Dec 30, 2007

Gua Musang - a vibrant border town

Vibrant border town
Sunday December 30, 2007

The old town of Gua Musang seems like most other small towns in Malaysia, but there is more to it than meets the eye. This little town is full of history and stories, and locals were more than happy to share them with us.

It stands on the border between Pahang and Kelantan, and was once one of the most remote towns in the country.

According to Abdul Wahab Matdiah who grew up Gua Musang, the British was first attracted to the area because of the gold deposits in Pulai. They started mining the gold, and constructed the railway lines that connected Gua Musang to other parts of the country. The railway station later became the heart of town.
Discovering the town ... The BRATs speaking to a shopkeeper at the Gua Musang market.
Discovering the town ... The BRATs speaking to a shopkeeper at the Gua Musang market.

The 62-year-old veteran soldier joined the army because he was inspired by the bravery of the locals who fought against the Japanese during the second World War.

“I was only a teenager then, but I still remember how the locals fought against oppression during the Japanese occupation.

Many locals who died defending their own land were buried under two trees located in the old town area,” recounts Abdul Wahab.

Gua Musang’s Chinese Business Association president Lee Rong Xin also has bitter memories of the Japanese occupation.

“The Japanese set fire on the shoplots to retaliate against the locals who were against them. The shopkeepers were the main supplier of food in this area, and the Japanese wanted to disrupt the food supply.

Some of the participants braving the rain to get their assignments.
Some of the participants braving the rain to get their assignments.

We all fled to Kampung Tiung, which is across the river behind the shoplots,” recalls Lee at his shop on the town’s main road.

Lee says that the Chinese were first brought in by the British in the 19th |century as labourers to develop the area.

The introduction of the Felda scheme in the 1970s brought an influx of settlers from different parts of the country.

Before independence, the only transportation link to the town was by train. It was then one of the most inaccessible towns in Malaysia.

However, the town’s people pooled together their resources to develop the area. Now the town is a busting centre of activities.

As the population grew, the roads were paved to make the town more accessible.

Cars, motorcycles and lorries drive through the town to the nearby areas.

There are two parts of the town. The old town, with its two rows of shophouses on the main road, remains the commercial hub where people come to do their shopping and banking.

There are many shops selling provisions, farm equipment, and junk food in bulk.

There are coffee shops where locals congregate to exchange gossips and news, and a popular Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. At the end of the main road is the railway station, with limestone hills looming majestically behind it.

Gua Musang has expanded beyond the old town. There are many rows of new shoplots and sprawling government buildings on both sides of the road leading to the old town.

There is a new market in Gua Musang, where there are many stalls selling Kelantanese food such as laksam, nasi berlauk and akok.

These days, there is a good network of roads and highways that link Gua Musang to Koto Bharu, Cameron Highlands and other parts of the country.

Residents like Abdul Wahab are happy to live in Gua Musang.

“The community is very close-knit and peaceful,” says Abdul Wahab.

Although he is glad there has been development in Gua Musang, the retiree is also concerned about some of the side effects such as noise and pollution.

“A lot of the children are getting ill more often,” says Abdul Wahab who does not want to see his beloved hometown become as busy as the urban jungle. -- The Star Lifestyle

Dec 16, 2007

Ipoh Old Town Wonders

Old town wonders
Sunday December 2, 2007

Ipoh is mostly known for its limestone hills and famous eats but spend a day in this city that tin built and you’ll come to appreciate its colonial inheritance and leisurely lifestyle.


Memory Lane Bazaar

Sunday mornings are a good time to hunt down cheap bargains at this flea market that extends from Jalan Horley to Jalan Lim Bo Seng. Fondly nicknamed as the thieves’ market by locals, the weekly bazaar first came about in the 1960s and has since been relocated twice. It’s a good place to scour for antiques including rare stamp collections and old vinyl records.

Mixing Ipoh White Coffee

White Coffee

Ipoh Old Town has been made famous from a single local drink - the white coffee. As early as 6am, coffeeshops along Jalan Bandar Timah are crowded with regulars and old friends chatting over a cuppa before the start of their day. Among the most addictive ones are at Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong.

White coffee goes well with roti bakar

Birch Memorial Clock Tower

E.W. Birch built this tower in memory of his father, the first British Resident of Perak J.W.W. Birch, on the 20th anniversary of the latter’s assassination in 1875. Costing $25,000 with a bronze bust of the elder Birch in one of the niches, the tower stands next to the Medan Selera Datuk Sagor where you’ll get to savour one of Ipoh’s many specialities - soft boiled eggs on toast.

Railway Station

An Anglo-Indian architectural railway station that was recently renovated, it is one of the old buildings that one can admire when visiting Ipoh. Don’t forget to also identify the Ipoh tree in front of the station, from which the city got its name.

Ipoh famous taugeh chicken

Taugeh Chicken

Thanks to the mineral-rich water of the limestone hills here, its bean sprouts are more succulent, the kuey teow smoother, and the girls looking fairer. Due to this, try as they may, Ipoh’s taugeh chicken just doesn’t quite taste the same anywhere else.

St Michael’s Institution

This is one of the premier schools in Ipoh and was the favoured academic institution for families to send their sons to, even from as far as Cameron Highlands. It was established in 1912.

Little India

A popular shopping area along Jalan Lahat and Jalan Sultan Yussuf, Little India sells all things beautiful from gold and costume jewellery to brightly coloured sarees and Punjabi suits. Both roads are dotted with Indian food outlets like the popular Sri Ananda Bahwan and Chettinad restaurants. In 2000, a square replaced the Birch Fountain, a memorial to E.W. Birch who was also a British Resident of Perak like his father, in the middle of Little India.

Lady showing of juicy Tambun Poemloes

Tambun Pomeloes

The pride of Ipoh whose reputation has reached far and wide, Tambun pomeloes can be found in most parts of the city. Choices are, however, aplenty along the old trunk road to Kuala Lumpur. Sweet or sour, whichever is your liking, they are always juicy and tasty and make great gifts for friends back home.

Perak Cave Temple

A panoramic view of the city and its surrounding areas waits at the peak of this stunning limestone hill. Inside the cooling temple cave itself are magnificent statues of Buddha and other deities while its walls mirror over 200 paintings and calligraphic masterpieces by famous artists from around the world. The foreground of the temple, with swaying willows, a lotus pond and pavilion, is reminiscent of a beautiful oriental garden.

Taman D.R. Seenivasagam

Taman D.R. Seenivasagam

An ideal place to relax and for family outings, this park named after People’s Progressive Party founder member and former Ipoh MP D.R. Seenivasagam, is surrounded by lush greenery. It has a Japanese themed garden and ponds where you take boat rides or just feed the fishes.

Getting there

By bus

Buses to Ipoh are available from Kuala Lumpur and Penang and they all make their final stop at Medan Gopeng near Gunung Rapat. Express buses from KLIA to Ipoh are also available.

By car

Use the Simpang Pulai or Ipoh South exits if you are heading to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur and enjoy the two-hour scenic ride. Use the Jelapang exit if you are coming from the North.

By train

Trains are available from KL Sentral and it takes about four hours to get there.

source: The Sunday Star.

Dec 10, 2007

Borneo Highlands Resort, Kuching, Sarawak

Borneo Highlands Resort promotes back to basics theme
By Sharon Ling
Monday December 10, 2007

The Borneo Highlands Resort, an eco-friendly development in the Penrissen Range near Kuching, is reinventing itself as a “back to nature” destination.

The resort, which boasts an 18-hole golf course among other attractions, is currently undergoing renovation to improve its hotel and other facilities.

Bigger and better: A room decorated in the ‘back-to-nature’ theme. This is what the rooms will look like after the renovation.
Bigger and better: A room decorated in the ‘back-to-nature’ theme. This is what the rooms will look like after the renovation.

Borneo Highlands Resort chief executive Loh Leh Ching said they would be increasing the size of guestrooms in the hotel.

“At the moment we have 55 rooms which are quite small, so we are renovating the hotel to make the rooms bigger.

“When completed, it will have 30 rooms in different categories such as deluxe and suite,” he said during a media tour of the resort recently.

Much to see and do: Visitors and resort staff heading back to their vehicle after looking across the border to Indonesia at the Kalimantan viewpoint (above) and (below) a landscaped flower garden. and rabbitrearing area.
Much to see and do: Visitors and resort staff heading back to their vehicle after looking across the border to Indonesia at the Kalimantan viewpoint (above) and (below) a landscaped flower garden. and rabbitrearing area.

Borneo Highlands Resort garden grounds

He added that the guestrooms would be decorated according to a nature theme, while the resort’s jungle spa would also be renovated to make it more natural.

“In the past we had a golf concept for the resort but now we are going back to nature. We want to promote a ‘back to nature, back to basics’ lifestyle,” Loh said.

Besides the RM3mil renovation, the resort is upgrading its access road and installing electricity cables at a cost of RM8mil each.

All upgrading works are expected to be completed by April.

Natural beauty: A rocky mountain stream at the resort (above) and (below) the resort offers plots of land for bungalows amid the mountains and jungle of the Penrissen Range.
Natural beauty: A rocky mountain stream at the resort (above) and (below) the resort offers plots of land for bungalows amid the mountains and jungle of the Penrissen Range.

Borneo Highlands Resort also recently launched Phase 4 of its Rainforest Haven bungalow lots.

Dubbed Swan Lake Forest, Phase 4 comprises 46 lots dotted around the contours of the resort, each with a different mountain and jungle view.

Loh said there were plans to introduce the properties to the international market next year with a projected price of up to US$200 (RM676) per square foot.

Time for a dip: This waterfall is one of the scenic points on the way up to the resort.
Time for a dip: This waterfall is one of the scenic points on the way up to the resort.

“For the past two years, our records have shown that the minimum selling prices of our properties have increased by 90% from RM38 to RM72 per square foot.

“With our foray into the international market, we are projecting to hit US$200 per square foot,” he said.

Located about an hour’s drive from Kuching, the resort is set amidst jungle-clad mountains near the Indonesian border at about 1,000m above sea level.

Guests can look across the border into Indonesia, which lies below a cliff drop of 600m at the resort’s Kalimantan viewpoint.

Other attractions include flower gardens, a horticulture nursery, Chinese tea house, rabbit park and jungle waterfall. -- The Star Metro.

Jun 10, 2007

Check traffic conditions on website

PLUS: Check traffic conditions on website
Sunday June 10, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR: North-South Expressway users should check traffic conditions with the highway operator's helpline or by viewing real-time visuals on its website before travelling.

PLUS Expressway Bhd corporate communications general manager Khalilah Mohd Talha said its website ( had real-time visuals of certain stretches of the expressway where motorists could view road conditions.

Among the stretches with visuals are Damansara, Sungai Buloh, Bukit Lanjan, Seremban, Air Hitam, Jelapang and Juru.

Khalilah, who said traffic was expected to increase because of the end of the school holidays, also urged motorists to follow the 60kph speed limit at stretches where work to construct the third lane of the expressway was being carried out.

The stretches are Seremban-Ayer Keroh, Rawang-Slim River and Ipoh Selatan-Jelapang.

For enquiries call 1800 88 0000 or visit PLUS' website.

-- The Star.

Putting Malaysia on the world map

Putting Malaysia on the world map
Sunday June 10, 2007

Travel and tourism is the country’s second largest income spinner after manufacturing. It is a big though relatively young business, especially with this being Visit Malaysia Year and the nation’s 50th birthday.

HOW many times have you heard your parents mentioning Morib as the seaside place during their time?

Located at the southern end of the Selangor state, Morib is hardly an attraction now although historically, it is noted for being one of the first landing points on the west coast for the British and Indian Army liberation forces during World War II.

In the 60s and maybe early 70s, when the subject of holiday came up, locals would inevitably head for places where their relatives were. Travelling outside those perimeters was a rarity unless you came from a wealthy family.

Recalled one tour agent, “It was the norm then. When school holidays came up, we would go visit our aunties and uncles who lived in different towns and states. It was a thrill just to be in their houses. At that time, trees were plenty, pollution was less ... just doing simple things like roaming around the garden was joyous enough. Or, our parents would take us to Port Dickson to spend the day at the beach.”

Times have changed.

Travel and tourism is a big though relatively young business here, especially with this being Visit Malaysia Year and the nation’s 50th birthday. It is the country’s second largest income spinner after manufacturing.

Tourism in Malaysia dates back to 1959 when the first Tourism Department was set up.

Unfortunately, there were no hard records to justify the significant role played by tourism at that time as the Bureau of Statistics only limited its findings to external trade and estate agriculture.

Besides, tourism hardly made any profound impact on the economy then – until the department was upgraded to the Tourism Development Corporation in 1972. It then charted a new era in the history of Malaysian tourism.

That was the same year Malaysia Airlines was formed and together, they worked tirelessly on putting Malaysia on the world tourism map.

In the 80s, increased financial affluence, where more people could afford cars, improved infrastructure and better public transportation services, saw the domestic tourism market booming.

Land-based transportation including buses, coaches, and rail was the primary method of transportation for all tourists travelling to and from Malaysia although locals preferred to drive to their domestic destinations.

Morib was forgotten as there were more places to visit like Teluk Batik (Pahang) Ipoh, Penang, Pulau Pangkor and Langkawi.

The 90s saw the emergence of Star Cruises and low-cost carrier Air Asia, which allowed connectivity into Malaysia to improve by leaps and bounds. The reduced travelling costs have also allowed the lower income groups to get a taste of being in the air and visiting another destination.

Hotels started sprouting up all over the country, especially five-star ones. Our five-star hotels offer some of the cheapest room rates in the region for unparalleled luxury. Then, with the introduction of the nationwide Mega Sale Carnival in 1999, the economy received a boost from the retail sector. The Malaysian tourism authority has undertaken efforts to position Malaysia as a leading international shopping destination.

Each Mega Sale has managed to attract an additional half a million foreign visitors and day-trippers from the neighbouring countries, on top of the normal tourist arrivals. The effort facilitated the growth in tourism expenditure and consumer demand, which enhanced the growth of retail trade.

Kudos must be given to Tourism Malaysia for their Malaysia Truly Asia tagline and its catchy jingle. It portrays Malaysia as a peaceful, colourful and festive multicultural nation with many diverse religions and cultures living together in perfect harmony, a tourism experience encompassing the whole of Asia within one comprehensive destination.

Events such as Petronas Malaysia F1 Grand Prix, Le Tour de Langkawi, Langkawi International Maritime and Air Show Exhibition (Lima) and other world-class events further enhanced the image of Malaysia as a desirable holiday destination.

Since it was introduced in 1999, medical and health tourism has also contributed handsomely to the national economy. Last year (2006), a total of 296,687 health tourists visited Malaysia yielding revenues totalling RM203.66 million.

However, the tourism industry, like most businesses, is not without its challenges and uncertainties. They include a distorted perception of the country, global uncertainties such as SARS, avian flu, natural catastrophes, acts of terrorism and lack of synergy support. These factors may impede tourism development and it may not be able to play an effective role in the Malaysian economy.

The industry has come a long way since with almost 50% (2005) of the national workforce being employed either directly or indirectly in the tourism sector i.e. in hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, airlines and transportation.

With VMY2007 timed to coincide with 50 years of independence, tourist numbers were initially off to a slow start. But in February, the arrivals were up by 9.7% compared with that of last year’s.

Tourism Malaysia’s latest statistics reveal that Singaporeans made up the bulk of the visitors (1,641,459), followed by Thailand (270,591), Indonesia (257,980), Brunei (125,435), China (117,939), Japan (61,133), India (53,870), Britain (51,213), Australia (50,296) and South Korea (41,595).

Top tourist sites among locals and foreigners are Kuala Lumpur, Penang, the islands of Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Pangkor, and Pulau Tioman; Kota Baru, Miri – Mulu, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Lumut, Ipoh, Malacca, Taman Negara, Johor Baru and Desaru. Sadly, with the exception of Genting Higlands, other hilly areas like Cameron Highlands, Frasers Hill and Maxwell Hill are not as popular as they once used to be.

Recording more than a million tourists a month during low season is indeed a positive trend and is line with the government’s aim of registering more than one million visitors each month, to lead up to the targeted 20.1 million tourists this year with an estimated total spending of RM44.5 billion.

The stability of a country remains a major consideration for tourists, especially those from Europe and North America. Being the catalyst for growth, the tourism industry has opened up new avenues and provided many with hope, career and a future.

Today, almost half of a century later, the industry has moved with impressive celerity. With a stable government and its continued cooperation with other countries to combat terrorism and crime, favourable trends should be sustainable for the Malaysia’s tourism industry in the coming years. -- Sunday Metro.