Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kaamatan must continue to be catalyst of stability, peace and harmony


PENAMPANG: Hundreds of people, in their traditional costumes, flocked the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) building here to celebrate the end of the harvest festival.

At the event today, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman cut the paddy as a symbol of harvest and hit the traditional gong to close the state-level Kaamatan Festival.

He was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister and Huguan Siou (Kadazandusun Paramount Leader), Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussein and Sabah Tourism, Culture, Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau.

Earlier in his speech, Musa announced the state government has approved RM1 million allocation to upgrade and repair KDCA building.

"I urge the people of Sabah, regardless of their cultural differences, to continue support the government so efforts to develop the state can be successfully implemented," he said.

Musa also hoped the Kaamatan festival would continue to be a catalyst for inspiration and strength to the people in ensuring stability, peace and harmony.

Meanwhile, Pairin said Kaamatan, like other cultural celebrations, was a season of forgiveness and urged the people to respect one another and remain united.

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Gawai celebration unifies Dayaks across Borneo


THE Gawai celebration remains one of the common traits that links all the native communities in Borneo – a day when they show thanksgiving for a bountiful paddy harvest and pray for a plentiful year ahead.

As a rose is still a rose by any other name, these communities call their festival differently – for the Ibans, it is ‘Ari Gawai’; the Bidayuhs in general call it ‘Onu Gawea’; while the Kadazan-Dusuns in Sabah celebrate ‘Kaamatan’.

Officially, Gawai Dayak in Sarawak is observed on June 1 and 2 – first gazetted as a public holiday in 1965, while Kaamatan in Sabah is celebrated on May 30 and 31.

The Dayaks in Indonesian Borneo also celebrate their own version of the festival, with rituals based on those practised by the Kanayatans – a Dayak sub-ethnic group in West Kalimantan.

It is learned that in West Kalimantan, the occasion was first held on a large scale in 1964 and like Sarawak, the Dayaks there also call the celebration ‘Hari Gawai’. However unlike Sarawak, there is no official date for Gawai in the Indonesian province – it can be held at any time from late April to June.

The local governments in the West Kalimantan have made the initiative to preserve the tradition by holding the celebration on regency, provincial and national levels. Originally, Gawai was only observed at village level or at the most, district level.

The rituals

In West Kalimantan, the first thing on the list of rituals would be the ‘ngampar bide’ – literally, the rollout of the mat. This symbolises the wish for the celebration to run smoothly, apart from marking the start of the festival. This ceremony would be attended by local Dayak community leaders who apart from overseeing all the preparations for the occasion, would also discuss issues and happenings affecting their communities.

After the ‘ngampar bide’, an assembly will take place at the main venue of the celebration the following day. This is perhaps the most spectacular of events where Dayaks from all across the province would arrive in their colourful traditional attire and gather to display them to the public.

It is also during this time that top-ranking local government officials – for the province-level celebration, it would be the governor – would deliver their special Gawai address to the crowd.

Regardless of which level of celebration – regency, province or national – this event would gather thousands of visitors.

Next comes the core ritual known as ‘Naik Dango’, where the dancers deliver harvested rice to the ‘dango’ (rice silo). This elaborate dance is known as ‘ngantat ka dango’, which leads to the ‘nyangahatn’ – the recital of prayers and mantra upon the arrival of the rice at the ‘dango’.

The ‘nyangahatn’ is performed by a ‘Panyangahatn’, whose chanting contains words of gratitude for the sustenance and also songs to invoke the good spirits to come and gather inside the ‘dango’.

At the same time, the ‘nyangahatn’ also seeks for permission from the spirits to consume the rice for daily needs.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Gawai celebration unifies Dayaks across Borneo
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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival wins Asia-Pacific Excellence Award


KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) has been accorded the Asia-Pacific Excellence Award recently.

The award, which recognises the RWMF’s event and experiential marketing for its public relation exercise, was recently handed over to Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg at his office in Wisma Bapa Malaysia.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) said the Asia-Pacific Excellence Awards is hosted by Communication Director, a magazine for global decision makers in corporate communications, public relations (PR) and public affairs.

It also partners with the Asia-Pacific Association of Communications Directors (APACD), a new network for in-house communicators working in the region.

STB in a statement yesterday said RWMF was also shortlisted among three finalists under the ‘Entertainment & Culture’ category for the Asia-Pacific Excellence Awards.

The award-handing over ceremony was held on April 19 at the Harbour Grand Kowloon in Hong Kong and attracted over 2,500 applications from around the globe.

Earlier in February, the festival was also given an international accolade when it received the Silver Adrian Award by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) for its PR work for the festival at the New York Marriott Marquis.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Gawai and Kaamatan festivals - Festivities that tear down racial divide


KUCHING: The Gawai and Kaamatan festivals together with other festive celebrations are a unifying force that bring people of diverse races in the country together for a common goal, said 1Malaysia Foundation Trustee Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The festivities, said Lee, have helped to foster inter-racial harmony, integration and unity, which are imperatives for a multi-racial country to succeed.

Unity nurtured among the people has made Malaysia unique and an example to the global community of a nation where different ethnic communities can live in peace and harmony and work together for the progress and well-being of the nation.

"We have been a harmonious society and it is necessary for us to further enhance and strengthen our inter-racial understanding and trust for one another despite whatever differences.

"We should continue with greater fervour and determination to strive towards building our multi-racial nation into a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny," said Lee in a statement today in conjunction with the Gawai and Kaamatan festivals.

The Dayak community in the state will be celebrating the Gawai festival to mark the end of the harvest season on June 1 and 2. The Kaamatan Festival is celebrated today and tomorrow among the Kadazandusun community and other races in Sabah.

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44 to vie for Unduk Ngadau Harvest Queen title


KOTA KINABALU: Forty-four beau­­ties from all over Sabah will be vying for the Unduk Ngadau (Harvest Queen) title tomorrow.

During the event, the participants from 44 districts and sub-districts will express knowledge of their own culture using their mother tongue while posing in colourful and beautiful traditional costumes as they vie to be the next Harvest Queen.

The Unduk Ngadau contest is a much-awaited highlight of the Kaa­ma­tan festival. Native Sabahans believe that the Harvest Queen is a commemoration of the legendary Huminodun.

Huminodun was believed to have sacrificed herself to the ancient gods so that her people, who were mostly padi farmers, would have food after suffering from famine.

The selected Unduk Ngadau would also help promote Sabah, its people and diverse cultures to other parts of the world as part of her “royal duty”.

Since its inception in 1960, 57 women have been crowned Unduk Ngadau.

Yong Mee Lan @ Mui Lan from Penampang was the first Unduk Ngadau to be crowned, while more than 20 representatives from Pe­­nam­pang had also won the Unduk Ngadau title over the years.

Other beauties who have won are from Papar, Putatan, Tuaran, Tam­pa­ruli, Beaufort, Tanjung Aru, Inanam, Kawang, Sandakan, Bonga­wan, Tenom, Kiulu, the Klang Valley, Sulaman and Telupid.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 44 to vie for Unduk Ngadau Harvest Queen title
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Mark's Hikes & Travels: Mulu National Park


Mulu Park is in east of Sarawak just south of Brunei and isn’t accessible by road – it’s a day’s journey by boat or a short hop in a plane.

There is very little the other side of that journey in terms of amenities – it’s the park and a number of homestay like accommodation – oh and a Marriott for those with deep pockets.

The place I was staying at, Mulu Village, was at the end of the road and a 10 minute cycle to the park.

The headquarters are organised really well and I booked my activities for the next few days.

I had tried to get onto the Pinnacles trek, but they were out of places and so that’s one for the next time.

The day had worn on and I decided for a quick jaunt round some of the forest near the HQ.

The evening gave way to gorgeous sunset with storms flickering on the distant horizon.

The next morning after an early breakfast I cycled into the park to check out the museum in the HQ before visiting Wind and Clearwater Cave the latter of which is one of the longest caves in the world.

The visit, as so much of the park’s sights are, is facilitated by a trip up the muddy river.

Wind Cave is particularly splendid with classic cave formations which feel like a Valley of the Giants version of caves in the UK since the tropical climate speeds everything up – in simple terms.

Clearwater is cave is absolutely huge and is still being discovered (there is an Anglo-Malay organisation charting it) year on year.

Obviously the show cave only gives you a taste of that, but the idea of these chambers and passages snaking for miles blows my mind.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mark's Hikes & Travels: Mulu National Park
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CoffeeGirl77: Where Borneo Begins...


I have set foot at that very spot -- which according to historians, geographers, surveyors, cartographers, forestry experts etc -- is Where Borneo Begins.

This place is located at the remote and idyllic Tanjung Datu, accessible via Sematan in Lundu District.

A landmark in the middle of nowhere.

Apparently, according to experts, this is the westernmost tip of Sarawak.

Now to get here, one could either take a one-hour boatride from Sematan Long Jetty passing through the seasides of Kampung Telok Melano and Tanjung Datu National Park, to reach the shore of Tanjung Datu.

Or in my case - we took an alternative route which included a 45min drive via the underway Pan Borneo Highway from Sematan town to Kampung Telok Melano, then another 20min boatride from the jetty of Kampung Telok Melano to Tanjung Datu shores.

It was a worktrip, hence the roadtrip.

On a sidenote, the Pan Borneo Highway on this side of the highway is progressing rather well, in my opinion.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: CoffeeGirl77:  Where Borneo Begins...
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Kaamatan boosts demand for traditional costumes


KENINGAU: At this time of the year, Mohd Azrul Fildza Abdullah’s boutique, here is a hive of activity as he and his wife race against time to meet the numerous orders for hand-stitched ethnic costumes.

It is now Kaamatan time in the Land Below the Wind and this is when the locals don their traditional garments to participate in the various events that are usually held in conjunction with the festival‘s month-long celebrations.

“This is a busy time for me as I‘ve to complete all the orders I‘ve received for Kaamatan,” Mohd Azrul Fildza, 41, told Bernama recently when met at his small boutique, Azma Trading, which he runs with his 36-year-old wife Fatma Zainal.

Mohd Azrul, a Kadazan, has been receiving orders for the traditional garments since April.

“I‘ve stopped taking new orders because these clothes have to be sewn with great precision. Some ethnic groups” traditional clothes are quite tedious to sew. In fact, it may take me two or three months to complete one set,” he said.

The traditional outfit worn by the Kadazans in Penampang, also known as the sinombiaka, was easier to sew, he said, adding that he and his wife could complete three to five sets of these garments a day.

“For the sinombiaka, we just have to add gold-coloured and red lace trimmings to the clothes. In contrast, the Tindal (a Dusun sub-ethnic group) people who hail from Kota Belud have such intricate costumes which can take us two to three months to complete as they require embroidered motifs,” explained Mohd Azrul.

The Tindal sub-ethnic group“s traditional costumes, he added, were more vibrant to look at as they were adorned with red and yellow sequins and gold-coloured buttons.

Mohd Azrul“s boutique has earned a reputation as one of the best shops in the state to secure ethnic garments for Kaamatan.

He also receives orders for traditional garments from Sabahans residing in Peninsular Malaysia and even overseas.

“Several customers of ours working in countries like Japan and Australia have ordered clothes from us through our Facebook and Instagram (azmatrading) pages,” he said.

Kaamatan, an annual rice harvest festival, is among the major cultural festivals observed by the Kadazandusun - the largest indigenous group in Sabah - Murut and Rungus ethnic groups in Sabah.

The festivities, which usually kick off in the beginning of May and include carnivals and traditional performances, peak on May 30 and 31 which are public holidays in the state.

The climax of the celebrations will take place at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association‘s Hongkod Koisaan hall in Penampang, located on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu.

The people themselves will be the highlight at the closing events as they will all be resplendently decked out in their respective ethnic wear.

Interestingly, Sabah‘s traditional costumes come mainly in hues of black as it is believed that the colour symbolised power that is capable of protecting the wearer against evil spirits.

Some quarters also believed that the colour suited the lifestyle of the ethnic people whose forefathers had lived in a state of nature.

Sabah has over 30 ethnic groups, each with its own rich heritage of traditional costumes and cultural practices that reflect their unique identity.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kaamatan boosts demand for traditional costumes
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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Canuck Walkabout: The One With The Big Noses – Borneo Part 2


On the boat ride into Bako National Park our driver said the storm was coming.

Around 30 minutes later, we could feel the change he felt.

The air temperature dropped slightly and the wind picked up… then some thunder in the distance.

Moments later the sky opened up and the sound of the huge rain drops on the sheet metal roofs made it difficult to talk. 

Tropical rain is an incredible experience to live through.

It completely takes over everything, with a fantastic intensity that gives a brief and very welcome respite from the constant heat and humidity.

The incredible thing about Bako National Park is the amount of wildlife readily on display.

This hit us right away, just in the sheer number of animals we saw in the 30 minutes between the boat and the start of the rain.

Mudskippers on the beach, a bearded pig causally strolling along the path, troops of macaques and langurs, and two extremely rare proboscis monkeys enjoying the afternoon in the vegetation by the beach.

This was in our first 30 minutes in the park.

If that was any indication, it was going to be a great few days. And oh, it was.

And of course, the strangest looking creature at the park.

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Joint Gawai/Kaamatan festival in Kundasang, Sabah July 1


KUCHING: The 11th Joint Gawai/Kaamatan Festival, organised jointly by the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and Kadazandusun Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), will be held on July 1 at Puteri Nabalu Hall in Kundasang, Sabah.

DCCI and KCCI take turns to host this event, and this year it will be KCCI playing host since last year’s event was hosted by DCCI at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong.

Many attractive activities have been lined up this year, including a golf tournament between members of KCCI and DCCI to vie for the Tan Sri Bernard Dompok’s Challenge Trophy on the morning of July 1.

The organising committee, with the consent of the KCCI Supreme Council, has officially invited the Chief Minister of Sabah Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman to grace the dinner on July 1.

KCCI president Datuk Bonipasius Bianis and DCCI president Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum will also be in attendance including federal and state cabinet ministers, several senior government officials, local dignitaries and the corporate players from both Sabah and Sarawak.

The DCCI Joint Gawai/Kaamatan Organising Committee Chairman and DCCI deputy president Kilat Beriak indicated that a strong delegation of some 200 members from Sarawak will be attending the event.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Canuck Walkabout: The One Where Emily and Doug Go to Borneo


What images does the name “Borneo” conjure up for you? Maybe jungles, wild animals, and head hunters?

Its an exotic sort of name, somewhere Indiana Jones might head down a river on a raft looking for some long-lost gemstone.

Or maybe it sounds like some made up place from a TV show – didn’t Chandler go there in an episode of Friends? Oh right, that was Yemen.

Maybe its because Borneo is just so far away from Canada that neither of us really knew much about it.

Sure, we knew there’s exotic jungle and wildlife there, but that’s about it.

But we knew virtually nothing about the people, culture, food, money, etc. Doug isn’t even sure he knew what country it belongs to.

After all, its not on the Risk board, so is it even a real place?

So let’s go through a few quick basics to get us all oriented.

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea (Apparently Emily is the only person who doesn;t understand why Australia doesn’t count as an island?).

Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia.

There are two Malaysian states on the island, called Sarawak and Sabah.

Sarawak was originally an independant state goverened by “The White Rajah”.

It’s a fascinating and unique history, definitely worth the read on Wikipedia.

In 1963, Sarawak and Sabah joined together with other states from the Malay peninsula to form the country of Malaysia.

Shortly thereafter, Malaysia applied to become the 51st US state, only to be rejected after a last minute veto from Rhode Island.

In a fit of rage and jealously, Malaysia decided to copy the US flag, but replace the 50 stars with a crescent moon.

Ok that last bit was just a little test to see if anyone was still reading or if you all gave up during the boring history lesson and skipped down to the pictures.

Still with us? Now on to the good stuff.

Seriously though, take a look at the Malaysian flag. It bears a striking resemblance to the familiar stars and stripes.

We flew from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s modern capital city, to Kuching in western Sarawak.

Our time in Malaysia was running short, leaving only 8 days to explore in and around Kuching.

Its not enough to explore all of Sarawak and Sabah, but it seemed plenty of time for Kuching and western Sarawak.

Like most places we go, we didn’t do a huge amount of research before coming.

Its been our experience that we can find interesting things to do, see, and experience no matter where we end up.

We typically check only the basics like the cost of food and accommodation to make sure we can afford to live there for a short while on our restricted budget.

In this case, we also had to check flights, given that there is no possibility of ferry service from mainland Malaysia, as air flights are so cheap.

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Mark's Hikes & Travels: Niah National Park, Borneo


Niah is a national park centred around the huge Niah Cave which has anthropological significance.

There is a lot (relatively speaking) of rainforest surrounding the cave, but I didn’t have time to explore that and was focussed on the cave including its burial sites and paintings.

I had to repeat steps of my previous journey, but made this easier on myself by sharing a ride with some people heading to Brunei.

I picked a company and was dumped over the wheel arches of a bus which was meant to leave at 07.45, but, I assume, was only allowed to leave once the 08.00 bus had left.

Whilst I am getting  better at rolling with transport in Asia (Japan excepted of course) with a ‘don’t worry be happy’ attitude my highly strung nature means I get a bit bent out of shape where I shouldn’t.

Happily I am British and repressed so my being disgruntled doesn’t impact on anyone other than my own blood pressure I assume.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mark's Hikes & Travels: Niah National Park, Borneo
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Major face-lift, upgrading set for Niah National Park


KUCHING: Niah National Park is set to undergo a face-lift as major upgrading and repair works on the park’s facilities including the development of a state-of-the-art Interpretation Centre have commenced.

This was announced at a symbolic handing-over ceremony of the project yesterday from Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) to Cergas Asli Sdn Bhd (Cergas Asli), the main project contractor.

The project comprises the setting up of Interpretation Centre, ticketing booth cum information kiosk, a multi-unit souvenir shop, public toilet and rest huts; information and interpretation signages as well as a 700m boardwalk.

This project costing RM3.4 million is funded by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia under the 11th Malaysia Plan.

The Interpretation Centre will showcase the history of human civilisation at the Niah caves, cultural heritage of Niah’s indigenous communities, biodiversity and natural assets of the park, and the geological features of the Niah Cave System.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Snap, Travel and Pop: Borneo - Sun, Sea and Cement


When we signed up for three months volunteering we never expected to be working anywhere quite like Mantanani island off the coast of Borneo.

Mantanani could be described as a true paradise; white sandy beaches, clear blue sea, coral reefs, great weather etc etc. Heaven on earth.

So why have we traveled half way around the world for Camps International to send us volunteering in a community that is living in a place where most of us aspire to live?

Surely the people of Mantanani should be the ones coming to England and helping us make our lives more like theirs.

Well, the islanders do have to suffer a few hardships.

  • Electricity: A diesel generator provides electricity between about 18.30 and 05:00 only but is subject to frequent blackouts or not coming in at all.
  • Schooling: It’s hard to attract good teachers to the island’s primary school which has led to a high failure rate in the kid’s final exams. Although at a subsidised 25RM (about £5) a year it’s still incredibly good value. As for secondary school, there isn’t one on the island so any children showing academic promise will need to go to a boarding school on the mainland – not something all islanders can afford.
  • Tourists: There are now a number of holiday resorts opening up on the island which are bringing a larger and larger amount of (mainly) Chinese tourists each day. Whilst this helps the local economy (and gave us a place to buy cold beer), it is having impacts on the island community; coral reefs are being destroyed, the islanders are losing control of parts of their island and the Chinese are pooing in the village streets.
  • Infrastructure: Minimal to no sanitation (sewage or garbage) infrastructure. The week we arrived the island had just got their first mobile network tower, but there is no fibre optic broadband. There is no hospital/doctors surgery.
  • Supplies: For anything but fish, it’s a long boat ride to the mainland.

So, it was with these issues in mind that we set about our volunteering to make this a true paradise.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Snap, Travel and Pop: Borneo - Sun, Sea and Cement
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two Visit Sibu Year (VSY) events to be held on June 9–11


SIBU: Two events will be held simultaneously from June 9 to 11 at two different locations here as part of Visit Sibu Year (VSY).

Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King said one is the Artistic Gaming Entertainment (AGE) Convention which will be held at Sibu Indoor Stadium from 10am to 10pm.

He said the convention is jointly organised by SMC and Sanyan Road Recreational Club.

“It will be the state’s first and largest AGE Convention, comprising an artistic and comic gallery, sculpting and handicraft (both traditional and modern), board games and e-sports (console and PC games) and cosplay.

“The convention offers an opportunity for participants to express their creativity whilst establishing good rapport with fellow participants from various places and different walks of life but of the same interest,” he said when chairing a monthly meeting of the council yesterday.

The other event is the Sibu Street Art Festival which will be held at Chuan Corridor in Sibu Town Square from 11am to 9pm.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flying The Nest: Luxury in Kota Kinabalu - Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort


Kota Kinabalu is the perfect tropical getaway with beautiful beaches, postcard islands and the very popular Mount Kinabalu at your doorstep. Stop to take a break here and you might just fall under the spell of this beautiful and lively capital situated on the northwest coast of Borneo.

Only having a weekend to experience everything Kota Kinabalu has to offer (or if you really want to sound local ‘KK’), we decided to split our time by spending the first night out of the city and instead surrounded by nature at the Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort.


Checking into the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort

When we touched down in KK we were greeted to a large grin and a handshake before being ushered into a private luxurious van waiting to zip us away to the resort. This was a first for us and before we could take it all in refreshing towelettes were provided, bottles of cold water awaiting in the armrests and an abundance of snacks to cure our hunger after a day of flying was exactly what we needed – oh, and did we mention free WiFi during our entire drive?

30 minutes later and we pulled up to the gates of the largest resort we have ever stayed in! Located on Pantai Dalit Beach, set amidst a nature reserve, this place is one of those destination resorts where you never need to leave.

Having a private beach just for the guests, multiple pools, water slides, day spas, an abundance of restaurants and so many activities going on you just want to do them all – and don’t worry even with a one night stay we still managed to tick a few off.


The Room

Our Ocean Wing premier double room was beautifully decorated with a wide open plan that could easily be a luxurious apartment. If there was one thing to take away from this room is the sheer size will ensure a very comfortable stay.

Included were two double beds, a sofa, large desk for editing some vlogs, a dressing room and a large bathroom. Featured was a big TV & a much needed coffee machine and thats before you take a walk outside. The balcony was enormous and featured an oversized bathtub and a large circular daybed. Our room was sea facing which meant non stop stunning panoramic views over the ocean!

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Chasing the Storm: Borneo Jungle life


I’m sorry I’m a bit (understatement) behind on my blog posts. Sometimes it’s hard finding the time to sit down and write, especially when there is so much to see and do. But here I go on the (delayed) Borneo jungle adventure…

Our journey into the jungle didn’t exactly start off on the right foot. An already long seven hour journey from Camp Tinangol was transformed into 12 hours following a breakdown on route.

With spirits not as cheery as usual, we finally arrived at our new home for the next week – Camp Batu Puteh in Sungai Kinabatangan. Here we would be working with a local charity called Kopel.

About Kopel

As I mentioned in a previous post, over the years Borneo has experienced immense deforestation. This is not only due to logging, but because of the rise in palm oil farming, which has stripped away a lot of the land. Naively I thought the problem was the chopping down of the palm trees, I wasn’t aware in fact the planting was the main issue.

Kopel’s goal is to tackle this deforestation by protecting the forest, wildlife and biodiversity along the Kinabatangan river. The role of the charity is to not only be active and vigilant within the forest, but also to educate (and work) with the local people.

Project work

Whilst in Sungai Kinabatangan, we were tasked with helping to restore the jungle’s declining tree population. Our volunteering saw us help in three different stages of the tree planting lifecycle.

At first we headed into the jungle to pick sprouting trees (after a little exploration of the forest).

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Chasing the Storm: Borneo Jungle life
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Another moving web film for Gawai and Kaamatan festivals from Petronas


KUCHING: Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has returned with another web film especially produced in conjunction with the annual rice harvest celebrations in Sarawak and Sabah this year.

The short film maintained the theme “Striving for a Better Tomorrow Together”, first featured during the Chinese New Year celebrations this year, but revisited again for the Gawai and Kaamatan festivals in Sarawak and Sabah.

The national oil and gas company also kept the five main characters, namely Anang, Ah Keong, Hakim, Joseph and Arafi from the Chinese New Year’s web film, for its latest production entitled “Siapa Jojo?” (Who’s Jojo?)

In this latest web film, the focus is on Anang and her four best friends, who have travelled to her hometown in Kanowit to experience and celebrate Hari Gawai.

There is a touch of comedy weaved in with a powerful message of togetherness, when the four friends help Anang to bring a buffalo named Jojo to the paddy fields.

“Anang and her friends discover the values and meaning of determination, hard work and gratitude, which encapsulates the true meaning of the harvest festival, after Anang’s grandfather asks the children to take the buffalo to the paddy field.

“The friends learned valuable lessons, to always appreciate blessings in life and never take for granted the hard work of others that have allowed them to enjoy such blessings,” said Petronas group strategic communications senior general manager Zahariah Abdul Rahman during the preview of the web film last night.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Meander With Meg: A Day Trip To Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo


When you think about native Borneo wildlife, the orangutan is most likely to come to mind.

The state of Sabah in Borneo has to be home to some of the world’s most iconic and rare species. From the elusive pygmy elephant to the proboscis monkey, one of the more infamous animal has to be the orangutan. Orangutans can only been found in the wild in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

The word orangutan is actually Malay for ‘man of the forest.’ Out of the great ape family, orangutans spend the most time in the trees.

They cut a classic, solitary figure in the branches and prefer to spend most of their time alone, apart from mothers and their dependant offspring. Each night they build a nest from branches in which to sleep and can live for up to 30 years.

I was excited to see as many native species as I could on my recent trip to Malaysian Borneo. I knew that my first stop would have to be the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to get a really good look at these beautiful creatures.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

The sanctuary was established in 1964 by Englishwoman Barbara Harrison as a rehabilitation centre for sick, orphaned or injured Borneo orangutans. The goal is to care for the primates until they are able to be reintroduced into the wild.

It is an educational centre for visitors, however the needs of the orangutans come first over those of the visitor who may want to snap their latest animal selfie. As a result, tourists are not allowed to interfere with the rehabilitation process cannot approach, feed or interact with the orangutans.

As baby orangutans depend on their mothers for up to 7 years, the rehabilitation process can take significant time and dedication. Young orangutans are paired up with an older one in a buddy system. It is from their buddy that they learn many of the essential skills they need for survival, such as climbing.

Deforestation, illegal logging and capture of wild animals to use as pets in Borneo are still controversial activities. It is because of these things that there are many orphaned or injured orangutans that need help from the sanctuary.

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Food and Film: Borneo


Borneo is an island split in 3, the Malay part, Brunei and the Indoesnian part.

I went to the Malaysian part, which is split into the Sarawak and Sabah regions, which are very different places to visit.

Sabah is in the North and where I began my journey in Kota Kinabalu.

I had a bit of a dilemma at the start due to my bag not arriving with me but once I arrived at the hotel and joined my tour, I met a girl called Emma and we decided to take my mind off the missing bag and grab some street food.

When we arrived at a popular street food stall we were quickly told to sit and they would bring us the food.

What we were presented with was a noodle soup with pieces of pork (I think?).

It was very bland but sorted Emma and my growling stomachs, the only thing which was wrong was there was a piece of meat that was circular, thin and had layers inside of it, which looked quite falic, so as we were about to embark into the jungle, Emma and I thought it would be best if we avoided this odd meat.

In the jungle our food mainly consisted of rice and noodles with a different meat dish accompanying it.

We were staying at a survival camp so our meals were cooked by locals.

The dishes they produced were amazing and it might just have been because we were trekking all day so we’re staving but I doubt it!

On the first night they produced this beautiful fragrant beef dish to accompany the rice.

It was rich in flavour and the beef was so juicy and not at all overstewed, which I find the case sometimes in Asian street food.

For a dessert they made banana fritters.

The bananas out here are a lot smaller in size but a lot sweeter than English bananas, which I much prefer.

The bananas were coated with flour and mixed eggs and then just fried to make them crunchy and were the perfect end to a meal.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Food and Film: Borneo
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All invited to first ever Sandakan Food Festival


SANDAKAN: The first Sandakan Food Festival (SFF), themed Oceans, Land and Forests, will serve a culinary selection that is uniquely Sandakan, and Sabahan; gathering traditions from Chinese, Malay, Kadazan- Dusun, and more ethnic styles of cooking.

The festival will be spread over eight days, from Aug 26 to Sept 2 and hopes to attract both local visitors throughout Sabah as well as international food experts.

The festival is organised by Sandakan Tourism Association (STAN) with the support of Sandakan Good Food Club (comprising of a mixed bunch of Sandakan food enthusiasts) as a community-driven, not-for-profit effort to promote the town of Sandakan. Also involved are State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, Sabah Tourism Board, Sandakan Municipal Council, and community leaders of Sandakan.

The core objectives of SFF are: to bring together culinary stakeholders from all sectors together for a collective showcase event; to use the festival platform to invite and introduce our varied cuisines to an international audience and media in attendance; to encourage the local communities to rediscover their food heritage and to develop pride in its diversity; and, to take the opportunity to catalogue the breadth of food and produce choices available in Sabah, in a comprehensive manner.

The festival village location will be at the open car park next to Yu Yuan Secondary School in Bandar Kim Fung. SFF is now calling for all Sandakan (first priority) and Sabah (wider priority) food industry people to produce unique local cuisine and creations to participants and make this a culinary showcase in Sandakan.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Caitlindonesia: Borneo - Orangutans, House Boats, and Tarantulas


Our first trip within our trip was to Kalimantan in Borneo, where we would spend 3 days on a house boat, cruising down the river and hanging out with orangutans.

Now, this trip was long and rich, so this post will be long but alsoooo so much will be left out! Boo!

Sam went on the same river boat trip a few years ago, and she had to work so she didn’t join us, and Vriz had to work, so it was just Liane, Grace (who lives with Sam and Vriz), and me.

We left early on Friday, got a taxi and headed to the airport.

We all only had a backpack and one extra bag so we didn’t need to check anything.

Last time I was here, Sam introduced me to Beard Papa, which is a little shop that sells fresh cream puffs.

You can pick what type of ‘shell’ and what type of cream that you want, and they stuff the puffs right then! I was really excited to get one for myself and for Liane.

Next to the Beard Papa shop, there was a Roti’o place.

I had never had Roti’o before but Grace said she loved it, and described it as a sweet bread with a glaze and butter in the middle.

Um, DUH we wanted to try it.

So Liane and I each got a roti’o and a cream puff.

Treat yo’ self, am I right?

Let me tell you about the Roti’o, ohmagosh it was so good.

It was this round bun with a COFFEE flavored frosting/glaze situation, it was warm, fluffy and light on the inside but kind of crispy on the outside.

But what pushes it over the edge is the butter in the middle.

Not frosting, not cream, just melty, delicious butter.

I could only eat Roti’o for the rest of my life and be happy… ok maybe not but you get the point.

Liane loved it too!

I think they were kind of underwhelmed with the cream puff after the Roti’o but so was I!

We hung out and ate our snacks and then boarded our plane.

The flight was only an hour long and much to our delight, we got little snack boxes! Inside was a little bottle of water, a piece of cake/bread, and a fried snack that is similar to an egg roll but with a thick crust as opposed to a wonton wrapper.

The snack tasted ok but it was room temperature which kind of freaks me out, so I ate the bread and drank the water, and Liane had my egg roll thing.

When we landed in Kalimantan, we were greeted with blue skies, big fluffy clouds, and 100000% humidity.

Jakarta is a big smoggy city that has a whole lot of pollution and haze so thick you can’t see the sky.

It was really nice to be somewhere with blue skies and fresh air, even though we had only been in Jakarta for one day.

Kalimantan is beautiful!

We were hot and tired, but excited to start the trip.

We left the airport and found our tour guide for the weekend, this really sweet, badass woman, Rini.

She put us in our taxi and off we went! We drove about 15 minutes into town and to the river, where we would board our home for the next 3 days!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

RM1.2 mln from US for Tun Mustapha Marine Park


KUDAT: The Tun Mustapha Marine Park shows promising growth as it continues to receive support which is aimed toward equipping the park with better features.

Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais said the park had even received RM1.2 million funding from the United States of America, to conduct research in order to manage the park efficiently.

“The US government had promised a RM1.2 million allocation for the benefit of research into park necessities in terms of reinforcement.

“It will also involve them giving us recommendations, such as investing in faster or bigger boats, radar and strategic placement of security posts, as well as how best to utilise limited resources to operate such an expansive park,” he told the media during the one-year anniversary celebration of the Tun Mustapha Marine Park cum launch of Sabah Parks’ Kudat office, yesterday.

Of the early recommendations received by Sabah Parks was to engage in strategic partnerships, which prompted cooperation with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) to harness its assets and capabilities.

Other efforts include setting up a special taskforce for the park’s 100-day plan prior to gazettement, collaborating with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia, official visits and discussions with district offices, on-field surveillance operations while transmitting information to fishermen, human resource development and identifying strategic locations for substation construction and security post placement and preparing exploration plans for islands and villages to raise awareness within the local community and gain their support.

Jamili added that although the Tun Mustapha Marine Park Scientific Expedition had formally ended, research will be conducted continually and is always welcomed at the park.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: RM1.2 mln from US for Tun Mustapha Marine Park
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Sabah's Tun Mustapha Marine Park celebrates 1 year anniversary, aims to be tourism beacon


KUDAT: The Tun Mustapha Marine Park (TMP) here will be a beacon of tourism in the years to come, Sabah Special Task Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang said today.

Launching the park’s first-year anniversary celebration, Teo said that TMP’s appeal lies in its white sandy beaches, mysterious caves and rich marine life, courtesy of its strategic location within the Coral Triangle.

He said he believes it is high time for private companies to start taking advantage of the park's potential.

"As with many industries, the government only facilitates tourism, while it is the private sector that drives it.

"So, I encourage all players to come in and work together to develop the marine park into a premier destination not just in Malaysia, but on an international level," he said.

The anniversary also coincides with the conclusion of a year-long research expedition into the park area by various agencies and universities, including the University of Queensland, Australia.

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Sarawak Tourism Board to digitise all promo materials


SARAWAK Tourism Board (STB) will digitalise all promotional materials to increase its presence in ‘call for action’ booking portals to leapfrog its performance.

This is in line with the state government’s call for the use of digitalisation, said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“STB will still provide a face-to-face interaction marketing as human interaction in tourism business is inevitable and remains relevant although digital marketing is widely used,” he said in his winding-up speech yesterday.

He said his ministry had set up a consultative platform known as Sarawak Tourism Forum to engage and get feedback from tourism players.

Some requests from industry players made through the forum had been implemented while a few others were still at discussion level, he added.

On the Sarawak Museum Campus, he said works were at about 35 per cent progress and the new museum gallery was expected to be open to the public in 2020.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

RM8.98 bln in tourism receipts expected this year for Sarawak


KUCHING: Sarawak is targeting five million tourist arrivals and expecting RM8.98 billion in tourism receipts this year.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the tourist arrival figure stood at 1.67 million as of April this year.

“As of Jan to April this year, visitor arrival figures stood at 1.67 million, indicating an increase of 17.26 per cent as compared to the corresponding period in 2016,” he said in his winding up speech in the august House today.

Last year, Karim said the state received 4.66 million visitors, bringing in an estimated tourist receipt of RM8.37 billion.

Such arrival figures, he added, showed an increase of 3.19 per cent against that of 2015.

The minister said Malaysia received 26.8 million tourists last year, marking an increase of four per cent in arrivals growth and generating an estimated RM82.1 billion in tourist receipts.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

45 ladies to compete in this year’s Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan


KOTA KINABALU: Forty-five Unduk Ngadau participants will be competing for this year’s state-level Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan.

The chairperson of the harvest pageant committee, Joanna Datuk Kitingan said that the increased participation is in addition to the Kiulu representative.

Speaking at a press conference, Joanna said that this time around the pageant will emphasize on the participants’ ability to speak their mother tongue and appreciate their own culture.

She said it was the continuity of last year’s theme ‘Embrace your culture, speak your mother tongue.”

Joanna, who is also the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) women council chairperson, said that the traditional costumes continues to be their pursuits to make sure that each district brings out the different costumes that is seldom worn so that the Unduk Ngadau learn to appreciate the varied cultures and costumes.

“The Unduk Ngadau Pageant has come a long way. It has kept the traditions alive and promote our culture in terms of being proud to wear our traditional costume and promote our culture tourism as well,” said Joanna.

Meanwhile, for the evening Wear Ethnic Concept, which started four years ago, it will continue to be a competition so that the designers will able to showcase their creative creation during the Sodop Pintutunan on May 27.

The top seven creative best designs will be showcased during the Sodop Unduk Ngadau on May 29.

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The Kampung Legacy – A Journal of Sabah’s Traditional Baskets


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s rich basket-weaving heritage is being celebrated in Jennifer P Linggi’s latest book, The Kampung Legacy – A Journal of Sabah’s Traditional Baskets.

Launched here on Tuesday by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, the book serves as a useful guide and reference tool for craft-lovers, academicians, tourists and designers, who are keen to revive the traditional crafts or create new and contemporary designs.

Speaking at the official ceremony at Hilton Kota Kinabalu, Masidi heaped praise to Jennifer for her work and relentless effort to document the art of basket-making which forms an important fabric in Sabahan tradition and culture.

“It seems rather fitting that we are launching this wonderful book just in time for the coming Harvest Festival which is being celebrated in the month May, and it is with deepest hope that this effort will inspire many generations to continue Sabah’s heritage in traditional art and craft,” he added.

During her address, Jennifer said the book puts the spotlight on Sabah’s traditional craft of basket weaving which risks becoming a dying art as it is practiced by older women among traditional folk and slowly being forgotten by the younger generation.

“From 60 traditional baskets featured in the book, 20 of them are already extinct but there’s a possibility that we will lose two thirds of all the baskets as young people are not interested in the tedious process of basket weaving,” she said.

According to Jennifer, basket-weaving involves very specific skills at every stage of its process from harvesting and choosing the suitable rattan and bamboo, to designing and lastly, weaving them into masterfully crafted baskets, which are mainly used to store agricultural produce.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Foreign music lovers praise Borneo Jazz Festival


MIRI: The annual Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board is a great platform for music enthusiasts from all around the world to fall in love with jazz and share their passion for the music genre.

For Bruneian Kim Garcia, a second-time visitor at the festival, BJF is a really fun event and she came back this year after her first visit in 2013 when she started to fall in love with jazz.

“It is really fun to be here as everyone is enjoying what jazz music has to offer. I was not a jazz fan before I went to the Borneo Jazz Festival and since my first trip here in 2013, I started to fall in love with jazz and will continue to attend the festival for years to come,” said the 28-year-old restaurant supervisor.

In this edition of BJF, award-winning pianist, vocalist and composer Laila Biali from Canada was her favourite performer for her smooth voice and unique take on music.

Another Biali fan, Abex Alfira Naftaly from Indonesia, said that BJF 2017 was all very good and she enjoyed the artistic ambience that the performers from all over the world had created.

“This place is so good and overall it was so entertaining. Although I am not a big fan of jazz, I started to fall in love with the music genre after I attended this festival.

“I would like to suggest to the organisers to place more tables and chairs as well as picnic decorations on the festival ground because I can see that people who are here mostly bring their own mattress so that they can relax while enjoying good music,” said the 30-year-old Trek Venture travel agent.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Foreign music lovers praise Borneo Jazz Festival
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No immediate plan for road connectivity to Mulu


THE government has no immediate plan to construct a proper road from Miri to Mulu to enhance accessibility.

Assistant Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said Mulu “is currently accessible by air via MASwings twice daily from Miri and once daily from Kuching.”

“For those who are more adventurous, they can take the two hours four-wheel drive from Miri through Long Bedian to Long Terawan. From there, it takes another two hours longboat ride to reach Mulu,” he said when taking questions from Datuk Sebastian Ting (BN-Piasau) in the State Legislative Assembly sitting yesterday.

Lee said the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports was working closely with other agencies to promote Miri.

These agencies are Divisional Tourism Task Group under Resident Office, Miri City Council, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and Sarawak Tourism Federation.

Lee said the tactical campaign launched last June together with MASwings and Tropical Adventure Tours Sdn Bhd had put Miri as a preferred destination.

“This campaign is still active and to be re-launched with better fare for next year if there is a demand.”

Lee pointed out that Miri had been chosen as the filming venue for a Chinese movie ‘Blue Tears’ which highlighted the unique attractions around Miri.

Through the movie, he said Miri would be seen by millions of audience in China and other parts of the world which would promote Miri as a tourist destination.

“Short video clip on Food Trail of Miri has also been shot and will be shown in local TV channel to target domestic and Brunei market.”

He said more familiarisation trips would be organised to cover Miri and the surrounding attractions while STB would be producing a five-series product brochure featuring Mulu National Park.

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Private hospitals drawing medical tourists to Sarawak


KUCHING: Medical tourism in Sarawak is booming due mainly to the quality of health services in private hospitals coupled with the relatively cheaper charges.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture and Youth Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah told The Borneo Post yesterday there has been an increase in the number of tourists from the neighbouring countries especially from Kalimantan seeking treatment here.

He added that the total number of tourist arrivals in 2015 was 4.5 million and in 2016 it reached 4.67 million.

“And for the first quarter of this year, the total number of tourist arrivals has already reached 1.27 million,” said Karim, adding that the target of tourist arrivals to the state for this year is 5 million.

Meanwhile, according to a spokesperson from Normah Medical Specialist Centre, they have various packages offered to foreigners, charging them as low as RM200 for simple medical screening test to the more sophisticated and complex medical treatment of various ailments.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

A Fat Girl's Food Guide: Hilton Hotel – Kota Kinabalu


If you have been reading this blog regularly and following me on Instagram and YouTube then you’ll be well aware that I have been living it up In Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

While we enjoyed a sumptuous stay at the beautiful Rasa Ria Resort, we also enjoyed a few days in the city.

We were lucky enough to be offered a stay at the brand spanking new Hilton Hotel.

This place is so new you can still smell the paint, it has only been open for just a few short months but is already one of the hottest hotels in town.

The team at the Hilton hooked us up with the most fabulous one bedroom suite.

It was awesome, this place was even bigger than my apartment back in Seoul.

There was a gigantic bed, double sink bathroom with a bath and a shower, dressing room, living room with two TV’s, office, dining room, and a guest bathroom.

Like seriously, it kinda made me wish we had friends to invite over and show off to.

Had there been more of the two of us it would have been a great spot to host a party.

After the most relaxing night sleeping in our incredibly big King sized bed, we headed down to try the breakfast.

Although I do enjoy the elegance of a private breakfast, we decided to have breakfast in the main restaurant Urban Kitchen instead of the club lounge, as my greedy self just couldn’t resist seeing what was on offer at the breakfast buffet.

I have eaten at a hell of a lot of hotel buffets and this one was pretty epic.

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World-class acts close Borneo Jazz Festival


MIRI: The 12th edition of Miri’s most celebrated festival, the Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) 2017 ended successfully with memorable renditions of exciting Latin-Asian rhythms and melodies, Canadian modern pop and contemporary jazz, Nusantara-inspired Indo-jazz and Japanese jazz-funk at the ParkCity Everly Hotel here on Saturday.

The concert started at 7.30pm and the first band to perform that night was Michael Simon’s Asian Connection that brought elements of Asian melodies enveloped in jazz sounds and harmonies.

This group comprised old-school musicians who have become local legends and up-and-coming musicians from the Netherlands, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Award winning pianist, vocalist and composer Laila Biali from Canada brought a unique arsenal of modern pop and contemporary jazz to create an easy-going, feel-good experience.

Her smooth voice caught the attention of the crowd and got the revellers holding hands and dancing around the field to the sounds of her flowing keyboard trills.

Indonesian band Idang Rasjidi Syndicate, performed next on stage. Recognised as one of the greats of Indonesian jazz and renowned for his keyboard skills and vocals, Idang and his band are regulars in the Southeast Asian jazz festival scene.

The band brought its Nusantara-inspired, peace-centred Indo-jazz to the shores of Miri, promoting its message of positivity and peace through music.

Last but not least, to perform at the finale of BJF 2017 was Japanese band Osaka Monaurail.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: World-class acts close Borneo Jazz Festival
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