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6 Jul 2015

12 Amazing Rainforest Resorts in Malaysia

Amazing Rainforest Resorts in Malaysia

While Malaysia is blessed with beautiful rainforests, here are 12 Rainforest Resorts in Malaysia for the outdoor, adventure and nature lover to explore. The resorts are categorised based on the actual locations in one of the world's oldest rainforests here and have a minimum three star ratings. 

These luxurious rainforest resorts in Malaysia are also found throughout the country from islands to gazetted forest reserves and national parks offering guests something out of the ordinary compared to the general luxury resorts we generally hear about from day to day. 

For anyone wanting something unique in the rainforest, below is a list of the best rainforest resorts in Malaysia, and in no order too. Prices are per night based on walk in rates too.

Borneo Rainforest Lodge Danum Sabah
Borneo Rainforest Lodge at Danum Valley, Sabah
Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL)

Known as BRL, this is probably one of the most exclusive and private resorts in Malaysia. Located deep in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the nearest possible civilisation is a cool 4-5 hours away. The entire place is built on stilts and wooden walkways above ground to preserve the rainforest floors. 

Chalets are spaced perfectly for privacy while everything here is back-to-basics. This means, no air conditioning as BRL uses a traditional cooling method for their chalet units. Service is rated at 5 stars with very professional and knowledgeable staff and nature guides. 

The multiple award winning Borneo Rainforest Lodge is also well known for bird watchers, frog and insect lovers and also wildlife watching as 95% of the time, visitors will always encounter something here. Suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. 

Unique Selling Point: The Amazing Danum Valley Canopy Walk
Prices start from RM3,200+ per person for a 3 day 2 night package. 
Borneo Rainforest Lodge Website: www.borneonaturetours.com

Mulu Marriott Resort Spa Sarawak
Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa, Sarawak
Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa

Previously known as the Royal Mulu Resort, this luxury property is now known as the Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa, located just five minutes from Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site here in Sarawak Borneo. 

This is also the only 5-star luxury resort in the entire Mulu region where the property offers everything from a banquet hall, Balinese spa, cooking classes, cultural demonstrations and Mulu Park activities from rainforest hikes to the awe-inspiring Mulu Caves. This resort is also built on wooden stilts and wooden walkways.

This property is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. The resort also caters to large MICE groups. 

Unique Selling Point: Minutes from Mulu National Park and Caves 
Prices start from RM460+ per night
Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa Website: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/myymu-mulu-marriott-resort-and-spa

Royal Belum Rainforest Resort
Belum Rainforest Resort in Perak
Belum Rainforest Resort

Branded as one of Malaysia's ecotourism holiday destination and set in the midst of a 130 million year old rainforest is the Belum Rainforest Resort located at Pulau Banding, the main gateway to the Belum-Temengor Rainforest here in Perak, Malaysia.

Belum Resort also offers various types of accommodations ranging from superior rooms, deluxe rooms, traditional Malay chalets and a very special and unique houseboat. A luxurious standalone Villa @ Tanjung Satu is also available at a whopping RM18,000 a night. 

This five star resort offers some of the best nature experiences here in Peninsular Malaysia while the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia is known to be spotted all year round. Birds are also abundance and if you're lucky, you may even spot the elusive Malayan Tiger, Tapir or even the Asian Elephant. This property is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. The Belum resort also caters to MICE groups. 

Unique Selling Point: The houseboat hotel, the 10 species of hornbills spotted here and the amazing flora and fauna. 
Prices start from RM700+ per night
Belum Rainforest Resort Website: www.belumresort.com

Tabin Wildlife Resort Sabah
Tabin Wildlife Resort at Lahad Datu, Sabah
Tabin Wildlife Resort  

Located in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and near Lahad Datu is this exclusive rainforest resort that focuses heavily on eco, conservation and environmental practises. The beauty about this 30 year old rainforest resort is that the location has a large number of highly endangered animals in the reserve making it one of the premier destinations to see the Borneo wildlife in its natural habitat. 

Bird watchers will also find this place incredible as to date, there have been over 260 species of birds spotted around the reserve. Activities include jungle-trekking, night safari, night walk, wildlife-spotting, bird-watching and rainforest education.

Special interest for nature enthusiast in the form of bird watching, orchid or frogs hunting, wildlife viewing or pursuing an interest in botany is also one of the highlights at the Tabin Wildlife Resort. Tabin Resort is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. 

Unique Selling Point: Amazing Wildlife, Pygmy Elephant and Birds
Prices start from RM1,750+ twin sharing for 3 days 2 nights
Tabin Wildlife Resort Website: www.tabinwildlife.com.my

Maliau Basin Conservation Area
Maliau Basin in Sabah, known also as the Lost World of Sabah
Maliau Basin Conservation Area

This was subjective but eventually we thought that this unique place needed to be in this list of rainforest resorts. The Maliau Basin Conservation Area totals at 58,840 hectares in a Class 1 Protection Forest Reserve and is also known as Sabah’s Lost World and is also one of the last few remaining relatively untouched wilderness areas in the world.

Branded as the mother of all rainforest in Malaysia, they are open to visitors apart from the main research centre. Why this made the list is the fact that they do have a luxurious villa unit with three rooms and the master bedroom that has a jacuzzi with the rainforest view. This is located at the main study centre which also houses standard air conditioned twin bedrooms apart from the beautiful dorms. 

Visitors need to obtain permission to enter Maliau Basin in advance from Yayasan Sabah or a tour company that provides the Maliau Basin tour packages. And also take note that Maliau Basin is a remote, atavistic and isolated area with limited access, communications and safety facilities. Perfect for any hardcore nature and outdoor lover. This property is also suitable for singles, couples and groups.

Unique Selling Point: Maliau Sky Walk or Canopy Walk and the incredible trekking and hiking. 
Prices start from RM4,500+ per person for a 5 day 4 night package
Maliau Basin Website: http://maliaubasin.org

Datai Langkawi Island
The Datai at Langkawi Island
The Datai Langkawi

One of Langkawi Island's unique luxurious properties is The Datai which is located in the thick rainforest at an isolated area on the island. Out of the 125 villa units, each room, suite and villa enjoys the embrace of the lush rainforest and offers incredible views from private verandas of the breathtaking Andaman Sea. 

The multiple award winning Datai has also been around for many years and is one of Malaysia's top luxurious rainforest resorts offering world-class service and facilities. To say this is a best kept secret would be wrong as many luxury travelers already know of this property. 

For a better perspective, imagine Sir David Attenborough's luxury villa - this would be the closest resemblance to how prestigious this place is. The Datai's minute attention to detail is incomparable, especially when staff go that extra mile for service. For the well heeled, take the Villa Hutan Datai unit, you won't regret it. This property is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families and also caters to luxury MICE groups. 

Unique Selling Point: Isolated, peaceful, beautiful and amazing nature walks. 
Prices start from RM4,500+ per night
Datai Langkawi Website: www.thedatai.com

Lake Kenyir Resort and Spa Terengganu
Lake Kenyir Resort and Spa, Terengganu
Lake Kenyir Resort and Spa

The only luxury resort located on Lake Kenyir (Tasik Kenyir), the largest man made lake in Malaysia is the Lake Kenyir Resort and Spa. Having been around for many years, this classic timber designed resort will please any nature lover. Tucked away from all commercial areas, the resort sits at the side of the lake with chalets and villas providing amazing lake views.

Activities include trekking, hiking, bird watching, nature walks and visit to the waterfalls. Fishing is also one of the highlights here. The Kenyir Lake Resort and Spa is also recommended as it sits perfectly next to the lake. This property is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. The resort also caters to general MICE groups. 

Unique Selling Point: One with nature, trekking, hiking and the waterfalls.
Prices start from RM450+ per night
Lake Kenyir Resort and Spa Website: www.lakekenyir.com

Permai Rainforest Resort Sarawak
Permai Rainforest Resort, Santubong Sarawak
Permai Rainforest Resort

25 minutes from Kuching town is the Permai Rainforest Resort, an eco-resort set at the foot of mystical Mount Santubong in a pristine rainforest since 1990. Carefully designed to minimise impact on the natural environment, it offers visitors a unique rainforest experience. 

Offering a range of accommodation types, they come in cabins, single and double storey units and the amazingly unique tree house villas. In general, two words describe the Permai Rainforest Resort - Undisturbed natural beauty and wonderfully rich biodiversity, which is what nature lovers seek.

As for nature activities, you will find trekking, hiking, flying fox, bird watching and the list goes on here. This place is also well known for team building too. This property is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. 

Unique Selling Point: The Tree House Rooms Units! Say no more. 
Prices start from RM350+ per night
Permai Rainforest Resort Website: http://permairainforest.com/

Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort Sarawak
Villas at the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort
Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort Sarawak

Miri is well known for the Niah National Park and the Niah Caves and this stand alone resort is located just 30-40 minutes drive from Miri Resort City in Sarawak. The Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort is located just in between town and the Niah National Park and more importantly, just by the Lambir Hills National Park too.

From our recent visit here, we find this resort perfect for groups and families due to the many facilities available here. From a water theme park, rope bridge, flying fox, trekking to even team building activities. The resort also caters to MICE for businesses or companies seeking a retreat.

Unique Selling Point: Water Theme Park
Prices start from RM300+ per night
Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort Website:

Borneo Highlands Resort Sarawak
The beautiful Borneo Highlands Resort in Sarawak
Borneo Highlands Resort Sarawak 

A highland resort 1000 metres above sea level and located in the montane rainforest with no one else around, this is the Borneo Highlands Resort in Kuching, Sarawak. Well known for golfers due to the 9-hole golf course here, there are many other activities for just about anyone.

Take a trek in the cooling weather which is from 18-25 degrees Celsius all year round and head to the Kalimantan viewpoint or simply explore the area to catch spot montane birds, insects and plants. The spa is one-of-a-kind as it is the only traditional Bidayuh Spa in the world too.

Apart from golfers, the Borneo Highlands Resort is suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. Not to forget the nature and bird lovers too.

Unique Selling Point: Rainforest in the highlands
Prices start from RM200+ per night
Borneo Highlands Resort Website: http://www.borneohighlands.com.my/

Mutiara Taman Negara Resort  Pahang
Mutiara Taman Negara Resort - Photo from RamaTours
Mutiara Taman Negara Resort

This rainforest 4-star getaway is an eco-tourism resort with 108 rooms offering a variety of accommodation types ranging from typical Malay timber chalets, bungalows to guest houses. Also available are dormitories, hostels and a 2.5 acre camping ground. Tents and sleeping bags are available for hire.

Located in the largest national park in Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara boasts of endless nature and ecotourism experiences for anyone who loves green and the outdoors. This property is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. 

Unique Selling Point: The wildlife and river cruises using longboats
Prices start from RM470+ per night
Mutiara Taman Negara Resort Website: http://www.malaysiaforestresorts.com/

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort Sarawak
The unique Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort
Batang Ai Longhouse Resort Hilton Sarawak

The only unique longhouse hotel in the world managed by the Hilton that resembles a traditional Iban Longhouse and is located next to the Batang Ai National Park in Sarawak. This incredible experience not only lets guests stay in a longhouse style rooming but also to experience the beautiful Batang Ai rainforest surrounding the property.

The traditional native Borneo designs are quite amazing while the spa and restaurant offers authentic menus and experiences. Things one can do here are nature related but one of the highlights is visiting an original traditional longhouse up the river. There is a canopy walk at the back of the resort too.

The Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is also suitable for singles, couples, honeymooners and families. The resort also caters to MICE groups seeking a peaceful and quiet environment.

Unique Selling Point: The Longhouse!
Prices start from RM600+ per night
Batang Ai Longhouse Hilton Resort Website:

Eco rainforest resorts Malaysia
Some of the beautiful rainforest retreats found in Malaysia
Above are 12 resorts which have been carefully handpicked by Malaysia Asia to share with everyone. Please note that 9 out of 12 of these resorts have been personally visited and experienced by me. *A few of the photographs here have been sourced from the hotel or resort website. If you think there are any other resorts needed to be added to this list, please let me know in the comment form below.

Malaysia is home to one of the oldest rainforest in the world and these are just some of the highlighted rainforest retreats for anyone who loves the outdoors and nature. There are many other resorts and eco-retreats who are below the 3-star ratings and are a little more budget-friendly and also commercial.

You can also view my other articles on Islands to Visit in Malaysia for the island and beach lovers who simply seeks the sun, sea and sand. And for the nature and outdoor lovers, do check out my list of Canopy Walks of Malaysia. These are just some of my outdoor and nature articles done in 2015 for anyone wanting to know more about this amazing tropical country here in Southeast Asia.

However, if travelers are coming a long way to experience Malaysia or Malaysia Borneo, this list or places is highly recommended for you to experience at least one of the 12 Amazing Rainforest Resorts in Malaysia.

2 Jul 2015

Niah Caves, Sarawak

Niah Caves, Sarawak

One of the must visit caves in Sarawak is the Niah Caves which is located at the Niah National Park. This is probably the oldest caves in Malaysia with some amazing history that dates back to the stone ages and it is also my first time visiting this amazing place.

My journey here was in conjunction with the traditional Iban Harvest Festival or Gawai for the local Iban people of Sarawak which falls in the month of June. A special trip was arranged by Tourism Malaysia Sarawak where I was to witness a traditional Gawai celebration at Rumah Patrick Libau Longhouse at Sungai Tangap here in Niah and also to explore the Niah National Park.

Of course, the Niah Caves was my highlight as I always enjoy exploring the many caves of Malaysia for my work. Overall, my passion for culture, nature and heritage always makes me proud of what my country has to offer.

Anyway, the Niah Cave trip was a day trip where from Patrick Libau's Longhouse, it is only a 20 minute walk to the entrance of the cave. This makes Patrick's Longhouse the ideal place to experience a traditional Iban Homestay and also explore the Niah Caves. From the back area of the longhouse, you will cross a bridge which leads to the start of the wooden boardwalk all the way to the entrance.

Niah Caves

Wooden boardwalk to the Niah Caves from Patrick Libau's Longhouse
Walking along the boardwalk will let you chance upon the many flora and possibly fauna of the Niah National Park. Most of the time, you will encounter strange insects or bugs along the way, some worth taking photos too. As a amature photographer, I always make it a point to capture interesting stuff and this make my trek or walk a little longer than usual.

Having said this, I took loads of photographs and to feature them all in one post, it would be really long, so I found a gallery application that will feature them in one image. See the Niah photos below with captions.

Trader's Cave at Niah

After walking for about 20 minutes, the first cave you will arrive at is the Trader's Cave or Gua Dagang Niah. This historical site shows how local traders would sit at their roofless huts inside the caves and wait for buyers to come back in those days. The items sold were high quality birdsnest which was collected from the caves here and then traded by barter or cash. 

These trader hut structures you see today have been here since created, all because of the rich 'Berlian' Ironwood used to make them. Another interesting fact is that they were built using only wooden pegs without any nails. Nearby, a couple of natural cave wells served as water for drinking and washing the birds nests. 

Walking through the Trader's Caves shows that this is an open concept cave where natural light flows in from the cave mouth which results in rich plant life growing here as you can see the greens from the pictures above.

Niah Trader's Cave view from up top
Trader's Cave at Niah - Just take a look at the person in white and blue standing there. 
It's amazing to see how big the Trader's Cave is, especially when you are making your way past it towards the Great Cave. At the end, you will climb a flight of stairs and when you look back, you see the massive Trader's Cave from a higher perspective.

What ran through my mind was imagining how busy it was back in the day when the place was bustling with activity. I can also imagine how loud and busy the place was with traders, buyers, sellers and so on.

Tom Harrisson House Niah Cave
Tom Harrisson's replica house at the Great Cave of Niah
Great Cave, Niah

From the Trader's Cave, the next stop is the Great Cave and this will take another 5 minutes walk before you come to a covered wooden boardwalk with a fence on your left. This is the first sighting of the prehistoric site where human remains dating to 40,000 years have been found and has since been fenced up by the authorities.

Why it is called the Great Cave is simply because of its sheer size which is 60m high and 250m wide, it is one of the world’s most spectacular cave entrances, leading to an even larger chamber within. The Great Cave also lies in a huge limestone block which measures about one kilometre long in general and about half a kilometre wide.

This is also the main walkway towards all the other caves found deeper inside. It is compulsory that anyone wanting to explore these majestic caves, go with one of the Sarawak Forestry Park Rangers.

Padang Area, Niah

When you walk pass the Great Cave, the path leads to a large chamber known as the Padang Area, where shafts of sunlight stream down from large holes in the cave roof to illuminate the bizarre rock formations in the Burnt Cave (Lubang Hangus). This is another excellent spot for taking photos.

After the Padang Area, you enter a totally dark passage known as Moon Cave (Gan Kira). This is where a torch light is required as I personally tried putting it off and it was pitch darkness. While you make your way through, don't forget to shine around the cave as there may be something of interest to spot, apart from the interesting cave structures.

For those extra tall person, mind your head as parts of the cave ceiling is quite low so don't get carried away and bump your head as it will require some medical care which is quite far out.

Niah Painted Cave Photo
The Painted Cave Area of Niah, all fenced up for protection
Painted Cave 

Arriving at the Painted Cave, you will notice that an entire wall area has been fenced up for protection. You can faintly see on the walls, the remains of prehistoric paintings that have faded over the years. These ancient rock paintings are dated as 1,200 years old according to studies.

You can go up to the fenced area and look through at the paintings but you need to focus your eyes on the walls to see them. However, they have put up some photographs which were taken many years ago to see the original paintings. Sadly, this has not been upkept by Sarawak Forestry and I hope that they will do something about this. 

Niah Cave Paintings, file photo taken much earlier
Among the images seen are spread-eagled human figures, probably representing warriors and hunters from the early ages, some of the animals of the surrounding forest, and traditional longboats carrying the souls of the deceased on the dangerous journey to the land of the dead. See the above and below photos.

Niah Cave Painting Photo
Actual cave paintings now (2015) in Niah Caves
Niah Cave Photos

How to go to Niah Caves

Niah National Park is located one and a half hours drive from Miri, Sarawak. The best way to get to Niah is either taking a package from any of the travel agents in Miri or by booking a stay at Patrick Libau Longhouse next to the caves. 

There is also the Borneo Rainforest Resort which is located about 30 minutes from the national park which is a 3-star resort with many facilities, including a small water theme park. This is very recommended for those wanting a little bit of luxury or privacy. 

Tom Harrisson House at Niah Cave
Tom Harrisson's House at the mouth of the Great Cave, a replica of it
The Niah National Park was first gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958, and in 1974 some 3,100 hectares of surrounding rainforest and limestone hills were included, to form the overall Niah National Park. For more information, you can also visit the Sarawak Forestry website:
http://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-niah.html or you can also view my other experiences of caves in Malaysia

Niah National Park is suitable for anyone who loves the outdoors, caves and generally nature. Nearby, there are also two other national parks called Loagan Bunut National Park and Lambir National Park too so this makes three parks in one visit but the highlight here is still the Niah Caves.

1 Jul 2015

Cloud Bridge Glass Skywalk in Chongqing

Cloud Bridge Glass Skywalk Chongqing China

Among some of the latest tourism products in China is the new Cloud Bridge or Glass Bridge in Yunyang, Chongqing which is also the world's longest cantilever bridge. This transparent glass skywalk (云端廊桥) located in the Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot was officially opened on the 1st of May 2015 and is still undergoing some minor renovations. 

The Cloud Bridge is also built on a cliff which is 718 metres above ground level and is 26.68 metres long. In total, the cliff in Yunyang is 1010 metres above sea level making this one of the highest viewing bridges in the world too. 

The beauty about this glass bridge is that visitors can walk on the glass flooring in a loop where they can view the beautiful canyon and river below. The maximum number of people that can go on this cantilever is 30 at one time where they will spend around 20-30 minutes per session.

Video of Cloud Bridge Glass Skywalk in Chongqing

While Chongqing is still new to international tourism, much attention has been paid here where signs in English are seen all over the place. Translation work needs to be improved but my hats off to Chongqing Tourism for attempting to lure tourist from all over the world.

During the trip here, I could not help but notice quite a number of foreign tourist from western countries walking around here. This goes to show that when China does something, they go all out to do it. For me, this was quite impressive as I totally did not expect to see such amazing tourism products here.

Chongqing Cloud Glass Bridge
View of the Cloud Glass Bridge from the bottom of the river (zoomed photo)
This amazing man-made structure puts Chongqing on the world map with one of the places to visit before you die due to the incredible Cloud Glass Bridge and its surrounding attractions.

In the photo above, you are looking at the structure from the Clearwater Lake below, another attraction where you will go on a boat cruise. The photo is also pretty much zoomed from below as it is over 700 metres high.

China Glass Skywalk Chongqing
Standing on the glass panel and looking down
For those with a fear of heights, it's do-or-die here. Either you make that challenge to walk on the glass skywalk or you can just view it from a distance. The thrill of looking down is something you will remember for life. Not everyday, you get a chance to stand and look 700 meters under you.

Glass Bridge in Chongqing China
Breathtaking views of the Yunyang Longgang mountains from the glass skywalk
Again, visitors can take photographs here unlike the other popular glass bridge in Arizona USA. This is also part of the new development to promote Chongqing as a tourist destination to the world. The Chongqing Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot (重庆云阳龙缸景区) includes 4 other interesting touristic spots which are;

• Qingshui Lake (清水湖)
• Shisun River (石笋河)
• Road of Love (爱之路)
• Cliff Gallery Road (绝壁栈道)

For safety concerns, the Chongqing Cloud Bridge is built with modern technology to withstand natural disasters, including typhoons up to a magnitude of 14 and earthquakes registering a maximum of 8.0 on the Richter scale. 

Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Map
Map of the Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Area
Ticket Price to the Cloud Bridge 
• Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Ticket  Price - RMB120 per person
• Cloud Bridge  Ticket Price - RMB60 per person
• Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Shuttle - RMB20 per person
• It is advisable to take the shuttle as all tourist attractions are far

How to go to Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot
• 4 hours drive from Chongqing to Yunyang
• 2 hours drive from Yunyang town to Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot

Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Information
Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Information
Best Time to visit the Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot in Chongqing

The best time to visit Chongqing is from January to March and September to November as this is where you can experience the full picturesque of the entire place complete with the vibrant colours of nature.

In the summer, it gets pretty cloudy, hazy and packed with loads of local people. In the winter, it is cold here as the place is 1000 metres above sea level. For photographers, March-April and October-November is ideal for photography here in Chongqing. 

General Tips

1. As the Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot is huge, the locations of all the attractions are quite far apart and we highly recommend that you take the transport shuttle for a very small fee of RMB20 per person. This will save you lots of time. For those with walking issues, this is your solution. But mind you that there will still be some walking involved, just not as much.

Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Shuttle Service
Yunyang Longgang Scenic Spot Shuttle Service
2. This entire place is amazing for photographers and we highly recommend you bring your tripod for photography around here. Also, bring spare memory cards and batteries as there is much photos to take here.

3. Comfortable Walking Shoes are a must here! As mentioned in the first tip, the place is huge where it interconnects to all the attractions via walking. So avoid slippers, sandals and most importantly, those wedges or high heels.

4. Go with an English speaking guide if you want to learn about the history or general information here. Otherwise, you're on your own here.

For those interested in visiting this amazing glass skywalk, AirAsia X flies to Chongqing 4 times a week. There are also other airlines flying into this part of China too. Chongqing is a developing city but then again, well known for their old heritage and culture. There are quite a number of interesting tourist spots found around here but the most recommended for first timers would be to visit the Cloud Bridge Glass Skywalk in Chongqing.

30 Jun 2015

Thailand Muslim App Launched

Thailand TAT Muslim Application

Tourism Authority of Thailand or TAT has launched a Muslim Application for iOS and Android recently. This Muslim App is both an online and offline guidebook that will help Muslim visitors find mosques, halal restaurants and hotels, shopping centres with prayer rooms, and other facilities of cultural importance to Muslim travellers to Thailand. 

A critical component of the newly-launched strategy to position as a Muslim friendly destination, the App is initially in English and Thai but will be expanded to include Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia later. It also has a very important search and navigation feature to help quickly locate specific places and estimate the time it will take to get there from a users’ current location. 

The Thai Muslim App was developed with the support of the Halal Science Centre of Chulalongkorn University, the Foundation of the Islamic Centre of Thailand, Halal Standards Institute of Thailand and the Tourism Council of Thailand. Mrs. Juthaporn Rerngronasa, Acting Governor, TAT, said, “We are especially happy to launch this App in the holy month of Ramadan. 

We hope it will be useful to the many Muslim visitors from Indonesia and Malaysia who may chose to visit Thailand during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr (Hari Raya) holidays at the end of the month.” The Muslim-friendly destination strategy is primarily aimed at the 240 million-strong Islamic populations of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, which are expected to grow strongly after the ASEAN integration process advances from 2016 onwards. Mrs Juthaporn said, “The Muslim population worldwide is about 1.6 billion, representing 23 percent of the total global population and, still, has plenty of room to grow. 

Tourism Thailand Muslim Application
The TAT Muslim Application which was recently launched
Thailand has great potential to serve this market. Today, we are seeing a whole new generation of young Thai-Muslims emerging nationwide, and it is very important for them to seek promising opportunities in the tourism sector.” She noted that Thailand is already the top destination for Middle East travellers in Asia. Amongst the non-Muslim countries, Thailand is ranked second in the world by the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2015. Mrs Juthaporn said, “We believe this is because we have the required range of products and services for Muslim travellers. 

We are already seeing many of our shopping complexes providing facilities for Muslim prayers. Halal food is also becoming commonplace. We are also seeing increasing investor interest in developing halal-tourism hotels. All this is good for us because it will create jobs for our emerging younger generation and promote national inclusiveness and integration.” 

TAT has also produced a number of guidebooks and brochures to help Muslim visitors; such as, “Halal Check-in Thailand (which contains a list of halal-certified restaurants) and Islamic Attractions in Southernmost Provinces (Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani). The TAT Muslim App can be downloaded here: http://www.tourismthailand.org/muslimfriendly

22 Jun 2015

Best or Good Place to Buka Puasa

Best or Good Place to Buka Puasa in Malaysia

Come the fasting month in Malaysia, most of my friends would ask me - Where is the best place or a good place to Buka Puasa? To be honest, every year it is the same thing when it comes to the fasting month of Ramadan in Malaysia. Hotels compete against each other in offering the best selections for buka puasa while price will always be one of the main concerns and a number of people will put on some weight. So, is there a best or good place to buka puasa? No, there is none. Each place has it's own speciality therefore read on.

Lately, in April 2015, Malaysia imposed the 6% Goods Sales Tax or GST and this created a domino effect where food prices were increased across the country. This however was a huge topic and eventually people got used to it. But for the hotel industry, it is a dog-eat-dog world here and many are trying their best to outdo one another and offer affordable buka puasa buffets for the locals.

Malaysia buka Puasa Photo
Vascos offers some mouth watering dishes during the fasting month in Malaysia
Who goes for Buka Puasa Buffets? 

Nowadays in Malaysia, going to a hotel for a buka puasa buffet has become a very normal event during the entire fasting month. Socialites, politicians and VIP's are known to host these sessions while the general consumer would be visiting with family and friends, and many times too during Ramadan. 

If you ask me, my personal opinion about buka puasa or breaking fast started as a corporate trend in the country where companies and corporations would take advantage of this time and host a buka puasa session at selected hotels around the cities. They would then invite suppliers and clients to attend this chance to do some additional networking and business.

Things have changed over the years where it has become normal for just about anyone to participate in breaking of fast here in Malaysia. For the tourist visiting Malaysia in June and July, be sure to go for the Buka Puasa Experience at any of the hotels or even at the Ramadan Bazaars. This would be a very interesting experience for you.

Malaysia Buka Puasa Food
Local Malay food variety found at most hotels - Image DiscoverJB
While most hotels would look forward to these corporate clients, there is a huge growing pool of general consumers that would personally go on their own for the buka puasa buffets. Again, I know some friends or acquaintances that attend hotel buka puasa buffets, simply because they like it and can afford it. 

Prices? Well, in most popular hotels around the cities, the price range per person is anywhere from RM80++ to 120++ and some even above RM150. Yes, quite a steep price if you ask me, but society seems to have no qualms about it. I remember back in the day, prices were around RM35-RM50 and many thought it was expensive. Much has changed in the last decade.

Good place for Ramadan Buffet
Some of the selections from Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur
Buka Puasa Choices

So, what is it that you will get at the hotel buka puasa buffets? Well, if you have attended some of these, you would most likely know that the hotels sometimes go all out to impress the guests. I have to be utterly honest here as I have attended some invitations to see what food choices are being offered and in most cases, they are just on a normal level for me. 

Some hotels shout highly about their traditional Malay kampung menu offering mouth watering local delicacies prepared by their chefs, but as I have tasted them, they are just averagely edible. Not kidding, especially if you know your Malay dishes. Why I'm saying this is that many people have not tried the authentic Malay kampung food from the real places hence do not know how to pass judgement, especially when doing reviews.

Buka Puasa Malaysia
You can find all sorts of traditional Malay dishes at Ramadan Bazaars
Buka Puasa Foodies

To be a good foodie in Malaysia, you need to have a vast knowledge, taste and experience for the local Malay Kampung foods found all over the country. Not going to some cafe or restaurant claiming that they are the original thing and passing judgement based entirely on that. Again, a subjective matter. 

Let me give you an example - Let's use Beef, Lamb or Chicken Satay, served in the hotels, it's always average though they claim the chefs have learned and mastered it, but when you compare it to the real satay served on the streets, it is miles apart.

This is a catch 22 situation and my point is that most hotels can never get their satay right. In many cases, they bulk cook the satay and leave it for guest to take, and most of the time, the satay is hard, cold or under average.  

Malaysia traditional buka puasa food dishes
Terengganu traditional buka puasa food dishes
Anyhow, in my honest opinion when I write this, the best or good place to buka puasa is always where you like to have it. Home, your favourite hotel or restaurant, it's very subjective.

When you read reviews of buka puasa, you will always see writers or bloggers selling the event extra highly even though they are just bloggers or writers and not professional food critics. However, for writing purposes, I have some examples of places to buka puasa below and just based on years of experience.

PJ Hilton Ramadan Buka Puasa
The PJ Hilton is a popular place to buka puasa
Best or Good Places for Buka Puasa 

Holiday Villa Subang is one of the top recommendations during Ramadhan where their variety is claimed to be one of the best in Klang Valley. I have tried it and I would agree on their selections. 

Shangri-la Hotel KL is one of the old timers in the buka puasa scene and most patrons would know that the feast comes at a price and also quality. 

Concorde Hotel KL is one of the places where their food quality has been on par with many other places. 

Petaling Jaya Hilton or PJ Hilton is one of the oldest players in the buka puasa buffet scene as for many years, they have held high respect from locals on their choices of food. Place tends to get fully booked and it is recommended to book well ahead here. 

For the above, they are just based on my experiences at these places over the years and if you think there are other hotels that make this list, please feel free to let me know by commenting in the form below.

Malaysian Ramadhan Bazaar
A typical scene at a Ramadan Bazaar in Malaysia
Buka Puasa in Reality

Ramadan in Malaysia
Blue Rice? 
While the urban community favours hotels to break fast, the more common layman does their buka puasa at home or at general restaurants, cafes, warungs and coffee shops. Ramadan Bazaars in KL are also a very popular place where locals flock here to get their fix of local Malay food dishes to take home for breaking of fast.

At times, you can find some of the best Malay foods at these food bazaars which are located at strategic places around the Klang Valley and also across every state in Malaysia.

Some of these Ramadhan Bazaars have well known and famous Malay dishes where long lines are seen at these stalls. Sometimes, people wait for 30 minutes just to buy that one dish here. My recommendation would be to pay a visit to these food bazaars and try the local experience as it is a fun and unique experience, especially if you are a traveler or visitor to Malaysia.

On a side note, doesn't mean that you have been to one, you know it all. Different bazaars have different experiences and different styles of food overall. It's like eating one type of pizza and passing judgement on all types. 

This is one of the festivals and events that make Malaysia Truly Asia where you can find all walks of life congregating in one area just for the sake of food. Again, Malaysia is a multi-racial country offering all kinds of foods from the many different races here. Ramadan is just one of them.

Common Ramadan Bazaar in Malaysia - Image by JohorKaki

You may also have contradicting views about my article, but let me just point out that this is a general overview based purely on my own experiences. I may not be a professional foodie or food critic, but I have had my fair share of sampling local and traditional food from all over Malaysia as my job takes me to these places.

The next upcoming one should be about the rare and unique Bario Food Festival or Pesta Nukenen Bario, held in the highlands of Bario in Sarawak. Here, the ethnic Kelabit people celebrate their harvest festival with a unique showcase of their age old traditional foods which are all harvested and sourced from the highlands. 

Overall, you may think that certain places hold strong values to their food and I won't agree or disagree as food is and has always been a very subjective matter to all humans. End of the day, we all like to read and hear about the best or good places to Buka Puasa in Malaysia. 

16 Jun 2015

BeautifulMalaysia Photo Contest

BeautifulMalaysia Photo Contest

A travel photo contest has been launched by Tourism Malaysia called the BeautifulMalaysia Photo Contest and will run for 14 weeks beginning from 15th June till 20th September 2015. The travel contest will also see the hashtag #BeautifulMalaysia being used throughout the duration creating social buzz on the many social media platforms out there which in return will promote the many beautiful Malaysian destinations. 

This contest was created simply because at any time of the day, there is always something happening around Malaysia, especially with so many festivals and events, this contest will highlight and discover the beauty of Malaysia through the eyes of those who have experienced, but also for them to share their own version of a beautiful Malaysia via this travel photo contest.

Beautiful Malaysia
Capturing your best beautiful Malaysia photos
#BeautifulMalaysia Photo Contest Information 

• Duration: 12 weeks from 15th June 2015 to 20th September 2015 

• Participation: Open to entrants worldwide, aged 13 years and above

Beautiful Malaysia Contest
Capturing the essence of Malaysia 
Contest Mechanics

• Participants will need to submit a photo that best encapsulates the beauty of Malaysia in any of the following categories: places, festivals, food or shopping.

• To submit a photo, participants can opt to post the photo on Instagram by including the hashtag #BeautifulMalaysia, or upload directly on the campaign website. 

• Photos will then be compiled, moderated and displayed in the contest gallery.

For more information, please visit the official beautifulMalaysia website

#BeautifulMalaysia Contest Prizes

For the Beautiful Malaysia Photo Contest, there will be one grand prize and three consolations prizes up for grabs each week. The photos will be judged based on creativity and relevance to the campaign, and the best photo of the week will be picked by Tourism Malaysia. Grand prizes include;

• GoPro Hero 4
• iPad Air 2
• Canon EOS 100D Cameras
• OPPO Find 5 Smart Phones

#Beautiful Malaysia Contest
The beautiful Siamil Beach in Sabah, Malaysia
Special Campaign Postcards

To further promote the #BeautifulMalaysia campaign, Tourism Malaysia will also be releasing specially designed #BeautifulMalaysia postcards that will be placed at selected airports around Malaysia. The winners of the contest will also have their winning photos displayed on the postcards at the end of the BeautifulMalaysia Photo Contest campaign.
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