Saturday, September 12, 2015

Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan – Borneo

From one end of Borneo to the other and we land in the capital of Sabah – Kota Kinabalu.

The flight takes nearly 1.5 hrs, showing just how big Borneo is.

Kota Kinabalu is very different from Kuching. 

Where Kuching was “elegant, quiet and clean”, Kota Kinabalu is hectic, vibrant and not very clean (and even hotter!)

We stayed in  “Gaya Centre Hotel” – an OK place, in a great location, cheap but just a little noisy and “The Jesselton” – lovely hotel with that old colonial feel and great value for money.

We were in Borneo 12 years ago, Kuching had remained pretty much the same but Kota Kinabalu has changed a lot: Many more hotels and restaurants.  Building is going on everywhere, and it’s mostly shopping malls even though there are already loads of them and they’re nearly always empty. It’s also more expensive here than Sarawak.

For some reason we can’t explain, Kota Kinabalu is not a place we really enjoyed being so, after a few days we decided to fly East to Sandakan and we’re very glad we made that decision. We’re staying at the “Four Points Sheraton“, a brand new hotel with views over the sea and a great price (helped by the falling Malaysian Ringit).

Up until the 2nd World War Sandakan was the capital of North Borneo. It was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and allied prisoners (Australians and British) captured in Singapore were shipped here to build POW camps and a military airfield. 

When the Allies started raiding Sandakan in 1944, the POWs were force marched to Ranau (a distance of 260 Kilometers) – known as the Sandakan Death Marches. Over 2000 prisoners died. Only 6 who had managed to escape, survived.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan – Borneo

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Sarawak Regatta different this time

KUCHING: The iconic Sarawak Regatta will be very different this year compared to last year’s, says Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said this year’s regatta would be held for two weeks, from Sept 18 to 27.

“The regatta itself will only be held from Sept 25 to 27, but during the two weeks there will be a lot of activities happening along Kuching Waterfront and the Tourism Complex area, especially from Sept 22 to 24, such as crafts and food festival which will feature food from Myanmar, Korea, Japan and Indonesia. All states in the country will be participating as well.

“For the dragon boat regatta, a total of 550 international participants from countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei, Singapore, Philippines and 318 local participants would be there,” Abang Johari told a press conference at his office in Wisma Sultan Tengah here yesterday.

He added that there would also be a lot of activities happening across the Kuching Waterfront in Kampung Boyan, Kampung Gersik and Kampung Surabaya such as competitions organised by Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) related to food and culture every night until Sept 27.

“Meanwhile, the actual regatta will be held from Sept 25 to 27, and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem is expected to declare it open while Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will close the event.

“Other activities to look out for during those two weeks are the Mooncake Festival at Carpenter Street as well as a lantern procession, Abg Johari said.


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Bruneian shoppers coming in droves to Miri, Limbang and Lawas as value of ringgit drops

LAWAS: The favourable foreign exchange rate has driven shoppers and recreation-seekers from Brunei to Miri, Limbang and Lawas which overwhelmed the CIQ even after midnight despite the recent extension of opening hours.

The influx is mostly felt in Miri with the Sungai Tujuh CIQ between Miri and Brunei which could only shut down by 12.30am instead of midnight due to the long queues of returning vehicles which even stretch to the Asean Bridge over the weekend.

The sharp drop in ringgit has resulted in Bruneian shoppers returning in droves to Miri which has shopping malls, entertainment, fruits and plenty of other attractions for local Bruneians and expatriates there.

Visitors from Brunei get RM3 for each Brunei dollar at the money changers, and this fills their wallets considerably as they head to the shopping malls and places of interest in Sarawak.

According to a source from the Immigration Department a record-breaking 20,000 vehicles crossed the border, bringing in the tourist dollars to this town last weekend.

This scenario is likely to continue this weekend as the ringgit has further weakened although the crowd may be smaller as the month progressed.

Limbang, a stone’s throw from Brunei, has also seen a surge in visitor arrivals with eateries filled to the brim during weekends.


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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Miri Waterfront set to be a landmark soon

MIRI: Most people here anticipate Miri Waterfront to be a landmark after its facelift is completed by the first quarter of next year.

Unique Harvests Sdn Bhd (Interhill Group of Companies) director Albert Hu said the transformation project simultaneously involved the development of three adjacent buildings: the 24-storey five-star Pullman Miri Waterfront Hotel, The Wharf with modern 18-storey skyscraper private strata titled suites and 10-units of three storey luxury supersize shop houses.

“The project is 80 per cent completed with rigorous progress to meet the expected schedule for project completion,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He said the soft opening of the new landmark will likely in April next year.

The hotel, to be one of the tallest buildings in the city and nestled at the very mouth of the Miri River, offers elegance and astonishing panoramic view of the vibrant city and the South China Sea.

The Miri Waterfront Development is set to be one of the largest high rise residential and hospitality developments in Sarawak with total gross development value of RM450 million.

The project commenced in 2013 and is on-track to meet its completion schedule within 36 months, placing it among the fastest development projects involving skyscraper building in the state.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Miri Waterfront set to be a landmark soon


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Exploring the Caves of Borneo’s Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung Mulu National Park in northern Sarawak is one for adventure seekers. The remote melange of karst formations, caves and pinnacles lies in the equatorial rainforest of Malaysian Borneo, bordering Brunei to the north.

Expeditions to Mulu in the late 1970s revealed much about the genesis of the park and its geographical configuration, but even though it is one of the most studied tropical karst areas in the world, it’s believed that only 30 to 40 percent of the park’s cave passages have been surveyed, leaving much still to be discovered.

The park just opened to trekkers in 1984, and until 1991, the UNESCO World Heritage site could only be reached by boat–a 12 hour ride from Miri. Today, visitors travel through Mulu Airport where there are limited flights coming in from Miri, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

Shuttles from the airport take you directly to the park and few local accommodations. Outside of the park, the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, the airport, a small clinic and a couple of guesthouses are the only things to stand other than rainforest.

On my short flight from Kuching to Mulu, fellow travelers and I couldn’t help but remark on how it looked like we were flying over a vast expanse of broccoli heads. In the sky and on the ground, Mulu is tropical rainforest as far as the eye can see.

Stepping off the plane and through the airport, the diversity of Mulu’s flora and fauna became apparent and I made sure to wheel my suitcase carefully, avoiding the enormous stick bugs hiding in plain sight.

The park shelters all different types of exotic insects, animals and plants. On my day trek to the Deer and Lang caves, we spotted lizards, moths, stick bugs, butterflies, frogs and bats, of course. Other inhabitants, ones that I unfortunately wasn’t able to see, include the rhinoceros hornbill (the state bird of Sarawak), bearded pig, moonrat, Bornean tarsier, gibbon, mouse deer and sun bear.

In order to explore a really good chunk of Mulu, most people choose to stay for at least three days. Depending on how active you’re looking to be and whether or not you’re interested in unwinding at a 5-star resort or keeping it low key at a homestay–you have options.

No matter which you choose, be prepared to disconnect during your stay–there is virtually no wifi in Mulu–and embrace a technology-free couple of days. Here are just a few of the highlights of Gunung Mulu National Park, as well as a list of accommodations sure to please all types of travelers.


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