Friday, September 30, 2011

Borneo Bird Festival 2011

Date: 14~16 October 2011
Venue: RDC Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah
www.borneobirdfestival.com

Supertars of Magic @ Resort World Genting

www.rwgenting.com

Musical @ Istana Budaya

www.istanabudaya.gov.my

Firefly drops Johor Bahru hub, East Malaysia, Bandung & Surabaya

Firefly’s decision to shut its Johor Bahru hub offering direct flights to Indonesia’s Bandung and Surabaya, and East Malaysia’s Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, has met with brickbats from the trade.

 

Initiated in August, Firefly’s Johor Bahru-Bandung services ceased yesterday, while its Johor Bahru-Surabaya flights will end with the last flight on October 28. The flights to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, which started in May and June respectively, were stopped earlier on.

 

Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents Johor chapter chairman and CK Vacation managing director, Kenny Ngi, expressed frustration over Firefly’s move. “We are very disappointed with Firefly. It is a drastic move at short notice. The airline should have given a better time frame with a grace period,” he said. “Some (travel agents) had spent money printing brochures and advertisements. While we are upset, there is nothing we can do about it.”

 

“The biggest (negative) impact is to the image of Firefly and to Johor overall. We won’t trust Firefly anymore,” he added. With regards to forward bookings already secured, Ngi said Firefly had advised agents to apply for a refund or look for alternatives. “I feel sorry for those who went to Java for the Hari Raya break, and are now stuck there unable to return,” he said.

 

However, a source in the Johor Bahru branch of Reliance Travel, who declined to be named, said the impact of Firefly’s pullout from Johor was not that great. “For flights from Johor Bahru to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, customers prefer AirAsia,” she explained. Bandung agents also reacted calmly to Firefly's pullout, as the airline has not brought much business in its two months of operation there.

 

Bandung-based Tama Indonesia managing director, Reza Novaldi, pointed out: "In the last two months since its launch, Firefly's load factor was low. I'm not sure whether many travellers were aware of the service, but clients from Johor still fly AirAsia through Singapore.” Bandung agents are expecting AirAsia to take up the dropped routes, following its recent cooperative agreement with Firefly’s parent company Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

 

Atalanta Tours Bandung CEO, Ameriawati Atmasubrata, said: "I think the decision has to do with the entry of AirAsia into MAS. If the route between Johor Baru and Bandung is lucrative, AirAsia will take it to increase frequency to Bandung. "We just need to be patient and wait until MAS and AirAsia finalise their internal consolidation."

-TTG Asia.

Malaysian Moto GP 2011

www.malaysiangp.com.my

Kemasukan pelancongan ke Sabah meningkat 12%

KOTA KINABALU 29 Sept. - Buat pertama kalinya bilangan pelancong ke Sabah mencatat peningkatan dua angka dan ia membuktikan Negeri Di Bawah Bayu itu terus menjadi destinasi tumpuan di negara ini.

Menteri Pelancongan, Kebudayaan dan Alam Sekitar negeri, Datuk Masidi Manjun berkata, jumlah kehadiran pelancong di Sabah mencatat peningkatan 12 peratus dalam tempoh tujuh bulan tahun ini. Katanya, peningkatan itu melibatkan pelancong dari negara serantau seperti China, Taiwan, Korea dan Australia, malah pelancong domestik dari Semenanjung juga semakin ramai berkunjung ke Sabah.

"Malah terdapat dalam satu bulan bilangan pelancong ke Sabah mencatat peningkatan 42 peratus. "Ini menunjukkan satu perkembangan yang sangat positif kepada industri pelancongan di negeri ini," katanya pada sidang akhbar di sini, hari ini.

Beliau berkata demikian selepas merasmikan laman web kumpulan pelancongan, Accor yang menawarkan 4,100 hotel di seluruh dunia dan 500,000 bilik penginapan di 90 negara. Hadir sama, Timbalan Presiden Accor, Gerard Guillouet dan Pengurus Besar Novotel Hotels Kota Kinabalu, Jacques Leizerovici.

Mengulas lanjut Masidi berkata, pelancong dari China mencatat bilangan paling tinggi ke Sabah iaitu 76,200 orang bagi tempoh tujuh bulan tahun ini. Menurutnya, kebanyakan pelancong dari China itu adalah dari Beijing dan Shanghai yang sememangnya terkenal dengan kumpulan elit dan berpendapatan tinggi. Sehubungan itu, katanya, kehadiran kumpulan pelancong dari China itu adalah sangat bermakna dalam menjana pendapatan rakyat di Sabah, sekali gus merancakkan perkembangan ekonomi negeri tersebut. 

"Kementerian bukan mahu melihat peningkatan jumlah bilangan pelancong sahaja, tetapi keupayaan mereka untuk berbelanja di negeri ini sekali gus merancakkan perkembangan ekonomi negeri," katanya. Sementara itu, katanya, kerajaan negeri juga sedang mengadakan perbincangan dengan Kerajaan Pusat bagi membina sebuah pusat konvensyen di negeri ini.

-Utusan Online.

Pulau Lebah di Tasik Kenyir


KEINDAHAN alam semulajadi di Tasik Kenyir, menjadikan tasik berkenaan satu destinasi pelancongan yang sangat menarik dan mempesonakan untuk dilawati.

KUALA TERENGGANU 29 Sept. - Kerajaan negeri akan membangunkan sebuah pulau di Tasik Kenyir sebagai Pulau Lebah dalam usaha merangsang perkembangan industri madu lebah negara. Kewujudan pulau tersebut sekali gus meletakkan Terengganu sebagai satu-satunya negeri yang mempunyai pulau khusus untuk lebah dan bakal menjadi salah satu tarikan pelancong.

Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pertanian dan Industri Asas Tani negeri, Asha'ari Idris berkata, buat permulaan, sejumlah RM1.6 juta diperuntukkan kerajaan negeri manakala pulau yang sesuai sedang dikenal pasti. Menurutnya, pulau madu lebah itu lebih menumpukan kepada kerja penyelidikan selain menyediakan pelbagai maklumat mengenai madu lebah untuk pengetahuan orang ramai dan pemasaran produk.

"Ia juga akan menempatkan pusat interpretasi lebah yang mengandungi pelbagai maklumat yang bukan saja untuk peminat dan pengusaha madu lebah malah, pelancong. "Kita sedang kenal pasti pulau yang sesuai untuk dibangunkan dan kita juga akan pilih pulau yang mempunyai pokok tualang yang mampu menghasilkan madu lebah tualang bermutu tinggi," katanya.

Ashaari menyatakan perkara itu kepada pemberita selepas merasmikan Seminar Lebah Peringkat Kebangsaan dan ApiExpo 2011 di Permai Hotel di sini hari ini. Turut hadir, Timbalan Presiden Persatuan Lebah Asia, Datuk Prof. Dr. Makhdir Mardan. Seramai 100 orang peserta dari kalangan pengusaha serta penyelidik dari seluruh negeri menyertai seminar dua hari itu. Beliau berkata, dengan adanya pulau sedemikian, ia turut membantu pencari dan pengusaha madu lebah dalam aspek keselamatan, kawalan mutu dan sebagainya.

Selain itu, Ashaari berkata, Malaysia buat julung kali diberi penghormatan menjadi tuan rumah Seminar Lebah Asia yang bakal diadakan di Terengganu pada penghujung September tahun depan. "Seminar seumpama itu diadakan dua tahun sekali dan tahun depan, Malaysia buat pertama kalinya akan jadi tuan rumah yang akan diadakan di Terengganu," katanya.

-Utusan Online.

Malaysia to weather source market turmoil

Tourism minister Ng Yen Yen is confident that Malaysia will meet its target of 25 million arrivals for the year, even though external factors have affected several major source markets.

 

Thailand, Malaysia’s third largest source of arrivals last year, is undergoing a transitional period, having just endured a regime change following July’s election; Europe and the US are suffering from one financial hiccup after another; while the disasters that hit Japan in March have drastically reduced outbound numbers from the country.

 

Competition from Singapore, with its new products such as the Universal Studios theme park and integrated casino resorts, was also expected to have an adverse effect on inbound to Malaysia, said Ng. In spite of the challenges, a rise in tourist numbers from China, the Middle East, India and Russia is expected to take up the slack, and even boost arrivals by 0.2 per cent over last year’s 24.6 million visitors.

 

Ng said the tourism ministry would focus on these emerging markets, as their spending capacities were quite high, while existing promotions would remain online.

 

According to Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel director of sales, Andy Muniandy, the Middle East market had been especially resilient, with a surge in visitors from the region in July causing a room shortage in Kuala Lumpur. “With Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal playing in Kuala Lumpur over 10 days in July, we could not get enough rooms because their Middle East fans travelled to the city for these games,” he said.

 

AOS sent the Middle East customers to various island resorts on arrival in Malaysia, before bringing them back to Kuala Lumpur for the football games. “This was equally difficult as rooms on the islands were also heavily booked,” Muniandy said.

-TTG Asia.

Make time for luxury watch exhibition in KL

KUALA LUMPUR: Catch a glimpse of the craftsmanship and painstaking work involved in producing some of the finest watches from luxurious international brands. At the Timepieces Today, Tomorrow & Forever exhibition at Pavilion KL till Oct 9, visitors can even try their hand at the intricate watch-making process.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen launched the event yesterday. It features exclusive collections from leading brands like Ulysse Nardin, Montblanc, Cartier, Graham, IWC Schaffhausen and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Luxury phone brand Vertu is a participant as well. Among the limited-edition timepieces displayed is the “1Malaysia” watch by Ulysse Nardin, produced as a tribute to the country.

“Exhibitions featuring international brands such as these are in line with the Tourism Ministry's efforts to promote Malaysia as a shopping haven for tourists,” said Dr Ng, adding that shopping had contributed RM16.2bil to the country's coffers last year. She said the ministry aimed to develop the Bukit Bintang area into a “must visit” tourists' area with several projects planned, including a 1.3km walkway expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The exhibition celebrates the 10th anniversary of home-grown luxury watch retailer Swiss Watch Gallery. The company, which began with an outlet at Penang International Airport, now has more than 20 watch boutiques in Malaysia and Singapore. The exhibition's lifestyle partners include UOB Bank, BMW, The Star, The Peak, Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Glenmorangie. The event has the support of Tourism Malaysia.

-thestar online.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lost World Hotel in Ipoh expands for families

Ipoh-based Lost World Hotel, which opened in May with 96 rooms, will add a second block of 78 rooms including family suites, starting December 1 at an estimated RM30 million (US$10 million) cost.

 

The hotel is a core feature of the Lost World of Tambun theme park, which attracts 600,000 visitors a year. Lost World of Tambun general manager, Calvin Ho, said: “The new block is to cater to families wanting a longer stay at the park. We expect an occupancy rate of 60 to 70 per cent once it opens.”

 

While consistently running at 100 per cent occupancy during weekends, the hotel currently averages 50 per cent occupancy. “We expect our occupancy rate to rise with the increased inventory because we will be able to take on bigger groups, which we cannot do at present,” Ho said.

 

Additional features are a meeting room with a capacity of 200. But just like the existing block, there will be no F&B facility. “We realise that many visitors come to Ipoh to taste the local food. We encourage them to go out and do so,” Ho said. Singapore-based Lokopoko Travel head, Iwan Yang, said of the development: “The Lost World of Tambun is something we can package for our market. It is hard to say what the response will be though.”

-TTG Asia.

All set for tourist influx

Perak is banking on its star tourist sites - Royal Belum Forest and Lenggong Valley - to attract at least three million domestic and foreign tourists to the state next year.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said local tourists currently made up a bigger percentage of tourist arrivals and that Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012 sought to increase the number of foreign tourists to the state by 40%. This he hoped to do with the state’s world-class attractions namely Royal Belum’s 130 million-year-old forest and Lenggong which has been nominated to be a Unesco world heritage site.

“With three million tourist arrivals, we are looking at hundreds of thousands of ringgit in income for the state and the people,” he told reporters after unveiling the official logo of VPY 2012 at Dataran Ipoh on Saturday night.

Themed “Yours to Discover”, the VPY 2012 logo bears a Kingfisher to represent the different species of birds in the state as well as the Rafflesia of Royal Belum and the labu sayong (water pitcher) of Kuala Kangsar. Dr Zambry told reporters various programmes were in store for tourists during VPY 2012.

“Nature lovers would be enchanted by our century-old tropical rainforests and the Rafflesia in Royal Belum. “The 50,000-year-old Lenggong Valley is one of the earliest archaeological sites in the world based on the discovery of the Perak Man,” he said.

Perak Man, said to be 11,000 years old, is the only prehistoric skeleton in the world born with the congenital deformity Brachymesophalangia Type 2.

“In Perak, there are a lot that people do not know about. For example, there are some 500 different species of birds here as compared to other places in the world. Even Taiwan, which is considered to have many types of birds, is home to only 300 species. “In Royal Belum itself, we have 10 species of hornbills,” Dr Zambry said, adding that Kuala Sepetang was beautiful at night due to its colony of fireflies.

Apart from nature and history, Dr Zambry said Perak, especially Ipoh, was also known to be a food heaven. “Even now, we have Singaporeans driving up to Ipoh on weekends just for the food here. Ipoh is popular for its food,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, Dr Zambry said the success of VPY 2012 depended on not just the state government or tour agencies but largely on the people of Perak. “Each one of you is an ambassador for our state. It is you who will determine if VPY 2012 works out or not. “You see, it is the smile that we give to our visitors that will be remembered and etched in their memories long after they have returned home,” he told the crowd.

-thestar online.

Airlines told to brace for tough times

HONG KONG: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned of tough times ahead for the airline industry and the head of Thai Airways said the financial market turmoil was “frightening”. IATA director-general and chief executive Tony Tyler also said the European Union’s carbon emission trading system would add to the financial pressures on airlines despite an offer of free permits, which he criticised as “linguistic gymnastics”.

IATA has already warned that a weak global economy would prompt a 29% fall in airline profits in 2012 and cut the industry’s profit margins to a wafer thin 0.8% from 1.2% this year. “There is so much uncertainty over the world economy, obviously in Europe and the United States,” Tyler said at a media briefing.

IATA, whose 230 members carry more than 93% of scheduled international air traffic, forecast global economic growth of 2.4% in 2012, lower than the International Monetary Fund’s projection of 4%. “We are not seeing a recession,” said Tyler. Still, global growth is closely tied to the financial performance of airlines. Whenever growth slipped below 2%, the airline industry lost money, IATA said.

IATA forecasts industry profits in 2012 will fall 29% to US$4.9bil from US$6.9bil this year. Volatility in financial markets in the past week has put more pressure on the aviation industry. “The recent market meltdown is really frightening,” said Thai Airways International Pcl president Piyasvasti Amranand. “Economies in Europe and the United States are really slowing down,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, the world’s largest international air-cargo carrier, is “very worried” about the fourth quarter because industry freight volumes may fall more than 10% from last year. “There is a big black cloud in front of us,” chief operating officer Ivan Chu told reporters yesterday in Hong Kong, where the carrier is based. “We are very worried.” – Agencies

MAS new short-haul premium carrier will take off by January

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) new short-haul premium carrier will take off by January. However, it is not likely to be named Sapphire, as indicated earlier. Instead, said a source, the Firefly brand might be retained or there would be a new brand incorporating the MAS name. The short-haul premium airline would also compete with AirAsia because there will be route overlaps in the market segment.

It is learnt that there would be no duplication of routes between MAS' long-haul premium operations and those of the short-haul premium airline. “Sapphire is definitely out, but it's not certain if the Firefly name would be used. The entire product offering has to be changed because it would be a full-service airline that offers business class seating. It would also be a feeder service for MAS' long-haul operations. It has to have the right branding and product offering to attract both the business and leisure travellers,” said the source.

“Eventually, we are talking about a product that offers value for money. Naturally, the business model has to change,” he added. It is learnt that the MAS board approved both the long-haul premium and short-haul premium structures yesterday, paving the way for planning and implementation.

Firefly is a community airline that operates from Subang, using turboprops. It also flies jets from the KL International Airport (KLIA) but this will cease by end-October. MAS' transformation stems from the share swap between MAS and AirAsia's founding members, who now own 20% of MAS. As part of the change, the interior of the aircraft for the short-haul services will be changed to include business-class seats for both the turboprop and jet operations.

The turboprops will continue to fly from Subang, while the jet operations from KLIA will serve short-haul routes within a three to four-hour flying radius. Since the new airline would be premium short-haul carrier, the Firefly operating model will change and so will the service quality and branding. The cost of the change, according to the source, would be minimal because the “structure is already there”. Still, there be may room for airfares to go up because the new short-haul airline will be a premium product. Another source said “we would like to think it is value for money”.

It is also learnt that the MAS board had approved a new organisational structure, which was proposed by new managing director Ahmad Jauhari Yahya. The source said the number of heads now reporting to Ahmad Jauhari would be reduced from 14 to eight, and with that, “we are seeing a leaner structure for better coordination”. The board is also said to have reaffirmed MAS' entry into the oneworld alliance as it saw “more upside” to such a move than otherwise.

-thestar online.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tune Hotels aims to have 100 hotels by 2015

KULIM: Tune Hotels aims to have a network of 100 hotels in Malaysia and overseas by 2015, says its chief executive officer, Mark Lankester. He said the company would invest between US$5mil and US$15mil in a hotel with 150 rooms and above.

Lankester said next year, Tune Hotels planned to open 25 to 30 hotels internationally, including five in Indonesia, Thailand and Phillipines respectively, besides four or five hotels in Malaysia. "Currently, we have 13 hotels, including two in Bali, Indonesia and one in England.

"In Malaysia, we have hotels in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, KLIA-LCCT Airport, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Damansara, Bintulu, Kota Bharu and now Kulim," he told reporters after the opening of Tune Hotel Kulim, located near Kulim Landmark Central, here today. Kulim Municipal Council president, Mohd Zohdi Saad, opened the hotel.

Lankester said Tune Hotel Kulim was its second hotel in northern region after Penang and the first in Kedah. "We have always said that within Malaysia we want to provide the most complete coverage for travellers and businesses and the opening of Tune Hotel Kulim is a further step in that direction," he said.

Lancaster said Tune Hotel has pioneered a branded value hotel brand with the concept of pay-as-you use that has become hugely popular among travellers from across the world. "Under the concept, guests only pay for room rates with the option of adding on other amenities like towels and toiletries, air-conditioning, in-room WIFI and satellite TV service and selected hotels," he said. 

In conjunction with the recent Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations, Tune Hotels is currently running a special promotion with rooms in Malaysia on offer from as low as RM1 per night while those in Bali RP10,000 per night. The promotional rates are available on a first-come first-served basis, for stay period from June 1, 2012 to Aug 31, 2012. Booking ends on Sept 30. 

-BERNAMA

Malaysia, Truly Asia

As the world celebrates World Tourism Day today, Malaysia highlights its beauty and authenticity. A diverse array of ethnic groups, cultures, festivals and events earned our tourism industry a whopping RM56.4bil last year.

“We are gearing towards RM168bil by 2020,” Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen told a press conference at the Malaysia Tourism Centre last week. “We are expecting tourism to be the nation's main source of income. At present, it comes in fifth after oil and gas, palm oil, manufacturing, and retail.”

Among the tourism-oriented events that earned Dr Ng's favour was theThe 1Malaysia International Tourism Night Flora Parade 2011 in July, a mesmerising display of glittery boats at the Putrajaya Lake. The international competition, titled “Magic of The Night”, attracted participants from 13 countries and organisations. The event served as a platform to showcase to the world Malaysia's diversity, richness in nature, culture and heritage.

“Another prominent facet of Malaysian culture is the great variety of food we have here,” Dr Ng said. Working with restaurants and street hawkers, the Tourism Ministry staged the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia 2011 gourmet festival in September. “Our tourism industry employs approximately 10% of the national labour force. These are jobs in the hotel, transportation and entertainment industries, among others.”

Then there's shopping. It is a year-round activity in Malaysia, but it is during the major mega sales three times a year that shoppers enjoy some of the best deals. “Malaysia is gearing towards becoming a renowned shopping destination,” Dr Ng declared.

Our country's expertise in the footwear industry was highlighted at the Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2011 in April when a collection of 40 brands of local and international footwear was paraded. Art is another area that has been explored. Every year, from July to September, local artists get to showcase their work at the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival.

“In 2010, we sold RM14.4mil worth of art. It was very exciting as we had also carried out our first auction. The most expensive item sold at RM157,000. We are scaling up our level of sophistication,” Dr Ng said.

Beautiful scenery and exciting sports await the outdoor lover. Malaysia boasts a lush, green 130 million-year-old jungle, a haven for trekking, bird watching and a host of other activities, making ecotourism a perfect revenue generator. With over a thousand islands, Malaysia's beaches, similarly, offer miles of smooth, soft sand while its waters teem with colourful, exotic marine life. Divers and water sportsmen can have a field day in the ocean while other holiday seekers can experience warm, authentic Malaysian hospitality throughout the islands.

Foreigners and local city folk who wish for a getaway in the outskirts can choose from over 3,000 government-certified homestay centres throughout Malaysia. “Homestay is an excellent income generator for people living in rural areas and makes a wonderful, authentic experience for tourists,” Dr Ng says.

“Last year, 8,000 saplings were planted under the the Plant A Treeprogramme for foreign tourists during homestays. “We are proud of Malaysia's diversity. Tourists can savour a different experience on each visit.”

-thestar online.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hotel chain returns to KL

After 24 years and 30 hotels and resorts across the globe since its beginnings on the beaches of Cherating in Pahang, Holiday Villa will finally “return” home to its base in Kuala Lumpur and will answer the government’s call to boost the medical tourism industry.

Branded as Holiday Villa Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), this new hotel will be situated in Jalan Mayang, off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, in sight of the Petronas Twin Towers.

“We have established the Holiday Villa brand successfully in 11 countries and for our new property, we will be building a new thematic hotel in the heart of the city,” Holiday Villa Hotels and Resorts chairman Datuk Azman Shah Datuk Seri Haron said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the hotel.

He said that the 25-storey project will be developed at an estimated cost of RM90mil to RM95mil.

All set: Ahmad Fuad (seated in cab) performing the groundbreaking ceremony accompanied by Azman Shah (in green hard hat).

“Hopefully, construction work will be completed by the end of 2013. Holiday Villa KLCC will offer more than 200 guest rooms, apartments and suites with a seven-storey mechanical parking facility upon completion,” he said.

Azman added that one of the main attractions of the hotel was its strategic location that was a stone’s throw from Suria KLCC, KLCC Park, K Avenue and other services and entertainment offerings.

The hotel will also promote healthy living and lifestyle with a wellness and hydrotherapy centre that will be equipped with modern therapy facilities and healthy organic food and drinks.

In accordance with Holiday Villa’s “Going Green” policy, the building will be made of carefully considered materials to ensure it is environmentally friendly.

“We will also feature the latest in modern and contemporary design and technology to complement the dynamic architectural concept of the twin towers and its surrounding areas,” Azman said.

The hotel’s facilities include the Executive Prima Floor with private meeting rooms and lounge for business travellers, a 24-hour restaurant with a Malaysian fusion al-fresco dining, banquet and conference facilities, meeting rooms, business centre, gymnasium, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, health spa, hair salon, surau and disabled guest facilities.

“Our guest rooms will also feature the unique ‘Bedroom and Boardroom’ concept, a first in our Malaysian market. Such rooms can be converted quickly into meeting rooms using the American Sico design whereby the bed can be folded into the wall,” Azman said.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, who performed the groundbreaking ceremony, said that competition in the hotel industry was tough.

“There are more upcoming hotels including St Regis, Grand Raffles and even Harrods to name a few. We also receive many applications for budget hotels,” he said, adding that there was a lot of potential for medical tourism.

-thestar online.

AirAsia-MAS collaboration could create mega maintenance and training centre

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 (Bernama) Malaysia Airlines (MAS) andAirAsia Bhd can collaborate in various areas such as training, maintenance, repair and ovehaul (MRO), cargo, logistics, sales, distribution as well as catering. "If you put the volume of MAS and AirAsia it becomes a mega MRO," said AirAsia's chief, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, when outlining the potentials of the tie-up.

Fernandes said this to reporters after speaking at Khazanah Megatrends Forum 2011 here today. He said such a collaboration could emerge as a real competitor to Singapore's MRO. Similarly, he said, MAS and AirAsia would also emerge as big players in the training area amid the training capacity of both airlines. "Malaysia can become Asia's biggest trainer of pilots by harnessing the strengths of both airlines," he said, adding that both airlines had excellent records of pilot and engineering quality.

As for catering, "we don't use LSG, but together we may get a much better deal from LSG and better quality," said Fernandes. Germany-based LSG Sky Chef is an in-flight service provider. "So, these are the revenue, cost and new business opportunity ideas," he said.

He also reiterated the need for branding. "We need to make sure MAS and AirAsia are globally recognised," he said, adding that he was optimistic of the collaboration between the airlines.

The collaboration came about after Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the major shareholder of MAS, announced that it would take up 10 per cent stake in AirAsia while Tune Air Sdn Bhd, the investment vehicle of Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, would own a 20.5 per cent stake in MAS under a share-swap deal. 

- BERNAMA

RM1.46bil Pulau Melaka project set to become tourist draw

MALACCA: The RM1.46bil troubled Pulau Melaka reclaimed island project is set to become a new tourist and property investment attraction as work to revive it nears completion.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said apart from the existing and new housing and commercial lots, the project would also house several high-end tourism developments.

“Some of the upcoming tourism products include Wild Life Theatre, Malaysia Eye and Theme Park, Cable Car, the Arab City and five-star hotels,” he said here yesterday.

Mohd Ali said the restoration involved 1,176 existing commercial units with eight blocks (comprising 228 units) under construction.

“The work progress is encouraging and the restoration is expected to be completed by November,” he said.

The state, via Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI) had started work on the abandoned project, off the coast of Banda Hilir in December last year after it took possession of the island project from developers who had failed to revive the project.

Covering some 40ha, the project was launched in mid-1996 by Pulau Berkembar Sdn Bhd Talam Bhd, a subsidiary of Talam Corporation Sdn Bhd, but was abandoned in the late 1990s following the global economic downturn.

A legal tussle ensued when the state government tried to take over.

But there was closure after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the state.

One of the issues that needs to be resolved is the problem faced by some 1,000 buyers who were left in the lurch when the project was abandoned several times since its launch in the mid-1996.

As of Sept 20, Mohd Ali noted that 532 original buyers had come forward and had been offered their respective units through new sale and purchase agreements with CMI.

“We urge those who have not come forward to do so before the agreement signing between buyers and CMI on Oct 14.

“After the date, original buyers who do not come forward to sign the new agreement will have their units sold to other interested parties,” he said.

-thestar online.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stay: The land of palaces

On the shores of Pantai Penarik lies a cluster of century-old Malay houses that reflect the architecture of a lost kingdom. PUTRI ZANINA basks in the charms and tranquillity of Terrapuri Heritage Village

BEYOND the high walls and guarded by some wild coconut groves along a mangrove river and a long beach are a cluster of more than a century-old traditional Malay houses that reflect the architecture of a lost kingdom. 

The cluster of ancient houses forms Terrapuri, a heritage village that has become one-of-a-kind treasure of Terengganu. The houses are kept with much care and passion in Kampung Mangkuk near Penarik, a place that’s slowly rising from its beautiful slumber.


It was still in that perfect quiescent state as when I first chanced upon Penarik 11 years ago and instantly fell head over heels in love with it. The narrow spit of land between river and sea is dotted with rows and rows of swaying coconut palms, singing their own melody that whirls through the softly blowing winds.

Just a stone’s throw away, waves lash at the shores of Pantai Penarik — a long beach with gorgeous sparkling white sand that contrasts with the silky bluish green waters of the South China Sea. In the horizon are some of Terengganu’s island jewels — Pulau Redang and Pulau Lang Tengah.

Inland are sleepy fishing settlements of both Kampung Baru Penarik and Kampung

Mangkuk with some houses perched on the banks of Sungai Setiu and its offshoot Sungai Penarik. Fringed by wild mangroves, the river in Penarik gurgles gently almost parallel to the beach. 

A spot along the riverbank with clusters of coconut trees and a green field that swept towards the beach was then my favourite stopover. Today, Terrapuri stands at this very same spot.

Building a dream

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had fallen in love with this place. Like a magnet, Penarik (which literally means something that pulls), draws many to its tranquillity. While I remained an occasional visitor, a born-and-bred 
Terengganu man went on to build a dream near here. 

Alex Lee Yun Ping, 43, a self-made entrepreneur who runs Terengganu’s largest tour company, Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd, has created his own “palace” here, based on the classic abode of Terengganu Malay royalty.

Far from wanting to live in kingly pleasures, Alex, as he prefers to be called, has opened the doors of Terrapuri to all those who want to immerse themselves in old Malay heritage, architecture and natural surroundings. 

Terrapuri, which means The Land Of Palaces, is the fruit of Alex’s passion for heritage and nature conservation, particularly the architecture of the lost Malay kingdom of the 17th Century during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah II with influences of 2nd to 16th Century Kingdom of Langkasuka. This spanned from northern Kedah to Pattani in the Kingdom of Siam on the east coast, including Terengganu. 

It’s a passion that has cost him a whopping RM10 million over a span of 18 years, and perhaps, his image too as an astute businessman. Then there were the raised eyebrows of the skeptics because he is Chinese trying to save what’s Malay. 

Some of his friends called it projek orang gila (mad man’s project), while his accountant kept telling him, “there’s no ROI (return of investment)”. But he plodded on, raising money here and there, even selling some of his Mercedes Benz vehicles. 

Crazy? Yes, perhaps, but not to the man who truly loves the heritage of his beloved state, Terengganu, which eminent historian Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mubin Sheppard described as the cradle of Malay civilisation.

The beginning

Alex was born and raised in the Malay village of Marang where fishermen make a living from Sungai Marang and the sea that separates the mainland from nearby Pulau Kapas and beyond. 

“I lived in a Malay-style house. My grandmother is Peranakan, descendants of 15th and 16th Century Straits Chinese whose culture has intertwined with that of the Malays,” says Alex who speaks mostly in English and partly in Malay with the lilting Terengganu accent that comes out effortlessly. 

Twenty-three years ago, Alex, then a young boy of 20, turned parts of his grandparents’ shop in Marang into a backpackers’ guesthouse. Marang then was lined with rustic 19th Century wooden shophouses that charmed foreign backpackers so much that they called it the cowboy town of the east. It was from them that Alex learnt the value of conserving heritage, including old buildings. With a deepening interest in conservation, Alex bought his first antique Malay house in 1990.

His backpacker guests continued to come from all over the world. Business was good and Alex’s little guesthouse grew to become Marang Inn. But this had to make way for development when the local authorities demolished the “old and ugly” wooden shops and built modern, concrete ones. It was a fatal decision. 

Tourism in Marang died overnight. The backpackers stopped coming. 

It was a sad time for Alex. But quietly, he bought more architecturally authentic Malay houses, such as Rumah Bujang and Rumah Tiang 12, and everything that came with them, even things that the owners have left to rot, like wooden boat prows and fishing traps. 

Alex searched for these houses in many parts of Terengganu. Some were falling apart and partially damaged. He bought them anyway, to use as spare parts. As years went by, he found himself the proud owner of 29 antique houses.

As they were built without using a single nail, it was easy to dismantle the houses. Ancient and authentic Malay houses are held together by wooden joints that are put in place by pasak (wooden pegs). Alex painstakingly marked each piece before moving everything and storing them on his parents’ land in Marang.

He dreamt of rebuilding the houses so that people could experience what it was like living in such houses. Four years ago, he started to build on his dream. 

With the help of traditional Malay carpenters, artisans and friends, he rebuilt the old houses piece by piece. And they are the very same houses that stand today in Terrapuri Heritage Village. 

Standing its own ground

Terrapuri snugly sleeps in its own cocoon, shielded by the high fencing that keeps out straying cows and curious village boys. Looking like something old in sepia tone in picture books, it defies surrounding development. Some of the coconut trees nearby have been ravaged and stripped almost of everything by people out to make money, who left whatever they didn’t want rotting and littering the ground. But the ground in front of Terrapuri is green and clean, and even the beach which it has “adopted” is free of litter that mars other stretches of the beach. What’s even more jarring are the giant concrete structures that loom in the sky to house swiftlets “reared” for the prized birds’ nests, no doubt bringing good money for the building owners. Sadly, these buildings, some of which are just next to Terrapuri, don’t belong in the scenery of gently swaying palms.

Even the people in Kampung Mangkuk nearby have either demolished or “extended” their quaint wooden homes, replacing them with modern brick ones, some looking as characterless as the swiftlet hotels. Gleaming cars, from Protons to SUVs parked in front, is an indication that life is better today for most of the people. Their houses have satellite dishes too but there are none at Terrapuri. 

This lone village resort looks so charmingly different from all that surround it.

Treasures within

A tall gate opens to a sprawling courtyard with a moat filled with water, its glassy surface broken by floating cyperuses and hyacinths. Henna, herbal plants and fruit trees lend much to the kampung air, which is fragrant with the sweet smell of frangipani, jasmine and other flowering plants. With gurgling fountains and earthen jars, the garden is the centrepiece of the Sesayap Courtyard that’s linked by pathways leading to the swimming pool. At an angle, the pool water seems to merge seamlessly with the rippling mangrove river running at the back. The river ends at Terrapuri, making it even more special.

Surrounding the courtyard are some of the old wooden houses on stilts, restored to become lovely villas. Each bears the name of the village where the house originally stood. One villa was the location shoot for the recent Malay epic film Merong Mahawangsa.

The areas underneath the houses look like an open museum of sorts, where all kinds of tools like spindle and plough, and various old household items from bamboo ware to coconut scrappers are displayed. Each tells a story, just like each house with its own unique past.

Old and new

Wooden stairs creak as my husband and I go up to our villa, a rumah bujang berserambi (literally bachelor’s house with verandah). Named Tembakang, after its original home, Kampung Tembakang, it’s a classic Terengganu house with raised platform on stilts, triangular shape and steep gabled roof. It has gently curved peles (gable ends) and terracotta roof tiles while the walls and floors are made of the hardy cengal wood. Little wooden pegs hold the panels together while selak (latch) are used to close windows and doors from the inside.

Inside, I remove my jeans and wear the batik sarong in the old wooden gerobok, which reminds me of the cupboard in my late grandma’s house. In fact, everything in the villa reminds me of the furniture of Malay homes in the olden days - brass trays, wooden chests, earthen jars. But while the basic house structure and furniture are traditional, the amenities are similar to those provided in modern, luxurious villas - the fan, air-conditioner, refrigerator and electric jar to make hot drinks.

The most charming part of the house is the bathroom on a lower platform with a glass panel through which you can see the coconut grove, the river and the sea outside. 

There are His and Hers vanities, shower room with rain showerhead and a wooden bathtub! It’s the kind that you see in old cowboy films. Never mind that these amenities are not typically Malay, as the resort is after all catering to a discerning clientele.

Food from the heart

Food served is mostly typically Malay. Our breakfast of nasi dagang with tuna curry fish and pickles (a Terengganu specialty), and toast, scrambled eggs and sausage is served right at the serambi of our villa where we sit bersila (cross-legged) on the floor. 

The cook, Hamidah Idris, a bubbly woman from Kampung Mangkuk, even helps the service staff to clear our trays. Everyone multi-tasks here, even the chambermaid. Shy but friendly, they have the gentle sweetness of rural Malay women. Before long, we are all chatting on the verandah as if we are village neighbours.

All our meals are served privately at the verandah except for dinner which is served at Tanjung, the dining villa. Service is fine-dining style here with a butler on hand to make us feel like a king and queen. But really, it’s Hamidah’s dishes that steal our hearts. We can feel that they are cooked with love. The simple kampung fare like ikan singgang (soupy fish dish), ayam masak merah, stir-fried kangkung, ulam, sambal belacan, budu (fermented anchovies) and tempoyak (fermented durian) make a most satisfying dinner for us.

Silent night

While the day is spent lazing at the courtyard and the pool, there’s hardly anything to do at night. The lure is in the quietude for total relaxation. It’s the kind of place where I can’t figure out what day of the week it is. My husband says Thursday but I think it’s Friday. 

So, for a while, we are lost in time. With no nightlife outside, and no TV inside, I wonder aloud: “What did the people do in the past when they had to go to bed so early?” 

Though the room is dimly lit, I could see a naughty glint in my husband’s eyes as he replies: “They make babies, silly!”

Attractions and arts

FULLY restored houses have become residential villas. Some are used as the reception villa, dining villa (Tanjung), reading room and arts and crafts gallery (Pulau Rusa), meeting room (Berang) and beach villa. Residential villa rates start from RM399. 

In the pipeline are a spa villa offering Malay traditional treatments, a shop selling antiques, books and crafts, and a studio for resident artists whose works will be displayed at the gallery.

The village will also revive dying Malay performing arts, including mak yong, by bringing experts to perform and teach the arts within its compound. 

Tours

Sightseeing tours in and around Terengganu and Kelantan are available. Not-to-be-missed tours include Fireflies Tour on Sungai Setiu and the Floating Art of Langkasuka Tour in Kota Baru, Kelantan.

Hour-long guided tours of Terrapuri for day visitors are held twice daily at 10.30am and 3.30pm at RM20 per head, including refreshments.

How to get there

Terrapuri Heritage Village, Kampung Mangkuk, 22120 Setiu, Terengganu. Tel: 09-624 5020. Fax: 09-622 8093. Email: info@terrapuri.com. Website: www.terrapuri.com

Kampung Mangkuk is 45 minutes by car from Kuala Terengganu. From the East Coast Expressway, exit at Jabor, then take Highway 3 to Kuala Terengganu. From there, take the coastal road towards Merang where the jetty to Pulau Redang is located. From Merang, follow signboards to Kampung Penarik then Kampung Mangkuk. The resort provides transfers to and from Kuala Terengganu Airport, Merang Jetty, Kuala Besut Jetty and Kota Baru Airport in Kelantan.

-NST Online.