Tag: malaysia

Greening the Rainforest World Music Festival

My RWMF cloth bags are often commented on at my veg market

When in Malaysia (Kuching, Sarawak) I have planted trees as part of their ‘greening the festival’ programme: and helping cut my carbon footprint too. This tree-planting ceremony – at all local festivals -“helps make Kuching a livable city” I’d been told.

Once again at the Rainforest World Music Festival (20th) #RWMF I find they have found another way to green the festivals by making great bags out of the previous year’s banners! Excellent recycling.

reusing old banners to produce bags help reduce rubbish

Malaysia often receives bad press for destruction of native forests and planting oil palm plantations, so it cannot be easy to convince the often cynical foreigners they want to “take care of our environment”. It’s heartening to note that the Sarawak Tourism Board has taken the government’s eco campaigns seriously. After all Sarawak is proud of having the world’s’ oldest rainforest so they need to care for it on behalf of the world.

Here’s another story I wrote about me planting mangroves at another RWMF festival.

I got to the 20th music festival a day too late to plant trees this time – if I get to the 21st RWMF I will make sure to be there in plenty of time to dig a hole or two for a tree 🙂 🙂

Evolution, Darwin, Wallace and Malaysia

 

A LoveLetter to Malaysian BorneoLooking at some of the TV programmes I have recorded while travelling recently I see one looks at a British explorer and biologist, Alfred Wallace who discovered evolution in Malaysia. I look forward to watching it as I wrote really briefly about him in my book (pub April 2015) see below.

Extract from A love Letter to Malaysian Borneo: or, can this travel writer be green?

Somewhere, in a museum, newspaper, or conversation, I also learnt about something called the ‘Sarawak Law’ which I’d not previously heard of. Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist and biologist known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection. He believed this natural selection was very clear in Sarawak Borneo and his paper on the subject was published with some of Darwin’s writings in 1858 – leading Darwin to later publish his own ideas a year later in the Origin of Species.

In his book, The Malay Archipelago, 1869, Wallace also wrote: ‘The Rajah held Sarawak solely by the goodwill of the inhabitants. Rajah Brooke was a great, a wise, and a good ruler – a true and faithful friend – admired for his talents, respected for his honesty and courage, and loved for his generosity, his kindness of disposition and his tenderness of heart.’ Quite a recommendation and as I said earlier, a film about the White Rajah will be most interesting and I’ll be watching out for it.”

Note: this book has been entered in the Malaysian Tourism Awards 2015 which will be announced on 21st November.

New ebook on green-eco travel. The Kiwitravelwriter explores Malaysian Borneo

New ebook on green-eco travel. The Kiwitravelwriter explores Malaysian Borneo

The Kiwitravelwriter explores Malaysian Borneo in her new book … and uses her travels to consider how green she is, or isn’t: it’s a combination of essay and memoir. (Sorry, but no photos in the book – see my blog posts for them)

 

The long title says it all “A love letter to Malaysian Borneo. Or, can this travel writer be green?” 

The cover photo was taken in Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary by a young Italian man – who, incidentally, was the person who first spotted an endangered clouded leopard during a night safari we were on in the same area.

 

 

 

Thaipusam .. piercing – on Penang Island, Malaysia

. . .  “Two weeks later I’m on Penang Island, named after the betel nut so loved by many older men and women: all recognisable by their stained teeth and frequent spitting. It’s early in the morning: very early. Standing in the dawn light, at the colourful temple I’m unsure if I should go in. A few other tourists are also standing around, talking in low whispers, cameras around their necks.

It’s Thaipusam; a day of consecration to the Hindu deity Lord Murugen who is confusingly also called Lord Subramanian. Hindus who have made a vow to him carry frames decorated with coloured paper and flowers, fresh fruit and milk. When these tributes are placed at the feet of the deity, their penance or gratitude is accepted. Some 2000 people will carry the kavadi or silver milk containers, the 12 kilometres to the Natlukotai Temple in Waterfall Road, Penang Island on this annual pilgrimage.

Continue reading “Thaipusam .. piercing – on Penang Island, Malaysia”

Malaysia truly Asia: Sarawak ticks all the boxes

Malaysian Borneo – land of hornbills, head-hunters, orang-utans and ‘where adventure lives’ according to travel brochures:  Sarawak could also be called the land of paradoxes and it ticks all the boxes.

For instance, Kuching, capital of Sarawak, East Malaysia, means cat, but the city was not named after a cat; it has a Sunday market that’s open on Saturday (and other days) and an India Street that has very few Indian shops.

Easy to love, this walkable city has a racial mix of 23% Malay, 25% Chinese and about 49% Dayaks, the collective name for the indigenous ethnic groups, Sarawak epitomises the tourism tagline: Malaysia, truly Asia.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Walking down Bishopgate Street to Carpenter Street I talk to a Chinese man whose family have been ‘special makers of fancy coffins’ for three generations; across the road a man’s making cake tins on the footpath; around the corner Malay women are making their famous Kek Lapis, an intricate, colourful layer cake, and beside my waterfront accommodation, a heavily, traditionally tattooed Iban woman, creates delicious vegetarian meals to order.

Like all travellers in this national geographic showpiece, I want to see the endangered orang-utan. Just out of the city, at the Semenggoh Centre about 70 people attend the twice daily feeding. Free to range in this 740 acre green belt there is no guarantee they will come to the feeding stations. We’re also warned to obey the staff as they have no control over their charges and photos show injured workers as proof!

At the feeding station a mother and week-old baby appear: despite being told to keep quiet, it’s hard to ooh and aah quietly! They’re delightful, the mother uses all four limbs interchangeably and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s her feet or hands she’s hanging from. She eats many ‘hotel-bananas’ as the little lady-finger bananas are called by locals as ‘all hotels serve them’, and a ripple of muted laughter spreads through the camera-clicking tourists when the baby tries to take one. A radio message comes for the ranger – Richie, the huge dominate male has made one of his rare appearances at the other feeding station and one by one we return down the track to where he is being fed.

He is huge! This ‘man-of-the-jungle’ has large cheek-flaps showing he is the king of this jungle and apparently he has already dispatched one pretender to the throne. A young male also arrives for a hand-out but keeps well away from Richie. As he crosses the rope that allows them to travel high above us, he stops to stare down at us, hanging mid-air like a kid on a school jungle gym. I have to laugh; he looks as though he is showing off to us, his DNA relatives, who are not so agile. Continuing on he shimmies down a vine and rope beside the small bridge we have just crossed and is given fruit. Richie just continues eating, a solid lump of muscle sitting on his man-made wooden picnic table.

Two young women are warned to come back from the end of the viewing platform ‘until Richie leaves’ – I wouldn’t want to be in his way. He walks upright; with each step his long hair sways just like a shampoo commercial. He stops and stares, or maybe glares, and I send a message of hope that the heart of Borneo will always be secure for him, and with one more stop and stare he strides off without a backward glance

He knows he’s safe from us physically but most travellers here are well aware of his need of our protection and, despite international concerns, it seems Sarawak is working to secure the orang-utans future, not an easy task.

Like adverts say ‘but wait there’s more’ in this fabulous area of East Malaysia: add a kayak trip from one Bidayuh village to the next; spend time at an Iban longhouse and of course, eat the delicious local food and explore the many excellent, free, museums. Travelling in July? The three-day Rainforest World Music Festival – set in the Cultural Village at Damai – is a must-attend for great local and international performers

Also unique to this 3rd-largest island in the world, Borneo is the Proboscis monkeys. With a long straight pale tail they leap clumsily from tree to tree and eating young shoots of indigestible foliage which breaks down in their two stomachs. Male vanity and the need to dominate means their nose can grow to such a pendulous length they have to hold it up to eat! Other males, lower in rank, have almost human or Pinocchio shaped noses and hang out in male groups until it grows bigger and they have the chance to challenge the leader and become the head of the harem. They are easy to see at the wonderful Bako National Park.

Borneo conjures up images of exotic adventures, an eccentric history, a White Rajah, wild animals, mystery and romance: my first travels there delivered, and as you know, if you follow my blog, I soon returned to the land of head-hunters for more exploring!

One turtle arrives in the middle of the night

One turtle arrives in the middle of the night

“You are lucky I’m a pacifist’ I tell Gustino, from the Sarawak Tourism Board, “if  not, I would slap you!”

“Don’t worry”, he tells me, “many will come tonight”.  I remind him of the old saying about birds and how one in the hand is worth two in the bush – and that that specific turtle was the one in the hand. He laughs, “don’t worry, you will see them tonight” he reassures me.

 

We leave Sematan town for the national park
We leave Sematan town for the two hour trip to the national park

We are on Talang-Satang Island National Park which  is part of the Tanjung Datu National Park the smallest in Malaysia’s largest state : the tonight he’s talking about is the island where we will be in a few hours, Talang-Talang. (all National Parks are managed by Sarwawak Forestry)

He, as our host, was woken at about midnight by the ranger who was patrolling the beach to watch for landings. Perhaps they thought we were exhausted (true) after a week at the Borneo Music Expo and the Rainforest World Music Festival but seeing turtles lay eggs has been on my bucket-list for ages and I’m scared I’ll miss out!

no lifeguards here!
no lifeguards here!

Anyway, miss out that night I did but this is what I’m told:

  • it was her second egg laying visit in 10 days
  • she laid 104 eggs (80 last time)
  • the eggs were transferred immediately to a safe area (the monitor lizards must hate the rangers)
the eggs are buried at the same depth as the mother did .. but now safe from predators
the eggs are re-buried at the same depth as the mother did .. but now safe from predators

Despite being disappointed I did hear gibbons calling early in the morning – they remained out of sight but it was thrilling to hear them again, my first time had been in Sabah last year.

After breakfast we boarded our fishing boat for a one-hour trip to the island where I’ve been told “you will see them.”

See my next blog to see if I was able to tick off one of my bucket list items or, if I had to abandon my pacifist leanings and slap my host!

Sign up to get emails about new posts or bookmark this page.

Here is a pictorial journal of our stay on the island.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Hop-on hop-off bus in Kuala Lumpur – a good choice

hoponhopoffbus (28)WEBThe concierge at Berjaya Times Square  (this link is to my blog about the hotel) told me how to get to the closest stop for the Hop-on Hop off bus and off I set for my last day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – it was a good choice of ‘things to do’. If time is short, this is an ideal way to get an overview; however,  if you are time-rich it gives a good idea of where things are and will help you decide on what to do over the next few days – and this is plenty to do in KL – including . . .

 

But back to the jump on jump off bus. This tour is by double-decker bus and runs on a half-hourly schedule (it would help if bus stops had real-time info as I waited 25 minutes for a bus after dinner – I had obviously just missed one  – but you can’t leave the stop for fear of missing the next one 😦 .  Still it was good people-watching time!

The good thing about getting off was the first bus was a closed top one, my next one was an open deck top which was good for photos and viewing, (others prefer the air-con I guess!)

Lunch in Little India was great too.

The stop I started/finished at was stop 6 – which was hard to find as its hidden from the footpath by a large restaurant at the side of the road. I asked locals 3 times and then found another couple searching and asking – we joined our search talents and found it. The stop needs moving or a big sign needs to be on the footpath between the food place and the shops.

As I only had the day I only hopped-off for lunch (in Little India) and my fellow passengers seemed a mix of staying on for the full length or were hopping off at favourite spots.

Tickets can be bought on the bus, its website or authorised agents.

I think its best for the pictures to tell the story …  so, sit back and relax and spend some time in Kuala Lumpur with me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Music showcase at Borneo World Music Expo

Last night the display of music continued at the evening ‘Showcase’. The Sarawak Tourism Board is introducing us to not only local Sarawak and Malay music and instruments but also groups form the wider Asian region. Tonight the musicians were from Thailand,  Myanmar,  and a local Sarawak group.

image
Preparing for the expo stage

Korphai, Thailand, has been performing since 1980 is also new as it seems this ‘bunch of bamboo’ is constantly changing. Anant Narkkong ,who establised the group to create place where younger musiscians could explore new musical ideas. He met this current group on Facebook!  All are teachers and the four of them come from four diffenrt regions of Thailand.  Collaborating, and practicing line, they actually only had one face to face seesion before coming to Kuching. I wonder which programmer will sign them up for festivals in their country … but being signed up I’m sure they will!

Another ensemble that will be signed up I’m sure features Aue  Su Kyaw (Myanmar) who, in her own country is a star. It seems it’s traditional for harpists to play the instrument only, but Aue Su breaks that mold and sings as she plays.  An attractive instrument it is described in a legend like this: “it is an instrument that is cuddled against the chest, but is not a child; has a crooked tail but is not a monkey; has a beard but is not a  man; is able too procuce sweet sounds, but is not a maiden … ”  .

And finally in this second expo’s 2nd showcase here in the Hilton, was a local group  Tuku Kame a contemporary music band that originated at the Cultural Village, home to the Rainforest World Music Festival which follows this expo. It seems this group has performed in many countries and has released two albums.  see more here

image
Kuching, also known as cat city. It seems live and bronze cats hang out together

Back in the rainforest #RWMF2014

image

Only  2 days until the acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival starts again here in #Sarawak.  Malaysian Borneo. The rhythm of the jungle fits well at the foot of the legendary Mount Santubong. For three days an eclectic mix of traditional, fusion and contemporary world music will delight us all I’m sure. Last year I valued the workshops and ethno-musical lectures and jam sessions during the day…. with the main performances in the evenings on the stages.

If you haven’t been make sure you plan on being here in 2015. See my blogs from last year for more info … andcome back here to see what this years treats have been.

http://www.rwmf.net

No shark-fin soup in this five star hotel!

After 11 hours and some 9 thousand kilometres I arrive in Kuala Lumpur, (KL) Malaysia. An express rail link runs from the KLIA airport(s) to KL SENTRAL and for the first time I take it: arriving in the city more ecologically, and faster, than a taxi.  From Sentral I caught the monorail for the last 6 mins to the hotel. The punctual rail system runs to and from the airport every 20 minutes.

My destination was Times Square, well the hotel Berjaya Times Square to be exact: the hotel was hosting me for a night while I took a bike trip in Malaysia’s capital and checked out a couple of other ‘things to do’.

View of the 15th floor pool from my room
View of the 15th floor pool from my west tower room

In the heart of the city, the twin tower building is ideally placed in the entertainment and shopping district of this city. Playing on the ‘times square’ location it embraces the New York theme with Central Park being located on the 15th floor (pool, children’s playground, fitness centre, squash courts, sauna and steam room).

Central Park links the two towers and has great views of the city including the impressive Petronas Twin Towers and is a great place to relax … not that I had much time to enjoy relaxing by the gazebo! However, I did relax with a wonderful relaxing massage on the same level and can recommend the ‘wellness centre’ – Bunga Raya Spa – to rejuvenate your mind and body. I had their signature massage, which the masseuse said combines old traditions with modern elements. It used kneading strokes focusing on muscles and pressure points.

Some facts about this 5-star hotel: 650 rooms and suites with all the usual comforts to be expected at such a hotel.  It’s worth noting they are also well set up for conventions of many sizes too with the Manhattan Ballroom holding 2000. (See their website, above, for more information about convention or conference facilities). As a travel writer I particularly valued the free Wi-Fi to update Facebook and Instagram as I don’t blog while travelling – too busy experiencing.  After many hours in the air, relaxing in the full-size bath was wonderful too. (I recommend either KL, or Malaysian Borneo, as great stopovers on long-haul flights.)

Food-wise they cater to all tastes (American, Western, and Asian) and when I met with staff in the Broadway Lounge for a briefing then tour through the hotel, I tried their signature drink: Berjaya Kool. This was a refreshing drink of rose syrup, lemon grass, sugar syrup and sour red plum. The glass was rimmed with a granulated powder that I recognised but couldn’t place … it was the sour red plum and I just loved it. Try it!

Berjaya Kool
Berjaya Kool

I ate in three of the hotel’s restaurants: fine dining in Samplings on the Fourteenth, local and western food for lunch and breakfast in The Big Apple, and breakfast in a smaller restaurant which I believe was just for people on the club floor where my room was.  All were impeccable.

As well as their excellent amenities, another bonus is that the hotel’s attached to 900-retail shops in the Berjaya Times Square Shopping (BTS) Mall –which is also home to movie theatres, bowling alley, and for adrenaline junkies, 14 rides at the BTS Theme Park. As I’m a wimp of the first order, and rides with names like Space Attack, Dizzy Izzy, and the Haunted Chamber,  I did not ride any of them! If you have, or do, please leave comments below so others know what they’re like.

One of the many things I liked about the Berjaya were  cards I saw that said (in part) that they will not serve shark-fin soup in their restaurants, a company wide policy made some years ago. It also says “Because sharks are at the top of the marine food web they serve a vital purpose to maintain the precious balance of species in the sea.”

By-the-way: I enjoyed my hosted stay at Berjaya so much I paid for, and stayed, another night – sort of says it all doesn’t it!

Check out some of the food options – and their award-wining Thai Chef, one of  their many specialist chefs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.