Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Borrowing a Star Wars analogy, Crowne Plaza Mutiara Kuala Lumpur chief concierge Dinorizzam Zainal Abidin said there are perks and privileges to being a Les Clefs D’Or concierge but one should never “fall to the dark side”. “A concierge is a little known profession, but we are the people who are there for you when you are in trouble,” said the 34-year-old who is better known as Dino. “If you are lost or in need of assistance, you are assured of service and aid if you approach a Les Clefs D’Or concierge.”
Among the memorable incidents Dino has helped out with are tracing lost luggage in Amsterdam, Netherlands, for a guest in Malaysia, and executing a unique meeting by making arrangements for a helicopter for a “meeting in the air”. The affable father of two is a proud member of the Les Clefs D’Or (Society of the Golden Keys) — an international organisation of professional hotel concierges instantly recognisable by the pair of crossed golden keys they wear on their lapels.
Dino made a name for himself by being among the top 10 finalists in overall global standing for the Andy Pongco Award at the Union Internationale des Concierges d’Hôtels (UICH) Les Clefs D’Or 58th International Congress held recently in Toronto, Canada. The award, established in honour of the former UICH 1st International Vice President, is presented to the most outstanding and promising concierges from over 3,500 members in 44 countries worldwide. Dino is the first Malaysian and the only candidate representing Asia at this year’s award, an annual competition held since 2008.
Award participants had to complete an open book written exam on the history of Les Clefs D’Or, geography and general knowledge, write essays on their interest in the profession and aspirations, and undergo a personal presentation and personality interviews with a panel of experts.
“It’s a competition that tests the skills and wits, and acknowledges the efforts of concierges,” said Dino.
“It is open to those who fulfil the criteria, but few have qualified for the highest level due to its difficulty.
“I was informed that I beat the winner Anabella Peling from Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, Argentina, by just a few points.”
Dino said he participated in the award for himself, hotel and country, and that the acknowledgement of being among the top 10 finalists was indescribable.
Dino, who is the Les Clefs D’Or Malaysia treasurer, revealed that Malaysia also won the bid to host the 61st UICH International Congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2014.
“Being a concierge requires passion. You feel the world in your hands, and there is no limitation to what you are doing as long as you can make your guests happy,” he said. “There are no “no’s” and “impossible” for a Les Clefs D’Or concierge. Nothing is impossible as long as they are not legally or morally wrong. “A good concierge can memorise the contents of the Yellow Pages, and guests will be assured of attention and personalisation.”
Dino believes that the qualities of being a good concierge are honesty, truthfulness and passion for the job. “It takes discipline and strong will to do what we do. I’m lucky to have a supportive wife who understands my interest and passion,” said Dino, who spent half of his 15 years in the hospitality industry in the concierge line.
“Les Clefs D’Or also serves as a base for networking, contacts and knowledge. We share the information we have and keep close contact with key people inside and outside the hotel (like government agencies, theatres and restaurants). “There are two types of society membership — a full Les Clefs D’Or member, and an adherent member for junior concierges. “There are 33 Les Clefs D’Or concierges in Malaysia, of which 10 are full members.” Being a concierge also offers opportunities for career development as some have moved up to hotel management positions, but Dino said he sees himself sticking to what he enjoys doing.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Best Western International has introduced its newest hotel in Malaysia, namely, Best Western Sandakan Hotel and Residence in Sabah, Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR 29 Ogos – Sultan Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (gambar) hari ini bertitah supaya seluruh umat Islam terutama di Selangor sentiasa berhati-hati dan jangan terpedaya dengan dakyah-dakyah tertentu yang mempengaruhi umat Islam.
Baginda bertitah, ia terutama yang mengandungi unsur-unsur keraguan dan yang boleh memesongkan akidah umat Islam. “Ini adalah penting kerana Beta dapati gejala murtad dalam kalangan umat Islam telah mula tersebar di negara ini dan Beta khuatir perkara ini akan merebak dan sukar dibendung.
“Beta ingin mengingatkan bahawa seperti yang diperuntukkan di dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan, orang Melayu yang dengan sengaja keluar daripada agama Islam akan hilang segala hak keistimewaannya kerana terkeluar daripada definisi dan identiti sebagai orang Melayu. “Bukan itu sahaja, malah mereka akan tergolong di dalam golongan orang-orang yang rugi dan hina di sisi Allah SWT,” titah baginda dalam perutusan sempena Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Baginda turut mengingatkan bahawa pada zaman yang serba mencabar dan keadaan yang tidak menentu ini rakyat haruslah berjimat cermat dan berbelanja dengan berhemah kerana banyak manfaat yang diperoleh daripada sikap itu.
Sempena dengan sambutan hari mulia ini juga, Sultan Selangor berharap supaya rakyat negeri itu mengambil kesempatan mengeratkan silaturahim antara kaum. “Di sini Beta menyeru kepada umat Islam di Selangor supaya dapat bersatu padu dan mempertahankan kesucian agama Islam seperti yang diletakkan pada martabat yang tinggi dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan,” titah baginda.
Monday, August 29, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: Muslims in Malaysia will celebrate Aidilfitri on Tuesday, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Datuk Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, announced Monday night. The announcement was broadcast by Radio Television Malaysia (RTM).
"In adherence to the command of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the consent of the Rulers, I hereby declare that the date for Hari Raya Puasa (Aidilfitri) has been set for Tuesday, 30 Aug 2011," he said.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
With Merdeka Day just days away, the Travel team picks out the iconic places and faces that have put Malaysia on the world tourism map.
REMEMBER those days when foreigners would put on a puzzled look when we told them we were from Malaysia? And our reply would be, “Err, the country below Thailand and above Singapore”? Well, things have changed since then. Many foreigners now go: “Malaysia? Mahathir?” “Mahathir”, mentioned in any accent, is always followed with admiration. That’s how impactful our former prime minister is even till today, though Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has left the premier’s office for almost a decade. The mere mention of his name makes the instant link to Malaysia. Likewise, the mention of Petronas Twin Towers and squash ace Datuk Nicol David.
These names have become iconic of Malaysia and have indirectly promoted the country as a tourist destination. But such recognition for the country didn’t come overnight. It has taken years, since the nation achieved independence in 1957, before our country is finally bookmarked as one of today’s preferred destinations in the region.
As the country celebrates its 54th Merdeka anniversary next week, here’s a snapshot of the places and faces that have become its icons.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
HE’S taken on many roles, but he has never been tourism ambassador. But thanks to him, we no longer need to explain where Malaysia is. Also thanks to his vision, the country’s tourist arrivals have been going strong since he took the premier’s office — an effect, directly or indirectly, spurred by him.
As premier, he was credited with engineering the country’s rapid modernisation and economic growth which created a boom in the tourism industry. Some of Kuala Lumpur’s most iconic landmarks — KL International Airport, Sepang International Circuit and the most famous of all, Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest building (until 2004) — were built during his premiership.
Not only that, he is also behind the rise of Langkawi and Labuan, both duty-free zones. Langkawi has since become one of the world’s preferred island destinations, and Labuan, a haven for business travellers. Fittingly, Dr Mahathir was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at KL Mayor’s Tourism Awards 2011 for his contributions to local tourism.
Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC)
NO visit to the country is complete without a trip to the 88-floor Petronas Twin Towers in KL’s central business district. The towers have been featured in many international productions, including the 1999 Hollywood movie Entrapment, a slew of Bollywood movies and a National
The buildings, designed by Argentine architect César Pelli and Filipino-Malaysian engineer-deejay Cerico, were completed in 1998 after seven years, and had enjoyed the distinction as the tallest buildings in the world for six years, until Taipei 101 wrested that title in 2004.
Unesco heritage sites
THE country has three heritage sites: Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak), Mount Kinabalu (Sabah), and the latest addition, the historic cities of Strait of Malacca, Malacca and George Town (Penang). The first two fall under the natural category (both entered the list in 2000), while the third, the cultural category (2008).
Former busy trading ports, Malacca and George Town have a unique townscape with buildings that reflect the cultural and architectural details of the past. Great street food and shopping within their quaint streets add to their appeal.
The 52,864ha Gunung Mulu National Park is the most studied tropical karst area in the world. It is also home to the world’s largest known cave chamber, Sarawak Chamber, as well as 3,500 species of vascular plants and 109 palm species.
The country’s first Unesco heritage site, Kinabalu Park, is the habitat of a majority of Borneo’s mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates (many threatened and vulnerable). It is also a centre of plant diversity, from the rare Rafflesia and pitcher plants to orchids and ferns.
Rainforest World Music Festival
WHO would have thought that our very own music festival would gain a large following overseas? Every year, thousands throng the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak, to celebrate the diversity of world music.
The three-day festival brings together musicians not only from around the country, but also from the rest of the world, showcasing traditional and fusion, contemporary music. It has garnered international kudos, including a listing as one of the 25 Best International Festivals last year by Songlines Magazine, UK.
Dive havens, Sipadan and Redang
SIPADAN, in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah, and Redang, 45km off the shore of Terengganu, have earned global recognition as dive spots of exceptional beauty. With waters teeming with over 3,000 fish species and hundreds of coral species, their alluring underwater worlds continue to beguile divers from all over the world.
Sipadan’s bountiful marine life has been feted by legendary French underwater world expert Jacques Cousteau, while Redang’s World War II shipwrecks The H.M.S Prince Of Wales and The H.M.S Repulse give photographers and divers a thrilling underwater adventure.
The country also offers a few other equally gorgeous islands along the east coast of the peninsula as well as small isles around Sipadan. In fact, before Sipadan and Redang reaped international fame, Tioman, off the coast of Pahang, was hailed as one the world’s 10 most beautiful islands.
Datuk Nicol David
SHE’S the first Asian to hold the world No. 1 ranking in women’s squash. The Penangite, who turns 28 in three days, has won the British Open three times and the World Open five times in the last six years.
Other notable achievements include winning the Asian Games singles title in 1998, 2006 and 2010 as well as the World Games singles title in 2005 and 2009. Recently, she added the Australian Open crown to her list.
That’s not all. The petite player is the first recipient of the Order Of Merit (Darjah Bakti) award from the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. The award, established on June 26, 1975, is limited to only 10 recipients who have made significant contributions in the arts, sciences and humanities.
Lat, the Kampung Boy
DATUK Mohammad Nor Khalid, more famously known as Lat, brings his adventures of growing up in rural Perak to life through his popular cartoon, The Kampung Boy. It tells of his adventures in the jungles and tin mines, his circumcision, family and school life. Within the first four months of its first print in 1979 by Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, The Kampung Boy was deemed a commercial and critical success as all its 60,000 copies were sold out.
Narrated in English with a smattering of Malay, the work has been translated into over 60 languages, including Japanese and French, and sold abroad. The book made Lat an international figure and is highly regarded by foreign cartoonists such as Matt Groening and Sergio Aragonés.
The Kampung Boy has won a few awards, including Outstanding International Book 2007 and the Children’s Book Council and Booklist Editor’s Choice 2006 in the US. It is also popular in Southeast Asia and has gone through 16 reprints. Other Lat cartoon series and animated versions have also been well-received.
Tan Sri Tony Fernandes
HE has created a storm, no, a tornado, with the Now Everyone Can Fly slogan. Now, with his company AirAsia’s stake in national carrier Malaysia Airlines, the sky is no longer the limit for Tan Sri Anthony Francis Fernandes. He flew out of anonymity, thanks to his key role in getting AirAsia off the ground a decade ago.
On top of his aviation business, he is involved in the hotel, financial services, insurance, telecommunications and media and creative industries through the Tune Group. The 47-year-old is also owner of Team Lotus and Asean Basketball League through Tune Sport.
In addition to being awarded the title Tan Sri this year, Fernandes received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire award, which recognises services to promote commercial and educational links between Malaysia and the UK. He also received the Officer of the Legion d’ Honneu’ by the French government in April last year.
ITS name has graced Formula One Grand Prix races and Shanghai ATP 1000 Masters and it has worked with Moet Hennessy to develop champagne accoutrements. It has also stamped its mark in the world’s pewter industry with its special collections by world-renowned designers Erik Magnussen (Denmark) and Freeman Lau (Hong Kong).
While Royal Selangor brings in tourists through its one-of-a-kind educational tour of its manufacturing site in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, its brand sells Malaysia to the world in many international stores. Its exquisite pewter products can be found on the shelves of Harrods and Selfridges in London, Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen, and Wako and Mitsukoshi in Japan, to name a few. At home, there are about 30 showrooms around the country.
In the mid-1970s, when Royal Selangor was known as Selangor Pewter, it gave the then Sultan of Selangor a pleasant surprise during his tour of Australia. He discovered that the word “Selangor” was not an unfamiliar name Down Under, thanks to the pewter brand. A few years later, he granted a royal warrant to the company, and in 1992 the company became known as Royal Selangor.
IT’S the highest peak in Southeast Asia, but more importantly, it has become a brand to represent Malaysia, if not Sabah. Its Low’s Peak, red-earth trails flanked by bonsai, and the bright-coloured Laban Rata guesthouse are so iconic that one doesn’t even need to label Mount Kinabalu.Scaling the jagged Kinabalu peak is a conquest many climbers are proud of. It’s placed among the top peaks to climb in this region.
Stay overnight at Laban Rata — the final pit-stop before reaching the peak — and one will see a fair mix of local and foreign climbers. Every year, 100,000 climbers from the world over make the hike. That figure does not include visitors to Kinabalu Park and the garden located at the base of the mountain.
Now also holding the record for the world’s highest and Asia’s first Via Ferrata by Guinness Book Of World Records, Mount Kinabalu places Malaysia at the top of the list of places to go for high adventure.
photo: pelancongan kini
Although there are plenty of obstacles in the way of Safiq actually being signed by Cardiff, not least the issue of a work permit, Cardiff chairman Datuk Chan Tien Ghee believes it is only right that the club offers one of Malaysia's best talents a chance to show his worth. "We had put it to Safiq to have a trial with us during the international break on Sept 8 when we will be holding a game for several others on trial. We are hoping he can play a part in that match.
"We watched him during (Malaysia's) matches against the English teams and we think he is a fine player. When we spoke to him about it, he seemed really excited about the prospect," said Chan in a telephone interview from Cardiff yesterday.
The Sept 8 trial, however, is unlikely to happen as the Malaysia Cup kicks off two days earlier but Safiq, 24, is understood to be making arrangements to fly to Cardiff in November when he will train with the Welsh club's first team. Chan said midfielder Safiq, who has also attracted the interest of several Indonesian Super League teams, would have to be patient if he hopes to land a contract with Cardiff.
"We are a Malaysian controlled club and it falls on us to grab this opportunity to give a Malaysian player a trial. If we don't make the first move without actually seeing him here, you never know what the prospects might be. "There are all kinds of things to sort out but we'll take it step by step," said Chan, referring to the difficulty for a non-European Union player from a country ranked outside's Fifa's top-70 to obtain a work permit in Britain.
On Thursday, QPR owner Tan Sri Tony Fernandes invited Safee, 27, for a trial with the Premier League club with a view to signing a permanent deal. However, Safee too could be stymied by the stringent work permit requirements given Malaysia's Fifa ranking of 146.
JOHOR BARU: Johor Premium Outlets (JPO) in Kulaijaya is set to open its doors to shoppers on Nov 11, or the auspicious 11-11-11 date. Genting Bhd senior manager (Strategic Investments) Jean Marie Pin Harry said that initially, JPO would offer about 80 branded items. “Shoppers will enjoy between 25% and 65% discounts on branded items all-year round,'' said Pin Harry .
He was speaking to reporters at the signing of a two-year agreement between Genting Property Sdn Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) for the provision of TM's UniFi highspeed broadband services to all retail outlets at JPO. Genting was represented by Genting Property Sdn Bhd senior manager Beverly Goldman and TM Bhd by its Johor general manager Mohd Roslan Mohd Rashidi. It was witnessed by Iskandar Regional Development Authority chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim.
Pin Harry said as a conglomerate with over 40 years' experience in the leisure and hospitality-related industry in the country, Genting would work closely with other parties to promote the JPO. “We'll tie-up with travel operators as well as with our Sentosa Resorts World to bring Singaporeans and foreign tourists to the JPO,'' he said.
The JPO is a 50:50 joint-venture between Genting Group's 54.6% owned subsidiary Genting Plantations Bhd and Premium Outlets, a division of US-based Simon Property Group. The RM149mil complex has a built-up area of 30,658 sq m and is located on a 17.8ha site. It is the first of its kind in South-East Asia. JPO will offer a wide selection of off-season branded items such as designer fashion, sportswear, children's wear, bedroom linen, jewellery, shoes and fashion accessories at discounted prices.
Meanwhile, Mohd Roslan said this was the first collaboration with a commercial complex in Johor under TM's Developers Programme. He said todate, it had collaborated with three Johor-based property developers to provide UniFi services to housing schemes.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The 32nd Matta Fair earlier this month saw great response from holidaymakers who crowded the halls of the Putra World Trade Centre where the yearly fair was held. The three-day fair attracted 80,100 visitors and featured 935 booths offering local and overseas destinations. Despite a less-than-lively economy, travel agents went all out to woo customers with freebies for the Hari Raya and National Day celebration period as well as the year-end holiday season.
On the local front, resorts, homestays and cruise companies offered incredibly attractive deals. Meanwhile, ever popular overseas holiday spots like Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and European countries were crowd favourites. More exotic locales in Africa and South America were also offered. They were aimed at a more niche market of those who could afford to travel there.
Japan made an inspiring comeback at the Matta Fair after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Sendai in March. A huge and colourful pavilion drew an encouraging crowd, especially with Japan’s intentions of regaining its spot as the top winter destination.
Also on offer were packages for newlyweds with honeymoon and wedding photography packages. All in all, there was something for everyone at the Matta Fair.
It was absolutely sheer enjoyment to watch baby otters playing with one another in a tank specially built to fit its habitat. Children, particularly, were amazed to watch these mammals actively teasing and playing with animal trainers of Aquaria KLCC. If you are one who loves marine and wildlife, you simply should not miss this opportunity and worthwhile experience as Aquaria takes you on a journey through water to discover the fascinating nature of equatic life as well as exploring the individual behaviour of animals and crawly creatures.
Aquaria KLCC now has four baby otters and an octopus as its main attraction. Its managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Simon Foong took the writer on a personal tour of this marine and wildlife adventure focusing on the introduction of new baby otters and the pacific octopus.
Parents of baby otters, five-year-old Cinta (male) and three-year-old Manja (female) were given to Aquaria KLCC by Zoo Negara a few years ago. Another friend of Cinta and Manja is Olly, a male otter, aged one. It has also learnt mischevious tricks from the other two. These baby webbed pawed mammals were delivered five months ago and have been the main attraction as they charm the crowd with their mischevious behaviour.
Foong said the baby otters, two females and two males, have not been given names yet and visitors are welcome to name them by dropping their suggestions in a box located in front of the exhibit area. “The baby otters were taught how to swim by our animal trainers when they were four months old and they were fed with milk formula in the beginning. Now they are able to consume solids,” he said, adding that the otters are fed twice a day. Another interesting feature of Aquaria is the new pacific octopus, which originates from Japan.
Foong said the octopus was brought in a month and a half ago since the existing one had died just after four weeks after laying eggs. He said the eggs too did not survive. The two-year-old octopus, which originates from the Northern Pacific ocean, was shy as it did not submerge when it was time to feed it. It was hiding beneath the rocks and the animal trainer had to get into the tank to lift it out.
Foong said the octopus can grow up to five metres in length and weigh up to 60kg. Known as Enteroctopus Dofleim, it hides easily in different surroundings to avoid predators. Foong also mentioned about a new exhibit which will showcase the Malaysian rainforests, which is expected to be ready just before Chinese New Year.
“The exhibit themed ‘Rimba Ria’ will feature the rainforests of Endau Rompin, Taman Negara and Belum,” he said, adding that the built-up area for this exhibit was about 4.500sq ft. “Renovation work for the proposed RM2.5mil exhibit will start in November,” Foong said. He also said it was pertinent for the public to realise the significance of rainforests and its role in our lives as 30% of oxygen comes from trees. “Therefore, it is vital to create this awareness, especially among the younger generation,” he added.
Aquaria KLCC is located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and is well known for its state-of-the art aquarium, which showcases over 5,000 different species. For those who want to experience feeding sharks and do not have a Padi card to dive, Aquaria has come up with “Cage Rage”, which started operations in March 2011. Tickets for this whole new adventure is priced at RM199. Aquaria is open daily from Monday to Sunday from 11am to 8pm and during public holidays and school holidays, it is open from 10.30am to 8pm.
GEORGE TOWN: Penang has appointed Kedah-born actress and singer Lee Sinje as its tourism ambassador. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said on his Facebook page: “We believe that Miss Lee is the perfect candidate to become our ambassador because of her massive following in Asian countries, especially in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, many parts of China and of course, Malaysia."
Sinje, he said, has acted in many award winning movies such as 'Ice Kacang Puppy Love', 'Re-cyle' and 'Koma'. “Her talent in acting has scored her numerous international awards in her career, which includes Best Actress at the Golden Horse Award, Hong Kong Film Festival and Hong Kong Golden Bauhinia Award.
“She is also among the very few Asian artists to be awarded the Best Newcomer Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001 for her role in 'Betelnut Beauty',” Guan Eng added. The multiple award-winning Sinje, who is based in Taiwan, made her name starring in the Pang Brothers production 'The Eye' (2002), which won her three best actress awards.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah will hold an open house at Istana Negara on the first day of Hari Raya. There will be two sessions from 10am to 11am for dignitaries, and 11am to 1pm for the public Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said.
The Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, will host a Hari Raya open house at Seri Perdana on the first day of Hari Raya. The open house will be held from 1pm to 6pm, and Nadi Putra buses will provide free shuttle service to the venue from four locations in Putrajaya.
The buses, running at 15-minute intervals between 11am and 7.30pm, will leave from Putrajaya Sentral, the Park & Ride station at Precinct 1, the Putra Mosque and the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque. The public can leave their vehicles at any of the four locations and board the bus to Seri Perdana, the Prime Minister's office said in a statement.
Najib is also scheduled to host an open house at Taman Tasik Sultan Abu Bakar in Pekan on Sept 18 from 10am to 2pm.