Saturday, July 22, 2006

PENANG NATIONAL PARK



By Wendy

Do you know where is the world's smallest national park located and is also leech-free rainforest? What do you know about 'meromictic lake'? Interested to know about the local 'viagra', our very own Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) which can be seen at it's natural form. All these and much more can be found here in Malaysia at the Penang National Park(PNP).

PNP is located on the north western corner of the Penang Island. The park size is approx. 2,562-hectare and it also boast of being the easiest in terms of accessibility compared to other national park in the world. Only 30 mins.by road from the state capital, Georgetown which passes by urban and rural settings until you reach the fishing village of Teluk Bahang. From the park entrance, it is merely a short walk towards the park.

I had the liberty of visiting the park last weekend with couple of my old school mates and our experience nature guides Joseph and Beatrice. Fancy the thoughts of being born in Penang, yet had never set foot on this side of the island. We started off early in the morning and reaching the park entrance at 7:30am. As we enter the park, we were greeted by a loud cry above us. A group of dusky leaf monkey welcoming us with it's acrobatic jump from the top tree branch, one after another. As we walked passed them, you get the feelings of being followed closely by their watchful eyes. According to our guide Beatrice, the dusky leaf monkeys are tamer than the macaque monkey(another species which can be found here at the PNP).

The beginning part of the trail has a slight hilly slope, after that the trails gets easy all the way toward Kerachut Beach. According to Joseph, he can complete the trails in 15 mins fast run. It took us around 1 hour and 30 mins as we constantly stop by to look at the many interesting flora pointed out by our sharp eyes guides. We also stop by a small stream to have our local 'nasi lemak' breakfast and a quick soak of our tired feet at the stream really works wonder.

After our brief breakfast stop, we are on our way again to our trail. We were shown the 'Lingzhi' (photos above)mushroom, Ganoderma is the fungus Ganoderma lucidum . It is also called the reishi mushroom or in Chinese ling zhi . It is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in China, Japan, and the United States.

In ancient China, when somebody in the forest discovered a Ganoderma growing, they would deliver it to the Emperor. It was known as the "king of herbs". To find one of these mushrooms was very auspicious and not everybody had access to the consumption thereof. Ganoderma was first described more than 2,400 hundred years ago during the Shu Dynasty.

We came across many different type of palm trees and also rattan. Joseph pointed out to one of the palm trees with thorns which is nickname as 'wait a minute'. The story goes that a foreign trekker were caught by one of the thorns on the clinghy palm and he called out to his guide ,'wait a minute'. The local guide mistook it as the English name.

There is also the red paperbark trees which Joseph explains that our fishermen use it as a dye for their fishing nets as it helps to strengthen it. Then there is a tree which the leafs smell like 'sarsi'. We also saw small pitcher plants(monkey cup) and the famous 'tongkat ali' tree.

As we walk along we came across a small elevated cement bridge, Joseph pointed out to us that this is the King Cobra area which explains the elevated bridge. We walked passed the area quietly and scouring the area carefully lest we encounter the king cobra.

There are different trails leading to the different beach so decide where you are headed to and follow the easy marked trails. As our main reason for visiting the park was the meromic lake, we followed the Pantai Kerachut trail.


A meromictic lake has layers of water which do not intermix. The deepest layer of water in such a lake does not contain any dissolved oxygen. The layers of sediment at the bottom of a meromictic lake remain relatively undisturbed because there are no living organisms to stir them up. The cool fresh wa-ter stays at the top while the warm seawater stays at the bottom, hence the name meromictic.



We were very lucky to be able to see the forming of the lake as this phenomenon takes place end of July to August according to Beatrice. The lake wasn't fully formed yet. The sandbank at the river mouth was already blocked at the time of our visit resulting us getting the viewing of the beginning stage of the lake formation. Joseph said that by next week, the lake should be completely formed. Taking a dip at the lake is a must to experience the unique and rare feel of the cool and warm freshwater and seawater.


As the cool breeze of the sea picks up, we saw a couple of white-bellied sea eagles cirling the sky. Then one of it dives down and swooped a fish out from the water, a BIG WOW! Nature show at it's best.


The Pantai Kerachut also has a turtle hatchery conservation centre as the sandy beach is nesting place of the Green Turtles (Che-lonia mydas) and Olive-Ridley Tur-tles (Lepidochelys olivacea). We noticed the prints left behind by the turtles and also a few dug-out area of the sands, no doubt made by the turtles as they came ashore to hatched their eggs. The eggs takes around 7-10 weeks to hatch.

For those who wish to spend the night there at the national park. There are camping sites with shower areas and bbq pits and lights. The ranger building is by the beach area.

Alas all good thing must come to an end. We took the motorised boat(which was pre-booked by our guide) back to the park entrance. They charged between RM70-Rm100 per boat which can accomadate up to 8 pax. There are bigger boats which can accomadate more if you travel in larger groups. The boat ride takes 30 mins.passing by another famous beach Teluk Duying(Monkey Beach) and also Muka Head with it's famous light house which was built in 1883.

By the time we reached the park entrance, it is around 1:30pm. We spend around 5 hours inside the national park. How time flies when one is having fun. We were lucky to have great guides to point out to us the various types of fauna and flora. All of it would have been missed if we went our own as it is hard to noticed them if it were not been shown by our experience nature-loving husband and wife team guides of Joseph and Beatrice.

For those who planned to visit Penang, don't forget to take this quick excursion and see for yourself our great nature secret that is hidden at the back of the Penang island. For a mere RM50-RM100 per pax(depending on how many of you), you get a full guided tour excluding the fare for the boat ride back + breakfast. You can opt to hike back which is not a difficult trail so you can save on the boat charges.

Getting There:

30 minutes drive from Georgetown capital in Penang, to Teluk Bahang by road

Nature Guides Contact Details:

Email: freegatemy@gmail.com

Tel: Joseph- 012 480 0584

Beatrice- 012 438 7806



Thursday, April 06, 2006

LCC Terminal Experience

By Wendy
April 6

After the big race to be the first country to operate the 'World's First Low Cost Terminal' for budget airlines, Malaysia has managed to put it's name on the top of the list. Since then Singapore has also open one of it's own, called 'Budget Terminal'.

I had the chance to experience this new terminal after a few days of it's official opening. Bear in mind that currently there are no appointed taxi specifically for this terminal, so the KLIA taxi charges an extra RM15.00 on top of it's normal rate to the LCC Terminal if you called one up to take you there. Reason is ,the location of the airport is an extra 15 mins away so which explains the surcharge. You will passed by the F-I Sepang tracks just before reaching the terminal.

But for those who are travelling on budget, going down to KL Sentral to take the shuttle airport bus called 'Skybus', will be a good choice as they only charge RM9.00 for one-way trip and buses runs every hourly. Plenty of luggage area even for those big suitcases and very comfortable. So if you are not in a hurry, my advised is for you to take the airport from the KL Sentral. On board the flight, you can also purchase the tickets from the crew members for the same price.

No worries also for those with international connecting flight at KLIA, shuttle service are available for RM1. 50 (free now until 1 May 2006). Pick-up Point: Platform 8, bus station at Ground Floor, Car Park C
What greets you upon arrival at the terminal is it's simplicity of the airport. Just a basic facilities but which are deemed to provide comfort for the passengers without the extra frills.

For those who are hungry, rest assured that McDonald has stamped it's mark on the terminal and the other one is the Asian Kitchen which offer local food such as nasi lemak, etc. Both are doing buzzing business as they are currently the only two restaurants located in that area.

Parking facilities are available at the airport for RM1 for the first 2hours, and Rm2 for the subsequent hours.

There's also a small bookshop, dutyfrees and pharmacy for you to do your last minute shopping before your flight departure.

The check-in counters forms a 'L' shaped type with just the basic board to inform of you of the counters to head for according to your destination. One must screen through their luggages through the machines before proceeding to the counters for check-in luggage, unlike the international flight at KLIA. Just a slight inconvenience which shouldn't take too long of your time.

There's isn't much to see so bring a book to read if you are going there early. The airconditioning unit will keep you cool so bring a sweater if you are departing in the early morning or at night.

Once you passed through the immigration at the departure, just rows of chairs occupied the main concourse and several more dutyfree shops for you to occupied your time. No big boards in here to inform you of your flight. Just a simple digital one are located on the exit doors on top, which are used by several flights at the same time. So listen carefully on the announcement.

Well..being a low cost terminal, no aerobridge are built in this terminal. So if your departure is in the afternoon, put on your sunblock and hat on as the journey from the terminal to the aircraft is a distance walk away. And you have to queue up on the single staircase to enter the aircraft. The exercise will do you good for those who wish to lose weight but under the hot sun with your hand-carry, it's not everyone dream start of a holiday. (pity the stewardess who seems to get the blame from the passengers because of this, spare a thought to them if you are the passengers because as the name says it's a 'LOW COST CARRIER TERMINAL'.) The airport tax are also cheaper compared to those flight departing from KLIA. So looking for comfort and frills, take MAS.

Arrival area are service by two baggage belts with trolleys for free. My-Kad reader are also available for Malaysians. Dutyfree items can be bought before exiting the customs by producing your passport.

Overall I can sum up this terminal as being practical and also much better than other international airports I've been too. Don't expect international airport's facilities, because we are travelling on budget.

How to Get There:

KL Sentral to LCC Terminal Bus Shuttle

Operator : Nareco (M) Sdn Bhd
Pick-up point : Lower Ground Floor Bus Station, facing open air car park and Jalan Tun Sambanthan
Fare: Rm9.00 per pax (one-way)
Interval : 15 - 30 minutes
First Bus : 3.30am from KL Sentral, 7.15am from LCCT
Last Bus : 7.30pm from KL Sentral, 2.00am from LCCT

Thursday, March 16, 2006

LCC Terminal (LCC-T)


LCC Terminal (LCC-T)
AirAsia – Asia’s leading low fare airline will move to a new home at the LCC Terminal (LCC-T) in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of 23 March 2006.

THE NEW TERMINAL


The need for the LCC Terminal was triggered by the high growth of passenger movements recorded by Malaysia’s no frills airline, Air Asia. The LCC Terminal is located about 20 KM from the KLIA Main Terminal Building (MTB). Construction of the LCC Terminal was on the fast track basis beginning June 2005. The construction and other related costs of LCC Terminal is about RM 108 million.

The LCC terminal is specifically designed to suit the Low Cost Carrier (LCC) business model where it would have no travellators, escalators, aerobridges and would be able to have a shorter turnaround time. The 35,290 square meters LCC terminal comprised one single storey building for departure and arrival. It is designed to handle 10 million passengers a year and there is scope for further expansion should more airlines decide to use it.

The LCC terminal is supported by the existing parking apron and additional infrastructure built includes an extension to the existing parking apron, surface access, curbside road, car parks, and other utilities. The LCC Terminal due to be completed in March 2006 and it will be opened on 9 March 2006 and the official opening will be on 23 March 2006.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Total Size of the terminal : 35,290 sq meters
  • Check in area : 2,650 sq meters
  • International Departure Hall: 3,240 sq meters
  • International Arrival Hall : 4,340 sq meters
  • Domestic Departure Hall : 4,430 sq meters
  • Domestic Arrival Hall : 1,900 sq meters
  • Public Concourse Main Area : 4,355 sq meters
  • Public Concourse I'tnal Arr. : 325 sq meters
  • Common, Ramp and circulation : 6,760 sq meters

72 Check-in counters

(52 check-in baggage counters & 20 check-in no baggage counters)

International Departure

• 3 Sets of check-in baggage screening machine

• 12 Departure Immigration Counters

• 2 Immigration Auto Gate lanes

• 8 Boarding gates

Domestic Departure

• 3 sets of hand luggage screening machine and walk-through metal detectors.

• 12 Boarding gates

• Common Departure Lounge (Pax capacity 3,000, seats 800)


International Arrival

• 4 International arrival gates

• 12 Arrival Immigration counters

• 2 Immigration auto gates

• 2 Arrival baggage carousels

• 6 Arrival Custom counters

Domestic Arrival

• 4 Domestic arrival gates

• 3 Arrival baggage carousels

How To Get There

Private Vehicles

The primary road access from Kuala Lumpur is North Central Link Expressway, North South Central Link, KESAS and Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong Highway. There will be a road signs to lead drivers to the LCC Terminal. An open 1100 parking lots will be available in front of the LCC Terminal. Parking rate: RM1.00 for 1st 2 hours, RM2.00 for subsequent hours

ERL

There are existing ERL station located at Salak Tinggi and KLIA station. Passengers are able to shuttle conveniently between LCC Terminal and Salak Tinggi ERL station/KLIA station.

Taxis

The taxi operators will be operating at LCC Terminal.

Public Buses

There are public bus services to/from Nilai Commuter Station, KLIA Main Terminal Building, Salak Tinggi ERL station, Pekan Sepang, and Pekan Banting.

Shuttle Bus

The LCC Terminal will offer other services such as a shuttle bus service to link passengers from the LCC terminal to Main Terminal Building, KLIA and vice versa.

Besides, there will be direct shuttle serve between KL Sentral and LCC Terminal.

*Wendy*

Sunday, February 26, 2006

PULAU KETAM





*By Wendy*

PULAU KETAM

Pulau Ketam, literally translated, means "crab island". It is a small island located off the coast of Klang. The island is easily accessible from the Port Klang jetty by ferry.

Getting There:

If from KL SENTRAL KTM station, it takes about 1 hours to reach the Port Klang terminal, then you will see the jetty a few meter away. If you are driving from KL, easily use Federal Highway, and follow the sign board to Port Klang (South Port).

Car parks are available at KTM Terminal, in front of the police station and private company's parking lots which charges RM3 for the whole day. Ferry services are available everyday. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

The fare is RM6 for one-way. The first ferry leaves Port Klang at 8:45am; and last ferry leaves the island at 6:00pm on Monday to Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm.

History of the island:

Long time ago, Pulau Ketam was desolated, small island full of "Mangrove Swamps" amd famous for its crabs. Three Hainan fishermen from Bagan Hainan, Port Klang, were the first to arrive at Pulau Ketam catching crabs for their living. At first, they came and returned to Port Klang daily. The journey took almost a day.

A few month later, they built a small house to stay over nights. They rowed back to Port Klang the second day selling crabs and buying daily sundries on return. In 1872, they built a temple named "Chuan Eng Bio" located near Jalan Timur now. after that, they had decided to stay permanently.

Population

Basically, Pulau Ketam are two villages in this island. They are Pulau Ketam village, and Sungai Lima village, separated by forest. No roads are available to link each others. The Main transporation is by boat. The population in Pulau Ketam village reached its peak of about 20 thousends in 1980's.

The villagers consisted of Teochew, Hokkien and some Hainnanse. Currently the population is less than 8,000. This is due to many of the younger generation moving over to the main island to work or starting a business; or to further their education.

Lifestyle:

Majority of the population here are fishermen. If you want to see them unload their daily catch, then stay after 4:00pm as this is the time one can see the fishing trawler coming back one by one.

Day Trip: Saturday 25th.February 2006

After months of my initial promise to bring my friends to this 'House on Stilts' , I've finally made good that promise and away we go on the recent fine sunny Saturday morning. Temperature soaring around 34 degrees Celcius. With me are my old friends from school, eager and excited like the school kids of yesteryears.

Following the highways with the signage of Pulau Selatan (South Port), we reached the ferry terminal just around noon time. Found the uncovered parking lot, just couple of minutes walk away from the terminal.

"Gosh..it's hot"; screams out one of them. "Remember to wear your sunglasses"; says the other.

The parking fees are RM3.00 for the whole day, comparatively cheap on today's living standard.

Looking around the terminal, it shows some signs of 'wear and tear' after the many years of usage. Many small fishing boats are tied on small poles on the murky water. It's low tide at this time of the day so the view around the terminal are not very pleasant to looked at the moment.

The hustle and bustle of the ferry can be seen with the many Indonesian workers and their heavy loads returning to their country. The South Port also caters for passengers to Indonesia besides to Pulau Ketam.

On one side of the passenger's terminal is the container's terminal, long rows of containers are slowly been lifted up by crane to container ships. Port Klang is ideally placed to capitalise on the domestic and international markets.

As we walked towards the boarding platform, we were wondering where to purchase our tickets. We finally realised that the tickets are to be bought on board the ferry. No clear sign to indicate which ferry we are supposed to board.

But no worries just a simple smile and hello will ensure the person standing next to you, will show you on the right ferry to board.

After 10 minutes of waiting, the ferry finally arrives. It resembles more of a long speedboat than the big ferry boat of those that services the Butterworth-Penang Island route.

We found seats on the front end, which is much more cooler since the aircond hole( and I meant a kind of tube hole) are located at the front end of the boat. The lifejackets are hanging on the side panel. There is even television inside the fery to keep the passengers entertain while they wait out the departure time. Too bad, the selection of show at that time was a wrestling match between 'The Undertaker' and 'The Giant' (or something which sound like that).

15 minutes passed with the boat nearly in full capacity, the sound of the roaring engine can be heard and we are off on our way. The windows cannot be open and need some cleaning but the air-conditioning was good as the boat are kept cool. Of course the smell of stale, fishy air is not your everyday perfume and takes some getting used to. Luckily the journey to the island is less than 30 minutes.

As I glanced to the back, I can make out maybe around ten tourists including the four of us. The rest are returning residence with their bags of goods from the main island. Ikea plastic bags can be seen at the front end of the boat. Hmm...looks liked Ikea goods have made their way to this sleepy fishing village.

We passed through some mangrove swamps and the ferry ride was pretty smooth with the occasional bump of the waves. The chattering sound of the passengers are kept on the high to overcome the noisy sound of the engines. Everyone seems to know each other as they talk or should I say shout to each other inside the cabin area. It's hard to make out their conversation as it is a good mix of Mandarin and Teochew.

Before we knew it, just around the corner of the last mangrove swamp....there it was, in the distance which are clearly visible from our small window pane....the village 'house on stilts'.

Fishing trawlers are parked in front of the stilt houses. Some of the fishermen are cleaning their boats while others are repairing their nets. We have not reach Pulau Ketam yet as this is the Sungei Lima village. These two villages are separated by forest. No roads are available to link each and others. The Main transporations is boat.

The next stop is our stop, Pulau Ketam. We are greeted by the long white jetty with blue roof. As we walked up the concrete steps, two rows of bicycles are parked around the area. Bicycle or bicycle equiped with moto called "moto-cycle" locally are the major transports used. The moto-cycles are registered with the registration plate 'PK' (which stands for Pulau Ketam).

At the end of the jetty is the biggest restaurant of the village, 'Restaurant Lok Hian' and also the Sea Lion Hotel in pink. Bicycles for rent sign are prominently displayed so one need not look far if they are interested to rent one to ride around the village.

After 50 meters away, we have arrived at the 'main street'. So called because because this area is the commercial portion of the village. Restaurants on both sides calling out to us to savour their seafood dishes. Name cards are handled to us as we walked passed them, urging and persuading us to go in to their restaurants.....with the main dish attraction, what else but the live 'crabs'. Another famous dish of the island is the 'O-Chien' or in English we called it fried oyster with eggs. As we had quite a heavy breakfast, we decided to walk around first before going for lunch.

Sudries shops selling basic goods and also fresh vegetables are available here at the 'main street'. A local bank, the Maybank with ATM is set in the middle of the section of the street. There's also a police station( it's hard to imagined the existence of any hardcore criminal in this island with no route to escape except by boat).

The main street is less than 100 meters, so it took us merely a few minutes to walk from the commercial to the private residential area.

The main temple of the island, Hock Leng Keng temple separate the main street from the residential area. There is a stage in front of the temple for opera shows and mini concert during the 28th.of the 4th.Chinese lunar calender month , and also during the 'Hungry Ghost Festival in the 7th.month of the lunar calender.

The temple looks as if it has been recently given a new coat of paint so it looks brand new. The dragon inspired columns are the main design of the temple, plus the waves like roof with dragons and fishes. No doubt these are carefully chosen for it's auspicious meanings to the Chinese. Two big paintings of the 'Men Shen' (literally means 'Door Gods' in Mandarin) are painted on the walls besides the entrance to the temple hall.

Origins of Door Gods
( as stated on wikipedia)

Qin Qiong and Weichi Jingde - Qin Qiong (also known as Qin Shubao) has pale skin, usually carries swords; Weichi Jingde (also known as Weichi Gong) has dark skin and usually carries batons. Qin and Weichi (aka Yuchi Jingde), in a Tang dynasty lengend, were told by the emperor to guard the door because of a ghost harrasing him, thus resulting in sleepless nights. When Qin and Weichi were called, they guarded the emperor's door. Thus, the emperor had a blissful sleep. The next day, the emperor, not wanting to trouble his two generals, called on men to hang portraits of the two men.

A couple of old caretakers selling joss sticks and candles are seen sitting on the temple's bench. While the temple offer us a temporary reprieve from the sun, I could do with a nice cold drink.

The residential part of the village are a good mix of modern and old stilt houses. Some of them are fitted with aircondioning units and built from cements and bricks, while next to it is the timber type of stilt houses.

The houses are quite long and of standard size. At the back portion of the house is where their boats are berth, exactly like our car porch and also the area where they sort out their 'catch', drying them under the sun to be made into dried prawns, salted fish, dried anchovies, scallops etc.

According to the history of the island from their own 'Pulau Ketam webpage', there were two big fire. The first one was in the year 1967 when Pulau Ketam was caught by fire which destroyed more than 80 houses. In 1972 fire stuck again and destroyed more than 100 houses and shop lots.

In conjuction with these tragedies, villagers formed up Pulau Ketam Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1972 to safe guard their own properties.

There is another old temple located at the back of the village, which we chose not to venture further since the weather are too hot and humid for us. We can see it from afar, the temple are similar to one of the timber stilt houses.

One of my friend called out, "look up in the sky", a few eagles were flying just couple of hundreds meters above us. When suddenly, one of them came swooping down, snatching the fish from the water's surface with it's powerful feet. It must be one of our lucky day to be able to watch God's creation at work.

We decided to walked back towards the main street and to look for a place to have our lunch as the heat of the sun is getting too much for us. We decided on the biggest restaurant located at the jetty as it is a much better ventilated place compared to the rest, plus it also offer us a better view of our returning ferry which is scheduled at 3:15pm. We have around 45 minutes for lunch as my watch indicates 2:30pm.

After much deliberation with the owner, we decided on 'catfish', bamboo clams, fishball (locally made) soups and also hot plate tofu with mixed vegetables. The dishes came out in large sizes as we have forgotten to mentioned that we want the smallest size for each dish. So ensure you inform them while ordering or you'll end up liked us, having to waste the food as it is really too much for four of us. I would say that the large sizes are good for 6 persons.

The bill came up to RM57.00 including soft drink and a pot of Chinese tea. I would say that the price is cheap if let's say we have the same meal in Kuala Lumpur, it would at least cost us around RM80.00. Taste wise, eatable but not outstanding. But the seafoods were fresh, so who is complaining after all it's good value for what we had and much more.
For some of you who wish to do a trip to the fishing farm nearby, you can enquire from any of the shops. There is a tour operator which you can book on the spot at the island. There is a homestay programme at the fishing farm with the price of a steamboat dinner included in the package.

To sum up the trip to Pulau Ketam, I would say that it offers the city folk a good weekend break from their busy lifestyle with a chance to spend a different kind of experience with their family.

The short day trip, took us less than 4 hours from the start of our journey from home and back.

All in all, we went back in 'time' to feel rejuvenate again. So instead of spending your weekends at the shopping mall, make a trip to Pulau Ketam....the island with 'houses on stilts', where three Hainanese fishermen first make their living from catching crabs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bario: Land Of The Friendly Kelabits


By Harlina Samson

BARIO, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- Bario, which means "wind" in Kelabit, is a remote plateau in Sarawak's northeast that stands at about 1,150m above sea level.

Almost entirely surrounded by densely-forested highlands, some rising to as high as 2,400m above sea level including Sarawak's highest peak Mount Murud, the air over Bario is always cool.

The temperature ranges between 16 and 25 degrees Celsius. However on some occasions it can dip to as low as 11 degrees and it is advisable to wear some warm clothing as it can be very "unpleasant" as the evening approaches.

Bario is about 50 minutes by air from Miri or 40 minutes from Marudi. Malaysia Airlines, via its Rural Air Service, operates nine flights a week to Bario from Miri and Marudi, using the 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft.

Another way to reach this valley of the highlands is a tortuous journey through leech and mosquito-infested jungles from Marudi, Bario's closest town or Ba'Kelalan, which is about 60km away.

HOME OF INDUSTRIOUS KELABITS

The Bario plateau is the home of the highly industrious Kelabits and the source of the highly popular, sweet aroma and high fibre Bario rice apart from the area's "signature" sweet and sugary pineapples.

A brief stay in a longhouse in Pa' Bangar, owned by Muslim convert Mustapha Raja, gave some insight into a Kelabit family's daily routine.

Mustapha's daughter Zaharah or Bulan as she is fondly known among the local community and her elder brother, Abdul Halim or Ben are busy with their daily chores.

This means taking orders and supplying rations for a nearby army camp and school, getting provisions from the airstrip and harvesting pineapples before sending the tropical fruits to Miri and nearby settlements.

"This is our routine. Most of the time I would be around here, carrying out my father's tasks as he is always on the move to Marudi, Ba' Kelalan, Miri and nearby areas," said the 29-year-old mother of two daughters, whose husband is working in Miri as a diver.

Abdul Halim, 30, said despite Bario's remoteness and under development, the Kelabits are happy and contented with the valley's natural beauty and feel that it should not be disturbed.

LAND OF HARDSHIP

"It may be a land of hardship as there is no proper roads ... we have an unsurfaced route which is only good enough for light motorised vehicles, enabling the people to reach the schools, shops and airstrip as well as areas as far as Pa' Umor and Pa' Ukat," he said.

However basic amenities are available in this valley. There are two schools, a clinic, an immigration office and a police station manned by skeleton staff as well as 12 shops, wet market and food stalls.

There are three pay phones that can be used to make calls during emergencies -- one at the airstrip and the other two at a shop and the secondary school. There is also a public phone that can only receive calls.

Abdul Halim said as there is no public transport in Bario, pick-up trucks are used to transport goods while motorcycles are the preferred choice of locals to move around. Most longhouses and the two schools use portable diesel or petrol-powered electric generators for lighting while others use solar panels as there is no power supply in Bario.

FRIENDLINESS OF KELABITS

For newcomers, they could feel the warmth and friendliness exuding from the Kelabits, as early as when they set foot at the Bario airstrip. And one may have the impression that they are not among strangers after seeing the smiles and greetings from the villagers.

Going around Bario's villages namely Ulung Palang, Pa' Ramapuh, Arur Layun, Arur Dalan and Pa' Umor, everyone met would stop to say hello while those riding motorcycles would raise their hands or nod their heads as a sign of greetings and courtesy.

A hospitable and friendly person is highly respected and valued by the Kelabits, said Zaharah, adding that the locals consider it rude if hospitality is not offered to any longhouse visitor."... and members of the community are expected to at least greet one another," she said. The Kelabits are one of the state's 26 ethnic groups.

Bario community leader Pemanca Ngimat Ayu, 84, said there are more than 6,000 Kelabits in Sarawak and about 1,500 are in Bario. The rest have sought better life in the petroleum-producing town of Miri.Ngimat said most of those living in Bario are from the older generation, easily recognisable as they bear the traditional Kelabit tattoos, elongated and pierced earlobes as well as heavy brass or hornbill-ivory earrings.

One of them is Maran Ratu, 94. He is still strong and commutes regularly on foot to the town from his Ulung Palang longhouse.

WALK FOR HOURS

"I can still walk for hours," said Maran Ratu, sporting a wide grin while showing his elongated and pierced earlobes, apart from the heavy brass earrings.Ngimat said the younger men and women have forsaken the Kelabit tradition of having tattoos and pierced ear lobes. Nowadays they are only noticed as Kelabits when they speak their mother tongue.

The Kelabits live in individual houses or longhouses in 17 villages and most of them plant paddy, pineapples, pumpkins, beans and other tropical fruits. They are also good hunters and fishermen.They are predominantly Christians, with many of them still leading their traditional way of life in inherited longhouses.

There are three Muslim families, including Zaharah's.Bario's strongpoint, apart from its natural beauty, is the friendliness and hospitality of the Kelabits, making the valley a "must visit" place for tourists in Sarawak.In a month, there are about 20 to 30 visitors in Bario and this number swells to hundreds during peak seasons.

E-BARIO

Bario's remoteness seems to work more to its advantages than the otherwise. It is the site of the "e-Bario" cyberspace programme, Sarawak's pilot Rural Internet Project to link the state's remote areas to the rest of the world.

The e-Bario, launched five-years ago, is a project under the collaboration of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Canadian Government's International Development Research Council (IDRC) and Mimos Berhad.As part of the Government's e-community initiative, e-Bario is an attempt to get rural settlements connected.

Housed in the Gatuman-Bario telecentre, the effort is a huge success but is continously plagued by power problems due to irregular supply of diesel.Last year's price hike of gasoline had brought more misery to Bario folks as petrol, diesel and kerosene are sold at RM32 a gallon or RM8 a litre. To further compound the hardship, the fuel is always in short supply.The cost of living in Bario is very high as all the necessities have to be flown in and this made their prices to "triple".

Sugar is sold at RM4.50 a kg, while a 14kg cylinder of cooking gas is priced at a "whopping" RM120 to RM180 (inclusive of the cylinder). Hence, the traditional way of cooking is still very much alive in Bario.

ECO-TOURISM HAVEN

The hardship aside, Bario offers a different kind of living experience to outsiders and tourists.Owner of De Plateu Lodge, Douglas Munney Bala said Bario is fast gaining a reputation as a tourist destination.

Munney said tourism provide a good source of income for the locals who are hired as guides for tourists who wished to venture to Bario's exotic spots such as the Pa' Umur salt springs, Pulung Tau, Batu Lawi and Mount Murud.

Tourists can experience activities such as jungle trekking, sports fishing and hunting, sight-seeing, longhouse visits, longboat trips and traditional farming.

"It is a great retreat for those from the urban areas who seek a serene atmosphere apart from tranquility and relaxation," he said.

There are several lodging houses adopting the Kelabit longhouse homestay style namely the Bariew Backpacker Lodge, Labang Homestay, De Plateu Lodge and several others. For tourists and adventure-seekers, Bario is an eco-tourism haven not to be missed.

-- BERNAMA

*photo source and more on Bario : http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/6980/bario_1a.html *

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Formula One Malaysia Grand Prix



Sepang Circuit
Location: Pekeliling KLIA, Malaysia
Date: 17-19 March 2006
Lap distance: 5.543 m
Laps: 56
Race Distance: 310.408 km
Track Record: 1:34.223 J-P. Montoya (Williams), 2004

The Sepang F1 International Circuit is the venue used for the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, A1 Grand Prix as well as the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix. It is also used as a venue for many other major motorsport events.

Widely regarded as a benchmark for other Grand Prix venues, the Sepang circuit boasts superb pit garage and media facilities, as well as impressive grandstands and patron amenities. Some complaints have been raised as regards to the unevenness of the surface, as the track appears to be slowly sinking. This is possibly due to the fact that Sepang was built on the site of a former swamp.

The circuit was designed by renowned German designer Hermann Tilke, who would subsequently design the impressive new facilities in Shanghai and Bahrain.

The main circuit, normally raced in a clockwise direction, is 5.54 kilometres long, and is noted for its sweeping corners and wide straights. The layout is quite unusual, with a very long back straight separated from the pit straight by just one very tight hairpin.

Other configurations of the Sepang circuit can also be used. The north circuit is also raced in a clockwise direction. It is basically the first half of the main circuit. The course turns back towards the pit straight after turn 6 and is 2.71 kilometres long in total.

The south circuit is the other half of the racecourse. The back straight of the main circuit becomes the pit straight when the south circuit is in use, and joins onto turn 8 of the main circuit to form a hairpin turn. Also run clockwise, this circuit is 2.61 km in length.

Sepang International Circuit also features kart racing and motocross facilities.


*source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sepang_International_Circuit*

Sunday, February 19, 2006

PUTERI GUNUNG LEDANG-THE MUSICAL

For those who wants to spend a different kind of evening, the PGL Musical is now playing at Istana Budaya. The sypnosis as appear on it's website with details can be found below. So why not spend a unique evening at the theater for a change.
http://www.pglthemusical.com.my/index.html

The legend comes alive


They are the legends that every Malaysian child knows by heart: Hang Tuah, the greatest Malay warrior, and Puteri Gunung Ledang, mystical keeper of the mists. And now Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical brings to life the beloved tale that is as old as time with a burst of theatrical magic.

Bring someone you love to experience the enchantment of an unforgettable performance that will delight the soul and excite the senses!

A musical spectacular

Majestic kings, dazzling damsels, heroic warriors. See the glory of 15th Century Melaka unfold before your very eyes. Breathtaking sets, resounding chorus lines, pulsating rhythms and spirited contemporary choreography combine in a fury of staggering imagination to bring you a night to remember.

Be immersed in the soaring love story between an invincible warrior and the beauty who tamed his heart. Feel the pain of two yearning souls. And then wonder at the dilemma tearing them apart between loyalty and desire as the sweeping award-winning epic is stunningly adapted live on stage.

A feast for the senses

Let the music move you with an unforgettable score composed by Dick Lee, the Andrew Lloyd Webber of the East, and Roslan Aziz, Malaysia’s magical maestro.

Together, they have produced a beguiling soundscape that is at once traditional and modern.
Marvel at the magnificent sets that rumble into place. Then be thrilled by the intricate choreography that weaves more than 50 actors on stage in perfect coordination. With clockwork precision, the elements come together to bring you a truly immersive experience.

Treat yourself and your friends and family to an awe-inspiring memory that will last a lifetime!


Dates: February 7 & 8 – Previews @ 8.30pm RM30 (Student, veteran, disabled)
February 9 to 26 – Show Dates @ 8.30pm (normal price)
February 12, 19 & 26 – Matinees @ 3.00pm (normal price)

Tickets:
RM150, RM100, RM70, RM50 & RM30

Venue: Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur

Box Office: 03-4026 5558

Booking Website: www.ticket2u.biz

Tickets available at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur.

For more information, please call/fax ticket2u.biz at 03-4026 5558

Email: production@enfiniti.com.my or visit www.pglthemusical.com.my

Saturday, February 18, 2006

VMY 2007 Logo



The Visit Malaysia Year 2007 (VMY 2007) logo design is a stylized illustration of the hibiscus or Bunga Raya , Malaysia 's national flower.

It is found in abundance throughout the country and was originally chosen as the national flower in 1960 by the nation's first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

There are many varieties of hibiscus but the Hibiscus rosa sinensis was selected as its five petals symbolize the five principles of nationhood ( Rukunegara ) in Malaysia .

In the VMY 2007 logo, the word ‘ Malaysia ' is written in freehand to conform with the overall design of the existing ‘Malaysia Truly Asia' tagline while presenting a liberal nation and its accommodating population.

It is intended to portray the prevailing sense of casualness and lack of formality in the country that often impresses many visitors.

The red heart-shaped petal is symbolic of the people of Malaysia welcoming the world with open arms and hearts. This is reinforced with the ‘M' surround as well as being the primary petal of the design.

The five dots of the stamen represent the country's fifty years of independence and reinforce Tourism Malaysia 's existing corporate logo. The imagery also denotes Malaysia 's rising prominence in the region as a modern nation as well as indicating hope and happiness.

The colourful VMY 2007 logo has five petals in different pastel colours: red, orange, yellow, blue and green.

•The red represents the vitality, openness and hospitality for which Malaysians are well known.

•The orange stands for warm, tropical holidays in the country all year round.

•The yellow symbolises our constitutional monarchy, belief in God, and the rule of law which contribute to the nation's socio-economic and political stability.

•The blue represents clear and friendly tropical skies, our rich, warm seas and endless hours of fun and recreation.

•The green conveys our rich tropical, natural heritage, the million year-old rainforests and the vast biodiversity and ecosystems that we have to offer in abundance to the world.

The red outline of the five petals of the hibiscus provides visual cohesion and indicates the shared vision that binds all Malaysians together as a united nation living in mutual peace and harmony in a multi-racial context. It can also be construed as a shared thread of blood.

The VMY 2007 logo carries the slogan ‘celebrating 50 glorious years' to highlight the golden anniversary of our independence. It carries with it the idea of self governance and freedom.


For more information on the logo, please contact :
Mrs Hashimah Nik Jaafar
Head of Secretariat Visit Malaysia Year2007
22nd Floor Menara Dato Onn,
Putra World Trade Centre,
45 Jalan Tun Ismail,50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel : 03 2693 7111 (ext; 718, 713, 707, 706)
Fax : 03 2691 1272

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Tourism Minister-Tengku Adnan

*From Bernama news source*

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- Former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who was excluded from the Cabinet in the reshuffle in 2004, has been appointed as Tourism Minister.

The Member of Parliament for Putrajaya was appointed to replace Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad who was not retained in the Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Tuesday.

Tengku Adnan, 56, who is also chairman of the Federal Territories Umno Liaison Committee, was made a Senator in 2000 before being appointed Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in 2001, He was later appointed into the Cabinet as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in 2002.

When asked to comment on his appointment today, Tengku Adnan said he was thankful to the Prime Minister for his trust in reappointing him as a Cabinet minister.

"I will meet the Prime Minister soon to seek his views to improve the (Tourism) Ministry," he told Bernama.

He said he knew of his appointment through the announcement by the Prime Minister which was carried live by TV3, adding that he would also meet Toyad to seek clarification on all ongoing as well as future programmes undertaken by the ministry in developing the country's tourism industry.

Tengku Adnan, who first became involved in politics at the age of 19 when he held the post of Setapak Umno Youth head, was elected a member of the Umno Supreme Council (MT) in 1993 but failed to defend his post in the 1996 Umno election.However, he was again elected into the Umno MT in 2004.

He had also held the post of Umno executive secretary in 1999 and resigned from the post in 2004.In the 2004 general election, Tengku Adnan beat the Parti Keadilan candidate Abdul Rahman Othman with a 3,546-vote majority for the Putrajaya parliamentary constituency.

Friday, February 10, 2006

MSC-News Update



KL Sentral awarded Cybercentre status
By MALCOLM ROSARIO
February 10 2006


KUALA Lumpur Sentral, a mixed development that also houses a transport hub, has been awarded the “Cybercentre” status under an agreement signed with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) yesterday.

The Cybercentre status simply means that MSC-status companies based within Kuala Lumpur Sentral will enjoy the same advantages as companies based in Cyberjaya and Penang Cybercity.
“Kuala Lumpur Sentral’s new status is significant as the Government is now making available the benefits and incentives of the MSC-status to ICT companies based in Kuala Lumpur,” said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis.

He said the launching of KL Sentral as a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Cybercentre marks a significant milestone in the growth of MSC and dissemination of the information and communications technology (ICT) industry to the rest of the country.

Kuala Lumpur Sentral is the exclusive urban centre built around Malaysia’s largest transit hub, offering global connectivity, investment opportunities, business convenience and an international lifestyle.

The agreement awarding MSC Cybercentre status to Kuala Lumpur Sentral was signed by MDC chief executive officer Badlisham Ghazali and Kuala Lumpur Sentral Sdn Bhd chief executive officer, Chan Chee Meng.

The signing was witnessed by Jamaludin.Kuala Lumpur Sentral is already home to many ICT companies, and with the new Cybercentre status, some of these companies have the option of applying for MSC-status.

MSC-status is awarded to both local and foreign companies that develop or use multimedia technologies to produce or enhance their products and services for process development.

Applicants must meet the qualifying criteria and successful companies must observe the conditions attached to the MSC-status recognition, which include being located in MSC-designated areas.

MSC-status companies based in Kuala Lumpur Sentral will enjoy all the bill of guarantees extended to MSC-status companies based in Cyberjaya, with the exception of two — the MSC flagship applications and the infrastructure guarantee.

The tendering out of MSC flagship applications will only be done to MSC-status companies in Cyberjaya while infrastructure in commercial centres is based on the best endeavour of the centres.

*source:BusinessTimes*

**MSC Status Companies as of Feb.9 2006: 1,439**

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Statue of Lord Murugan


Grand feat

By A. LETCHUMANAN
*source:thestar.com.my*

Gazing at the magnificent 42.7m-high statue of Lord Murugan at Batu Caves, Selangor, artisan and sculptor R. Thiyagarajan still has trouble believing that his team’s three years of sweat and toil have come to fruition.

It is believed to be the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world and the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple officials are aiming to get it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

The RM2.5mil statue is expected to pull in even more local and foreign tourists to the popular Batu Caves which already draws about 2,000 people daily.

Lord Murugan, also known as Subramanya, Skanda and Kartikkeya, among others, is popular among the Saivite Hindus of south India and is regarded as a protector of their culture and language.

Thiyagarajan, 42, from Trivarur, in Tamil Nadu, India, and his team of 14 workers began work after receiving a call from temple chairman R. Nadarajah.

The challenge was getting the statue’s proportions right.

“The statue is divided into nine-and-a-half portions from the head to the feet. Each portion is accurately measured and these measurements must be very precise,” he told The Star.

It is made up of 1,550cu.m of concrete, 250 tonnes of steel bars and 300 litres of gold paint. The foundation reaches 3.04m (10ft) underground.

“We had to work within a small area, lining up the bricks because of the scaffolding and the cover for the statue,” he said, adding that the carved garland and the vel (spear) were each 27.4m (90ft) long.

“Our main goal was to make sure the statue was free of flaws,” he said.

Thiyagarajan is no stranger to creating Hindu deity statues in Malaysia. He helped construct the Mariamman Temple in Tasek Gelugor, Seberang Prai, in 1991 before coming to Kuala Lumpur where he built the Meenakshi Amman statue at Batu Caves.

He and his team also did the 36 Vinayagar statues in Kortumalai Temple on Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, and the 50-feet (15m) tall Anjaneya statue, also in Batu Caves.

Thiyagarajan learned his trade from his grandfather, K. Periasamy Pillay and another guru, N. Kathiravale, in Thanjavur for 10 years before branching out on his own.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gourmet Tourism

Restaurants to promote gourmet tourism

TOURISM Malaysia's wholly-owned subsidiary, Pempena Sdn Bhd, is identifying restaurants as candidates to promote Malaysia's gourmet tourism.

Pempena is putting to practice the saying "The way to the heart is through the stomach" as it develops the gourmet tourism via restaurants as a marketing vehicle to further brand Malaysia.

It is planning to hold a stake in these restaurants so that it is able to control the quality of the food and service provided.

Tourism Malaysia officials said a budget has been set aside for this purpose. It wants to emulate Thailand, which has managed to promote the country via its restaurants worldwide.

These Malaysian fine- dining restaurants will not only serve Malaysian cuisine but also offer leaflets and Malaysian destination information.

And unlike a one-off event which costs several thousands of ringgit, this type of venture gives continuous publicity to the country.

The restaurant workers are required to know the background of the food, ingredients and its origins to help explain to the customers.

"Through the fine-dining restaurants we hope to target quality tourists to our country. We have other interested parties showing interests as well," a Tourism Malaysia official said.


*source: www.btimes.com.my*

Rubber-News Update


Rubber prices hit 18-year high

MALAYSIA'S natural rubber (NR) prices hit an 18-year high of RM7 a kg yesterday due to a shortage in global supply caused by continuous rain and global demand, especially from China.

On the Malaysian Rubber Exchange, SMR20 rubber grade (Standard Malaysian Rubber) settled at buyers/sellers prices of RM7.03/RM7.05 a kg respectively, more than triple the levels four years ago.

National Association of Smallholders (Nash) vice-president Aliasak Ambia said the country's more than 200,000 rubber smallholders will be the main beneficiaries.

"A hectare of rubber smallholding can produce up to 1,000kg a year and at RM7 a kg, a smallholder can earn RM7,000 a year and triple the amount if he owns 3ha provided he is hardworking," Aliasak told Business Times in a phone interview.

He had said last month that NR prices had the potential to climb even as high as RM10 a kg between three and four years.

NR prices are high due to a shortage in world supply coupled with robust demand, high synthetic rubber prices and continuous rains.

Rubber futures also rose to their highest in more than 21 years on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange last month.

In ringgit terms, the price of RM7 a kg - the benchmark price used by the industry - is a historical high for SMR20.

NR prices, however, registered their highest level ever in 1988, breaching the RM10 a kg mark, due mainly to the AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) scare then, but at the time the ringgit was equivalent to RM2.50 to the greenback.

NR prices have been spiking due to a host of reasons, including robust demand from China's hungry motor vehicle sector, higher prices of petroleum-based synthetic rubber (NR's rival) and the volatile security situation in southern Thailand.

The formation of a rubber producers pact, heavy rains which prevent tappers from venturing out to tap as well as the wintering season which saps latex output have also supported NR prices.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, which are the world's top three rubber producers respectively, account for about 80 per cent of the world's NR output.
By ZAIDI ISHAM ISMAIL
*source: www.btimes.com.my*

Proton - News Update


Main points of Proton-Mitsubishi alliance

Proton Holdings Bhd and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan will collaborate to develop new Proton vehicles by early 2007 under an agreement signed on Feb 3.

Proton managing director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said that they aim to introduce the model in 12 months.

“We would not see anything this year, but we are already working together to develop a model. It (the car) would be ready in 12 months,” he said at a press conference after the two carmakers signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Shah Alam.

Also present at the signing ceremony were International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, Proton chairman Datuk Mohammed Azlan Hashim and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation president Osamu Masuko.

Under the collaboration, Mitsubishi Motors could possibly assemble its cars in Malaysia at Proton facilities as the Japanese carmaker seeks to increase its presence in Malaysia and Asean, he said.

“That would be part of optimising Proton’s manufacturing facilities, so the assembly of Mitsubishi cars is a possibility,” he said.

Proton has a manufacturing plant in Tanjung Malim capable of producing 300,000 cars a year. However, it is currently only producing 100,000 units annually.

Under the MoU, Mitsubishi would transfer technical expertise to Proton and in return the national carmaker would allow Mitsubishi access to its facilities to expand in the Malaysian and Asean markets.

“This is not only, we hope, to be one way, that Proton will be receiving technology or products from MMC ... perhaps one day we could also share our platform with Mitsubishi not only for domestic (market) but for export,” Syed Zainal said.

He said the agreement would also include supply of components between Proton and Mitsubishi, technical support for production engineering and quality control.

  • Proton Holdings Bhd and Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore the feasibility of cooperation in the following areas:

    (a) product development of new Proton vehicles;
    (b) supply of components between Proton and Mitsubishi;
    (c) technical support for production, engineering and quality control from Mitsubishi to Proton and Proton's vendors; and
    (d) manufacturing of the vehicles at Proton's facilities to the extent mutually beneficial

    The signing of the MoU was held in Proton's Shah Alam plant on Feb 3.

    Proton said the MoU marks a significant step for car makers around the globe who are seeking collaboration as a means of rapid expansion and higher profits.

    The benefits of the arrangement to Proton would include the following:
    (i) Proton will be able to diversify its product range, producing a larger variety of cars within a shorter time to market
    (ii) Proton would be able to speedily diversify its compact and saloon vehicle range as well as fill in the missing gaps in its production line-up, tapping into the lucrative MPV and luxury cars segments of the market
    (iii) Proton will also avail itself to Mitsubishi's parts and components which will lead to component sharing over the long term

    Mitsubishi will provide technical support as well as quality control.

    As for Mitsubish, it can also avail itself to the manufacturing facilities at Proton's Tanjung Malim plant, boosting the factory's capacity and production quality.

    Mitsubishi, currently provides engines and transmission systems to Proton in the Iswara, Wira, Satria, Arena, Waja, Perdana and Gen.2 models.

By Joseph Chin

http://www.theedgedaily.com/

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dong Zen FGS Temple





Fo Guang Shan (FGS) is an international Buddhist monastic order, originating from Taiwan and led by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun. There are 17 centres in Malaysia with the headquarters at the temple near Banting.

Location:
Sungai Jenjarom, Banting.

From Kesas highway just go towards Klang until you see the 'Banting' signage then turn left. You will see the 'Fo Guang Shan(FGS) Temple' signage guiding you along the way. It's around 17 km away after turning left from Kesas highway.

What to see?

First man-made Lumbini Garden (the birth place of the Buddha) in Malaysia. The main attraction is the “One Step, One Lotus” display which is a lifelike animatronic figure of Prince Siddharta walking seven steps after his birth, with each step forming a lotus in the Lumbini Garden.

Other features with special effects include the lapis lazuli tower and the mechanised lanterns in an area displaying the statues of 18 Arhats. (Arhats, a Sanskrit word, refers to a perfect person who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana or spiritual enlightenment.)
Flower exhibition was an apt highlight of the event because Chinese New Year was celebrated in spring when flowers bloomed.

A six-metre, seven-tonne bronze statue of the Buddha inside the main shrine. The statue, which was designed in Taiwan and made in China, and is a gift from the Chief Abbot of the Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan. Eight other bronze carvings line the walls, each depicting the Buddha’s life from birth to his achieving Nirvana.

Another unique features for this year is the garden sculpture "Goddess of Mercy" face and also the "Laughing Buddha'.

Four exhibitions are held on the temple grounds during the festive season. Among them are, a Book Fair that features journals on Buddhism and health, a Light of Art exhibition that has 60 table lamps from Taiwan and designed with Buddhism characteristics.

There is also an Artistic Exhibition that features works such as calligraphy, sculpture, carving, paintings and pottery by 100 local artists.

Food:
Various stalls selling vegetarian food can also be found at the temple.

Opening Hours:
Free Entrance.

The Fo Guang Shan Temple is open daily from 10am to 10pm on weekdays and till 11pm on weekends until March 6. After that date, it is open from 9am to 7pm from Tuesdays to Sundays.

Around that area:
Basically it's a laid-back town with old shophouses. It's famous for it's many seafood restaurants. But during this Chinese New Year, getting a table can be a test of your patience.

Advice:
Best time for visit will be starting your journey around 5:30 pm getting around there. Hopefully the traffic is kind to you and getting you there around 6:30 pm where there's still daylight for you to enjoy the ambience of the beautiful and colourful flowers. Then wait for the lanterns to be lighted up for nightfall and enjoy another different ambience of the garden.

During the CNY expect to find thousands of visitors paying a visit to this FGS temple. It took me nearly 2 hours to reach there from the city center. And then it was human contact on every turn and long queues. It could also be due to the fact that on the very night I was there, a big prayer was organised so which explains the many devotees paying a visit the same night as I did.
By: Wendy

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Royal Selangor Pewter


Everything pewter at the tin playground

THE Royal Selangor pewter-making facility is part-museum, part-playground, part-retail, part-craft school and an entirely rewarding experience that’s worth a visit with the whole family.

As a facility that makes pewter, you’d half expect Royal Selangor to be a huge block of uninspiring factory building set in the backyard of bustling Kuala Lumpur city. Well, though it isn’t a step away from the city, as its address, Setapak, suggests, it is a stone’s throw away from KLCC. But uninspiring, it isn’t. The steel and glass building that greets you upon entering its premises is modern and chic, housing the interesting Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, which is the frontage for the Royal Selangor headquarters and factory.

The Visitor Centre comprises three main sections – the gallery, the factory space and the retail outlet.

At the gallery, visitors get to learn about the history of this born-and-bred in Malaysia brand that has been around for more than a century. From its humble beginnings in Jalan Silang where its first store was set up, the company has grown to occupy a massive factory space and opened up retail outlets as far away as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

On display at the gallery are olden-day tin money, the first Royal Selangor pewter product catalogues, old tools of the trade, and first generation designs of pewter products made in the late 19th century.

The knowledgeable guide who takes you around the centre will not only feed you with a short history of tin, but also throw in some interesting trivia (that the Royal Selangor factory produces 1,578 kg of swarf, or pewter shavings, daily which are re-melted to make new products) and even a short lesson in chemistry (that tin melts at 231.9˚C) – made all the more interesting with the larger-than-life exhibits there.

The gallery is a veritable playground for kids and adults alike as visitors are encouraged to touch the exhibits on display and feel the many interesting textures that pewter is able to produce.

At the gallery’s Hall of Finishes, visitors go through a narrow and curving corridor, flanked on each side with floor to ceiling walls of pewter of various finish. Some are matte, others are smooth and shiny. Some are grooved, others are lightly dimpled and scrunched.

Another interesting exhibit at the gallery is the Chamber of Chimes where huge cylindrical wind chimes made of wood, bamboo, copper, plastic and of course pewter, hang from the high ceiling. It can be quite a racket, but it’s fun to ring the chimes and listen to the different tones and timbres that each material produces.

Children especially would enjoy a hand at the computer games made available at the gallery’s Game Port. The games, which have been specially designed for Royal Selangor, are a test of skill, creativity and knowledge, and would easily keep kids occupied.Exiting the gallery, visitors are then taken on a factory tour. Here, they are given a bird’s eye view of the actual factory space where the Royal Selangor employees work on the products. There are rows and rows of workstations where men and women bend over in various acts of pewter-smithing from casting to polishing, from moulding to hammering pewter products.

Visitors are given an up close and personal look at each stage of pewter-making, with the chance of rendering designs onto pewter itself. For those who wish to spend more time in the art of pewter-making, the factory tour offers such an opportunity through its School of Hard Knocks. For a token fee, visitors are taught to mould a piece of pewter into a dish using some simple tools while they learn about the processes of forming, scraping, polishing and packing.

After the tour, and perhaps inspired by the story of this local brand, visitors may indulge in a spot of retail therapy. The centre’s retail outlet spans over 18,000 square feet of space with a beautiful range of pewter products for sale such as elegant tea sets, traditional tankards, exquisite chess sets and handsome desk accessories. Besides pewter, there is also a fine selection of sterling silver by Comyns and fine jewellery by Selberan.

All in all, a visit to the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is not only educational but also fun and, for the shopaholic, a unique place to do a spot of shopping.

The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is open from 9am to 5pm, seven days a week throughout the year. There is no admission charge and guided tours are complimentary. Visitors can choose to do a brief 30-minute walk around the premises or take a tour of the entire centre in a 60-minute session. For more information, visit visitorcentre.royalselangor.com or call 03-4145 6122.
*articles appear from Travel Times-NST*

Malaysian Institute of Architects Buildings

If walls could talk...

By Sager Ahmad

NOT many people know that the stately colonial mansion across the road from the Bank Negara was formerly a noble house and two hotels.

Today, it is the office of the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM), a restaurant, an art gallery, an animal clinic and a shop.

The minute one steps into the pretty garden of the building, one feels transported back to the colonial era as the interior has neo-classical ambience with touches of Straits Chinese architecture – airy high walls, recessed large windows at the front, a short passage with a round-column "arch" leading to a cosy internal courtyard.

Many Malaysians learned that the building was formerly a hotel only in June 2000, when the New Straits Times highlighted the story of a British woman, Marjorie Bell, who had come in search of the home where she spent many happy years of her childhood having fun and games with her friends. She spent six days walking the city in her search, accompanied by her husband and armed with only an old photograph. It seemed hopeless as apart from the faded photograph, she had no address or any other information. No one recognised the place and a few even suggested that it might have been demolished

Having waited 50 years to return to Malaysia, Bell was dismayed. On the sixth day, while walking at the edge of Dataran Merdeka (near the Royal Selangor Club) she looked up and saw a familiar sight across the busy road.

This was it. Her childhood home – a beautiful, sprawling mansion where Bell lived when she was six years old, together with other children whose fathers served in the British Army.

Despite it being the Emergency (1948-1960), a time when the authorities were at war with the communists, the children spent two years filled with indelible memories.

In fact the mansion has a history as rich as Bell's memories. Built in 1907 by prominent tin-miner and municipal councillor Loke Chow Kit, the place became a town house as well as office for his mining ventures. (Jalan Chow Kit, off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur, is named after him).

It designed by Anglo-Indian architect A.K. Musdeen and was known as Loke Hall. Chow Kit and his friend Loke Yew had visited England and must have been inspired to build the house in Regency style.

A European group later bought it and turned it into the Empire Hotel, to house the families of the British Army. Then it was renamed Peninsular Hotel in 1919 but it ceased operations in 1970.

The hotel was just a hop away from the Royal Selangor Club, another favourite watering hole for the early expatriate community.

PAM was given tenancy of the place for an initial two years from 1973, and when the owners tried to sell it for redevelopment, PAM orchestrated a campaign to save it from demolition.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall eventually acquired it and PAM was entrusted with the restoration and refurbishment. Galeri Tangsi was setup in 1998 and the first exhibition was of works by local and foreign artists, including prints by Picasso, Henri Toulouse Lautrec and Bernard Bouffet. The locals included AP Gallery owner-cum-printmaker Rahime Harun and Iskandar Mat Harris Iskandar. The gallery has hosted many art exhibitions since, including one themed "Scream" that was well received by the art community in Malaysia.

The shop and animal clinic next door formerly served as a stable for horses and as a garage. PAM Centre is at 4-6, Jalan Tangsi, Kuala Lumpur.

*articles appear from Travel Times-NST*

Foochow pioneers of Sitiawan


By DIANA YEOH

Foochows in Perak who want to trace their ancestry should go on the Sitiawan Heritage Trail and visit the Sitiawan Settlement Museum.

IT was an eye-opener for 12 members of the Perak Heritage Society who joined the recent Sitiawan Heritage Trail for the first time. The trip traces the legacy of pioneer immigrants of the Christian Foochow Chinese who arrived in 1903 and for some of the members, it was a good opportunity to discover their own “roots”.

The members, led by PHS vice president Law Siak Hong, were briefed on the history of the Foochows in Sitiawan. They also went on a one-day tour of Kampung Sitiawan, Simpang Dua Tionghua Cemetery Manjung, Sitiawan Settlement Museum (Kampung Koh), Pekan Gurney, Simpang Lima and Ayer Tawar.

The name Sitiawan comes from two words, setia and kawan. But the story behind it is by far more fascinating. It’s about the extraordinary friendship between two elephants used to transport tin ore along the Dindings River near the area in the late 1800s.

The story has it that one of the elephants got stuck in the soft sand of the riverbed. Efforts by men to save it proved futile. But the second elephant refused to let go; it clung to its friend and both eventually drowned.

In memory of this friendship between the two elephants, the town was named Setia Kawan or loyal friend. Over the years, the term evolved into Sitiawan. On the flip side, the place is also fashionably called City A1 (Sitiawan) by the locals.

In 1903, 363 Christian Foochows (Fuzhou) led by Reverend Ling Ching Mi arrived here from China. It was the Chinese Colonial Government’s second population transplant experiment in the Malay peninsula, following the success of a similar scheme in Sibu, Sarawak in 1901.

The group that arrived in Sitiawan consisted mainly of Kutian, Hockchew, Hockcheng and Henghua. Each was allocated its own agricultural settlement on a 1,000 ha of land in Kampung Cina.

One of the settlements was called Kampung Sitiawan on a tributary of Dindings River. It is a historical spot as this was where the Foochows first landed in Sitiawan.The settlers grew padi to meet the growing demand for rice due to increased economic activities in the area during the period.

The long-term objective was to establish a population growth centre for future labour supply to exploit the rich resources of the land.Unfortunately, the padi programme failed but quick action to switch to rubber saved the day. Over the years, the Foochows became a formidable group that spurred commercial activities in the area.

In 1999, the Sitiawan Settlement Museum was set up in Kampung Koh in 1999 by the area’s Pioneer Methodish Church (PMC).

Interestingly, and unknown to the public, the museum building was once an old wooden house which was home for the church reverend. It now showcases many old pictures, utensils, bicycles, tools, clothings and antiques once used by the Foochows.

Outside the museum is a well which supplied water for the Foochows for 30 years as there was no piped water then. Next to the museum stands the Pioneer Methodist Church, a majestic building in the shape of a “cross” originally built in 1904. It was burnt down in 1906 and rebuilt in 1907. Near the church is the grave of Reverend Ling.

The Sitiawan Settlement Museum is located at K-6, Jalan Chen Mei, Kampung Koh. Call 05-6920612 (opening hours from 9am to 5.30 pm, and entry is by appointment only).

*articles appear on Travel Times*


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"YEE SANG"

*photo from TEH ENG KOON/AP *


Raw Fish Salad-"Yee Sang"

Malaysian Chinese will toss and mix the "Yee Sang" or Raw Fish Salad in celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year which fall on January 29th.that marks the 1st.lunar day of the Chinese calender. Yee Sang is made from thin slices of raw fish, shredded vegetables, herbs, spices and oil. In Malaysian Chinese culture, Yee Sang is believed to bring good fortune and wealth in the upcoming year to those who toss and mix it while shouting"Low Hei," which symbolizes liveliness, prosperity and longevity.

Many kinds of fish are used including salmon, abalone, or sliced squiggles of jellyfish (an option you can select if eating the fish raw isn't an idea you find easy to swallow!). The dressing is a sweet sour plum sauce with a drizzle of vegetable oil, lime juice and a dash of white pepper.

But that's not all. With all the ingredients decoratively displayed on a large plate, everyone at the table, armed with a pair of chopsticks, will toss the salad all together while voicing expressions of goodwill, good fortune and prosperity. This elaborate salad tossing is known as 'lo sang'. It is believed that the higher the salad is tossed, the higher the level of success and prosperity will be achieved by those who participate. Definitely a fun activity.The yee sang literally translates to fish of fortune and is tossed for good luck, prosperity, longevity, health and wealth.

Popular in Malaysia, it is said to originate from here and isn’t known in Hong Kong and China. Yee Sang is not served outside the fifteen days of Chinese New Year. So for those who wished to try out this dish, you can always go to any Chinese restaurants or buy it pre-packed from the supermarket such as in Jaya Jusco, Carrefour,Tesco or Giant and start your own 'lo sang'. Just add your own raw fish or if you are not keen on raw fish, then replace it with thinly slice pear will also bring the same symbolic meaning. Don't forget to shout 'lo hei' or 'lo sang' to start off your new year auspiciouly.

*Wendy*

RAPID KL's CITY SHUTTLE

*photo courtesy from 'thestar.com.my'*

New Bus Service for City Centre

Five minutes to catch the Rapid KL’s City Shuttle service plying the Titiwangsa, Maluri, KLCC, Medan Pasar and KL Sentral hubs in Kuala Lumpur. The journey from these hubs to the 15 city shuttle routes took only a maximum of 30 minutes. The fare is RM2 for unlimited travel for the day on all Rapid KL buses.

There are 138 buses plying 15 routes within the five hubs – KLCC, Titiwangsa, Maluri, KL Sentral and Central Market. All passengers are required to pay the fare on board the bus. The driver will give the passenger a ticket, which needs to be retained for the rest of the day to enable one to hop onto another bus.

No doubt this new bus service is good for tourists visiting Kuala Lumpur as it offers them a chance to explore the city and to take in the sights of the city center in the comfort of an airconditioned transport by merely paying RM2.00 for the usage of a daily pass. They can hop on and off at the destination of their choice and only have to wait 5 minutes before the next bus comes along. By utilising the modern intergration transport system from rail to road, now they can venture to all the places of interests within the city center at a very affordable rate and at their own convenient time.

*By Wendy

Friday, January 13, 2006

PONGGAL FESTIVAL


Spilling over with thanks

By BAVANI M.

SQUATTING on the dirt road in front of the 60-year-old Arulmegu Sree Veera Hanuman Temple in Brickfields, the women were busy fanning bubbling pots.

Some sang songs while others chatted away as they patiently waited for their pots filled with sweetened rice to boil over.

The temple grounds have been spruced up and sugar canes and flowers are used to decorate the place.

All of a sudden someone cried the words: “Ponggalo oh Ponggal!” “Ponggalo Ponggal’’ and a lady asked, “Paal pongita?” (Has the milk spilled over?).

Sarojini Balakrishnan was clearly excited, as her pot was the first to boil and spill over.

Soon the other pots began to boil and spilling forth the sweetened milk rice called chakkarai ponggal, creating a frenzied excitement amongst the ladies.

The women were celebrating ponggal, the harvest festival. This Indian festival is celebrated to give thanks for the harvest. Ponggal means “boiling over” in Tamil. The festival is celebrated for four days beginning Jan 13 to Jan 16.

The first day, called Bhogi (Jan 13) is the ritual of throwing away and burning old clothes to mark the end of an old and beginning of a new era.

The second day, called veetu ponggal (Jan 14) is the main celebration whereby Indians give thanks to Mother Earth for her bounty.

On the other hand, Mattu ponggal (cow worship) on Jan 15, is celebrated grandly in India to offer thanks to the cattle, as they help to plough the land and provide milk for the family.

Finally kanni ponggal (Jan 16) is a celebration for young unmarried girls.

The temple's chief priest V. Ganesan said in Malaysia veetu ponggal is celebrated grandly with the highlight being the cooking of sweetened rice in clay pots.

“The rice is cooked in new pots, and ingredients such as jaggery, groundnuts, and milk is added into pots until it boils over,'' he said.

“It is a good sign to watch it boil over as it means that good luck and prosperity is forthcoming,'' Ganesan said.

This ritual practised for 5,000 years is conducted in the morning during sunrise in the courtyard of homes and temples.

The cooked rice is first offered to Lord Ganesha and to Suria Bhagawan (Sun God) and distributed to members of the household.

Ganesh, chief priest of the 80-year-old Sri Sakthi Vinayagar Temple, said other rituals carried out during the festival were the chanting of prayers and the offering of vegetables and sugar cane to the deities.

“It's a time to give thanks, the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving,'' said Ganesh, adding that it's an important festival for Indians.

For Saroja Guraiya, 47, and daughter Vimala 28, ponggal is a traditional festival and her family had been diligently observing the ritual for years.

“We give thanks and pray for a good year ahead and hope that our prayers will be answered,'' said Saroja.

The festival falls on the last day of the Tamil month of Maargazi, to the third day of the month of Thai in the Tamil calendar or between Jan 12 and Jan 15 in the Gregorian calendar.

*articles appear from 'thestar.com.my'*

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

RUMAH PENGHULU PAK SEMAN


Restored at No 2 Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This Rumah Penghulu used to be a local headman's house. It was originally located in Kampung Sungai Kechil, a small village in Mukim Bagan Samak, Bandar Baharu, Kedah.

From the mid 1920s to the early 1930s, Penghulu Abu Seman bin Nayan completed the ensemble of buildings which make up the house. When he died, his son Ibrahim bin Abu Seman inherited both the title and the ownership of the house. Unfortunately Penghulu Ibrahim had no son to succeed him and the house was eventually left vacant.

The three main sections of the house, the balai hall, rumah ibu main house and dapur/ruang makan kitchen/ dining room were constructed at different times and their origins differ. The rumah ibu was originally built for a Tok Taib who was a person of note in Kampung Paya Takong. When the latter passed away, this structure was sold to Penghulu Abu Seman who dismantled and moved it to kampung Sungai Kechil in 1924. The balai was probably added in the 1930s.

LAYOUT OF THE HOUSE

Balai

Most Malay houses do not include a balai. This structure was in fact built by the government as an office for Penghulu Abu Seman. It includes the covered verandah described as the pejabat office and the bilik penghulu penghulu's room. Community and other administrative matters were resolved in the balai which also served as a meeting room. According to residents of the area, the bilik penghulu was sometimes used as a temporary "lock-up" for offenders when the penghulu so decreed.

Detailed carvings reflect the skill of the Malay craftsman and the status accorded to the position of the penghulu. Unlike the rest of the house and to make a distinction between the home and the office, only footings support this structure. There are no tiangs pillars. The stairway to the balai is the formal entry to the house and an internal stairway leads from the balai up to the rumah ibu.

Rumah Ibu

The rumah ibu, as is typical of other Malay houses, is elevated highest from the ground. Used for public functions and entertaining guests, it also includes the bedrooms. Entrances to both bedrooms are denoted by fretwork archways. Framed above each archway is a coloured carving which depicts two birds. The archways were originally painted silver with a green trim, probably for a festive occasion. These colours have been replicated as part of the restoration.

Dapur

Origins of the dapur/ruang makan are unclear. It could have been built in Bandar Baharu or relocated from elsewhere. As in other Malay houses, the floor in this domestic area is lower than that of the rumah ibu and separate stairways are provided. Carvings and windows are less ornate here.

PREPARATIONS TO DISMANTLE

Recognizing that they did not have the resources to completely restore the house, Penghulu Ibrahim's family sold it in 1995 via an intermediary to Badan Warisan Malaysia. We requested Tuan Syed Ahmad Iskandar Syed Ariffin of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia to prepare measured drawings, Mr. Hong Lay Thong of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) to compile a dilapidation study, and En Yahaya Ahmad of Universiti Malaya to produce a Scope of Work and to manage the project. FRIM was selected as the contractor for the dismantling and reconstruction of the house under the supervision of Tuan Haji Mohd Shukari Midon. Prof. Ezrin Arbi of the Universiti Malaya was an advisor throughout this process.


On May 13, 1996, YBhg Tan Sri Dato' Seri Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul Hamid, President of the Badan Warisan Malaysia officiated the formal commencement of the dismantling of the house. By the end of the month, the dismantled house was moved to its present location at No 2 Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur. The smooth transition from Bandar Baharu to Kuala Lumpur was made possible by the support of YBhg Dato' Haji Mohd. Shariff bin Abu Samah, who was then the District Officer of Bandar Baharu.

RESTORATION

Site preparation, laying out of the footings, cleaning and preparation of original and new timber occupied the next two months. Levelling of the site was a challenge for the site work contractor, Jaya Renovation because of the gradient of the land. Minconsult Sdn Bhd designed concrete pads and compacting requirements for the terrain. In keeping with the original house where hardwood was used for structural components and softer wood for nonstructural elements, cengal (and in its abscence balau) was purchased for the former and dark red meranti for the latter.

On August 8, 1996, the raising of the tiang seri main column marked the official commencement of the reconstruction of the house. In keeping with tradition, YBhg Tan Sri Dato' Seri Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul Hamid placed the original 1916 Straits Settlement coin which was found under the tiang seri back in its position along with a 1996 one ringgit coin to commemorate the restoration.

The challenge in the timber work was to ensure that elements removed from the original house were replaced in the restored house, and to refashion any new elements in exactly the same form as those that were damaged. Five panels, which comprise the entire frontage of the rumah ibu, were reassembled and installed. Windows with shutters had to be rebuilt. When all the timber work was completed, the entire house was oiled and termite treated.

In March 1997 Intelu was awarded the contract to lay the roof tiles. These clay tiles are of Chinese origin and are typically used on shophouses. En Paiman Keromo of Muzium Negara provided sound advice on the proposed work. The house required about 31,000 tiles but only 15,000 had been salvaged from the original site. However, through the generosity of YABhg Datin Seri Nila Inangda Manyam Keumala and En Paiman and the help of En Asmadi Sairi of Intelu, we were able to source the remaining tiles.

Landscaping and electrical wiring followed the timber and tile work. Puan Kamariyah Kamsah of Institut Teknologi MARA was the landscape designer and the electrical work was undertaken by Yap Electric. YBhg Puan Sri Frances Ariffin has taken on the challenge of planning and sourcing the exhibits for the house.

COMPLETION

The dedication of the restored Rumah Penghulu was officiated by YBhg Tan Sri Dato' Seri Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul Hamid on Wednesday November 19, 1997. A video by Novista Sdn Bhd which documents the restoration will explain the entire proces

*articles from http://www.badanwarisan.org.my/ .Entrance fee is RM5.00*
*Wendy*