Monday, May 15, 2017

Best Way To Go To Taman Negara

How to go to Taman Negara National Park

What is the best way to go to Taman Negara? A common question that is asked by most travellers who plan to visit the oldest national park in Malaysia, I will share with you some of the best ways to get there, all depending on your budget and how fast you need to travel. 

Before I get into the logistics for Taman Negara, you should know that this massive national park is located only three and a half hours drive from Kuala Lumpur city and anyone can visit this place without prior booking or permits. Taman Negara National Park is open to everyone who is into nature, trekking, hiking or wildlife watching and is Malaysia's premier rainforest destination in the peninsular. 

Best Way To Go To Taman Negara

As there are a few ways to get here, and each of them require traveling around three to five hours. I will narrow down the best way to go to Taman Negara National Park in Pahang for anyone interested to visit this fascinating and enchanting rainforest in Malaysia.
Taman Negara Transport
Taman Negara's famous canopy walk
Taman Negara Van Transfers - This is the best way to get to Taman Negara National Park from Kuala Lumpur or KL City. There is a daily Taman Negara van transfer service by Ivy Holidays which is located at Wisma Selangor Complex along Jalan Sultan and they depart at about 8.30 AM daily. All you need to do is make a booking by phone (+6 010 900 8699) or visiting the tour counter on the ground floor of the building. Walk in through the main entrance and it is on your right. 

The entire journey takes about four to five hours and direct to Taman Negara National Park in Pahang. Ivy Holidays is also offering a package price of RM90 per person, one way, which includes the van transfer and also boat ticket to Kuala Tahan, which is the main gateway to the national park.
Bus to Taman Negara National Park
The van I traveled with to Taman Negara National Park
Travel Time to Taman Negara
  • Van from KL to Kuala Tembeling - 3.5 Hours 
  • Boat from Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara - 2 hours
Taman Negara Bus Service - There are buses that go to Taman Negara National Park but the only public bus is from the town of Jerantut to Taman Negara, which is three times a day. For those bus lovers, and must travel by public bus, the only way is to take an express bus to Jerantut and then take the local bus to Kuala Tahan.

*Important Note - We would like to clarify that bus means 20-40 seat coach buses. Many companies in Malaysia use the term bus when it is actually a tour van that seats from 6 to 10 people. So, when you see a company selling Bus to Taman Negara, it is actually a small van.
Boat Jetty Kuala Tembeling
View from the jetty of Kuala Tembeling, before you take your boat to Taman Negara
Taxi to Taman Negara - This is probably the most expensive option. From KLIA or KLIA2, a taxi or private van will also take about 4 to 5 hours drive to Taman Negara National Park. The price however, is much higher than getting the van shuttle from KL City. A tip is to take the KLIA Express into the city, then take the van transfer to Taman Negara. The price would be anywhere from RM550 to RM750 per van or taxi. However, if you are a family, this could be one option to ease moving around too much. 

Flights to Taman Negara - This is tricky, but there are no flights to anywhere near here. The closest airport is Kuantan Airport and it takes 40 minutes flight time from KLIA. From the airport, you need to take a taxi or private van transfer which will take about 3 hours. It generally works out to be around the same time therefore I am not recommending this, unless you have lots of frequent flyer miles to spend.
Taman Negara Boat Service
Taking a local boat to and from Taman Negara allows beautiful scenic landscapes
Boat to Taman Negara - Well, in reality, the only boat service is from Kuala Tembeling town near Jerantut where they have boat service to Taman Negara. There is no other boat service from other towns or from Kuala Lumpur. So, when you see anyone promoting a boat transfer or boat service to Taman Negara, it is from Kuala Tembeling Jetty.

They are wooden long boats that seat about 14 to 16 people and has a roof on top. The boat journey is fascinating as you get to see nature at its best along the two hour journey to Kuala Tahan along the Tembeling River. Most overnight tours will have you dropped off at Kuala Tembeling Jetty where you catch the long boat to Taman Negara national park.
Kuala Tahan Taman Negara
View of Kuala Tahan town outside Taman Negara
You can also find out more about the types of Taman Negara tour packages which I have written about. Each of the tours highlight the different days or if you plan to do day trips to Taman Negara National Park. This is one of the premium national parks that has one of the best canopy walks in Malaysiaand is also one of the oldest national park in the world.

My trip in April 2017 was an amazing experience using both van and boat as I had booked my Taman Negara tour with Ivy Holidays. They can be contacted at +6 010 900 8699 or via email at marketing (at) ivyholidays.com. You can Whatsapp, Line or WeChat to inquire about any transport or overnight trip here. Even if you need last minute bookings, they can arrange it for you. 

The next time you want to know what is the best way to go to Taman Negara National Park, hopefully this article will shed some information for you to choose from. Enjoy the journey there and don't forget to take lots of photos. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Movie Animation Park Studios Ipoh To Open 26 June 2017

Opening of Movie Animation Park Studios Perak

In recent development after a fiasco of delays, the much talked about Movie Animation Park Studios Ipoh will open on 26 June 2017. Known as MAPS Perak, this will be the second theme park in the Ipoh area and will be the talk of town as this joint venture theme park project will feature world class attractions and rides. 

Movie Animation Park Studios or MAPS Perak, will be the first of its kind in Asia and is in the last phase of its RM520 million development. The theme park director Ramelle Ramli also disclosed that the MAPS Perak has more than 40 attractions and is expected to attract a million guests within its opening year.
Opening of MAPS Perak
Entrance to Movie Animation Park Studios in Ipoh Perak
Movie Animation Park Studios Perak Opening

The opening day should coincide with the second day of Hari Raya in Malaysia therefore, you can be expecting a flood of people heading there. The theme park was planned for an opening in last June before it was postponed to December. Delays was due to the management’s decision to enhance the park. The management has also added new attractions the Movie Animation Park Studios which are;
  • Hyperspin
  • Asteroid Attack
  • Cartoon Factory
  • Smurf Life
  • Wormhole Technologies

Movie Animation Park Studios Perak is also built on a 21 hectare plot of land in Meru. The park has six zones housing 23 interactive attractions and 15 rides. One of the main highlights is Malaysia’s tallest drop tower ride called Megamind Megadrop, which rises 52 meters before dropping. 
Ticker Price Movie Animation Park Studios
MAPS Perak park ticket promotions
Movie Animation Park Studio Video

MAPS Park Tickets 
  • Season passes purchased earlier will be valid for 12 months after the opening
  • single day passes will valid for three months

Map of Movie Animation Park Studios Perak
Movie Animation Park Studios Perak Map (Click to enlarge)
We has published an article about the Movie Animation Park Studios Opening in July 2016, but that was postponed. With the news being official from the mainstream media, we truly hope nothing delays the MAPS Perak opening as it was postponed three times since announcing it in 2015. Right now, you can look forward to the Movie Animation Park Studios Ipoh opening on 26 June 2017. 

Friday, May 05, 2017

Komodo Island Dive Trip Report

Dive Report for Komodo Island

If you have been planning to visit Komodo Island for diving, here is my Komodo Island Dive Trip Report based on my recent dive there in September 2016. For me, this was my second time visiting Komodo Island in 12 months but on my first visit, I did not manage to dive therefore on my second trip in September 2016, I did my inaugural dive at Komodo Island. The main photo in this article was taken by Kiersten during our dive together. 

Before I go on, this Komodo dive was a very last minute arrangement by Skyscanner Indonesia and Wonderful Indonesia as when our group arrived at Labuan Bajo in Flores, it was finalized just before checking in to the Sylvia Hotel Labuan Bajo. I have also written an article about diving at Komodo Island where all the basic information is shared there and this article will just talk about diving there.

In total, I did three dives at Komodo Island which was all arranged by Orca Dive, a trusted dive operator which is very professional and safety being paramount. Their dive boat was a twin 150 hp engine speed boat complete with full top cover and descent was the standard rollback style.
Dive Boats at Komodo Island
The dive boat I used for my Komodo dives
Pink Beach Dive Site, Komodo

My first dive spot was of course the famous Pink Beach dive site, together with dive buddies Kiersten from USA, Henry from Australia and Jac from Singapore, and the four of us were given the mandatory dive check before descending down. First impression was wow, super clear visibility and healthy coral life. As usual, my descend is always the slowest due to my sinus problem where I have to equalize every meter on my way down.

Looking below me at a depth of 10 meters, I could clearly see the rest of the divers with the dive master already exploring the corals. Kiersten was trigger happy with her GoPro, shooting away while the rest followed. As I caught up with them, the pure myriad of colors just kept me in awe as I passed various types of coral life. A beautiful mix of hard and soft corals dominated the sea floor with various types of coral fish swimming around.

Our dive master pointed out a spotted blue stingray, moray eel, turtles and some nudibranches or sea slugs. Overall, the landscape was beautiful and picture perfect for those who love underwater photography. Currents were mild during the dive where not much effort was put into finning, and this made the dive very relaxed. Eventually, we surfaced after about 50 minutes underwater with huge smiles on each of our faces.
Komodo Scuba Diving Report
Dive master giving a briefing before going down at Pink Beach Dive Site
Manta Point Dive Site, Komodo 

Next spot was Manta Point, but this was quite debatable due to the off season of Mantas, and since we were already here, the dive master had said that if we were in some serious luck, there could still be a couple of manta rays around, so he left us with the choice, but being a first time for the four of us, why not.

Back-rolled and again, a slow descend for me while the other divers were already on the lookout for those majestic manta rays. Well, not quite as they would be found at various cleaning stations, and these were on a flat terrain therefore, you could see far, providing the visibility was super clear. For our Manta Point dive, the visibility wasn't that great as it was just past noon and we were getting about 15 meters. Currents were decent and approaching the first cleaning station, it was empty.

Our dive master signaled us to follow him to the next one and to our disappointment, no one was home either. So, throughout the dive, we checked a number of cleaning stations with no luck but corals were pretty and marine life was thriving.

After reaching the end, most of us still had about 120 bar left so I decided to do my safety stop and head on up the boat while the others continued to explore the area. On the boat, our dive master was pretty apologetic about not being able to see any mantas, but we had already known that it was a 50-50 chance of spotting them in this time of the year, well more like a 90-10 chance if you ask me. However, it was a great experience overall.
Komodo Scuba Diving Trip Report
The dive master briefing us about the Pink Beach Dive Site
Batu Bolong Dive Site, Komodo

This was a bonus since all of our tanks were still with air, our dive master took us to Batu Bolong dive site as a surprise, which is touted as one of the best dive sites in Komodo Island. He told us that he's taking us to a special place and to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Here, a small rock island divides the strong currents that flow into the channel and from the surface of the sea, you could see the sheer power of the currents flowing, which was scary.

The boatman had to be extra careful, to position his boat in between the current split and asking about the currents, the boatman told me that if we jumped in, we would be immediately carried away really fast so descending down was crucial as if you got caught in the current, you would just have to wait it out.

We were told to gear up for a quick check dive for this site, and our dive master said that you wouldn't believe how rich and beautiful the marine life was down below, so everyone got really excited.

After a few good minutes of re-positioning the boat for a safe descend, we back rolled in one by one and quickly descended, following the dive master. On my descend, I could already see the fascinating marine life that hung around the base of the rock island with hundreds, possibly thousands of fish swimming in all directions.

Turtles were seen eating off the healthy corals while larger fish were lurking in schools in the deeper areas. Truly, this was a divers haven for photography, and yet, one needs to be extra cautious not to get caught in the strong currents here.

With all the excitement going on, I had trouble descending as when I reached three meters, I could not go and deeper, probably due to my almost empty tank with 80 bar. I kept forcing myself to go down, letting all the air out of my BCD and exhaling to the maximum, but I just could not and one thing I learned about diving is that when you can't, don't force it.
Komodo Island Live On Board
One of the live on board boats at Komodo Island
So I decided to surface back to the boat and kept looking down to see the amazing view. However, I did not immediately climb up the boat when I hung on to the ladder, I kept looking down with my mask to see what else was there. In general, there was too much going on and I told myself, the next opportunity I get to come back here, this would be one of the must-dive spots of Komodo Island for me.

So there you have it, my little dive report on diving in Komodo Island where I was fortunate to experience three dive sites, well, just two and a brief third site for me. Overall, the feeling is amazing as there was just so much to see here plus there was no sign of coral bleaching during any of my dives. Marine life is simply incredible and for photographers, this is indeed one of the best places I have seen in my years of diving.

Komodo Island Diving Video by Kiersten of The Blonde Abroad

Huge thanks goes to the team of Skyscanner Indonesia and also Indonesia Tourism as this was part of the Wonderful Indonesia campaign to promote these places to the rest of the world. Skyscanner provides information on the cheapest flights to get via their app or website and for this collaboration between them and Indonesia Tourism, I have to say that this was indeed a smart partnership.

I have also written about how to go to Labuan Bajo and also a list of things to do in Labuan Bajo for anyone planning to visit this beautiful place in East Nusa Tenggara. Again, I am just a casual diver and more of a travel writer, therefore this was one of my best diving experiences to date, after diving in Jordan and also diving in Sipadan Island. I hope you enjoyed my Komodo Island dive trip report and if you have questions, please ask in the comment section.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Global Big Day 2017

Global Big Day 2017

This years Global Big Day 2017 is on 13 May and bird watchers or birders from 150 countries around the world will participate as a global team to see what birds are there. This years Bid Day 2017 will be held at  the Yucatán Peninsula, one of the world’s most stunning and important areas for birds.

In order to cover the phenomenal bird diversity there, they will be dividing into three teams for the first time ever: Team Belize, Team Guatemala, and Team Mexico. All three teams will be joining forces in a quest to find the most bird species and raise USD$475,000 for conservation.

How to Participate in Global Big Day 2017

For those interested in participating in Global Big Day 2017, you can follow the guide below as it highlights how anyone can be a part of this. All you need to do is register on the eBird website and put in your count. 
Malaysia Global Big Day
Birding statistics from the Global Big Day 2017 website (Photo from eBird.org)
1. Submit Your Data to eBird on May 13 2017
It is very simple. If you submit your birds to eBird they count. Learn how to take part. Don’t worry — you don’t need to be a bird expert, or to go out all day long. Even a half hour checklist from your backyard will help. Of course, you are welcome to spend the entire day in the field, but know that it is not required! Please enter your data as soon as you can, preferably by Tuesday, May 16, 2017. 

2. Visit the Global Bid Day Page for Live Updates and Detailed Stats
During the Big Day, the main page will be updated. You’ll be able to follow Team Sapsucker in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico — but more importantly, you’ll be able to track how many species have been seen around the world and in any region of interest to you.

3. Organize With Your Friends for Greater Coverage
Now is the time to start discussions on local birding discussion lists to make a plan to find difficult species. Learn how to share Global Big Day with others. Try to organize in your home state, province, or even county to make sure teams spread out and find as many species as possible. Put your patch on the worldwide Global Big Day map. Use the hashtag #eBird_GBD for Twitter, Instagram and also Facebook if you can. 

4. Join A Global Network of Birders and Conservationists
Global Big Day connects a network of people across the world to support a cause that transcends languages and cultures. From the southern tip of Africa to the soaring peaks of Himalayas, and from the Ecuadorian rainforest to backyards in New York – Everyone is a part of Team eBird, working to understand and conserve the birds we care about.

5. Make Your Sightings Count
Every bird that you enter in eBird counts as a part of Global Big Day. However, there are three ways that you can make your sightings as valuable as possible. It is important to note that these are only suggestions—not requirements!
  • Submit complete checklists
  • Keep counts of the birds that you see
  • Keep multiple checklists throughout the course of your birding: if you get in the car you should end that checklist and start a new one when you get to the next location.

Big Day 2017 (Image from eBird.org)
Not sure how Global Big Day relates to you? 

Global Big Day is a day for everyone who loves birds to make your passion count. Not everyone will find a unique species, and that's absolutely fine. Even if you just have a few minutes on 13 May 2017, there is nobody better than you to put your local birds on the map.

For more information, visit the Global Big Day Website

Big Day Malaysia 2017

Malaysia has been a part of Global Big Day for a number of years now. One of the main bird clubs of Malaysia who have promoted this event is no other than the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club or SBBC, which is based in Sandakan Sabah where they have encouraged groups of bird watchers to participate on this special day. 

The Sandakan Borneo Bird Club has also successfully organised the Borneo Big Day where three countries - Brunei, Malaysia and Kalimantan, Indonesia participated in collecting data from the entire island of Borneo. This was initiated in 2015 and again in 2016. For Borneo Big Day 2015, the Sabah portion submitted 53 checklists with a total number of 333 birds. 

About the writer
I am David Hogan Jr, an amateur birder who has been birding since 2007. On occasion, I travel all over Malaysia and other countries for my work in promoting tourism destinations and when I have the opportunity, I will do some casual birding. To know more, see my bird watching articles

I have worked closely with the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, Tourism Malaysia, Sabah Tourism Board, Sarawak Tourism Board, Indonesia Tourism, Bird Watching Accessories, Malaysia Bird Tour Companies and many other related company, hotel, resort or tour operator. 

Those who are all set for Global Big Day 2017, all the best and have a great bird count. Remember to add your collected data to the eBird website and if you have any comments or questions, do share them below. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Talad Neon Night Market Bangkok

Talad Neon Night Market Bangkok

The new Talad Neon Night Market in Bangkok recently opened in December 2016 and is currently the talk of town. However, this new Bangkok attraction adds on to the number of shopping and entertainment places in the city and is not a permanent attraction. The Talad Neon Night Market currently opens from Thursday till Sundays and from 4.00 PM till midnight only. 

The good thing is that the night market in Bangkok is located in the main Pratunam district and caters to the hipster and younger generation travelers. No, this is not your Chatuchak Market or Asiatique Riverfront Market where you can find a wide range of items for sale. 

Talad Neon Night Market offers more lifestyle stalls, booths and containers that sell drinks, snacks, food, trinkets, home ware and trendy fashion. You can find a lot of trending items here and for food, you will encounter the best of Bangkok in terms of street food, fusion and good old Thai food. Think of Art Box Singapore, it is generally the same kind of concept. 
Neon Night Market in Bangkok
Scene at Talad Neon Night Market. (Photo by Richard Barrow/Twitter)
Talad Neon Night Market Bangkok

In total, there are plans to have over 1000 stalls here when it is fully operational and due to social media and wide media coverage, Talad Neon is gaining popularity fast, especially to the Southeast Asian youth. One of the reasons is the location, where many travelers prefer to stay around the Pratunam area of Bangkok and getting to the night market is just 10 minutes walk from Platinum Fashion Mall in Pratunam. 

Apparently, Talad Neon is also part of the Platinum Fashion Mall group hence there is a special tuk tuk shuttle service from the mall to the market and back from 7-9 PM. But you need to check if the service is still running. The name Talad Neon also means Downtown Night, hence the name. The place is well organized and clean, which is fantastic for tourist. 
Talad Night Market Pratunam
Live entertainment at the night market (Photo from Talad Neon Facebook)
What Can You Find At Talad Neon Night Market

At one glance, it looks like a massive flea market but catering to the hipster lifestyle fashion which includes retro fashion, fusion food and drinks, chill out areas, quick massages and some obscure decorative items. Beer is easily available apart from some festival style foods. The night market is also open from 4.00 PM till around midnight, offering another avenue to continue shopping with a little leisure time. 

Live music performances are also lined up at selected areas where visitors can just lay back with a cold beer, fusioned juice or the good old iced Thai tea. Bright neon lights literally cover the area making this a festival and lifestyle area. No, this is not the Asian Coachella. 
Some of the local drinks and desserts (Photo by Talad Neon Facebook)
Photos of Talad Neon Downtown Night Market
There are many photos of this place which are circulating on social media. Go here to see more photos of Talad Neon Night Market

Talad Neon Market
Opening Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 17:00 - 24:00
Location: Petchaburi Road, Pratunam
BTS: Ratchthewi or Chit Lom (10 minute walk from the station)
Tel: +66 (0) 2 121 8000
Website: https://www.facebook.com/taladneon/
Use: Waze or Google Maps to get here by foot
Map to Talad Neon Night Market
Map to Talad Neon Night Market
Bangkok has been one of the favourite destinations for many travelers and over the years, there have been many new attractions coming up here. If you are headed up north, do pay a visit to the Chiang Mai Night Market as that is also one of the must-visit and recommended places. The next time you visit Bangkok, do explore this place in the evenings after your shopping or sightseeing. Who knows what you will discover at the Talad Neon Night Market in Bangkok.