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11 July, 2014

Romantic New Zealand for Couples

When you think of falling in love, travel destinations like Paris and Italy come to mind. Most travellers venture to European destinations to be seduced by its stunning architecture and romantic history, albeit overly dramatic at times. That said, such places can be quite the cliche. 

If you’re looking for an experience that’s different, unique and yet still equally as magical and romantic, why not choose New Zealand? From majestic snow-capped mountains to the crystal clear waters of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s breathtaking landscapes are the perfect romantic escape for newly-weds and lovers who are looking to rekindle their passion.

Magical Te Anau glow worm caves at Milford Sound
If you’re looking for an unusual kind of ‘starry night sky’, the Te Anau Glowworm Caves is a definite must-visit. The tour begins with a scenic cruise through the Milford Sound Fiord before embarking towards Te Anau where you will be guided through rushing water sculpts and limestone formations. The tour ends with a magical journey through a glow worm grotto.

The amazing view from the Skyline Gondola at Queenstown
Elevate your dining experience to greater heights (quite literally!) by savouring the famous “Taste of New Zealand” buffet at the Skyline Restaurant as you soak in the panoramic view of Lake Wakatipu’s crystal waters. In order to get there, take the Skyline Gondola at Queenstown which is known as the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere!

Still can’t get enough of the amazing sky-high views of Auckland? Be sure to make a pit-stop at Sky Tower, which is the tallest freestanding structure in the country. Hint: If you’re planning to propose, this could be the perfect spot to start creating beautiful memories!

For the thrill-seeking couples, the Kawarau Bridge Bungy is the perfect adventure spot for you. It’s also known as the World’s first bungee site and most well-known for its 43 meters drop. Choose to bob above the water, touch it or get dunked. 

Maori traditional show at Rotorua
For a taste of the local culture and cuisine, head to Rotorua to experience Te Pō! Te Pō is Te Puia's evening cultural experience, a feast of storytelling, entertainment and the best place to experience a Māori Feast (an earth-oven cooked meal or known traditionally as hangi). 

Also here in Rotorua, be sure to visit the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, home to infamous Pohutu geyser. This natural wonder can erupt up to 100 feet high at a frequency of 20 times a day! 

The stunning Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley
Of course, a trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete with a mountain-top retreat at Mount Cook, the highest mountain in the country. From stargazing tours to scenic heli-flights and romantic candlelit dinner overlooking the Southern Alps, Mount Cook is vast becoming the most romantic destination in New Zealand. The beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd in the Mount Cook Mackenzie district is also worth the visit for couples who are still looking for their ultimate dream wedding destination.

Beautiful Mount Cook in New Zealand
For those who crave the city sights and sounds, set aside an entire day to immerse yourself in the art and culture of Dunedin - New Zealand’s oldest and largest city. Visit the city’s architecture marvels: the Dunedin Railway Station, the University of Otago or St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Larnach Castle and Gardens New Zealand
Larnach Castle and Gardens in Dunedin
You could also indulge in an afternoon delight at the magnificent Larnach Castle and Gardens where high-tea is served daily at 3pm. The Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle and was built by merchant baron and politician, William Larnach as a symbol of love for his first wife Eliza.

All of this can be done when you decide to make that romantic pilgrimage to New Zealand with your loved one and there are many options out there for you to choose from. However, you should consider the type of New Zealand Tour Package you choose as there are short and also long tours to suit your romantic vacation. It is highly recommended that you choose something between 7-12 days to fully experience New Zealand with your loved one.

You can also view our other post on Beautiful Places to Visit in New Zealand as we have narrowed down a number of romantic and scenic places for anyone wanting to visit New Zealand especially if you are a couple going for a romantic getaway or honeymoon.

09 July, 2014

Malaysia Travel Bloggers Community on Google Plus

Malaysia Travel Bloggers Google Plus Group

As there are a ton of travel bloggers out there in the world, there are equally quite a number of Malaysian Travel Bloggers based locally here in Malaysia and at many other countries. While many are travel blogging for leisure, there have been limited platforms for them to showcase their experiences, articles and photos. Some of them have very good information in regards to traveling while a number of them have some great articles, tips or even photography. 

I have taken to liberty of starting a community on Google Plus where Malaysian Travel Bloggers can join and showcase their work. It is a simple just-join community and you can discuss, share, post your travel blogs, photos, videos or articles there. There is also a discussion section for anyone wanting to ask questions or anything related to the topic too. 

Malaysia Travel Bloggers Group
Malaysia Travel Bloggers Community on Google Plus

As I am currently the administrator there, I am also looking for a couple of other administrators to manage the travel blogger community there. You can either message here on this post or on the Google Plus community page. Requirements are pretty simple - As long as you have a travel blog and are passionate about what you do. 

For spammers, please take note that all non-related postings like tour packages, selling of items and non-Malaysian travel bloggers will be removed or banned from the group. The objective of the community is to help other Malaysian Travel Bloggers promote and showcase their work. 

2. Malaysian Travel Blogger
3. Based anywhere in the world
4. Have a travel blog
5. Photo, video or essay blogs

Each travel blogger can share travel blog postings, travel articles, travel photos and anything else that you do on your travel blog. You can write about any country too. It is not only about Malaysia. If you have any further questions, please do ask here or at the community. 

This community is also a great platform to meet other travel bloggers in Malaysia and also to learn more about travel blogging. For future plans, I hope to organize a gathering for the members in this community to network and meet up in person. So if you are a Malaysian Travel Blogger, based in Malaysia or anywhere in the world, please do join the Malaysia Travel Bloggers Community on Google Plus.

08 July, 2014

Miri Country Music Festival 2015

After a successful inaugural event in 2014, the Miri Country Music Festival 2015 is going to happen on the 7th February next year. If you are still clueless on this, think country and western music, think cowboys and cowgirls minus the horses. Yes, the Miri Country Music Festival that took place early this year saw all walks of life coming to the Parkcity Everly Hotel along Brighton Beach in Miri. Not only did they curiously walk in, they came fully dressed for the occasion.

Everyone came dressed! 
We are talking cowboys, cowgirls and even cowkids! While those that did not have a cowboy hat, they made the effort to dress in a check shirt and jeans. Many wore boots while the hard core even came fully attired complete with a sheriff badge. Overall, a total of 1,800 people turned up for the event, considering that the organaiser only targeted 1000 people. A huge success and pat-on-the-back for Uni Comms (previously known as UCSI Communications) based in Sarawak who is no stranger to events and concerts as they did a fantastic job for this first-ever event here in Borneo.

As Miri has been in the music map of Sarawak Borneo for the last nine years since the introduction of the Borneo Jazz Festival (Previously Miri International Jazz Festival), the Miri Country Music Festival joins in together with the other inaugural Asia Music Festival to keep this resort township busy throughout the year. As Borneo Jazz takes place in May and Asia Music Festival in October, the Country Music Festival happens in the early February. In other words, there are music festivals going on throughout the four quarters of the year putting Miri on the music map.

Mel and Joe at Miri Country Music Festival
Favourites Mel and Joe from Singapore shook the house down
The over whelming crowds also come from near and far. While most of the crowd is local Sarawakian, a huge number of foreigners were also seen here. Mostly the expatriate market from Miri and also across the border of Brunei. A number a Sabahans were also seen here as it is only a 3-4 hour drive from the border. The next festival will most likely see a crowd of about 2000 and above, considering the success of the inaugural festival and also depending on how strong the marketing for this will be executed.

Overall, the jovial mood during the festival was something totally unique and different as me, having been to the Borneo Jazz and also Asia Music Festival, the Country Music Festival showed a more family and friends get-together concept being practised. Country music if you should know is a very popular genre of music here in the northern part of Sarawak. Most of the local Sarawakian tribes from the area grew up on this music which is played throughout the year on radios, events, wedding, parties and even at the local bars and pubs.

D'Renegade Band Kota Kinabalu
D'Renegade Band rocks the house with their country and western music 
With this kind of support from the local community, it was not a hard job convincing the folk to attend the festival. The price of RM80 inclusive of one drink was easily welcomed by the general community however, if sponsors were kind enough, there could have been a little more offered. While RM80 is not cheap for the lower income group who is one of the largest communities for country music, something needs to be done in order to capture that segment of the market.

We all know that when concerts or music festivals take place, there is always the monetary issue for the lower income group and hopefully something can be done to make festivals affordable for all walks of life. I do hope that some sort of campaign or joint-venture with the tourism ministry or companies that buy tickets in bulk to give it out to the lower income to give them a chance to attend this festival.

As for the rest, there is a pre-sale of tickets going at RM60 from now till September 2014 and they can be bought online.

Corn Cake Kings at Miri Country Music Festival
Corn Cake Kings from Kuala Lumpur on stage 
As this was my first ever country music festival, I was a little unsure on what to expect from it, but having been there opened my mindset and perception to this. For some reason, people started to come as early as 4pm to the venue while the other two main festivals, the crowd would only come in after dinner. Without hesitation, I spoke to a few of the guests there and a majority of the them replied that this was the first of its kind and they did not want to miss out, especially listening to the local country and western bands that started at about 5pm. By 7pm, the crowd had grown to about 500 people and by 8pm, it doubled. What shocked me was that at 11pm, there were still people coming in to the venue. 

Wandering Mustangs at Miri Country Music Festival
Wandering Mustangs take stage at the Miri Country Music Festival 2014
Miri Country Music Festival Band Line Up

The line up was very good with a selection of bands from around the region including one Johnny Rogers Band all the way from Nashville, USA. Local bands included Hi Breed (Kuching), Country Road Band (Miri), Eia and The Superband (Brunei), D’Renegade Band (Kota Kinabalu), The Corn Cake Kings (Kuala Lumpur), Wandering Mustangs (Singapore) and Mel & Joe (Singapore). This alone was enough to keep the crowd rocking till past midnight here in Miri.

Michelle Lambert Johnny Rogers Band Malaysia
Michelle Lambert performs a fiery act with her violin with the Johnny Rogers Band
As for the upcoming Miri Country Music Festival 2015, a line up has been confirmed but not announced officially although we know that Mel and Joe from Singapore are confirmed in the line up due to popular request apart from some bands from Malaysia, Singapore and locally from Sabah and Sarawak. On a lighter side, I would like to see if the organisers will be slightly creative in getting some other country and western bands from countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines as this can fully grow the potential of making this festival a truly massive country music festival in the region.

Special Thanks to Malaysia Travel News for sharing the images with Malaysia Asia. Also a huge massive thanks goes out to Letitia Samuel from Uni Comms and Gracie Geckie for organising this trip to experience this first-of-a-kind event in Malaysia and here in Miri, Sarawak. This also makes it into the list of Music Festivals in Sarawak for anyone wanting to know more details.

The finale on stage with all the artist performing together
Gracie Geckie Miri Country Music Festival
The organiser (Gracie Geckie - Standing 3rd from left) with the Sarawak Tourism Minister (in red shirt) and other delegates. The minister made a unannounced visit to the event too! 
The Craft and Food Bazaar that was set up outdoors under a huge tent was also a hit with everyone, including the musicians. A fantastic selection of local and international food was available for all walks of life and the prices were really affordable. While the craft bazaar mainly sold only Sarawakian and traditional handicraft, many guest and artist were seen lingering around here purchasing some souvenirs. To be honest, even I bought a local leather cowboy hat to blend in. Price for the cowboy hat was around RM20 which was a steal! So, for food wise, there was abundance here.

Till next February, I hope to attend this festival again so I can monitor the activities and feedback of the crowd, and of course, indulge in good old country and western music. For more information on the upcoming festival, visit Miri Country Music Festival. For those planning to come for the next event, please take note of the accommodations around Miri. There is a range of hotels from budget till 5-Stars around here. The best hotels would be the Parkcity Everly Hotel where the event is being held and also Marriott Miri which is a 10 minute walk to the event. Remember there is a special price for pre-bought tickets to the Miri Country Music Festival 2015.



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