, restaurants, hostels, supermarkets and homestay programmes, members of taxi, car rental, tourist bus and trishaw associations, teachers and coordinators of tourism clubs in schools, village headmen and chairmen of village security and development committees.

    “These are the frontliners and the courses are tailored on how to deal with them and ways to promote the products available locally,” Jefri said.

    It was important to portray an image of Malaysians as “helpful and friendly people” as word of mouth was the best form of advertisement, he added. - The Star

    Nov 7, 2006

    Tourism boom seen in 2007

    Tourism boom seen in 2007
    Tuesday November 7, 2006
    By Goh Ee Koon

    PETALING JAYA: Millions of tourists are expected to visit Malaysia next year and tourism revenue, estimated to total RM35bil this year, is expected to increase at an even faster pace.

    There would be a “grand launch” of Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) on Jan 1, which would be followed by a host of events in every month next year.

    Visit Malaysia Year 2007 Logo

    Tourist arrivals had steadily risen from 3 million back in 1983 to about 16 million last year. Tourist spending has also risen, from just RM5bil back in 1990.

    In VMY, tourist arrivals and spending are expected to rise to reach targets of 20 million and RM45bil respectively. This could produce significantly higher revenue for a wide range of companies from hotels and airlines to consumer goods.

    Next year also happens to be the 50th anniversary of Malaysia's independence and to ensure that this landmark VMY is a success, there would be 50 major activities spread out throughout the year. The events, varied in scope, have been lined up from February's Malaysia Open Golf Championship to the KL International Buskers Festival held in November.

    The Government is expected to expend RM600mil in promotional activities, which are expected to peak in August (coinciding with the National Day), according to a note by a local bank-backed research house.

    There are added incentives for tourists from overseas. A recent survey by Swiss banking group UBS AG ranked Kuala Lumpur as the top budget-friendly city in the world.

    A UBS economist credited Malaysia's well-controlled inflation as a factor for its success in offering tourists looking for most bang for their buck.

    VMY received added publicity in a centrespread in the weekend Wall Street Journal that had sent a journalist to find out how affordable Malaysia is. He found he had to pay just US$107 for a room in Shangri-La Hotel, for which price he would have gotten no more than the Salisbury YMCA in Hong Kong.

    The bulk of the tourism dollars last year was spent on accommodation (33%), shopping (21%), and food and beverage, or F&B, (20%). The remaining 26% was taken up by organised tours, local ground transportation, entertainment, domestic airfares and miscellaneous spending.

    Hence, the stocks targeted by analysts for growth in VMY are spread across a few sectors.

    The tourism and hotel sectors stand to win big. Hotels can expect higher occupancy rates and F&B turnover, and there would be room to raise rates. Hotel workers would also benefit from their share of service taxes.

    One of the stocks that interest analysts and fund managers is property player KLCC Property Holdings Bhd which owns the popular Suria KLCC shopping mall and the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

    There would also be indirect beneficiaries as the influx of tourists will spill into retail complexes and transport facilities.

    These gainers would include IGB Corp Bhd and KrisAssets Holdings Bhd (which owns Mid Valley Megamall) and Sunway City Bhd (which owns Sunway Pyramid).

    Consumer companies that stand to gain from a higher consumption of F&B include Nestle (M) Bhd and Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd. Transport companies like AirAsia Bhd will gain from an anticipated increase in load factors. - The Star.

    Nov 2, 2006

    Friendly hosts welcome tourists

    Friendly hosts welcome tourists
    Thursday November 2, 2006

    SCENIC VIEW: Sungai Angkat near the village is a popular picnic spot.
    SCENIC VIEW: Sungai Angkat near the village is a popular picnic spot.

    THE home stay experience at Kampung Keda Ulu Legong in Baling, Kedah, promises to be unforgettable for many visitors.

    The friendly kampung folk there are very accommodating and able to cater to the needs of their houseguests, including lining up fun-filled activities.

    One of the home stay operators, Mohd Akhir Ismail, 48, said the home stay programme, which started in 1999, offers an opportunity for vacationers to be involved in the lives of the kampung folk.

    “At only RM56, tourists can spend three days and two nights at a real home with their adopted families and experience true kampung life.

    “They will eat the same food as we do, bathe using the kolah (well) and learn to speak our local dialect.

    “If the vacationers wish to leave the kampung settlement for a change, their adopted brother or sister will drive them to Baling town on motorcycle,” he said.

    Over 20 families in Kampung Keda Ulu Legong have become qualified home stay operators.

    “We underwent a series of home stay management courses in Bangi, Langkawi and Malacca conducted by Kedah Development Authority (KEDA),” he said, adding that each family was taught the English language.

    He added that apart from the locals, tourists from Belgium and Japan had come for the unforgettable home stay experience.

    The home of Yaakub Ahmad, 70, who is also affectionately known by the villagers as ‘Pak Ngah,’ has been renovated to welcome tourists.

    “My wife and I feel honoured whenever a tourist comes to our humble home.

    “My wife Siti Khalibah Buyok is the best cook in the world and she would prepare an array of kampung dishes like fish curry, ulam (greens), sambal belacan, rebung masak lemak and sambal petai to entice the guests’ taste buds,” he said, adding that over 30 vacationers had spend the night at his house since 1999.

    Yaakub said the home stay programme had made him better understand other cultures.

    “Once during the fasting month, a Japanese man spent a night at our home. He was so curious about the Malay culture that he insisted on donning a sarong.

    “I gave him one as he joined my family for sahur (predawn meal), buka puasa (break fast) and even took time to watch us perform the terawih (special fasting month) prayers at the surau.

    “I was so fascinated by his interest that I decided to make an effort to learn more about his culture in return,” he said while making the bed for the next houseguest.

    During the fruit season in June, July and August, vacationers who join the home stay programme will have the chance to spend a night in the fruit orchard and feast on the many exotic fruits like durian, rambutan, mangosteens, bananas, dukong langsat and mangoes.

    Vacationers can go jungle trekking at Lata Parit Waterfall, watch the Sewang show by the Kensiu Orang Asli tribe or Dikir Barat by the kampung folk.

    They can also watch villagers climb the 30m Tualang trees to collect honeycomb or have a picnic of rice and prawns cooked in bamboo by their adopted family.

    Student Norlis Diyana Ahmad, 21, recalled her home stay experience as “best sangat!”

    “That is why I came back today.

    “Although I had a hard time understanding my adopted parents’ unusual Kedahan dialect, their warm hospitality made me feel like I’m in my own home,” she said.

    For further information about the home stay programme, call Mohd Khir Ismail at 019-5088258.
    - The Star.

    Taste of island hospitality

    Taste of island hospitality
    Thursday November 2, 2006
    Story and photo by Christina Koh

    FOREIGN tourists coming to Pangkor Island will soon get a chance to visit the homes of certain residents there in a year-round open house programme.

    Tourism Malaysia officer Shahrim Tan said the programme, involved five homes each in Kampung Teluk Dalam and Kampung Teluk Gedung.

    The two locations promise to be interesting as Kampung Teluk Dalam is a Malay fishing village while Kampung Teluk Gedung is located near the Dutch Fort and Sacred Rock (Batu Bersurat) tourist attractions.

    The plan is to eventually have more year-round open houses in other parts of Malaysia.

    Pangkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Zambry Abd Kadir praised the open house programme as it would expose tourists to how Malaysians live and celebrate their festivals.

    “This is in line with the state government efforts to promote Pangkor especially since it is one of the top tourist destinations in the state.

    “I hope that developers will not interfere with the natural beauty of the island,” he told reporters during a Hari Raya function at Kampung Teluk Gedung recently.

    Hosted by the village and Tourism Malaysia, the event attracted locals and tourists from England, Iran, Jamaica and Kuala Lumpur.

    For an hour, Dr Zambry even played tour guide for the visitors as he showed them how to grill satay, explained Hari Raya customs and invited them to try out local delights like lemang, dodol and assam laksa.

    MALAYSIAN DELICACY: Ratigan trying his hand at grilling satay. With him are Dr Zambry (left), Mason and Iranian tourist Reza Khedmati.
    MALAYSIAN DELICACY: Ratigan trying his hand at grilling satay. With him are Dr Zambry (left), Mason and Iranian tourist Reza Khedmati.

    Helen Mason, 23, a personal assistant from Britain, said that she and her friend Benoit Ratigan, 34, had been in Malaysia for three months.

    “We happened to hear about the event when we were staying in Coral Bay Hotel. We’ve been enjoying the scuba diving and jungle trekking in Borneo and other places,” she said.

    Lending more interest to the event was local snake catcher Awaluddin Man who sprang a surprise when he dropped by with Mina, his tame king cobra.

    Awaluddin, 70, showed the curious audience how he carried the snake by gently draping her on his shoulders, which encouraged Ratigan to take a picture with the king cobra. - The Star.

    Sep 23, 2006

    Tourist attractions in the Lumut area

    Tourist attractions in the Lumut area
    Saturday September 23, 2006

    THE areas surrounding Damai Laut are rare ecological and historical treasures. Less than an hour away from the resort, these places provide visitors with the opportunity to explore some of the country's most exotic natural wonders. Educational, enlightening and above all else, fun - these tourist attractions are among some of Perak's best-kept secrets. Sightseeing tours can be arranged by Damai Laut and after a day of adventure, there really is no better way to relax than at the resort's Samsara Spa.

    Bukit Larut Forest Reserve (Maxwell Hill)

    The forest reserve comprises some 6,880 hectares of rugged granite mountains (known as Bintang Range). On it sits a colonial hill station surrounded by a lush, unspoiled forest and sprawling gardens, exotic flora, mountain birds and wildlife, offering visitors a panoramic view of the surroundings. Bukit Larut is Malaysia’s first and least developed hill-station resort. The captivating Lake Gardens and Taiping Zoo are located at the foot of the hill.

    Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

    The mangrove and mudflat ecosystem is the country's largest single mangrove forest tract hailed by many ecologists as among the best-managed sustainable mangrove forests in the world.

    Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary

    A roosting, feeding and nesting ground for the rare and endangered milky and adjutant storks, the sanctuary is also a “stopover” for more than 200,000 migratory birds from 50 different species between August and April yearly - a bird watcher’s paradise indeed! Common sightings include the redshank, lesser golden plover, greenshank, scarce Chinese egret and sandpipers.

    Temenggor Forest Reserve

    Fishing, jungle trekking, boating, camping and a visit to the orang asli settlement make this an adventure hotspot for those who love the great outdoors.

    The massive Temenggor Lake, which spans the Belum and Temenggor Forest Reserves, is home to some 125 species of fish including the prized toman. More than 100 species of mammals, including elephants, rhinoceros, leopards, tigers, deer, wild boar, honey bears, tapir, civet cats and porcupines roam the forests while hornbills, long-tailed macaques, gibbons and giant flying squirrels are commonly seen perched on the giant trees.

    Charcoal Production Factories

    Discover how mangrove timber is turned into charcoal. The baking kilns are themselves impressive structures to behold. Each made from 23,000 bricks and covered with a mix of sticky, yellow clay, river sand and water, the kilns (each kiln has a diameter of about six to seven metres!) were built without any form of scaffold support.

    Pasir Salak

    Considered by some as the bedrock of old Malay architecture, Pasir Salak is famed for its intricately carvings and traditional wooden houses. A visit here can best be described as a journey through the pages of history. Look out for Perak's first British Resident J.W.W. Birch's memorial and the “Kutai Houses” (Perak traditional houses) located within the vicinity of Pasir Salak Historical Complex.

    Kellie’s Castle

    The legacy of Scottish planter William Kellie Smith, Kellie’s Castle is believed to have secret rooms and underground tunnels and is definitely worth a visit.

    Pangkor And The Surrouding Islands

    Island hopping, snorkelling, barbeques by the many secluded beaches that dot the Straits of Malacca and trekking through the small virgin jungles are just some of the many interesting activities available.

    Bota Kanan River Terrapin Wildlife Con-servation Centre

    The 8.5 hectares of river front land is the nesting habitat of river terrapins from September to March. At the centre’s breeding pool, hundreds of adult terrapins beckon.

    Sea Turtle Sanctuary

    You'll have a whale of a time at the turtle breeding sanctuary on a remote beach near Segari. Here, visitors can touch and see the creatures while learning about the centre's conservation efforts.

    Gua Tempurung

    Dating back to 8000 BC, the largest limestone cave in Peninsular Malaysia stretches for 1.9km and is made up of five huge domes. Each dome has different formations of stalagmites and stalactites. - The Star.

    Sep 19, 2006

    Three-day Matta fair

    Tuesday September 19, 2006

    THE Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) will be holding its third travel fair in Ipoh this weekend.

    The three-day fair, to be held at Stadium Indera Mulia from Friday to Sunday, is expected to attract at least 40,000 people, said organi-sing chairman Aminurrashid Abas.

    It will be open from 10am to 10pm daily.

    The fair is organised with the cooperation of the Perak Tourism Action Council and sponsored by the Ipoh City Council and Visa.

    Visitors can expect to find ex-clusive travel packages and cheap offers on vacation deals from more than 30 participating orga-nisations.

    There will be as many as 76 booths at the fair, Aminurrashid said.

    He said free gifts would be given to those who brought along original copies of the Matta newspaper advertisement.

    Visitors can also take part in a lucky draw and a contest that offers a grand prize of two economy class air tickets to China sponsored by Malaysia Airlines. Ad-mission is free.

    Related post:
    MATTA Fair 2010 promotion for Tourism Malaysia
    MATTA Fair 2010 PWTC KL
    MATTA Fair 2010 in Ipoh, Perak
    MATTA Fair 2009
    MATTA Fair 2006

    Sep 14, 2006

    Pulau Perhentian - a resort island

    Koh Samui’s lesser-known sister
    Thursday September 14, 2006
    By Kamaruzaman Yaacob

    The resort island of Pulau Perhentian off Tereng-ganu's coast shares geographical similarities with its Thai counterpart of Koh Samui, situated 600km to the north. But it still lags when it comes to drawing tourists.

    Tourism operators on the island are of the opinion that networking with their counterparts in Koh Samui can help bring the much needed tourists.

    A boatman waiting for passengers to disembark from the speedboat to take them to shore at Pulau Perhentian Kecil in Terengganu.
    A boatman waiting for passengers to disembark from the speedboat to take them to shore at Pulau Perhentian Kecil in Terengganu.

    The Thailand Tourism Association's Deputy Chairman Abdul Aziz Awang Seman also opined that tour operators in Malaysia must take steps to promote Pulau Perhentian in Thailand as no information was available on the island there.

    “Everyday, almost 12,000 international tourists visit Koh Samui and some of them want to continue their vacation to other places,” he said.

    Abdul Aziz said for the benefit of both islands, he was trying to establish a networking between tour operators in Koh Samui and Pulau Perhentian.

    There are at least 10 snorkeling spots, with the full works, onl Pulau Perhentian.
    There are at least 10 snorkeling spots, with the full works, onl Pulau Perhentian.

    Pulau Perhentian is made of a cluster of islands consisting of Pulau Perhentian Besar, Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Pulau Susu Dara and a few other small islands covering 1,392ha.

    It has been gazetted as a marine park.

    The tourist attractions are in Pulau Perhentian Besar along Teluk Pauh, Pasir Jong, Teluk Keke and Teluk Dalam. Meanwhile the attractions on Pulau Perhentian Kecil lies at Kampung Pasir Panjang and Teluk Kerma.

    Turtles are regularly seen around the Perhentian Islands.
    Turtles are regularly seen around the Perhentian Islands.

    Dominic Johnson, 20, a tourist from England when met at Pulau Perhentian said the attractions were similar to Koh Samui.

    “Here, the situation is quiet and refreshing compared to Koh Samui which is always filled with tourists and traffic congestion.

    “Here, we are free to engage in varied activities like scuba diving, snorkelling and jungle trekking. The natural surroundings are also untouched, while over there, it's cramped with rapid development,” he said.

    However, there are some impediments in bringing tourists from Koh Samui.

    Obviously more needs to be done to draw tourists to the island despite its having natural beauty and crystal clear waters.

    Firstly there are no direct ferry services or flights from Koh Samui to the island or even to the nearest town in the mainland as pointed out by Abdul Aziz who is also a member of the Thailand Tourism Board.

    Above: Coconut trees providing shade at a beach along an island.
    Above: Coconut trees providing shade at a beach along an island.

    Because of this, tourists from Koh Samui must travel back to Bangkok to take a flight to Kuala Lumpur before continuing to Pulau Perhentian.

    The other option is a RM180 van ride that takes eight hours to reach Besut and then board a ferry to the island at a cost of RM30 for a one-way trip.

    Secondly the facilities and infrastructure even for the in-habitants are limited, and at any one time the most it can only cater for fewer than 3,000 visitors.

    According to the local head in Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Che Omar Che Mat, 57, there are currently a bazaar, a primary school, a midwife clinic and a police station under construction.

    More importantly the island needs clean fresh water and Che Omar hoped the government would speed up the building of a pipeline from the mainland to bring clean water.

    Thirdly and probably the most critical impediment concerns the coral reefs, which are among the best in the region. But these tourism assets for the island, are fast vanishing.

    The white monolith extending from Pulau Perhentian is another attraction for foreign tourists. — Bernamapic
    The white monolith extending from Pulau Perhentian is another attraction for foreign tourists. — Bernamapic

    The coral reefs especially at Pantai Teluk Dalam, on the eastern part of the island, were seen to be facing extermination due to the receding water level.

    During low tides, the dead corals are washed ashore along the 3km-long beach, creating an ugly beachfront with the sight best described by Dutch tourist Romano Ruis, 23, as disappointing.

    “The authorities must take action to overcome the problem before it's too late,” he said.

    Dutch tourists, Ester Odenhinehen, 20 (left) and Ruis, showing the damaged corals found along the 3km coast of Pantai Teluk Dalam on the eastern side of Pulau Perhentian — Bernamapic
    Dutch tourists, Ester Odenhinehen, 20 (left) and Ruis, showing the damaged corals found along the 3km coast of Pantai Teluk Dalam on the eastern side of Pulau Perhentian — Bernamapic

    For the owner of Arwana Resort Datuk Abdul Aziz Mat Daud, the coral reefs around the area have long been dead and it's hard to revive them again.

    Efforts should be taken to deepen the area though it may incur huge cost.

    “Similar efforts in the Caribbean islands helped to produce a new marine park.

    “The dead reefs were dug out and made into a fortress in the water. In long term, a man-made lagoon and marine park was created,” he said.

    About 95% of the 1,500 villagers in Pulau Perhentian Kecil are now active in the tourism industry around Pulau Perhentian Besar.

    Here, there are about, 40 resorts and chalets providing job opportunities to 600 people.

    Despite the limitations, Pulau Perhentian is still a worthwhile destination for any nature lover. – Bernama / Star.

    Sep 6, 2006

    Langkawi Four Seasons Resort

    Langkawi Four Seasons Resort
    By Jan Leow

    This is really a luxurious resort. Six-star class, with the lowest room rate at US$450 per night is very well out of range for most average income earners. On top of that, they just won the FIABCI-MALAYSIAN award 2006 in the resort development category.

    If the photos of the resort are anything to go by, it definitely left my mouth watering and longing to at least visit the place. But being a high class snob place, I bet they would not allow any outsiders to simply waltz right in to have a look at their premises unless you are a fare paying guest. Perhaps just dining in would be good enough to enable you to have a look around.

    The Four Season Resort Langkawi is a six-star resort hotel under a joint partnership between Malaysian Airlines System Bhd (MAS) and Four Season Resort group.

    So let's see what do they have:

    91 accommodation units available in five types of guest rooms and suites:

    • 34 units of Melaleuca lower pavilion
    • 34 units of Melaleuca upper pavilion
    • 20 units of beach villa
    • 2 units of two-bedroom villa; and
    • a royal villa

    The resort has three restaurants with its own distinct concept and architecture.

    • Serai offers buffet breakfast and dinner with the flavours of southern Italy and the Mediterranean
    • Ikan-Ikan offers fresh seafood in an exotic South-East Asian regional mix of Thai, Chinese and Malay styles; and
    • Kafe Kelapa features a full service bar and serves an all day menu with a mix of western and eastern cuisine.

    Other amenities at the resort:

    • Rhu Bar offers a selection of snacks and an evening beverage list. Turkish water pipes, Indian Moghul hangin swings and a pool table complete the picture
    • A 55m seafront infinity edge lap pool provides an airy yet intimate retreat, complete with lounges, fountains and eight private cabanas;
    • A family pool with a unique design consisting of fountains, water jet streams and bubble beds;
    • Spa Complex with six pavilions set against a backdrop of limestone granite and a separate pavilion for guests to practice yoga and meditation; and
    • library.

    Sep 2, 2006

    Langkawi - Freshness Guaranteed

    Freshness guaranteed
    Saturday September 2, 2006

    Food is a four-letter word that can be enjoyed in so many ways. BOEY PING PING goes from a business-class flight to first-class dining at the celebrated Four Seasons Resort Langkawi.

    FLYING into Langkawi, the plane passes low over waters so clear I can almost see my dinner jumping out at me. Fish, squid and prawns swim playfully in the turquoise sea, oblivious to their fate as my meal soon. It’s been a while since I last visited the island but now is better than ever to visit Langkawi as the curse of Mahsuri has been lifted and business is booming.

    The legend of Mahsuri tells of the execution of a princess wrongly accused of adultery. With her last breath, she put a curse on Langkawi that would last seven generations.

    While the curse of Mahsuri has ended, the success of the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, opened last year, is only beginning.

    The resort is a village of pavilions, pools and landscaped gardens.
    The resort is a village of pavilions, pools and landscaped gardens.

    The sprawling 19ha resort which took six years to build reveals an amazing world-class destination that Malaysians can proudly call their own.

    Even before it celebrated its first birthday, the resort was named World’s Best of the Best in the premier issue of Robb Report Luxury Resorts.

    Surrounded by sandy white beaches, lush greenery and emerald waters, the resort is a tropical paradise where every restaurant overlooks the sea and every room has a view. Here, food isn’t just food but a celebration of the senses and surroundings.

     The freshest seafood assured.
    The freshest seafood assured.

    Bountiful breakfast

    I arrived at the resort in time for my breakfast appointment with public relations and sales co-ordinator Warren Fernandez, but a hotel staff member turned up at my door bearing a tray full of delectable pastries. I wondered whether my breakfast appointment was cancelled, but the staff clarified that “we didn’t want you to go hungry”.

    That probably reflected the state I was in for the next three days – well-fed.

    The feeding frenzy started with a hearty breakfast at Serai restaurant. There’s an oft chance that you could spend the most important meal of the day sitting next to someone important as celebrities are known to spend their holidays here.

    All sorts of smells wafted around the buffet spread. Roti canai was made on the spot and the chocolate-chip pancakes didn’t remain on their plates for long.

    It seemed sinful to indulge in the santan-rich nasi lemak but it would have been even more sinful not to try it with the lip-smacking chicken rendang. Western pastries sat side by side with Nyonya delicacies, while healthy options of granola were just as tempting as the less wholesome sugar-sweet pastries.

    We had breakfast by the beach, amidst tall palm trees and the gentle caress of a tropical breeze. The option of breakfast in bed can wait till tomorrow.

    Mediterranean munchies

    When seafood is so easily available, you can sprinkle it on top of a crisp-thin pastry base, pour tomato sauce over it, add a pinch of oregano and call it the Frutti Di Mare pizza.

    Pizzas at Kafe Kelapa are cooked in a wood-fire oven lending a smoky flavour to the crunchy base. Not surprisingly, pizzas are popular with the diners – bikini-clad women and hunky men. And because hunger strikes easily after a swim, Kafe Kelapa, the resort’s poolside café, is a favourite hangout.

    Picnic basket

    The next day was sunny, perfect for a picnic lunch. By the time we finished touring the mangroves and visiting the bat cave, we were just as famished as the eagles that swooped down to catch the pieces of chicken skin we threw up at them.

    At Gua Cerita, a little beach enclave, we carried three sturdy rattan baskets which opened up to reveal a delicious three-course meal. Instead of a picnic mat, we sat at a picnic table. As we enjoyed our curried chicken salad and mango relish, we enjoyed the natural surroundings. The focaccia sandwich of roast beef, aragula and asparagus seemed too posh for a simple picnic setting.

    Even then, there was more to come – Camembert with dried apricot compote and New York Cheese Cake with raspberry sauce.

    Lunch came to an end when I spotted two monkeys checking out our five-star lunch. We quickly left as I didn’t want to meet the monkey’s extended family!

    Find tropical cocktails and rich Middle<br />Eastern ambience at the Rhu Bar.
    Find tropical cocktails and rich Middle Eastern ambience at the Rhu Bar.

    Sunset cocktails by the beach

    If you want to catch a jewel-toned sunset on the warm beach with a cold drink in your hand, Rhu Bar is the place.

    An elaborate tapestry of rich colours and textures accentuates the Moorish ambience of Rhu Bar. Coloured cushions, hanging swings and glowing candles lend mystery to this seductive, romantic hideaway. The bar is probably the only one in the world to have a fuchsia coloured pool table.

    When the sun sets, the Arabian Nights inspired lounge comes alive with a mystical glow that is perpetuated by genie-costumed staff. Mohan Naidu, the food and beverage assistant director, was kind enough to let me play bartender for a moment. From him, I got the bar’s secret recipe for their signature drink, Mojito.

    As I left for dinner, I noticed the staff setting up a tiny table by the beach. Apparently, a couple had decided to have their romantic dinner outdoors – with their legs dangling from the hanging Indian Moghul swing. At the resort, anything is possible.

    Cooking class

    Nyonya recipes are usually passed down from one generation to another, and jealously guarded. So I was excited to attend the resort’s Nyonya cooking class. Plus, I had the honour of having the chef de cuisine, Chef Khairusshahri Ghazali, teach me the finer points of cooking.

    We started by tackling an easy recipe – popiah. Simple was what I thought until I tried making the popiah skin from scratch.

    The batter refused to skim smoothly over the pan and the skin was too full of holes to be used. I resigned myself to watching the chef rather than participating as he conjured up delicious treats of Inchee Cabin (fried chicken with galangal, ginger and lime leaves) and Nyonya Achar (pickled vegetables).

    The sago pudding – sago doused with freshly squeezed coconut milk and palm sugar seemed simple enough to make but I decided to practise at home and enjoy the meal instead.

    The relaxing Ikan-Ikan.
    The relaxing Ikan-Ikan.

    Romance of the Rajasthani tent

    Feeling like a contestant on Survivor who had just won the reward of a lavish dinner by the beach, I joined Fernandez under the resort’s Rajasthani tent.

    Had I been on my honeymoon then, I would have relished the experience even more – a beautiful dome tent, a carefully crafted bouquet of pink roses and exclusive one-to-one service while dining on the beach with no one else in sight.

    Even if several couples decide to have a Rajasthani tent dinner, the tents are scattered around the island to ensure privacy.

    The menu is from the resort’s Ikan-Ikan (Malay for fish) restaurant which is built like a traditional Malay-style home. Like its name, you’ll find the freshest seafood from the Andaman sea cooked in all styles – from Thai shrimp cakes to otak-otak and skewered calamari.

    Once again, Chef Khairusshahri dazzled me with his cooking skills. Instead of boring old soup, he created a lovely laksa sauce broth with a plump prawn wonton. Without a doubt, the steamed seabass was the freshest I had ever savoured.

    As all the resort’s three restaurants and bar face the sea, you’ll always be feasting on succulent seafood against a backdrop of ocean and islands. And here, the setting is always as spectacular as the cuisine.

    For more information, visit

    - The Star

    Aug 25, 2006

    Orang asli villages pulling in the tourists

    Orang asli villages pulling in the tourists
    BY Nik Naizi Husin
    Friday August 25, 2006

    MUADZAM SHAH: Visits to orang asli villages are so popular with foreign tourists they have been included in the itinerary for the homestay programmes here.

    State Arts, Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Women’s Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Maznah Mazlan said the orang asli in Kampong Kedaik, Kampong Tanam and a few other surrounding villages still carried out traditional activities like fishing in ponds, streams and making blow pipes.

    She said foreign tourists loved to follow the orang asli fishing or observe them making blowpipes and sometimes even tried to do it on their own.

    She added that they loved the food they got during their stay here.

    School children from Toyogawa Junior High School - who had participated in a homestay programme in Muadzam Shah in Pahang - trying to play the gamelan. On hand to help is state exco member Datuk Maznah Mazlan (in blue baju kurung).

    “The lemang periuk kera (glutinous rice steamed in the monkey cup plant) is among some unique local food that is available in Muadzam Shah,” Maznah said on Tuesday after meeting 23 Japanese visitors who had participated in a homestay programme here recently.

    The 18 students from Toyogawa Junior High School, aged between 11 and 16 years and accompanied by group leaders and officials lead by Masakatsu Maru, spent five days at the village.

    Muadzam Shah homestay programme co-ordinator Abdul Khalib Abdullah said 11 “foster parents” had taken care of the group throug-hout their stay.

    Abdul Khalib said the homestay programme started to get foreign tourists in 2001, attracting mainly repeat as well as new visitors from Japan. - The Star.

    Aug 19, 2006

    Going it alone - Travel Tales

    Going it alone

    Alexandra Wong tells us why she would never take a tour again, after surviving a self-planned trip to Australia and backpacking solo in Kuching.

    Mark warned me not to expect your typical tour itinerary in Melbourne. I suspected as much that we weren’t going to do the usual koala and wombat routine.

    ”I’m showing you the real Australian lifestyle!” he said.

    But, the Royal Botanical Gardens? He brushed off my misgivings airily.

    “Trust me! I’ll guarantee you two hours isn’t even enough.”

    Duly warned, I traipsed into the Royal Botanical Gardens, clutching parasol and a hatful of reservations. That day, I learnt something new about temperate countries and their inhabitants’ obsession with flora and fauna.

    Over there, parks are mostly luxuriant, lovingly maintained expanses of verdant foliage and luscious blooms, worlds apart from their ill-tended counterparts in Malaysia. Not two, but four hours later, I had to be dragged out kicking and screaming. My flower caper made me a lifelong believer in Mark’s travelling mantra: throw out the guidebook with the bathwater.

    By the time I graduated to my own solo backpacking trip to Kuching, I was determined to take the path less beaten. I skipped the tourist cliches and asked the locals about their personal favourites.

    I took the town bus instead of the cab if the route was accessible. I forced myself to go up to strangers and ask for assistance.

    Of course, old habits and misconceptions die hard. During my early days, I clung to my pepper spray like a chastity belt, and wore my unwieldy moneypouch to the toilet. Never mind the encumbrance, I’d been spooked by too many stories of single women falling prey to sexual predators in strange, foreign lands.

    It took a while before I relaxed enough to realise that it was completely unnecessary to eyeball every stranger like they were a potential rapist/mugger/pickpocket.

    “When you’re travelling alone, you have to risk talking to people,” said Bario, a Bavarian sound engineer who stayed at the same hostel as I did. “More often than not, most travellers are decent people like you and me.”

    Armed with hobbling Malay but aided by plenty of local insight, not only did he discover the best place for lobak, lemon-style fried pork, Sabah greens and kung-po chicken feet (a few streets away from the Borneo Bed & Breakfast guesthouse), he also found the trail to Bario. (You take an 18-hour bus ride and then hop onto an 18-seater Otter plane.)


    Yes sirree, do things the local way, but I’ll improvise a little: see it with a stranger’s eyes. When you’re new to an experience or place, you’re unburdened by the preconceived assumptions of a local who may be oblivious to elements that an outsider might find novel, and that is a vantage point that can work beautifully in your favour.

    While I was at the New South Wales Art Gallery, I was blown away by the profusion of award-winning artwork, but silently cursed the house rules of not allowing photography. After I’d had my eyefill, I wandered into the café which was teeming with art aficionados discussing art (what else) over steaming cups of flat white and café latte.

    Ostensibly, it was also the only place where you could take photographs. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a Japanese lady hamming it up at the glass window for her pre-pubescent son’s camera.

    I walked over to check out the source of her bemusement. Lo and behold, right smack in the middle of all that genius was the piece de resistance: the window afforded a stunning vertiginous view of the entire city.

    One of many quotations inscribed all over the walls summed it up best: Art is not what you see, but what you make others see – Edgar Degas.

    The thriving art scene in Melbourne reaches far beyond the venerable walls of its many museums. On his off days, Mark gleefully steered me to the labyrinthine laneways that divide the Melbourne Commercial Business District into neat, easy-to-navigate squares – and also a haven for Australia’s graffiti artists. We spent hours ogling at wall after wall of brilliant murals that would rival any street in the Bronx.

    I was very lucky to have Mark (my childhood friend who now resides in Melbourne) squiring me around town. On the days I was left to my own devices, there was still eye candy aplenty to keep me agog. Every morning, I would park myself at one of Temple Street’s ubiquitous sidewalk cafés, and feast my eyes on the denizens that lent the busy thoroughfare its inimitable character.

    There was one lady in her 60s sporting dreadlocks and countless neo-punks strutting down in their studded and rainbow-haired glory. Most were unfazed by my bug-eyed stares, while one or two would wave back and holler: “Hey love, how are ya doing?”

    While my experiences have taught me to fall back on town-proud locals for recommendations to the sweetest spots, a female friend, a veteran solo traveller, puts her own spin to this thumb rule: “When you’re in a foreign place, better to listen like a dumb a$$ than talk like an expert. People will be more willing to show you the ropes.”

    In Kuching, I ended up in the cab of a garrulous taxi-driver who subjected me to a running commentary on Kuching politics.

    Although exhausted from the day’s pottering, I still forced myself to pay attention and show interest. At the end of the exercise, he rewarded my patience with a free personal tour of the local bus routes and a discounted ride to the best ice-kacang stall in Kuching.

    I’m not asking you to be a phony, just advocating plain old courtesy. Everyone likes to be an expert, but there’s a time and place for everything. Remember, you are supposed to be on vacation.

    Now I’m sure this list of to-dos is hardly comprehensive. If some altruistic soul would sponsor me a ticket to go uncover the other 273 travel tips that’s not found here, I’d be more than willing to volunteer my efforts. Any takers? W - Star.

    Aug 14, 2006

    Homestay way to more rooms

    Homestay way to more rooms
    By Nik Naizi Husin
    Monday August 14, 2006

    ROMPIN: The homestay programme held actively in several states could be the “solution” to cater to the influx of foreign tourists in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

    Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Kamaruddin Siaraf said the present number of rooms in hotels, chalets and budget hotels would not be sufficient to accommodate the influx of foreign tourists expected next year.

    Kamaruddin performing the ‘tepung tawar’ ceremony at Gousmet’s and McGlasher’s ‘wedding.’
    Kamaruddin performing the ‘tepung tawar’ ceremony at Gousmet’s and McGlasher’s ‘wedding.’

    “Malaysia is expected to receive more than 20 million foreign tourists in conjunction with the launching of the Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

    “We in Tourism Malaysia have planned a host of activities from next year throughout the country.

    “Malaysians should now ‘think tourism and get tourism’ to prepare for the occasion,” he said after the launching of the homestay programme in Kam-pung Leban Chondong here on Sunday.

    The programme was declared open by Rompin district officer Datuk Azmi Kassim.

    New Zealand couple Natalie Gousmet, 25, and Drew McGlasher, 24, participated in a staged traditional Malay wedding in full customary attire.

    Presently, the couple were “just friends” but sportingly took part in the programme held at the village.

    Kamaruddin later performed the tepung tawar in which the couple sat close together on a dais to mark the bersanding ceremony.

    Also present were Tourism Malaysia Pahang director Jefri Munir and Bukit Fraser’s Development Corporation general manager Datin Siti Rahmah Ahmad.

    Kamaruddin said the Govern-ment had been putting in a lot of efforts to promote the homestay programme.

    “The programme is gaining popularity among foreigners from many parts of the world.

    “Among others, it offers the visitors a taste of local lifestyle, cultures and daily activities.

    “These unique experiences are not available to them if they stay in big towns and luxury hotels,” he added. - The Star

    Aug 1, 2006

    An Annual Homage to St Anne

    An annual homage to St Anne
    Tuesday August 1, 2006
    By Ng Su Ann and M. Sivanantha Sharma

    FOR 10 days, all roads seemed to lead to Bukit Mertajam in Penang as more than 100,000 people flocked to the St Anne’s Church there for the St Anne’s Novena and Feast 2006.

    The annual celebration began on July 21 with the 188-year-old church holding Novenas followed by masses which were conducted in English, Tamil, Mandarin, Thai and Kadazan.

    The climax was the candlelight procession on Saturday night which attracted thousands of pilgrims.

    There was a carnival-like atmosphere as Catholics and non-Christians alike from all over Malaysia, neighbouring countries and as far away as Europe packed the church to pay homage to St Anne, the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ.

    The church grounds were bathed in a sparkling sea of light and the night air filled with hymns as the pilgrims followed the 45-minute procession which circled the church’s compound.

    At the head of the procession were altar boys, candle bearers, bunga manggar bearers and flower girls. The statues of St Anne and the Bles-sed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, were next, followed by priests and the faithful.

     SEA OF LIGHT: Pilgrims holding lighted candles during the procession around the church grounds on Saturday night.
    SEA OF LIGHT: Pilgrims holding lighted candles during the procession around the church grounds on Saturday night.

    Flower girls sprinkled floral petals along the path of the procession while choir members sang religious hymns.

    Among those who came for the celebration were Austrian Manfred Kotek, 39, his wife Christina, 37, and their children, Luka, five and Nico, two.

    Christina said she liked the environment at the church as it was a very peaceful place in which to pray.

    She said they were on holiday in Penang when she and her husband found out about the festival from a magazine they read.

    Singaporean K. Parimala, 52, said it was the second consecutive year she had come for the event.

    “I will be here every year if God permits,” she said.

    Johorean Michale Lim, 39, who came with his wife, Stephenie Chanand, 34, and their two children, aged 10 and11, said the event was significant for his family.

    “Whatever our commitments, we make it a point to be here every year,” said Lim who had been attending the feast for the past 20 years.

    Lilly Green, 50, from Canada, said a visit to the church for the feast was a must for her every year since 2001.

    “I am thankful to God for keeping me healthy and I will be back if my health permits,” she added.

    Businesswoman Rachel Chin, 29, and her mother Chee Ah Chu, 59, from Butterworth, said they had been coming for the feast over the last 10 years.

    “Though we are Buddhists, we believe in St Anne as she had answered our prayers,” said Chin.

    Many traders set up stall along Jalan Kulim outside the church to sell flowers, food, drinks, clothes, bags and other items.

    Among them was R. Ramesh who has been selling flowers there since 2002. Ramesh, 40, said he gets his flower supply from Cameron Highlands.

    Also spotted at the church was Time Highway Radio deejay Ram who was there to provide coverage for the festival which ended on Sunday.

    This year’s celebration was themed ‘To Think and Feel with the Church.’

    source: The Star

    Jul 28, 2006

    Travel Safe Travel Tips

    Sure it is fun to go for travels, I like travelling too. But it sure pays to have a few safeguards to avoid situations that will spoil your splendid vacation. I still recall an incident in Paris, France where my wife backpack was almost pick pocketed by a bunch of happy friendly kids in a deserted Metro underground. Fortunately, she felt the backpack straps were being unfasten and she quickly moved and turned around, foiling the would be thieves. I thank God that they didn't managed to get her purse buried deep in the backpack thus making it very difficult for them to reach in. Otherwise it would have really spoilt our trip. We could still laugh about it when we tell our friend and family about the incident.

    And of course scam artist are will just that, they try to fleece you of your tourist money, but if the loss is not so big, just shrug it off and let it be a lesson. Don't go thinking about it too much and spoil the mood of your trip. I had experienced it too, when my wife, her sister and I went to Bangkok for a vacation. The taxi driver would introduce us a package for a Bangkok Klong tour that we had to pay more than if we were to purchase it from a normal counter. It was a mixed reaction though, as the Klong Tour was really enjoyable, but well we had to pay more for his commission and tour operator. Still he and the tour operator did give us good service.

    Anyway, here are some tips and precaution that will help you out on your vacation.


    Visit and travel Cameron Highlands Malaysia

    Travel Safe - 11 Travel Tips!
    by Adam Hurley

    When traveling many things can and do go wrong. Following a few simple rules could help prevent many of those problems fellow travelers encounter on the road.

    Problems that could mean you spend time:

    · At the police station filling reports.

    · Locked in your hotel room, scared it will happen again.

    · Leaving with bad memories and a dislike of the local people.

    · Replacing items lost, that can cost you lots of money.

    · Or just totally annoyed, ruining your holiday.

    So what can you do? Here are a few tips for staying safe and still enjoying your holiday!

    Common Sense

    The single most important tool for traveling safe! You're in foreign land, meeting new people, walking down strange roads, eating and drinking new things. Use your common sense, if it doesn't feel right - do something about it.

    Carry Only What You Need

    If you are heading out on the town to discover new bars or taking photos at the local fish market, do you really need to carry your passport, travelers cheques, excess cash, visa card, American express card, plane tickets etc? Take what YOU need and leave the rest in the hotel safe. Better to lose a little, rather then everything.

    Spread It All Out

    A good tip is to place a small amount of money in a few different bags/pockets. By doing this, if you happen to lose a bag, visa card or money, you will still have something there to keep you going until it can be resolved.

    Two Credit Cards

    Many couples traveling will have 2 credit cards, both accessing the same account. The problem here is if one is lost, you have to cancel the account, meaning the 2nd card is no longer valid. So think about getting two cards, each accessing separate accounts. If hubby loses his, the wife will still have a fully functioning credit card so you can continue traveling.

    Hold Your Bags and Cameras

    A big thing now is bag/camera snatching. To prevent this happening to you, make sure you wear the backpack on your back. Sling your camera over your head and shoulder. Walk on the pavement; motorbikes and cars can't drive here! If you leave your bag/camera dangling of one shoulder, someone WILL grab it!

    Empty Your Back Pockets

    Most guys (and some girls) will place their wallets in the back pocket of their jeans or shorts making them an easy target for pick pockets. Change your habit, place money/wallets in the front pockets or perhaps buy a bum bag (bags that strap around your waist). Out of sight, out of mind!

    Scams and Scams

    We have all read about the different scams that people have fallen for. Truth is, people continue to fall for them! Why? Because the scammers are professionals, it's their job and their good at it. In most countries, the local people will be kind, courteous and helpful. Use your common sense. If unsure, leave. Or try asking other travelers, locals or hotel staff for advice.

    Their Smarter

    One of the problems people have when traveling, is that they think they are smarter than the scammers, robbers and pick pockets. The sad reality is; your wrong, THEY ARE SMARTER! Remember, these people do it for a living. This is how many of them feed themselves and their families. They are pro's and very good at their craft.

    Lock it

    If you use a small backpack or day bag when wondering the streets or local markets, buy a small padlock and use it. Instantly, would be pickpockets will be put of. If you are like me and continually lose the keys, trying using a small D-Shackle, like they use in rock climbing. It doesn't lock; rather it acts as a deterrent for unwanted hands getting into your bag. D-Shackles can be brought at most sport shops or large supermarkets for just a few dollars

    Opportunity Knocks

    Many of the problems outlined above happen only when travelers let their guard down. The basic rule of thumb is - you give them the opportunity, they will grab it with both hands!


    The most important aspect for any traveler, ENJOY your travels! Being paranoid will have you locked in a hotel room. Prepare, use your common sense and then get out there, meet the locals, try the food and have fun.

    About the Author

    Adam Hurley has lived and worked in South East Asia for more than 5 years. Visit him at or

    Jul 1, 2006

    White Water Rafting

    Rafting For One

    Fancy riding the river on your personal white water raft? StarWeekend gets on and becomes a wet human pinball.

    Sunbeams poke through the vault of leafy branches high above our rocky, frothy venue. We lower our posteriors into the cold, sparkling water completing our act of submission. Welcome to the sport of river tubing.

    Why would anyone drive to Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB), Selangor on a Sunday and pay RM80 to sit in an old tyre and float down Sungai Selangor? Well, why would anyone do the same thing and pay double to sit in a much larger rubber tube called a white water raft?

    Why not have your own little craft doing the same adrenaline-laced activity? Wouldn’t personal control of one’s whirling path downriver be more fun than obeying orders from a slave-driver on a large raft shouting: “Paddle forward!”, or sitting next to guys who paddle like they are playing masak-masak?

    Tubing down Sungai Selangor is fun - even when the water tips you over. - Starpix by SIA HONG KIAU
    Tubing down Sungai Selangor is fun
    - even when the water tips you over.
    - Starpix by SIA HONG KIAU

    This is the latest wet whoosh offered by Tracks Outdoor Adventure, a company that offers white water kayaking, rafting and now tubing down rivers in Selangor and Perak.

    I have some initial worries about plummeting down rocky mini-waterfalls, but Marjorie Gabriel, 39, the “river goddess” of Tracks assures me it is safe.

    “Tubing uses only mild rapids, up to Class 2, or at the maximum Class 2.5. Whereas in rafting, we can go down wild Class 4 rapids,” she says.

    However, the pre-dunk safety briefing is quite similar to rafting. Basically, if I am thrown out of a watercraft – tube or raft – I need to float on my lifejacket with my feet facing downriver – and raise my bum!

    “In this position, you can see where you’re going and kick away from rocks,” explains Gabriel.

    “As for the bum, well, you don’t want to scrape it against any rocks below!”

    What I like about the safety briefing is the “dry run” on land where we go through rescue procedures (like how to catch a rope). This is something that all participants in white water sports should get (if not, ask for it!) because simple common sense can get jumbled up in the thrills and spills of riding river rapids.

    After that short course, we are ready for White water Veneration. The cold water jolts you out of Sunday morning post-World Cup sluggishness.

    As we manoeuvre our posteriors into the doughnut hole of the rubber tube, two guides are on stand-by downstream.

    And we are off! Floating placidly along the calm stretches has to be one of the ultimate luxury (or lazyman’s) methods of basking in nature with zero exertion. Surrounded by sun-dappled trees and glittering river surfaces, the only thing missing from this experience is a pina colada with a little umbrella.

    But the heartbeat soon quickens as I approach the bubbly rocks and swirling currents. Which way should my hands paddle? Will I be knocked against the rocks?

    As it turns out, the flash of anxiety is unfounded.

    First off, the guides direct me to the correct entry points among the many rocks. Then as I begin twirling left and right through the rapids, the large rubber tube acts like an amusement park bumper car that bounces me off rocks. Quite a rush!

    I have always been in love with this verdant, invigorating stretch of Sungai Selangor (the one between the dam and the Sungai Chiling bridge) filled with gem-green rocks, lush forest canopies, dozens of mini Jacuzzis and that invigorating scent of ionised air and water. The gentle gliding alternating with exhilarating water pinball opens up a whole new avenue for me to luxuriate in this natural wonderland.

    Gabriel plans the route in such a way that the rapids – and adventure – gradually grow stronger as we go on. At a largish waterfall, I wonder whether it might be too much to tackle on a tube.

    “Don’t worry. Almost everybody gets thrown out of their tubes at this drop. It’s part of the fun!” she grins.

    If ejected from my doughnut-hole seat, I am told to just allow the current to carry me forward. Besides, the extra buoyant imported lifejacket will float me right back to the surface.

    And so I drift down towards the precipice and splash! I try to bronco ride the current and stay on my tube seat but the water rodeo has other ideas for me. I tumble amidst the waterfall’s fizz before finally emerging . . . exhilarated. Before long, I am walking back up the river for a second and third go at this bubbly buzz!

    Safety is a paramount consideration at Tracks Outdoor Adventure.

    “The life jacket and helmet must be on at all times. We have surveyed the river beforehand and we have guides waiting at crucial points,” explains Gabriel.

    Tubing is only done on milder rapids. So what happens when, after heavy rainfall, some stretches become more strident? In that case, participants will walk on the rocks, past the turbulence and resume tubing on milder water downstream.

    Gabriel also organises tubing trips along Sungai Kampar in Perak where the rapids are less intense – which may suit people who don’t want too much excitement.

    As for our trip today, we finish off with a sumptuous lunch featuring the best wild boar curry I’ve ever eaten! W

  • For enquiries, contact Tracks Outdoor Adventure at (03) 6065 1767 or The website is at

  • Plan Your Own Vacation

    The self-planned holiday
    By LEONG SIOK HUI i-July-2006

    So you want to trek the Himalayas, pedal around Ireland and kayak Halong Bay in Vietnam, but can’t find a Malaysian operator to help you plan the trip? LEONG SIOK HUI suggests D.I.Y.

    After he reached the peak of Mt Kinabalu in 2002, Tan Ay Bing, 49, aspired to climb higher mountains.

    He read about Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Tanzania and bought Lonely Planet’s Trekking in East Africa guidebook. During a travel fair, he stumbled upon a Malaysian travel operator who could plan this climb for him.

    “My biggest constraint was time, and I thought it would be a hassle to plan the trip myself,” said the director of an engineering firm.

    But when he arrived in Africa, Tan was transferred to three different agents before the actual trekking began. The Malaysian agent’s role was just to hook Tan up with these agents, and they each got a cut from the cost of the trip.

    “I realised it would have been easier to plan my own trip, get to Moshi (the town nearest to the mountain base) and arrange for a trekking operator there,” said Tan, who also trekked to the Everest Base Camp (5,300m-plus) in 2004.

    Tan forked out a hefty RM11,000-plus for his trip though most Kilimanjaro (self-planned) trips usually cost about RM6,000 to RM7,000, minus the safari excursion.

    “What I really learned from the trip is that you can travel alone. Once you’re there, your fellow travellers are your best supporters,” said Tan who wasn’t used to independent travelling before.

    “A lot of people want to make that first move (to independent travel), but they just need a push.”

    Yes, independent travelling IS the way to go. It allows flexibility, freedom and even brings with it moments of serendipity.

    Besides, planning a trip is half the adventure and can be fun.

    Mar 1, 2006

    When it rains, it really pours

    The heavy rain did make it difficult to see the road.For several days it was terribly hot and humid. Doing any activites just tires oneself out. Even my pet cat, Casper just sleeps most of the time. Could't do much with the hot and humid climate. It felt like walking in a thick gravy of sorts and breathing the heavier density air seems like drowning in it.

    Today, the dark clouds loom and before you know it. Kaboom comes the thunder and lightning, and the rain pours down like cats and dogs. Fortunately managed to move out from the office a tad faster while it was still light. But the trip back to the house was a total free wash for the car.

    Wonder how TTDI Shah Alam would fare in this kind of heavy downpour. All the best to the residents, and hope the government can come up with some better drainage of the area.

    Feb 27, 2006

    Fuel prices up 30 sen (Not Again!)

    Fuel prices up 30 sen

    Why the increase in price? Source: The StarThe retail prices of petrol and diesel will be increased by 30 sen per litre while the retail price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) by 30 sen per kg effective Feb 28.

    Bernama quoted a statement from the Prime Minister's Department on Feb 27 as saying the move to increase the prices was to counter the effects of the rising price of crude oil in the world market and the rising cost of subsidising petrol.

    The government, however, gave an assurance that it will not be raising the prices of petroleum retail products anymore this year following this latest hike.

    With the latest increase, the price of RON 97 petrol is 192 sen, RON 92 petrol is 188 sen, diesel is 158.1 sen and LPG is 175 sen per litre in peninsular Malaysia.

    The new price of RON 97 petrol in Sabah is 190 sen and that in Sarawak is 191 sen.

    The last time the prices were increased was on July 31, 2005 when petrol price was pushed up by 10 sen per litre, diesel price 20 sen per litre and LPG 5 sen per kg.

    A total of RM7.41 billion in cost was borne by the government for subsidising while the tax exempted amounted to RM7.85 billion, it said.

    The cost of subsidising and tax borne by the government for the January to February 2006 period amounted to RM1.19 billion and RM1.44 billion respectively.

    However, the statement said the prices of petrol and diesel in Malaysia were still low compared with those in other Asean countries except Brunei.

    Meanwhile, the government has also introduced the provision of subsidised diesel to 84% of vehicles that use diesel in the land transportation sector comprising operators of public transportation and consumer products services through the Fleetcard.

    Through the Fleetcard, they can purchase subsidised diesel at petrol stations where the cost of fuel is 15 sen less than the stipulated price.


    Flash Floods in February

    Source: The Star  Stormy Sunday - Sunday is a day for sleeping in but not yesterday. Instead, the rest day turned out to be one of anxiety for thousands of residents in Shah Alam who were rudely awakened at dawn by floodwaters gushing into their homes. The weather is getting crazier nowadays. Just recently the TTDI Shah Alam was hit with flash flood. February month should not be raining so much but somehow the weather pattern has changed. It looks like the signs of the times. Beginning with the Andaman Tsunami of Dec 2004, Hurricane Katrina of mid 2005, to the various typhoon around the Asian region. Could it be the signs of end times?

    Just looking at the photos taken from the news already gives ones the shudder of 'what will happen next?'

    A warning of overdevelopment due to greed, bad environmental stewardship? The incessant pace of development which we call progress may very well lead to our downfall. Perhaps we enjoy too much of the good life and couldn't care less what happen to the environment. Then we shall reap what we sow, the cycle of bad environmental karma will surely come back to haunt us.

    This picture shows a section of Taman Tun Dr Ismail Jaya in Shah Alam, Selangor, submerged in floodwaters. The picture was taken at 11am after Sungai Damansara overflowed its banks due to unusually heavy rain which started at 3.30am Sunday. Source: The Star.

    Feb 22, 2006

    Rain Jam

    The Sek 19 Rohmans Circle is totally jammed up!Whenever rain falls the traffic condition in Petaling Jaya or Kuala Lumpur gets really bad. The worlds climate has gone crazy and it seems Malaysia is no different. February month should have been a pretty hot month and it is supposed to be without rain. Alas no, it is still hot but then it pours in the afternoon pretty much cats and dogs.

    And when it happens around rush hour, that's it. The traffic goes to the dogs. One of the poor road design is the traffic circle. It should be consigned to the museum and should be done away and replaced with traffic lights system. But the MPPJ city council unfortunately still keeps them around. Traffic circle is fine if the traffic is light.

    But when the traffic volume swells up during rush hour, the traffic circle just can't handle the situation. Every driver will attempt to enter the circle without giving much chance for other drivers to exit the circle. Results? A complete lockjam of the circle. Traffic grinds to halt. Nobody can get in, nobody can get out. Until somebody decides to play nice and let other cars out of the circle then the traffic would be able to move.

    And that was the situation where I was caught in at the PJ section 19 aka Rohman's Circle while returning home from work yesterday. What would have been a ten minute drive in out through the circle became 40 minute ordeal with cars forcing their way in and out. This is when you would like to quickly get in and get out of the circle because the traffic just shuffle along at snails pace.

    There's nothing much I could do but listen to music and grit my teeth and hope to get clear of the circle the fastest possible.

    Rainy days and rush hour just don't mix well.(sigh!)

    Feb 3, 2006

    CNY at Bukit Tinggi, Raub & Fraser's Hill

    Happy Chinese New Year!

    Yes, it is the year of the dog. Hopefully, we don't have to work like a dog this year, but somehow I think not!

    Just backed from CNY holiday. What a blast! Reunion dinner and all. My aunty from Raub invited us over for overnight stay as my Uncle Aaron was giving treating us a CNY dinner. And my sis-in-law also managed to get free stay at Silverpark Apartments in Fraser's Hill. Well, to make full use of this trip, I decided to cram in a few sight seeing / fact finding / photo taking session opportunity.

    First, I made a stop at Bukit Tinggi Resort and visited the Colmar French town and Japanese Garden. Since I'm building a site about highlands I may as well write about other highlands that are related to Camerons. My Parents-in-law also had not been to Bukit Tinggi so it was like killing two birds with one stone kinda thingy.

    It was a good time to up to the French town replica. The Berjaya Hills Management knows that in order to keep the visitors coming, they had to organize activities. Sure enough there were the usual lion dances for the Chinese New Year for luck and prosperity. Lion dances are always a hit for just about anybody, not just for Chinese, the Malays, Indians, and Gwai-Lo were just as fascinated with the acrobatic antics and prowess of the Lion Dancers.

    I spotted a few spectators sitting precariously on the window ledge of the French town trying to get the best possible angle for a photo shot!

    And the din from the lion drums! It really has a New Year mood to it! Relaxing at one of the tables, eating pizza and drinking coffee, my dear wife remarked that it felt just like the vacation we had in Melbourne Australia. Yep! Felt good to just sit down and not worry about a thing. Ah, if life was always like this!

    After the Lion Dance was over, we took a few family shot of the place. But before we left, I needed to grab some more photo of the Japanese Garden. Though my wife and parents-in-law were tired and didn't follow me. I think they should have, as the air in the garden was pretty refreshing. However I was a short on time as we had to rush to Raub for the dinner on time. Still I managed to get as many photographic shots as possible. Pretty nice nature photography, with the Zen like garden. Wish I weren't so rushed; I could do with a bit more relaxing mood and take my time for better composed photographs.

    The journey to Raub was pretty rushed and we managed to get there on time for the dinner. The food was good and everybody enjoyed the dinner.

    My aunty worked and stayed in a shop house all this while, but she had a good heart and allowed us to sleep in the "box" room where it was the only room with air conditioning. Without it, I doubt I could sleep well as I not used to hot humid temperature. Me, my wife and Lindy cramp onto the bed and well, we managed to get some sleep.

    The next day, we proceeded our journey to Fraser's Hill. It is a smaller highland in comparison with Cameron Highlands, but never the less it was still a good alternative. There was a route from Raub to Fraser's Hill and the distance was only about 40km though the road towards it was rather winding.

    We reached the area known as the Gap where the traffic to the top of Fraser's Hill was controlled. The authorities had to this as the road was narrow and it would be safer to allow a one way traffic. The authorities actually build another road so that there was no need to control the traffic by making each road a one way direction. But ever since a landslide occurred on the new road, I guess the authorities deemed the new road unsafe and opt back for the old method of controlled traffic. Besides, the amount of vehicles going up and down Fraser's Hill weren't that many anyway.

    I guess the Silverpark management were not use to heavier than usual visitors and we had to wait quite a while for a room to be ready. After finally checking in, while my wife, family and relatives had a rowdy time playing mahjong and watching Cantonese VCD which Lindy had the good sense to bring along, I went off alone to explore the area and to take as many photos for future articles about other highlands.

    Since there were not many good eateries available in over there so as usual, my aunt and mom-in-law prepared chicken pot rice and brought over there for dinner. Yum! Taste good on an empty stomach!

    Night time activities were the usual mahjong and watching Cantonese VCD, leaving me with nothing much to do but to go to bed early.

    Next day, I continued my further exploration of the area and visited the Allan's water (pond) and Jeriau waterfalls. And to my surprise, it rained on me! I guess CNY was not as hot as it should be. Still I managed to take some good shots and collected some info from the Fraser's Hill tourist information office.

    Strangely, the only two Chinese eateries owners were known to my Aunt. It seems they bought many of their utensils and stuff from my aunt's shop in Raub. Talked about a small world. Yep we had our lunch at Hillview restaurant and Laksa at the Kheng Yuan Lee Eating shop.

    Next of course, it was time to checked out of the apartment and sent our aunties back to Raub. Staying one night in Fraser's was sufficient enough, but could have done with a second night.

    After having dinner in Raub, we made our way back to Kuala Lumpur and reached home pretty late what with the heavier traffic as many people were rushing back to KL to get ready for work the next day. Phew, what a trip!