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Petra Jordan Photos with Samsung Galaxy Note 5 - Part 1

Petra Photos Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Petra in Jordan is considered one the new 7 Wonders of the World and during my inaugural trip here in September 2015, I took the opportunity to capture some stunning Petra photos with my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. This astonishing city once thrived with civilization dating back from the 2nd Century BC till the 5th Century AD and was occupied by the Nabataeans, Romans and Byzantines which resulted in the unique mixed ancient architecture of Assyrian, Egyptian, Hellenistic and Romans.

Again, Jordan being in the middle east, it is one of the safest places I have been to to date. The people are amazingly accommodating while the attractions here are pretty awesome. The food, you have to try it for yourself as my all time favorite is hands down some of the Jordanian Briyani rice dishes. 

During my one week trip to Jordan, I visited quite a number of tourist attractions that Jordan has to offer, namely Petra, Basra, Amman, Aqaba and the Dead Sea. You should also know that visiting Jordan is best done on a minimum of 5-7 days as there is a lot of overland traveling to these tourist locations. Some of them taking around 2-3 hours and is worth every minute. 

In this article, I will be highlighting my Petra Jordan Photos which I took with a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 as it was recently launched in Malaysia and worldwide in early September. Having read about how impressive the Note 5 camera was, I decided to put it to the test and below are the results. All the photos were taken with the standard mode too. I will caption the images to give you an idea of the places explored in Petra. Click on the photos to see the full size too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Photo Jordan
Just after you enter the main entrance, you will pass a few cave homes of the Bedouin people
Petra Photo 2015 Galaxy Note 5
Various huge rock carved structures catch your eye as you head to the Gorge
Pictures of Petra
Upon entering the Petra Gorge, you will follow it to the Treasury 
Petra Gauge Picture
Walking through the Gorge, a fascinating experience for just about anyone
Petra Images
A Horse & Carriage takes visitors through the Gorge, this cost about JD$20-30 one way
Petra Gauge Pictures
The natural rock formations in the Gorge
Rock Formations at Petra
Beautiful colors and rock formations of the Petra Gorge
Petra Treasury Building
The famous narrow gorge before the Treasury here in Petra
Famous Narrow Gauge in Petra
Another photo of the narrow gap before the Petra Treasury
The Treasury building in Petra
The Treasury, seen when you exit the narrow Gorge
The Treasury Petra Jordan
The Treasury was carved out of the rocks and is massive
Guards at Petra Jordan
Guards dress according to the old times at the Treasury
Petra Kings Tombs
After the Treasure, the walk continues to the Kings Tombs
Taxi in Petra Camel
Camels are used to taxi visitors for a small fee, usually JD$5
Architecture in Petra Jordan
Beautiful carved structures on the Gorge walls
Petra Camels
A couple of camels pose in front of the Kings Tombs here in Petra
If you have enjoyed these photos of Petra, do look forward to more photo articles on Jordan as I plan to publish them in the coming weeks, highlighting the many other places I visited in Jordan. A huge thanks goes out to the Jordan Tourism Board for making this trip possible and also for accommodating me and the Southeast Asian team throughout the trip. Our team agreed that this was in fact one of the most interesting, fun and exciting FAM trips ever done to date and hoping that other tourism boards from other countries will follow suit on how media or FAM trips should be.

On a side note, for those viewing this using the latest smartphones or monitors, you will see the photos in high resolution colors while those using older smartphones or monitors will see them as standard. Also, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter under the name @MalaysiaAsia. 

On a personal note, I think this inaugural trip is not enough to see Jordan entirely and look forward to returning back someday as there is much more to explore here. If you have any comments about the photos or general questions, please feel free to do so in the comment form below and look out for my Petra Jordan Photos with Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Part 2 story. 


Miri Country Music Festival 2016

Miri Country Music Festival 2016

Country music fans take note as the Miri Country Music Festival 2016 is back for the 3rd year and will be held on February 27 here in Miri, Sarawak Borneo. The MCMF 2015 is also being staged at the ParkCity Everly Hotel and Resort in Miri and is organized by Planet Conventions and Events Sdn. Bhd., a local Sarawakian company who has also organized many other events and festivals here.  
The Miri Country Music Festival will be showcasing authentic country music bands from Nashville USA, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and Miri and these bands will serenade festival goers with their rendition of rock, pop, contemporary, bluegrass and folk country tunes, something which is not easy to find nowadays.

Miri Country Music Festival 2016 Sarawak
The scene at last years MCMF
The tentative line up of artiste and performers for #MCMF2016 are;

2Country4Nashville from USA
Ruby Boots from Australia
• Os Pombos from KL, Malaysia
• Mountain Wind from Miri, Sarawak
Jonathan Tse from Sabah Borneo
Leonard and the Country Riders from Singapore
• Tantowi Yahya from Indonesia

Os Pombos 2016
Malaysia's Os Pombos set to return to the Miri Country Music Festival 2015
This one-day event will also showcase music workshops, line dance sessions, a craft and food bazaar and the highlight which is the country music concert. The day’s program will begin from 2.00 pm onward with the opening of the bazaar and followed with the music workshops. The country line dance session will be held from 4.00 pm while the concert will start from 5.30 pm till late.

At the country music workshop, festival goers can learn how to sing country tunes and play musical instruments. The workshops proved to be quite popular among the audience as that provide them the opportunity to get up-close with the band members.

Planet Conventions and Events will once again invite other event organizers to use the festival as a venue to promote their upcoming events. The idea was introduced at the last event and it was well received with Rurum Kelabit, the ethnic highland people of Sarawak as it provides the opportunity and platform to promote its unique Pesta Nukenen or Bario Food Festival 2016 here. 

Rani and Westom from Indonesia giving an exciting C&W set last year
Miri Country Music Festival Ticket Prices

• Adults: RM80 inclusive one free beer
• Kids: RM40 (3-12 yrs) inclusive one free soft drink

Where to buy Miri Country Music Festival Tickets 

• Kuching
Planet Conventions and Events office (+6 082 250400)
• Miri
ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri (+6 085 440288)
Planet Borneo Travel and Tour Services (+6 085 414300)
• Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Asif Pishori (+6 014 6922757)

• Tickets are also available online at www.miricountrymusic.com

Miri Country Festival
The Starlets from Miri performing at last year's event
For country music fans, this is one festival and even you do not want to miss as it is the only country music festival in Malaysia which promises an evening of non-stop music, dancing and fun. As for me the writer, I have personally been to the first two festivals and have never seen such a jovial event where guests came dressed in full attire and all that was missing were the horses.

You can see photos of the last Miri Country Music Festival 2015 along with last years performers list. Also, if you are into music festivals and events, you can check out this complete list of Music Festival in Sarawak, See you at the Miri Country Music Festival 2016, Yee Haw! 


Dive Sites in Sarawak

Sarawak Diving Sites

There are quite a number of dive sites in Sarawak which ranges all the way from the south in Kuching till the north in Miri. Most scuba divers may or may not have heard, but diving in Sarawak is one of the up and coming places due simply to the place being less dived over the years. Again, I am confident to say this as I recently did some exploration diving along the coast of Miri and found that the dive sites here are pretty amazing and beautiful. 

While diving in Malaysia is very popular, there are many states and locations that cater to this hobby or sport and over the years, popular places like Sabah or Perhentian Islands have been the favourites among local and international divers. Now with Sarawak emerging as one of the new players in scuba diving, you should take the time to explore some of these amazing places. 

Kuching Wreck Diving Sarawak
Divers checking out a wreck around Kuching
Dive Sites in Kuching

There are around 5 main dive sites in Kuching which is suitable for beginner divers where each of them requires some overland travel to the sites. There are also about three main dive operators in Kuching city, Aquabase Kuching, Premier Marine and Scuba Center and Kuching Scuba Center, all located in the city area. 

Among the popular dives sites are Satang Island, Damai Area, Sempadi Island, Sematan Area and some other sites which require 90 minute boat trips. All diving needs to be booked by any of the dive centers in the main town area. Just to give you an idea, from Kuching to Damai Beach area, the journey takes about 30-45 minutes drive. From there, you will take the boat out to the dive sites. 

Kuching Diving Photo
A beautiful sea slug dances in front of a scuba diver in Kuching
Kuching Dive Site Information
• Coral reefs - 5 to 15m
• Ship wrecks - 15 to 35m
• Best Time to Dive - April to September
• Visibility - 5m to 25m

I was also told that there is one dive operator that operates from a resort in the west end of Kuching in Sematan area towards Talang Island on the mainland. The place is called Palm Beach Resort which offers diving based on groups and also snorkeling trips. For the non divers, there are also special trips for Turtle Conservation on Talang Island which I participated in 2014.

Pulau Satang and Sempadi Island Dive Sites
Kuching Dive Sites Map
Above is a dive site map of Kuching showing you Satang Islands and also Pulau Sempadi. It shows about 8 dive sites and 3 snorkeling sites but it does not show you the wreck dive sites here. 

Wreck Diving in Kuching Sarawak
Divers exploring one of the wrecks in Kuching
Wreck Diving in Kuching

Wreck diving in Kuching is a wonderland as there are wrecks like a submarine, cargo ships and battleships from World War 2 due to Kuching being the main target of the Japanese invasion just after Pearl Harbour. In total, there are six main wrecks to explore here with the submarine being a special trip. Below is a breakdown of what you  can expect;

Kuching Wreck Diving Photo
A diver at one of the wrecks outside of Kuching
Katori Maru Wreck – WWII Wreck Dive
• Katori Maru is broken into separate parts and spread over a wide area with only the bow section standing as the tallest bit
• Depth – Bottom 22m
• Diver Rating  – Advanced Open Water
• Interest – Historical wreck, barracuda, yellowtail snapper, teira batfish, black coral, sun coral, nudibranch and grouper
• Hazard – Strong current and low visibility
• Getting there – From Santubong with fast boat is 50-75 mins

Hiyoshi Maru Wreck – (Japanese WW2 Wreck)
• The whole structure of this wreck is still intact. Under good visibility condition, it can be seen from the surface. There is good marine life living in this 130m length by 30m wide wreck
• Depth – 21m bottom – 16m deck
• Diver Rating – Advanced Open Water
• Interest – Historical wreck. Whole structure still intact.  Teira batfish, yellowtail snapper, fusilier, lobster, turtle, barracuda, rabbit fish and stingray
• Hazard – Strong current and low visibility
• Getting there – From Santubong with fast boat is 60-75 mins.

Sagiri Wreck – (Japanese WW2 Destroyer)
• One of the newer wrecks with most of the destroyer still intact. On the deck, the guns and ammunition can still be seen though corals have covered most of the parts. A giant grouper is occasionally spotted in the haul section
• Depth -26m
• Diver Rating – Advanced Open Water
• Interest – Historical wreck, canon, guns and ammunition
• Hazard – Strong current and low visibility
• Getting there – From Santubong with fast boat is 90 mins
Dutch Submarine Wreck Kuching
A file photo of  the Dutch Submarine HNLMS K XVI which sank
Submarine Wreck Kuching (Dutch Submarine HNLMS K XVI)
• On 24 December 1941, A Dutch Submarine, K XVI torpedoed and sank the Japanese destroyer Sagiri; the first Allied submarine to sink a Japanese warship. A day later, the Dutch submarine was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-66 off Sarawak, Borneo, with all aboard killed. The wreck of K XVI was rediscovered in October 2011 by a group of recreational divers.
• Depth - Unknown
• Diver Rating - Advanced Open Water
• Interest - Historical and Unique
China Wreck – Artificial wreck
• Maximum Depth: 25m
• Diver Rating: Advanced Open Water
• Interest: Artificial wreck, grouper and snapper
• Hazard: Strong current and low visibility
• Getting there – From Santubong with fast boat is 90 mins

Wreck Diving in Sarawak
Divers checking out one of the wrecks in Kuching
Barge Wreck – Commercial ship
• Maximum Depth: 30m
• Diver Rating: Advanced Open Water
• Interest: Grouper and snapper
• Hazard: Strong current and low visibility
• Getting there – From Santubong with fast boat is 90 mins

Marine life seen while diving in Kuching
In general, the dive operators will go on a minimum of two or four persons as you have to travel overland to Damai, Santubong or another resort where you will then go on a boat ride to your dive site. Food, drinks and refreshments are usually brought along and divers return after completing all their dives.

The trips are also weather pending therefore you should double check with the dive operator on the best time to dive in Kuching. 

Dive Sites in Miri

There are quite a number of dive sites in Miri where this area is one of the earliest places that have been designated as a diving destination in Sarawak. In total, there are 37 dive sites around Miri’s waters, with a visibility of 10 to 30 meters and most of them in the Sibuti Reef, just outside the main city. However, if you explore further down from Miri, there is also Patricia Reef which is still untouched and a few people have already dived there, with amazing results. 

Sarawak Diving SitesThere are two dive operators in Miri which are Coco Dive, the pioneer, and Hoopa Dive which started operations in mid 2015. Both have experienced dive masters, instructors and are professional with their own dive boats.

Coco Dive is located in Miri city on the main Jalan Miri-Pujut near the Dynasty Hotel and comes as a full package with rooms, a restaurant and convenient shop all in one.
Tel: +60 85-417 053

Hoopa Dive is located at the Food Court along Jalan Tanjung Lobang or Taman Selera Tanjung Lobang where the KFC and Pizza Hut is located. Another landmark is just near the Marriott Miri Hotel and Resort.
Tel: +60 13-573 8880

• Visibility in Miri - 10 to 30 meters 
• Best time to dive in Miri - March till September
• What to see while diving in Miri - Cuttlefish, rays, whale shark, nudi branches, all kinds of corals
• Nearest Dive Site from Miri - 15 minutes boat ride
• Dive Packages in Miri - RM615 to RM1,000 per person
• Divers per boat - per day: 16 divers max

There is also a Live On Board Dive Boat which is operated by Hoopa Dive Center, but they may only be offering it to visitors towards the end of 2015. It is not too big but it can take a group of 8-10 people. 

This is something very interesting as there is one beautiful dive site in Miri called Luconia Shoals which is about 2-3 hours away from the main land. It is commonly called Luconia dive site by the locals and is one of the much talked about diving sites in Miri. I have not dived here to date and plan to do so as those who have dived there have stated that it is one of the most beautiful dive sites in the region. 

Coco Dive Boat Miri
The Coco Dive Boat in Miri, Sarawak
Hoopa Dive Center Miri Sarawak
The Hoopa Dive boat in Miri
Read more about my diving in Miri from my previous article where I have visited some of these dive sites twice in the last year. In 2015, I did the Sarawak Adventure Dive which is a product from Tourism Malaysia Sarawak to promote scuba diving here.

Wreck Diving in Miri

Miri also offers wreck diving where there are a total of 5 shipwreck dive spots in the main Sibuti Reef area. Among the most beautiful of them are the artificial reefs named the Kenyalang Wreck, which was a joint development by Shell and Petronas from 7 years ago. 

Most of the wreck diving in Miri requires advance open water certification as the wrecks lie pass 25 meters deep. Both dive operators are equipped for all kinds of divers therefore you can contact them for any special arrangements. 

You should take note that the once you go out to the dive sites, you will only return after you have completed your dives. Food and refreshments are usually prepared and at times, the dives may be weather pending. Please check with the operator about this. 

Diving Photo in Sarawak
A Nudibranch seen at one of the dive sites in Kuching
All photos here are taken from Premier Marine & Scuba Center, Sarawak Tourism Board and Malaysia Asia. The are actual photos taken around Kuching and Miri to show you the real photos here and not stock photos.

As I dive quit a bit, my next objective is to dive around Kuching and also to explore Patricia Reef which is south of Miri nearer to Bintulu and of course, to dive at Luconia Shoals our of Miri. I have heard so much about these places and it would be really nice to experience it first hand, and when I do, you are assured of some updates.

Currently, both tourism boards, Sarawak Tourism Board and Tourism Malaysia Sarawak are actively promoting diving in Sarawak as statistics show that there are easily over 2 million divers from the Southeast Asia region, not including the greater Asia region. For further enquiries, you can contact either of them for more information about the dive sites in Sarawak.


MATTA Fair 2016

MATTA Fair 2016 Promotion

The MATTA Fair 2016 will take place from the 11 to 13 March and this year around, travel deals and packages are increasingly popular with locals and also foreigners. Over the years, the popular travel fair in Malaysia has made a huge impact with travelers due to the amazing bargains and deals offered throughout the three day fair held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. It is also known as the best time to look for Matta Fair promotion packages and deals. 

This year will also see the main Matta Fair 2016 happen twice a year, once in March and the other in September. Apart from the main travel fair, selected states in Malaysia will also be hosting their own smaller scale Matta Fairs which is held throughout the year too.

MATTA 2016 Travel Fair
Customers at one of the leading travel agents booth during the Matta fair
While conventional Free Independent Travelers or FITs usually wait for the travel bargains, other players have also joined in the bandwagon in the last couple of years taking advantage of the popularity of these fairs. There is also the MITM Travel Fair 2016, AirAsia Travel Fair 2016 and Malaysia Airlines Travel Fair 2016 which cater to massive savings and deals as well. In total, there are four main travel fairs in Malaysia for consumers. 

With that, consumers now have many options to travel, so if you miss one fair, there will always be another. But again, the mother of all travel fairs is still the Matta Fair where over 1000 booths are occupied by travel agents, companies, airlines, tourism boards and over a hundred thousand people visit the fair, meaning the vendors can give much better discounts and promotions due to the mass volume of consumers.

JNTO Malaysia Matta Fair
Visitors to the Japan National Tourism Board's booth at the Matta Fair
MATTA Fair 2016 Promotions
The large crowd at the Tourism Malaysia booths during the Matta Fair
The Matta Fair 2016 will also see more participation from local and foreign tourism boards going all out to promote their state or country. Tourism Malaysia always makes the biggest headline with am extremely huge area in the domestic hall with over 100 booths offering local domestic travel packages. In 2015, Tourism Malaysia launched 'Dekat Je', a travel campaign targeting Malaysians and also foreigners to travel around Malaysia. This was also in line with the fall of the Malaysian Ringgit in July where traveling to the UK or USA was not cost effective for many people. 

The last Matta Fair 2015 also saw over 100,000 visitors attending the three day event here in Kuala Lumpur and for this year, the target will still remain around the same numbers until more information is provided. As for popular destinations, Japan, Korea and Asia remain strong with the local consumers.

While many consumers would wait for the fair before deciding on their holidays, it is also highly recommended that you check and double check the packages before buying them. Due to the cheap airfares being offered by many local and international airlines, quite a number of travel packages are being sold as 'Ground Only' which means no air tickets in the package, just hotel accommodation, breakfast and probably transfers from airport to hotel.

MATTA Fair Muslim Packages 2016
Muslim Packages being sold at the Matta Fair
Matta Fair Muslim Packages

Muslim travel packages are one of the very hot products with many local travel agents offering various Muslim Travel Packages to all parts of the world. Even the big travel agents see this as a growing lucrative business where they have created special divisions just for this. When you explore the international hall, you will see this easily.

Another highlight last year was also the Umrah Package aection which was hosted at Hall 1M above the international hall. Here, specialized travel agents selling Umrah Travel Packages were put together for those wanting to perform the Haj in Mecca.

Matta Fair International Tourism Boards

The international tourism boards are also one of the main highlights as popular destinations like Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia are always offering amazing information about their respective countries. At times, special artist or movie stars are bought in to enhance the presence at the fair. At the last fair, the Korea Tourism Board brought in one of the most popular TV stars, The Running Man's Kang Gary at the Matta Fair September 2015.

MAS Travel Fair 2016
Malaysia Airlines air tickets being sold at the travel fair
In general, consumers should do a little bit of homework before heading to the fair to buy packages as travel is cheap nowadays but you need to know the pros and cons of the travel packages being offered. It is recommended that you ask all your questions before committing. And it is also highly recommended you visit the fair either early when it opens or after dinner as it can get really crowded during peak hours and on the weekend.

MATTA Fair Photos

Below are random photos taken during the last Matta Fair in September, just to give you an idea of how the travel fair looks like together with basic captions included. Click on the photos to see a larger image.

Matta Fair 2015 Malaysia
The main entrance for the Matta Fair 2015
Dekat Je 2016
Tourism Malaysia's official mascot, the Proboscis Monkey and the Dekat Je Campaign
Sabah Tourism Board Matta Fair
Sabah Tourism Board's impressive booth and characters
Matta Fair Sarawak
Sarawak Tourism Board was equally impressive with their gimmick
Matta Fair Legoland Packages
Legoland had brought their latest show to the fair
Matta Fair Packages 2016
A general view of the International Hall during the fair
Malaysia Island Packages 2016
Malaysian Island Packages being sold at a deal
Packages for Matta Fair 2016
This was on the 1st day, so the crowd was still mild
Matta Fair Macau Tourism
Macau Tourism, a regular at the fair
Korea Tourism Matta Fair Malaysia
The most creative booth goes to Korea Tourism with their double deck booth
Matta Fair JNTO
Japan National Tourism Board's booth at the fair, very popular area
Matta Fair 2016 Mascot
Various mascots are seen all over the fair
Sabah Tourism Booth Matta Fair
Sabah Tourism Booth, a popular place for locals and foreigners
Matta Fair Taiwan Tourism Malaysia
Taiwan Tourism, always a hit at the Matta Fair
SA Tours Malaysia Matta Fair
One of the leading local Malaysian tour companies goes Pink for the fair
Mount Kinabalu Standing Strong Sabah
A couple of tour agents wearing the 'Standing Strong' t-shirts from Sabah during the opening
Matta Fair Turkey Tourism
Turkish girls in traditional costume at the Turkey Tourism booth
Matta Fair Theme Parks Packages
Malaysian Theme Parks were all out to capture the year end crowd
Trek Finder Sabah
Various Sabah climbing packages to the mountains
Staff Sarawak Tourism Board
Staff from the Sarawak Tourism Board awaiting visitors
Matta Fair Sri Lanka Tourism
Sri Lanka Tourism had an official launch during the 1st day of the Matta Fair 2015
Theme Park Packages Matta Fair
Interesting theme park characters brought to the travel fair to impress the crowds
Matta Fair 2016
Date: 11.13 March
Venue: PWTC, KL
Time: 10am to 9pm

Another piece of great news is that the Sunway Putra Mall which opened in May 2015 after undergoing a major renovation which took almost one full year. This is one of the places where consumers and event vendors go for their food hunt or coffee fix as they have some great outlets there and also a fantastic food street on the top floor. So, you now have the luxury of doing two-in-one while you attend the fair. 

For anyone wanting some great deals on travel packages locally and abroad, you can save up and head to PWTC in Kuala Lumpur for the March MATTA Fair 2016 and remember to double check before buying anything. 

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