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25 November, 2014

15 Malaysia Beaches in 101 Best Beaches Asia

101 Best Beaches Asia

In a recent article featured on the 21st November 2014 on a local Malaysian local daily, the writer Khairul Ashraf Kammed takes a look at 10 beaches featured in 101 Best Beaches.Com Asia. The company that is managing 101 Best Beaches is actually an Australian company and website that features beaches around Australia and also works together with Tourism Australia. 

Tourism Malaysia had also invited this company along with Mr.Brad Farmer and his team to visit Malaysia in order to have 15 selected beaches from around Malaysia to be featured in the new book (part of 101 Best Beaches Asia) for tourism purposes. 

The local daily highlighted in the story this; 
Tourism Malaysia has helped select 15 beaches from 10 States to feature in 101 Best Beaches.Com Asia, a new book by renowned Australian conservationist Brad Farmer and photographer-research assistant, Jaka Adamic. The book is expected to be Asia’s version of the 101 Best Australian Beaches, which is the first authoritative guide on beaches in the world. It is also supported by Tourism Australia.
The team then visited the list of locations to research, photograph and feature the said beaches where 10 of them are listed below which will be featured in the new book and website. 

My concern and question is - how did they come up with the list of beaches and also why were these beaches selected? Especially based on what as I would really love to know the rationalization behind this from a view point of a travel writer. Having said that, I have personally been to most beaches around Malaysia, even featuring them many times on Malaysia Asia, even before this, I had an article on the Best Beaches in Malaysia, all based on years of travel and actual experiences at each of the individual beaches featured. 

Well, they could have easily engaged me to do the job, since I am already Malaysian and working with the travel and tourism industry for the last decade, and also the fact that I am always traveling around Malaysia on my work assignments. I also have a number of national tourism awards which haven been given (not vote-bought or paid for) to me for my years of work. 

Anyway, I have taken the time to add the 10 beaches below and I have also given my comments on each of the conclusions by the research and writing team that did this. The key word is 'research and writing team' so take note on that. Finally, please take this as constructive criticism which can hopefully better or open the eyes of the locals who always think foreigners are better than locals. 

Best Beach Malaysia 2015
Rawa Island Beach, near Tioman Island
1 - Desaru beach in Johor
Located about 100km from Johor Baru, Desaru is very popular for its clean beaches, excellent golf courses and unique attractions.
The beauty of its natural forest with views of the South China Sea also make it an exciting destination for tourists from near and far.
The beaches are clean, lined with casuarina trees and stretch 25km. Visitors can enjoy fun-filled activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking among others.
There are numerous hotels, resorts and chalets in the area, making accommodation easy and convenient
My response: I could have easily got all that information from the Tourism Johor broucher or website. To me, I need to know when is the best time to go. Monsoon season is almost half a year and it is not safe there. Rain will hinder all kinds of plans. There are future projects for Desaru but those only take place in 2016 onwards. The numerous resorts there are not up to international standards and more local driven. 

Only a few resorts are up to date in terms of quality and service. I feel that the team spent a couple of nights at one nice resort and pass judgment based on that. I can tell you that many of the chalets, hotels and homestays are not ready for international tourism. As for unique attractions, I failed to see any that are up to date.

2 - Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu
Situated 21km off the coast of Terengganu, it consists of the islands of Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil.
Pulau Perhentian, which means “stopover island”, boasts unspoilt jungles, windswept palms, powdery white beaches and sapphire blue waters. It is a sanctuary for fishermen, migratory birds and holiday-makers.
My response: I'm pretty much speechless. Open any website on Perhentian and you will see the same information as above. Basically a cut-and-paste job and if this kind of text is featured in the new book, then I know where all that good money from the tourism budget went too. 

Perhentian is one of the pioneer islands for backpackers since the 70s and has since grown towards a semi-resort styled island trying to become an Eco-friendly island getaway. Both islands here offer a different kind of island experience for the island or beach lover. 

If that was the conclusion of the writer and researchers work, then I am absolutely dumbfounded. I have been going to Perhentian besar and kecil for the last 20 years and could have worded it much better. 

Damai Beach in Sarawak
Santubong Beach in Sarawak
3 - Pantai Santubong, Sarawak
Santubong Sarawak, located about 32km north of Kuching, is synonymous with fine resorts and superb natural attractions. These range from wildlife tours to cultural performances.
Santubong Peninsula is also home to Sarawak’s finest beach stays and the famous Cultural Village. Among the beaches of interest in Santubong Peninsula are Permai Beach, Santubong Beach Damai Beach and Pantai Panjang or Long Beach.
My response: Again, do a Google search on Santubong and you will most likely find similar text, maybe re-written a little. Come on, this is Sarawak's premier beach destination. Letting readers know there are three beaches? I could have done that in 2 seconds. I think they lacked knowledge and time here. 

Where is the effort in describing what these beaches offer? What kind of sand, what kind of activities? Logistics and so on too. Did the team actually stay at Damai beach over the weekend to see what goes on? Or did they just come in for a day, take some photos and then move on to the next destination. As for me, I have been to Damai over 6 times in the last 2 years too. 

4 - Teluk Kemang in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan
Pantai Teluk Kemang is one of the popular weekend retreats for city dwellers in Port Dickson. Port Dickson is said to have been named after a British officer, Sir John Frederick Dickson, in 1889. Others say the place was named after another British officer who supervised the British ports handling ore in Lukut, a district of Port Dickson at the time. Pantai Teluk Kemang has ample amenities and good infrastructure as well as various types of accommodation for visitors.
My response: Are you really including this beach for foreigners or locals? Does the team even know the background of the 7th or 8th Mile here? Notice how the team did not even mention about the beach or waters in PD. Port Dickson is a very local holiday get-away, but in recent years, the infrastructure has indeed developed, but sadly not for the international market. The lack of a proper tourism infrastructure wounded this place. Definitely not recommended to be included in a book. 

The local business owners saw a demand in local tourism and capitalized on this, losing out on the world-wide market. Even most city locals would rather visit a mall than go to PD nowadays leaving only the non-city dwellers heading here. Again, the history or what was written is easily available on Google and brouchers. 

5 - Cenang in Pulau Langkawi, Kedah
Being the centre of Langkawi’s tourism infrastructure, Pantai Cenang’s wide and long beach is the most popular beach on the island.
It is a lively place at night with various bars and restaurants. Despite being the most popular beach on the island with its dense infrastructure, some spots along the beach are still tranquil. All kinds of facilities and services are available along Jalan Pantai Cenang, which runs parallel to the beach.
Accommodation can be found on both sides of the road. On the beach side, you can find resorts and bungalows with beach views while on the other side on the road, you can find more budget-friendly accommodation at lower prices.
My response: I just got back from Langkawi and also a visit to Cenang Beach and everyone knows that is hands-down the most popular beach in Langkawi and the general information is again, easily available anywhere. So what makes this review so special if I can just Google some travel blog to find the same information?

Did the team actually spend their time walking the entire Cenang beach to pass judgement? I did that last week when I was there. I saw what was new and what the locals are saying. So, quite a weak review of this place which is quite well known to the world. 

6 - Juara beach in Pulau Tioman, Pahang
Located approximately 56km off the coast of Pahang, Pulau Tioman is hailed as one of the world’s best beach getaways and Pantai Juara is definitely one of them.
Picturesque with towering twin volcanic peaks, soft golden sands, cool mountain streams and refreshing waterfalls amidst a lush tropical rainforest, the waters are filled with a diverse range of aquatic species, colourful corals and mesmerising dive sites.
My response: Juara is one of the less visited parts of Tioman Island on the east side. This place is also highly affected by the monsoon periods and is not as commercialized as the western part of the island. Most visitors to Tioman would stay at the villages of Salang, Genting or Tekek which is more lively compared to Juara.

Again, the team should have mentioned all of this and also if you were seeking a less quiet beach holiday, I would have recommended Kampung Nipah or Mukut in Tioman. They also failed to mention the type of accommodations available here. 

Pulau Redang Beach
Beach at Redang Island, Terengganu 
7 - Pulau Redang, Terengganu
Located 45km off the coast of Kuala Terengganu, Pulau Redang is the largest of a group of nine protected islands dotting the South China Sea.
The island offers crystal clear waters and numerous dive sites for enthusiasts. Sheltered within the Pulau Redang Marine Park, the waters here are rich in marine life. The waters around Pulau Redang also contain two historic shipwrecks: The H.M.S. Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse, which sank here at the start of World War II, setting the stage for the Japanese occupation of Malaya.
This paradise island is perfect for snorkelling, swimming, scuba- diving, jungle trekking, boating and canoeing. No fishing is allowed within a 3.2km radius of the island as Pulau Redang is gazetted as a marine park.
My Response: I did a Google search for this and in the 2nd result, I saw this:
Redang waters also contains two historic shipwrecks. The H.M.S Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse were sunk here during the WWII, setting the stage for the Japanese occupation of Malaya. 
Which was taken from RedangIsland.com, a tour company sub-site that promotes Pulau Redang. Now, I took an entire paragraph and did a Google search, and to my surprise, Tourism Malaysia had the exact same breakdown of word-for-word text. Check this article on Pulau Redang from Tourism Malaysia. See the similarities? Now, I suspected as much about all the other ratings. 

Again, I could have done a list of 25 Best Beaches in Malaysia for Tourism Malaysia if this was how an international well-known team is invited to do a review of beaches. 

8 - Batu Ferringhi, Penang
The most popular beach in Penang, Batu Ferringhi is situated along the coastal road northwest of George Town and lined with international-standard resorts.
Soak in the sun or unwind on the beach while you enjoy a host of aquatic thrills, from wind-surfing to canoeing. For a spine-tingling adventure, try parasailing and enjoy the view of the beach from the sky. As the sun sets, Batu Ferringhi comes alive with a carnival-like atmosphere; the open-air bazaar sells almost everything, from ornate curios to enticing souvenir items.
Watch local artisans demonstrate the intricate art of craft-making and batik painting. Dubbed the Ferringhi Walk, the bazaar offers shoppers an interesting shopping experience. 
My response: Another one where the text is taken from Tourism Malaysia. So, if the team was paid to do this, can someone please tell me where I went wrong in what I am doing? Should I migrate to another country and start a website there instead? 

I'm just speechless about the review, it is so general and vague, every other popular beach in Thailand will offer the same kind of text therefore, what makes Penang's Batu Feringgi so special? Carnival-like atmosphere? It's a night market that is open nightly. Anyway, I'm not going to go on here. 

9 - Pulau Pangkor, Perak
Pangkor, with its charming mix of fishing settlements and resorts, is a fascinating and convenient holiday destination. Visitors get the chance to live near fishermen and observe their lifestyle as well as enjoy the fine beaches and resort amenities.
Pangkor’s two popular beach areas of Pasir Bogak and Teluk Nipah offer activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, wind surfing and fishing.
While Pasir Bogak is quite developed, Teluk Nipah still retains its kampung or village atmosphere. Teluk Ketapang or Turtle Bay still receives turtles on their egg-laying pilgrimages. Some of the resorts on the island have excellent golf courses.
My Response: Again, text taken from websites and re-written. To be very honest, Pulau Pangkor is not recommended for snorkeling or diving, unless there is no other option. Pangkor is popular with locals while the Pangkor Laut Resort attracts foreigners only due to the luxury status. As for golf courses, "Some of the resorts on the island have excellent golf courses" there is only one which offers a 3-hole Midi Golf. 

On the Pulau Pangkor website it also states:
"So what about playing golf in Pangkor? Unfortunately there is no golf course at the island itself. That's the bad news. The good news is that just opposite of Pangkor, Swiss-Garden Golf Resort & Spa Damai Laut have an international golf course."
Sabah Best Beach Manukan Island
Manukan Island Beach off Kota Kinabalu, this should have been featured instead
10 - Tanjung Aru, Sabah
Located at the end of Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and about 6km from Kota Kinabalu, this place is close to the hearts of the locals, and just one visit to the beach will tell you why.
Taking its name from the casuarina or aru trees that fringe the fine sands, this is where one might get a ringside seat to the one of the greatest sunset views anywhere on Earth, as the crimson sun dips slowly into the horizon, leaving the skies a brilliant red.
The Tanjung Aru beach is also home to Shangri-la’s Tanjung Aru Resort, the Kinabalu Golf Club and the Kinabalu Yacht Club.
My response: Again, the text was cut-and-paste and also re-written. Most of the information here is available from multiple sites on Sabah. The second paragraph taken from the Sabah Tourism website too. If you have been to Sabah as much as I have, you would be promoting something a little more adventurous and interesting rather than Tanjung Aru which is a popular local place. 

Pulau Sapi Beach Sabah
Sapi Island Beach, off Kota Kinabalu Sabah
Generally I do not see what the so-called researcher did in this entire campaign for Best Beaches in Malaysia as all of the text was either copied or mildly re-written for the campaign. I am also sure there has been some form of monetary involvement in this as the game plan is to obtain the 101 Best Beaches Asia books for the tourism board to promote around the world. Take a look at what the local daily said;
"The book is expected to be Asia’s version of the 101 Best Australian Beaches"
Seriously, I have my doubts on this and furthermore, if there was monetary involvement, why was the information copied? I could have easily obtained all of the information and made a book for the tourism board if they wanted it like this. Then again, I question myself as to who am I in this field of work. Who knows, one day I may be selected to do something on Malaysia? So now, I can only look forward to the completed 15 Malaysia Beaches in 101 Best Beaches Asia book. 

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