Endless Celebrations for Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015.

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Best Islands to Visit in Malaysia for 2015.

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A list of Top 10 Places to visit in Malaysia for 2015.

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2/07/2016

Malaysia Forest City


Among some of the amazing mega projects here, Malaysia Forest City is planned in Iskandar Johor and this modern development will be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia with a build up area of 1,386 hectares. The project will also be a lush urban gateway created on four man-made islands with an initial investment of RM175 Billion over the next 20 years. 

Forest City is designed by Sasaki Associates and will be the first and largest mixed-use green development in terms of the number of units to be built with a vertical greenery and smart city design theme. A total of eight industries including education, healthcare and tourism will be the main economic pillars of growth at Forest City Malaysia. This massive project will also see the place as a car-free zone with luxury green living that co-exist with smart technologies and amenities. 

Forest City Malaysia Phase One

Built on four man-made islands which are interconnected 
The first phase of Forest City will include modern condominiums and high-rise coastal residences which would open for global sale. The two to four-bedroom condominiums and high-rise coastal residences are exceptionally designed and are situated within leafy foliage corridors and car-free avenues with gated security. This will be followed by luxury villas which are soon to be announced. 

Country Garden Holdings is also in discussions with the Malaysian Government to set up dedicated entry points to the project with a light rail transit system and a ferry network that would link it to Singapore. There are also plans for a high-speed rail service between Singapore and Malaysia.

Next Phase

Further plans for Forest City will include landscaping large ground-level parks and waterfront systems, in addition to an interesting-sounding rooftop network of interconnected parks and gardens, in addition to mangrove swamps and a green corridor. check out some of the Forest City Artist Impressions below;

Forest City Malaysia Artist Impression
Night View of Forest City
Various artist impressions of Forest City in Iskandar Malaysia
Forest City Islands Size

There are four main islands which will be man-made and each of the islands will be interconnected by roads. Currently, reclamation works are ongoing at the site for the islands. They come in different sizes too which are;

Island One - 979 Acres
Island Two - 1896 Acres
Island Three - 405 Acres
Island four - 145 Acres

About Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV)

Country Garden Pacificview Sdn. Bhd. (CGPV) is a joint venture company between Country Garden Holdings Ltd and Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd, an associate company of Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ). 

CGPV is the master developer and creator for Forest City project, a mixed development comprising residential and commercial properties on four reclaimed island. 

The project completion spans over a period of 30 years. In 2015, CGPV has been doing a number of CSR work in Johor according to the Country Garden Pacificview Blog

You can also contact CGPV via email:
countrygardenmalaysia@gmail.com
askus@countrygarden.com.my

Google Map of the project taken in February 2016 - Notice the reclaimed island 
Forest City Malaysia Location

The location of this massive project is at the Tuas Second Link and just under the bridge. A local landmark would be between Kampung Tanjung Kupang all the way to Kampung Pok. You can see from the Google Map that the reclamation project is on going and and island is already there. 

Forest City Map
Planned facilities
Bigger map of Forest City
All photos here courtesy of Sasaki Associates

Malaysia Forest City was formally unveiled in January 2016 by Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed property developer and the above is still in its infancy going through the planning and investment stage with reclamation work being done.

However, this mega project will be the talk of the world once everything goes as planned and I for one, hope to see this place with my own eyes, especially the tourism aspect of the Forest City Malaysia. 


2/06/2016

Places to Visit During Chinese New Year in Malaysia


For tourist visiting during the festive holidays, here are some places to visit during Chinese New Year in Malaysia. You may or may not know that most general places would be closed as the Lunar Chinese New Year holidays in Malaysia fall on the 8th and 9th of February which is a Monday and Tuesday. Most Malaysians will head back to their respective hometowns leaving the city empty, thus a fantastic time to explore the cities. 

As most of the common tourist locations would be opened, shopping malls, fast food restaurants and cafes will also be opened. The only places that will close during the holidays are the government sectors, Chinese run businesses like coffee shops and restaurants and some tourist spots. However, the best places to visit during Chinese New Year are always temples as they will come alive during this festive occasion. 

Kuala Lumpur - Thean Hou Temple

In Kuala Lumpur city, the best place to experience Chinese New Year would be at the Thean Hou Temple, which is decorated with 10,000 red lanterns and for the year of the monkey, the temple has also decorated the place with stone carvings imported from China relaying 24 stories of filial piety, collectively hailed as the Garden of 24 Filial Exemplars. 

Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur decorated with thousands of red lanterns
On 7 Feb, a Chinese New Year countdown is going to be held at Thean Hou Temple to welcome the arrival of Cai Shen which is the God of Prosperity or Wealth at 11.00 pm. Here, devotees can also pay homage and receive new year blessings until 3.00 am, which is also the Chinese New Year Eve. If you visit the temple on 9 Feb, lucky Ang Pow red packets will be given away to the public during at 11am. Overall, to experience CNY in Kuala Lumpur, this would be the best place to do so. 

To get here - There will be a free half-hourly shuttle bus service from Hotel Midah in Kg Attap and KL Sentral. Alternatively, you can take a taxi here which is about 10-15 minutes from KL city. From the National Palace (Intana Negara), it is a 20 minute walk and from Petaling Street, it is a 30 minute walk. 

Kuala Lumpur - Chan See Shu Yuen Temple

Chan See Shu Yuen Temple in Petaling Street
At the end of Jalan Petaling in Chinatown is the Chan Shu Yuen Temple which is also one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country built around the late 1890s. Originally built as a clan house, the main purpose was to provide help and support for newly arrived immigrants from China. 

Chan Shu Yuen Temple is now a dual purpose temple and becomes lively during the Chinese New Year or other Chinese festivals. A note for this place as you should be discreet when visiting this place and respect the locals here.

The informal name of this place is also the Green Temple, due to the overall green paintwork. There was a rumor that during world war two, there was a secret tunnel that led to this temple, but in the 90's it was cemented up. It would have been a great tourist attraction if this rumor was authentic. 

To get here - Walk towards Jalan Stadium from Chinatown. 

Kuala Lumpur - Chinatown aka Petaling Street

The entrance to Petaling Street in KL
What used to be a very attractive place to visit has now changed over the last decade. Chinatown or Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur has become a serious tourist destination with vendors selling all sorts of souvenirs and knock offs while the traditional Chinese traders have opted to move out. 

Hotels, guest houses and backpacker lodges dominate Chinatown whilst the city council decided to cover the place with a modern style roofing, losing it's originality. 

You can still try your luck by visiting Petaling Street during the Chinese New Year holidays and may even chance upon some local lion dances which can be heard from a distance. This is best seen during the day as when night falls, the night market comes to life. At the end of Jalan Petaling, there is another Chinese Temple 

Penang - Kek Lok Si Temple

If you are heading to Penang, Kek Lok Si will be the star attraction of the island as for this year, the temple has been transformed into a fairyland of lights for the Chinese New Year. This unique temple is arguably one of the best temples to visit in Southeast Asia as it is located on a hill. The journey to the temple takes you through a maze of souvenir shops at the foot before opening up to the majestic temple. The views are breath-taking from the top. 

The beautiful Kek Lok Si Temple photographed by Sam Lim from a distance
On 7 Feb 2016, which is Chinese New Year Eve, the 124-year-old monastery will be illuminated all the way up to the Kuan Yin Statue and Pavilion and this light spectacular will last till 22 Feb. Devotees and visitors can join in to add to the number of lights used by donating RM50.00 for each Chinese lantern and also receive the blessings of monks chanting to greet the new year. For photographers, this is one of the most beautiful places in Penang. 

To get here - The best way for travelers is to take a bus from the Komtar area. Buses #201, 203, 204, 206, 306 and 502 all go to Kek Lok Si, but you should double check with the bus driver before boarding. Price is around RM2.00 one way. Alternatively, take a taxi, a little faster be prepared to pay around RM25-30 one way and maximum four persons per taxi. Walking here from George Town is not recommended as it is too far. 

Penang  - Khoo Kongsi 

Located in the UNESCO town area of George Town, the Khoo Kongsi is another place to witness Chinese New Year in Penang. This fascinating temple cum clan house is one of the mot famous in Penang and located in Canon Square along Lebuh Aceh and Cannon Street. The intricate carvings and statues are not to be missed as this is Malaysia's best kept clan house. A price applies to those wanting to enter this clan house too. 

A pair of Lions at Khoo Kongsi, photo from KhooKongsi.com
To get here - George Town is best explored by walking and one can easily walk here. If you are coming out of George Town, you can take any of the main buses or a taxi into the city center. 

Melaka - Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

If you are heading to Melaka or Malacca for the Chinese New Year, you should visit the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia and also one of the oldest temples in Southeast Asia. The Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple was founded in 1645 and it is near the Jonker Walk area. This Chinese temple is also known as Kwan Yin Teng Temple. 

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the oldest in Malaysia. Photo by FullofTravel.com
In 2003, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple received a UNESCO award for its exceptional state of preservation and the uniqueness of its architecture, evidence of the passage of the oldest Chinese communities in Malacca and Malaysia. Visit the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple on the eve of Chinese New Year and also on the first and second day to see how the locals do their prayers here.  

To get here - Walking distance around Jonker Walk and located along Temple Street. 

Sabah - Puh Toh Tze Temple, Kota Kinabalu

Puh Toh Tze Temple in Kota Kinabalu
If you are visiting Kota Kinabalu city, go to the Puh Toh Tze temple, which is a Buddhist temple located off Tuaran Road and built in 1980. 

Here, you will find ten large statues of deities and also the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin, standing tall at the main entrance of the temple. A beautiful place to witness Chinese New Year, especially on the first day. 

To get here - Puh Toh Tze Temple is located 15km from KK city. Taking a taxi will cost RM15.00 one way and you need to arrange for your return with your taxi driver. 

Take Bus No.1 or No.4 from the bus station in front of Hotel Shangri-La Kota Kinabalu for RM1.50 per person and buses run from 6:30am to 8:00pm.

Sabah - Puu Jih Shih Temple, Sandakan

Headed to Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah? Then the Puu Jih Shih temple is the one place you must visit for Chinese New Year. Located on the top of a hill, the temple is about 5km away from Sandakan town and has three large statues inside with beautiful Dragon wrapped pillars. The main arch outside is a great photo spot too. 

Puu Jih Shih Temple entrance in Sandakan
Built in 1987 and recently underwent through a minor renovations, the temple will be the most popular place in Sandakan to witness locals coming here to pray. The bonus here is that you will also get some breathtaking views of the Sandakan Bay from the temple entrance that faces the sea. 

To get here -  It is recommended you take a taxi there for a price of RM6-8 one way and make sure you ask the taxi to wait for you. Walking is possible, but it's an uphill walk an may take around 30 minutes. 

Sarawak - Hong San Si Temple, Kuching

Hong San Si Temple in Kuching
Headed to Sarawak Borneo? There is a temple built in 1848 and located at the end of Carpenter Street in Kuching. The Hong San Si Temple is also famous for its traditional and ancient structure which comes with intricate and sophisticated stone carvings. The unique ornate roof is decorated with many colorful mythical animals and godly figurines making this one of the best looking temples in Borneo. 

Sarawak - Siew San Teng Temple (Tua Pek Kong Temple) Kuching

Tua Pek Kong Temple in Kuching
The most prominent temple by the Kuching Waterfront and the start of the Kuching Main Bazaar. Anyone visiting Kuching will not miss this place. 

Also known as the Tua Pek Kong Temple, this beautiful structure stands on a small hill overlooking the Kuching Waterfront and the Sarawak River. The Kuching Hilton and also the Harbourview Hotel is a landmark which is next to the temple. 

Built in 1823, the temple attracts many tourist and during Chinese New Year, a lot of devotees will be present to do their prayers and you can witness this one the first and second day of Chinese New Year in Kuching, Sarawak. 

Sarawak - Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple, Kuching

Along Carpenter Street, there is the Hiang Thian Siang Temple which the Teochew people built in 1863. The temple is so small it is sandwiched between shop-houses but easily recognised by the decorations out front. The carvings on the walls and paintings on the temple doors are quite unique while inside, it is narrow and not east to move around, especially when there are many people here. 

Hiang Thian Siang Temple photographed at dusk
To get to the three temples in Kuching - A shot walk from any hotels around Kuching city. Landmark is near the Kuching Waterfront and along Carpenter Street.  


IMPORTANT - A very important note to travelers, photographers, youtubers and videographers - Please, I repeat, please do not interfere or get in the way when people are praying or performing some rituals. I have noticed some unethical people who stick their cameras in front of people's faces or move directly around them with their video cameras to so call 'capture the moment'. You can do so if you get prior permission from the person or persons, otherwise it is very very rude! Respect the culture and the culture will respect you. 

The list above is personally created by me based on visiting all these temples and places around Malaysia. Shopping malls and major attractions will be open during the festive season while there are many more places but this list lets the traveler experience what locals do when you explore the many places to visit during Chinese New Year in Malaysia. Happy Chinese New Year 2016. 


2/05/2016

Zika Virus in Malaysia


Zika Virus in Malaysia - Should tourists be worried? Well, as the world now goes into serious precaution, the Malaysian Health Ministry has confirmed that to date (5 Feb 2016), there have been no cases reported and precautionary measures have been placed throughout the country. Malaysian health officials also held a special meeting on 2 Feb on how to handle the virus, after the World Health Organisation declared it an international public health emergency.

For tourist coming to Malaysia, you should also take additional precautions, especially when traveling anywhere in the country by wearing clothes that cover the whole body and constantly using insect repellent. 

In the country, the health ministry tested 293 blood samples from local patients who showed symptoms of dengue fever but tested negative for the Zika virus. This was done up to 3 Feb 2016. The Health Ministry also announced that it would be monitoring health clinics and hospitals for signs of infected patients or cases of microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains that experts believe is linked to Zika. 

Zika Virus Country Chart, image by Statista
The Zika virus has been around for over 60 years but it has gone global over the past few weeks in late January 2016 with the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that it has "explosive pandemic potential". Zika is a mosquito-borne disease that has symptoms similar to the dengue and chikungunya viruses. Transmission is currently active in several countries across the Americas, Pacific islands and Cape Verde.

On the recent world news, Spain has just confirmed that a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with the Zika virus, marking the first such case in Europe just this 5th February 2016. Other European countries including Ireland and Denmark have reported infections but Spain is the first case involving a pregnant woman.

Zika Virus Information - Provided by the WHO
Malaysia Zika Virus News

• For some really shocking news, the Zika Virus was found in Malaysia in 1969, according to The Star newspaper from Malaysia 2 Feb 2016.

• Channel News Asia ran a story that No Reports of Zika Virus in Malaysia dated 3 Feb 2016. 

Malaysia Health Ministry Issues Travel Advisory for 26 countries 3 Feb 2016.


• In a recent report from AsiaOne News, a positive case of Zika Virus was found in Sumetra, Indonesia dated 5 Feb 2016.

• The Borneo Post also ran a story on South America Holds a Meeting on the Zika Virus Spread dated 5 Feb 2016.

Some of the mosquito repellent products available in Malaysia
Prevention for the Zika Virus in Malaysia

The best mosquito repellents to use can be those off the shelf, but I would recommend the local made ones found in local drug stores and pharmacies around Malaysia. They also come in the form of sprays, roll on's, patches, wristbands and also mosquito vape units that can be plugged into any socket. After all, precaution is better than cure so that extra money spent on these repellents can be used throughout your travels. 

Antimos mosquito repellent
When I travel, my personal favorite mosquito repellent is Antimos, which is a gel type container that keeps the mosquito away, especially when I am traveling anywhere around southeast Asia as I always have this in my backpack. 

What I do is simply open the cover and place it nearby when I stop, or when I am moving, I keep it in the outer pocket of my backpack where it is exposed around me. I also carry two of them just in case. 

The good news is that Malaysia is currently safe from the Zika Virus and to date, there have been no cases reported or detected, therefore any visitors coming into the country should take extra precautions no matter where you visit in Malaysia. 

Travelers should also know that Southeast Asia is prone to the Aedes mosquito and it can be found at all countries therefore, travelers should be prepared when visiting these countries as the mosquito does not only live in the jungle but also in the towns and cities. Malaysia for one has been doing a lot of mosquito fogging and Aedes awareness over the year and since the latest news, the authorities have been doing triple work to prevent the Zika Virus in Malaysia. 


Borneo Jazz Festival 2016


The Borneo Jazz Festival 2016 will take place in Miri, Sarawak from 13-14 May and at the Parkcity Everly Hotel which has been the home for this inaugural jazz festival. Tickets are also on sale now while for this year's BJF2016, eight local and international artist will take stage during the two day event. 

Known previously as the Miri Jazz Festival, this is currently the longest running jazz festival in the region running its 11th year now and promising jazz fans an amazing time here in Miri, Sarawak. Apart from the festival, an outdoor bazaar will be the usual feature where visitors can find local food and handicraft apart from easy fast food like burgers. Soft drinks, beer and liquor is also available. 

The venue serves as a beautiful place where the beach is about 200 meters from the event and about 10 minutes drive into the main city of Miri. Rooms at the Parkcity Everly Hotel also provide some stunning views of the coast and not forgetting the view of the amazing Miri sunsets. 

A beautiful sunset at Brighton Beach in Miri
Borneo Jazz 2016 Band/Artist Line Up
• A.P.I - Malaysia and India
• Funkatorie - Malaysia
• Klazz Brothers - Germany
• Manou Gallo Groove Orchestra - Ivory Coast
• O Sister! - Spain
• Raw Earth - Singapore
• The Rad Trads - USA
• Yuichiro Tokuda's RALYZZDIG - Japan

Borneo Jazz 2016 Performers
The 11th Borneo Jazz Festival also expects to attract over 5000 visitors during the two day festival here and early bird tickets have been on sale since January until Feb 29, 2016. Prices are RM64 per adult for 1-day pass, RM104 for 2-day pass, RM34 for a child (7-12 years old) for 1-day pass or RM44 for 2-day pass and family package inclusive of two adults and two children – 1-day pass at only RM124.

Borneo Jazz Festival tickets are available at;
• Speedy Video stores in Miri
• TicketCharge Call Centres
• TicketCharge’s Kuala Lumpur and Penang offices
• TicketCharge authorised outlets
• Website: www.ticketcharge.com.my

Borneo Jazz Festival 2015 Information;
• Date: 13-14 May
• Venue: Parkcity Everly Hotel, Miri, Sarawak
• Time: 6.00 PM till Midnight
• Website: Borneo Jazz

Miri City
Apart from this music festival, there will also be the Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 which takes place in August. For more, you can also read about the many Music Festivals in Sarawak which take place throughout the year.

For jazz lovers in the region, this unique and niche festival showcases some of the top jazz musicians sourced locally and also internationally which is brought to you by the events team of Sarawak Tourism Board. The mission is to promote Miri as a destination for music and recreational activities as Miri is now known as a resort city which borders Brunei and Sabah. You can also read about last years Borneo Jazz Festival 2015.

Apart from the jazz festival, visitors can explore the many natural wonders around Miri, namely the UNESCO world heritage site of Mulu, the Niah Caves, multiple national parks and also do some scuba diving off the coast of Miri. Exploring the main town area is another experience where you can indulge in traditional local and ethnic food. With all that, you can expect a different kind of experience so see you at the Borneo Jazz Festival 2016!


2/04/2016

Bakelalan Sarawak


One of the most memorable trips I made was to Bakelalan in Sarawak and this was back in 2014. While some of you may already know where this place is, others may not have a clue on what or where this place is located at. Also called Ba Kelalan or Kelabit Highlands, this beautiful place is located in the highlands of Sarawak in the north east beside the border of Kalimantan Indonesia.

The two main villages in the Kelabit Highlands are Bakelalan and Bario, both at an average 1000 meters (3300 feet) above sea level which makes the overall atmosphere here very cooling. The only way to get here is via road which can take anywhere from 4-8 hours via four wheel drive (4WD) and the other faster but costlier way would be to fly in via small plane from nearby Lawas or Miri. There are no flights out of Sarawak. 

Bakelalan was once well known for their apple farming in the 80s till late 90s and now is more of a farming community. Occupied by mostly the Lun Bawang people of Sarawak, there are various number of smaller villages and communities around here totaling around nine. Most of them with an average of 30-100 people and it is the main township of Ba'Kelalan, where the airport and homestays are located.

A MasWings Twin Otter Plane makes a landing in Bakelalan
Flights that land here are pretty much subjective to the weather, meaning if it is raining heavily in Ba'Kelalan and your flight comes in, chances are the flight might turn back and head to the original airport. Flights are also twice a day on certain days of the week and the only airline that operates here is MasWings which flies in from Miri. 

As I visited Ba'Kelalan for the first time in my life, I took an overland 4WD journey from Miri to here and departed on a flight out. The overland journey took me a total of about six entire hours - and the best part, I sat in the back of the 4WD for the ultimate experience driving through old logging roads, plantations and through the pristine rainforest and montane terrains of interior Sarawak. While you may thing this a an amazing adventure overland, let me just share with you what one of the guides told me - Now you have finally experienced the Borneo Massage, whilst sitting in a 4WD on the old logging roads.

Merarap Hot Springs

Our first stop was at a very local retreat or resort called Merarap Hot Springs which is located deep in the rainforest. A local Lun Bawang man and his wife run this beautiful place which caters mostly to locals and the only way here is again, via 4WD. Spending a night here and experiencing the natural hot spring next to a raging class four river was something out of this world. Since it was just an overnight trip, I managed to try all the different temperature hot spring pools that evening, accompanied by some cold cans of beers.

Merarap Hot Springs, a popular local spot on the way to Bakelalan
The following day, we departed after a local breakfast prepared by the hot spring owner, had a chat with him and even met his pet baby monkey who seems to be the water pump security guard. Well, it looked like that. Anyway, our journey from Merarap Hot Springs to Ba'Kelalan was another exciting one stopping at various look out points and also a village river fish farm. Here, they rare the prized Empurau Fish which can go anywhere from RM500-600 per kilo (US$130-150) in Sarawak and RM1300-1500 (US$350-400) per kilo in Peninsular Malaysia. Talk about crazy fish prices! Till today, I have never tried the exotic Empurau Fish but on the other hand, I managed to see and touch the actual fish which was rared here in the river by the locals.

Bakelalan Salt Factory

Our journey continued and a final stop at the local Bakelalan salt factory was mandatory as this was one of the homegrown products here. Yes, a salt factory! I have never been to a salt factory but this surely stirred up my curiosity on how salt was made. Walking through the open fields to a hut in the distance, I saw a huge group of people waiting there - looked more like a welcoming party. Yes, I was right, 70% of the local Ba'Kelalan people were there to greet us, from babies right till elderly folk. Even the village headman was there dressed in his best outfit. it was rarely that they received groups of people visiting them and this was special, therefore they came out in full force to welcome our group.

Salt making process being demonstrated
With the welcoming protocols done, we were invited into the wooden hut to see how the famous and prized Bakelalan Salt was made from scratch. A natural salt well nearby was pumped into the hut where they boil it overnight and let it settle. They then keep stirring it on high wood fire till the water becomes crystallised salt compound. Then it is dried out and packed as natural Bakelalan salt which is sold at about RM20 per kilogram. Well, I had to buy one to support the homegrown industry and not only that, I was told by many people that the Bakelalan Salt is one of the best salts in the region.

Bakelalan Village

From the salt factory, we headed straight into the core of Bakelalan town to the headman's home where a local and traditional Lun Bawang food spread awaited us. Just before that, a nice surprise performance by the local women where they performed a traditional Lun Bawang Dance, complete with full ethnic costumes. It was kind of unique if you ask me as having traveled all over Malaysia, this was the first time I saw a performance out in the open which was well choreographed and the best part - the dancers actually sang the tune, there was no music played at all.

Lun Bawang ladies in traditional costumes
After the Lun Bawang Dance, we had our special traditional lunch which I have no idea on how to explain the dishes. They were all home cooked by different families and had strange names. Some of the dishes were equally unique as I have never tried them before. Their main staple was rice therefore there was high quality Bakelalan rice (Adan Rice).

For the main dish, Nubu 'Laya, a rice wrapped in banana leaf and also the Lun Bawang rice cake or Kelupis as it is locally called was served. Chicken and fish dishes which were fried were also included alongside some local vegetables and ferns.

Authentic Lun Bawang Food on the Nubu Layar
After our lunch, a cooking demonstration was conducted outdoors where this totally blew my mind away and I'm not kidding. The cooking menu of the day was Bakelalan Rice Coffee. Then I thought hard..... Coffee - Check, Rice Coffee - Confused. Seriously, I have never had or seen how rice coffee was made so this was really amazing.

Rice Coffee
I paid my fullest attention to what was happening, especially on the elderly lady that was preparing this. First, they take the uncooked Adan rice and pan fry it without oil, the technique was to constantly keep the rice moving over the hot wood fire.

After about five minutes, you will see the rice browning and they continue to fry it until it becomes coffee brown or slightly burnt. Then it is removed and then a small portion is put into a cup topped up with boiling hot water.

Fine, I though it was some sort of gimmick, but smelling it, it really did smell like coffee. Next was the taste test - One sip, yes, it did taste like coffee and so my friends, this was definitely a first for me as I am a total local coffee geek and the Bakelalan Rice Coffee went straight to number one in my coffee chart!

At the end, I managed to get a few packets of the rice coffee to take away. Totally mind blowing if you ask me. In other words, you - the reader, should put this in your bucket list if you love all things coffee.

Homestay in Bakelalan

Spending a night at the Apple Lodge next to the smallest airport in Malaysia was another exciting adventure. Not only was the temperature cooling at night, there was absolutely zero to do here once the night falls except catching a good nights sleep. The nice thing about this lodge is that is it run by a former pastor named Pak Tagal and this was Ba Kelalan's first homestay which was started back in 1997 with only 10 rooms.

The triple room at Apple Lodge in Bakelalan
The Apple Lodge in Bakelalan now has 21 rooms and it cost around RM80 for a three person room while the executive suite for two persons is priced at RM120 to RM130. Note that the place is so cooling, there is no air conditioning and hot water here. You can request for boiled water if you need. Price includes breakfast and the Ba Kelalan Airport is your main view which takes about two minutes to walk there. Since the start of the Apple Lodge, there are now around 22 homestays located at the nine villages around Bakelalan.

Pa Sarui View Point Bakelalan

The following day saw our group trek up one of the hills to catch a birds eye view of Bakelalan village and having trekked many places, I have to say that this trek was pretty easy where in the beginning, you will pass through paddy fields and farm lands, exposing you to the local lifestyle and culture here.

View of Bakelalan from Pa Sarui view point
Once you reach up the Pa Sarui View Point, you will be rewarded with a beautiful and stunning view of the village in the valley, provided the weather is good on that day, so it is best to start your trek in the morning. It also took about 45 minutes to trek up on a casual pace too.

What to do in Bakelalan

One of the villages seen from a distance in Bakelalan
In general, Bakelalan is perfect for those seeking the ultimate nature, outdoors and cultural experiences all in one. Technology is at its worst here so hoping for the internet is something you should leave behind. The people who live here practise a simple life with no rush and healthy living and when you come here, you should try to emulate how the lifestyle is like here.

Trekking/Hiking in Bakelalan - For activities in Bakelalan, there are a lot of trekking and hiking to do as you can trek or hike from village to village. This is best done with a local tour guide as you would not want to be lost here. Trails come in simple to advanced ones therefore you should enquire with the tour guides about the type you want to do.

Trekking from Bakelalan to Bario - There are a number of visitors who trek from Bakelalan to Bario and this takes about two to three days which is also a popular tour activity. A number of tour agents in Miri and Kuching sell these packages.

Bakelalan Salt Factory Visit - One of two salt factories in the Kelabit Highlands, the Bakelalan Salt Factory is a must visit to see how the salt is produced with simple methods. The other salt factory is located in Bario.

Cultural Experiences in Bakelalan - Visiting the  Lun Bawang homes will introduce you to some very unique cultures where you can learn about the history of the people here. Seeing the local costumes and traditional dances are also an eye opener.

Lun Bawang Food - One of the unique highland cuisines is the local food here. The Lun Bawang cuisine is totally different from the local Sarawakian food therefore, it is highly recommended to try the food here, as you will be served during your stay here.

Nature Walks - Walking around Bakelalan will expose you to a variety of flora and fauna. From seeing the local farms, paddy fields to the many birds and even buffalo's that help plow the villagers fields.

Waiting for the flight out of Bakelalan, notice the unique baggage carrier. 
Apart from Bakelalan, I also took a journey to the Bario Highlands which is the twin village here in the Kelabit Highlands. In general, both villages have their own unique specialty and attraction where Bario is more well known because of the Pesta Nukenan Bario Festival which is held yearly and showcases the highland food and culture.

For more information, you can visit the Sarawak Tourism Board website and you can also book tours to Bakelalan from most travel agents around Sarawak, namely in the cities of Kuching and Miri. Make sure you get a licensed tour guide too.

Once again, I have to remind you that this place is not your ordinary tourist site but more of a cultural and ecotourism destination which caters to the niche markets or those looking for something different. If you want to know what a simple lifestyle is all about, then I would highly recommend you pay a visit to Bakelalan in Sarawak Borneo.


1/30/2016

Penang Pesta Dragon Boat Race 2015


An exhilarating sport as steeped in history as it is in skill, dragon boat racing is one of Penang’s most fascinating experiences. Dating back more than 2000 years, the modern import of this time honoured tradition sees sports enthusiasts and onlookers alike visit Penang each year to see these incredible vessels take to the seas.

The Event
One of the island’s most anticipated events, the Penang Pesta Dragon Boat Race invites teams from all over the world to battle it out at the Teluk Bahang Dam. This year, the two-day event drew a record number of participants, welcoming nearly 40 teams to the island fora weekend of competitive events and cultural celebrations. 

The Teams
With crews hailing from China, Singapore, Thailand and beyond, this year’s event saw Penang burst to life with hundreds of participants from a myriad of countries. From the Royal Malaysia Police to the Canadian Dragons, each team put their best foot forward, training up to four hours per day in order to claim the top spot out on the water.

The Results
Despite an impressive display of power, speed and endurance by all teams across seven racing categories, the winning title of the Penang Pesta Dragon Boat Race 2015 was awarded to the Macau Selection Team, who crossed the finish line at high-speed as drums pounded in the background. In second place, Penang’s very own Pacific West Dragon Boat Club followed close behind, culminating in a thrilling finish to yet another successful event.


Want to experience the races for yourself in the New Year? Plan a stay at PARKROYAL Penang Resort during the 37th Penang International Dragon Boat Festival. Boasting an enviable, seaside location in Batu Feringghi, PARKROYAL’s comfortable and convenient accommodation puts the best of the island – and the races – at your doorstep.


 
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